RIA Approves Grants for Enhancing Water, Sewer and Stormwater Infrastructure

The S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) has approved grant assistance for 34 projects, totaling more than $14.5 million, to strengthen water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure. This brings the total funds awarded this fiscal year to $25.7 million.


Access to adequate water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure is key to supporting South Carolina’s quality of life, as well as opening doors for economic development. Yet, repairs to critical infrastructure can be expensive, and local funds are often limited. Leveraging RIA grants, local revenues and other funds to address the improvements is critical in helping to close the gap between needs and resources.


“The need to partner, collaborate and work together is critical to the long-term sustainability of a community. By targeting limited, public resources where they will have the greatest, long-term impact and addressing the most pressing needs to protect public health and the environment, these grants improve and strengthen the communities they serve,” said Executive Director Bonnie Ammons.


A majority of the projects funded by the grants include improving aging sewer collection and treatment facilities; upgrading water supply, storage and distribution systems; and mitigating neighborhood flooding by improving drainage structures. The remaining grant awards increase infrastructure capacity to support existing business and new economic opportunities. All of the projects will have a significant impact on the 44,000 residents and businesses they serve.


RIA grants are awarded twice a year through a competitive process that considers the need for improved public health, environmental protection, community sustainability and economic development. Applications are selected by the RIA board based on criteria, including severity of the problem, expected impact and project feasibility. Recipients share in the cost of projects by paying for non-construction activities and, often times, providing additional funds for construction.


A list of grant recipients for the second round of competitive grants for fiscal year 2020 is below. To learn more about RIA or how to apply for grant assistance, visit www.ria.sc.gov.

Aiken, City of Economic Sewer Infrastructure $500,000
Aiken County / New Holland Rural Community Water System Improvements $60,000
Bamberg Board of Public Works Economic Sewer Infrastructure $450,000
Berkeley County Sewer System Improvements $350,000
Bishopville, City of Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Bishopville, City of Economic Water Infrastructure $500,000
Blacksburg, Town of Water System Improvements $500,000
Carlisle, Town of Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Cheraw, Town of Economic Sewer Infrastructure $500,000
Cherokee County / Draytonville Water Works Water System Improvements $407,500
Clinton, City of Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Darlington, City of Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Darlington County Water and Sewer Authority Water System Improvements $494,000
Dorchester County Water Authority Water Line Improvements $360,000
Elko, Town of Water System Improvements $488,207
Fountain Inn, City of Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority Drainage and Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Greenville, City of Sewer System Improvements $360,000
Greer Commission of Public Works Economic Sewer Infrastructure $500,000
Horry County Drainage System Upgrade $229,702
Horry County Economic Water and Sewer Infrastructure $300,000
Lamar, Town of Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Lancaster, City of Water Line Improvements $363,000
Liberty, City of Sewer System Improvements $187,200
Liberty-Chesnee-Fingerville Water District Water Line Improvements $500,000
Lockhart, Town of Water Line Improvements $500,000
Manning, City of Water System Improvements $321,420
McCormick County Water System Improvements $260,000
Powdersville Water District Economic Water Infrastructure $500,000
Surfside Beach, Town of Drainage System Upgrade $500,000
Union, City of Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Walhalla, City of Sewer System Improvements $500,000
Walterboro, City of Sewer System Improvements $483,450
Winnsboro, Town of Water Line Improvements $409,640

McLeod Health and SC DHEC Offering FREE COVID-19 Testing Clinic For Business and Industry Employees

McLeod Health, in partnership with South Carolina DHEC, will offer a FREE COVID-19 Testing Clinic for business and industry employees on Thursday, May 21. The testing clinic is open to individuals with or without symptoms of COVID-19. The COVID-19 Testing Clinic will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at McLeod Occupational Health Commerce Park located at 3257 General William West Drive, Florence, SC 29506. This free drive-thru clinic is open to any business and industry employees in the area. Individuals interested in being tested should remain in their car. For safety reasons, this is a drive-thru and not walk-in site. If a business or industry is interested in scheduling a private testing clinic at their location, please contact Tara Lee with McLeod Occupational Health at (843) 777-5682.

