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Bethune looking forward to upcoming year
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Upgrades for the town water system and a search for a new police chief will continue to be projects for Bethune Town Council for the foreseeable future. Council met Thursday for its last meeting of 2015 at the Bethune Recreation Center, followed by a community covered dish meal.

Councilman Don Witham reported said the town still does not have all the engineering information it needs for the water system project. Witham said the preliminary engineering report took so long to complete, the town has had to re-submit some paperwork for the grant. Nonetheless, the town still is working toward the goal of having the water system upgrades completed by 2018, he said.

Mayor Charles McCoy said the town will hold several informational meetings after the first of the year to inform the public as to progress and cost of the project. Water rates will have to increase, but the town won’t be able to determine by exactly how much it knows the exact amount of money it needs to borrow. The project will consist of replacing transmission lines, meters and fire hydrants. However, the lines from the meters to individual homes and properties will be the responsibility of individual property owners.

“This is something that should have been done years ago when it would have been much less expensive,” McCoy said. “Our water is good; our pipes are not.”

Despite the challenges of the project, Bethune residents -- at least the 30 or so in attendance at Thursday’s meeting -- seem to be both appreciative of the present council’s efforts and confident in the town’s future. Several people in attendance took to the floor to thank council for the job it is doing and the goals that are being accomplished.

In other business Thursday:

• McCoy reported the town Vision 2016 effort has been successful, with money being spent on pressure washing and painting buildings downtown. 

“It’s starting to really look good there,” McCoy said. “Some folks have said they didn’t want us doing anything their property, but if anyone wants to, we’re willing to paint it for them.”

In addition, McCoy said Kershaw County’s Vision 2030 effort is underway and the county is asking for public input and would like any such commentary submitted by the first week of January.

• McCoy also said he and Witham have interviewed two candidates for the job of police chief. He said these were preliminary interviews and anyone who is considered for employment will be interviewed and hired by the entire council. McCoy also said Witham is working on a grant to possibly fund a second police officer position.

• Witham said he received a letter from Bethune Elementary School (BES)Principal Estelle Benson, who said the school’s sign needs to be replaced. The sign is used not only to communicate upcoming events to the community but also to list the names of students recognized for outstanding achievement. Council passed a motion made by Witham to donate $300 for the purchase of a new sign for the school.

• Councilman John Fulmer also urged citizens to continue to contact their school board representatives to impress upon the board the urgency of keeping BES open, especially in light of the ongoing discussions regarding a possible facilities referendum.

• Councilman John Heflin said Christmas lights are up in Bethune’s park and in town and thanked all who helped get them up and working.

• McCoy also noted town’s Christmas Parade is coming up Dec. 19 (Saturday); as of the council meeting, some 48 entries had already been received and more are expected.