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County Council Discusses Moving Chambers

Dorchester County Council talks two options for a future hybrid chambers.

While stating that the county's No. 1 priority is building a Summerville-located detention center, Dorchester County Council also discussed selling its current and creating a new chambers combined with a new Tuesday during a special meeting. 

As of Thursday, no action has been taken on selling the current chambers or purchasing land or buildings for a future county offices. 

County Councilman Jay Byars made the presentation on a new chamber building. 

The county plans to spend $26 million in projects from 2012 until 2015 on a new detention center, EMS center relocations, a new main library branch and more. Those plans did not include Byars' proposal. 

After executive session, council voted 7-0 to make two counter offers on real estate purchases of $165,000 and $1,350,000. However, Council Chair Larry Hargett said those offers were unrelated to the move of chambers or the new detention center, and related to parks and recreation.

Among the needed capital improvement projects slated is a new library — which with a price tag of $8 million — can easily house a new council chambers, according to Byars. He suggested selling the current chambers property at 500 N. Main St. could raise $4 million in capital toward the price. 

Byars set his sights on property currently owned by the county with the YMCA near Oakbrook. A facility there could serve the communities in walking distance through the Sawmill Branch walking path and serve Dorchester County School District Two schools, he said. 

A proposed library-chambers building is based on a Greenwood County building, Byars said. 

The building would be two stories and 43,000 square feet. 

Council members also briefly mentioned Heritage Square, which has remained vacant for years, at the corner of Highway 78 and Berlin G. Myers Parkway. 

Closing and selling the chambers at 500 N. Main St. would also mean moving county services to two auxiliary buildings. One of which is currently owned by the county, and the other would have to be purchased but is currently bank-owned. 

Byars said the 500 N. Main St. sale could further benefit the community by not only providing a solid main library branch but also drawing a hotel close to downtown to that property. 

The main library branch and county chambers building was just one of the projects discussed Tuesday. 

Another project would be a county library branch, EMS station and North Charleston Police Station building on Patriot Boulevard near Fort Dorchester High School. That building would be in partnership with Dorchester Two and the city.

The nearby high school could close its current library (partially stocking the proposed library) and make that space into classrooms with the nearby building.
Other EMS station improvements and relocations throughout the county were also discussed. 

To help raise money for these projects, Byars suggested a one-cent sales tax, which would allegedly alleviate the burden on property owners, increase incentives for businesses to locate to the county and increase the tax base for the county to use. 

As for the current chambers, there is no sentimental or historical attachment to the building, according to council.

"If that building was built in Civil War, that'd be one thing," Byars said.

It was also suggested that if the building sells before the new construction is completed, the county council could operate its meetings out of the temporarily. 

Richard Hayes February 03, 2012 at 02:59 PM
It is good to see that Republicans are finally willing to raise taxes and spend money for the good of the people of the County! The present building is 70 years old, not a historical building, and takes lots of energy. A Hotel on that prime land would also bring in tax revenue. The question will be -- what will the new building (that would house the County Council) cost, and how "green" can they make it.

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