FLORENCE, S.C. -- Florence County is very diverse.
With that diversity comes responsibility for the county council and our community leaders to ensure that adequate provisions are in place to consistently meet the needs of that diverse culture both in the business community and in our personal lives. It is our desire to make Florence County the most favorable county in South Carolina to work, play and live.
Florence County has made economic development a top priority.
We also have two of the finest higher education learning facilities in the nation: Francis Marion University and Florence-Darlington Technical College.
So where does local government fit in?
Our goal is to continually provide and improve services and enhance programs at a reasonable cost. It is somewhat challenging when you have limited resources.
In October 2015, the council established the Developing Communities Commission, made up of members of eight municipalities outside the greatest Florence area. The focus of the commission is to assist our smaller municipalities in improving economic development in those areas and hopefully increase job opportunities as well as enhance the overall community.
One of the toughest things in government is to try to help the public see the big picture. Local government must serve all of its residents equally, without exception. That means we need to be in a position to meet the needs for the citizens in Johnsonville as well as Quinby, Pamplico and Olanta, and from Lake City to Timmonsville, Coward and all the way through Scranton. And, of course, Florence.
We are one big community with its own set of needs and desires.
Yet we as a governing body have to seek opportunities to meet the needs of all, whether it be installing fire hydrants, building a fire station or EMS substation, improving recreational opportunities or providing manned convenience centers.
Three areas that county council has really focused on for the last three years are fire, EMS and law enforcement. Those three aspects of government are vital for our people, and we want to offer the best service possible.
Along with the growth and prosperity that Florence County has enjoyed comes the need for improvement in infrastructure. With nearly 500 projects on the list, the Capital Project Sales Tax II was one of the best thing that ever happened to Florence County.
We're getting ready to go forward for that third penny.
The first two have made tremendous difference in our ability to improve roadways and assist municipalities with the provision of water and sewer. I know that it seems slow and there are more roads that need improvement.
Among the projects: South Lynches Fire District constructed a classroom, logistics and maintenance facility; we upgraded nine stations at a cost of $2,477,000. A waterline project cost $1.1 million. Water-sewer and storm water projects totaled $2.8 million.
The Emergency Management Department in 2018 handled 128,000 law enforcement calls, 11,195 fire calls and 25,876 medical calls for a total of 165,000 calls into the 911 system.
We have experienced and responded to the tragic Oct. 3 Vintage Place shootings and don't need to say a whole lot more about it, because it's been in the news, but we lost two lives – one from the sheriff’s department and one from the city of Florence – and we're still grieving.
The Florence County Museum continued to prosper and has had visitors from 43 counties, 49 states and 25 countries.
And the list just goes on.