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Lexington County Council tells Cayce no in split decision

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – The Lexington County Council split 5 to 4 to tell the city of Cayce and its leaders that they would not approve their request to renew their TIF District for an additional 20 years. A TIF district is a special funding method used to finance projects in a specific area. The council did so in the most contentious public meeting that the governing body had seen in many years.

Last summer, the county council approved a similar request from the city of West Columbia to renew one they had in place for similar projects and use. That was a very different council than the one that serves today, which saw several new members elected in November of 2016.

Cayce had planned to use funds from the TIF district to help to finance a new building for their Department of Public Safety, a Twelve Thousand Year History Park near the award-winning tennis and fitness center, and some other needed infrastructure projects. These are the types of projects that Cayce officials said had already paid huge dividends in the past.

The TIF district had already been discussed by the board of trustees of Lexington County School District Two. They reportedly had agreed to chip in some of their tax receipts, but at a reduced amount from what they had done earlier. This reduction was made necessary by bond debt they took on several years ago to finance new school construction.

In Tuesday’s council session, the county approved of a new TIF district for the town of Lexington that easily sailed through. That district would allow them to finance some major road improvements to the Sunset Boulevard, Corley Mill Road, and I-20 area of the town. In fact, that vote went 8 for and 1 against, with Councilman Scott Whetstone voting no.

When the Cayce TIF district came up, the council’s vicechair, Debbie Summers, made an attempt at an 11th hour compromise. It would have changed the assessment year that the Cayce district was based on.

Councilman Darrell Hudson, who represents a part of Lexington and some areas west of that town, said that they, both as a group, and individually, had talked about the issue for hours and there was no more need to discuss it. “We put the olive branch out and the branch was snapped off,” Hudson said, apparently referring to previous attempts at compromise.

Hudson was backed up by Councilmember Erin Long-Bergeson who reinforced to those at the dais and in the gallery how many hours the subject had been discussed. She had also obviously made up her mind and was ready to vote and move on.

In order to have the meeting and emotions keep from getting any further out of hand, Councilmember Scotty Whetstone called for the question, a parliamentary procedure that forces the vote. When the votes were tallied by roll call, council members Ned Tolar, Phil Yarbrough, Erin Long-Bergeson, Darrell Hudson, and Scotty Whetstone voted no. Council members Bobby Keisler, Larry Brigham, Debbie Summers, and Todd Cullum voted yes. With the majority voting against the renewal, the measure failed.

When the votes were tallied, council chairman Todd Cullum said on the record, “What a shame to see politics rule policy.” He did not explain the comment any further.

It remains to be seen if feelings are permanently hurt or if egos will heal as this new council moves forward. It is almost a full 2 years before the mid-term elections that could once again change the makeup of the council. Until then, the new majority say that they will continue to take the council in a new, more conservative tone.

Councilmember Darrell Hudson will be on the Good Morning Lexington County morning show on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 beginning at 7:45 a.m. It streams on Facebook Live at Council Chairman Todd Cullum has agreed to appear one day next week.

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