Bamberg County Citizens,
One characteristic I have observed firsthand in Bamberg County is its resiliency. When I arrived here in 2012, not only was Bamberg still suffering from the aftermath of one of the worst recessions in American history, but the County government was also facing its own financial crises. Having experienced several years of adverse audit opinions, Bamberg appeared to be spiraling in the wrong direction, and its limited financial resources had made it impossible for the County to enhance its services to citizens or upgrade its antiquated equipment. In short, we were in danger of becoming an obsolete county, incapable of competing with our neighbors for better jobs and improved industry.
In three short years, however, Bamberg has managed to improve its situation greatly. With the efforts of an amazing County staff, volunteers, and citizens, Bamberg united its resources and changed course. By first focusing on improving our audit opinion, Bamberg relied on its financial team to correct the lingering issues preventing the County from obtaining a clean audit opinion. Our first goal was to improve the County’s budget by separating funds into distinct accounts; this ensured each department and account could be properly funded and tracked. It also gave departments the responsibility of managing their own budgeted accounts, thereby improving departmental accountability. The County’s financial team also began working to improve the individual audit findings, many of which had been identified for several years without any action ever being taken to resolve them. Along with these improvements have come improved audit opinions. For the past two years, Bamberg has received Qualified audit opinions, which is more favorable than the prior Adverse opinions, but not as desirable as the Unqualified (clean) opinion the County wishes to obtain.
This year, however, three of the four findings that had prevented Bamberg from obtaining an Unqualified (clean) audit appear to be resolved: 1) matters related to the County Hospital have been removed as a direct responsibility of Bamberg County government; 2) Bamberg has successfully conducted an inventory of its Capital Assets, and 3) management of the inmate funds at the Detention Center has been significantly enhanced. By the end of the current fiscal year, the County also anticipates resolving the final longstanding issue related to money collected during the Delinquent Tax Sale. With this matter cleared, Bamberg anticipates to receive its first Unqualified (clean) audit in seven years.
These improved audit opinions give Bamberg greater flexibility and negotiating power when new services or equipment need to be replaced. As a result of the financial improvements, Bamberg has been able purchase new vehicles for the Sheriff’s Department to replace the aged and unreliable fleet of cars. Future improvements will include upgrading the Public Works Department’s heavy equipment, which maintain the county roads.
Through grants and other innovative maneuvers, Bamberg has also managed to upgrade its Emergency Services Center and Communications Tower and offer new improvements at the County Landfill, both of which will aid the day-to-day operations of both County staff and Bamberg’s residents. Also, Bamberg recently broke ground on the location for its new Courthouse Annex Facility.
The County has also established two new services designed to improve our community and maintain the quality of life. A Litter Enforcement Officer has been hired to help keep our streets and neighborhoods clean. Not only does the officer work to curtail littering and issues fines against litterbugs, but as a DHEC certified recycling professional, he also promotes the County’s efforts to recycle and maintain a clean environment for Bamberg. Joining in this effort is the County’s own Keep America Beautiful (KAB) Coordinator, whose mission to Keep Bamberg County Beautiful has included her overseeing area cleanups, planting flowers and trees to improve our green spaces, and garnering grants to assist with various beautification and recycling projects within the County. Jointly, the Litter Enforcement Officer and KAB Coordinator also received a $5,000 Palmetto Pride Litter Enforcement grant. Both of these services are sure to attract additional grant money and voluntary support for recycling and area beautification.
Bamberg has proven its resiliency and continues to thrive. My goal, as is the goal of Bamberg’s County Council and our hardworking staff, is to see Bamberg continue to prosper and grow. As we improve our situation, our appeal to new business and job opportunities for our citizens will no doubt continue to improve.
Thank you all for being a part of Bamberg County and its amazing story.
Joey R. Preston