Darlington County Council hears options to pay for new couthouse

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) – Darlington County Council got a better idea of what it will take to build a new courthouse that officials say they need right away.

The county courthouse has been a centerpiece of downtown Darlington for more than 50 years, but now officials say with too little space, and too many security concerns, it’s time for a replacement.

It’s not hard to sell Darlington County councilman Robert Kilgo or his colleagues on the need for a new county courthouse.

“It’s not secure,” Kilgo said. “We’ve had prisoners escape from the fifth floor and from outside when we were trying to transport them.”

What’s harder to sell everyone on is who will foot the bill.

“It’s gonna take a while,” said Kilgo. “That’s why we needed a two-year and not a one-year referendum.”

Darlington County Courthouse Construction Advisory Committee will get two years to come up with a plan to present to council on how the county will fund and build a new courthouse. The resolution passed in Monday night’s county council meeting.

Councilman Kilgo said the first half of that plan will determine how much money they’ll need to complete the courthouse.

“The cost of the new one, there’s no way to tell us that until we can get out and look and see what we’re gonna do what we’re gonna put in that building,” predicts Kilgo.

The committee must almost grapple with just how much taxpayers will have to pay. An attorney and two financial advisers briefed council on what each option would mean for taxpayers.

One option is a single general obligation bond that wouldn’t require voter approval, but It’s unlikely that this amount would cover the cost of a new building.

Another option, a general obligation bond referendum, would borrow against property taxes, but must be approved by the voters.