County needs trust, working relationships

"Lack of trust."
That's what was written on the chart during the community meeting March 31 at Williston Town Hall, but those in attendance said it's time to come together for the future of Barnwell County.
The countywide town-hall meeting put on by Barnwell County Council was a starting point for building trust and relationships among the communities and government bodies of the county.
"We do know that it's not going to be an overnight thing, but what we must come to the realization is that ‘I just can't have it my way,'" council chairman Freddie Houston told the crowd of approximately 50 people about the need to work together to better the county.
The superintendents from Williston and Blackville school districts spoke about the importance of preparing children for the future and making sure jobs are available to students when they graduate.
Dr. Tom Siler, with the Williston District 29, said he thinks about where the county will be when today's kindergartners graduate 12 years from now.
Siler said quality education in a community is what industry and families look for when choosing a place to settle.
"One of the things that is evident for any industry coming into the community is understanding that there are good schools within that community," he said.
Siler said his district is working to build the education system in Williston for years to come, and that the district needs investment in its facilities.
Dr. Teresa Pope, superintendent of the Blackville-Hilda schools, said her district does the best it can with the resources it has, but it needs more resources and funding. She said the district works hard to make sure children graduate, but when students are done with school it's very challenging for them to find work in the area.
She said the community must work together to bring industry to the county, especially to Blackville. People want to come and live in a community that has something to offer them and their children, she said.
State Sen. Brad Hutto -- who is running for U.S. Senate this year -- said the Legislature has been and will continue to work with the state Department of Commerce to recruit industry to rural areas.
State Rep. Lonnie Hosey said it's a trying time but, together, the people at the meeting could "move mountains."
Michael Benjamin, with Chem-Nucelar Systems, addressed the current dispute over the county's Economic Development Commission.
"If we can't trust each other, we can't do a lot of things," he said.
Blackville Councilman Stephen Jowers said residents have been neglected because of the struggle between local governments. He said the head can not survive if it doesn't listen to the body.
Cheryl Long, with Axis 1, said it's important to "connect the dots." She meant there are capable people in the county, but they don't get in touch with people they can help. She said people need to come together as a county and stop living in isolated groups.
When it came time to talk about the 1 percent capital- projects sales tax, county officials stressed that the money isn't there to complete projects that need to be done.
"All the communities have needs, and they'll all share in local-option tax revenue," County Councilman Keith Sloan said.
County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. said the tax should generate about $1 million a year in the county. That money would be split among the county and local municipalities. The tax has to be put on the election ballot in November as a referendum and approved by voters before it can take effect. The tax would last for seven years before needing voter approval to continue.
County council and most of the municipalities have not yet finalized a list of projects to use the tax revenue for, but any projects that do make it onto a final list will be listed on the referendum so voters know what the money would be used for.