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Nov. 7 ballot set
Early voting begins Oct. 16
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There will not be any contested races on the Nov. 7 ballot, but it will include a SPLOST renewal and a tax exemption question in Pembroke.

Qualifying ended last Friday.

In Richmond Hill, Councilman Russ Carpenter will run unopposed for mayor. Current Mayor Harold Fowler is prohibited from running again due to term limits. Incumbent Johnny Murphy will also run unopposed for re-election, while Tara Baraniak is unopposed to fill Carpenter’s seat.

Richmond Hill City Clerk Dawnne Greene said that if no write-in candidates file to run against Carpenter, Murphy or Baraniak by 5 p.m. Friday, state law would allow the city to cancel its election as there would not by any contested races and those three would automatically win.

There are no city council seats up for election in Pembroke.

Voters in Pembroke will, however, have an opportunity to vote on granting a Freeport Exemption.

If approved, the exemption means that e-commerce fulfillment centers that locate in that city will not pay local inventory tax on items held at such centers for 12 months or less as long as the location is used to pack, ship, store or process tangible personal property sold my electronic means and does not allow customers to purchase or receive goods on-site.

Voters in Bryan County approved the same measure last year and the first such company has already been announced. The Development Authority of Bryan County announced in July that an e-commerce fulfillment center will locate in a 419,000-square-foot building being constructed at the Interstate Centre II industrial park in Black Creek. The project represents more than $19 million in investment and will employ 50 people.

VMInnovations, headquartered in Lincoln, Neb., will occupy the building. VMInnovations, created in 2006, sells a variety of brand-name merchandise at competitive prices in product categories, including consumer electronics, sports and outdoor accessories, baby and kids products, home and gardening supplies, and pool products. With facilities currently in Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Indiana, the Black Creek site will be the company’s first location in the Southeastern United States.

If Richmond Hill ends up needing to have an election, voters there would also have a chance to weigh in on a Freeport Exemption question. If not, Greene said the issue would be on the March 2018 ballot, which Richmond Hill and the county are targeting for a T-SPLOST question. That measure would be similar to SPLOST but the revenue would be targeted solely toward improving transportation infrastructure.

Voters countywide in November will have a say on the renewal of the regular Special-Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. SPLOST is an extra 1 percent sales tax that municipalities can use for capital improvement projects. If approved, the new cycle is expected to raise about $33 million over six years. Of that money, the county would receive about $18.8 million, while the cities of Richmond Hill and Pembroke would get $11 million and $3.2 million, respectively. The money is divided based on the percentage of population within the county.

Early voting will begin Oct. 16 and end Nov. 3. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Residents can cast their ballot at either the courthouse in Pembroke or the administration building in South Bryan. 

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