Darlington County leaders discuss new tax to fund courthouse construction

Last November voters in Darlington County approved a $60 million bond referendum allowing the district to build three new schools. That's money the county wanted in order to build a new courthouse that Senator Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington) said is badly needed.

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) – Last November voters in Darlington County approved a $60 million bond referendum allowing the district to build three new schools. That’s money the county wanted in order to build a new courthouse that Senator Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington) said is badly needed.

“We still have some safety concerns not only for our citizens but for our judges as well,” Malloy said.

The senator says building a new courthouse in Darlington County needs to be a priority, but when the bond referendum passed in November, it threw a wrench in the county’s plan.

“It’s been a long-standing need that we need a courthouse here in Darlington County,” he explained. “In my opinion, a courthouse was needed first.”

The Darlington County Courthouse Committee, made up of local and state officials and law enforcement, met Monday afternoon to try and find the funds to get the project off the ground.

“We need to bring these ideas here,” Malloy explained. “Let’s do some of the footwork that is necessary to end up getting it done.”

Several ideas were floated in Monday’s meeting to find that money. Ideas like another referendum on the 2018 ballot or a millage increase were thrown out for consideration. Ultimately, most committee members agreed that a new tax of some kind may be the only way.

“Most likely, for a project this size, we’ll have to end up seeing if there’s the political will to go toward a referendum,” Sen. Malloy admitted.

Sheriff Tony Chavis addresses safety concerns regarding the current Darlington County Courthouse building, as they make plans for its replacement.

Committee members said the project could cost as much as $40 to $50 million to complete, a small price they say to keep officers, inmates, and the public safe.

“It is necessary to keep our citizens safe,” Sen. Malloy said. “To make sure that justice is delivered, that people have access to the courts.”

The senator wants to make it clear though that the plan is not yet final.

“We’ve got some specific tasks, so we’ll go out and try to get some information and get something that we can put before the people here pretty soon,” he explained.

The committee plans to meet each month to get the project going as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Sheriff Tony Chavis said his office is working with the U.S. Marshals as well as the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office to look at making the current Darlington County Courthouse building safer.