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Bethune gets green light on traffic light project

Posted: August 14, 2015 3:42 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Bethune Mayor Charles McCoy, Town Council members John Heflin and Cindy Hunter, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, State Rep. Grady Brown, Councilman Don Witham, Kershaw County Transportation Committee members Gene Graham and Rufus Hough and Councilman John Fulmer.

Motorists traveling through Bethune lately have likely noticed a four-way stop installed at the intersection of U.S. 1 and S.C. 341 in the heart of town. That will soon be changed to an electronic traffic light, which is what Bethune Town Council and Police Chief Joey Cobb have wanted all along.

The announcement came at Thursday’s town council meeting when State Sen. Vincent Sheheen and State Rep. Grady Brown presented a ceremonial check for $250,000 to the town to fund the stoplight. Sheheen said the funds were made available through the combined efforts of the Kershaw County Legislative Delegation, which includes Sheheen, Brown, Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk and Rep. Jay Lucas, along with council and Chief Cobb.

“We want to say ‘thank you’ to the town council for all you have done over this past year-and-a-half or so. It makes our jobs helping your community so much easier when we have a town that has a vision,” Sheheen said. “We have worked on this issue for many, many years and never seemed to get a whole lot of traction, even though we knew the need was there. Representative Grady Brown really stepped up to the plate and went to fight and battle and worked with our Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and we all owe him a real debt of gratitude,”

Sheheen said SCDOT agreed a stoplight was needed in Bethune, with one catch: the town had to find the funding for the project.

“In our small communities, we may not have the kind of money it takes, but we do pay our state taxes and we expect to have services in our communities,” Sheheen said. “Today, we are coming to symbolically present to the town of Bethune, with the help of our Kershaw County Transportation Committee, we have a pledge for $250,000 so we can put this stoplight up.”

Sheheen and Brown were joined by transportation committee members Gene Graham and Rufus Hough for the check presentation. Brown said he was pleased he could be part of the effort in getting the funds.

“Government works best when everybody pulls together,” Brown said. 

Cobb said the intersection in question has been the site of numerous traffic collisions and a traffic control light would increase safety greatly.

“There’s a definite need out there. I’ve been here a year now and I have worked four or five accidents right there. Nobody has been badly hurt yet, but the potential is there,” Cobb said. “There’s a building on that corner, that if you’re coming south on 341 and stop there, you can’t see to the left at all. You have to pull out into the intersection in order to see, and that’s a huge problem.”

Cobb said large truck traffic through Bethune also needs to be controlled.

“With the sand plant out there and all the trash coming out of Lancaster County going to Lee County, there’s just so many different ones. The tractor-trailer traffic has doubled and us being proactive like we’re doing is we’re stopping a bad accident from happening,” Cobb said.

In other business, Councilman Don Witham gave his monthly report on the progress made in seeking grant money to repair and refurbish the town’s aging water system.

“We had been promised our PER (Preliminary Engineering Report) by the end of August. We’ve got a nice gentleman working on that with us very closely,” Witham said. “We have a meeting next Wednesday with Rural Development in Florence and we’re going to talk about where we stand, all the forms we’ve submitted, what else we need to do and possibly discuss other sources of funds.”

Witham also reported the funds have been raised to buy and install a programmable message sign for the town. Council has been consulting with sign companies looking for the best deal possible.

“We’ve looked at some various sizes of signs and we’re close to making a decision,” Witham said. “We’ve got to get one more bid before we finalize that, but hopefully in the next two to three months we’ll have an electronic sign in Bethune.”

Councilman John Fulmer reported on a recent Kershaw County Board of School Trustees meeting he attended with Witham and Councilwoman Cindy Hunter. He said they told the trustees the economic effects of Bethune Elementary School. Council’s position is they want to keep the school open as it is, but a secondary option would be to consolidate Bethune and Mt. Pisgah schools into one located between where the two are now. Estelle Benson, the new principal for Bethune and Mt. Pisgah Elementary Schools was introduced at the meeting.

“We’re excited about the new school year,” Benson said. 

Council voted to approve spending $650 to train members of the new planning and zoning board, as required by state law. Councilman John Heflin gave a report on the dates for the training and also announced a meeting Aug. 27 in Bethune for Kershaw County’s Vision2030 project. The county, in conjunction with the Santee Lynches Council of Government is crafting a 15-year comprehensive plan for the county and is holding public meetings to gather input from residents on what they want for the county over the next 15 years. Kershaw County Councilman Tom Gardner represents Bethune and encouraged everyone to attend the Aug. 27 meeting. 

“We want your input. We need your input and we hope when we have that meeting over here you will be here and tell us what you see for this area,” Gardner said. “We want to make sure you’re represented.”

Heflin said the meeting will most likely be held at the Recreation Building where the council meets, but the location has not yet been determined. 

Mayor Charles McCoy announced Sandhills Bank has made a $1,000 donation to the Bethune Police Department in appreciation for Cobb’s role in solving a robbery at the bank June 23.

Two Bethune Town Council seats are up for election this year. Heflin and Hunter are both filling council terms left by the resignations of former council members Beverly Farmer and Joe Casey. Election Day is Nov. 3 and the filing period opened last Friday at noon and will close at noon Aug. 28, a two-week window. Candidates file at the Kershaw County Voter Registration Office, 609 Lafayette Ave., Camden, during regular office hours between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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