An unidentified company plans to invest $17.6 million and create 30 new jobs in Orangeburg County.
The investment includes $6.5 million in buildings and $11.1 million in machinery and equipment, according to Orangeburg County Attorney Jerrod Anderson.
Orangeburg County Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday authorizing a fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement with the company being discussed publicly under the name Project Stallion. Typically, projects are not publicly identified until deals are finalized.
The company is planning to locate in the former Mayer Industries building at 3777 Industrial Boulevard. Industrial Boulevard is near Interstate 26’s Exit 145.
Orangeburg County Economic Development Director Gregg Robinson said the building has been upgraded with new dock doors. The roof of the building has also recently been replaced.
The 147,000-square-foot facility was built in 1970. It has been vacant since July 2019 when Mayer closed after nearly 50 years of business in Orangeburg.
Three years ago, Zeus Industrial Products entered into an agreement with plans to purchase the property if no material adverse conditions were discovered.
Zeus later alleged that volatile organic compounds were found in the property’s soil, which constituted a condition that justified Zeus’s termination of the agreement.
Appian Orangeburg Industrial, LLC purchased the property in 2020 and conducted a hazardous waste cleanup.
A Zeus lawsuit against Mayer was later dismissed.
The property is served by the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities.
Also during Monday’s meeting:
• Council unanimously passed a resolution amending an existing joint county industrial park agreement with Dorchester County. The resolution is related to Foundry Dorchester Commerce Center LLC in Summerville.
• Council gave first reading to an ordinance adding provisions to its public services code to ensure commercial driveways in the county are in line with state codes.
• In honor of Black History Month, Vice Chair Janie Cooper-Smith noted there are several items that were invented and improved by African Americans, including potato chips, the blood bank, gas mask, elevator, traffic lights, the printing press and light bulb filament.
• Council went into closed session to receive a legal briefing; economic development updates related to Project Pizza, Project Stallion, Project EA and Project Independence; and a contractual matter related to the Orangeburg County Courthouse.
SANTEE – Santee Town Council approved first reading of an ordinance to amend its official zoning map to provide for general commercial development and construction of a residential planned unit development along Old Number Six Highway.
“About a third of the property is already in the town, and the other was outside of the town. It is being done in three areas. The front part of this property is on Highway Number 6 going toward Eutawville. All of the property that’s fronting on Number 6 will be commercial, and all of the property in the rear of that will be residential,” Santee Mayor Donnie Hilliard said.
Mt. Pleasant-based Hussey Gay & Bell is the project developer. Super Land Holdings LLC is the entity that sold the land to the developer, Hilliard said.
According to South Carolina secretary of state online records, Super Land Holdings LLC was incorporated on Dec. 27, 2019. The company lists James W. Roquemore of Orangeburg as the registered agent.
“The front part, which is the commercial property, will remain as is until someone comes along and wants to build a store or whatever. I don’t know what that’s going to be, but that’s what that front part will end up being once the zoning is finalized,” Hilliard said.
The town council will meet again on Feb. 9 to consider final second reading approval of the zoning changes.
The largest portion of the land is zoned for single-family residential, which will be rezoned to residential planned unit development, as well as a portion to general commercial. A portion of the land already zoned general commercial will also be rezoned to residential planned unit development.
“The rear part of the property will be subdivided into what is termed as a planned unit development. That is where the developer has agreed to work with the town and try to create an environment where the homes will be somewhat affordable instead of building exclusive homes,” Hilliard said.
“A lot of the people are upset and saying that that’s what is going to happen: It’s going to be a gated community. No, it’s not going to be a gated community,” he said. “The developer has agreed that he will be subject to the restrictions that the council and the town ask for in making the homes somewhat more affordable.”
The mayor said the project will be built in phases.
“Right now they’re looking at anywhere from 50 to 100 units in phase one. The remainder of the property, if they would build it out to completion … there could be a possibility of 400 homes being built on the 69 acres,” he said.
