Wednesday, October 9, 2013
State Senator Larry Grooms didn’t mince words when asked if Berkeley County should be worried about a possible secession of Daniel Island into Charleston County.
Speaking near the end of the Berkeley County Legislative Delegation meeting in Moncks Corner on the night of Oct. 3, Grooms was frank.
“Anytime a group of people feel let down and betrayed by their government enough to want to leave it and join somebody else, it’s a problem, and Daniel Island is a significant problem for Berkeley County,” he said.
The BCLD consists of area state senators and representatives that represent Berkeley County. They include delegation chairman Rep. Joe Daning, vice chairman Sen. Paul Campbell, Grooms, Sen. John Matthews, Sen. Yancey McGill, Sen. Sean Bennett, Rep. Jim Merrill, Rep. Eddy Southard, Rep. Joe Jefferson, Rep. Bill Crosby and Rep. Samuel Rivers.
Seven of the 11 senators and representatives met in Moncks Corner during the delegation’s tour of Berkeley County.
“We meet on an as-needed basis,” Daning said. “Usually when a commission or board appointment is necessary. We try to schedule the meetings in and around Berkeley County to keep in touch with the issues and the people we represent.”
In other delegation business, the delegation approved a $35,500 grant from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ game and fish fund.
“These are funds the DNR has and by law we can’t refuse them so we take the money to use for game and fish projects around Berkeley County,” Daning said.
The delegation also tabled a $50,000 request from the Berkeley County Water Recreation Fund for habitat enhancement projects on Lakes Moultrie and Marion.
“I’d like to see a more detailed breakdown of how this money is going to be spent,” Grooms said.
The motion was tabled until those figures were supplied.
On the topic of Daniel Island’s proposed secession, Grooms’ remarks came during the open discussion portion of the meeting when District 100 Representative Eddy Southard asked the delegation if Berkeley County should be seriously worried about Daniel Island.
“The Daniel Island association represents 4,500 people, and any group of people have the right to petition to join another county,” Grooms said. “All you need is a signed petition with 10 percent of the signatures. Daniel Island has that. They can move forward.”
Grooms briefly outlined the procedure for any given area or group of people in the county leaving. With the petitions collected they would be presented to the governor who next appoints a special commission to investigate any secession request.
“The four-person commission would include two people from Daniel Island, a proponent and opponent of the change, and two people from the greater Berkeley County, again a proponent and opponent,” Grooms said. “They study the situation and information collected and present their findings to the governor, after which the governor calls for an election.”
A two-thirds majority vote by the residents of Daniel Island would then send the secession movement to the voters of Charleston County who need only approve the referendum by a simple majority vote.
“Once that occurs the county map would change,” Grooms said.
While the secession seems like a simple process on the surface, there are a number of loose ends that would have to be tied off first.
“There is county owned property on Daniel Island to which capital improvements have been made,” Grooms said. “Berkeley County will have to be compensated and reimbursed for those properties and improvements.”
Grooms said the ripple effect created throughout the county would be far reaching and affect every county taxpayer.
“This could affect the credit rating of the county and the school district,” he said. “And the rise in taxes would be significant.
“For whatever the reason, the citizens of Daniel Island feel they were lied to and had promises broken by the Berkeley County School District to build a school on Daniel Island. They feel lied to, and betrayed, and let down by their government and their school district to the point where they feel their only recourse is to move to another county.”
Grooms said the loss of Daniel Island would result in the reapportioning of Berkeley County Council and Berkeley County School Board districts.
“This group, depending on what you read, comprises 15-to-20-percent of the Berkeley County tax base and they feel betrayed by their government,” Grooms said. “I want the folks on Daniel Island to know Berkeley County wants them. I regret that people feel like their county has let them down.”
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