Residents in the lower part of Berkeley County might not have to drive to Moncks Corner to pay taxes or take care of other routine county business if the new vice chairman of County Council gets his way.
Dennis Fish said he and recently elected Councilman Ken Gunn, who represents that district, would like to reopen the treasurer’s and auditor’s satellite offices at 303 N. Goose Creek Blvd.
“That was one of the campaign promises,” Fish said. “When we closed it, it wasn’t that much (savings for the county). It’s my goal to reopen that office, if we can, prior to the new budget year. It will save the constituents a lot of money.”
In an attempt to cut costs, in August 2011 the county closed the offices, which were housed in leased space in a strip shopping center north of downtown Goose Creek.
The location still houses magistrate and small claims courts and offices for Veterans Affairs, which has grown since moving into the space, said Deputy County Supervisor Kace Smith.
At the time of the closings, the county’s savings were estimated to be $56,500 annually.
But residents complained that the cost was transferred to them, as they were forced to drive to the main offices in Moncks Corner, about 14 miles away. About 50,000 people live within a couple of miles of the service center.
“The people in this area would be happy if that office reopened,” said Goose Creek Mayor Mike Heitzler.
But not everyone agrees.
“I’ve never had one person say they weren’t going to vote for me if we didn’t reopen that office,” said Treasurer Carolyn Umphlett, who was re-elected in November.
“We’ve tried it and it was a hardship on the auditor’s and the treasurer’s office,” she said. “All you can do down there is collect money across the counter when they come in, while the other work is processed in the main office.”
The satellite office was opened in 2006 offering services for the auditor, treasurer and permitting, but the permitting office was closed shortly after because it was underused, Smith said.
“I know it was difficult to have another office there, staffing-wise,” Smith said. “When somebody got sick, you had to shuffle employees here to send someone down there.”
The auditor and treasurer each had two employees in the office, and those employees were either absorbed or retired when it closed.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.