“They’re projecting that. I don’t see it, but, then again, that’s me. I’m not an engineer. All we (town council) do is regulate just like a regular county or town in terms of getting building permits and what have you thereafter,” Hillard said. “The town has no investment whatsoever in this property.”
He said the project is nonetheless welcome as it will help further develop the interchange on and off of I-95 and U.S. 301.
Spring 2017 included the opening of the new Exit 97 and U.S. 301 Extension interchange from S.C. Highway 6 to Interstate 95. The stretch of roadway is also known as the U.S. 301/S.C. Highway 6 Connector.
The $45 million project formed the eastern anchor of South Carolina’s Global Logistics Triangle. The Global Logistics Triangle is the name Orangeburg County uses to market the area bordered by I-26, I-95 and U.S. 301.
“Town council welcomes it. It falls within our comprehensive plan. The Town of Santee has been trying now for some 20 years to develop an environment for growth. We got that $40 million interchange out there saying, ‘Here we are, come,’ but we never really have any, what I call, inventory to try to attract people,” he said.
He continued, “If you get a factory in Santee, there’s no place for people to stay. But this is helping us along the way in getting to that point. Even with the Dubai project, looks like some activity is going on out there after all these years. Although that’s right outside of the town limits, it’s still within the footprint of Santee.”
It’s been more than a decade since Dubai World, parent company of Jafza International, said it was considering Orangeburg County for a $600-700 million logistics, manufacturing and distribution center.
While the company purchased land in the Santee area, the project never materialized as planned following the global economic recession that began in December 2007.
Now there is movement again at the 1,322-acre “South Carolina Gateway Industrial Park,” formerly JAFZA Magna Park.
Two pads have been built at the site to house future speculative buildings attracting companies to the area.
One pad is on a 22-acre site and will house a 250,000-square-foot speculative building. The other pad is a 20-acre site and will house a 125,000-square-foot speculative building, according to the project’s website.
Orangeburg County is beginning to plan for the construction of a new courthouse.
“Our courthouse has been basically extended past its useful life,” Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said during a two-day county council retreat held last week.
“Renovation after renovation, we basically have lost the ability to stop leaks within the courthouse. We are at a point now it is past the point of no return just like we were with the jail,” he said.
The courthouse was built in 1928.
“We are still working on the same foundation of that building,” Young said. “Even with the renovations that have been done over the years, the bones of the building just can’t sustain so much more.”
The current courthouse is too small for the needs of the county, Young said.
It has one large courtroom and several smaller ones. Young said the county needs at least six large courtrooms.
He also noted the state will be trying to provide an additional family court judge to help speed up case backlogs.
“We are pressed because it is not big enough as it is and it is not sustainable to put the amount of money to rehab it all the way through because … when you go through as many renovations as this building has, at some point you can do so much to keep the structural integrity together,” Young said.
Based on recent courthouse projects in Florence and Dorchester counties, the cost of a new courthouse would be anywhere from $30 million to $50 million, Young said.
The location of the new courthouse has not been determined.
Under state law, the courthouse needs to be located within the city limits of the county seat, which means a new courthouse will have to be located in Orangeburg, according to Young.
Young noted the location of the courthouse will impact the property around it.
For example, Young estimated about 90% of Orangeburg’s lawyers are located near the courthouse. A new location could cause a ripple effect on existing law firms.
Young said there have also been some discussions about possibly building a parking garage as part of the project, depending on land availability. He said the City of Orangeburg has also been engaged in the discussions.
Orangeburg County Council authorized county staff to proceed with due diligence such as studying costs, engaging an architect and engineers, conducting a feasibility study on the scope of the project and finding possible locations for the new building.
“I hope it can be a successful venture,” Orangeburg County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright said.
Young does not expect the project to increase taxes.
He said the county would most likely need to issue a $3 million general obligation bond to be able to conduct due diligence and purchase the land.
