By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Council held their first meeting of 2016, and immediately reelected both the incumbent chairman and vice chairman, Tommy Dunn and Ken Waters, respectively. The unopposed actions raised the ire of District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, who complained that Dunn has been chairman for an unprecedented four years. She complained that when she raised the same objections last year, she was punished, in her words, by being denied certain committee positions that she desired.
“I feel that I was treated badly because I spoke up last year. But that’s alright. I’m okay. I lived through it. I want to be on the same team, if I am allowed to be. But I can’t ever remember a time when the same person was elected four years in a row. I just feel that if we had a change in leadership, we might get a different vision for Anderson county. When you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always gotten.” Floyd, despite her concerns, placed no other names in nomination for either position.
In perhaps an unintentional rebuttal, County Administrator Rusty Burns was called to the podium to report on the goals and plans for the county in the coming year.
He began by referring to the TTI (Ryobi) distribution center being constructed at the intersection of Highways 81 and i-85. He also mentioned the Coca Cola distribution center being built at Hwy. 86 and I-85 in Piedmont.
Burns also explained that the county has received more than two million dollars in grant funds, with much of that money being funneled through the Pelzer Heritage Commission as a tax exempt organization partnering with the county. In addition, each Council member received $150,000 to be used in their districts. “We have asked Council to select properties in their respective districts that they would like us to review. So far we have twenty two properties identified for demolition,” said Burns.
Additional funds are slated for use in cleaning up the old mill sites in Pelzer and the Toxaway site in District Two, a circumstance which Floyd inexplicably found troublesome. “Mr. Burns, I notice that there are all sorts of new businesses and such coming to every district but mine. Now the Toxaway mill cleanup is something we’ve been working on for sixteen years. So don’t tell me that’s a new development.”
Burns agreed with her about the long drawn out process, adding “This is new money which hopefully will allow us to complete this process.”
“That’s all well and good, but if we can find all this money for all these things, why couldn’t we find the money for Toxaway sixteen years ago? Why is this just happening now?” No mention was made of the fact that none of the current Council, including Floyd, were on the Council sixteen years ago, Nor was Burns the County Administrator.
Changing direction, Burns touted the county’s recent negotiations to surrender some of its sewer capacity to the town of Pendleton in order to make possible a huge residential development which, according to him, will practically double the footprint of the town. Burns said that the majority of the growth will be along the main corridor between Anderson and Clemson.
He also referred to a study of the county’s emergency medical services which is slated to begin in a couple of weeks.
“We are seeking to find the best way to provide those medical services. Many people complain about the locations of various EMS units and rescue squads. They refer to the school districts as a possible model. But when the five school districts in Anderson were established, each one held exactly the same population, just over 28,000 people. The problem is that those darn people just wouldn’t stay put,” Burns said. “And that is the same thing that has happened in the area of EMS services. We simply may have to relocate some of those units to provide the best service. That remains to be seen, but the study will begin soon.”
He also explained that the Bailes Building behind the historic courthouse is slated for demolition in the coming weeks, and that the site will hopefully attract private sector interest.
Burns also addressed the County’s plans to purchase and establish a 225 acre industrial park in the Sandy Springs area. “We have actually had one private company offer to handle the whole project, because they think it will be so successful and so good for the county.”
And he pointed out that the county is grinding through the process of updating the county code of ordinances, which hasn’t been done in sixteen years. “County attorney Leon Harmon is happily working through all the county ordinances to insure that they correlate with state and federal laws in all pertinent ways.”