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Cross Hill is in the money

Council Member Anderson pushes back on committee's exclusion of Comin' Home


A normally routine item of business for the Laurens County Council - accepting a committee’s recommendation - turned into a debate at Monday night’s council meeting.

The upshot was that Cross Hill will receive a $2,000 appropriation for its Labor Day Comin’ Home to Cross Hill festival, despite a contention that it does not attract tourists.

The money in question, from the state-sanctioned Accommodations Tax, is designed to be tourist-promotion funds; but Cross Hill did not convince a citizens committee recommending how to spilt up more than $57,000 that it was trying to make its event tourism-friendly.

In addition to the appropriations to groups, the ATAX Committee and the County Council approved more than $17,000 that will buy billboards.

Council Member Diane Anderson lobbied successfully for Cross Hill to receive a $2,000 appropriation, with a stipulation.

At the beginning of the meeting, Council Vice-Chairman Jeff Carroll reported on council committees’ meetings. He said the budget committee was shown a townhomes development plan for near the former mill in the Wattsville area of Laurens. More information will come to council at the July meeting.

The health and emergency services committee recommended action that will keep some businesses located between Laurens and Clinton in Laurens’ fire district so their rating for fire insurance can remain low - this is known as the ISO rating.

A mutual aid agreement says Clinton provides fire service to buildings within a 5-mile radius of its town limits; but Clinton is just 6 miles from Laurens, so its mutual-aid fire district technically covers structures that more accurately are “in” Laurens.

Some “doughnut hole” businesses, like Sonic in Laurens, also are covered by Laurens County Fire, with Laurens City Fire providing mutual aid. Council agreed with a proposal to make a contiguous map for county fire service.

In the Accommodations Tax (ATAX) discussion, Andy Howard, the county’s parks, recreation and tourism director who facilities the committee’s meetings and decisions, outlined why three applicants did not receive funding. Waterloo’s community picnic and the Laurens County Trails Association’s 10K also were zeroed out by the ATAX and PRT committees.

Anderson said she was not convinced that Cross Hill officials knew all the laws, rules, and committee policies as they applied for the money.

“There’s a real need there to keep them going,” said Anderson, of the small town between Clinton and Greenwood. “I don’t want us to be a stumbling block to them, and I don’t want their not understanding to a stumbling block.”

Howard said the committee believes that if a funded organization uses all or part of its money on advertising, that should be with media outside of Laurens County - that way potential tourists will see it. That is not a requirement of law.

“The goal is to advertise outside of Laurens County, to bring people from outside the county,” he said. “I love The Advertiser and I love The Chronicle, but people from Greenville don’t subscribe. The state looks at that, making sure they bring in people from outside.”

He said things are so congested in Greenville that people there are looking for the small town experiences that Laurens County can provide — if they know about them.

Howard said he wasn’t opposing Cross Hill, but he wanted the council to know that money going to the town would not be in-keeping with the ATAX Committee’s decision.

Carroll opposed Anderson’s first motion to give Cross Hill $3,000 - a figure in-keeping with most other approved grants. That motion died on a 4-2 vote.

Anderson tried again on a $2,000 motion - Chairman Brown Patterson said normally a member on the losing side can’t bring another, practically the same motion. But this motion passed 5-1, with the stipulation of outside Laurens County advertising if Comin’ Home organizers designate ATAX money for advertising. Patterson voted “no”.

Anderson said, “They do have people come from out of town because I have participated, just as I’ve participated in (festivals in) Laurens and I talk to people. They are doing the best they can, as they know how. I don’t want to see them left out because they did not dot an i or cross a t - they asked for $4,000, we are allocating $3,000 (finally approved at $2,000), similar to what other people are getting.”

Council Member Shirley Clark agreed with Anderson. “I have participated in Cross Hill. Out of town people are coming to the town. We need to make sure they understand the application.”

Howard said he would make sure of that. He added that Waterloo was in much the same boat - its community picnic did not reach out to tourists, even though it could be an attractive venue as it is close to Lake Greenwood.

ATAX is a 1-cent tax on accommodations with money returning to counties with certain strings attached. Cities also are eligible for ATAX - Clinton, for instance, designates its money for the under-construction recreation center on Hwy 56 between the city and I-26. In Laurens County’s case, it’s $111,474, with the first $25,000 going to the County General Fund, and 30% of that money is designated for advertising and promotion. The County has designated the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce to do this work.

The remaining 65% - $57,504.91 for 2024 - goes to tourism related expenditures through an applications process.  

A report in the council’s agenda packet about ATAX says, “Requirements have always been that the agency applying are non profit or government that are attracting tourism to the county. We have not supported events that generally for or designed specifically for Laurens County residents or that will advertise within the confines of Laurens County. PRT recommended that these funds be used for advertising Laurens County on Billboards along the interstate highlighting specific sites in the County. *$19204 has been recommended to Visit Laurens County which is operated by the Chamber.*  County Council has final determining authority on how this money is allocated.”

A $2,000 allocation to Cross Hill means $40,300 going to non-profits/governments/tourism events and $17,204 going to Visit Laurens County.

Howard said county PRT is acquiring software that will help festivals more easily track where attendees come from. That could go a long way, he said, in determining if events are “tourism” draws. Also, the award recipients can spend the local money on anything - it doesn’t have to be advertising - “Flight of the Dove may spend theirs on T-shirts, for example,” Howard said; but if it is advertising, the philosophy is it should be ads directed at tourists, not in-county visitors.

These are this year’s ATAX appropriations:

Musgrove Mill, living history, $3,000

Clinton Canopy, Millers Fork trail, $2,800

Connect Lake Greenwood, Lights on the Lake, $3,000

Laurens Y, Reindeer Run, $2,500

Ag + Art Tour, participation fee, $3,000

Laurens County Chorale, expand audience, $2,000

Laurens County Community Theatre, expand audience, $2,000

Laurens County Museum, host conference, $3,000

Laurens County Rev War 250th, brochures, $3,000

Main St. Laurens, events, $3,000

PAIA, pow wow, $2,000

Presbyterian College, homecoming / family weekend, $3,000

SC Gourd Society, festival, $3,000

Town of Cross Hill, Labor Day, $0 (now $2,000)

Waterloo, community picnic, $0

Trails Association, 10k, $0

VIA Healthcare, Flight of the Dove, $3,000

Ware Shoals, Catfish Festival, $3,000.