PICKENS — Another year has come and gone, and it is time to look back on some of the most memorable events of 2012. The City of Pickens and Pickens County had another busy year, so we will take this time to review the top five stories from the year that was.
The infamous speeding ticket
It was a routine stop for Pickens Police Officer Michael McClatchy, that is, until he realized who he was stopping. McClatchy had just pulled over Clemson Football Coach Dabo Swinney, who was en route to a radio show. At a later date in September, McClatchy blogged about the event on a website. After Pickens police found out, McClatchy was fired. The firing created a swarm of media coverage, in which McClatchy vowed to act with a lawsuit. The story received national media coverage, appearing on ESPN.com.
Building program nears completion
Pickens County Schools have undergone a severe makeover as part of a more than $370 million building program, which is now in its final stages. Easley, Pickens, Daniel and Liberty all received new high schools, while major renovations can be found at local middle and elementary schools.
The massive project is nearly complete with just a few things left on the schedule. Next on the list is Gettys Middle School, which is slated for $13 million in improvements. The old Easley High school is being renovated and will soon become the second Easley-area middle school.
Pickens might lose fire department
Currently the Pickens City Fire Department provides fire protection to the city as a city department and to the Pickens Rural District and the Shady Grove Fire District through a contract with both districts. The future of that arrangement has been thrown into question with a decision by the county to end contracted services with the city for fire protection within the Pickens Rural and Shady Grove districts.
The Pickens City Fire Department receives its funding through city taxes and has a fire district population of 3,126, while the rural fire district receives its funding from a yearly $50 per residence fire fee. The fate of the Pickens Fire Department rests with a vote in 2013.
Improvements to downtown Pickens
The City of Pickens is involved in an aggressive improvement plan that officials are hoping will develop the city’s infrastructure, recreation, and family entertainment. The 2012-2013 budget covers a wide variety of city improvement plans. The current and near future project list includes everything from a $4.5 million water plant upgrade to a downtown park and amphitheatre. The city plans on upgrading aspects of its infrastructure, but has also put an emphasis on the improvement and revitalization of downtown.
Possibility of Rails to Trails project in Pickens County
The possible addition of a recreational trail in Pickens County has been the topic of great discussion over the last few months. The “Rails to Trails” project involves an eight-mile stretch of the Pickens Railway between the cities of Pickens and Easley that is intended to be bought by the two cities and converted into a multi-use trail system.
Several trail surveys have been conducted by the Pickens County YMCA and the Easley Chamber of Commerce yielding a combined 87.5 percent result of those in favor of the trail, but when discussed during the open forum portion of a County Council meeting, the debate was less one-sided. Residents expressed their opinions in the public forum where some argued that the proposal was unnecessary and would increase crime, violate privacy rights, and do nothing to promote tourism.
Others contended that the path would provide a valuable resource for bikers, walkers, runners, and would attract tourism to Pickens County and promote health in the Upstate much like the Swamp Rabbit Trail that spans from the city of Greenville to the city of Traveler’s Rest.