PICKENS COUNTY — The inaugural Fifth Monday Meeting was held Aug. 29 at West End Hall in Easley with many of the elected officials from Pickens County in attendance to promote a Pickens united attitude.
Although the meeting holds no formal or binding votes, the purpose is to give residents and officials a forum to discuss issues of relevance to Pickens County and the state as it concerns local voters.
The agenda included an update on the Legislative Delegation by Rep. Davey Hiott, an update from Sheriff Rick Clark, and updates from county council, school board, and the city of Easley presented by Mayor Larry Bagwell.
Rep. Neal Collins delivered the opening remarks for the session and spoke of the future of Pickens County.
“This is our first meeting and out of the 16 or 17 of us here today, 15 have four years or less experience,” Collins said. “In 10 years it’s likely none of us will be here in these same spots. But, even if that’s the case, we can set the table for the next 10 years and that will pay dividends and we will have a better future in Pickens County.”
Rep. Hiott spoke to the activities of the Legislative Delegation, pointing out with the summer in full swing not much has been happening in the state house but that Oct. 3-4 will be the annual meeting of sitting and standing chairpersons within the Legislature to set the agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
Hiott spoke to the approximate $440 million in the state’s budget that would be considered a nonrecurring surplus but also pointed out there were requests for far more than that across the state.
Hiott acknowledged education and the Local Government Fund were on the list of funding to be considered.
Sheriff Rick Clark delivered what many would consider to be good news with the continuation of the process for a new jail.
“The jail is still in the design stages and we have had soil samples taken and this is a great step forward for our jail,” Clark said. “Not many of you are aware but our jail is rated for 91 inmates and this morning we have 205. There are really no other options and this will remove a tremendous liability for Pickens County.”
Clark also said two counselors are now available for mental and behavioral health through a grant and the effects are noticeable on the jail’s population.
Wes Hendricks gave an update on the activities of members of county council yet to be sworn in and detailed their activities as they have met with local business, industry, and community leaders to prepare for their first terms in office.
School board member Philip Bowers discussed school consolidation, an issue that has hounded trustees since the decision to close three Pickens County schools was reached.
Bowers cited census numbers and the trend in fewer students to explain the decision and also went on to say that “although the decision wasn’t popular with everyone, based on population and where the populations are centered it was the right choice and was not done lightly.”
According to Bowers, the population within the schools in question had fallen by 12 percent between the 2000 and 2010 census.
Easley’s Mayor Larry Bagwell spoke briefly on the city and declared it to be growing. Bagwell cited the addition of three new subdivisions and a new 297 apartment complex in the works as statistics pointing toward Easley’s growth.
The mayor also reinforced the plans for the Doodle Trail to terminate in the city and even gave an example of what the city has in mind as they have purchased 45 homes and 14 tracts of land for the purpose.
According to Bagwell, the properties were purchased “to bring the Doodle Trail downtown and also upgrade part of the town itself.” The mayor did point out no residents were displaced in the process.
Bagwell also spoke to the importance of the day’s event and how attitudes seemed to be different.
“This is a great atmosphere. It wasn’t too long ago the city of Easley didn’t care for some of the elements of local government in Pickens County but there’s a difference here today,” he said.
The next Fifth Monday Meeting will be held in Clemson on Oct. 31. A time will be announced. The meetings are open to the public.
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.