(Editor’s Note: Since he has been in office, Supervisor Tommy Sinclair has issued an annual State of Union County Address on the various aspects of county government and other areas that affect the lives of the people of Union County. Given the importance of these issues, The Union Daily Times is publishing the supervisor’s State of Union County Address on the front page of today’s edition.)
I have attempted to write “The State of Union County” on several occasions in the last few days, but did not really like the approach. My reservations were how to say what I wanted to say after having this job for two years.
Last week I was teaching a youth Sunday School class on the morning of Dr. Paul K. Switzer’s passing. I spoke to the young adults about the dash in a person’s life using the “Good Doctor” as an example. Grave markers will give the date of birth and the date of death of a person with a dash between. The significance is not so much the dates, but the dash. A person is defined and remembered by what is in his “dash.” The Good Doctor Switzer certainly had a full and rewarding dash.
I just read of the passing of General Norman Schwarzkopf. His dash will certainly contain “Storming Norman” and the 72-hour liberation of Kuwait in the first Gulf War.
Union has lost several people recently that had significant “dashes” filled with contributions to our community. In my church alone in the last 60 days were Dr. Switzer, Col. Jack Whitener, Dr. Bobby Rippy, and certainly I.G. Vanderford yesterday.
In Sunday School that morning with the older youth, we tried to individually recall events of the year 2012 and its “dash,” but more importantly, to look at 2013 and what we might put in 2013’s “dash.” With that background I will fill in some of the “dashes” of 2012, present some 2013 ideas, and close with some general comments about the future from my perspective.
Because job growth affects all we do, last year’s State of Union County started with economic development, and it will again this year.
One has to be blind not to see the transformation along Highway 18 in the vicinity of the jail. The development there and the future development possible for that area, while not unlimited, surely has more ahead of it than behind it.
The type of development there does not come easy or cheap. This time last year the economic development director and chairman along with city and county leaders, with support of their respective councils, were working sometimes day and night regarding anything from moving dirt to building railroad crossings to make it happen. County and city councils, supported by the S.C. Department of Commerce, have invested considerable money in incentives, land purchase, and utility/recycle relocation to make this happen.
There was a lot of positive in the economic development world’s 2012 “dash.”
While those efforts continue, 2013’s dash must also include Union as a Work Force Ready community. Between the county, the school district, local higher education, and economic development, a plan is in the works.
Citizens of Union can contribute to the 2013 economic development “dash” by continuing to be patient and supportive of our complex and competitive effort of economic development. We must accept that economic development is more a regional, and even state, dynamic than just a local one. As the global situation changes, we might see a resurgence of textiles on a different level reemerge in this nation and this area.
Our local hospital in the 2012 “dash” has recently upgraded furniture, upgraded security, increased the number of practicing medical doctors, upgraded diagnostic imaging, and instituted non-emergency medical transport. For its 2013 “dash” the medical community is working to reduce wait time for outpatient services, emergency care, and office appointments.
Small county-owned hospitals continue to be economically fragile in today’s reduced insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, non-pay world. Financially, the hospital is trying to increase coding and collection efficiency while reducing unnecessary hospital stay and emergency room visits.
Citizens of Union can contribute to the medical care 2013 “dash” by using our local facilities rather than seeking care elsewhere and by limiting emergency room visits and ambulance runs to true needs rather than convenience. We all have a need and a community obligation to support the hospital.
The 2012 public safety “dash” saw a considerable upgrade to the vehicle fleet through county funds, grants, and monies derived/confiscated from illegal drug activities. Public safety in 2012 also has basically completed its IT upgrade to include real-time fingerprinting and other up-to-date crime fighting/prevention capabilities linked to state and federal agencies.
The county is about to complete its full, county-wide communications footprint through a number of transmission towers as it complies with the federally mandated (FCC) narrow banding requirements. This full, county-wide communications footprint fits well now that we also have every part of the county in a fire district. In the 2013 and future years “dash” who knows what capabilities will exist to relay over those towers.
A term we will begin to hear more of is 911 NG or 911 next generation. We must plan to upgrade to get maximum capability out of improved technology. The future 911 call has almost unlimited possibilities in terms of response and help reaction. The idea of 911 just being able to know your location is a minor capability compared to the future.
One certainly cannot forget the Connecticut school tragedy in terms of loss of life. Just as importantly, Connecticut reminds us that filling in the future “dashes” of today’s society requires an extra degree of precaution/prevention in the public safety area such as going through a courthouse metal detector to pay our taxes.
We all know that public safety, while necessary, is expensive. We can contribute to the 2013 public safety “dash” by participating in crime stoppers and crime watch type activities, by realizing and supporting that law enforcement is community based, by realizing that cars, radios, equipment, jails, and detention centers are expensive, and by understanding that we may have to go the extra financial mile to have public safety.
The information technology (IT) 2012 “dash” reveals COTTS in the Clerk of Court’s office, completion of the online tax parcel process with all associated information to be made active in early 2013, and an additional online pay capability on the county website for the treasurer’s office.
The next big step in IT, maybe even in the 2013 “dash,” will be digitizing a massive number of county records for which we do not have adequate storage.
Citizens can contribute to the 2013 IT “dash” by using the online systems which will decrease court house traffic, relieve some parking issues, demand less time, and generally be more accurate. We certainly are moving up in the technology world to where we are even with other counties.
Public Works/Public Service
In the public works/public service 2012 “dash” is the essential completion of the Carlisle recycle center paid for with state grant money and built with in-house labor. The temporary relocation of the Highway 18 site, and it looks like the permanent site, will also be paid for with state grant monies. The county continues to increase the amount it recycles which increases revenues.
The 2013 “dash” will probably see the beginnings of mandatory glass recycle regulations and stiffer penalties for litter and trash.
In the area of public works or road repair, the road crew has only three people, and much of the equipment was sold some years ago. We are working with council in the 2013 “dash” to increase the level of service we can offer by purchasing equipment and possibly hiring more crew.
Citizens can help with Public Works/Public Service by continuing to call with road issues, but by being patient as we work the road issues with limited crew and equipment.
Quality Of Life Improvement
I spoke last year of mill villages, clean up, overall infrastructure, and quality of life improvement. The 2012 “dash” saw us receive a $1 million grant for Ottaray and a $400,000 Brownfield grant for identification of potential mill and hazardous waste sites for ultimate clean up grants.
The 2013 “dash” may very well see, on a limited basis, some daily presence of Red Cross, USDA, United Way, Social Security and other non-county government help groups. I have been working to coordinate a presence here on a once-a-week, yet permanent, basis.
Citizens can help in the 2013 “dash” as we continue to seek input on these needs and seek use of the nongovernmental help groups.
The Common Good
Last year I spoke of the growing cooperation with the City of Union and the need for a vision. A couple of issues sidetracked the vision effort for a period of time. There is growing interest from county council in the long range planning area. I have invited the school board to a joint meeting with county council, I have invited the hospital board to a joint meeting, and I will ask the city council for follow-up meetings to the ones we have had. In a community as small as ours there have to be many areas where we can share resources to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
I look at the gridlock on the federal level, and many times at the state level, and think often times that those people are not representing the whole, but a special interest, or as Mike Anthony sometimes relates, “They are worried about me and mine.” I am not sure we do not do that on a local level on occasion, also. I look forward to a bright future as our activities continue to grow as the result of collective planning and common benefit. I wish all a good year.
We as individuals and as a community, like those men we so recently lost did, need to fill in our “dashes” with service to the community and with a focus on the common good instead of individual advances. Should we do that, we will have a good “dash” for the year 2013.