DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Darlington County saw several key developments in 2018.

Some of those were high profile. A solar energy development company announced it would invest nearly $350 million in the county to build 17 solar facilities, a project that is expected to help spur additional economic development. Land availability was a factor in that. Some of those facilities are already under construction.

Other developments, though not as prominent, will bring benefits to Darlington County.

We strengthened our ordinance for littering to match the state law. A change to the ordinance brought fines for littering in line with state litter fines. That was to make it easier for magistrates when they’re issuing fines. That should help keep some of the litter off of our roads.

The county also upgraded some of the Darlington County Fire District’s fighting apparatus, replacing four aging fire trucks. Some of those trucks are 30 years old. There are still more to go, and we’re going to continue working on it.

Upgrades were also made to the call handling hardware for the county’s emergency 911 communications system. A proposal to implement a system that will allow 911 dispatchers to provide pre-arrival emergency medical information to callers via the 911 system before an ambulance arrives on the scene has also been approved. It has not been fully implemented yet, as dispatchers are undergoing training and certification in the program.

The county council also passed an amendment to the county’s Development Standards Ordinance (DSO) to regulate electronic billboards on roads in the unincorporated areas of the county. I am not aware of any electronic billboards in Darlington County at present, and apparently no one has applied for a permit for one at this point. But when that day comes, Darlington County will have the regulations in place to deal with it.

One aim of that change is to ensure the safety of motorists. You don’t want to have a bright light flashing or something with a lot of movement on it distracting drivers.

The county also undertook projects to refurbish several public buildings, including libraries. Many citizens love and benefit from their libraries, and Darlington County wants to take good care of them.

Upgrading the aging courthouse will be a major issue. Voters rejected a proposal to implement a one-cent sales tax to fund a $20 million courthouse project in a referendum last November. Voters were asked whether to fund building a new judicial center and government administration building – either in a single facility or two – and either through new construction or renovation. It was a very narrow margin. County officials are considering a possible project to renovate the two top floors of the courthouse, the fourth and fifth floors, where the county’s judicial functions are housed.

County residents will also see steps to repeal the state’s Sunday blue laws for many retailers in the unincorporated areas of the county and to implement a prepayment installment plan for payment of property taxes in the county.

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