Progress is slow but welcomed

Now that we’ve counted our blessings and stuffed ourselves with turkey and all the fixings, we can officially say “Merry Christmas!”

With cooler temperatures in the air and decorations going up, it’s really beginning to feel like Christmas around Barnwell County. The tree lighting service in Snelling this past Sunday night also ushered in the season with Christmas carols, lights and snow - all of which brought smiles to children and adults alike.

Several other events are planned across the county in the coming weeks, including the City of Barnwell’s Christmas Tree Lighting this Thursday, Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. Turn to page 3B for details on all upcoming Christmas events, plus many other great community events.

Our region has also gotten a few early Christmas presents recently, such as a $226,655 grant the Town of Blackville received from the S.C. Department of Commerce. The grant will pay for the removal of asbestos from the old Blackville Middle School building as well as the demolition of the dilapidated and long-time vacant school building.

The building is an eyesore for the town and neighbors as it sits in front of Blackville-Hilda High School with several houses nearby. We are sure this is welcome news to all who live nearby.

The grant also assists the goal of the town council and mayor in improving the look of the town. In recent years, the town has stepped up code enforcement by holding property owners accountable so they either remove dilapidated structures or fix them up. The town has also removed some buildings they own along Main Street.

Another present is the announcement from a recent Promise Zone meeting about broadband internet. AT&T is expanding access to high speed internet in Barnwell and Bamberg counties, plus other rural and underserved areas in the state.

This may not seem very exciting, particularly if you have internet, but that’s not a reality for all residents.

Did you know that 63 percent of people with internet in the Promise Zone’s six-county region are dissatisfied with their internet service?

There are 28,474 households without connectivity. Of those, 46 percent consider cost to be a barrier to connectivity and $69 is the average cost per month per household.

That’s why a group of stakeholders have been meeting almost monthly since March 2016 to look at how to improve the connectivity of the Promise Zone region. Read more about this initiative, plus AT&T’s announcement, on pages 1 and 8A.

Progress is being made, but progress takes time.

These are just a couple examples of improvements to our community. We encourage residents, business owners, community leaders and other stakeholders who care about Barnwell County to see how we can improve our community.