Orangeburg Seeks to Borrow $7 Million for New City Hall | Local
Orangeburg is looking to borrow $7 million to turn an old downtown bank building into a new city hall.
City officials hope the bond can be repaid with funds raised in the fifth round of the capital project sales tax referendum that will go to voters for approval in 2024.
If voters approve the CPST referendum, it would reduce the tax burden on city residents, City Administrator Sidney Evering said.
“There’s a good chance that this new city hall will be paid off in a much shorter time frame,” Evering told city council at its Tuesday meeting.
The building envisaged by the municipal authorities for the town hall is the former First Citizens Bank at Broughton and Russell streets.
Evering said the renovation effort would be paid for with a $7 million Bond Installment Purchase Revenue (IRPB) bond over 30 years.
Thanks to the IRPB, there would be no tax increase for the first two years of the obligation.
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In the third year, the bond would increase the mileage to 7.19. The mileage would gradually increase to a maximum of 10.87 mills upon payment of the bond.
The impact on a $100,000 home after two years would be an annual property tax increase of $28.70 before transitioning to an annual property tax increase of $43.48 at the maximum annual amount, Evering said. .
“I would advise you to put this on the capital project sales tax referendum to pay for this long before a mileage increase comes into effect to this extent,” Evering said.
“The city hasn’t raised taxes substantially in the past few years,” Evering continued, noting that with costs rising and expected to continue to rise, any project is best done as soon as possible to reduce the costs.
The borrowing proposal has been modified from the initial plan submitted to the Board.
At the March 1 council meeting, it was initially proposed to borrow $10 million – including $7 million for the renovation of a new city hall – and $3 million for improvements to the building. Stevenson Auditorium to include a new roof, stage, lighting and carpet.
According to this proposal, the mileage increase in the third year would have been 9.73, gradually increasing to about 15 mills.
For someone who owns a house worth $100,000, the tax increase under this initial scenario in 2025 would be about $38 per year. At its maximum of $15 million, that would mean an annual increase of $60 for a $100,000 home.
The new proposal would use CPST funds to pay for Stevenson Auditorium upgrades. The current City Hall adjoins Stevenson, and the space could be used for Stevenson events once city employees move out.
The one-cent tax has helped fund a number of projects over the years since it was first approved by voters in November 1998.
Evering said the city has $1.1 million in CPST funds that could be earmarked for Stevenson’s upgrades. He said renovations could begin next year on Stevenson and additional funds, if approved in the 2024 referendum, could be used for further Stevenson renovations.
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Orangeburg City Council voted 5-2 to give first reading by title only to a $7 million financial installment plan. Councilman Bernard Haire and Richard Stroman voted in opposition, expressing concerns about the high price of the renovation effort and its impact on ratepayers.
Prior to the vote, Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler cited the number of investments Orangeburg County has made in the downtown area.
These include: approximately $10 million for the new Orangeburg County Library and Conference Center; approximately $300,000 for the purchase of former car dealership DD Salley and Co.; $675,000 for 2.32 acres at 1480 Russell St.
He also noted that Claflin University is revitalizing the Way Building downtown.
“We don’t want people coming in to revitalize downtown and we’re the guardians of downtown,” Butler said. “We are the city council and I don’t want it to be said that the county had to fix our downtown and they invested that kind of money there.”
“It’s imperative … that we move forward with the move,” Butler said. “We’ve done nothing but buy a building and it’s there. It’s time to move on.”
Some council members noted that the city has done a lot, including building a new municipal gymnasium, a North Road recreation complex and a new council chamber in recent years.
Butler provided a litany of problems with the current City Hall, including rusting and leaking pipes, failing sewer lines, outdated technology and wiring, bad windows, no handicap accessibility, and old HVAC and ventilation systems.
“It’s time for the city to step in and take a stand,” he said. “We’ve been kicking this box for a long time.”
“It’s going to be very serious that we have to sit here in the city and we haven’t put a shovel in the ground and they’ve come in and worked on three or four different projects,” Butler said.
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Councilman Kalu Kalu said his vision for Orangeburg is to “make a difference for young people”.
“There is no outlet for them,” he said. “We are elders hanging around.”
“It all comes down to expanding and thinking outside the box,” Kalu said. “I encourage members to open their minds on the board to discuss this issue.”
“Where do you want Orangeburg to be?” Said Kalou. “That’s the main thing you have to ask yourself.”
“If you want to buy a Cadillac, you have to pay for it,” Kalu said. “We can’t have ordinary if we can have extraordinary. You have to pay for this extraordinary. Today is not like before.”
Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt emphasized her desire for Orangeburg to move forward and that upgrading City Hall is one way to do that.
“We’ve been delaying our plans for too long. It’s time for us to move forward with the new sites we’re seeing,” Keitt said. “Old things don’t get us anything but new ones will.”
“Hopefully this advice will step into the new era instead of thinking old,” Keitt said. “It’s just common sense for us to do this. I hope we have the courage to stand up and move on.”
Councilman Bernard Haire voiced his opposition to the plan.
“I’m not opposed to a new city hall, but I’m opposed to what’s being offered and the amount that’s being offered,” Haire said, noting that he doesn’t see the need to add a third floor or a roof terrace. the renovated town hall. He says there are open offices on the second floor of the former First Citizens building which can be used for growth and offices.
“A Cadillac doesn’t excite me,” Haire said. “I want a place where our employees will have a workspace that fits the current size of the building.”
“Going up to the third floor and having the roof and all that,” Haire said. “What are you going to watch?” You will look at other buildings.
Evering said a park and green space will be linked to the gardens, which will provide a nice view.
“If we are considering renovating the existing building, I can support that,” Haire said. “But to say to go up and do all that just to have a Cadillac presentation, I’m not in favor of that.”
Butler took issue with Haire’s comments.
“It’s not a Cadillac presentation,” Butler said. “It’s the era where people are moving all over downtown. It’s not a showboat; it’s something we’re getting into in this century and we’re trying… to move the city forward .”
Haire asked how a third floor would bring more industry.
“I’ve been around and I’ve been places where you can bring people in,” Butler said. “We want quality people. You want people to say Orangeburg is a place I want to live. That’s what we want to attract to our downtown.”
“We’re planning to do something special here,” Evering said, noting that the new City Hall should serve as an “anchor point” for downtown.
“If we want to revitalize our downtown and make Orangeburg a place where we all want to be, we need to invest in ourselves and invest at a financially reasonable and feasible level,” Evering said.
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Evering said there were investors interested in downtown, but the city needed to lead by example, showing it was serious about downtown revitalization.
“Orangeburg is unfortunately stagnating,” Evering said. “I would dare say die on the vine. We have a special window of time to change that. If we don’t commit to it, I think we will regret it.”
“Sometimes it takes money to make money,” Evering said. “We want to do what is necessary to revitalize our downtown and grow the tax base and stop losing people. We are not…what we can be and we should be. That’s why I am here.”
“I don’t think we should add another floor to this building,” Councilor Richard Stroman said, noting that he’s all for putting new paint, a new roof, new carpet, new air conditioning. “I just can’t spend that kind of money. I just can’t do it. I’m sorry. I just can’t put my people in that debt.”
Stroman said the project will be funded by struggling taxpayers.
“You know who’s going to pay, it’s the tenants,” Stroman said. “They’re struggling. The people of Orangeburg are struggling. We’ve got a war to prepare. We’re in bad shape. We need to tighten up here.”
“I just don’t think we should spend that much money on an old building,” Stroman said.