The bond would be for about 15 years with a 3% interest rate. It would increase the county’s maximum annual debt service to $4.8 million.
The county is considering paying for construction through an installment revenue purchase bond, which will allow the county to pay down the bond debt with $1 million installment payments rather than in a lump payment of $50 million.
“We have been very good and cautious with our debt, so we are in a good position debt-wise where we have some major things that are falling off,” Young said. “We can also look at having a financial strategy when we do these projects so we don’t just do it willy-nilly.”
Under the installment revenue purchase bond, the county would not have to ask voters to approve the borrowing, like it would with a general obligation bond.
Young did note that the installment revenue purchase bond does cost a little bit more than a general obligation bond because of accounting and legal processing fees.
A $50 million installment revenue purchase bond with a rate of 4.25% over 25 years would mean a maximum annual debt service of $6.7 million, compared to a maximum annual general obligation bond debt service of $6.6 million.
The installment revenue purchase bond would give the county an estimated debt service of $86.3 million over the lifetime of the bond. A general obligation bond would bring a debt service of $82.1 million.
With the installment revenue purchase bond, the debt service millage would be maxed at about 25.26 mills as compared with the 24.88 mills of a general obligation bond.
The county’s current debt service millage is 15.29 mills.
With the estimated debt service millage for 2023 at 18.23 mills ($265,765 per mill), which includes the land purchase for the courthouse, the installment revenue purchase bond would add an additional 7.03 debt service mills to the county.
Young said by going the route of the installment revenue purchase bond, there should not be a tax increase as the county’s industrial growth would help to cover the debt service payment through the fee-in-lieu of taxes. He noted that most fee-in-lieu payments are between $200,000 and $300,000 annually.
If a general obligation bond is chosen as the financing mechanism for the courthouse, it would increase county debt service mills by 6.65 mills.
Young said despite the increase in costs, it is less risky to use the installment revenue purchase bond because it is spread out over time and does not impact the county’s 8% debt limit.
The county cannot issue a general obligation bond in an aggregate principal amount that exceeds 8% of the assessed value of taxable property in the county unless the voters approve it in a referendum.
Young said protecting the debt limit is key in the event the county deals with a catastrophic, unforeseen event.
Young also said if the county were to go with a general obligation bond and pay the $50 million in one lump sum, it would “pretty much sacrifice the entire fifth penny on just the courthouse.”
“That probably would not work,” Young said.
Young said the county used the installment revenue purchase bond payment process in the construction of the current county jail and has been able to get good interest rates because of its A credit rating.
He also said the bond could be paid back with proceeds received from the fifth round of the 1 percent capital projects sales tax if voters approve the fifth round in a referendum.
Young said the fifth round will come before voters most likely in the 2024 general election.
The fifth penny could generate an estimated $81 million for capital projects over the seven-year term of the tax, if it’s approved.
new, $87.3 million nursing home for veterans is planned for Orangeburg County.
The home is needed because nearby facilities are full with waiting lists, Orangeburg County Veteran Affairs Officer Kenisha Grimes said.
“Many Orangeburg County vets are being housed at private facilities,” Grimes said. “With this new veterans home, that will save many veterans money. Their families won’t have to travel so far to see their loved ones.”
“Private pay facilities place a financial strain on many veterans’ families who cannot afford it,” Grimes continued.
The agency’s application, which will be filed with the VA prior to April 15th, will propose a 104 bed facility similar to the plans for the facilities in Sumter County and Horry County.
It would be located on U.S. 301 off of exit 154 on Interstate 26.
Grimes said Orangeburg County provides an ideal, central location.
It about 35 miles from the nearest veterans hospital and even closer to a private hospital.
The area also provides easy access to the facility because of its proximity to an interstate exit.
“It will bring jobs to the area and also support the local colleges who have nursing programs,” she said.
