A symbolic groundbreaking held in front of Kingstree Town Hall celebrated the launching of the 2010 Water and Wastewater Improvements projects. From left: Hybrid Engineering President Doug Clary, SC Senator Yancey McGill, Kingstree Town Manager Dan Wells, Kingstree Mayor Ricky Burrows, SC House of Representative Ronnie Sabb, USDA Acting Community Programs Director Michele Cardwell, USDA Acting State Director Jesse Risher, and USDA Rural Development Area Director George Hicks.
-Photo by Michaele Duke
The Town of Kingstree’s landscape is about to change and it will begin underground. Crumbling pipes and clogged lines in many areas across the town will soon be a thing of the past as the 2010 Water & Wastewater Improvements projects gets underway.
A July 20, groundbreaking ceremony at Kingstree Town Hall formally launched the project which is being hailed as the largest project in 40 years.
Initially estimated at $10.7 million, the project came under budget at $9.7 million. A loan will provide the funding. The town did not qualify for a grant since water rates at that time were below national standards. However, Kingstree Mayor Ricky Burrows said the town is financially stable enough to go forward with the initiative. “We are financially stable to pay this loan off,” said Burrows. “These are just some things that, with town manager‘s and council’s help we’ll get Kingstree out of the rut it’s been in and go forward.”
Included in the projects are the replacement of 100 fire hydrants, many of which date back to the early 1900s, the installment of adequate fire service where service lacked, improvement of sewer drainage and a water tower.
A system that doesn’t get much public attention, nevertheless plays a vital role in the finances of the town will take on an additional function with fiscal benefits to boot. The wastewater treatment plant is about to go green. The Kingstree site is one of 23 facilities in the United States that will utilize solar drying beds to convert waste, which will save the town $130,000 per year in disposal costs. In addition, downtown will see new water lines, and a state-of-the-art meter reading system will report in real time customer usage and disruptions.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development played an integral part in the process by providing the financing. The department has spent over $55 million in Williamsburg County in the past three years. Acting State Director Jesse Risher attended the ceremony. He commented on the impact the USDA has made on the community. “It takes a combination of a lot of people working together to make projects like this happen,” said Risher. “We’re just proud to be a part of it and proud to be here.”
Hybrid Engineering has overseen the project since its inception. Hybrid Engineering President Doug Clary went over the scope of the work. The project was divided into eight contracts for good reason. “We did that for a number of reasons,” said Clary. “To keep the disciplines separate and to make contract amounts that some of the smaller contractors could bid on.” He recognized the contractors who attended the ceremony.
The improvements are a long awaited welcome sign for Mayor Burrows. “This is going to be a great project for the Town of Kingstree and the citizens of Kingstree,” said Burrows. “As you know, the past 20 to 30 years everything in town has been pieced together. This is the first step in trying to make our town a better place for the future.”
Among the dignitaries attending the event was Senator Yancey McGill who hailed the USDA as one of the most important agencies in this country. “There are other municipalities in this state that are in horrid shape. Their systems are shot; their roads are just like our roads. You (USDA) have changed the American landscape economically and socially for many, many years,” said McGill.
The benefits will be seen in lower operations costs, projected lower ISO fire rating (affects homeowners’ insurance premiums) and even help surrounding areas according to McGill.
McGill also recognized Kingstree Town Council, Kingstree Mayor Burrows and Kingstree Town Manager Dan Wells for operating a town in a fiscally sound and responsible fashion. “I can’t help but think that if this project was not going on, we would probably go another 30 years with the same process, the old way of doing business,” said McGill. “This today, will save in maintenance, millions of dollars in the future. No question, what a grand investment for the Town of Kingstree.” He then pointed to Wells who spearheaded the projects. “From the first day you came in as manager you have been a breath of not just fresh air, but your academia, your knowledge of municipal government, your knowledge of finance and your knowledge of understanding of future growth – you have always understood what it’s about.”
Wells, in turn pointed to the audience filled with contractors, engineers, and representatives from the USDA and his staff, whose suggestions helped to guide the process. “This is kind of a historic day for us with a lot of projects going on and taking care of items in the town that have been delayed for a long time,” said Wells. “There’s not one person in the room that hasn’t played a role in this success in one level or another.” Wells added that the projects would not have become a reality without council’s approval but more importantly, it was the unsung heroes in the crowd that he praised. “The people who are always close to my heart and seldom get the recognition they deserve are staff who furnish the knowledge and go out and deal with the resident when something goes wrong or when something goes right. Their input helped drive this entire process and helped us choose the projects which were most important.”
Construction work, which has already begun, will be disruptive and at times water service will have to be disconnected temporarily but as Hybrid President Doug McClary said, “It’s the price of progress after all these years.”