News Update from Upper Savannah Council of Governments

Region Receives Three CDBG Grants; New Fire Truck Arrives in Ware Shoals

Town of Ware Shoals Fire Truck

The Town of Ware Shoals received its new fire truck November 12. The Town was awarded a Community Development Block Grant for the truck two years ago. The truck is seen here at the Town’s new fire station which opened earlier this year.

The Upper Savannah region received three grant awards in the Fall 2019 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Community Enrichment, Neighborhood Revitalization and Special Projects Round, the S.C. Department of Commerce announced Nov. 14.

Upper Savannah COG Community Development staff submitted three grant applications in the round and all three were awarded. Twenty-one grants were awarded statewide.

The City of Greenwood received $177,571 in CDBG funds in the Community Enrichment category to demolish and clear 10 vacant and condemned houses located on Owens Street, Park Alley, Park Avenue and Washington Avenue southwest of downtown.

The Town of Johnston received $454,545 in CDBG funds in the Community Enrichment category to purchase a new fire truck to replace a 1973 model currently used by the Town of Johnston Fire Department.

The Town of Edgefield received $150,000 in CDBG funds in the Special Projects category to develop a “pocket park” at Main and Jones streets in downtown at the site of a former bank drive-through/ATM.

Plans for the Edgefield site include possible pavilion, farmer’s market, small interactive water feature, bronze statue of a person of local significance, picnic tables, a raised stage, and space for community events such as “movie night.” Plans also include renovating the former bank drive-through building, including a new roof.

The Town of Ware Shoals celebrated the arrival of its new fire truck Nov. 12. The new truck will replace an outdated pumper which will help provide adequate fire protection in the Town. The CDBG request for $500,000 was awarded in November 2017, with a local match of $66,890 for total project estimate of $566,890.

News Update from Upper Savannah Council of Governments

USCOG Workforce Development Project Wins National Award

NADO Impact Award photo

National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) past president Scott Koons, third from left, Executive Director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council in Gainesville, Fla., presents a 2019 Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award to Upper Savannah Board of Directors representatives, from left, Wes McAllister, Diane Anderson and Albert Talbert during the NADO Annual Training Conference in Reno, Nev.

The Upper Savannah COG has received a 2019 Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) for the Ready to Roll Project which has helped train several truck drivers in the region.

In October 2017, the USCOG Board of Directors heard S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) Secretary Christy Hall’s detailed overview of an SCDOT plan for repairing roads and bridges across the state over the next 10 years. A major focus of this plan would be the utilization of additional revenues from the gas tax increase approved in the S.C. Roads Bill earlier in 2017.

As of 2017, South Carolina had the highest rural road fatality rate in the nation and the Plan would use targeted data to identify and implement safety features on 1,000 miles of the state’s deadliest roads. SCDOT planned to replace 465 bridges over the 10 years. The Plan also would include improving 140 miles of existing interstate highways while doubling the road-resurfacing program that had been under-funded for three decades. South Carolina’s transportation budget would increase from approximately $100 million (in 2016) to around $800 million in annual revenue by 2024 due to the two cents per gallon, per year gas tax increase and additional vehicle-related fees.

Among those attending the Upper Savannah Board meeting was USCOG Workforce Development Administrator Ann Skinner, who realized that an increased workforce would be needed to complete the 10-Year Plan. The increased spending would be the equivalent of a new manufacturing plant coming to the state, she believed. Construction contractors would need local workers to be able to put in competitive bids. With a tight labor force, Skinner realized that there would be an increased need for skilled trade workers.

As a result of the meeting, Skinner and her staff started researching needs and the Ready to Roll idea was born. In April 2018, the SC Workforce Development Board issued a grant announcement for innovative projects. An application was entered for the proposed Ready to Roll project and Piedmont Technical College was selected to be the lead applicant. In June 2018, a grant award of more than $300,000 was announced. USCOG then organized a focus group meeting and surveyed local construction industry leaders, who identified the primary skill gap as commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills.

