GOOSE CREEK - Economic development, emergency services, impact fees and the one percent sales tax were main topics of discussion at a forum for Berkeley County supervisor candidates Thursday.
At the event hosted by the Goose Creek 9-12, incumbent Dan Davis and challengers Bill Peagler and Jerry Beckley spoke and answered questions from a crowd of about 50 residents.
The three Republicans will face off in the June 10 primary. There are no Democrats running.
"I enjoy these kinds of events," said Davis, who has been supervisor for 8 years. "I get the opportunity to correct mistakes, to correct things that people say that aren't necessarily the truth and everybody leaves a little better informed."
He said he is running on his record as supervisor, and pointed to improvements in the county's fiscal fitness, growth in economic development and the success of the penny sales tax program.
Peagler said his 10 years as mayor of Moncks Corner show that he's a team player.
"I am a problem-solver and I've been successful at it," said Peagler, who is also a lawyer. He said he would give up his 25-year law practice if elected supervisor. "I can get things done in Berkeley County."
Beckley, an assistant vice president at Heritage Trust, said his advantage is that he is a political newcomer.
"I'm not Dan Davis and I'm not Bill Peagler," he said. "I don't have their obligations and I don't have their baggage. I go in Berkeley County clean. I don't owe a favor. I don't owe a friend."
Where the issues are concerned, the trio agreed that the county's impact fee, which was implemented in 2005, is hurting development.
"The impact fee turned out to be a bad thing," Davis said, pointing out that it predates his time in office. "It is a business-killer and one of the worst things that Berkeley County has ever done."
County council introduced a measure at its last meeting to eliminate the impact fees - which are paid by businesses that locate in the lower part of the county - if voters pass a November referendum to continue the one-cent sales tax. Davis said the money collected from the tax would make up the loss from the impact fee. Both programs fund infrastructure.
But Beckley said the move is "like quitting your job before taking another job," since the Council is depending on the passage of the tax.
In addition, the Council is waiting for state legislators to change a law that would give them permission to put to voters the question of extending the tax, which is set to run out in May 2015. If the law is not changed, the county will have to wait until November 2016 to ask voters to renew the program. Davis said the loss of revenue during that time would be $15 million.
Beckley said he believes the county needs to focus more of its resources on emergency services, like sheriff's deputies, patrol cars and ambulances. When asked how he would fund those items, he said he would look at the county's budget for duplication because "we have to give money to these things."
He said the unopened floors of the Hill-Finklea Detention Center should be staffed.
Peagler said the county needs to start answering to its residents.
"Show me the money," he said. "I don't know where the money is going. I want to have a transparent budget. The economy is getting better ... The budget that was offered to council (on May 12) does not have a pay increases for employees, does not have any police cars. It only has one ambulance. I don't understand that if they recognize these as problems. Why aren't they addressing them?"
Davis said the problem is that the county has a limited amount of resources and "can't satisfy all the wants. We have a hard enough time funding the needs."
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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