South State Bank building renovation, jail expansion among items addressed
At Tuesday’s Union County Council meeting, Supervisor Frank Hart gave his report to council, updating them on county projects and other issues of importance. After praising the 9/11 planning committee on the outstanding job they did in putting together the 20th anniversary commemoration ceremony, he gave one of the county’s commemorative coins marking the occasion to each council member.
Earlier in the meeting, council had awarded the bid on renovation work to the former South State Bank building to Raby Construction of Greenville for a total of $875,000 after contingencies. Hart told council the remodel should be completed by the end of March 2022, with a planned move-in date of sometime in April. The new facility will house County Administration, Finance, Human Resources, Accounts Payable, Treasurer, Auditor, Assessor, and Tax Collector. The facility will offer a drive-thru for the public to be able to pay taxes to the County Treasurer without having to go inside, if they wish. The courthouse will house judicial-related functions. Family Court will move out of the USC Union Nursing & Science Center into the courthouse.
Hart said the county and the sheriff’s office are finalizing remodel plans for the former Wells Fargo Bank building. He noted the scope of this remodel won’t be nearly as extensive as at the South State Bank building, so work should be completed by January, with the Union County Sheriff’s Office relocating to that building on Main Street sometime in February.
Hart noted the County Transportation Committee has approved $950,000 for county road resurfacing. Projects should go out to bid at the end of this month, with resurfacing beginning in November 2021. He told council that since 2015, around 220 roads encompassing 64 miles have been paved, noting there has been more paving of county roads in the last 6 years than in the previous two decades combined.
Hart said construction of the connector road between Midway Drive and Rice Avenue Extension has begun, with a projected completion date of March 2022. That road will allow truck traffic to bypass the Lukesville community. Also, the bridge replacement on Midway Drive is nearly complete. The bridge was set on September 1st, and the SC Department of Transportation is working on finishing items. The bridge is expected to be open sometime in November or December. He thanked the county legislative delegation for working with DOT to facilitate the bridge replacement at no cost to the county.
The Lockhart Boat Ramp project is nearing its start date. Hart said the latest hang-up has been with US Fish and Wildlife, which required a public comment period before it could release any funding. The public comment period closes September 23. Hart said all comments have been positive about the project. He said he expects US Fish and Wildlife to release the funding by the end of October. The project is ready to go to bid, and work should be completed by May 2022.
Hart said the county will be receiving just over $5.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, which can be used for water/sewer, broadband, and COVID mitigation. The county has already received the first half of the money, which has gone into a special account. None of it has been spent yet. He stated that ongoing discussions indicate the funding could be used to fund a proposed expansion of the Union County Detention Center to provide for inmate quarantine in the event of an outbreak within the facility. The additional cells could also be used for inmate segregation and classification. He said preliminary estimates for the proposed expansion have come in at around $6 million. That figure does not include personnel costs for additional staff that the detention center would be required to have. That need was discussed during the county’s budget hearings earlier this year. The jail expansion project was presented to the Capital Project Sales Tax Committee, but it did not make the final list of projects that will be on the ballot.
Speaking of the ballot, the special election is planned for Tuesday, November 2, this year. There will be two questions on it for the voters to decide. The first is the proposed one-cent Capital Project Sales Tax, which is expected to raise around $20 million over 8 years to fund several specific projects, all of which will be listed on the ballot. The second is whether to change the county’s form of government from the current Council-Supervisor form to a Council-Administrator form. He stated both items could have long-term beneficial impacts on the county. He urged council members to talk to the people in their districts to spread the word about these items and give them as much information as possible and answer any of their questions. Hart said he would be available to meet with council members and their constituents if needed.