Orangeburg is looking to borrow $7 million to remodel a former downtown bank building for a new city hall.

City officials hope the bond would be able to be paid off through monies obtained from the fifth round of the capital project sales tax referendum to come before voters for approval in 2024.

If voters approve the CPST referendum, it would lessen the tax burden on city residents, City Administrator Sidney Evering said.

“There is a strong possibility that this new city hall can be paid off in a much shorter period of time,” Evering told City Council during its Tuesday meeting.

The building eyed by city officials for city hall is the former First Citizens Bank at Broughton and Russell streets.

Evering said the remodel effort would be paid for with a $7 million bond installment purchase revenue (IRPB) bond over 30 years.

Through the IRPB, there would be no tax increase for the first two years of the bond.

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The third year the bond would increase millage to 7.19. The millage would gradually increase to a high of 10.87 mills during the payment of the bond.

The impact on a $100,000 home after two years would be a $28.70 annual property tax increase before increasing to a $43.48 property tax annual increase at the maximum annual amount, Evering said.

“I would advise you put this on the capital project sales tax referendum in order to pay this off far before a millage increase would kick in to that extent,” Evering said.

“The city has not raised taxes substantially over the past few years,” Evering continued, noting that with costs going up and expected to continue going up, any project is better done sooner than later to keep costs down.

The borrowing proposal was tweaked from the initial plan submitted to council.

At council’s March 1 meeting it was initially proposed to borrow $10 million — with $7 million going to the remodel for a new city hall — and $3 million for Stevenson Auditorium upgrades to include a new roof, stage, lighting and carpet.

Under that proposal, the millage increase on the third year would have been 9.73, gradually increasing to around 15 mills.

For someone who owns a house that is valued at $100,000, the tax increase under that initial scenario in 2025 would be about a $38 a year. At its 15-mill maximum, that would mean a $60 annual increase for a $100,000 house.

The new proposal would use CPST monies to pay for the 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 being first approved by voters in November 1998.

Evering said the city has $1.1 million in CPST monies that could go toward the Stevenson upgrades. He said renovations could start next year on Stevenson and additional funds, if approved from the 2024 referendum, could be used for other Stevenson renovations.

City of Orangeburg: New city hall, Stevenson upgrades may cost $10M; some council members balk at tax increase

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 tag for the remodeling effort and its impact on taxpayers.

Prior to the vote, Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler cited the number of investments Orangeburg County has made in downtown.

These include: about $10 million for the new Orangeburg County Library and Conference Center; about $300,000 for the purchase of the former D.D. Salley and Co. automobile dealership; $675,000 for 2.32 acres at 1480 Russell St.

He also noted Claflin University is in the process of revitalizing the Way Building downtown.

“We don’t want people to come in and revitalize the downtown and we are the custodians of downtown,” Butler said. “We are the city council and I don’t want it to be said the county had to fix up our downtown and they invested that kind of money down there.”

“It is imperative … that we move with the move,” Butler said. “We have done nothing but bought a building and it is sitting there. It is time to move forward.”

Some council members noted the city has done a lot, including building a new city gym, a North Road recreational complex and a new council chambers in recent years. 

Butler than provided a litany of problems with the current city hall, including rusted and leaking pipes, failing sewer lines, outdated technology and wiring, bad windows, no handicapped accessibility, and old HVAC and ventilation systems.

“It is time for the city to step up and take its position,” he said. “We have been kicking this can down the road for a long time.”

“It is going to be mighty bad that we have to sit here in the city and we have not put a shovel in the ground and they have come and worked on three or four different projects,” Butler said.

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Councilman Kalu Kalu said his vision for Orangeburg is to “change things around for young people.”

“There is no outlet for them,” he said. “We are old-timers just hanging around.”

“Everything boils down to expansion and to thinking outside the box,” Kalu said. “I would encourage members to open up their minds in council in discussing this issue.”

“Where do you want Orangeburg to be?” Kalu said. “That is the main thing you have to ask yourself.”

“If you want to buy a Cadillac, you got to pay for it,” Kalu said. “We cannot have an ordinary if we can have extraordinary. You have to pay for that extraordinary. Today is not the way it used to be.”

Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt stressed her desire that Orangeburg move forward and that upgrading City Hall is one of the ways to do that.

“We have been putting our projects back too long. It is time for us to move forward with the new sights that we see,” Keitt said. “Old things don’t bring anything to us but new ones will do that.”

“I am hoping this council will move into the new era instead of thinking old,” Keitt said. “That is just common good sense for us to do that. Hopefully we will have the guts to stand up and move forward.”

Councilman Bernard Haire expressed his opposition to the plan.

“I am not opposed to a new city hall, but I am opposed to what is being proposed and the amount that is being proposed,” Haire said, noting he does not see a need to add a third floor or a roof top terrace to the remodeled city hall. He says there are open offices on the second floor of the former First Citizens building that can be used for growth and office space.

“A Cadillac does not excite me,” Haire said. “I want a place where our employees will have working space that is accommodated with the present size of the building.”

“Going up to the third floor and having the rooftop and all of that,” Haire said. “What are you going to look at? You are going to look at other buildings.”

Evering said a park area and green space will tie into the gardens that will make  for a nice view.

“If we would consider doing remodeling to the existing building, then I can support it,” Haire said. “But to say go upstairs and do all of that just to have a Cadillac presentation, I am not in favor of that.”

Butler took exception to Haire’s comments.

“It is not a Cadillac presentation,” Butler said. “It is the era in which people are moving downtown all over. It is not a showboat; it is something that in this century we are moving in and we are trying … to move the city forward.”

Haire asked how would a third floor bring in more industry.

“I have been around and I have been places where you can get people to come in,” Butler said. “We want people of quality. You want people to say Orangeburg is a place I want to live. This is what we want to attract in our downtown.”

“We are looking at doing something special here,” Evering said, noting the new city hall is being projected to serve as a “anchor” for downtown.

“If we want to revitalize our downtown and make Orangeburg a place where we all want to be, we have to invest in ourselves and invest at a level that is financially reasonable and feasible,” Evering said. $1 for the first 26 weeks

Evering said there are investors interested in the downtown area, but the city needs to be lead by example, showing it is serious about revitalizing the downtown area.

“Orangeburg is unfortunately stagnant,” Evering said. “I would dare say dying on the vine. We have a special window of time to change that. If we don’t make the commitment to do so, 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 to grow the tax base and stop losing people. We are not … what we can be and we should be. That is why I am here.”

“I don’t think we should add another floor on that building,” Councilman Richard Stroman said, noting he is all for putting new paint, a new roof, new carpet, new air conditioning. “I just can’t go for spending that kind of money. I just can’t do it. I am sorry. I just cannot put my people in that debt.”

Stroman said tje project will be paid for by struggling taxpayers.

“You know who will be paying is the tenants,” Stroman said. “They are struggling. People in Orangeburg are struggling. We have a war fixing to go on. We are in bad shape. We have to tighten up here.”

“I just don’t think we should spend that kind of money on a old building,” Stroman said.

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