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Wise looks back at 2012, ahead to 2013

Posted: December 28, 2012 5:12 p.m.
Updated: December 31, 2012 5:00 a.m.
C-I file photo/

Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise

Reflecting on the past year, Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise said county government should have “no regrets” as far as 2012 and expressed optimism heading into the new year. Wise said the county is moving in a positive direction by incorporating more strategic planning and cultivating a business mentality.

“When we analyze things, we want to make sure we get a return on the taxpayer’s investment,” Wise said. “We’re dealing with basic economics here. There’s a scarcity of funds. There’s a scarcity of resources. How do you allocate those resources to get the biggest return? That’s what we’re trying to do for the taxpayers.”

While there were certain items left unaccomplished on his wish list, he noted that for the most part, he was satisfied with the achievements of council. Wise pointed in particular to trying to find a tenant for the Conder Mega-Site, set to be renamed the Central Carolina Certified Mega-Park for marketing purposes.

“We would have liked to have landed a big company to the mega-site, but we’re continuing to work on that. I’ve been in conversations personally about that, but those are hard things to come by,” he said. “When you look back on it, we did move on quite a number of areas. I think the council really came together and moved forward pretty well,” he said.

Economic development

Wise indicated that despite not landing a major company to the mega-site, the county made strides towards productivity in economic development.

“We put together our comprehensive strategic plan, which was drafted and approved. It gave us qualitative and quantitative steps that we can start accomplishing now.”

In October, Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean presented council with the plan, designed by InSite Consulting of Greer, which outlines strategies for capital investment, job creation, and sustained economic growth.

Tourism

Wise said he was also pleased with efforts by the city of Camden and Kershaw County to hire a tourism director.  

“That worked out quite well I thought,” he said, referring to the creation of the post and the hiring of Darron Kirkley as the new director.

Recreation

Wise also hopes the county continues to organize and promote recreational opportunities and healthy living.

He pointed to efforts by the “Eat Smart, Move More” initiative to create a master plan for trails as a great opportunity for recreation in the community. 

“We’ll continue to work on that as far as the biking and walking paths and trails that we’d like to see,” he said.

Council’s efforts to improve recreation will also be aided by the LiveWell Kershaw movement, Wise said. The initiative aims to make Kershaw County the healthiest in the state by incorporating specific accountability measures.

Budgeting

Wise noted that council also instituted a capital improvement plan, which will replace a system that was “not systematic.” By developing the plan, the county can now delineate funds for capital improvements instead of merely pulling money out of the general fund.

“That’s something that I’ve been really focused on since I’ve been elected,” Wise said about capital budgeting. “That will address the need for sheriff’s vehicles, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles. We now have a methodology to replace those vehicles that’s based on usage and repairs and mileage.”

He also indicated that the county is not in any financial risk.

“We just received our audit report and we had an increase in our reserve balance which is consistent with state guidelines. We have financial stability,” Wise said.

Emergency services

Wise also pointed to improvements in the county’s emergency services as being highly beneficial to county operations.

“We’re on the road to adding some additional part-time firefighters and emergency communicators,” he said. “We’ll have a more stable pool of 911 operators and we’ll be able to impact insurance rates as those should be lower as we add more part-time firefighters.”

Streamlining government

When he ran for chairman in 2010, Wise often spoke of a need to streamline government operations, which moved forward by the creation of a “Synergy Task Force.” The group’s aim is to combine the purchasing power of the county, city of Camden, Kershaw County School District (KCSD) and KershawHealth by exploring areas of collaboration and cost cutting.

“We continue to work that task force to eliminate redundancies,” he said.

Wise also recently met with Camden Mayor Tony Scully and had preliminary discussions about joint projects. He said the county and city will likely see more tangible results from those discussions after a new city administrator is hired. Current City Manager Kevin Bronson is set to leave his position Jan. 3 to take a job in Rock Hill.

2013

Looking ahead to the New Year, Wise said council should concentrate on increasing the economic prosperity of the county.  

“We want to focus on economic development because that has the biggest pay back for our citizens in terms of helping to fund services,” he said.

He also indicated that council is planning a two-day retreat in January to hash out goals and objectives for the upcoming year.

“We’ll probably talk about all of our priorities and then try to sweat it down to two or three that we can really impact,” Wise said. “I like the process of focusing on three items very strongly, trying to accomplish those, and then move onto the next year. I think that’s very beneficial.”

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