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Darlington County Council hears preliminary report on hurricane

October 2, 2018

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Members of the Darlington County Council got a preliminary briefing Monday on the effects of Hurricane Florence on the county.

In the days immediately after the storm, early damage assessment surveys indicated that fewer than 100 homes in the county suffered damage, Darlington County Emergency Management Coordinator Molly Odom said, but she said surveys and damage assessments are continuing and officials expect to that number to rise.

Only one home so far was found to be totally destroyed from the storm, Odom said. Most of the homes identified so far showed water damage of varying degrees, she said.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are still gathering information to make decisions about individual assistance to owners, she said.

“We speculate that there will be more damage,” Odom said.

Council members commended county officials and emergency personnel for their response to the storm. They also credited officials with Sonoco and Duke Energy for their response and handling of water releases from Lake Robinson and Prestwood Lake during and after the storm.

Councilman Lewis Brown of Hartsville said the storm provided a learning experience on which to build for future emergency situations. Brown said that when he visited the county’s Emergency Operations Center during the storm, he found “professionals in their element.”

“We have a great benchmark now,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

He praised the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office for its efforts to warn residents in threatened areas to evacuate.

“I think it was a proud moment for the county and for Mr. (Charles) Stewart (county administrator),” Brown said.

“We are one of the really blessed counties in this,” Darlington Councilwoman Joyce Wingate Thomas said.

Members also heard some concerns about the increase in the mosquito population in the aftermath of the storm. Hartsville area resident George Cannon, who lives in an area of South Hartsville, said his neighborhood has been neglected when it comes to spraying for mosquitos.

“We’ve got nothing,” he said.

Darlington County Administrator Charles Stewart said the private contractor hired by the county for spraying has already sprayed along 400 miles of roads since the storm with another 400 miles planned for spraying. He said spraying efforts will continue after that. Crews are also treating areas of standing water with larvacide as they proceed, Stewart said.

In other business, a proposed multi-county business park in Hartsville that city officials say could yield as much as $10 million in new capital investment in the city took another step forward a vote by the council to approve an ordinance related to the project.

The council gave preliminary approval to a measure to establish and develop the so-called Canal District Business Park, a proposed project aimed at redevelopment along the South Fourth Street corridor and neighboring areas.

In September, the Hartsville City Council gave first-reading approval to an ordinance of its own dealing with the proposed park. The city’s ordinance still needs a final vote on second reading, which could come on Oct. 9 during the city council’s next regular meeting.

The county’s ordinance needs one more vote on third reading to pass.

The city has been working to stimulate commercial redevelopment of a mixed-use commercial and multi-family housing project in a designated area along South Fourth Street and has purchased several properties over the past year in the area to facilitate the redevelopment effort.

A number of privately-owned properties are also included in the proposed district. Some 115 properties now make up the proposed district, according to a draft of a master agreement for the proposed park.

Hartsville City Manager Natalie Zeigler said in September a number of the properties are owned by the city. Many others are privately owned, she said.

The Byerly Foundation is investing about $2 million in the Canal Project in the form of a $1.5 million loan to the Hartsville Public Development Corp. for property acquisitions in the area and through a $500,000 grant to the city. The corporation is a nonprofit organization created by the city to assist in the development of public facilities and other projects that benefit the city.

The park arrangement will generate revenue from fees paid at the same level of existing property taxes in the designated park area for a fixed term, Zeigler said. Typically, she said, the fees are for a 20-year term.

Revenue from the fees will be shared by the two counties based on a specific distribution method. For property in Darlington County covered by the park agreement, Darlington County will retain 99 percent of the fees after reductions required by state law with Lee County getting the remaining 1 percent. For property in Lee County covered by the agreement, Lee County will keep 99 percent of the revenue after required reductions with Darlington County receiving the remaining 1 percent.

After those distributions, the city will receive 70 percent of the residual fee revenue with the remainder going to taxing entities in Darlington County, except the city, on a pro-rata basis in accordance with respective tax millages.

The agreement calls for the city to use the revenue it receives to undertake various projects to serve the park in order to meet the objectives of the agreement.

Infrastructure projects that could be funded in and around the new park include:

>> Engineering, architectural, consulting and other professional services related projects.

>> Parks, greenspace, hardscaping, landscaping and greenway improvements.

>> Improvements such as water, sewer, electric, gas, storm water drainage, railways, sidewalks, roadways.

>> Lighting and public access improvements.

>> Surface parking, garage parking, on-street parking and other parking facilities to serve the park and related areas.

>> Waterway, canal, waterworks features to benefit the park and its development.

>> Recreation improvements.

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