FLORENCE, S.C. — With a few words and swift work with some scissors, community leaders Thursday morning marked the opening of a cul-de-sac that was purpose-built to allow veterans to access their medical center through public transportation.
The lack of a space where a bus could turn around had forced veterans to walk down Sally Hill Farm Road from North Cashua Drive to the Veterans Administration Clinic — more than a quarter of a mile.
"I think it's important that we're able to help facilitate this," said Florence County Administrator KG "Rusty" Smith. "It was a terrible inconvenience where they had it they had to drop people off at the end of the road and they had to walk" or use wheelchairs and crutches no matter the weather.
When the clinic first opened the bus would use the parking lot to make a front-door delivery of passengers and then pull back out onto Sally Hill Farm Road, but the weight of the bus was causing damage to infrastructure under the clinic's parking lot.
And, at that time, there was nowhere on Sally Hill Farm Road where a bus could be turned around.
"It's been nearly two years since we were able to take veterans all the way down sally hill road to the clinic," said Tyrone Jones, chairman of the Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority (PDRTA), at the ribbon cutting.
In January 2018, the problems bubbled to the surface during a meeting of the Pee Dee Veterans Advisory Council, which urged state, federal and county officials to work together to solve the problem.
With a property donation from developer Wallace Jordan and assistance from many others, the cul-de-sac was built big enough to facilitate a bus.
"My dad did the development that sits out there," said Rep. Jay Jordan, son of Wallace Jordan. "We went through about four different plans to get to a plan that works and kind of led the charge to get the plan to fruition.
"My dad gets a lot of credit. Floyd Properties gets a lot of credit for this, Sam Adams gets credit for this. They all were landowners out there. It really disturbed them, the situation, and they sat down with the county and came up with an idea that would work."
"It's a big win. It's a lot off us now because we were, every day the veterans were talking about it, we need it," said Randy Godbolt, Florence County veterans service officer.
"You don't want them to walk all the way from down there," Godbolt said, alluding to the distance from the clinic to North Cashua Drive.
"This road, the cul-de-sac and this community partnership we have built here today is absolutely incredible. It really is," said Richard Boggan, administrative officer for community based clinics connected with the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia.
"I can't thank you enough for everything you've done," said Boggan, a veteran. "The family's contribution to it. The local authorities. The transportation folks."
"It's no longer a dead end. It’s a turnaround that continues and the community partnership that we built today," Boggan said of the road and the people who made it happen.
The next step for the clinic is an improved bus stop, something more than just the end of a driveway where veterans get out into the weather, or have to wait in the weather.