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State rep says Bethune should reject four-way stop

Posted: July 10, 2015 2:21 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

State Rep. Grady Brown, whose district includes Bethune, urges Bethune Town Council and residents to stand up for a traffic light to be installed at the town’s main intersection of U.S. 1 and S.C. 341 during council’s meeting Thursday evening.

Should the town of Bethune have a traffic light or a four-way stop at the junction of U.S. 1 and S.C. 341 in the heart of town? The town recently requested a traffic light to control vehicle flow through the area, but the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) offered a four-way stop as a compromise, after conducting a traffic study.

State Rep. Grady Brown (D-50) represents a district which includes Bethune and spoke to Bethune Town Council during its meeting Thursday. Brown encouraged council to draft a letter to SCDOT voicing its displeasure with the four-way stop proposal and restating the town’s need for a traffic light.

“The time is now for you all, as a council and a city and your constituency, to put pressure on DOT and let it be known beyond a shadow of a doubt that you do not want to accept and you will not be happy with a four-way stop,” Brown said. “And in the event that something would happen with a four-way stop with all these big trucks coming through Bethune, that you’ll be waiting to tell DOT the mistake they made.”

Brown advised the council to seek the help of State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-27) and Rep. Jay Lucas (R-65), who is the current Speaker of the House. 

“I do believe that by getting the senator involved and Jay, who represents part of this area, and myself involved, we should be able to get their attention, but the city of Bethune needs to be up front, active and very vocal, not by calling but by a certified letter,” Brown said. “The more pressure we can put on them, from all of us … at least we can stop them from doing what they want to do.”

Bethune Mayor Charles McCoy reported on the progress of lights being installed at the park beside the town recreation building and Councilman Don Witham said the town is still waiting on the results of a preliminary engineering report on the town’s aging water system. The town is seeking a grant to help fund water system renovations and the engineering study is an early step in the process.

Witham also said funds are still being raised to pay for a programmable message sign which would be used to make announcements and share news with townspeople. He said council recently watched demonstrations of some available signs, but learned the cost would be more than originally thought.

“We currently have donations totaling a little over $21,000. We had a demo in late June from a company called Watchfire. We were all very proud to look at some of those signs. But the downside of that is we got some recent quotes and a color sign … would be $34,000. A monochrome sign, which would be just red dots with a black background … is $26,000,” Witham said. “We’re going to have to work out some more details on the specifications and get some more companies to quote.”

Councilman John Fulmer again encouraged council and Bethune residents to attend Tuesday’s meeting of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees. The board is planning to craft another referendum similar to one voted down in the November 2014 election. Part of the referendum would have closed some rural elementary schools, including Bethune Elementary, and consolidate to a new proposed building near North Central High School. Council has clearly stated it wants to keep the school in Bethune.

“We’re going to go to their meeting (Tuesday) to start laying the groundwork for our plan to keep our school. It incorporates what’s best for our children, primarily,” Fulmer said. “We still need your support. If you could email the superintendent, email your representative, who is Kim Durant, or any of the school board members.”

Fulmer also gave an update on work being done to clean up “nuisance properties” in town. He said some noticeable progress has been made, but there are still property owners who have ignored the town’s repeated requests.

“We have an enforcement arm in our ordinance now in the form of an ordinance summons,” Fulmer said.

Council voted to seek bids for a renovation at Bethune Town Hall which would put up a wall and security window to give extra safety to the town clerk.

Councilman John Heflin briefed council on what he has learned about required training for the town’s newly formed planning and zoning board. The Santee-Lynches Council of Governments can provide the training, which can be scheduled in Bethune for the convenience of the attendees. Heflin said the options are to have two three-hour sessions for a cost of $600, or have four sessions of an hour-and-a-half each for $850. Heflin recommended the second option, saying the shorter sessions would result in less fatigue and better knowledge retention for the participants. Council took no action Thursday, but asked Heflin to check into scheduling before making a commitment.

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