6 Month Check-in

It’s been (a little over) 6 months, so it seems like a good time for a recap.

When I was campaigning, I told you that I wanted Simpsonville to focus on three areas: economic development, community & culture, and One Simpsonville, United.

Let’s look at those more closely:

Economic Development:

As I’ve said before, in a city like Simpsonville, community development IS economic development, and as I said at the June Committee of the Whole Meeting, successful municipal community and economic development begins with elected officials making an organizational commitment to community and economic development. At that time, I made a motion to charge our City Administrator with creating a strategic plan for community and economic development in Simpsonville. The Committee moved that motion to the July 12th business meeting for consideration of Council, and Council approved us moving forward with such a plan. This is great news in light of the recently announced MASC economic development grants.

In support of community and economic development, several business and community leaders presented to Mayor Curtis and the City of Simpsonville a check for $1000.00 to illustrate their commitment to partnering with the City in a One Simpsonville effort to make economic development a priority. The City of Simpsonville will seek to grow the account by pursuing grants and in future budgeting efforts.

Community & Culture:

Museum Signs: In April, I was contacted by the Simpsonville Museum of Revolutionary War History (which is run completely by volunteers). They wanted to know if the city could help them purchase some signage to help let the public know their location and hours. I told them that I didn’t think the city could afford to do that given the great number of critical needs we were currently reviewing in our budget workshops. However, I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring together some citizens, businesses, and our government in a One Simpsonville effort to help increase access to this cultural service through signage. So I reached out to Jason Knudsen, our City Planner, to inquire about what kinds of signs would work for the Museum’s purpose. Then, I reached out to our community to ask for their help. Within just two days, we had collected enough money to purchase appropriate signage. Today, if you drive past the historic Simpsonville Elementary School building, you can see these portable sidewalk signs that indicate the location and operating hours of the museum.

Arts Center Feasibility Study: As of July 8th, the Arts Center Feasibility study is officially underway! Read the most recent progress update here. We first started talking about this back in March. Since then, the motion passed from Committee of the Whole to full Council, where it was approved. Mr. Dyrhaug and Mr. Knudsen have since pulled together the appropriate people to help complete the study, so we can determine once and for all whether or not it’s feasible to house an Arts Center in the historic Simpsonville Elementary School. Further, the group of people working together on that feasibility study include business owners, citizens, city staff, and non-profit representatives—and that’s what One Simpsonville is all about.

 Symphony (free!): We brought the Greenville Symphony Orchestra back to Simpsonville for the Independence Day Celebration at Heritage Park. And we were able to do it with free parking and free admission, increasing access to community and cultural programs and services. We were able to offer it free by embracing the One Simpsonville spirit of collaboration and partnership. The event was made possible by partnering with the following:

  • Greenville County,
  • Greenville Health Systems,
  • Greenville Technical College,
  • Lockheed Martin, and
  • Laurens Electric Cooperative.

 

One Simpsonville, United:

In addition to all the One Simpsonville examples above, we have a few more efforts that come to mind. What these efforts share is a concerted effort to invite citizens, businesses, and non-profits to participate in the processes and projects of the City. They also share a willingness to be open and responsive to the ideas, suggestions, and desire to help improve the community presented by members of our community.

Fire Safety House/Modern Woodmen of America Partnership: This is such a great example of the true One Simpsonville spirit. In this venture, we have truly united our city—its citizens, its businesses, and its government—working together for continuous improvement. Read more about how here.

 Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County: While the City was not an official partner in the recently completed build on Boyd Ave, several city leaders attended the wall-raising and the dedication ceremony and met with Habitat leaders to discuss how to create an effective, mutually beneficial relationship as we move forward. This is important because the Boyd Ave project did include partnerships with many private citizen volunteers, local businesses, and our local faith community. We need to continue to grow such relationships.

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We’ve strengthened our relationship with our Chamber of Commerce. Chamber leaders will be intimately involved in the formulation of the strategic plan for economic development. Recently, the Chamber’s Leadership Simpsonville group presented to us their planned projects for this year, which include the construction of an ADA-approved Sensory Playground and swings and signage for downtown. These projects will be a huge asset to our community. Council voted unanimously to support the projects. You can help donate to the Sensory Playground here. In another recent partnership, the Chamber and the City of Simpsonville worked together to collect, assemble, and distribute appreciation packages to the employees of the Simpsonville Police Department.

