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County Council, November 2

Agrees on purchase and funding of helicopter
Reluctantly agrees on Chicora Life Center funding
Warwick Jones

Agendas were light for yesterday’s meetings. The most important items were essentially carryovers from previous meetings.

The Finance Committee again voted to move on with the purchase of a helicopter for the Sheriff’s Department. At the last Finance Committee meeting, Chairman Rawl requested more information about the likely use of the helicopter and services provided by other entities. Staff may well have provided Council members with the requested information but no mention was made last night. Chair Rawl voted in favor of the purchase but suggested the County study the unit cost of providing service, and ensure that state and other agencies be charged should they use the services of the County.

Council approved funding of $3.7 million for the purchase of the used helicopter. The outlay would be financed by diverting funds from the $5 million allocated in the 2019 budget for the purchase of radios for the department. The radios would still be purchased but the period would extend to 5 years. Presumably the balance of funds would be provided in budgets after FY 2019.
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Council member Moody described it as the “less stinky of the stinky options”. And Council generally agreed. He was referring to the financing of the purchase of the old naval hospital or Chicora Life Center. To recapitulate, the County contracted with the owner to lease part of the property for County and other agencies. The lease agreement required the owner to make renovations and improvements. In the opinion of the County, the owner failed to adequately make these improvements and the County terminated the lease agreement. However, the Court favored the owner in the dispute and was set to award damages. With its back against the wall after the Court’s decision in favor of the owners, the County offered to buy the property – for $33 million- to settle the dispute.

Council agreed last night to use the $17 million proceeds from the sale of the Charleston Center to MUSC, to defray part of the cost. The $16 million balance would come from reprogramming 2017 General Obligation Bonds previously marked for the Azalea Project.

Council Moody remarked and Chair Rawl endorsed the need to swiftly repay debt and to seek other tenants. The County was looking at leases it held or arrangements with a view to moving tenants to the newly acquired property. Chair Rawl also acknowledged that the renovation and upkeep of the property would be expensive.

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