June Called Meeting

Budget Passed, Solar
Farm Announced

  Saluda County Council gave third and final reading to the 2017-2018 budget Mon., June 26, but the big news was the announcement of a massive solar farm for the county. 
  Council passed a resolution and gave first reading to an ordinance that will allow a fee in lieu of ad valorem taxes for the project.
    In a written report to County Council, Development Director Ed Parler said: 
  “What is known as the Project Beulah has plans to develop a 75 megawatt solar energy facility in Saluda County.
  The proposed site is on Beulah Road, bordered by Old Golf Course Road and Double Bridges Road, near Batesburg Leesville encompassing approximately 650+ acres.
  The company  has previously constructed two other solar facilities in the county - an 8.8 megawatt farm on Highway 121 and a four megawatt facility recently completed on Highway 378 across from Roya with a combined investment of $12 million. The Saluda County Council approved two separate fee in lieu of taxes agreements as an incentive to the company to construct these facilities, The agreements contained a six percent assessment rate for a period of thirty years and provided a 40% credit for the first thirty years.
  Beulah is a significantly larger project that would have a profound positive economic impact. The project is expected to bring a $115 million investment into the County which would make it one of if not the largest project in recent history. During the construction of the facility, an estimated 1,300 construction jobs will be needed for a period of six months. The company estimates that this will result in over $90 million in local spending in the area. Additionally, four to five employees will be needed full time when completed. The project is scheduled to begin in 2018 with completion and on the tax rolls in 2019.
  The current property is assessed as agriculture use. The tax yield is currently minimal given the size of the property - around $2,130 annually. The proposed facility would not place any burden on the county or school system to provide services.
  The Company is requesting approval by the Saluda County Council of a Fee in lieu of taxes Agreement that will pay to the county a flat payment of $150,000 per year for forty years, for a term value of $6,000,000. This would equate to a six percent  assessment and a 66 percent credit for the period. From the $150,000 annual payment, the School District (Lexington 3) would receive approximately $82,243 and Saluda County $67,257.”
  Mark Simmons, principal with Parker Poe Consulting, was present to answer any questions from Council.
  Chairman Don Hancock said the $115 million investment was big, and actions taken by the past and current Councils have made this project possible.
  “Saluda County was an orphan county, meaning we were not affiliated with any other counties or development agencies,” Hancock said.
  The county began to make improvements with the hiring of Parler on a part-time basis, he said. Then a development partnership was formed with such companies as SCE&G, Mid-Carolina Cooperative, Amick Farms and Titan Farms.
  Finally, the county joined in a partnership with Aiken and Edgefield counties.
  Hancock said more development activity could be announced in the next few months.
  Prior to the discussion on the solar farm, Council gave final reading to the budget, and two ordinances allowing the transfer of funds from the reserve account to balance budgets.
  The county budget has expenditures of $12,347,107. Debt service (Piedmont Tech) is $161,903.63.
  Piedmont Technical College appropriations for the fiscal year will be revenues collected from three mills.
  The first ordinance allows funds, not to exceed $350,000, to be taken from the reserve fund to balance the 2016-17 budget.
  The second ordinance allows funds, not to exceed $550,151, to be taken from the reserve fund to balance the 2017-18 budget.
  In the public hearing portion, Jack Atkinson said the county will one day run out of reserve funds. He said most individuals don’t have reserve funds and have to budget what funds they have.
  Atkinson said he appreciated the effort Council put forth in the budget process, and said he would continue to pay his taxes as long as he was able.
  Hancock said the county continues to struggle with unfunded mandates from the state, and the state’s failure to fully fund aid to local governments.
 He said since the state began to cut back funding, Saluda County has lost $1.5 million that had to be made up in the local budget.
  Councilwoman Gwen Shealy said the legislature allegedly put an extra $10 million in aid to local governments in this year’s budget, but she can’t find any evidence of that. In fact, she said Saluda County’s portion is a little less than last year.
  Councilman D.J. Miller said Council should make a goal when the fiscal year begins on  July 1 not to use any reserve funds in next year’s budget.

NEW LEADER -  Donald Hancock, left, accepts gavel from David Sawyer, taking over as Upper Savannah Council of Governments Board of Directors Chairman effective July 1, 2017.

Saluda’s Hancock new chairman

of USCOG Board of Directors

    Saluda County Council Chairman Donald Hancock will take over as chairman of the Upper Savannah Council of Governments (USCOG) Board of Directors for Fiscal Years 2018-2019.
     The Board unanimously nominated Hancock as chairman for the term beginning July 1, 2017.
     David Sawyer, also of Saluda County, who was filling in as interim chairman, “passed the gavel” to Hancock during the Board’s June meeting. Hancock’s first meeting as chairman will be in August 2017.
     USCOG serves the counties of Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick and Saluda with services ranging from grant writing and planning to community development, workforce development, aging and economic development. The COG also serves Newberry County in workforce development.
     USCOG serves as the region’s Area Agency on Aging while overseeing SC Works Centers that help citizens find jobs and employers locate qualified workers.