UNION COUNTY — An understanding of the interrelated nature of issues such as the hospital district, the county jail, and economic development and policies that reflect that understanding are what Tommy Sinclair said he will continue to implement if elected to a second term as Union County Supervisor.
The Democratic and Republican parties will hold their primaries on Tuesday, June 10. Voters must choose which primary they vote in before casting their ballots.
In the Democratic primary the only local race is for the Democratic nomination for Union County Supervisor.
Incumbent Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair and District 2 Union County Councilman Frank Hart running for the Democratic nomination. The winner of the primary will be the next supervisor because no Republican is running for the office in the November general election.
Sinclair, who is seeking his second term as supervisor, pointed to the achievements of his time in office.
“They include stabilizing and putting confidence back in government by transparency and public policy-based decisions rather than political ones,” Sinclair said. “Obvious economic growth which provides jobs and tax base investment, not to mention the jobs have health insurance which will benefit the hospital and health care collectively.”
In the area of information technology, Sinclair said that early on he determined that county government was at the “bag phone” level of development in a “cell phone world. We are now online with deeds, taxes, property cards, and open for everybody to see.”
In addition, Sinclair said “we have a planned yearly investment as we upgrade technology and information services. It will take a while to catch up but we’re gaining ground.”
In public works, Sinclair said that “after some involuntary personnel changes and reorganization we’re now a state model in the area of waste management and recycling. We have increased recycling threefold while reducing the budget by thousands and thousands of dollars.”
Sinclair said the county has also purchased new equipment to maintain its roads.
Union Hospital District
As for the future, Sinclair said he sees the county playing an important role in the efforts to help the Union Hospital District address its financial and related issues. He said the county can play a role in helping facilitate the district’s plans to affiliate with a larger health care system in order to reduce costs while maintaining services.
“Any of what I call ‘major muscle movement’ in public health, public safety, or even public education has to involve the county,” Sinclair said. “In health care, if we use Spartanburg and Greenville as an example, both are special purpose districts within the county. For example, when Laurens County affiliated with Greenville, the Laurens County government had standing as the Spartanburg County government had some standing in Spartanburg Regional. Besides the dialog between hospitals there has to be some degree of government to government dialog.”
Sinclair pointed out that the county is already involved with the hospital district as the members of the hospital board are appointed by Union County Council. He said this gives the county standing to be involved in the affiliation process, even if the district is looking at affiliating with a private entity.
Union County levies tax millage to support the operations of a number of outside agencies and institutions. It does not, however, levy tax millage to support the hospital district. Sinclair said he would support using tax millage to help support the hospital district if it proved necessary, pointing out that the county has already provided it with financial assistance.
“I would based on some discussion and dialog,” Sinclair said. “We have in fact supported the hospital recently with GEO bond funds and reserve funds.”
Sinclair said he favors the county’s involvement with the hospital district and its affiliation efforts because “public health and public safety and public education is a basic and integral part of government.”
Union County Jail
The structural problems of the Union County Jail is another issue the county has had to deal with for the past several years and will likely continue to be an issue for some years to come. Sinclair said the county is continuing to work to address these issues through a combination of maintenance and reduction of the inmate population.
“The jail does need some upgrading to extend its short-term life,” Sinclair said. “We do that by maintenance activities and by reducing the jail population by putting an additional public defender on staff last year. The inmate population last year was around 60 and now it is around 40.”
Sinclair said the long-term solution not only will address the jail’s problems but could also play a role in the future economic development of the county.
“The long-term solution is a new facility with up to date systems in a different location that would vacate the area to accommodate additional industrial development,” Sinclair said.
The jail is currently located off SC 18 in the Bonham area and sits near the Gonvauto manufacturing facility. There has been much talk about the possibility of eventually relocating the jail and other adjacent facilities such as the Ellen Sagar Nursing Home to free up the area for future industrial development.
“I can see a scenario where the nursing home was relocated to the existing hospital, which would be transformed to meet health care needs either there or at a new location,” Sinclair said. “Then we have a large area connected to the existing Commerce Park between Highway 176, Highway 18, and the rail line, all with upgraded water, sewer and power.
“That is more than a scenario but less than a plan,” he said. “That’s the direction I’m going to try to lead us in.”
Sinclair pointed out that the issues of economic development, health care, and public safety are interrelated and must be addressed as such.
“The point here is you just can’t talk about the hospital or the jail or the nursing home or economic development or even education,” Sinclair said. “They are so interrelated and even interdependent that you must talk about them at one time.”
Sinclair added that economic development and quality of life improvement for the county can occur in different ways in different areas. In the case of the southern part of the county, that can take the form of the Patriots Lake Project which would provide the county with increased water supplies in an era when water source are diminishing. In the northern part of the county it will take the form of projects like the Trakas site which can help the county attract more distribution-type centers or light industry.