We did all of this while also passing a budget with no tax increase. And we worked with Public Works on a plan to privatize some of our sanitation services to save money and increase the quality of service to our citizens.

It’s been a busy year so far, and I’m not saying it’s been perfect, but I am saying this: we’re making progress. We’re moving in the right direction. And we’re going to continue on this path because that’s what’s best for Simpsonville.

Harmony Garden

Have you checked out the Simpsonville Harmony Garden lately?

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Located on Academy Street, the garden was started/founded in 2012 and sponsored by Lowe’s.  The Garden features 6600 sq. ft. of gardening area with in ground rows and raised beds.  The garden uses conventional practices of gardening with planting in the fall and spring seasons.  On site consists of a tool shed, compost bins, sprinkler irrigation, shelter, and restrooms (located inside art center).

Louise Barrett is our current Master Gardener.  She is employed with Lowe’s.  Dianne Carson, who runs the Simpsonville Farmers’ Market, was our first Master Gardener.

Some of the plants include tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, beans, cabbage, potatoes, etc.  In the One Simpsonville spirit, the food, when harvested, is donated to a local food pantry.

The Master Gardener is assisted by volunteers (she can always use more!). The recreation maintenance staff contributes by preparing the site each season.

Harmony Garden Mission Statement:
1.  Plant vegetables and flowers.
2.  Create an attractive, beneficial, and edible garden.
3.  Teach and grow.
4.  Share our bounty with the community.
5.  Take pride in accomplishing our goal.

Thanks to Lou Hutchings for the photos!

Press Release: Simpsonville Businesses and Citizens Present Check For Economic Development

See below for the press release regarding this morning’s presentation.

Questions? Contact Tiffany Cherry, Community Relations Specialist, City of Simpsonville at: (864) 967-9526 or tcherry@simpsonville.com

LOCAL BUSINESSES AND CITIZENS PRESENT CHECK FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 

SIMPSONVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA, (June 29, 2016) – Local business owners and citizens presented a check for $1,000 to Mayor Janice Curtis and the City of Simpsonville to be contributed to an economic development line item in the City’s budget.

Rory Curtis, owner of Carolina Olive Oil, spearheaded the movement to gain support from local businesses. “ I approached several people with the idea of donating towards the City’s economic development. The response was overwhelmingly positive. We are proud to do business in Simpsonville and are eager to support economic development in our city” said Mr. Curtis.

For decades Simpsonville has been growing both commercially and residentially. However, there has never been a designated line item in the City’s budget for econmic development. “Simpsonville is one of the state’s fastest growing cities. Businesses are attracted to Simpsonville because our community ranks among the highest income and education levels in the state. Families want to live in Simpsonville because we are a safe, family-friendly community with great schools and parks. Having this newly created line item in our budget shows that Simpsonville is committed to economic development” said Mayor Curtis.

According to Mr. Curtis, the money is being donated with “no strings attached.” The goal of the donation is to continue the conversation of econmic development in Simpsonville with a focus on revitalizing the downtown area. There are several small projects that can make a big impact on Main Street, Simpsonviille. The City of Simpsonville will seek to grow the account by pursuing grants and in future budgeting efforts.

“The heart of our community is its people. The private public partnership initatied by these community leaders is unprecedent and truly represents One Simpsonville. The business community, the citizens, and the City are working together for the future of Simpsonville” said Mayor Curtis.

The City of Simpsonville would like to thank the following individuals and businesses for their contributions.

  • Roy and Francis Shelton, The Garden House
  • Caroline Richardson Mahaffey, Jeff Richardson Company
  • Candace Humphries, Palmetto Twist
  • Lou and Mary Hutchings
  • Wade Shealy, Unterhausen
  • Rory Curtis and Lee Ann Swanson, Carolina Olive Oil
  • Lewis Stewart and Lewis Stewart, Jr.
  • Perry and Donna Eichor
  • Kelly Lomas, Peacock Cottage
  • Charlotte K. Clark, Midtown Lawn Care

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Fire Safety House/Modern Woodmen of America Partnership

