City of Pickens riding 2012 momentum into new year

By Nicole Daughhetee
Courier Staff

PICKENS — The city of Pickens not only flourished throughout 2012, but also organized and constructed a strong foundation for continued growth and revitalization in 2013.

Compared with other Upstate municipalities like Greenville or Anderson, for example, the City of Pickens maintains a smaller population and the quaintness associated with and adored about the preservation of small towns.

While the City of Pickens might be smaller size, it has more than 1.1 million reasons to take pride in 2012: the city earned and received $1.1 million in grant funding last year alone.

City administrator Katherine Brackett credits multiple departments throughout the city for truly working as a team to make the grant funding and ultimate growth a reality.

The city’s Fire Department earned $47,000 in grant funding for an exhaust system in the bay area and also received $40,000 for an air filling station for airpacks. A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) brought in another $500,000 used for sidewalk and sewer line improvements around the hospital and Rigdon Circle, just off U.S. 178.

One of the greatest accomplishments Pickens saw in 2012 is the near completion of the $4 million upgrade to the water plant.
“We have been working on this project for a long time,” said Brackett. “At this point we are probably about a month from completion.”

Built in 1956, the water plant hasn’t had any upgrades since the 1970s. While there weren’t issues with the water quality, the city had to make improvements and modernizing its infrastructure to maintain standards set forth by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC).

In addition to new water sources, filters, a flash mixer and backwash system, the plant also utilized a $19,000 grant to purchase and install a new fluoride tank.

Mayor David Owens said that the improvements will not only save the city money, but will also provide a safer environment for its employees.

Highway 8 is home to a sewer line upgrade necessary for the Wal-Mart Super Center that will call Pickens home in 2013. At approximately 90-92,000 square feet of area, the shopping center will offer roughly 17,000 square feet of grocery items, a pharmacy and a garden center.

“We know that some people and businesses are concerned about Wal-Mart coming to Pickens,” said Owens. “But we’re really excited about it because of the potential it has to bring people into the city so they can experience everything Pickens has to offer.”

In 2013, the city will continue to develop and work on their Wayfinding Signs project.

“We want to have signs in place so that people drawn into Pickens can be directed to our variety of businesses and recreational activities,” said Owens.

Recreational opportunities in the city of Pickens have also experienced significant development.

Earning upwards of $500,000 in grant funding, Town Creek Park, which houses the Playground of Promise, will see the addition of various bike trails to accompany walking trials that are already in place. Pickens also has plans for the development of a bike park designed specifically for biking enthusiasts who enjoy the challenge of obstacles and endurance exercises that make the sport thrilling.

The possible addition of a recreational trail in Pickens County has been the topic of endless discussion — both positive and negative — over the last few months. The “Rails to Trails” project involves an eight-mile stretch of the Pickens Railway between the cities of Pickens and Easley.

In 2013, the joint municipalities hope to acquire the old Doodle Train Railway and convert it into a multi-use trail system with the ultimate aim of generating more opportunities for tourism and economic development.

The Pickens Revitalization Association, part of South Carolina’s Main Street program, has worked diligently to make the downtown area a place where visitors want to spend time walking around, shopping and enjoying everything Pickens has to offer.
To this end, the downtown amphitheater will have an aesthetic and functional facelift to maximize its potential for outdoor venues. Sidewalk improvements along West Main also included more decorative lighting and electric receptacles for use during major events like the Azalea Festival and cruise-ins.

Owens said that there are also plans to install new street lighting on East Main Street so both ends are comparably well-lighted and appealing to potential businesses and visitors.

For those who were not aware, a Wi-Fi cloud will soon hover over the downtown area of Pickens, according to Owens.
“People are able to access a wireless connection anywhere downtown,” he said.

Another 2012 highlight for Brackett was rolling out the Façade Grant Program.

The movement toward making improvements to downtown Pickens is yet another avenue by which the city can generate opportunities for economic development and the growth of tourism.

The Façade Grant Program encouraged downtown businesses to apply for grant money that, if awarded, would be used to make aesthetic improvements to their businesses.

“It might seem simple, but the program, in addition to making inprovemnts downtown, is a great way to work on building those relationships between the city and the businesses that are vital for growth,” said Brackett. “It is also a way for the city to give back to the businesses and their owners for their hard work and dedication.”

Brackett is also looking forward to year two of the PRA and says 2013 is going to be a big year of growth in the city of Pickens.

“A lot of time in 2012 was spent building trust and relationships and getting everyone working together toward a common goal,” she said. “In 2013 we are going to start seeing the effects of all the time and hard work. It will be exciting to watch.”