Mumford elected to lead Florence County Council

by Matthew Christian

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Rev. Waymon Mumford, a former police chief for the city of Florence, was elected chairman of the Florence County Council on Thursday.
“I’m honored to be able to serve as chair,” Mumford said. “This is my 24th year on the council and the Lord has given me the opportunity to serve in this prestigious position. I don’t take it lightly. I’m just a servant. What I can do for the citizens of Florence County, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Mumford said he had previously unofficially served for two or three months as chairman when K.G. “Rusty” Smith transitioned from the council into the role of county administrator.

Mumford was nominated by Councilman James Schofield. The nomination received multiple seconds and was approved unanimously.
Outgoing Chairman Kent Caudle said it was tradition for the chairman of the council to serve a two-year term before turning the reins over to another council member. He added that since he had been on the council, Schofield and Roger Poston had served two-year terms in the role.
Caudle was also thanked by multiple members of the council for his service as chairman.

Vice Chairman Willard Dorriety was re-elected to his position by the council upon the motion of Alphonso “Al” Bradley and a second by Councilman Kent Caudle. Dorriety’s election was also unanimous.
Dorriety said he was honored to be re-elected vice chairman.

Councilman Mitchell Kirby was elected to the position of secretary/chaplain of the council.
“It’s an honor,” Kirby said. “It’s a great honor to have the other councilmen pick me as secretary/chaplain because it means a lot. We take pride in what we do up here and to have them feel that way about you really gives you a good feeling.”

Bradley made the motion to nominate Kirby. The motion was seconded by Mumford. The council also elected Kirby unanimously.

Thursday’s meeting also featured the swearing in by Judge Michael Nettles of the county council members re-elected in November. Mumford, Bradley, Schofield, Jason Springs, and H. Steven DeBerry IV did not face opposition in the election.

Read the full article here.

New $10 million nursing facility coming to Florence

By: Nia Watson

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – The city of Florence has approved a Conditional Grant Development Agreement with the company, Fundamental Healthcare, to build a $10 million skilled nursing facility.

The new 120 to140 bed facility will sit on the old Young Pecan plant site near the Seminar Brewery on West Lucas Street along Highway 52.

“I think it’s a very productive agreement for both parties,” Mayor Stephen Wukela said.

The new nursing home will replace the current nursing home on Sumter Street managed by Faith Healthcare.

The agreement states the company bought the land from the city for $350,000 less than it would cost the city to clear out the property.

It also states the facility is anticipated to create “numerous well-paying service jobs”.

“Removing the blight of the old Young Pecan property and replacing that with a new 10 million dollar nursing facility I think is excellent and it fits into the healthcare focus industry in this community,” Wukela said.

Wukela said the development also falls in line with the city’s downtown revitalization plan as the location is one of the entrance corridors to the downtown area.

The agreement states the project “is of great importance to the redevelopment of the U.S. Highway 52 corridor to the Downtown Florence area in that it represents a large private investment in the area and involves the type project that should have a very significant impact on the value of and the redevelopment of surrounding properties in the corridor. These will be significant direct, indirect and induced economic impact resulting from the project.”

The company also agreed to give the city the current building to re-purpose for their neighborhood redevelopment plan for the area. Wukela said the current building that’s an eyesore to the Sumter Street neighborhood will be torn down once the new facility is complete.

“Removing that structure and the brightness associated with it is something we’re very interested in even aside from the 10 million dollar nursing facility,” he said.

Construction is expected to begin no later than July of 2020.

Honda of Timmonsville launches mass production line of side-by-side

By: Tonya Brown

Honda of South Carolina in Timmonsville announced Wednesday the start of a mass production of the all new Talon sport side-by-side.

A news release says the Talon highlights the skill and dedication of the engineers at Honda R&D Americas, Inc. in Ohio, who developed the Honda Talon and the experienced workforce who build it at Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing.

“The Talon is a truly stand out side-by-side vehicle and I’m proud that associates at Honda of South Carolina are part of its development as well as its future,” said Chuck Boderman, vice president of Powersports division of American Honda. “The sport side-by-side market is showing significant growth and it’s exciting to have the new Honda Talon for our dealers and our customers.”

