News Update from Upper Savannah Council of Governments

Upper Savannah Workforce Development Division Soliciting Requests for Proposals

The Upper Savannah Workforce Development Board is soliciting proposals for a program operator for an 18-month agreement which can total up to $2,041,000. It is to provide career and training services for Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda Counties. The solicitation and required forms are on www.uppersavannah.com under the Documents/Other Documents tab. https://www.uppersavannah.com/documents/

Upper Savannah Region Eighth Graders Learn About a Variety of Rewarding Careers

Eighth graders from across the Upper Savannah Region got a glimpse of what is possible for their futures at the Lakelands Career Showcase at Piedmont Technical College.

Approximately 1,600 eighth graders from Brewer, Saluda, JET, Meriweather, Edgewood, Calhoun Falls, Wright, Dixie, Northside, Ware Shoals and Westview middle schools, as well as Greenwood Christian and Cambridge Academy attended the event in Greenwood on Sept. 15.

The event was organized by Western Piedmont Education Consortium Regional Career Specialist Laura Padgett, in partnership with Piedmont Tech, SC Works/Upper Savannah COG, Lakelands Home Builders Association and Vision Greenwood.

USCOG Deputy Workforce Development Director Erin Nodine assisted with the Showcase.

“Laura (Padgett) was very well-organized and we had regular meetings with all partners to keep in touch about how planning was going. This really was a team effort to make an event of this size happen,” Nodine said.

Nodine said the eighth grade is an opportune to begin reaching out to the future workforce.

“Going into the ninth grade, students have to work on what is called an IGP (Individual Graduation Plan),” she said. “During their eighth-grade year, the students take assessments and are exposed to things that could help them determine their track for high school and beyond.

“This event was an awesome opportunity for students to put their hands on something and really understand the career choices available. The assessments the students take during their eighth-grade year show them what career cluster they might best ‘match’ for out of the many options.”

These careers include Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, Architecture and Construction, Arts, A/V Technology & Communications, Business Management & Administration, Education & Training, Finance, Government & Public Administration, Health Science, Hospitality & Tourism, Human Services, Information Technology, Law; Public Safety, Corrections & Security; Manufacturing, Marketing; Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics; and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics.

Several employers convened in the parking lot of the O’Dell Center for Manufacturing Excellence. The Be Pro Be Proud trailer displayed virtual versions of jobs such as operating a forklift, driving a truck and welding. Also included in the parking lot were an ambulance, utility trucks, concrete mixer truck, and hundreds of tools.
Local industries, businesses and agencies including Impresa Building Systems, Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), EA Sween Company, Greenwood CPW, Greenwood Mills, Eaton, Generac, Lonza, Self Regional Healthcare, Monti Incorporated, BMW, Velux, and SC Department of Transportation set up tables inside the Medford Center.

“Of course the students are excited to be out and about, but I really think what is different about this event is it lets them be interactive and that is always exciting to see,” Nodine said.

Director of Communications at GGC Lori Bassett was pleased with the interaction she had with the students.

“There was a lot of energy in that room,” Bassett said. “It was wonderful to share our work and connect with students who are interested in the health sciences.”
She said the eighth-graders were attentive.

“Students were interested in what we do at GGC and especially how to use the lab equipment that we brought to display. The ones who stopped by our booth were respectful, attentive and interested in what we do.

“We were very encouraged that many of the students remembered us coming to their classrooms last year. They recognized the lab equipment and even our instructors. Reaching them early definitely makes a lasting impact.”

Bassett said the event was beneficial to GGC.

“These events help us to showcase the Greenwood Genetic Center and share what we do and why we do it. One of our long-term goals is to inspire students to consider the various career opportunities in genetics and maybe, one day, come and work with us. It also allows us to connect with teachers and let them know what educational offerings we have available to them and their students.”

Greenwood Mills Human Resources Director Emily Dickson was pleased with the interaction at her table.

“I enjoy showing our current students and future employees about manufacturing, our company history and what future opportunities they have right here in Greenwood,” Dickson said.

