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January 18, 2023

Friends,

I hope this update finds you doing well, and that you’re staying warm. We survived the cold snap, although we did have a supply line freeze up to a toilet, but thank the Lord it unthawed and did not bust. I know everyone wasn’t as fortunate.

I also would like to remind everyone that we have smoke alarms available for the elderly and struggling families. Details are towards the end of this update.

Also, I continue to receive positive feedback on my newsletter and the subscribers continue to grow. It’s part of my campaign promise to utilize technology to bring accessibility to the people. You shouldn’t have to know someone to know what’s going on in your government. I originally attempted to accomplish this with Facebook. However, not everyone has Facebook, but they do have email. The newsletter has been able to reach people that social media hasn’t been able to. I encourage you to please keep sharing the newsletters and encouraging family, friends, and neighbors to sign up at OconeeToday.com

Our children helping to move firewood around prior to the brutal cold front that moved through

Economic Development

Sewer South— The Sewer South project is still in a holding pattern after the bids came in much higher than expected. The council recently voted to request an additional $2.55 million dollars in grant money from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA). If awarded, the grant money would cover the budget shortfall for sewer south project.

The county has a strong chance of receiving the grants as the state is focused on infrastructure due to the amount of federal covid cash that has flooded the state. The state still has $580 million left over from the American Rescue Plan Act and the state is sending $380 million of that to the RIA, which is an addition to the $800 million sent to the agency last year for water and sewer. I fully expect the county’s request for an additional $2.55 million in grants to be fulfilled.

Back in 2018, the EDA and RIA awarded the county ~$4.7 million in grants for the sewer south project.

One idea Councilman Glenn Hart proposed at the recent OJRSA annual meeting is to possibly reduce cost by re-biding the project into smaller bids, to break the project up into smaller projects that can be bid on separately. The smaller projects would be something smaller local contractors could bid on, something they could handle. For instance breaking the project up in to three bids, one for the pump stations, one for laying the pipe, and one for boring under lake Hartwell. The lake bore undoubtedly scared off local contractors. I’ve been told that many local contractors have agreed to work as subcontractors under the firm with the winning bid. I agree with Mr. Hart, cut out the middle man and make the bids small enough so that local firms can tackle them.

There was also a special presentation given to council about the Fair Play Basin study. The study highlights the benefits of partnering with Anderson county for a joint sewer plant because you could have a mostly gravity flow system, which is much cheaper to operate and maintain long term. Unfortunately, the previous council majority was not even interested in entertaining discussions with Anderson county, thereby missing the time table for some key infrastructure grants. But hindsight is 20/20 and unfortunately we do not have the luxury to live in hindsight, we must keep moving forward. There still may be opportunities to partner with our neighbors in Anderson in the future.

You can view the slides of the Basin Study HERE

State Legislation

Oconee State Senator Thomas Alexander has introduced legislation that is intended to curb drug overdose deaths. If passed, the drug dealer who provided the drug would be charged with Drug Induced Homicide, which would carry a substantially greater penalty.

This bill has roots in the Oconee County Republican Party as Chairman David McMahan, who as a retired law enforcement officer saw first hand the devastating effects drugs have on our community, led the charge in passing a county resolution urging the state legislation to draft and pass this bill. Mr. McMahan then took the resolution to Columbia where he was able to get the state executive committee to pass the resolution as well. Following this, Senator Alexander gave Mr. McMahan his word that he would introduce the legislation, which he did as Senate Bill number 1. A resolution that started in The Oconee Republican Party ended up being the first bill filed in the senate. It just goes to show you how citizen engagement in the political process can have a positive impact.

Listen to Sen. Alexander speak about the legislation below.

Sen. Alexander talks about the drug-induced homicide bill he introduced in the senate.

Oath

Don Mize of district 3 took the oath of office prior to the January 3rd council meeting. Don’s lifetime of industrial experience will be a great asset to the county and I look forward to serving with him. Don and I will not always agree, but I believe we can alway communicate and work through differences for the betterment of the county. Sadly, that’s not always been the case.

Ordinances Up For A Vote In February

There will be a 3rd Reading and public hearing of the following ordinance in February. All Ordinances require 3 readings and a public hearing.

ORDINANCE 2022-32 AN ORDINANCE AUTHORIZING THE EXECUTION AND DELIVERY OF A PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE REIMBURSEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN OCONEE COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA (“COUNTY”) AND [PROJECT GREENPAW], WITH RESPECT TO CERTAIN PROPERTY IN THE COUNTY, WHEREBY SUCH PROPERTY WILL BE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN PAYMENTS IN LIEU OF TAXES, INCLUDING THE PROVISION OF CERTAIN SPECIAL SOURCE REVENUE CREDITS TO REIMBURSE [PROJECT GREENPAW] FOR CERTAIN INFRASTRUCTURE COSTS INCURRED; AUTHORIZING THE EXECUTION AND DELIVERY THEREOF; AUTHORIZING THE PLACEMENT OF CERTAIN PROPERTY WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF A MULTICOUNTY INDUSTRIAL OR BUSINESS PARK OR THE CREATION OF A NEW MULTICOUNTY INDUSTRIAL OR BUSINESS PARK; AND OTHER MATTERS RELATING THERETO.

You can view detailed information on the above ordinances HERE.

Road Maintenance

If you have an issue with a county road, whether it be a pothole, clogged culvert, etc, please go HERE to fill out a work request.

High Speed Internet

I will be providing a comprehensive update from Blue Ridge and Upcountry on the buildout of high speed internet in the county in my February newsletter.

Backyard Chickens

I shared this in a previous newsletter, but with the skyrocketing cost of eggs and many new subscribers I thought I would share it again.

Back in 1918, as this poster illustrates, Uncle Sam encouraged people to raise backyard chickens.

My how things have changed. In many municipalities today folks have to beg and plead to get their government to let them keep a few backyard hens. And when the city allows it, they’re required to follow rules about where they can have them, how many they can have, and absolutely No roosters!

As the poster so rightly points out, two hens per person will keep a family in eggs.

Good advice in 1918, good advice today.

My wife Kate with her backyard chickens

Free Smoke Detectors

With the arrival of colder weather and many in our community turning to wood and kerosene heaters to warm their homes, David Mcmahan and the Oconee County Conservatives are providing free smoke detectors to the elderly and to low income families. If you or someone you know needs a smoke detector, please reply to this email, or call/text me at 864-567-6358

Meeting Schedule

The county council will meet on the first, and third Tuesday of the month in February.

All regular council Meetings are held at 6pm in the county office complex on Pine Street in Walhalla.

You can view the livestream of the meetings as well as view previous meetings on the county YouTube channel by clicking HERE.

You can download meeting agendas and all associated backup material HERE

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I can ever be of assistance.

If you missed my previous newsletter and would like to read it now, you can do so by clicking HERE

Please share the sign up link with friends and neighbors who would like to stay informed and direct them to OconeeToday.com to subscribe to my newsletter.

-Matt