Honda of South Carolina has been based in Timmonsville for the past 20 years.

The plant opened in Timmonsville on July 1, 1998, and began production of the four-wheeled Honda FourTrax ATV model line.

In 2000, operations expanded to add engine production to the plant.

The plant’s production line has the capacity to manufacture a quarter-of-a-million vehicles and 310,000 engines per year, according to the company.

Honda operates nine manufacturing facilities in the US.

The company is one of the largest employers in Florence County with 960 workers.

Honda of South Carolina expanded in 2014 with production of the Honda Pioneer at the plant. That $27 million expansion created 65 new jobs, according to Honda officials.

In 2018, Honda of South Carolina completes a $45 million expansion project that added 250 new jobs and a 115,000 square-feet of space.

Honda employs 1,000 associates at its Timmonsville plant.

The 947,000 square-foot facility represents a $400 million in investment to Florence County.

The team is real plant currently has the annual capacity to manufacture 100,000 Honda ATVs and 100,000 side-by-sides for North American and global markets.

Ground broken for community centers at two Florence parks

By: Matthew Christian

FLORENCE, S.C. – Betty Gregg had a simple message for those looking to cause trouble in the soon-to-be revamped Dr. Iola Jones Park: Stay out of the park.

Gregg spoke at a ceremony Tuesday afternoon to break ground on the construction of community center at the park. She has campaigned for several years to get the center.

“We are going to take care of this park,” Gregg said. “A lot of people probably think that we are not, but we [are] going to take care of this park.”

She said she and others are going to make sure the park is well taken care of, scoffing at the notion that there will be “all kinds of stuff happening in this park.”

“It’s not going to happen,” she said. “This park is not going down.”

She added that those attempting to do something illegal in the park would receive a visit from the Florence Police Department. She said the city has given too much money for the park to not be taken care of.

“If you don’t want to be a part of this community center, don’t come on the park,” Gregg said. “That’s all I got to say.”

Gregg also said the community center was needed because sometimes residents in north Florence don’t have the ability to travel between their homes and other parks with community centers, such as Northwest Park.

A member of the youth community, Taon Murray, also spoke at the ceremony along with Florence City Councilwoman Pat Gibson-Hye Moore, Roger Malfatti of the city’s parks commission and Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela.

The groundbreaking at Dr. Iola Jones Park was the second of two groundbreakings Tuesday afternoon in Florence. The city also broke ground on a community center to be constructed at Maple Park near downtown.

Bonnette said she hoped the park would restore the vitality of the Maple Park neighborhood in a way similar to the revitalization of the city’s downtown.

Florence City Councilwoman Teresa Myers Ervin, Wukela and Malfatti also spoke at that groundbreaking.

The community centers are expected to be similar in size to the existing community centers at Levy and Northwest Parks.

The Dr. Iola Jones Park and Maple Park community centers will each consist of approximately 4,480 square feet and include a large youth activity space, youth lounge, computer room, office space, restrooms and storage space. Each center will also include a senior adult activity area as well as a small kitchen. Construction is anticipated to begin in February, and it will take approximately eight months to complete.

The Jones Community Center also wil include an 800-square-foot area connected by a covered walkway to the Community Center that will be used as a boxing space for an established youth and young adult boxing program. Other improvements at Dr. Iola Jones Park include construction of additional parking at the new center; rerouting a portion of the existing asphalt trail and resurfacing the entire trail; and repairing, sealing and striping the existing parking and basketball courts.

The city is using funds from an October 2017 bond issue to construct the new centers. The bond issuance raised $15 million for recreation and athletic capital improvements. Approximately $2.5 million of the money will be used to construct the centers.

Francis Marion University to host 21st Annual MLK Celebration

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — Francis Marion University’s annual remembrance Martin Luther King celebration will be Jan. 17 in Chapman Auditorium on the FMU campus. The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce is co-sponsor of the event.

