Blackville moving forward with code enforcement

First Byline: 
Jonathan Vickery - Managing Editor

Some Blackville property owners are announcing plans to improve their properties as the town looks to enforce codes.
Two dozen property owners and residents gathered August 4 at the Blackville Community Center for meeting to discuss code enforcement. The meeting was a follow-up to one held in June.
"It's time for us to take action," said Mayor Michael Beasley, citing how they have identified more than 200 unkempt properties. "I hope our community is on the same page. You can be a part of it or be that brick wall we have to go through."
While most didn't speak during the public comment portion, a couple explained their plans.
"We are going to do a complete makeover on that structure," said Franklin Dash, owner of Dash's Funeral Home. He is preparing to submit plans to a contractor that include a new wrought iron edifice, construction of a chapel, and tearing down an old house on the property to make way for additional parking spaces.
Blackville Magistrate Judge Jimmy Gantt announced he is donating several pieces of property to the town, including the former location of Russell's Pizza near the post office. Beasley said they will check with the railroad company, which owns the land the buildings are on, about acquiring the land.
It was also announced that a senior center for residents could be coming after Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill expressed his support for it on a recent trip to the Gail Reyes Senior Center in Barnwell where no Blackville residents attend. "I think that's one of greatest things we could have," said resident Gwendolyn Littlejohn of the center that would include activities, meals and free transportation.
Members of Phoenix Preservation Group, which was established to save the Shamrock Hotel property, unveiled renderings they had drawn up to turn the old hotel into a pavilion.
While they are working on ways to come up with the funds, Orr said they have sprayed vegetation around the building to prevent it from further harming the structure. They are also working to place a fence around the dilapidated building and bring a bucket truck in to remove loose bricks.
The mayor said it would be great to preserve an important piece of the town's past, but made it clear that the group would be given no special privileges when they start enforcing codes. "We're all going to be under that same process," said Beasley, who's been mayor four years.
For too long, Beasley said they've let properties decay, such as the situation at the Shamrock which started 20 years ago with a hole in the rook. "Our new goal is a community raising expectations," said Beasley, who encourages all property owners to do their part. "Little improvements can help."
Blackville Police Chief John Holston said residents can stop by town hall for a copy of the code enforcement ordinance they will be abiding by. It covers issues such as property maintenance, accumulation of rubbish and garbage, unlawfully abandoned vehicles and dilapidated buildings.
First on the town's priority list to address are the "greatest eyesores in town," many of which are considered condemnable under state and county codes, said Holston.
Officers will first try to deliver notice of violation in person. If they are unable to make contact, Holston said a copy of the violation will be posted in a "conspicuous place" on the property.
Property owners who do not comply will be fined. Beasley said they are working with the new auditor who is coming into office next year about adding software to help with liens on property. "This would help all the towns in the county, not just Blackville."
Holston said beautifying the town equals less crime. He said there was a vacant home by Oak Avenue that burned 14 years ago after people were using a bucket to burn things in order to stay warm and manufacture drugs.
"This is what makes us move forward," agreed Beasley, adding how the town's crew is working to fix sidewalks and areas around the schools.
In addition to less crime and improved safety, a cleaner town could be attractive to businesses and families looking to move. Beasley cited the example of resident Carroll Priester's sister's property downtown that is in good condition, but it next to a building reeking of mildew. "She can't rent her building because of what's around her."
"We know they come through here," said Beasley of the heavily traveled highways 3 and 78. "The thing is how can we get them to stop. We need people to move in, not out."
Blackville Community Development Corporation Director Evelyn Coker announced she is working with a consultant who has ideas to improve the town, including possibly adding Wi-Fi internet downtown and bringing in an entrepreneurship class.
Beasley challenged everyone to come up with ideas and work on their own properties. "How are we going to build a better Blackville for the next five years?" asked Beasley, whose youngest son is one of 60 ninth graders advancing to the high school this year.
He also encouraged residents to attend town council meetings every third Monday at the community center and the Blackville Downtown Development meetings every fourth Thursday at 6 p.m. at Russell's Pizza.