The new State Veterans Nursing Home is expected to address the needs of veterans who will reach retirement age in the next two decades.
The home would be funded by the federal and state governments as part of the VA State Home Construction Grant Program.
It’s projected that federal funding could become available for the home by federal fiscal year 2031, if it’s included in the federal fiscal year 2023 VA priority list, according to the S.C. Department of Mental Health.
The SCDMH recommended a new veterans home be built in the county.
The recommendation was based upon the request of the state’s Joint Bond Review Committee that the department determine the needs and feasibility of additional state veterans homes.
The JBRC is a 10-member legislative body that oversees state capital improvement projects.
The JBRC approved the SCDMH’s recommendation late last year.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who sits on the JBRC, says she has advocated for a veterans nursing home in Orangeburg County for some time.
“A few years ago, the late Howard Metcalf, former state director for Veteran Affairs, suggested to me that Orangeburg County would be an excellent site for a nursing home,” Cobb-Hunter said. “I agreed and began working then on securing approval of a facility for the county.”
Metcalf made the suggestion based on his knowledge and experience of the needs of veterans in the area, said Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg.
“I was thrilled when the recommendation to site the next facility in Orangeburg County was approved and see it as the next step in my efforts to make sure that Orangeburg County gets its fair share,” Cobb-Hunter said. “Of course, the process is just beginning, and I will remain vigilant to ensure that this facility becomes a reality.”
The SCDMH estimates the base cost of the home constructed in federal fiscal year 2031 at $87.3 million. It would be funded by the federal VA at $56.7 million, with the state matching $30.6 million.
The SCDMH will submit the state portion of the funding in its 2022-2023 fiscal year capital budget.
“While awaiting state and federal funding for the facility, the agency will be working with Orangeburg County officials to identify and secure an appropriate site for the future SVNH,” said SCDMH Director of Governmental & Legislative Affairs Mark Binkley.
Orangeburg County was chosen for the new veterans home because of:
• The projected number of veterans over age 65
• The location of existing homes
• Geographic characteristics, including locations within evacuation zones, accessibility for veterans and their families, and availability of an adequate health care workforce
“Orangeburg County brands itself as the Global Logistics Triangle because of its location,” Cobb-Hunter said. “That plays a key role in providing access to veterans living in a number of counties in proximity to Orangeburg.”
“For Orangeburg County veterans who need that level of care, the facility would eliminate the need for out-of-pocket expenses some veterans are currently having to pay to receive such care at private facilities,” she said. “It would also help address the waiting lists that exist at the Columbia and Walterboro facilities.”
According to the 2020 census, about 6,066 veterans live in Orangeburg County. About 3,102 are over 65.
By 2030, the projections are the county will have 4,919 veterans, with 2,741 over 65. By 2040, 3,828 veterans are projected to live in the county, with 2,029 over 65.
While the county is projected to rank 20th in the number of veterans 65 and older in future decades, it either borders or is geographically accessible to six of the 13 counties projected to have the most veterans, according to a SCDMH study.
In Calhoun County, there are 1,031 veterans, with 501 of them over 65. In 2030, there are projected to be 941 veterans, with 555 over 65 and, in 2040, there are projected to be 788 veterans, 460 of them over 65.
In Bamberg County, there are currently 1,210 veterans, with 645 over 65. In 2030, there are projected to be 1,060 veterans, with 598 over 65, and, in 2040, it’s projected there will be 870 veterans, with 436 over age 65.
Orangeburg County is in relatively close proximity to coastal counties with large populations of veterans age 65 and older, yet it is well away from evacuation zones.
Currently, all or portions of six of the 20 counties heavily populated by veterans are included in coastal evacuation zones: Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown and Horry counties.
SCDMH estimated it could cost up to 20% more to build to evacuation zone construction specifications.
Cobb-Hunter says the nursing home for veterans is a “game changer” for the county and veterans in the area.
