By: Joshua Lloyd, Morning News
FLORENCE, S.C. – Another parking garage may be coming to downtown Florence, this time coming from the county.
On Thursday, the Florence County Council took its first official step toward placing a parking garage in downtown Florence — specifically in the parking lot adjacent to the county complex on Irby Street.
Officials have discussed the potential for a county-operated parking deck in that spot for years, and now the council has approved a motion to allow the county administration to search for architects and engineers for design options.
“We’re really just beginning the process, and this is the first piece of the puzzle,” said Willard Dorriety, vice chairman of the council. “We’ve realized some savings from the second capital projects sales tax that we can use toward it, and hopefully construct much of it without costing the taxpayers any more money.”
Dorriety provided no specifics on how many spaces could be involved, or the price range for a new deck.
“We can’t really give a price or details because we don’t know the details at this point,” he said. “But the consensus right now is to build right here beside the complex, since we already own the property and this is the place where it’s needed most.”
A second parking deck has been a point of contention for city and county officials, with each unwilling to compromise for a joint venture.
County officials have said a new deck needs to be adjacent to the complex, while city officials maintain that growth over the next five years will indicate where a deck is needed most.
The city-owned 320-space parking garage at the corner of Irby and Evans streets opened for free public use last November, and cost about $9 million.
The council unanimously approved a fee-in-lieu-of tax agreement with Ruiz Foods for a $79 million expansion that’s expected to create more than 700 jobs over the next decade.
That agreement means there will be a 6 percent tax on the development rather than the usual 10 percent. Such agreements are common to facilitate economic development within the county.
Officials have said the IT system overhaul could take years to complete and could cost the county upward of $2 million.
The current system has three parts, each handling a different aspect of county tax and financing needs.
The underlying problem comes from a system that has been built upon for more than two decades by the same engineer, who is set to retire within two or three years.
The current software is fully integrated and performs county tasks as intended but is outdated and will no longer be sustainable after the engineer retires.