“We were impressed with the students’ interest in what our company produces and how clothing is made,” she added. “Greenwood Mills has the opportunity to inform and teach our young students who will be in the workforce one day, what skills and education they need to be able to work for a company such as ours. We can show them the benefits of working for us and encourage them to reach out when they are ready to enter the workforce.”

EA Sween Talent Acquisition Manager James Brewer was also pleased with the interaction with students.

“As a new company in the area, it was great to share who we are and why we are coming to Greenwood area, but also talk to the students about future opportunities that they will have as they move into the workforce,” Brewer said. “It’s always fun interacting with the students to let them know the opportunities they will have for careers in their future.”
Nodine said everyone likely benefitted from the Showcase.

“I think it is wonderful for companies to see the future of the workforce,” she said. “It also is a great opportunity for students to put a product or service with a name and understand there are so many opportunities out there.

“Piedmont Tech is a wonderful partner and this was a great opportunity for them to showcase their academic programs that are available to students and help students understand there are so many paths in education,” Nodine added.

USCOG Helps Ridge Spring Receive Grant for Playground Equipment, Bicycle Rack

Upper Savannah COG helped the Town of Ridge Spring acquire a HEAL mini grant to upgrade equipment at the community playground and add a bicycle rack at the Farmer’s Market.

The HEAL (Healthy Eating and Active Living) grant totals $4,900. Government Services Director Rick Green prepared and submitted the grant application.

The funding is provided by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina Foundation and Wholespire, an advocate for healthier communities. The grant was officially awarded last week.

The new playground equipment will encourage musical play and sensory interaction at the playground outside the Civic Center. Included are a musical fence, Glockenspiel musical play event and rockin’ drum as well as Poly Pony and Benny Bulldozer fun bouncers.

“It is much needed to upgrade the playground equipment at the Civic Center,” Ridge Spring Town Clerk Summer Brown said. “We are excited to receive this grant.”

“This new equipment allows for visitors to come and enjoy various areas of our community,” Ridge Spring Mayor Qwen Etheredge said. “We are now allowed to upgrade equipment to ensure safety as well as provide kids a way to explore new ways to interact.”

The musical equipment will provide extra fun.

“Our kids of this age deal more with sound, lights, anything that will draw their sensors,” the mayor added. “This helps us to keep up with our current kids and prepare for the future.”

The bicycle rack will provide space for five bikes at the Farmer’s Market.

The Town is encouraging residents to walk and ride bikes more as a general rule, but they would especially like to encourage bike riding to the Market. Ridge Spring is surrounded by large commercial farms and many smaller farms. There is a wide variety of fresh, locally grown produce in-season available for local residents.

The Town has had several public hearings related to streetscape projects and potential improvements related to walkability around the Town. Residents were interested in being able to walk and bike to places more safely.

“As a growing population, we are looking at ways that we can bring visitors and potential residents to our community,” Etheredge said. “This also allows for our growing biking population to feel welcome and enjoy our shops.”

Improving and expanding playground equipment has been a need in Town for some time and has been discussed in Town Council meetings and in Recreation Committee meetings.

USCOG Region Receives The Three Largest CDBG Grant Awards in Spring Round

The three largest Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) awards in the state from the spring 2022 infrastructure round are coming to the Upper Savannah Region.

The Department of Commerce announced 16 grant awards, totaling $15,240,868. The three coming to the Upper Savannah Region total $4.8 million. The grant awards were announced in July, but one of the projects is still pending due to an additional funding source (State Revolving Fund) that was just awarded on Aug. 18.

The Town of Ridge Spring will receive $1.7 million for sewer transmission line upgrades, Greenwood County was awarded $1.6 million for the Mathews Mill Sewer Upgrade Phase II, and Laurens County will receive $1.5 million for the Clinton-Joanna Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade.

The next three biggest projects statewide are for $1.25 million and two for $1 million.

CDBG funds will help rehabilitate three major sections of Ridge Spring’s main sewer trunkline. A study completed in 2005 indicated excessive inflow and infiltration within the Town’s system.

Recent inspections indicated the conditions have significantly worsened. The most significant discoveries included a collapsed pipe within a creek crossing and a pipe with a rail crossing which has a substantial sag. Also, multiple areas of infiltration and potential inflow were discovered which causes an excess burden on treatment facilities.

