NEWBERRY COUNTY — Every August the mayors of Newberry County attend the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Breakfast Meeting, where they give updates on their towns and promote upcoming events.
This year’s popular running theme was the upcoming Capital Project Sales Tax, which Newberry County residents will vote on in November. Almost every municipality has a project in this year’s referendum.
“One of the big cooperative things that we are doing is with our one cent sales tax. That is going to be a huge push for us, and everybody in here, to make sure that passes,” said Derek Underwood, mayor of Prosperity.
Prosperity’s project is to enhance its existing ball fields.
“Hopefully, we are able to work with other municipalities, and the county as a whole, and cooperating and going out for this one cent sales tax, and be able to give something to our citizens and children,” he said.
Pomaria Mayor Darryl Hentz said if the one-cent sales tax goes through, it will be a plus for Pomaria because it will help enhance the Old Pomaria School.
Newberry Mayor Foster Senn added that the CPST will impact everyone in Newberry County.
“I think Newberry County is one of the better rural counties in South Carolina. I think we have a lot of successful towns, and part of that is because of the Capital Project Sales Tax. Over the last almost 20 years, we have reinvested ourselves through a tax everybody pays,” he said.
The City of Newberry’s project is a new recreation complex that will include a ball field, water spray park, walking trail and playground that Foster said will be inclusive to children with disabilities.
“I think it will be a big hit,” he said. “Our neighbors are invested in recreation. Union spent $7 million in recreation, Irmo/Chapin spent $20 million, Spartanburg, $15 million. Most of our neighbors have invested in recreation, and I think it is time we do as well.”
Underwood told those at the breakfast that Prosperity might be small, but its budget is not, which is unusual for smaller towns.
“We just passed a $2.6 million budget. For a town of 1,200 and some change, that is a pretty hefty budget. A lot of that is we have our own utility department, but still $2.6 million for a small town is pretty impressive. But that only goes so far when you talk about salaries, equipment, upgrades, maintaining your infrastructure. It does go quickly so cooperation is key for anything, especially for our town to be successful and be able to provide services for our community and citizens we would not normally be able to do.”
He gave two examples — when the S.C. Department of Transportation and the county’s Transportation Committee helped get two of the town’s streets paved, and the repair of the Main Street sidewalk, which has been in the works for seven years.
The town got a grant for the sidewalk, but weather issues and funding issues delayed the project from beginning.
“But progress is being made through funding through the DOT and other grants, so we are able to supply funding for our downtown businesses to get those sidewalks redone,” Underwood said.
He also said the town and Newberry Electric Cooperative are working together: NEC will run telecommunication lines through the town and in return, NEC has agreed to get the lines refitted so the town can use them as well.
The flood was the biggest topic on the mind of Pomaria’s mayor, more specifically the wash-out of the bridge on U.S. 176.
”Even in a small community, it had a major impact on travel and people getting around through the town and community,” Hentz said. “Thankfully, that got back in through some good contracts and pushing the contracts to get it done. That opened the first of March.”
Pomaria also celebrated the fourth annual Pomaria Festival, which Hentz said keeps growing, and saw some good returns from recreation baseball including Little League, a district tournament, and an intermediate Little League team that won the state tournament before going to the regional level. They finished third out of eight teams.
Little Mountain recently held its Little Mountain Reunion and the crowds were estimated at 1,300 or so for both days, Mayor Jana Jayroe said.
“The Reunion is something we absolutely could not do without cooperation from the Sheriff’s Department, Highway Department, railroad, so many community members, non-profit groups, community help groups, Boy Scouts. It is a community wide effort,” Jayroe said. “It really helps us keep our identity as a community because we are small. We are trying to hold on to our individual identity and I think we are doing a very good job right now.”
Jayroe also said they had calls each week about travel teams using the baseball field.
Senn’s focus was on the business climate, which he said has been moving in the positive direction.
“In the city, business license revenue and accommodation and hospitality tax revenue are both up, which is a good sign. County wide more people are working in 2016 than compared to 2015 and Newberry County continues to be among the leaders in low unemployment in our state,” Senn said.
Over the past year, Senn said a number of retail businesses and restaurants opened in Newberry including Badcock Furniture, The Palms Meat & Seafood Market, Tokyo Grill and Groucho’s. Service businesses such as ServiceMasters also launched this year, while Falcon Boats opened in the manufacturing sector and ThermaFlo recently announced it would be moving to Newberry.
Senn also said the City of Newberry has been working on $40 million in utility improvements. Clearwell, a new tank, will come online this week and will increase the department’s capacity.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.