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Tuesday
Mar062018

County to Consider Purchase of Equinox Mill Site

Anderson County Council moved ahead Tuesday night with an exploratory plan to buy the property which makes up the site of the old Equinox Mill near downtown.

“The old Glen Raven Equinox Mill site is a disaster and it’s an eye sore and it has been for some time,” said Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns. “We have worked with every enforcement agency to try to make the owner of that property do something because it is dragging that community down. 

Burns said he had been discussing the acquisition of the property which he said the county could possible get “for a song.”

“If we can get it for a song, the Glen Raven, the parent company that does not own the property anymore, has agreed to help us with this. Then we can go after EPA grants. And it’s on a railroad line, that has potential. We’re already thinking housing would fit nicely in there; jump start a new neighborhood. All of those things are on the board.”

Burns said one of the goals of the current council is to redo every old, abandoned mill site in Anderson County.

“We want to turn those back to productive, or at least clean areas,” Burns added. 

The announcement came near the end of an usually long council meeting, in which the issue of the council’s “fee in lieu of” deals to bring industry to the county was challenged by some members of the Anderson County Fire Commission who was at the meeting seeking approval for a general bond issue and who suggested the practice had cost them $855,000.

Glenn Holliday, Chairman of Fire Commission District 1, said it has been 31 years since the commission received an increase in the tax millage rate and that costs had skyrocketed during that time.

The commission had sent a letter to council withdrawing their request for a general obligation bond, but admitted Tuesday night that letter was “probably a mistake.”

“Volunteers are our greatest resource,” said Holliday, who added that the commission’s 31 fire stations would suffer without additional funding.

He reiterated information made in an earlier PowerPoint presentation suggesting the county’s providing tax incentives to bring in new industry and allow current industry to expand was at least partially to blame for the shortfall in funds.

Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn, who has served as a firefighter in the county for more than 35 years, was quick dismiss the validity of the suggestion. 

“Fee-in-Lieu of taxes is a very important tool for economic development,” Dunn said. “It is not a dirty thing.”

Dunn suggested that the entirely of the Fire Commission request for bonds was not represented in the discussion by the group, but agreed that council would sit down with them to discuss the issues.

Burns said offering tax incentives to attract businesses to South Carolina is essential. He said the state constitution of 1898 intentionally put a high tax rate of 10.5 percent on businesses. Many of the powers that controlled South Carolina, which was overwhelmingly agricultural at that time, were not warm to the idea of industrial growth. 

 “It was to make sure that there were plenty of workers on the farm you didn’t have to pay a whole lot,” Burns said.

“We compete with the whole world, and at 10.5 percent, no one is coming to Anderson County. We look at every industry and determine the cost of benefit is. How many are they going to employ? How much taxes will they pay? That’s what we look at.”

“And if we can bring people in here to hire 2,000 people like Arthrex is, where the janitor is going to make $70,000, did we want to squeeze them out or did we want them to go to Greenville?”

“So I will defend it with every breath I have. The first Fee-in-Lieu is South Carolina was the Michelin plant in Sandy Springs. Do you know how many families and how many jobs those people have put out over the years?”

“We’re willing to work with home-grown companies, and major corporations; people who are going to hire our people and use our local services.”

“It’s easy to criticize Fee-in-Lieu. Fee-in-Lieu allows us to reduce the number of kids on free lunch rolls, that’s what it does.”

Burns also said that Fee-in-Lieu had also allowed county council to avoid tax hikes for citizens of Anderson County. 

Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, council:

  • Gave final approval to tax incentives for Oppermann Webbing to create 71 new jobs as part of a $10-million expansion.
  • Approved amending the county operating and capital budget for the current fiscal year.

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