At Tuesday night’s Laurens County Council meeting, the chief priority was the formation of the commission that will determine how the proceeds of a county-wide one-percent sales tax, if approved by voters in the 2020 general election, is to be spent.

Chairman David Pitts called for the commission appointments to be made by Oct. 15. The oversight committee will consist of six members: three appointed by council, one each from the cities of Laurens and Clinton and one from elsewhere in the county.

“If we are to have a successful endeavor, it will be a grass-roots campaign,” Pitts said.

County attorney Sandy Cruickshanks carefully reviewed the legal statute governing the referendum, stressing the importance the commission’s work. A public meeting will be held on Sept. 5, essentially to “plan the planning” ahead of the commission’s appointment.

Cruickshanks also stressed that council members and employees cannot legally participate in the referendum by publicly supporting or opposing it. They are only allowed to educate, he said.

“My goal is for this referendum to be truly ‘popular,’” Pitts said. “I don’t want companies to come in and put on a big ‘yes’ or ‘no’ campaign. I want the people to make up their own minds.”

Council also granted final (third reading) approval on a “fee in lieu of taxes” agreement for the new Muffin Ma’am commercial bakery location at Hunter Industrial Park.

Passing on second reading was a bond ordinance approving $4 million for a new roof and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work at the Hillcrest Square county offices and stabilization projects at the Historic Laurens County Courthouse.

Council postponed second reading on an ordinance allowing the county to recoup repair costs associated with damage caused by large work trucks. Representives of the timber industry attended the meeting and alleged they were being unfairly targeted by such a law.

S.C. Timber Producers Association president Crad Jaynes adopted a conciliatory tone.

“Our goal is to partner with Laurens County to make sure that our industry does things the right way,” he insisted.