Plans to move state workers from Bull Street approved
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Bull Street has been the longtime home of several state agencies, but now some of them could even be moving outside the capital city.
A study presented to lawmakers Tuesday recommends most state agencies on Bull Street move to new homes.
That includes the Department of Mental Health and DHEC a department that is splitting into two new agencies next year.
A temporary law in this year’s budget called for the state’s Department of Administration to conduct a study on whether the state agencies located on Bull Street should stay there or move to another location in the Midlands.
The Department of Administration presented its findings to the Joint Bond Review Committee or JBRC Tuesday afternoon.
The plan that lawmakers on the Joint Bond Review Committee approved will move the new Department of Public Health, along with DMH, the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, and the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services to a new healthcare campus outside Columbia, in Cayce.
The other new agency to result from DHEC’s split, the Department of Environmental Services, will move to its campus on Colonial Life Boulevard.
The Department of Administration conducted the study at lawmakers’ direction.
The study found the Department of Social Services, the remaining state agency on Bull Street, would not fit on the proposed healthcare campus.
“Obviously, you hate to lose employees that are here 9 to 5 every day, but at the same time, it’s also an opportunity for us to look, as a city, at what else can be done there,” said Mayor Daniel Rickenmann. “Is this an opportunity to create a new neighborhood, could this be an extension of the Bull Street growth that we’re seeing now? So, like anything we’re going to turn it into a positive,” he added.
But that extension will come at a cost to taxpayers.
The estimated cost for the move for 20 years is well over 300 million dollars more than what it would cost to keep those offices on Bull Street. Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter had concerns over that price tag.
“I think that’s a significant amount of money to be used to rent office space. I’m a firm believer that the state not be a renter but to own property,” said Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter.
“Anytime the state consolidates or gets rid of property is usually because they don’t have the money to maintain it. I also see that as a benefit to the community. because with so many of the state agencies, 34 percent of all property in Columbia doesn’t pay taxes so every piece that comes back on lowers that number. So, there’s an advantage and a disadvantage,” said Rickenmann.
It’s unclear what will become of the property that currently holds those state agencies, but Mayor Rickenmann has been vocal about adding housing options to that area.
Lawmakers must still allocate money in the next state budget to ensure the move happens.
The lease for the new properties will go into effect on July 1st 2024.
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