“This is version 1.0,” said County Administrator Jon Caime of his Strategic Capital Plan. “I’m already working on version 1.5.”
Caime said the county already levies annual taxes for capital projects - 6.1 mills, generating about $1 million - but that leaves county department heads to fight over a pot of money that is woefully inadequate - especially when fire trucks cost $450,000 each.
The overall figuring is staggering. But, Caime said, if the council does not make plans now for spending it, things will only get worse, and more expensive. Council gave County Fire Service Director Greg Lindley the go-ahead to look for pre-owned fire trucks - rather than spending hundreds of thousands on new fire trucks.
By 2020, Lindley estimates the County Fire Service will need $5.5 million to upgrade its rolling stock. The county floated a $3.2 bond in 2010 to meet the Fire Service’s capital needs.
Council member Diane Anderson said the capital plan does not go far enough, saying it should be part of an overall Laurens County Strategic Plan. “We need to be part of the process,” she said.
Council Chairman Joe Wood said Caime is bringing forth ideas, a task the council charged him with when Caime was hired two years ago.
The $60 million capital plan - including right-now projects, five years from now projects and maybe-never projects - includes $1.65 million for a new Emergency Medical Services Headquarters and $3.75 million (with an extra $500,000 for equipment) for a new Clinton Library. In the needed but “maybe-never” category is $10 million for a Gray Court-Hickory Tavern Library.
Caime said county voters might have to pass a 1-cent Local Option Sales Tax to pay for parks and libraries. The earliest the county would consider putting this tax on the November ballot would be 2020, Caime said.
“In my experience,” he said, “these work when everybody gets something.”
Caime said the capital plan, and an overall pay plan for employees, will be documents he will refer to often as the budget process unfolds. He wants to have a FY18-19 budget in the county council’s hands by March.
In another report, Public Works Director Rob Russian said the Hillcrest Square Administration Annex is slowly being put back together after a flood.
A fire-suppression device in the attic malfunctioned, flooded the back corner of the building, and caused a shut-down for a day and a half. Employees got the building back up and running before it was fully dried out, Russian said. Insurance carriers have been contacted to assess the damage, Russian said.
Many Laurens County and City of Laurens employees provided excellent assistance in responding to the damage, Russian said, along with ServPro of Laurens and Newberry which provided “vital” assistance.
“We are nowhere near finished” putting the building and offices back together, Russian said. About 20% of the building sustained water damage, he said, but other Hillcrest judicial and services functions were not affected by the flooding.