Governor Allows Salons, Gyms, Public Pools Across SC to Reopen May 18

by WMBF News Staff

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is allowing close contact businesses, fitness and exercise centers, commercial gyms and public pools to reopen.

This comes after he ordered them and other non-essential businesses to close in March to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The businesses will be allowed to reopen on Monday, May 18 at 12:01 a.m.

Close contact businesses include:

  • Barbershops
  • Hair salons
  • Waxing salons
  • Threading salons
  • Nail salons and spas
  • Body-art facilities and tattoo services
  • Tanning salons
  • Massage-therapy establishments
  • Massage services

Commercial gyms include exercise facilities such as yoga studios, barre classes and others.

“With our increased capacity for testing the people of our state, it is time to responsibly and gradually get these small businesses back up and running,” said McMaster. “We have an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the world by reinvigorating our economy while staying safe, but we can only do that if South Carolinians continue to follow the advice and recommendations of our public health experts.”

On March 31, McMaster announced the closure of many non-essential businesses across S.C. That list was expanded on April 3 after the governor cited non-compliance with social distancing.

Kevin Armstrong, the owner of Kevin’s Barber Shop, said it’s been a tough waiting game for certain restrictions to be lifted and is ready to make whatever changes he needs to get customers back in the door.

“I’m just glad that finally there is light at the end of the tunnel. For us to be in a resort area and see all the people here right now and I’m still not able to open up our doors, it’s been real frustrating. Now on Monday, hopefully the parking lot will be full and it’ll be a good day,” Armstrong said.

The “Response” component of accelerateSC, which is the group that has been tasked to safely reopen the state, has developed specific guidelines for certain businesses to help make sure customers and employees are safe.

Guidelines for businesses to safely reopen:

These guidelines include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Guidance on social distancing within businesses, including recommended capacity requirements
  • Additional cleaning and sanitizing guidelines for equipment, tables, chairs, etc.
  • Additional guidance on health checks for employees
  • Additional guidance on training for employees

Copyright 2020 WMBF. All rights reserved.

To read the full article on WMBF, click here.

Osterman, Hemingway Tapped to be Next Florence City Managers

by Matthew Christian

Florence City Manager Drew Griffin will have two successors.

The Florence City Council voted Tuesday morning to execute contracts with Fire Chief Randy Osterman and Utilities Director Michael Hemingway to replace Griffin as the city manager when he retires later this year.

Osterman is expected to be promoted to city manager when Griffin retires but may only serve for a couple of years as he is also nearing retirement.

Osterman has served as the city’s fire chief for 12 years.

Hemingway will be designated as the successor to Osterman.

Hemingway has directed the city’s utilities for 8½ years.

This plan will enable Hemingway to serve in his current capacity during a vital time. Florence is planning a second waste-water treatment plant on the west side of town. This will be a $50 million to $75 million commitment. Also, Hemingway needs time to train his replacement as utilities director.

Wukela said that the plan was the best course and best hope for maintaining the city’s culture into the future.

A source told the Morning News last week that the city had identified four internal finalists for the position of city manager with Osterman and Hemingway being selected for the position.

The choice of hiring a new city manager has been made over several months. A source told the Morning News that early talks involved searching outside the city or internally for the best candidates. For stability and continuity, the internal approach was favored.

Griffin said he was approached approximately two or 2½ years ago to begin a transition by identifying high-performing employees of the city and putting them into positions where they can grow and be ready to assume additional responsibilities and leadership roles when vacancies occur.

Griffin became the city manager in 2011 after serving 16 years as the director of public works and utilities.

Mayor Stephen Wukela called hiring Griffin “the most prudent decision” that he’s ever been apart of.

The meeting was broadcast via the city’s YouTube channel.

Wukela reported that Griffin was hiding in the corner so he didn’t hear the complimentary words of the city’s mayor.