The project includes approximately 2,541 linear feet of eight-inch gravity sewer, 2,151 linear feet of 10-inch gravity sewer, 200 linear feet of 16-inch steel encased pipe, 3,361 linear feet of cured-in-place pipe lining, and installation of approximately 42 manholes.

The project costs are estimated to be $2,086,090, including a match of $386,090 from the Town. The project is considered a town-wide benefit. Ridge Spring has an estimated population of 920 of which more than 68 percent are low-to-moderate income (LMI).

CDBG funds will help provide continued sewer improvements to the Mathews Mill area in Greenwood County where some pipes are in poor condition, inadequate in size and shallow in depth. The collection system was installed in the early 1900s.

Improvements include installation of approximately 825 feet of 12-inch and 5,200 feet of eight-inch gravity sewer line, 23 new precast concrete manholes and reconnection of 109 structures.

Construction in the mill village will include Georgia Street, Bolt Avenue, Bond Avenue, Stevens Avenue and Cross Street.

Total project costs are estimated to be $3,103,399, including $1,503,399 from the Greenwood Metro District. This project will benefit approximately 303 people, of which 92 percent are considered LMI.

CDBG funds will help upgrade Clinton-Joanna Wastewater Treatment Plant located in Kinards. The project includes removing existing drying beds and upgrading the WWTP process by installing two 750,000-gallon sludge holding tanks, aeration, mixers, pumps, controls, and other necessary fittings for liquid land application of the digested sludge.

The sludge holding tanks will provide the WWTP its necessary capacity to not only sustain its increasing wastewater volume but to handle the facility’s max capacity.

Project cost is estimated to be $3,026,000, including $1,000,000 from the SRF which was just awarded, and $526,000 from Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission.

The project will benefit the City of Clinton, Joanna and neighboring communities which utilize the sewer service. The project will benefit an estimated 8,078 people of which 65 percent are estimated to be LMI.

Grants Available to Help SC Communities, Entities Celebrate American Revolution History

SC American Revolution Sestercentennial Commission (SC250) grants are now available to support public programs, scholarly research, and historic tourism projects related to the American Revolution.

It is the goal of the SC250 Commission that each county and community rediscovers their unique American Revolution historical significance.

The Commission also wants to give voice to previously disenfranchised groups; discovering the stories of SC’s African Americans, Native Americans, women and children who were essential to the birthing of a new nation.

Visit https://www.southcarolina250.com/sc250grants/ for funding availability details.

With hundreds of American Revolution people, places, and events needing to be recognized (over 400 battles and skirmishes alone in SC), SC250 is dedicated to the locating, marking, and interpreting of as many locations as possible in the upcoming years.

SC250 Commission wishes to allocate to as many communities around the state as possible. Call 803-898-3392 or email hhawkins@southcarolina250.com to discuss your project before you apply to make sure you have everything you need in your application.

Applications must be made through the Discover SC Web Grants program. The website www.southcarolina250.com/sc250grants/ includes amount of funding available for each of the grants listed below, application deadlines, if match or cost shares are required, and grant distribution schedules.

The following entities are eligible for applying for the grants: official County 250 Committees, local governments, tribes, museums, historical societies, visitor centers, chambers of commerce, universities/colleges, non-profit organizations, SC Council of Governments, and regional tourism commissions. Other SC organizations and individuals are only eligible for Research and Publication grants. Contact SC250 for clarification or exemption requests.

SC250 grants available now include:

County 250 Organizing Grants – in an effort to insure that all counties across SC have Sestercentennial programming highlighting their unique role in the American Revolution, the SC250 Commission will be issuing a grant to each county to aid in the formation of their own County 250 Committee and kick start their efforts.

Local Museum Style Panel Grants – to aid in connecting each community to their local SC American Revolution history, SC250 will be issuing grants for the creation of museum style panel displays, with the hope of customizing the panels to the local American Revolution history.

Local Activities Grants – These grants are intended to provide seed money for local Revolutionary War activities. This could include public art, performances, living history, presentations, or more. SC250 encourages communities to be creative and make their celebration unique to their community.

