WHITMIRE — Recreation and town pride were the most talked about subjects at the town hall meeting Monday night.
Residents came to the Community Center to hear the State of the Town and hear from the mayor and council and voice their opinions about the town.
“The whole purpose of tonight’s meeting will not be a griping session but it will be all positive,” said Mayor Billy Hollingsworth. “No decisions will be made by council. In order to move this town forward, your input is greatly appreciated. Three topics will be discussed — economic, fiscal and recreation.”
“The town is not broke,” Hollingsworth said about the economic standpoint. “For the past couple of years, reserve money has helped to balance the budget but we cannot continue to do that. We must figure out how to generate more revenue.”
Hollingsworth said that when revenue cannot be generated then spending should be cut. However, he continued by saying that the town cannot cut any people. The water department runs on four people, he said.
As for getting a manufacturer back into Whitmire, Hollingsworth said, “I don’t know if we will see manufacturing like we once knew. We need to expand and start looking at higher tech jobs.”
Hollingsworth mentioned something like a call center.Hollingsworth also said “Whitmire is a Godly town,” which one can see from the amount of churches in town.
“We have a town filled with good people,” said Hollingsworth, who encouraged the residents to think about what they do have including a bank, a school, a post office, a mart, Roche’s Pharmacy, etc.
“We have the infrastructure to do what we need to do and we need to support the local businesses,” he said.
The town pride came into play when Hollingsworth emphasized that residents need to keep up the appearance of their property.
“We need to clean our town up. If you have property and it affects appearance of your neighbor, you need to clean it up,” said Hollingsworth. “It’s the responsibility of the property owner or tenant to clean up and take care of it.”
Hollingsworth encouraged those the meeting to tell others and when it comes to sending letters, if the town has to send a letter to one they would send to all whose property is unkempt.
“The town has two budgets,” said Hollingsworth, explaining that one is for the services which includes business licenses, taxes, etc.) and the other is for water and sewer. Together, the two budgets total a little over $1 million.
“By June 30, we have to present a balanced budget,” said Hollingsworth saying that he and council would work together on that.
The pending recreation director and ways to bring recreation up to par were hot topics.
“During the past six months, we have not done a good job with recreation,” said Hollingsworth, “This is not a reflection on anyone. To get us to be where we need to be, we need to hire a full-time recreation director. Our future revolves around our young people. We’ve got to do something to make the people want to invest. When we pick a person, that person must be able to take Whitmire to the next level. We want our young people to grow as the town grows.”
From the residents
Q: What qualities are you looking for in a recreation director? Salary?
A: “We are looking for a dedicated person to take the recreation program forward,” said Hollingsworth. He said that salary would be between $22-24,000 per year and that the person would report to the town, so that is why the council and mayor are interviewing applicants and not hiring a committee.
Q: A question was asked if anything would be done about zoning issues along Main street.
A: “We have nothing on zoning yet. We need to see if we can afford zoning,” said Hollingsworth, who clarified that he’s not against it at all, but it’s on the back burner for right now.
Q: A question addressed the physical conditions of the homes in town. A resident who lives on Church Street said that there are two homes on either side of his that have brought the value down. He stated this has been ongoing for a couple of years and that the owners do not even live in the county.
A: “We do have owners that live out of town or state,” said Hollingsworth who said that sending letters to all homeowners with unkempt property can get expensive.
Council member Dwight Lane encouraged the resident to contact Sen. Ronnie Cromer and District 40 Rep. Walt McLeod about bill number 375 which is in the Senate. The bill is in regards to unkempt properties.
Plenty of residents spoke up about recreation and how the new recreation director needs to think outside the box beyond football and baseball. On the flip side, it was mentioned that parents and volunteers also need to step up and volunteer more.
Former council member Chrystal Harsha said that when she was helping out with recreation, “the hard part was to get the people to come out.”
“It’s going to take a tremendous amount of help from volunteers and parents,” said Hollingsworth.
One resident said the town needs its residents to all get involved.
As far as the town council’s involvement, Hollingsworth said “we will continue to work hard for you. You hired us and your opinion will always be welcome.”
In other business, Hollingsworth read a letter from the Department of Health and Environmental Control to former Mayor Tim Carroll. The letter stated that the Town of Whitmire’s water department was being recognized for its water fluoridation for last year. The town was commended by DHEC for retaining high availability of fluoridation for 12 consecutive months.