The event, which brings together both the region and the FMU family to celebrate King his legacy in the field of civil and human rights, will begin at 6:15 p.m. with a candlelight march. The march begins on the front lawn of the Wallace House and processes to the McNair Science Building and the Chapman Auditorium.

The 21st Annual MLK Jr. Celebration Program will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Chapman Auditorium, with performances by Young, Gifted and Blessed Gospel Choir and others. South Carolina Rep. Carl Anderson of Georgetown will provide the event’s keynote address.

Dr. Daphne Carter-McCants, FMU’s assistant president for student affairs and one of the event’s organizers, says the importance of the event cannot be overstated as it provides a valuable forum for the campus and surrounding community as a whole to learn of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

McCants says the event is a great way to educate FMU’s students and the community as a whole on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Florence One Schools superintendent says contractor to be picked soon for McClenaghan renovations

By: Joshua Lloyd

FLORENCE, S.C. – Superintendent Richard O’Malley told the Florence One Schools board Thursday that a contractor is expected to be selected by the end of the month to renovate the McClenaghan building.

At Thursday’s meeting, the school district welcomed two new school board members and three returning school board members, as well as elected a chairman, vice chairwoman and secretary.

The district will renovate the McClenaghan building and move the Poynor Adult Education to McClenaghan. Then, the district plans to move forward with the creation of a magnet high school in the Poynor building.

Currently, the district has sent a request for proposals and received responses to the request for hiring a contractor for the renovations, which will be selected by the end of the month, O’Malley said.

The district has also written to the mayor and the Florence City Council to receive the $12 million from the agreement with the city that was made in 2016 to move forward with the renovations.

Chairman Barry Townsend said for the money to be transferred from the city to Florence One Schools, there had to have been expenditures made on the project. He also said the district requested the money be transferred by the end of January.

The McClenaghan building was formerly a school in Florence, but has been empty.

“It’s a beautiful building with a ton of history, and we’ve got a lot of city leaders who did go to school there and would love to see it as a part of the downtown revitalization,” Townsend said. “The great thing about it is with Poynor right here beside us and McClenaghan just a block away, you combine that with the Florence Little Theatre and the library, it’s really going to help further the renovations up Dargan Street.”

Several board members expressed their excitement about the McClenaghan building finally being renovated.

“I am glad to see you do it,” said school board member Trisha Caulder. “I think we need to do it.”

During the board of trustees meeting, Artie Buxton and Davy Gregg took oath on the school board for the first time. E.J. McIver, Trisha Caulder and Bryan Chapman took their oath for another term on the school board.

The board also re-elected Townsend as chairman of the board. Caulder is vice chairwoman and Porter Stewart is secretary of the board.

Sweet Frog cuts ribbon for second Florence store

By: Matthew Christian

FLORENCE, S.C. – A Sweet Frog hopped into the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Sweet Frog manager Raketta Johnson cut the ribbon to mark the occasion just after noon at the Sweet Frog at 2417-C David McLeod Blvd.

She said the business joined the chamber as a way of getting more business and publicity. Johnson added that the ownership group also owns the 960 Pamplico Highway Sweet Frog, which she also manages.

Johnson has served as a manager of the Florence Sweet Frogs for about a month and a half.

She said she previously served as a manager of the Hartsville Sweet Frog. She said that she had been working for Sweet Frog for three years and that she enjoyed watching children come in and pick out their favorite combination of favor and add-ons.

“I have a good staff,” Johnson added.

Sweet Frog is a frozen yogurt franchise. The first location was opened in Richmond, Va., in 2009 by a Korean immigrant who founded the company based upon Christian principles. It has been reported by other media outlets that the Frog part of the name is an abbreviation for “fully relying on God.” There are now over 300 Sweet Frog locations.

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce has around 600 business members. Its mission is to “Promote and enhance a favorable business climate and improve the quality of life to make Florence the best community in which to live and operate a business.”

The David McLeod Sweet Frog is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily. The Pamplico Highway Sweet Frog is open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

For more information about Sweet Frog, visit

For more information about the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, visit or call 843-665-0515.