County Asset Assessment & Historic Tourism Plan – SC250 wants to help the County 250 Committees plan the best way to utilize and showcase their assets. This 50/50 matching grant would pay up to $10,000 towards paying an expert to do an analysis of the American Revolution assets in the county, their condition, and a plan for monetizing these assets for ongoing Historic Tourism. The goal is to put these assets in place to have an impact long after the sundown of the Commission. The assets should still be telling our American Revolution story in SC and driving tourism for our communities long after the anniversary years.

Research Grants – SC250 sees this anniversary as an excellent opportunity to advance research in SC’s role in the American Revolution. There may be opportunities with academic, government, and commercial publishers for well-researched and written pamphlets and monographs, commercial and scholarly articles, and books associated with South Carolina’s 250th Anniversary. In addition to scholarly treatises there is a need for well-written and accurate consumer editions on many topics. Hopefully, some of these foundational research projects will be adopted for academic theses, dissertations, and other publications by independent scholars and authors. Anticipated end result can be a digital asset as long as research standards are met.

Publication Grants – To ensure that research and educational materials are available into the future, SC250 will be aiding in publication of SC American Revolution materials, both digitally and in print.

Education Grants – One of SC250’s goals is to help educate South Carolinians and visitors of all ages about the important role SC played in the birthing of our new nation. This starts with an emphasis on the many ways to share this info with our K-12 students.

Signage & Marker Grants – Whether interpretive signs at local parks or official state historic markers, there are a lot of locations that need signs about their American Revolution significance. SC250 also encourages marking 18th-century roads. The same road to the grocery store may be an old Cherokee trail or road to a British fort. We live among history and signs help us remember.

SC American Revolution Site Grants: Planning, Acquisition, Development, Renovation – SC250 believes that not only will new battlefield site developments, pull offs, and interpretation projects enhance cultural tourism during the anniversary, but also that these projects will have an impact into the future of their communities.

CDBG Funding Helps Town of Johnston Receive New Fire Truck to Replace ’73 Model

It was a typical hot, muggy August day but it felt more like Christmas in Johnston when a shiny new red fire truck pulled into the Town’s administrative building parking lot.

The truck was funded by a Community Development Block Grant. The Town of Johnston received $454,545 in CDBG funding in November 2019 for purchase of the new fire truck to replace a 1973 model.

The new truck that arrived Aug. 5 will help provide the Town with better fire protection.

Upper Savannah’s Community Development staff prepared and submitted the grant application on behalf of the Town. Community Development Project Manager Brittany Hallman and Community Development Director Keith Smith spearheaded the application efforts.

The first time Johnston Mayor Thomas Holmes saw the truck, “it was being driven around Johnston looking for a place to get some diesel fuel,” he said, with a laugh. “Then it pulled into our parking lot.”

He added, “It’s a good-looking vehicle, we are certainly proud of it and are looking forward to putting the truck into full service.”

Holmes is impressed by the features of the new truck including air brakes and LED lighting.

“It’s got an automatic transmission and the other one (1973 truck) was a straight drive. We have some younger firemen who have never driven a straight-drive transmission,” Holmes said.

“I am amazed by the workmanship with the diamond-plated areas that we work off of are nice looking. The extendable ladders fit inside a compartment and don’t hang off the outside of the truck.”

The Johnston Fire Department has “approximately 23-25 volunteers,” Holmes said, including Fire Chief John Clark.

“Those younger firemen are real excited about getting the new truck,” Holmes said.

The 1973 truck will be decommissioned though the mayor does not know what the Town will do with it yet.

“The 1973 truck has been around for a long time,” he said. “The (name) plate on the side of the truck has the fire chiefs and council members on it (from 1973). There is only one living member left in the town whose name is on the side of that truck and that’s the former fire chief.”

Holmes said the Town is appreciative of the grant.

“The Town didn’t have to fork out a lot of money for it. Being a smaller town like we are, it would take us years to save that kind of money to afford that. We’d have to borrow the money and extend it over years. The grant money was a wonderful thing for us.

“We appreciate everyone who worked at putting together the grant. We started this before the pandemic. We’ve anticipated this (the truck’s arrival) for a couple years now and it’s finally here and we are excited about it.”

