A State of Pickens County Address featuring Ken Roper, County Administrator, and Chris Bowers, District 5 Councilman, and Chairman was held in Easley Thursday, November 17, 2022. The event highlighted the Pickens County projects for 2022, and the direction for 2023.
The event was hosted by the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce, and with many city and county leaders in attendance. A luncheon was held at the South & West with the help of presenting sponsor Tri-County Technical College, and corporate sponsor Fort Hill Natural Gas Authority.
Pickens County Council Chairman, and Councilman for District 5, Chris Bowers outlined the projects and county accomplishments in the last two years. Chris Bowers was elected to Pickens County Council in 2016, and his current term ends in 2024.
Chris Bowers’ Address
- A primary goal is building and rebuilding relationships by recognizing the people as the greatest asset. One goal was to give people who perform primary functions in our county a raise.
- Pickens County started the Hiring Heroes program that offers hiring bonuses and additional benefits to new Pickens County firefighters.
- The consolidation of the 13 fire districts into 1 fire district. The county is running a more efficient government, with one central fire leadership staff. Some other benefits include the longer life of the equipment and better pricing on new equipment because the county can negotiate better deals by buying in bulk.
- Took the county from a 75-year repaving cycle to a 20-25 year repavement cycle. Instead of charging a fee when registering a car, the county created a more sustainable plan to use money from millage to pay for road repaving.
- Investing back into the county parks by providing a clean and safe environment for the residents. They made improvements to Grant Valley Park and Long Shoals Park. The county also added a playground at the Pickens County airport.
- The county successfully protected the county from coal ash in the landfill near Liberty. Pickens County finally settled all litigation with landfill developers MRR Pickens LLC. The case has been ongoing for 6 years so this saved taxpayers money, and the environment.
- Adding high-speed internet in the county through a partnership with Upcountry Fiber. So far, they’ve added 2,000 homes to the network. This technology gap is getting bridged ahead of schedule.
- Focused on improving services for veterans. The county used the Shine the Light of hope and support campaign to bring attention to veterans and veterans’ resources. They brought together several community groups that provide support to veterans to make it a much more efficient process.
- Addressing mental health and behavioral health needs which often runs hand in hand. The county teamed up with Bowers Emergency Services and Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County to roll out the COPE program to help fight the opioid crisis and drug overdose. They visit survivors of a Narcan administration or drug overdose to educate, support, and connect them to resources.
- Preserving and protecting the beauty of the Highway 11 corridor, while maintaining the property rights of people that live along that highway.
- Created a website that allows the citizens of Pickens County to report potholes, and road maintenance issues. This service is currently not available inside the municipalities yet, but the county is looking to expand to the cities as well. You can visit fixingcountyroads.com to see upcoming paving road projects or to submit a work order.
Ken Roper was appointed Pickens County Administrator in 2019 by the County Council. He is the chief executive officer of the county and is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the county not already governed by elected officials or special districts.
Ken Roper’s Address
- Laid out the vision of the county council.
- Provide efficient essential services
- Protect and enhance our unique nature
- Promote a culture of public service
- Deliver prompt effective emergency response
- Strengthen our resilient local economy
- Introduced the LEAPS program, or the Leadership Enhancement Academy for Public Servants. It’s an internal county public training program that helps candidates reach their leadership potential. The county and individual municipalities select class participants, bridging the relationship between the county and the cities. The next class starts in January.
- The county also created the Public Employee Service Corps, a program that allows employees to sign up and volunteer around the county. It’s a partnership between STOPP (Solution To Our Problem Properties) task force and United Way. Volunteers help with picking up trash, abating property conditions, and other tasks. This program is unique to our county.
- The Pickens Proud program and nonprofit Keep Pickens Beautiful partnered to find sustainable ways to reduce litter in our county. They recently had their 6-month review of the trash situation.
- The county also took over SCDOT’s Adopt a Highway program. The county will run a local Adopt the Highway program. When asked if the county can use inmates for labor, we found that the inmates in the county are pre-sentence. Legally, since everyone is innocent until proven guilty, this isn’t possible. The solution is coming from the local communities and businesses who own the role of keeping our county beautiful.
“If not us, then who? If not now, when? Together, let’s make Pickens proud.”
- To utilize all the available space in our nearly full landfill, the county purchased a C&D shredder that grinds up large waste. Along with a trash baler (compacts waste into blocks) purchased by the county council, this allows for 10:1 compaction and has saved the county millions because they don’t need to run trucks to transport large waste to the Greenville landfill. Bagged trash has been shipped to the Twin Chimneys landfill for the past 20 years, and will continue to go there.
- Glass crushing program. The county recently secured funding to buy a small glass crusher that pulverizes glass waste. The machine essentially turns sharp and hazardous glass into sand. This sand can possibly be used to fill potholes, and for other purposes.
Overall, the Pickens County leadership seems to be effective and efficient in its operations. They shared some very exciting and innovative solutions to local problems. As residents in the county, we look forward to finding and bridging the gaps between the city and the county by providing our Easley citizens with this information.
Please consider joining us and Easley’s Beautification Committee this Saturday, November 19, 2022, for our litter cleanup campaign.
Volunteers are needed to pick up litter along the Baptist Easley Fitness Trail from 10 AM – 12 PM. Click here for more information.