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Bethune working on grants

Posted: December 12, 2016 5:45 p.m.
Updated: December 13, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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Bethune Town Councilman Don Witham presents a proclamation expressing the town’s appreciation to Keith Arnold of Discount Foods.

The town of Bethune is working on securing more grant funding for various projects, including its nearly ready to launch water system upgrade.

However, the town has experienced a couple of snags as it finalizes the financing for the $3 million water project.

The town is planning to finance the project through grants and low cost loans from the S.C. State Revolving fund. The town received a grant from the S.C. Rural Development Authority, however, a second grant from the the state Rural Infrastructure Fund has been denied.

Councilman Don Witham, who has been coordinating the water project, said the town’s engineers have assured him and council that the town will eventually receive the grant; they are scheduled to meet with officials from the RIA to receive further guidance on securing this grant.

“The engineers tell us we will get this grant – they are confident we will -- we just have to be patient and persistent,” Witham said. “We are meeting with the appropriate people to get this resolved.”

The town also had to write a bond as part of the grant process. This required more legal work and consequently more in legal fees than originally anticipated. In addition, the town has to establish a master ordinance that outline the proper procedures and parameters for issuing bonds as well as an ordinance specific to this set of bonds the town is preparing to issue, Witham said. 

Witham said the project is moving forward despite the occasional “bump in the road” and should be done according to the timeline, with bids going out in 2017 and construction done in 2018.

Another grant the town may yet score is a Department of Justice COPS grant. The town had applied for a COPS grant earlier in 2016; the town received word in October this application had been denied. However, Witham said he recently received a letter informing him the town may be able to qualify for the next round of COPS grant disbursements.

“We received a letter that basically said, ‘hang in there,’” he said. “We’ll see what happens – we knew the first time around our chances of getting this grant were somewhat slim.”

If the town can get a COPS grant, it would fund a full time police officer’s salary for three years.

Meanwhile, the town has received information it could qualify for  a grant for around $600,000 through the S.C. Dept. of Transportation to improve the intersection at U.S. 1 and S.C. 341, according to Mayor Charles McCoy.

The town has been working to have a stoplight installed at that intersection; if the grant comes through, it appears that not only will that happen, but the intersection will also receive pedestrian friendly upgrades, including crosswalk, sidewalk and pedestrian light control button.

Other business discussed:

Mayor Charles McCoy reported that the town is currently in conversations with a potential buyer for the former Sandhills Bank Building in downtown Bethune. The potential buyer wants to make the building a multi-use business/office type situation, McCoy said.

“We do need to check into the requirements of the building, but this looks like it may be a good match,” McCoy said. “As you all know, we’ve had a couple of people who have expressed interest, only to have those deals fall through.”

 The buyer is in the self-storage business and has also expressed interested in possibly buying property adjacent to the bank building for display of storage building units, McCoy said.

Council passed a proclamation thanking Keith Arnold and Discount Foods for years of service to the community. Councilman Don Witham presented a copy of the proclamation to Arnold. 

Police Chief Joey Cobb gave an update on a recent situation involving a break-in and burglary at the Bethune Post Office. Cobb said this case is being investigated by the Postal Inspector’s office. Thus far no suspects have been identified, although Cobb noted that the post office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Cobb and his wife, Stacy Cobb, who also serves as the town’s Victim’s Advocate, have taken on a different challenge: they are heading up efforts to reorganize and bring back the Bethune Chicken Strut. In fact, they already have several committee chairpeople in place and have been in contact with several vendors, Stacy Cobb said.  Currently, they are considering the last weekend in August or the first weekend in September 2017 to re-launch the longtime favorite.

“This is an opportunity we’re missing and need to be capitalizing on,” Joey Cobb said. “When I was at the Elgin Catfish Stomp with Mayor McCoy, you wouldn’t have believed the number of people who kept coming up and asking when we were going to have the Chicken Strut again. We need to do this – it will pay the town big dividends.”

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