“Unfortunately, he’s going to have to listen to it because I have the microphone,” Wukela said. “The relationship between a mayor and a city manager is a critically important one and the relationship between the council and the city manager is critically important.”

Wukela added that he didn’t think there could be a better relationship between a mayor, council and city manager than the one between him, the council, and Griffin.

He also said he didn’t think there could be a better city manager than Griffin.

“We have been incredibly lucky to have Drew lead the city as he has for these many years,” Wukela continued.

He also called Griffin a dear friend and a brother.

Wukela added that Griffin had brought out the better angels of his nature and of the council.

Griffin will become the latest person to join a list of leaders leaving their positions in the city. That list includes Wukela and Councilwoman Octavia Williams-Blake who elected not to run to retain their positions on the city council.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Pepsi of Florence, Carolina Canners to Donate 1,000 Two-Liter Bottles to McLeod Health

by Matthew Christian

A production cooperative that includes Pepsi of Florence will donate more than 1,200 two-liter bottles to local hospitals to be made into face shields to protect critical hospital employees.

McLeod Health asked for the donation after learning of a prototype donated to Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville.

A nurse practitioner at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville received a mask that her husband fashioned out of a Pepsi 2-liter bottle and asked if the local bottler would be willing to donate a few more so he could continue making them for other hospital employees.

The nurse stated that the Pepsi 2-liter bottles were the perfect shape for the masks.

Carolina Canners Inc. and Pepsi of Greenville promptly sent 50 bottles to the nurse in Greenville.

After McLeod Health saw a picture of the prototype, it requested an additional donation of 1,000 2-liter bottles.

Carolina Canners Inc. and Pepsi of Florence were more than happy to oblige.

“When three different hospital systems contacted us about providing 2-liter bottles in order to make medical face shields, we were more than happy to assist,” said Jeff Stevens, CEO of Carolina Canners Inc. “It really warmed my heart to know that, in addition to providing much needed beverages for families in our communities during this difficult time, we could offer assistance to local medical professionals. They truly are the heroes, and we feel honored to help them in any way.”

Carolina Canners, Inc. is a production co-op for several independent Pepsi bottlers in North and South Carolina, including Pepsi of Florence, Pepsi of Greenville and Minges Bottling Group of Ayden, North Carolina.

The company purchases resin from Nanya Plastics in Lake City and injects pre-forms to be used in state-of-the-art, high-speed bottling lines that blow and fill bottles at a rate of 1,000 bottles per minute.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Construction Beginning on Florence County Parking Deck

by Matthew Christian

Construction is set to begin soon on the parking deck to be located behind the Florence County Complex.

The area between the Florence County Complex and the county magistrate’s office has been fenced off, and equipment has been moved in to begin construction on the parking deck.

Normally, the county would have a groundbreaking to mark start of construction on the parking deck. However, due to the threat of spreading COVID-19 and limits on the number of people that can gather in one location, no groundbreaking will be held.

The Florence County Council voted unanimously in January to authorize County Administrator K.G. “Rusty” Smith Jr. to proceed with the parking garage and surface renovations in the lot behind the County Complex.

The project is estimated to cost $13.991 million. The cost is broken into two pieces: $12.983 million to construct the parking garage and $1.008 million for construction administration, special inspections, insurance and contingencies.

The cost will be funded from a combination of $11.1 million from a 2017 general obligation bond issuance to construct the garage and $3.775 million from savings in section 12 of the projects in the Capital Project Sales Tax II.

The council also approved the use of the $3.775 million in savings.

The contract to construct the parking garage was awarded to Thompson Turner Construction of Sumter in March 2019. Since then, the company has been working with Transystems, an engineering firm, to finalize the design of the project and soliciting bids from subcontractors.

Thompson Turner presented the county with a maximum guaranteed price of $12.983 million.

Once complete, the parking deck will be one of three in the downtown area.

The city of Florence has approved a bill approving a conditional grant and development agreement with a developer partly to construct a parking deck across from the City Center on West Evans Street.

