UNION COUNTY — Promoting the economic development of Union County is one of the functions and goals of Union County Council which this week took two more steps in carrying out that function and achieving that ongoing goal.
In its October meeting Wednesday afternoon, council voted unanimously to approve first reading of an ordinance “authorizing the purchase of certain real property” in the county. The ordinance, which must be approved two more times before it becomes law, also authorizes “the appropriation of all funds necessary to accomplish” the purchase of the property in question.
What the ordinance does not do, however, is state the location of the property to be purchased beyond stating that it is in Union County; does not name the current owner(s) of the property; does not state how much the property will cost; and it does not state what, once the property has been acquired, the county will do with it.
When asked about the location and cost of the property and the identify of its current owners, Union County Supervisor Frank Hart declined to give further details, saying that the process of acquisition and negotiation is still under way. As for what the county would be doing with the property, Hart would only say that its acquisition “is part of our ongoing efforts to promote economic development in Union County.” When asked what form that would take in this instance, Hart would only say that “it will be to support industrial development.”
Hart added, however, that before third and final reading of the ordinance, the location, cost, and purpose for which the property will be used, will be revealed.
Another step taken by council in furtherance of the economic development at Wednesday’s meeting was its unanimous vote to approve third and final reading of an ordinance setting up funding for the Union County Facilities Corporation. The ordinance authorizes the “execution and delivery of a project grant agreement” by and between the county and the corporation in the form of a “project grant agreement.” The agreement permits the appropriation of county funds necessary to make “certain payments” required under the agreement.
The Union County Facilities Corporation is a non-profit corporation designed to enhance the economic development of Union County by providing the county with the ability to enter into public-private partnerships with private businesses and industries in order to do so.
Council voted in January to approve a resolution committing the county to establishing the corporation. At that time, Hart said such non-profit corporations are used by many counties and cities because it provides them with a mechanism for public-private partnerships for economic development. Hart said that economic development efforts in a community often require public entities like the county to partner with private entities such as a business or industry to facilitate the process. He said this is difficult for counties to do given state law and how county government is set up, but non-profits like the UCFC make it easier for public entities like the county to enter into such necessary partnerships.
The corporation was formally incorporated on Sept. 7 during a meeting at the Union County Development Board attended by Hart, Union County Council Vice Chairman Ben Ivey, and Union County Development Board Executive Director Kathy Jo Lancaster. Under the bylaws of the corporation the Union County Supervisor serves as president, the Vice Chairman of Union County Council serves as vice president, and the Executive Director of the Union County Development Board serves as secretary/treasurer. Accordingly, Hart was appointed president, Ivey vice president, and Lancaster secretary/treasurer during the incorporation meeting.
The meeting also saw the passage of a series of resolutions related to incorporation including approval of its bylaws; adoption of its fiscal year (July 1-June 30); the opening of a bank account on the corporation’s behalf; authorizing the obtaining of insurance; authorizing the corporation’s officers to undertake action to obtain tax exempt status; and authorizing the corporation to enter into a lease agreement with a private company for the development of an industrial building in Midway Green.
It takes no more than a minute or so to walk across North Herndon Street from the Union County Courthouse and the City of Union Municipal Building. The closeness of the seats of two of the largest local governments suggests a close and cooperative relationship — and the benefits of such a relationship — between the county and the city.
Over the years the county and the city have worked closely together on a variety of issues ranging from economic development to infrastructure improvements. That relationship has grown even closer with the county and the city entering into an agreement for the county to provide animal controls services within the corporate limits of the City of Union. That relationship is growing closer still with the county and the city more recently entering in to an agreement for the county to provide code enforcement and building inspection services in Union.
In September, Union City Council voted unanimously to contract with the county to provide code enforcement services and hire a building inspector. A month later, at Wednesday’s council meeting, county council voted unanimously to approve second reading of an ordinance authorizing the county to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the city to provide those services. Under the terms of the agreement, the city will pay the county $20,000 a quarter or $80,000 a year for providing those services which will involve county code enforcement personnel conducting building inspections and enforcing municipal building codes.
Hart said that the county’s providing animal control and building code enforcement services is projected to save the city approximately $50,000 a year.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.