Preparing another sales-tax proposal, redesigning the Beaufort County law enforcement center and reinventing the county's economic development strategy top County Council's list of priorities for the coming year.
But the council also must tackle several of the priorities it highlighted last year that still cast a shadow over 2015.
The council picked the priorities Saturday on the final day of its annual, three-day retreat in Bluffton with the help of consultant and retreat facilitator Lyle Sumek.
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Sales-tax referendum: Council wants to begin preparing a new capital projects sales tax referendum that it could put before voters in November 2016.
Last summer the council quashed a proposed 1 percent sales tax that would have raised $221 million to pay for 21 major improvement projects across the county.
Some council members and tax opponents criticized the proposal as too hasty, too broad and catering to special interests. This year, council members want to start the process again to get more public involvement and support for a more refined list of projects, they said.
"Every year we don't have the penny tax, we leave that tourist money on the table," Chairman Paul Sommerville said Friday. "We learned a lesson last year, at least I did, that the public wants specificity. They want know exactly what it is, and they want our input on it."
Law enforcement center study: County officials must contemplate the future of the aging sheriff's office and detention center in the county campus on Ribaut in Beaufort because they are already or will soon be in need of major repairs and upgrades, administrator Gary Kubic has warned.
A study of those needs this year could outline whether the county should renovate the existing buildings and jail, demolish and build new ones in the same spot, or move both to a new location closer to the center of the county, Kubic has said.
No matter which option county leaders settle on, though, the project is sure to be expensive, so council must begin to plan for the eventual costs as they plan their finances this year, Kubic said.
New economic development strategy: Council is starting from scratch to reinvent its strategy, which divided council members last year.
The county's widely scrutinized economic development partner, the Lowcountry Economic Alliance, folded in December, even after the council contributed $195,000 to the group.
Now council members say they must get on the same page and find a new path. That could include contributing to municipal economic development groups or joining another partner, such as the Southern Carolina or Charleston Regional Development alliances.
Pepper Hall site direction: The county's option to purchase more than 80 acres of Robert Graves' property along U.S. 278 and the Okatie River expires in June, but administrators must find a way to finance the purchase before council members will give the OK.
Windmill Harbour: Some improvements to the entrance of the Jenkins Island gated community are slated to begin this spring, but a fix for the primary problem -- how residents can safely access westbound U.S. 278 -- still lacks a state-approved design and, as usual, funding.
Long-term county offices strategy: Administrators know they will be overhauling the elections and information technology offices this year, but other offices on its main Beaufort campus also need attention. County leaders must craft an outline to get all the work done.
Comprehensive plan update: Planning staff are developing an update to the county's comprehensive plan and must run it by council leaders this year. It will fold several of the council priorities and long-term county projects into a master outline for leaders to follow for the next five years.
- Deficit looming for Beaufort County's next budget; council hopes to avoid tax hike, Feb. 13, 2015
- Beaufort County Council retreat begins today, Feb. 12, 2015
- County leaders have plenty to tackle to in 2015, Dec. 31, 2014
- Beaufort County Council identifies six 'top priorities' for 2014, Feb. 15, 2014