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Darlington County voters decide future plans for courthouse on Election Day

(Credit: WPDE)

If you live in Darlington County, no doubt you know the courthouse building that sits in the public square is well past its prime.

After years of trying, the people will decide whether or not they should pay to help fix that building.

Back in October, the County asked for a mold assessment of the 54-year-old building. The company hired to do the inspection did find some mold on ceiling tiles and walls inside the courthouse, as well as elevated temperatures in some areas that could encourage dangerous molds to grow inside.

So what does all of this mean for Tuesday's ballot referendum? The answer is not much-- unless the referendum passes.

"Sometimes you gotta raise taxes, I'll tell you that," said John Johnson, who lives in Darlington. "A lot of people are ignorant to taxes, but taxes is what gets things going."

It was all business at Monday evening's Darlington County Council meeting. The gathering lasted just under an hour and included no discussion of the pending penny sales tax referendum.

After voters decided in 2016 to grant the funds from the penny sales tax to the school district to build new schools, it seemed an updated courthouse could be far from a reality. That was just two years ago, but on the eve of the election, most who spoke with ABC 15 News agree that something needs to be done about the aging courthouse, even if it means a little more money at the cash register.

Johnson explained how taxes are a necessary part of growing a city like Darlington, with aging infrastructure issues above and beneath the streets.

"A lot of these roads need fixing-- taxes," Johnson said. "Anybody that goes against raising taxes, you have to understand that things break, things fall apart. You could have mold like they do here and get sick-- you don't want that."

So what will you see in the voting booth for this referendum on Tuesday? Here is how the two-part question will read when you get your ballot:

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"“Must a special one percent sales and use tax be imposed in Darlington County for not more than four (4) years to raise $20,000,000 for the cost of acquisition (including, if necessary, the acquisition of real property), constructing, furnishing, and equipping a new Darlington County Judicial Center and Darlington County Administration Building, either as a single facility or two facilities, and either by new construction in whole or in part or renovation of existing facilities in whole or in part?”

“And must Darlington County Council be authorized to issue not exceeding $20,000,000 principal amount of general obligation bonds of Darlington County, provided that the proceeds of such bonds shall be applied to defray the costs of the foregoing purposes, plus issuance costs, and provided further that in the event the sales and use tax to be imposed as stated herein is inadequate for the payment of such bonds such bonds shall be payable from an ad valorem tax imposed on all taxable property in Darlington County?”

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A "yes" vote means that you approve of the one-cent sales tax that would fund a $20 million general obligation bond over four years which would allow the County to either renovate the current courthouse or build a newer one, perhaps even using two separate buildings, a judicial center and an administration building.

A "no" vote means you do not want that extra penny added to the sales tax.

ABC 15 tried to ask council members their thoughts on the decision before their constituents Tuesday or the mold report on the courthouse itself, but council members declined comment.

Council Chairman Bobby Hudson only asked that you make your voice heard and go vote on Election Day.

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