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Council looks back on ’10, forward on ’11

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By Chris Sardelli

Job announcements, the arrival of new businesses, improvements to fire insurance ratings, the collection of Census data and construction on two county courthouses were all issues that County Council dealt with in 2010.
Several council members, as well as the county administrator, recently examined the county’s milestones and struggles from the past year, while casting an eye toward 2011.
Rudy Carter, chairman of County Council in 2010, ranks construction on the historic courthouse and new justice center along Lancaster’s Main Street as two of the county’s greatest achievements in 2010.
He also lauded businesses such as Nutramax Labs and SOI Corp. for setting up shop in the county, and said he felt  the development of the Heath Springs and Kershaw Industrial parks could mean significant future growth for the county.
“I’ve got a positive outlook on the county,” Carter said. “We’re just waiting for businesses to make a decision and come here.”
Carter said Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. staff put forth a strong effort during the last year to attract new businesses.
“I’m hoping to see a lot of jobs now,” he said. “We seem to be making progress.”
Infrastructure           
Rehabilitation projects were high on County Administrator Steve Willis’ list of biggest accomplishments for the county.
He was impressed by the number of Community Development Block Grants the county received this year, as well as the projects that were completed using the funding. Most memorable, he said, were water line, sidewalk and street light work done in the Brooklyn area of the city of Lancaster.
“Now we’re getting ready for the second phase there, with sewer line work and some more demolitions,” Willis said.
Willis also highlighted the Westwood water project, which finished its engineering phase this year and should begin construction in 2011.
He said the lowering of the countywide Insurance Service Office (ISO) certification was a huge milestone for the county, which will lower insurance rates for homes and businesses in the county.
“A lot of that goes to the number of training hours the volunteers were willing to put in,” he said. “Between 97 and 98 percent of our volunteer firefighters are certified interior structural firefighters. That’s a number you just don’t see unless it’s in a career department.”
Other 2010 highlights for Willis include the coroner’s office moving into a new facility on Main Street, the county airport constructing a new runway and the certification of two sheriff’s deputies as crime scene investigators, of which there are only eight in the whole state.
New goals
Larry McCullough, councilman for District 1, which includes the Indian Land area, said the addition of the county’s first deputy county administrator, Jeff Naftal, was an important milestone for the county.
“He’s helped us a great deal. He brought in new ideas,” McCullough said. “And he’s helping Steve Willis to spend time on things he needs to focus on. He’s been a great addition for us.”
He said Naftal has been instrumental in helping council review and revamp its unified development codes and zoning ordinances.
Also important this year was the resolution of road problems in several residential neighborhoods, including Brookchase in Indian Land, McCullough said.
Brookchase residents had pleaded with County Council to help with roads that were never completed by the developer.
“I’m tickled we’ve finally fixed the situation with a lot of road problems in these developments,” McCullough said. “And with Brookchase we were successful with a vote and bonds and a new tax district to get those roads done.”
“There’s a lot of good things going on,” he said. “Next year, we hope it will continue.”
Looking to 2011
With so much emphasis placed on economic development this year, Councilwoman Charlene McGriff hopes this will translate to more job announcements and the arrival of varied industries throughout the county.
During 2011, she is looking forward to council working on its first strategic plan, based on information members gathered during planning sessions this past fall.
“As we work on our strategic plan, we will try to deal with some of the ways to build the economy and build infrastructure. We plan to look at short-range and long-range goals,” McGriff said. “We will work on a plan and will see where we want to be in five or 10 years and how we will pay for it. At least we’ll have a road map to know where we’re going.”
Carter, who has toured both courthouse construction projects, is anxious to see them finished by mid-year.
“I think the courthouse opening will be a grand affair,” Carter said. “Getting it up and running, having court cases in session, this will help get rid of our backlog. That’s the prime reason for the courthouse and we’re looking forward to that.”
As a member of the board of directors for the Workforce Investment Board, McCullough is looking forward to finding ways to put people back to work. He hopes the county will be able to announce more new businesses coming to the county within the next few months.
“There will be more businesses coming in. Some that we are talking to are very, very promising,” he said. “There’s a lot of good stuff going on and I’m looking forward to another exciting year.”
During 2011, Willis is looking forward to seeing the beginning of a new high school firefighter program. He also expects the relocation of the sheriff’s office to the Thaxton Complex on Pageland Highway to solve a lot of space problems for the department.
Willis sees two main challenges for 2011: Finding ways to build additional business parks and getting the county ready for redistricting.
Willis said the redistricting process will begin after new census data is released this spring.
“The county will need to draw base maps and equalize the council districts,” Willis said.
With significant increases in the county’s population over the last 10 years, Willis said District 1 could be split into two districts this year. He said this could then affect districts in the lower part of the county by combining two areas.
“But of course, the biggest issue for council this coming year will be jobs and what can we do to bring them in,” he said.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416