UNION — A local committee is moving forward with a campaign to beautify Union County.
On Wednesday afternoon, members of the Union County Tourism Commission’s Clean-Up Committee met with city and county officials to discuss the launch of a campaign to clean up and beautify Union County. Commission chair Curtiss Hunter pointed out at the beginning of the meeting that countywide beautification would have an economic impact — presenting a positive image of the county to potential job creators — as well as improve the local quality of life.
Committee members discussed various aspects of litter clean-up, including the enforcement of laws against hauling unsecured loads to recycling centers. Chamber of Commerce Director Torance Inman added that an accompanying beautification plan would include a number of things such as adopting specific types of trees or flowers — even a mascot — as a form of branding for Union County. Inman suggested the creation of an overall plan, implementation process, refresher emphasis, unveiling event, and education process.
Sheriff David Taylor was present at the meeting, and he said he was a member of South Carolina’s initial litter task force under Gov. Jim Hodges. Taylor said most of the things being discussed were already part of Palmetto Pride.
“There is no use re-inventing the wheel,” Taylor said. “All I see that this committee needs to do is jump on board with Palmetto Pride.”
Carlisle’s Mayor Mary Ferguson Glenn said the town has dealt with Palmetto Pride in the past, and it has proven very beneficial.
Sgt. Jamie Nelson, Director of Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement, was also in attendance, and he described the four-prong attack on litter taken by Spartanburg County. Nelson said the first part is education, which begins in the schools.
“Litter is a learned habit,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the second part of Spartanburg County’s approach is enforcement. He said Union County already has an advantage because politicians, citizens and the sheriff’s office are already on board because they were in attendance during Wednesday’s meeting.
Taylor brought up an action that began when he worked for Spartanburg County known as “community sweeps,” in which the sheriff’s office tackled animal control, litter control, and building control violations at the same time.
Nelson said the third aspect is awareness. He explained that Spartanburg County uses billboards and websites. He also suggested that Union County start an Adopt-A-Road program, which the county would run itself. Nelson said the program in Spartanburg has around 70 different clean-up groups. Those involved wear neon shirts which serve as both a safety device and advertisement.
Nelson said the fourth aspect is pick-up — a walking litter crew.
“You guys have the representation in here to get the job done,” Nelson said at the meeting.
Taylor said beautification will entail not only litter control, but also overgrown and abandoned property. He mentioned that clean-up of the Buffalo Mill site has received lots of attention in recent years, but that there are abandoned houses in the area that are just as bad.
Nelson said Spartanburg County took down around 90 condemned houses last year, with the county not paying for it. He said the owners were fined until they took them down.
Taylor compared Union County’s ordinances to those in Spartanburg.
“We are light years behind,” Taylor said, comparing crossing the county line to a warp zone, which leads people 20 years into the past.
Investigator Scott Coffer — former Union County Code Enforcement Officer (CEF) — said he brought copies of Spartanburg’s ordinances to Union County Council during his time as CEF, but he never received a response.
Hunter pointed out that the committee has the support of County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair and City of Union Mayor Harold Thompson, both of whom had representatives at the meeting.
Committee members decided the first step would be to get new ordinances in place, and they will plan a campaign launch event, which is projected for April. The month of April was chosen since it is South Carolina’s “zero tolerance for litter” month.
The clean-up/beautification committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 6, in the meeting/training room located on the bottom floor of City Hall in Union.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, Ext. 29.