Governments seek share of tobacco millions
AIKEN - Local governments are lining up to try for a share of a $75 million fund for infrastructure improvements that could boost economic development in South Carolina.
They have until the end of May to apply.
The money is coming from a settlement with tobacco companies that will total $2.3 billion during the next 25 years to the states that sued for damages blamed on smoking, chewing and dipping tobacco. South Carolina's portion represents mainly reimbursement of Medicaid dollars already spent to treat smoking-related diseases.
The state Department of Commerce will award the funds after sifting through the applications.
``This program offers a one-time opportunity for local government to access funds the state of South Carolina received from settlement of litigation with the tobacco companies,'' said Eric Thompson, the executive director of the Lower Savannah Council of Governments, which is helping communities prepare their applications.
``Use of these funds is limited to activities that promote economic development and job creation. For example, the money can be used to run water and sewer lines to an industrial plant, but not to a residential community.''
The funds also could be used to help businesses that need additional water or wastewater capacity in order to expand, Mr. Thompson said.
Those are the kinds of uses the state Legislature approved last year after wrangling for months over what to do with the tobacco settlement windfall.
Another possibility would be to promote development and use of technology, such as expansion of fiber optics capability, said Wayne Rogers, the council's planning director.
The key words are ``economic development'' and ``technology.''
Lower Savannah Council of Governments is a regional planning agency serving Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun and Orangeburg counties.
For application forms and assistance, governments in those counties can contact Mr. Rogers at (803) 649-7981.
Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.