Healthcare, crime and jobs top list for 2017 resolutions

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With 2017 just a few days away, we want to dedicate this editorial space in our last edition of 2016 to reflect on the year, including how close Barnwell County came to meeting resolutions set one year ago.

We like to do this to have a measure of where we have been and what kind of successes we think we’ve had. It also gives us a pathway to the future.

This year has definitely had its ups and downs, although that’s really true of any year.

Our lowest point came at the very beginning of 2016 with the sudden closure of Southern Palmetto Hospital in January. This was a shock and tragic loss for our entire community.

Not only did approximately 100 people lose their jobs, but our community lost its only hospital. Many of us didn’t realize the treasure we had until it was gone.

While it’s been nearly a year since the hospital closed, there have been lots of discussions about fixing the situation but no major resolution due to the complicated - and expensive - nature of healthcare facilities.

Lowcountry Healthcare is extending it hours on weeknights to accomodate the public but weekend medical needs still currrently require a trip outside the county.

Any major emergency automatically necessitates transport to other regional healthcare facilities.

While we don’t anticipate a full-fledged hospital returning to our county in the near future, we do hope for a local facility to handle emergencies.

Healthcare is one of the factors many industries, businesses and families look at before moving to a community.

We encourage county leaders to continue working to find a solution.

A different area of concern is violent crime in our community. It’s not a matter of local law enforcement not doing their jobs - they are. Rather, it’s a matter of getting ahead in the never-ending battle against drugs and the social ills they create in the community.

As an example, a confrontation gone bad in Williston resulted in a murder on Dec. 15. The case to arrest all those involved is ongoing.

Acts of violence and other crimes have no place in our community. They do nothing but cause pain, heartache and division while preventing our county from being the best it can be.

Just as we did last year, we hope for less crime. Enough is enough!

We know our local law enforcement officials are working hard to keep us safe, but they need our help and cooperation. If you see something wrong, please say something.

Are you tired of the violence? Do your part. Help someone get help to escape abuse.

This year may have started and ended on a sour note, but 2016 has also had its many good points for Barnwell County.

One quality we love about the people of Barnwell County is that they always come together to help those in need, even complete strangers. This was true in October during Hurricane Matthew as all sorts of donations were collected for the coastal evacuees who sought refuge here. We showed them what it means to unify as a community and welcome strangers with open arms.

There have also been so many stories of locals doing great things here and in other places, many of which have been published in this newspaper.

Barnwell Countians responded earlier this month to make sure many had a Merry Christmas by donating to Secret Santa, the Santa’s Senior Shoe Box Project and Cumbee Center’s Adopt-a-Family program.

The improving economy is another high point of the year as jobs were added and the unemployment rate declined.

Barnwell County recorded its lowest unemployment rate in three years in November at 5.8 percent. This is very encouraging news.

New jobs have definitely helped that rate as Swiss Krono broke ground on an expansion and Orchids Paper Products continued hiring for its new facility that continues to be built.

Adding new jobs has topped our resolution list for the past couple years. While things are looking up, we will keep it on the list because there is much room for improvement. We currently have the seventh highest unemployment rate of South Carolina’s 46 counties. We hope to continue to improve because this is one Top Ten list we don’t want to be on.

We look forward to the possibilities and opportunities 2017 could bring.

Happy New Year!