Hectic 2 years for Mayor Dorman

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By Greg Summers

KERSHAW – Midway through his first term as mayor, Mark Dorman has seen his share of day-to-day headaches.
Town Administrator Joe Boyes resigned under pressure in February 2016 after only 16 weeks on the job.
The municipal golf course, poorly maintained and losing customers, needed big upgrades. And the old Springs Industries Kershaw Plant was an abandoned hulk.
Two burned-out, asbestos-filled buildings near Town Hall needed tearing down, and a 6-inch water line had to be installed on Matson Street, which required the upsetting removal of beloved neighborhood oaks.
“Some things our people see, and some they don’t see,” Dorman said.
More change is coming. A new industrial park with rail access is being developed. Haile Gold Mine is up and running. And there’s a new dentist’s office, a new drugstore, and a Huddle House will open soon.
It’s a lot to take in, but none of those rank among town’s top accomplishments of the past 22 months. Dorman’s “big three” include the hospitality tax, a mysterious 7-million-gallon-a-month water leak, and the town’s new water tank.
“We’re doing what we can, and we’re getting there,” Dorman said, judging the busy two years as undeniable progress for his hometown.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “If we want to grow, we have to do the right things to grow. We don’t have an excess of money.”

Hospitality tax
In the summer of 2016, the town passed a 2 percent hospitality tax that can be used only for tourism-related projects, such as building repairs, construction, beautification, infrastructure repair and promotion.
The tax was applied to prepared meals, drinks and alcoholic beverages served by restaurants within the town limits.
While the decision to approve the additional sales tax may not have been popular, Dorman said there was little choice.
“Our folks need to understand the county was going to do it whether we did it or not,” said Dorman, noting that county leaders passed the same tax just after Kershaw.
By beating the county to the tax punch, Dorman pointed out, the town was able to keep the entire 2 percent.
And the amount that Kershaw has collected so far is beating projections by several hundred dollars a month. From September 2016 through October 2017, the tax has raised almost $132,000.
“The more you have, the more you can offer and that keeps disposable revenue right here,” Dorman said. “We have lots of recreational opportunities for a town our size. I don’t know of anyone else who has a swimming pool, bowling alley and a golf course.”
The hospitality funds have been used for a wide range of projects, from Hog Jam to new outdoor furniture for the swimming pool and new tables and blinds for the bowling alley. The town is also buying trash receptacles and holiday decorations.

$100K water leak
In April, a utility crew found and repaired a baffling water leak on the west side of town between First and Second streets that had plagued the town for more than three years.
In 2015 alone, the town lost more than 7 million gallons of water each month, costing $100,000 for the year. The town buys water from the Lancaster County Water and Sewer District.
The leak was discovered in a water main 8 feet underground, with a torrent of nonstop water running straight into a nearby cracked sewer pipe.
“It had been going on for a while and was going straight into the sewer system. We were treating chlorinated water…About 300,000 gallons a day,” Dorman said.
Dorman said the massive water amount impacted the town’s wastewater treatment plant with needless overuse of pricey equipment and additional manpower and supplies.
“It was wear and tear, wear and tear, and wasn’t letting up,” he said.
The amount of water flowing into the town’s wastewater treatment plant each day has dropped almost 30 percent since the leak was fixed.
“There is definitely going to be some savings,” Dorman said, “and we’ll really be able to tell when we do our next budget.”   

New water tower
The town’s new $2.23 million, 250,000-gallon tank ties Haile Gold Mine to the town’s water service. Construction wrapped up in October.
“It’s full and we now have 700,000 gallons of water up in the air in three tanks,” Dorman said.
Kershaw was awarded two S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) grants totaling $1 million in 2015 for infrastructure projects at the gold mine to help bring jobs to that part of the county. The rest of the money for the project came from mine owner OceanaGold.
The benefits for the town are another large water customer and installation of a new 12-inch, 6,000-foot-long main water line along Church Street.
Council, however, did approve an expenditure of $12,500 to add five additional valves along the stretch of new pipe. The original design only called for two valves. Dorman calls it an investment in the town’s future.
“When we go to upgrade, guess what? We have a 12-inch water line there, and we can feed off it. It was a win-win for us.”  

Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at (803) 283-1156.