By Tiffani Ireland , Reporter/Edgefield Advertiser
Edgefield County Council hosted an intergovernmental meeting Thursday evening, Jan. 28. After a meal and fellowship time, Council Chairman Dean Campbell opened the meeting by introducing newly elected County Administrator Tommy Paradise. He then moved right to his presentation to attendees by reminding them that Council has not raised taxes in the past five years and said that that “always remains a goal.” He went on to highlight two building projects currently being undertaken by the County; the animal shelter and the renovations on the Kneece Building. Campbell relayed that the County plans to break ground on the animal shelter this summer. As for the Kneece Building, Campbell said the hope is to move offices into the site by the end of the year. Campbell then spoke on behalf of Will Williams, President and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership, who was unable to attend the meeting. Campbell relayed that the existing industries in the county are doing “very well” and that several are considering expanding. He also said that the former site of Urban Outfitters has become a “very popular building”. While no industry has yet decide to make it their home, Campbell said it is “a good fishing lure” for the county.
Mayors Ken Durham and Terrance Culbreath of Edgefield and Johnston, respectively, and Town Administrator Roger LeDuc, representing the town of Trenton, spoke following Campbell’s remarks. Durham began by saying of Edgefield, “The town’s in excellent shape.” He noted the many accolades recently bestowed upon the town including being named the Safest City in SC and said that “a lot of good things” were happening for the town. Durham also took the opportunity to speak for the National Wild Turkey Federation and told how the NWTF has brought nearly 19,000 visitors to their new shooting complex since it opened last year. He also said that the organization has hosted 38 events thus far and said that they “haven’t even started advertising yet.” Following Durham, Culbreath spoke of Log Creek relocating its business to Johnston and bringing NAPA back to the town. He also took the opportunity to promote the use of the Bailey Bill in the county saying, “ I think it is necessary.” He referenced beautification efforts in Johnston including enforcement of the town’s nuisance ordinance and proposals for a new park. Culbreath said, “We’re trying to bring jobs to the area but also quality of life.” When his turn came, LeDuc spoke of new ordinances recently passed by Trenton Town Council and the need for partnerships with the towns and county. As an example of the positive effects of such partnerships, LeDuc mentioned Trenton Plastics who he said is now “thriving” after Trenton and the county worked together to help the business deal with its back taxes.
Edgefield County Hospital Board Chairwoman Connie Sutton addressed the meeting next and said, “County Council has just been a wonderful partner.” She referenced the hospital’s new board put in place by Council in March of last year and the hiring of new CEO, Carols Milanes. Sutton told that a recent fund raising event at the NWTF raised nearly $20,000 – “six beds”- for ECH. She also spoke of the hospital’s official affiliation with Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood saying it will provide ECH with “long-term stability.” She told attendees, “We’re very fortunate in this county to have our hospital,” and went on to say, “We’re very excited about the future.”
The congregation then heard from County Transportation Committee Chairman Sam Crouch who said,” Getting road work done is kinda like watching grass grow. It can be a painfully slow process.” Crouch said that Mt. Zion Road had been paved but acknowledged it was not paved well. As a result, Crouch said that the CTC is now in “negotiations” over the price of the work. Citing another example of a project that has not gone well, Lloyd Road, which has gone over budget by over $150,000, Crouch called for being able to use the county’s own engineers in the future and contracting the work themselves rather than going through DOT saying this would save the county time and money.
Fab Burt, Chairman of the Edgefield County Planning Commission, spoke next and said, “We had a good year and one of the slowest years, as far as headaches, in a long time.” He highlighted how measures taken in the past have led to smoother times in the present for the planning commission. However, in regards to one hot-button issue, Burt said the County was still “touchy on zoning” and that the commission still works slowly in that area.
John Hare, General Manager of the County’s Water and Sewer Authority, was next to speak and announced that work on the Hwy 25 widening project had mostly stopped at this point due to “conflicts” with AT&T. Saying that he hoped the Water and Sewer’s Department’s part of the project would be done by this time next year, he also said that it would be another year or two before the project is completed. Hare mentioned the state of infrastructure within the county, the state, and the nation. Referencing Flint, Michigan, he said that infrastructure is becoming a “critical issue.” He maintained that leaders “need to look hard” at keeping infrastructure funded.
New School Superintendent Robert Maddox followed Hare and told the crowd how happy he is to be in Edgefield County saying the county had “a lot to be proud of.” He went on to say that this is “an exciting time in education.” He said that measures were no longer being taken to fix the old education system, but instead, officials were trying to come up with a new system. Maddox said that South Carolina is taking steps that is putting the state on the cutting edge in the nation but reminded that the school systems “need everybody” to help give them “purpose and direction.”
The State Legislative Delegation then took the floor. Speaking first, Senator Shane Massey said that as a resident of Edgefield County and a tax payer he appreciated that work done by all those represented in the room. He also remarked on how in Edgefield County, “Everyone really gets along,” but added, “That’s not how it is all across the state.” Massey reminded that the delegation was 3 weeks into the new legislative session and that the biggest topic in the Senate, thus far, has been roads and bridges. Saying that this issue has been the most divisive he has seen in his 8 years, Massey did say that the Senate has made more progress in the last 3 weeks on this issue than they did all of last year. However, he said, “We’ve got along way to go.” Massey went on to say, “ I think we’re gonna get there,” and added that he felt law makers could figure out the problems associated with this issue. Saying, “We’re gonna solve this,” Massey reminded other issues will be coming right behind the roads and bridges matter, specifically naming K12 and the budget. Closing his remarks, Massey said, “I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to serve.”
Representative Bill Clyburn then addressed the room saying, “It’s because of you that people have a better quality of life,” adding, “Things look good for Edgefield County.” Clyburn said that the same topics that usually take up the House’s time – education, economic development, and infrastructure – are the same ones being dealt with currently. Clyburn said that while the state did see a surplus this year, he cautioned that it is “not going to last long.” He provided some good news for local leaders by announcing that the Local Government Fund would be fully funded this year. He also called on them to look at the water issue on the north side of the county saying that he thought this could become a bigger problem if not dealt with now. Clyburn ended his remarks by saying, “As much money as I can get for Edgefield County … I’m gonna do it.”
Rep. Bill Hixon then took to the podium and said that he is currently working on the deer tag bill in the House. He also spoke of a bill that had recently been presented to the House called the Dam Bill of which Hixon said, “It is a damn mess.” Citing many problems he sees in this first version of the bill, two of which being that dams are under DHEC and that they would be classified on a 1-3 scale, Hixon said of the bill, “I can promise you I’m on it.” He went on to add, “It is subject to change – big time.” Hixon said the new bill was birthed after 35 dams broke across the state in last year’s historic rain event. Before closing, Hixon also told the crowd that the House had just passed a gun bill in a 101 to 5 vote that will allow for reciprocity with Georgia’s Concealed Weapons Permit. That bill has now been passed to the Senate where Sen. Massey has gone on record as supporting it.
The delegation’s comments marked the end of formal presentations by speakers. Chairman Campbell then briefly spoke again thanking everyone for their time and comments. He also recognized and thanked Clerk to Council Jennifer Gilley for her hard work in putting the dinner meeting together. With no further business to be discuss, Campbell adjourned the meeting.