Former Town Councilman Holmes was elected mayor in the spring to replace Terrance Culbreath, who did not run for re-election.

“I invited him (Culbreath) up the other day because he started the (application) process,” Holmes said. “He was pleased to see it. He was a vital cog in putting this together.”

USCOG’s Hallman and Smith were present for the truck’s arrival also.

“It’s very rewarding for Keith and I,” Hallman said. “We know this truck will have many positive impacts from a fire protection standpoint as well as the Town’s ISO (insurance) rating.

“The new truck will give the department the tank and pump capacity needed to comply with their ISO. The 1973 truck is a classic, but it’s no longer feasible to the department from a fire protection standpoint.”

For all who are involved, the truck was worth the wait.

“We have been anxiously anticipating delivery for the past few months,” Hallman said. “The pandemic set us back on completion of the truck and delivery date. It was exciting to finally see it arrive.”

 

Lander Offering Special New Tuition Rates for Public Agency and Nonprofit Employees

Lander University is offering a special new tuition rate for public agency and non-profit employees.

Lander is offering online undergraduate classes at $290 per credit hour and graduate program classes at $360 per credit hour.

The new rates begin for Fall 2022 classes. To qualify, employees of public agencies and nonprofits must be at least part-time employees and able to document consistent work history with employer for six months prior to enrollment at Lander.

Rate is available to volunteer fire/EMS personnel with documentation of six months of service prior to enrollment. See Lander website for full requirements and qualifications.

Lloyd Willis, Interim Dean of the College of Graduate and Online Studies, will take any questions at lwillis@lander.edu or 864-388-8424.

Upper Savannah Assists Laurens School District with Funding for Virus Cleansing Air Purifiers

Laurens County School District 55 is among several entities which are benefiting from Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funding with Upper Savannah COG staff’s assistance.

The CDBG-CV funding is used to help prevent, prepare for, or respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

USCOG applied for and was awarded CDBG-CV funds for five projects, including air purifiers for the 10 schools in Laurens County School District 55. Upper Savannah Economic Recovery Specialist Cason Wright assisted the recipients and submitted the applications.

The air purifiers are cleansing the air in the school buildings, helping to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses, allowing for students to stay healthy and continue learning by face-to-face instruction.

District 55 was delivered a check for $161,236.65 from the CDBG-CV program on April 26 to fund the project. Pictured are Wright (left) and District 55 Director of Federal Programs, Accountability, and Professional Development Dr. Anna Brink.

“Laurens 55 is committed to providing the safest environment possible for students. The decision to focus on air quality is one that is grounded in research and the nature of most viruses that travel airborne,” Brink said.

The funding was utilized to purchase stand-alone, or portable, systems that clean larger spaces and areas that share a common conditioning system, Brink said. These systems were placed in each of the schools. The research on the devices was proven to reduce up to 99.9 percent of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in the air within three minutes and shown to reduce over 99.9 percent of many common contaminants in the air and on surfaces, she added.

“We have seen a drastic reduction in the number of cases across the district which cannot solely be based on the implementation of these devices. However, we do believe that they have helped prevent the spread from being greater,” Brink said.

With fewer virus cases, there is more in-school instruction which benefits students and teachers.

“Face-to-face instruction is the method that is most impactful for the majority of learners,” Brink said. “As a district, we are also very cognizant that face-to-face instruction is the method that is most feasible for the majority of families.

“We realize that our campuses provide safe places for students to spend their days, master critical skills, and grow as well-rounded individuals. We recognize that there are countless benefits to students participating in on-campus learning,” Brink added.

Other CDBG-CV projects that have been awarded with USCOG’s assistance include home-delivered meals for seniors ($390,000) who attend group dining facilities in the Upper Savannah Region, a public transit contract for Saluda County ($50,000) that focuses on medical, pharmacy and other essential transportation, HVAC upgrade and UVC air filtration installation at the City of Abbeville Civic Center ($65,400), and UVC air filtration installation at the Abbeville Opera House in the City of Abbeville ($21,500).

