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Leaders learn how to connect with state officials at meeting

Leaders listen to proceedings at Municipal Association meeting.  Photo by Rick Tobin Photo by Rick Tobin

Leaders listen to proceedings at Municipal Association meeting. Photo by Rick Tobin Photo by Rick Tobin

For the second consecutive year, the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s Regional Advocacy meeting was held in Walterboro.

Founded in 1939, the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) serves the state’s 270 incorporated municipalities.

Last Wednesday (September 18), officials from 13 lower South Carolina municipalities gathered at the Colleton County Memorial Library to discuss how to better connect with our state government. Some of those attending the meeting were from the Walterboro City Council.

Mayor Bill Young, and members of the Edisto Beach Town Council, along with Mayor Burley Lyons. Other cities and towns participating were: Bamberg, Brunson, Furman, Gifford, Hampton, Hardeeville, Hilton Head Island, Port Royal, Scotia, St. George, and Varnville. A total of 32 people attended, said the Municipal Association’s Manager for Municipal Advocacy Casey Fields.

During the meeting, those attending were informed that the months between July and December are a good time to contact state officials. They were told that, “During the off season, legislators are living and working back home in their districts. This is a great time to build existing, or begin new, relationships with these elected leaders.”

A great way to handle this is by conducting hometown tours. “A hometown tour is a great way to expose your legislators to some of the successes and challenges in your city without making a specific request. These tours will help shore up your delegation members’ understanding of the nuts and bolts of what’s happening in your hometown so that they may be more inclined to provide support when you call them for a specific vote during the session.”

A second topic targeted dilapidated structures within municipalities. The challenge is that dilapidated structures are unsafe, and create a dangerous environment, often thwarting economic development opportunities for the surrounding area. The solution would be the support of legislation that gives our state’s cities and towns more flexibility in rehabilitating, or removing, dilapidated structures.

Another concern was the provision of quality transportation and infrastructure maintenance. The challenge is that residents and business owners expect cities and towns to provide transportation systems that meet the demands of the community, and ensure that roads are safe and well-maintained. The solution would be to bring together local and state-elected leaders and experts to develop long-term and stable funding sources for roads, bridges, and infrastructure maintenance, improvements, and expansion.

Dependable revenue sources also seem to be scarce. The challenge is that residents and business owners in cities and towns expect services and infrastructure that support a healthy local economy, provide safe neighborhoods and business districts, and offer a positive quality of life. To meet these expectations, local leaders need dependable revenue sources to invest in police and fire protection, utility infrastructure, downtown and neighborhood revitalization, public spaces, and recreation. The solution would be to ensure that all revenue collected by the state on behalf of local governments is returned to cities and towns through the statutorily-funded Local Government Fund.