This is such a great example of the true One Simpsonville spirit. Mr. Stephens of Modern Woodmen of America contacted me early this year about ways in which his organization might partner with the city. I spent some time learning about him and his organization and talking with Ms. Tiffany Cherry, our Community Relations Specialist, Mr. David
13177472_1708838509392773_2008053661691080840_nDyrhaug, our City Administrator, and Mayor Curtis. Then, in one of our budget workshops, we heard about a Fire Department “want:” a fire safety house (read more here). This was something that we obviously were not going to be able to budget for, given our vast number of critical needs. But it sounded like an excellent opportunity to partner with an organization like Modern Woodmen. So we took the idea to Mr. Stephens, who did some research, and determined that he had a matching funds program that we could take advantage of for this project. And so we took it to Council, who (after some initial objections) unanimously voted to move forward on the project. Once approved, the work began to plan a special fundraising event to raise our match to obtain these funds. But here’s the really wonderful part: once the public heard about our efforts to fund fire safety education through private partnerships, people started calling to find out how they could help. Individual citizens wanted to know where to send money. Business owners wanted to know how they could help raise awareness. Bethel Trails Farm, a local business that operates at our Simpsonville Farmer’s Market, offered to host a fundraising event at their farm—and they wanted to donate a whole pig to entice people to come and give. And it worked. We raised over $1,800.00 that night. But that’s not all, the Farmer’s Market itself offered a significant monetary donation AND volunteered to raise money over the course of the summer, keeping a “Loot for the Boot” collection boot and encouraging customers to donate. At the end of the summer, they’ll donate it all to the fund. And finally, this October, we’ll be holding a Stop, Drop, and Run 5K (stay tuned for more details) to wrap up our fundraising efforts. This event is made possible through a number sponsorships from businesses and citizens. This whole project illustrates the One Simpsonville spirit very clearly. In this venture, we have truly united our city—its citizens, its businesses, and its government—working together for continuous improvement.  Plus, we now have a partnership with Modern Woodmen of America that we expect to last well beyond this project.

Fire Safety House

If you’ve reviewed the most recent agenda, you will notice that one of the items on which I’ll be making a motion is Funding for Fire Safety House.

Here’s the motion I’ll be making:

motion on fire safety house

Here’s the background information:

The Fire Department has listed an inflatable fire safety house in the amount of $10,250.00 as one of its “wants” for the next fiscal year.  However, given our vast number of critical needs, it is unlikely to get funded through the city.

We were approached by Mr. Stephens about partnering with his organization, which is starting a chapter here in Simpsonville. Modern Woodmen of America is a member-owned fraternal financial services organization. They secure futures with financial guidance and products. Since 1883, Modern Woodmen has brought people together, supported families and strengthened communities nationwide. As the Simpsonville representative, Mr. Stephens would like to help us in fundraising for the inflatable fire safety house through his Matching Funds Program. Mr. Stephens has already secured $3,000.00 in matching funds, and is working on an additional $2,000.00.  That means we’re almost halfway there.

Purchasing the fire safety house would allow the Fire Department to increase its efforts to provide training to children within our area on how to be safe and what to do if their home catches on fire. On average, our firefighters attend 7-8 events per month throughout the community to teach fire safety.  In 2015, they taught fire safety to over 6,000 Simsponville children. They receive regular requests for events that use a training tool like the fire safety house. In fact, they’ve had a 39% increase in such requests over the last 5 years. These requests include special events at Heritage Park; station tours;
various types of programs at the local elementary schools (i.e. – Open House, Field Day); daycare facilities (i.e. – Safety Day); and churches (i.e. – Family Fun Night); Grand Openings and special events at local businesses; and programs provided by civic organizations (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Make A Wish Foundation).

Yet, we do not have our own fire safety house.  While our Fire Department has often been able to borrow one from a neighboring department, it is often unavailable due to requests from other departments, or it is being used by the department that owns it.

The FD has applied for a number of grants through the years with no success. They are now requesting funding for a fire safety house through our budget process. We may not be able to provide the funds through taxpayer dollars, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support their efforts to help educate our children on fire safety.  As I said throughout the campaign, “We need to unite our city—its citizens, its business community, its non-profits and other community partners, and our city government—and work together for continuous improvement.”  A vote in favor of this motion would allow us to do just that.

I am so excited to bring this opportunity for the city to work together with Modern Woodmen of America and our community to the next Simpsonville City Council meeting.  This kind of working together is what One Simpsonville is all about.