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Consultant to study housing needs


The City of Orangeburg engaged the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative to study the city’s housing needs.

The study will cost around $70,000, with money coming from Federal American Rescue Plan funds.

Earlier this year, the city council voted to set aside $1 million for affordable housing as part of the $6.3 million the city received in U.S. relief plan funds.

At its September 20 meeting, the Orangeburg City Council appointed DFI as a consultant it hired to help with the process.

DFI is the same company the city used in its Railroad Corner development and revitalization process.

“They also have significant experience in affordable housing,” Orangeburg City Administrator Sidney Evering said.

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Orangeburg is part of the Lower Savannah Regional Home Consortium.

Being a member of the consortium allows the city to receive federal funds for housing and urban development. Habitat for Humanity and New America are two groups in town that benefit from HUD money, allowing them to build homes in the area.

But city leaders have discussed the possibility of the city creating its own housing authority. Evering had previously said it would take around six months to a year to create a housing authority, noting that an executive director would need to be hired.

The city is also updating its ordinances code.

According to City Attorney Michael Kozlarek, some of the most substantial changes to the code include the addition of an ordinance creating a citizens’ advisory committee for the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety.

The committee would aim to increase communication between the police department and residents and provide oversight of police tactics.

Another change would remove the guidelines for Committee of the Whole procedures, which City Council has rarely, if ever, used.

Another example of a change that has occurred in recent years but is not in the current code relates to city council meetings.

The current municipal code still states that council meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Council meets at 6:00 p.m.

There are also some stylistic or technical changes, Kozlarek said.

The council granted a unanimous first reading by title only to the recodification of the city code.

The last time the city updated its ordinances was in 2020.

Kozlarek recommends the city go through the process of updating its code every two to four years.

The council was told that the town had collected about 86% of its budgeted revenue and was told it should be about 91%.

“You will receive significant deposits from the State and the Municipal Association,” said Marc Wood of Sheheen, Hancock and Godwin. “Those will come in this month…so the variance will change drastically when you get the September financials.”

Wood said the city’s spending was about 91% of the budget, which is “just in line with where it should be.”

So far, the city has received about $20.6 million and has spent about $21.3 million year-to-date.

“That’s going to change drastically this month,” Wood said.

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Councilman Jerry Hannah asked if the city had any weaknesses in its financial situation.

“I don’t really see any weakness,” Wood said. “Everything is pretty much in line with what we anticipated it would be right now.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear you say,” Hannah said.

• Council gave the third and final reading of an ordinance authorizing the monthly rental of 1117, 1131, 1155 Russell Street and 1131, 1133, 1137 and 1143 Middleton Street to the current tenants of the buildings.

The buildings were formerly owned by the Braxton Edward J. Trust.

The city purchased the property in December 2021. The money to purchase the property came from the Department of Public Services Economic Development Revolving Fund.

The city plans to eventually revitalize the buildings.

Councilman Richard Stroman abstained from voting because he did not vote to purchase the buildings.

• Council met in camera to receive an update on the City’s 911 system, to receive a contract update on the City-owned Louis Building (1198 Russell Street) and to discuss a legal update on the Freedom of Information and Employment Act.