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2019 in review
Leaders preparing for growth
Effingham Herald sign
Tyler Blossier of Whitfield Sign Co. starts placing letters that will spell the Effingham Herald's new address -- 1204 N. Columbia Ave. -- on Friday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — Signs of growth continued to pop up across Effingham County — especially the southern portion — throughout 2019.

The influx of population is creating the need for new schools and new roads, which are priorities for the Effingham County Board of Education and Effingham County Board of Commissioners, respectively.

During its Dec. 11 meeting, the board of education took a step toward obtaining a funding source for school buildings it needs in the near future. It unanimously approved a resolution to place a $100 million bond referendum on the March 24 ballot.

“It will be paid back with ESPLOST funds and general millage,” Shearouse said. “We know we have a lot of great needs in our school system as far as a new elementary school, a new middle school, classroom additions, a performing arts center, traffic improvement areas, moving the athletic fields at Ebenezer Middle School to the back of that property to make more room for traffic to enter that facility, land purchases and then, of course, we have all the other items we buy through the ESPLOST like buses, text books, technology and everything else — band instruments.

“That $100 million is covering a lot of that.”

Construction is currently underway at South Effingham Elementary School. It is receiving two additional wings — space for an additional 240 students — with six classrooms at a projected cost of $2,988,343.

The project is expected to be completed in time for the start of the next school term.

In early October, County Administrator Tim Callanan met with a variety of city and county officials at the County Administrative Complex to explain a single-county TSPLOST — a sales tax that can be used solely to fund transportation projects — and call for a finalized project list.

Effingham County is projected to increase its population by 25,000 by 2025. It currently has about 62,000 residents.

“I don’t think that’s (an optimistic projection) at all so, with that, we really need to get ahead as a county on our roads ...,” said Wesley Corbitt, chairman of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners.”

To qualify for a TSPLOST, which must be approved by voters, a county must already be imposing a regular SPLOST. Effingham County meets that qualification.

“(That) permits us to kind of meeting the pre-clause of it,”  Callanan said.

Ninety of Georgia’s 159 counties have a sales tax designated for transportation, including 24 that use the single-county TSPLOST. 

Callanan estimated that a one percent TSPLOST would generate $42 million over five years in Effingham County.

A county can’t enact a TSPLOST if it is part of a TIA (Transportation Investment Act) regional tax. Effingham County voters rejected a regional transportation approach in 2012.A single-county TSPLOST can be levied up to five years at a fractional rate up to one percent in .05 increments if there is an intergovernmental agreement with qualified cities within the county.

“... every city will have to be on board for this in order to get it supported by the voters,” Callanan said.

The goal is to get a projects list finalized in order to put a TSPLOST referendum on the ballot in November. Projects can include roads, bridges, public transit, rails, airports, buses, bicycle paths, sidewalks, right-of-way acquisition, drainage and more.

“All the money goes toward projects but you can do things like program management,” Callanan said,

“In my experience — I’ve done two of these in South Carolina, they were seven years, I did one without a program manager to manage all the projects and one with a program manager,” Callanan said. I think that’s something that, as a group, we might want to look at because having a program manager substantially sped the projects along.”

Program management costs are typically in the range of 3-5 percent. Law also requires that 1 percent be retained by the state revenue commissioner to be paid to the general fund of the state treasury in order to defray the cost of administration.

Callanan estimated that a one percent TSPLOST would generate $42 million over five years in Effingham County. The tax collection could cease if it achieves the goal before five years elapses. The tax could also be renewed by voters before the five-year period ends.

The TSPLOST referendum would likely say: Shall a special (figure to be determined) sales tax be imposed in the special district consisting of Effingham County for a period not to exceed five years and for the raising of not more than an estimated amount of (figure to be determined) for transportation purposes?”

If debt is to be issued, the ballot must include the following wording in addition to the above: If imposition of the tax is approved by the voters, such vote shall also constitute approval of the issuance of general obligation debt Effingham County in the principal amount of (figure to be determined) for the above purpose.

Thanks to its location near the Port of Savannah, Effingham County is a growing industrial magnet. Its Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub announced its lead tenant in November. A&R Logistics, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., provides bulk logistics services for customers in the chemical and plastics industries.

“The southeast Georgia market is very attractive for our export business because of they infrastructure, access to great team members and an overall low cost of operation,” A&R Logistics President and CEO Mark Holden said. “With our Savannah export facility, A&R will continue to be a leader in reliability and customer service to some of the biggest chemical companies in the world. We are looking forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship with both the community and the Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub.”

OmniTRAX, a transportation and transportation infrastructure holding company, is the master developer of the 2,700-acre industrial park owned by the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority (ECIDA). A&R Logistics, expecting to provide 70 SGIH jobs, inked a 12-year lease that secures approximately 610,000 square feet of the park’s build-to-suit project with an option to expand to one million square feet.

OmniTRAX is set to construct more than seven miles of park-serving rail infrastructure, a multi-customer centrally located rail yard and a rail yard that accommodate 200-plus cars for A&R Logistics.

“This is an exciting day for the region and for us all,” OmniTRAX CEO Kevin Shuba said. “A&R’s state-of-the-art export operation is the ideal anchor tenant to demonstrate Savannah Gateway’s world-class operational efficiency and premier eastern seaboard location.”

As part of its agreement with ECIDA, OmniTRAX has made improvements to McCall Road and other area upgrades are planned.

“Today’s groundbreaking is a result of strong collaboration between A&R, the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority, Georgia Ports Authority, the State of Georgia and OmniTRAX,” Shuba continued. “We are thankful for the tireless commitment invested by so many to make this achievement possible and are excited to bring other tenants and owners to SGIH.”

Shaw Industries Group Inc. leased more than one million square feet of in the nearby Georgia International Trade Center in Effingham County. 

The company signed an agreement to lease two buildings in the GITC — one to be completed in late 2019 and another to be completed in mid-2020. These facilities will support the company’s continued hard surface growth and its commitment to superb customer service.

Shaw plans to add 50 new jobs in logistics and distribution services once the facilities are at full capacity.

“Shaw is committed to providing our customers with superior service. Continually improving and expanding our logistics and distribution operations is a key component of ensuring we can deliver our broad portfolio of quality products in a timely manner,” said David Morgan, executive vice president of operations at Shaw Industries. “This state-of-the-art facility and site is an ideal location for Shaw to build upon our existing, robust distribution network.”

Troy Smith, chairman of the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority, said, “Shaw’s plans are a signal of the continued economic growth that our region is experiencing. The region’s talented workforce and vast infrastructure make Effingham County a prime location for companies like Shaw.”

The $500 million Georgia International Trade Center will have up to 7.2 million square feet of light industrial and manufacturing warehouse space at build out. The development team includes Chesterfield, Stonemont Financial Group and Cushman & Wakefield/Gilbert & Ezelle. The park highlights include rail-service by CSX, direct access to Ga. Hwy 21, and multiple building options for potential users.

In other business news, the Effingham Herald in August moved from one end of Rincon to the other. The new location, 1204 N. Columbia Ave., includes several leasable offices, a conference room and an event space with seating for 200.

The Effingham Herald is owned by Morris Multi-Media Inc.