Ready to Roll is a joint project between SC Works and other partners, spearheaded by PTC, which serves USCOG’s seven-county region. The college had previously identified this need within the industry; however, it did not quite have the means to start truck driver training until it received grant funds. Once the grant was awarded, PTC was able to not only purchase a dump truck and trailer but also began rolling out plans for the upcoming semester.

At first, the class would host only eight students at a time, but as time moved on (and more training resources were acquired) it would add more students to the roster. The program was to begin Oct. 1, 2018. Since then, several drivers have not only been trained but have been put to work. The students have also received online certification from the S.C. Asphalt Paver’s Association during their time not spent inside a truck and have also learned basic employment skills such as resume writing, interviewing skills and other workplace skills.

NADO’s Impact Awards program recognizes regional development organizations and their partners for improving the economic and community competitiveness of our nation’s regions and local communities.

Award-winning projects were honored during NADO’s 2019 Annual Training Conference, held October 19-22 in Reno, NV. The 2019 class of award recipients consists of 100 projects from 66 organizations spanning 24 states. These projects are presented in an interactive “Story Map” that includes project summaries and partners. The Story Map is available online at

“The Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Awards program is an opportunity each year for NADO to publicly recognize the important services that regional development organizations deliver to their local communities,” said 2018-2019 NADO President Scott Koons, executive director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, located in Gainesville. “The projects awarded have made significant impacts on their regions and demonstrate the diversity of programs and resources provided by regional development organizations across the country.”

For more information about this award-winning project, contact Upper Savannah Workforce Development Administrator Ann Skinner at 864-941-8074.
Since 1967, NADO has provided advocacy, education, networking, and research for the national network of 540 regional development organizations. NADO members provide professional, programmatic, and technical assistance to over 2,300 counties and 15,000 municipalities.

News Update from Upper Savannah Council of Governments

Census 2020 Organizers Stressing the Importance of a Complete Count

Census 2020 kickoff meeting

U.S. Census Bureau Partnership Specialist Linda Shell speaks at Census 2020 kickoff meeting hosted by Upper Savannah COG.

“It is our mission to count everyone once… and only once.”

That was a line repeated several times when the Upper Savannah COG hosted a Census 2020 kickoff meeting recently.

U.S. Census Bureau Partnership Specialist Linda Shell stressed the importance of an accurate count to those who attended the Sept. 26 meeting. Those in attendance included city, town and county officials, the United Way of Greenwood and Abbeville counties, and other agencies.

Census 2020 is “going to impact us for the next 10 years,” said Shell, who led the mission statement chant several times. “Once the numbers are in December 31st, 2020, these are numbers that we will have to live with for the next 10 years.”

Census 2020 logoThe U.S. Constitution mandates that our nation conducts a Census count every 10 years. U.S. Marshals collected Census information in 1790. The Census began hiring enumerators in 1880.

Today, Complete Count committees in each community are crucial to the Census process and Shell stressed getting organized now. Census workers are currently in the field verifying addresses.

Shell said each person counts toward federal money and Congressional representation. Census information is also used by companies, retail stores and restaurants when looking for new locations or expansions.

Shell stressed that Census information is protected.

“We do not share our information with anyone, not immigration, social security, customs and border, police,” she said. “People think that if they complete their Census form, especially if they are undocumented, that that information will be shared. We have taken many steps to protect your information.”

The Census information is protected for 70 years.

“We are getting ready to release the 1950 Census in 2020,” Shell said.

Shell said residents will receive up to three notifications in the mail and a fourth and final notice making sure they have completed the Census form.

College students, prisoners, long-term care residents, and those in homeless shelters all must be counted. Beginning in March 2020, Census forms can be completed from official mailings, online, or by calling the Census 1-800 number.

For more information about Census 2020 and how to help your community complete an accurate count, contact USCOG Government Services Director Rick Green at 864-941-8064.