Upper Savannah Area Agency on Aging Helping Sponsor Senior Health & Wellness Fair May 10

Approximately 45 resource booths will be available at a free Senior Health & Wellness Fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, at the Greenwood Family YMCA.

Medical information, wellness tests, free resources, health demonstrations and more will be featured at the event sponsored by the Greenwood YMCA and the Upper Savannah Area Agency on Aging (AAA).

The Abbeville Area Medical Center will be at the event administering COVID-19 vaccine shots and booster shots. The Abbeville Hospital will also conduct blood pressure screenings and foot tests.

Self Regional Healthcare will have a program on chest pains, strokes, heart attacks, how to identify them and what to do in case someone has symptoms. Self will also have a program on how to live your best life with cancer.

There will be no solicitation at the fair, said Brenda Minor from the Upper Savannah AAA staff who has helped spearhead organization of the event.

Seniors can ask questions, get business cards and contact agencies if they so choose. No one will be soliciting information from the seniors.

The 45-plus resource booths will include the Upper Savannah AAA, Greenwood YMCA, Department of Health and Human Services, Community Long-Term Care, GLEAMNS, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, senior centers, home health services, adult daycares, the Greenwood Soup Kitchen, the Food Bank of Greenwood County, United Way of the Lakelands, the Greater Greenwood United Ministries, Silver Sneakers, funeral homes, a mental health facility, Veteran’s Administration, senior apartments, credit union, Alzheimer’s Association and Parkinson’s Association. Representatives from U.S. Senator Tim Scott and State Rep. Jeff Duncan’s offices will also be providing information.

There will be various demonstrations including fall prevention exercises, arthritis relief and line dancing.

Minor said the event is coming at a good time with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions easing.

“Three things that the AAA wants for the seniors is for them to be able to get out and socialize again,” Minor said, “we wanted them to know every resource available for their needs, and we want them to feel safe from solicitors and scammers.”

Edgefield Senior Citizens Council will have a Senior Day for their members only on May 12 and more senior health and wellness fairs will be planned for other counties across the Upper Savannah region.

USCOG Transportation Workshop Informs About SCDOT Programs, Provides Project Updates

Those who attended the Upper Savannah Regional Transportation Workshop learned about the many programs within the S.C. Department of Transportation while receiving updates on current and upcoming road and bridge projects in the Region.

The workshop was organized by Upper Savannah COG and hosted by Piedmont Technical College. More than 40 attended the workshop held on April 20.

Eight speakers from SCDOT talked about their programs or gave updates on road and bridge projects.

SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Intermodal Planning Brent Rewis opened the workshop, pointing out that South Carolina has the fourth largest state-maintained system of highways in the country and that South Carolina has the 10th fastest population growth rate.

Ten-Year Plan Update

The Roads Bill passed by the S.C. General Assembly in 2017 included a gradual yearly gas tax increase that initiated and is helping fund SCDOT’s 10-Year Plan to improve the state’s roads and bridges.

The updated goals of the Plan include doubling the previous pace of resurfacing roads, replacing 500 bridges, improving 140 miles of interstate highways, and adding 1,250 miles of safety features on rural roads.

Rewis told the group that 5,500 miles of roads have been resurfaced, 224 bridges have been completed or are being worked on, 80 miles of interstate highways have been widened, and 713 miles of rural roads have been improved so far. Approximately $3.7 billion in projects are currently under contract, he said.

Now, an additional $250-$300 million in federal funding has been added to help South Carolina incorporate more projects to deal with growth and economic development needs. These funds represent a 30 percent increase over last year and are still subject to the same federal spending rules and regulations.

SCDOT Director of Planning Machael Peterson discussed the planning process for improving roads and bridges that include a Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) prepared by each COG region, including Upper Savannah’s 2021-2027 TIP, and the overall State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP).

“We are selecting projects based on needs,” Peterson said. “Why are we doing this project? What is the purpose of this project? What are we trying to solve with this project?”

SCDOT Statewide Planning Chief Christina Lewis reviewed the Complete Streets program which involves shared mobility including vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and transit riders.

