Pickens council looks to transform city in 2011

PICKENS — The city of Pickens has started the year of 2011 with many exciting projects on the horizon.
In the city’s first meeting of the year on Monday, city council voted on several projects that are slated to make huge impacts on the lifestyle and business atmosphere of Pickens.
Those projects include the renovation of the city’s aging water plant, a possible mountain bike trail and a Village Renaissance project that will improve the lives of many of its residents.
In the council’s first order of business in the new year, councilman Fletcher Perry told the rest of council that an affordable housing grant had indeed been awarded to the community. As part of the grant process, he asked that council rezone a portion of Lewis Street to RM-16 or Residential Multi-Family District to allow for the project, which will bring low-cost housing into the community. The ordinance was passed unanimously by council.
Council then tackled the process that could allow the city to obtain a $500,000 Village Renaissance Community Development Block Grant that would be used to improve the southern and central part of the city.
Last month, the city was named as one of 12 cities in the state chosen to receive Village Renaissance money, and the city has been awarded a $20,000 block grant to begin improvements. With the passing of the resolution by council, the city will be responsible for a 10 percent match, or $2,000.
The passage of the resolution also gives the city the opportunity to aid the residents of the central and southern portions of Pickens, especially the low- to moderate-income residents, by applying for a Village Renaissance Grant from the SC Department of Commerce, Grants Administration. The Village Renaissance Grant would be used to develop a community development plan and two subsequent construction phases.
Following the vote, council members were addressed by David Shellhorse, an economic development planner for the Appalachian Council of Governments.
Shellhorse outlined the plan, which will develop a strategic five-year revitalization plan. He said that the principles were to address the infrastructure, identify in-fill housing opportunities, improve the physical appearance and property value to promote sustainability, walkability and conservation, to promote civic participation and volunteerism and to promote safety and neighborhood pride.
He added that many of the projects that the city is already doing such as the streetscape on East Main Street and the affordable housing project will help in the efforts to obtain the CDBG grant.
Another move that is being made by the city is to support the Main Street SC program. Council voted unanimously to submit, approve, and endorse the submission of this application to “Main Street South Carolina.” With the vote, the city committed to the supporting annual start-up budget estimated at $20,000 to $35,000.
According to the Municipal Association website, the Main Street South Carolina program empowers residents with the knowledge, skills, tools and organizational structure necessary to revitalize their downtowns, neighborhood commercial districts and cities/towns into vibrant centers of commerce and community.
“We still have to be accepted,” Pickens city administrator Katherine Brackett told council. But the money has to be available just to start.
In another move to enhance the city economically, council voted to award a contract to Ride Garden/PELCOR for master planning for bike trails at Town Creek Trail. The plan is expected to be completed by May 1. The idea is to connect with Easley and Liberty in providing a first-class bike trail that would encourage riders from all over the United States to use for sport and races. Councilman Jason Cassell said that the impact economically to the city would be huge if a full-scale mountain bike trail is built.
In other business, council voted to pass the first reading to issue a general obligation bond to not exceed $500,000. The bond is cited for use in paying the city’s lease payments on certain equipment and to purchase a sanitation collection truck, mower and certain fire-fighting apparatuses.
Council then voted to award contracts to Hulsey, Wallace and McCormick for Waste Water Treatment Plant Permitting assistance and to provide a City Lake Yield Study.
Mayor David Owens ended the meeting by reporting on the sidewalk project on East Main Street.
Owens said that problems had appeared, including the city having to replace a large portion of sewer pipe. The unexpected issue has slowed the project. Owens said that he knew some businesses are not happy with the delays, but felt sure all would be happy when they see the finished sidewalks.
Owens also took the opportunity to thank all those that helped with the Pickens Christmas parade. He also thanked the Pickens Jaycees and the group’s alumni for all the years of service in handling the parade.