Leadership Florence class held Social Issues Day


On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Chamber’s Leadership Florence class held Social Issues Day.

The 38 member class visited, toured and heard from more than 20 area non-profits agencies and social service providers in the Florence area.

Doctor opens Florence office to offer treatment of pain

By: Staff Reports

FLORENCE, S.C. — Pee Dee residents with pain problems have another option with the opening of Atlantic Coast Pain Specialists in Florence.

Located at 491 W Cheves St., Suite B, is the Florence branch of the Conway office of Dr. Blake Kline, who is no stranger to Florence. He is the former chief of anesthesiology at Carolinas Hospital System.

The purpose of the Florence office is to evaluate patients to see if they can be helped at the main office or if their pain can be managed locally by a nurse practitioner who will be stationed at the Florence office, Kline said.

A ribbon cutting was held at the Florence office on Wednesday, attended by ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Kline first located to Florence in 2002 with the position at Carolinas Hospital System. After serving in that role for 10 years he practiced with Florence Neurosurgery and Spine for three years before he went out on his own with Atlantic Coast Pain Specialists.

He still has patients from his time in Florence who travel to Conway who will now be able to use the Florence location, he said.

Kline said his practice offers such pain treatments and interventional techniques as epidural steroid injections, nerve root injections, spinal cord stimulators, minimally invasive lumbar decompression, minimally invasive coracoplasty for broken backbones and radio frequency ablation to burn nerves — a treatment that can relieve pain for up to two years at a time.

Currently, surgical procedures take place in Conway, but Kline said he is working on being able to conduct them at Carolinas Hospital System in Florence.

With the nation working through an opioid crisis, Kline said, his practice offers solutions to either reduce, or eliminate, the need for the drug.

If it is required, though, Kline said, his office was qualified to manage patients’ pain with opioids.

A member of the American Society of Anesthesiology, Pain Society of the Carolinas, Kline earned his undergraduate degree from Coastal Carolina University and his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina. He did his pain training at the Medical College of Georgia as well as in Augusta, Ga., he said.

 The Florence office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to noon Friday. The office phone number is 843-407-4532.

Negotiations still on for $65 million downtown Florence project

By: Tonya Brown

Negotiations are still taking place for a project that could result in a $65 million investment for downtown Florence, according to City of Florence Downtown Manager Ray Reich.

“Because it still in the negotiation stage of it, we can’t talk about it. But it’s going to be a multi-use. It will create more housing, I can tell you that. Which right now, all of the housing and downtown is at 100 percent occupancy. So, we know that we have more people that want to live downtown so when you talk about a $65 million investment, that’s a lot of money. And that’s private sector money, so we are excited about it. And we hope will be able to announce it hopefully by mid year,” said Ray Reich, Florence downtown manager.

Reich said in addition to that project, the new 103 bed hotel opens next month in the downtown district along with three new restaurants.

“We are excited that the new Hyatt Place hotel will be opening up in February. So that’s just around the corner that will add another 103 rooms to downtown and there’s new people coming in every night which can spend money in restaurants,” said Reich.

Florence City Mayor Stephen Wukela envisioned new growth for the downtown district some 10 years ago.

Wukela and city council members worked hard to spur change. There are restaurants, retail shops, museums, a performing arts center, bank and much more in downtown Florence.

“Florence really does not have an iconic tourist destination, like some cities have, but Florence can’t be much like Greenville. We aren’t Greenville; when you think Greenville, you think downtown. That is their tourist destination and we want to do the same thing with Downtown Florence. And we think we’re well on our way to accomplishing that,” added Reich.

Many people across Florence said they love what the downtown has transformed into over the years.

“I’m a big fan of the changes. Growing up, been here for the past 10 years or so. It’s just been fun to kind of see downtown become something bigger than it was, you know, become something better than it was. Something new and fresh and just a cultural hub for all sorts of people,” said Charles Jeffcoat.

Any new developments with the potential $65 million downtown project will be reported here on