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Four members of the Laurens County Council voted Tuesday during a noon tele-conference to enact a State of Emergency, to enable electronic meetings for the next 60 days, and to authorize the first step in attracting a $7.5 million, 41 new jobs industry to the industrial area on the Laurens-Greenville county border.

The meeting was held electronically because of the COVID-19 threat.

Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an Executive Order giving police the authority to break up any assembly of 3+ people. It’s a “social distancing” effort to slow the disease’s spread, worldwide.

After the meeting adjourned, Council Chairman Dr. David Pitts said. “There is testing going on in Laurens County.” According to Pitts, you must be an acute-care patient in the hospital to get tested. He got that word in a teleconference with Laurens County Hospital; Laurens is one of a handful of counties statewide in which DHEC has report no Coronavirus cases (342 cases and 7 deaths statewide, March 24 figures).

“I think our country has come together, somewhat, and our county. too, working through the municipalities,” Pitts said.

County Administrator Jon Caime said the virus response is “too fluid” for a quick update as to everything Laurens County is doing. All County offices are closed except Elections, which must take candidates’ filings until noon, March 30. Some employees are authorized to work from home.

County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks said he wasn’t sure if the county had to pass a State of Emergency to later on receive State and Federal funds; however, “it’s not harmful” for counties to issue such as Resolution, he said.

A second Resolution allows the council - if it wants to - to conduct emergency meetings by telephone, out of the sight of the public but not in violation of the SC Freedom of Information Act. The measure spells out specific “standards” for these electronic meetings. The County Council has conducted meetings this month via live-streaming on the county website, and by telephone connecting each member at home or work with county department heads at work. 

With regard to the industry, Cruickshanks said it is a matter of one company taking over the real estate of another, closed industry (transaction shortly after April 1). The new-to-Laurens-County industry was not named - it is code-named “Project Powerful”.

“It is a very strong company, a foreign company,” Cruickshanks said. With the closed industry’s FILOT transferring to the new industry, the cash-flow to the County will not be disrupted - 2014 was the date of the original FILOT (fee in lieu of taxes).

Council members Pitts, Diane Anderson, Kemp Younts and Brown Patterson attended the called meeting. Members Joe Wood, Jeff Carroll and Garrett McDaniel could not attend because of personal or work obligations.

*Editors note: In an earlier version, the article incorrectly stated that Pitts said there was no testing going on a Laurens County Memorial Hospital.