What the county expects in the new year | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | January 4, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: January 3, 2018 at 10:07 am
Colleton County Administrator Kevin Griffin said that a major factor for this calendar year will be the current and future Capital Projects Sales Tax projects.
“We are at different stages on a number of different projects with the Capital Projects Sales Tax, and that is a big focus,” Griffin explained.
“We will be getting some finished,” he added, including the new transfer station at the county’s solid waste site and the Law Enforcement Center. The county should be close to completion of both by the first half of the year.
The new auditorium at the Colleton Arts Center should also be closing in on completion. “That is going to turn out nicely,” Griffin said.
When renovating an existing building, Griffin said, “you expect to find some gremlins when you get into them.”
In the case of the arts center, he said there were some drainage issues and other things “that had been either patched or ignored over the years. We had to rework them and come up with a solution.”
The county anticipates kicking off the improvements to the Recreation Center and issuing the bids for the renovated and expanded terminal at the Lowcountry Regional airport in the second quarter of 2018.
The new year should also see the county moving forward on the construction of a new service center to ease the process of residents doing business with the county.
“The reason we have held off on some Capital Project Sales Tax projects is because the construction market has gotten so hot,” Griffin said. “We did not have a lot of (bidder) participation on the last one we did.”
Officials held off seeking bids on some construction projects to let the construction industry cycle through the building spurt “so we get a little bit better bidding environment.”
Although it’s the beginning of a new calendar year, Griffin pointed out “we are halfway through our year.” The county (and the city) run on a fiscal year that begins July 1.
Griffin said that Colleton County Treasurer Becky Hill and her staff are in the midst of collecting property taxes. Once the property tax collection season comes to an end, county officials can begin making some educated guesses about estimated revenues for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Then, Griffin said, work on the budget will begin to get “hot and heavy in March.”
The fact that the county underwent a property tax reassessment underway last year generates uncertainty in determining an anticipated revenue project for property taxes, the county’s deepest revenue stream. “You have always got your fingers crossed that it will come in as you anticipate.”
When county administrators and county council get together to work on the budget, Griffin said, “We have to talk about employee retention.” A tight labor market has made it difficult for the county to keep and find front line employees — from equipment operators to janitors — in fire rescue and law enforcement.
It is a difficulty that is not solely in Colleton County. “Everyone is having a hard time keeping all their positions filled,” Griffin said. “We need more people. We have been looking for strategies, looking at what other counties are doing.”
New strategies to improve county services is always a topic of discussion among county leaders, Griffin said. “We want to get better at all the things we are doing now, grading roads and collecting waste. We are always looking for more efficiency.”
The county’s shrinking unemployment percentage is becoming a factor in the county’s economic development efforts. Potential businesses are asking “Is there enough labor here?”
Economic development efforts were slow in the middle of 2017 but in the last two or three months, Griffin said, County Economic Development Director Heyward Horton “has had a lot more contacts. Businesses are starting to look again.”
Currently, Griffin added, the county only has only one vacant facility to show prospective businesses: the spec building at Commerce Park.
“We need a 40,000-to-50,000-square-foot spec building; we don’t have a whole lot to show anyone,” Griffin said.
The county would like to construct one at Victory Park, the industrial area the county established next to the Sarlaflex building.
“We are also working with the South Carolina Power Team (an economic development group composed of the state’s utility companies) and South Carolina Department of Commerce on a mega site along the railroad,” Griffin explained.
Moving that proposal forward, he said, “would give us some really nice inventory to go after much bigger fish: manufacturing facilities that need ready access to a rail line.”