City of Orangeburg: New City Hall, Stevenson upgrades may cost $10 million; some council members balk at higher taxes | Local
The Orangeburg City Council plans to borrow approximately $10 million to develop a new city hall and renovate the Stevenson Auditorium.
“The current administration building has seen its best days,” Orangeburg City Administrator Sidney Evering said at a city council meeting on Tuesday.
“There’s not a lot of space. Currently, we do not have the majority of our departments under one roof. This proposal will allow us to have a new city hall with enough space to put the majority of our departments under one roof,” he said.
The city estimates it could cost up to $7 million to remodel the former First Citizens Bank on the corner of Russell Street and Broughton Street. It would become the new town hall.
He also estimates it would cost up to $3 million 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 city council voted to table the question on Tuesday. He is expected to review the borrowing plan again at the March 15 board meeting.
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Evering said Stevenson needed improvement. He cited the Newberry Opera House as an example of a building that attracts artists from around the world.
“He’s done a tremendous job helping to develop their downtown and revitalize their downtown,” Evering said. “I know it’s important to each of you that Orangeburg do the same.”
The proposed changes to Orangeburg “would attract and bring more acts and more traffic to downtown Orangeburg,” Evering said.
The $10 million will include funding for project architects, engineers, construction, fixtures and equipment.
Councilor Bernard Haire spoke about the fiscal impact.
“It troubles me because right now the economy is not in the best shape,” Haire said. “People are now struggling because of this situation with the economy and putting more on them will be harder than they will gain from having a nice building.”
Haire says he hasn’t seen any numbers related to Stevenson’s work either. Specific renovation plans for Stevenson were not outlined at the meeting.
“Personally, I’m not there yet,” Haire said.
Councilman Richard Stroman said that while the project looks good, “I cannot vote for this project for the city of Orangeburg and the ratepayers.”
“It’s just too much money,” Stroman said. “It’s Orangeburg. It’s not Greenville or Charlotte or Columbia.
Stroman said he would be okay with painting the building and putting in new carpet.
“I just can’t go for $10 million,” Stroman said. “Taxes are going up. I don’t think now is the time. This building is a solid building.
Evering said he was sensitive to any increase in the tax burden, but said upgrading downtown would be expensive.
“We’re talking about raising the bar and raising the standard here in Orangeburg,” Evering said. “We’re not Greenville, we’re not Columbia, we’re not Charleston, but we don’t always have to be the tail.”
He said: “If we’re serious about revitalizing downtown, making Orangeburg the place I’m sure you all want, we’re going to have to take the necessary steps to invest in our city.”
“At some point we have to decide which Orangeburg we want to be,” Evering said. “Are we going to go ahead and be the best Orangeburg we can be or are we going to settle down?”
If the city keeps waiting, “at some point it’s going to bite you and you’re going to have to raise taxes to a very high rate just to provide the services our citizens expect.”
Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler and Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt both expressed support for the project.
“I just wonder when this whole board will be able to want to move forward,” Keitt said. “At this point, we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to give us a big vision of what Orangeburg could look like.”
Keitt said the improvements could attract new stores.
“We’re never going to get them if we keep wavering on this board,” Keitt said. “I feel sorry for us, because we have no vision. We don’t want anything, so let’s keep going back because we’ll never get anything if we keep going the way we keep going.
Stroman highlighted recent progress in the city, including the construction of a $20 million leisure park on North Road and the city gymnasium on Broughton Street.
According to the city’s financial adviser, First-Tryon Securities, the project would be funded by an installment purchase income bond.
The loan would be repaid over 30 years at an interest rate of 3.25%, adviser Walter Goldsmith said.
Payments would be between $630,000 and $650,000 per year.
According to Goldsmith, there would be no tax increase during the first two years of the bail payment.
In the third year, there would be an increase of 9.7 million. It would increase to about 15 million by 2028.
For someone who owns a home worth $100,000, the tax increase in 2025 would be about $38 per year.
At its maximum of 15 mills, Goldsmith said there would be an annual increase of $60 for a $100,000 house.
“We figured you might want to structure the payments to spread the increase in mileage over time so you don’t have sticker shock for the first two years,” Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith said the interest rate environment is “very favourable” right now and construction costs are expected to rise.
Goldsmith noted that the city hasn’t issued much debt in the past.
“Compared to your peers in the state, the good news is that you have kept your debt mileage at zero because you have no outstanding debt, but the bad news is that I think some of your Facilities have aged because of it,” he said.
If the city borrows money, its debt would be “very much in line with your peers when you look at things like the percentage of your budget that will be spent on principal and interest payments.”
Michael Allen, CEO of Greenville-based MOA Architecture, presented the council with a rendering of what the new City Hall would look like.
Allen said the MOA’s desire is to maintain the shape of the building and not expand it due to expansion restrictions.
The building would include new brick and metal panels to help modernize it and add “windows” which would provide plenty of light into the building.
He also said the entrance to the building would be designed to be more distinct.
“We want to take the time to redesign this building so it can last a long time,” Allen said.
The works would also include the addition of a third floor with offices, as well as a roof terrace where events and receptions could be held.
Haire questioned the need for a roof terrace.
“I can see a rooftop terrace in a modern city,” Haire said.
Evering said: “I don’t see Orangeburg as it is, but as it can be. There will be a time when there will be plenty to see in our downtown area. »
The city has for years considered moving City Hall from its Middleton Street location to the Old Bank. In November 2019, the board agreed to move forward with the process.
The current City Hall serves as the municipal building and has housed the 613-seat Stevenson Auditorium since 1927.
The former location of the bank offers the possibility of offering a drive-thru. It is close to the city’s Department of Public Services.
City officials also said the new space offers a chance to upgrade the city’s tech infrastructure.