Lexington Co. taxes may rise to add deputies

tflach@thestate.comMay 7, 2013 

  • New fire station Would cost $3 million

    Opening a new fire station in Dixiana is estimated to cost $3 million.

    That’s the preliminary price tag to build and staff the facility, Fire Chief Brad Cox told Lexington County Council Tuesday.

    Council members are interested in putting a station in the area to serve nearby industries such as the Amazon distribution center, Nephron Pharmaceuticals drug manufacturing plant and the State Farmers Market.

Lexington County Council started looking Tuesday at a small tax increase to put a few more deputies on the road.

The plan under consideration would generate an extra $1.1 million for county law enforcement, adding as much as $4.44 to the property tax bill of a home valued at $100,000.

It’s unclear how many new deputies it would provide, although Councilman Jim Kinard of Swansea suggested it could allow at least five of the 16 deputies that Sheriff James Metts is seeking.

The final choice on allocation of the revenue will be left to Metts, but council members want to know his ideas before approving the tax increase.

“It won’t allow us everything,” Col. Allan Paavel, Metts’ director of administration, told the nine council members. “It will get us further in the direction we want.”

Kinard, who rarely supports higher taxes, is willing to do so “in order to get more manpower on the road. I can live with that.”

Interest in the tax hike came as council members continued shaping a spending plan for the year starting July 1. It is the maximum amount allowed for law enforcement under a state tax cap.

County finance officials predict $108.2 million in revenue is available without any tax hike.

Metts is pressing for 128 more deputies over the next eight years, calling it necessary to keep pace with growth.

The increase he wants would bring his force of deputies to 388 by 2020.

It also is designed to reduce the average response to calls for help from to 10 minutes, from 15.

Metts also wants to open regional offices to put more deputies closer to neighborhoods and commercial areas near Chapin, Dixiana and Gilbert.

He also is interested in establishing a laboratory for DNA analysis and ballistics tests for quicker detection of trace evidence that he says is vital in solving many offenses.

In addition, 40 more jail guards are needed to keep pace with expected inmate growth, his plan says.

Kinard’s proposal would provide four more guards.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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