County's Look at 2017
Maintaining service, reducing costs will continue as 2018 county priorities
Wedged between Greenville and Spartanburg Counties and with close proximity to the City of Greenville which is the fastest growing city east of Texas, Laurens County is poised for great growth. We are blessed with about 40 miles of Interstate highway, over a hundred miles of lakeshore, 3 rivers, rolling hills, and great people.
This past year (2017) was a great year for the Laurens County economy.
Financially, the preliminary results indicate the County government has spent less money than we brought in for the first time in seven years. Our unemployment rate has not been this low since 2000. Approximately 67 new homes were built in Fountain Inn Laurens County (a 34% increase over 2016). An estimated additional 120 homes were built in the rest of the county. New commercial construction is following the increased housing with new restaurants and shopping. Over 500 construction permits were issued, and we had a 27% increase in new construction value with over $37,000,000 in new construction in 2017.
In 2017, the Laurens County Council supported a branding study to ask Laurens County residents what makes our County unique and valuable. A fresh new countywide logo was created and will soon be seen everywhere.
The branding statement is:
“There’s a different kind of lifestyle just outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a lifestyle with casual lunches and meaningful conversation. It’s strolls on small town sidewalks and the comfort of familiar faces; the tranquility found in rolling green hills and the peacefulness of forest-lined rivers and lakes. It’s a lifestyle that slows you down and allows you to take a breath of fresh air, literally; and that connects you in a significant way with family and friends. It’s ‘Friday night lights’ and Sunday dinner at Grandma’s. It’s a lifestyle that calls you back home. It’s a better lifestyle. It’s a Lauren’s County Lifestyle.”
Laurens County has the access to all the amenities of a fast growing city without all the negative parts of city life. We have already begun the next step which is to create a long range strategic plan which will be a road map to the future we desire in Laurens County.
A new strategic capital plan was just created that identifies numerous projects the county will have to take on plus additional projects the county may want to build in the future such as future libraries and parks. This plan will be released in early 2018.
Quality of life is important to Laurens County residents and is important to attract the type of growth and development we desire in the future.
Laurens County is blessed with wonderful rolling hills, rivers, open spaces, and trees. We have great recreational assets for our existing citizens and new citizens considering making Laurens County their home. We also have the ability to provide relief for those stuck in the city traffic to come to the great outdoors in their own backyard, Laurens County, further promoting economic activity and prosperity in Laurens County.
This year, the Laurens County Parks Recreation and Tourism department (PRTM) developed three miles of new mountain biking and hiking trails at the Central County Park. A new playground was installed in the Cross Hill Park. A new Tumbling Shoals canoe and kayak launch and walking trail park was constructed on Highway 76, Laurens. All of these parks were built with grants and existing funding sources.
With 30,000 vehicles per day traveling our Interstates through Laurens County, it is important we present a great “welcome mat” at our front door to invite people to come stay for a day or a lifetime. The first phase of this was completed this year by the County Council at exit 9 on I-385 with extensive landscaping. Additional beautification at Lake Greenwood Laurens County was done with a new welcome to Laurens County sign and landscaping on Highway 221. More improvements are planned for 2018.
Providing quality government services as efficiently as possible is the top priority of the Laurens County Council. One of our top priorities is the emergency services we provide. County Council invested heavily in improving our EMS service in 2017 by funding two new ambulances, two new quick response vehicles, and adding the first half of a new full time EMS crew. This new EMS crew will allow the County to restart a closed EMS facility.
In addition, the County Council has supported the first ever combined EMS/Firefighter department at the new Thompson Road Fire Station in Northern Laurens County. This new station will be manned 24 hours per day 7 days per week with a new full fire crew.
With the help of the Laurens County State Legislators, a brand new emergency services station will be built in Northern Laurens County using no local tax dollars. This new station will initially provide enhanced police protection through a Northern Precinct Sheriff’s Office.
These types of enhanced services in the northern part of Laurens County will support the growth that is expanding into Laurens County and promote more growth. Encouraging smart growth into Laurens County will help to spread the growth south into Gray Court, Laurens City and Clinton.
This year, the County Council supported approximately $1,300,000 in improvements to the Laurens County Airport. Only $65,000 in local tax money was used to match the $1,235,000 in grant money spent on these projects. Our airport is important for our economic prosperity. We want the executives that are invested in (or those that are looking to invest in) Laurens County to fly into and out of our airport not an airport in another county.
The Laurens County Council is investing $2,450,000 in new and improved fire stations. The new Thompson Road Fire Station is now almost complete and will begin operation shortly. A new fire station in the Youngs Community was completed. Construction is underway for new fire stations in the Milam Road area, Highway 76 west of Laurens City and Neely Ferry Road. An additional $400,000 was spent on improvements to other fire stations in Laurens County.
The Laurens County Council also invested heavily in updating the technology and equipment in our E911 dispatch. This estimated investment of over $1,800,000 in new modern dispatching technology ensures your 911 call gets answered in the most efficient way possible.
The Laurens County Council also supported the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office with the purchase of 15 new patrol vehicles. This support helps the Sheriff’s Office provide a safe community in Laurens County.
Additional projects supported by the Laurens County Council in 2017 include reuse of a school district portable for a Roads and Bridges Office, expansion of our animal shelter with 16 new kennels, and the use of grant money to improve our solid waste operations.
Maintaining quality government services, providing top notch service, increasing the efficiency of providing these services, and reducing the cost of these services to the taxpayers is our continued focus.
(Editor's Note: The next meeting of the Laurens County Council will be Tuesday, Jan. 9, 5:30 p.m. in council chambers, historic courthouse in downtown Laurens. The meetings of council, and its committees, are open to the public under provisions of the SC Freedom of Information Act.)