There is already a city-owned parking deck at the Emerson apartments.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Pee Dee State Farmers Market Makes Improvements, Plans Future Changes

by Matthew Robertson

Change is coming to the Pee Dee State Farmers Market, and that’s a good thing.

It’s an even better thing that they come as the market plays an integral role in supplying food during the time of COVID-19 and as farmers markets nationwide are transitioning away from the traditional format.

“We got an additional allocation this year from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture to do some improvements,” said Bob Sager, the market manager.

That money was used to build a deck outside the main shed on the U.S. 52 end, replace some light panels in the roof and install some 30-foot industrial fans to keep the air moving on hot, humid days, Sager said.

A new digital sign greets visitors as they pull in off of U.S. 52.

“No matter what the message is on the sign, the real message is we’re alive and well and in the 21st century,” Sager said.

The bathrooms were also cleaned up and modernized.

Segar said the future of farmers markets will be more along the lines of those in Raleigh and Asheville – which are enclosed and offer a wider variety of vendors, a restaurant and a passel of produce purveyors.

Part of what is driving the change toward a more diverse collection of vendors is the falling number of businesses that want to commit long term to selling produce at market, Sager said.

The demographics of who shops at farmers markets isn’t changing, and that will be a challenge down the road.

“Part of our mission was to change the demographic. A lot of the customers are the ones who have been coming for years. We don’t see a lot of young, family types coming,” Sager said. “We’re trying to create a more diverse offering and change the demographic.”

The Pee Dee State Farmers Market has a jump on several areas and just needs to build around them, Sager said.

“The restaurant is an integral part of it,” said Sager of Julia Belle’s Restaurant. “I think it’s a positive thing that they’re here, and they’re going to be staying here.”

The market currently has several vegetable vendors on site – Lamb’s, Southern Produce and Shelly Hickson. Wilson’s will be back, he said, and McLeod Farms is there in season.

There are several plant vendors on site, a winery and two statuary vendors.

“I think that’s going to be our core and mainstay people as we work to surround them with other types of businesses,” Sager said.

The market is also working to pump up its event schedule so that it’s not just the spring and fall festivals. At least one event is scheduled every month, with an arts and crafts festival scheduled during the Christmas season and a family-style event for Independence Day.

And, while the virus has so many businesses closed, the market remains open and is the only drive-through market in the area – as in you can drive your car through the middle of the market from one end to the other.

Along the way vendors can shuttle produce to the car and customers can pay from the car.

“What I want to do is build on our track record of success,” Sager said. “We can start to show what the potential is by what we’ve already done. I’m not afraid to ask.”

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Construction to Ramp Back Up on Downtown Save-A-Lot

by Matthew Christian

Construction is expected to pick back up soon on the Save-A-Lot grocery store in downtown Florence.

Tim Waters, the owner of the future store, said Tuesday evening that the community would see a lot of progress on it in the next 60 to 90 days. The store will on the northeast corner of the North Dargan and Darlington Street intersection directly across East Darlington Street from the Ideal Funeral Parlor.

Waters hinted of problems with the builders of the project, saying that there  had been quite a few issues with the team and that after some reevaluating of the members of the team, construction would soon ramp up again.

When the project was announced, the store was expected to be completed and open by mid-2018. Site preparation was expected to start in early November 2017 with construction beginning in December 2017.

The store is expected to be roughly 15,530 square feet and create around 30 jobs and will result in an investment of $1.6 million in the city’s downtown.

Save A Lot Food Stores is a discount grocery store chain, headquartered in Saint Louis. The company is a subsidiary of Onex Corporation. There are about 1,300 stores across 36 states in the United States with a total of over $4 billion in annual sales.

The project was originally designated with the code name “Project Leopard Orchid” as it made its way through the approval process of the city of Florence in 2017.

The city provided an incentive package of $300,000 for the project.

Waters also received a $500,000 loan from the South Carolina Community Loan Fund as he is an entrepreneur seeking to bring healthy eating options to a food desert.

