EASLEY — With the beginning of each new year government takes the time to update its constituents on where things stand and the city of Easley did just the same.
Members of the Easley Chamber of Commerce gathered last Thursday to hear Easley Mayor Larry Bagwell bring the crowd up to date as on where the city stands headed into 2014.
The overall picture presented by Bagwell was one of hope and opportunity if seized.
“Our situation is above the norm because we’ve truly been blessed,” Bagwell said. “Since the 2008 decline, things in our area have picked up a lot faster than they have for most and in some cases didn’t hit us quite as hard. But we do have some hurdles to overcome.”
Some of the obstacles Bagwell referred to include declining income from Fort Hill Natural Gas’ franchise fee on a yearly basis, a decline in state funds through State Aid to Subdivision, and increased retirement costs for the city despite a reduction in workforce.
Although these are items of concern, the mayor was quick to point out the rise in housing numbers, a strong indicator of economic health.
“The economy depends on and is driven by the housing industry,” he said. “We’re seeing a big rise in those numbers so far this year, far ahead of last year’s numbers.”
Year to date there have been 48 housing permits issued as compared to 52 for the entire 2013 fiscal year. Commercial permits seem to be ahead of schedule as well.
One of the items that appears to be high on the mayor’s agenda for 2014 will be significant progress on the Doodle Line.
“We have a couple of spots in the city we’re considering, and the merchants downtown want to keep it close to there, which would make some sense, but this has to be a joint effort,” the mayor said. “The city of Pickens, the county, and the community all have to cooperate to push this project forward.”
What type of community effort would it take?
“We need community economic involvement, like Greenville with their Swamp Rabbit trail,” Bagwell said. “Local industries and banks have to get involved as well as local in-kind services from the county. We have the figures on what it will cost, we just need everyone involved.”
Not only are there economic considerations to be made moving forward, Bagwell also pointed out a new wrinkle for 2014.
“There’s been a 50 percent change in the makeup of city council,” Bagwell said. “We don’t know how that’s going to affect things. I like to think with new members maybe we’ll have some new ideas.”