Three of four owners of properties adjacent to the Health Services District of Kershaw County’s (HSDKC) proposed entrance to the future site of the Karesh Long Term Care Center are asking the HSDKC board to choose an alternative entrance.
Property owners Katie Nooe, Martha Clark and Maureen Kohn spoke during the HSDKC Board of Trustees meeting’s public comment period Monday night at the district’s offices at 700 DeKalb St. in Camden. They said they were there on behalf of themselves and another property owner, Bill Ferguson, who could not be there Monday.
The HSDKC purchased a 65-acre property known as Beechwood last fall along with an additional piece of land and an easement purchased between the Dusty Bend U.S. Post Office and the Department of Mental Health building on S.C. 97. The district purchased the additional parcel and easement in order to create an entrance from S.C. 97 to the proposed site on the northeast corner of Beechwood, behind Food Lion, instead of using the current residential entrance on Knights Hill Road.
Nooe, Clark and Kohn said they felt the proposed S.C. 97 entrance would not only be inefficient and unattractive to Karesh patients and their families, but an unwanted encroachment to their back yards.
“Your patient’s families are going to want to run to the store for your patients,” Nooe said. “They’re going to want to go to Rose’s, they’re going to want to go to Food Lion. They need easy access.”
Nooe suggested that going out the currently proposed entrance could be made “shorter and simpler” by using one of two alternatives. One would go directly through the parking lot on the north side of Rose’s. The other would use a property that is for sale on Broad Street between Triangle Subs and the frame shop on one side and the Asian restaurant on the other.
Secondly, Nooe said the alternatives would more attractive that the current plan.
“If you take the (current proposal), you’re required when you go behind Mental Health to be a 30-foot (wide) road with 8-foot walls on either side. So, people in essence are driving through a tunnel to get to your facility. That isn’t the most welcoming, forward-thinking scenario of bringing people in,” Nooe said.
Finally, Nooe had a personal objection.
“That (road) goes across my back yard and when that property was annexed into the city,” she said, referring to the land through which the road would run, “we were promised by the city government that there would be an 80-foot buffer on it, and they have changed their mind and I don’t understand how they did that, but they changed their mind. So I, personally, would not like you to put that road there.”
Kohn said she likes the overall plan for the future Karesh location and -- having had family members treated there -- welcomes the new facility, but would like to see the HSDKC use a different entrance than the one it has proposed to use. Clark invited trustees to come to her house and look at the proposed entrance’s path.
“If we don’t ask, we’ll never know,” Clark said.
HSDKC trustees later went into executive session to discuss the Beechwood plans, a proposal from LifePoint emergency helicopter services, and a real estate matter.
Afterward, the board voted to accept a proposal from Cypress Engineering, a civil engineering firm, to help review the future Karesh site’s master plan infrastructure. Cypress has been assisting the district with rezoning efforts and other matters. Trustees took no action on the LifePoint and real estate matters.
Also Monday, Trustee Katie Cantey provided an update on efforts to expand internet service, including via WiFi, to rural parts of the county. The HSDKC is interested in those efforts due to its possible impacts on telemedicine, education and other issues affecting rural Kershaw County residents.
According to Cantey, there is a program that provides grants, loans and other funding to internet providers looking to expand their services to rural communities. The grant -- part of a $200 million fund -- would be disbursed to TruVista.
Cantey said that Jim Stritzinger, who has worked with her employer, AgSouth Farm Credit, on tech issues, had helped with meetings with the city, county, school district, economic development office and KershawHealth creating a “provider friendly community.”
“You figure out where people live in the community and you figure out where the needs are -- who needs internet -- and having reliable internet and having reliable broadband is going to create a positive impact, not just for agriculture in the rural communities I work with, but it also creates positive impacts on telemedicine, “ Cantey said, as well as education and workforce issues.
Stritzinger determined where AT&T, TruVista and a few other providers’ coverage areas are versus where the county’s population actually resides. The grant opportunity can only be pursued by TruVista, Cantey said, due to AT&T already receiving federal funding through other means.
Cantey said applying for the new grant usually takes a year, but that thanks to the collaborations taking place, the grant was submitted on the final day of eligibility, May 31. The application included more than 20 letters from farms, another 15 from businesses and others from elected officials. Cantey said State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk and County Council Chairman Julian Burns were “phenomenal” in reaching out to businesses and others along rural routes.
Stritzinger and Cantey met with TruVista’s consultants in order to assist in submitting the grant application. Cantey said she does not know when the grant provider, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will announce if TruVista has received a grant, which requires the target population areas to have very low internet speeds.
Cantey said Stritzinger helped form the state’s broadband plan and was able to get Gov. Henry McMaster to sign off on it, which also assisted with the grant.
The letters from all the different stakeholders, Cantey said, “(Shows) that we’re all coming together … this is a big deal to turn around this fast, but with the help of the community, we were able to do that.”
Cantey and HSDKC Chairman Derial Ogburn also noted that there are old, unused educational television towers around the county that could be repurposed as internet/WiFi nodes.
“Katie has done a tremendous job,” Ogburn said. “I know because I’ve been following these emails and talking with a lot folks. She’s put a heck of a lot of work in it in a short period of time. This has put us on the point of the spear out in front of most every other community in South Carolina, I think.”
Cantey explained that the towers are constructed in 10-foot sections that can easily be dismantled and moved to wherever they might need them to extend internet services. She said there are also silos, grain towers and other tall structures that could be used as well.