Food deserts are areas that have limited access to fresh, healthy food.

In 2017, Waters said he had been working since 1997 to bring a neighborhood market to the north Florence community. Waters added that he had been turned down by over 20 banks as he sought to build in the north Florence community. However, he eventually partnered with the city, the Housing Authority of Florence, and Save-A-Lot. The partnership arose out of Waters’ enrollment in the North Dargan Innovation Center program.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

FMU’s Business School Earns International Accreditation

From Staff Reports

AACSB International, the world’s premier accrediting agency for college and university business programs, has extended the accreditation for the Francis Marion University School of Business through 2024.

The extension means that the FMU School of Business once again has met Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International’s high standards. Schools accredited by AACSB undergo an extensive review process every five years.

AACSB is a global nonprofit association that connects business educators, students, and businesses around the world around the common goal of preparing the next generation of business leaders. AACSB was founded in 1916. It has offices in the United States, in the Netherlands and in Singapore.

Just 840 college and university business programs around the country are accredited by AACSB.

Dr. Hari Rajagoplan, dean of the FMU School of Business, said the AACSB accreditation affirms the long-standing emphasis on high professional standards.

“We’re pleased to be extended by AACSB International for another five years,” said Rajagoplan. “The FMU School of Business is well known for graduating highly competent students with a distinctive, entrepreneurial mindset. That’s been our tradition for a long time. We work hard every day to maintain that.”

Dr. Fred Carter, FMU’s president, praised Rajagoplan and the School of Business faculty for their hard work in earning the accreditation extension.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Hari and the business faculty,” said Carter. “The effort they put year in and year out is reflected in the quality of our graduates. It really is a world class faculty — as the AACSB International accreditation attests.”

The FMU School of Business offers multiple undergraduate degrees in an array of business disciplines. It also offers a master of business of administration and a master of business administration in health care executive management.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Darlington to Host NASCAR Race Weekend of May 17

by Scott Chancey

NASCAR’s season will resume the weekend of May 17 at Darlington Raceway without fans, although some details are pending, according to sources.

It’s uncertain whether just the NASCAR Cup series race will run or if it will be a full weekend that includes the Xfinity Series.

According to sources, NASCAR teams need to be in their shops to set up cars by May 1 in order to have enough time to get ready. That was not certain until Thursday when North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said they can do just that as an essential business, as long as there’s social distancing.

Also on Thursday, South Carolina tourism chief Duane Parrish told The State newspaper that NASCAR would come to Darlington after the season returns.

The mid-May race will take the place of the all-star race that was scheduled for May 16 at Charlotte. The status of that event is not clear.

It’s unclear if the mid-May race will count as the Southern 500 weekend. Or, if this would be a regular race weekend, and NASCAR would return to Darlington during Sept. 4-6 for the Southern 500 weekend – NASCAR’s official throwback celebration. This year’s 71st running of the Southern 500 was scheduled before the season to start at 6 p.m. Sept. 6 on NBCSN is also scheduled to start the NASCAR playoffs.

NASCAR had last raced in May at Darlington from 2005 until 2013, on either Mother’s Day Weekend or Mother’s Day. In 2014, it was an April Sunday race before the Southern 500 moved back to Labor Day Weekend in 2015. If NASCAR allows Darlington to also race in September, it would mark the first time since 2004 that the track hosted two NASCAR weekends in the same year.

Now, it’s happening.

After the spring Darlington race, Charlotte Motor Speedway will host on May 24 the Coca-Cola 600. According to the Sports Business Journal, teams preferred a race the week before that at a track within a relatively close driving distance.

Darlington meets that criteria.

Also according to the Sports Business Journal, NASCAR is developing a COVID-19 testing regimen for racing team members and anyone else at races, wherever the season resumes. Also, according to the article, the motorsports sanctioning body probably would limit the number of people at the track overall. Other possibilities could include shorter races and/or no live pit stops.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, NASCAR had halted this season after four races with the goal to make up the events that were not held on their original dates.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.