“In addition to increasing the quality and level of services available to veterans, the economic impact and opportunities for workforce development are significant,” Cobb-Hunter said. “The number of jobs created and the spin-off from other amenities built to service the facility will have a positive impact on the local economy.”
Orangeburg County has several higher education institutions and nursing pipeline programs which can help fill the need for health care workers. The county is home to South Carolina State University, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and Claflin University, with Denmark Technical College nearby in Bamberg County.
Cobb-Hunter said these institutions will have an opportunity to, “work with the facility on securing student internships, practicums and other hands-on experiences that will help grow the health care workforce.”
“Additionally, I think the untapped potential for research in a number of areas can lead to interesting treatment applications in the future,” Cobb-Hunter said.
The SCDMH currently operates three veterans nursing homes – in Columbia, Anderson and Walterboro. A fourth home has been licensed by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control in Florence.
Construction of a fifth home in Cherokee County has been completed, and that facility is awaiting DHEC licensure prior to admitting new residents, Binkley said.
The VA has approved conditional grant funding for a home construction project in Sumter County, which will be the state’s sixth veterans nursing home. The project is on schedule to complete grant award requirements, with construction likely to begin in late spring 2022.
SCDMH, at the JBRC’s earlier direction, also submitted an application to the VA for an additional construction grant for a home in Horry County.
That application has not yet been approved for VA funding, Binkley said.
“In the meantime, the Department of Mental Health has been working with Horry County officials to identify a suitable site for the future facility, which will become the state’s seventh SVNH,” Binkley said.
Based on 2020 population projections, the state needs 1,089 beds.
An existing Orangeburg County solar farm is looking to invest $46.2 million in solar equipment and panels.
Orangeburg County Council gave unanimous first reading last month to a change in the existing fee-in-lieu of tax incentive for Magnolia Solar, LLC.
The solar farm, located at 238 Juniper Street in Neeses, is seeking a 30-year fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement.
Under the agreement, the company would pay the county $105,000 annually for the next 30 years with an additional $100,000 paid in the first year.
This is based on roughly $2,500 per megawatt of power the farm will produce, County Attorney Jerrod Anderson said.
The project will also be placed in a joint county industrial park with Dorchester County. The joint industrial park is not a physical park but an additional project incentive.
No new full-time jobs were promised as part of the project.
In other business:
• Council gave unanimous third and final reading to the rezoning of two parcels for a new residential housing community in the Holly Hill area.
The planned residential project, which will be located on Bunch Ford Road and Academy Lane, will be developed on about 65 acres.
Project officials say there are no immediate plans to build, but the rezoning change is the first step in moving the process forward.
• Council gave unanimous third and final reading to rezoning about 15 acres of land next to IHOP on North Road for future commercial retail development.
• Council gave unanimous second reading to a fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement with Tri-County Electric Cooperative to expand broadband internet infrastructure to all cooperative customers.
The project will bring high-speed service to every Tri-County member in the Santee, Elloree, Vance and Eutawville areas. Non-members will also have access if they are within the cooperative’s service area.
The cooperative will spend $10 million in Orangeburg County for the project.
No new jobs are associated with the project.
• Council passed a resolution honoring the South Carolina State University Bulldogs for winning the Cricket Celebration Bowl Game against the Jackson State University Tigers. The Bulldogs won the game 31-10. The last time South Carolina State won an HBCU national championship was 2009.
It was the fifth national title the team has won since joining the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 1976.
The resolution will be framed and presented to S.C. State head coach Buddy Pough.
The county has offered its assistance to the city if it desires or chooses to hold a victory parade for the Bulldogs.
Council thanked S.C. State for inviting President Joe Biden and Congressman James Clyburn to the university’s graduation ceremony. All those county staff and agencies who helped in any way in making the president’s visit a success were thanked.
• Council entered into closed session to receive a legal briefing on the Regional Medical Center and its plans to build an ambulatory surgery center.