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County Council, November 30

Material Recovery Facility construction still on schedule
An issue with State sponsored workforce training initiative
Warwick Jones

Meetings were unusually brief yesterday evening.

The Environmental Management Committee wae told by staff that the construction of the Materials Recovery Facility in North Charleston would resume shortly. The offending contaminated soil had been removed and the completion date for construction remained at Q1 2019. There was no change to the estimated cost of the project.

The Finance Committee was all in favor of the plan by Ready SC, the State operated agency, to take over the former American La France facility in Berkeley County and convert it into a workforce training center. The facility would supplement that at Trident Tech in North Charleston which was now at capacity. Two of the larger projects with the most urgent training schedules, Volvo Cars and Mercedes Benz Vans, could not be accommodated there.

The Committee was in favor of the purpose of Ready SC but not the ownership of the acquired property. If the County were to provide some of the funding, the facility had to be in the name of Trident Tech and not in the name of Ready SC. Approval would also be conditional on the approval by the other Counties.

To address this training space crisis, earlier this year, the S.C. Commerce Department approached the economic development directors of the three counties with a cost-sharing proposal that involves purchase of the former American LaFrance (ALF) building in Berkeley County to be utilized as a permanent tri-county workforce training facility. Located centrally within the region along 1-26 (1116 Newton Way, Summerville), the ALF facility is a 508,960 square foot building previously utilized to manufacture fire engines. With its high bays, open floor plan, and ample parking, it is ideal for conversion to a training facility that can accommodate multiple clients simultaneously. In fact, this building was previously utilized by Ready SC on a temporary basis for automotive workforce training. The Commerce Department proposes purchasing the ALF building at a price of approximately $5 million, and is requesting that each of the three counties (Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester) contribute $750,000 toward the purchase. The Commerce Department will fund the bulk of the purchase ($2.75 million).

Contrary to the documentation relating to the purchase, Chairman Rawl said last night that the cost would be $5.5 million and financing would be $1.5 million Ready SC, $1 million Trident Tech, $750,000 from each of the Dept. of Commerce, Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester County.

Council member Summey made the motion to change the proposed ownership of the facility and it was not opposed by other Council members. No one asked as to the likely reaction of the State to the proposal. Chairman Rawl also noted that there would be paper work associated with what was proposed and that the item would have to come back to Council in its final form.