Highway Safety

SCDOT Highway Safety and Data Research Manager Emily Thomas gave statistics including that South Carolina had 1,200 traffic deaths in 2021, the highest traffic death rate in the nation. She said there were more than 147,000 collisions in 2021, with over 3,000 resulting in serious injuries.

Thomas said the Upper Savannah Region of Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick and Saluda counties had 4,383 collisions in 2021 with 50 fatalities and 81 serious injuries.

Thomas said 54 percent of accidents in the Upper Savannah Region were the result of roadway departures. She said the state is adding rumble strips, cable barriers, guardrails and wider/paved shoulders while cutting down trees to make rural travel safer.

She said the state is adding 35 roundabouts and planning 15 more to make rural intersections safer. Roundabouts are circular intersections in which traffic flows counterclockwise around a center island with no traffic signals or stop signs.

“We have a lot to do in South Carolina to make our roads safer,” she said.

Project Timelines

SCDOT Program Manager Tyke Redfearn discussed the timeline of a road project from planning to start-up phase to construction and completion, answering the popular question, “why does it take so long?”

Once a project is selected such as a highway widening or adding turn lanes, preliminary work must be completed. That can include testing soils, locating utilities, identifying wetlands, determining if endangered species are threatened, etc.

Then comes the preliminary design of the project which must include alternatives and variations if not all goes as planned. Stakeholders and the public must be involved, with public information meetings and public hearings scheduled.

Then come right of way acquisitions and sometimes relocating utilities or railroads. Before construction ever begins, there is an engineering phase, advertising the project, receiving bids, analyzing bids and rewarding the project. Costs are astronomical, sometimes exceeding $8 million to widen just one mile of road.

During this entire process, a schedule is made to try to complete each phase in a timely manner. As Peterson said earlier in the day, “the public is usually floored by how much time it takes to deliver (complete) a project.”

Current Project Updates

SCDOT Program Manager Clint Scoville and SCDOT District Engineer Kevin McLaughlin both discussed ongoing and future projects across each of the Region’s six counties.

A lengthy, detailed list of completed and upcoming road resurfacing and reconstruction projects as well as intersection and bridge projects for each county was provided.

Abbeville County has had 13 resurfacing/reconstruction projects completed since 2021 with 15 more upcoming, two bridge replacements completed in 2022 (Bulls Horne Road and Vandiver Road) and one more under way (Erwin Mill Road).

Edgefield County has had five resurfacing/reconstruction projects completed since 2021 with 24 more upcoming, and one bridge replaced (Key Road over Turkey Creek).

Greenwood County has had 12 resurfacing/reconstruction projects completed since 2021 with 28 more upcoming, one intersection project completed in 2021 (SC 702 and 246), and one bridge replaced (Ridge Road).

Laurens County has had seven resurfacing/reconstruction projects completed since 2021 with 23 more upcoming, one intersection project completed (W. Main Street and Trinity Church Road) in 2021, one bridge recently replaced (Hellams Circle), and three more bridges under way (Sawmill Road, Missallie Drive and Golden Acres Road).

McCormick County has had 11 resurfacing/reconstruction projects completed since 2021 with 18 more upcoming, one bridge recently replaced (Key Road over Turkey Creek), and two more under way (Bell Field Road and Rocky Creek Road).

Saluda County has had 11 resurfacing/reconstruction projects completed since 2021 with 17 more upcoming, and four bridges are scheduled to be replaced from August 2022 to April 2023 (Richland Creek Road, Matthews Road, Rocky Creek Road and Shiloh Road).

A complete list of projects can be found on the www.scdot.org website by clicking on “Programs & Projects” and then “Project Viewer.”

TAP Program

SCDOT Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) Manager Amy Blinson provided details about grants available for local governments and school districts to fund non-motorized transportation projects.

The projects can include foot and bicycle trails, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, multi-use paths, signage, etc., and some landscaping or streetscaping in non-motorized areas. The grants of up to $1 million must include a 20 percent match and the projects must be well-defined.

Future Projects

Meanwhile, plans are to put the following intersection projects into the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP): Short Cut Road and Highway 25 in Edgefield County, Highways 101 and 14 in downtown Gray Court in Laurens County, and Sweetwater Road and Bypass 25 SE in Greenwood County.