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Rumford reflects on Fort Lawn's year

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By Brian Garner

2017 was a year filled with some very high points for the Town of Fort Lawn and a few low ones. This year saw the passing of beloved and long-time councilmember Thomas Reddick in June.

Reddick served on council from 2008 through 2017. He served as both councilmember and Mayor Pro Tempore during his previous terms of office.

During the town’s annual Christmas dinner, Fort Lawn Mayor John Rumford reflected on what 2017 was like for the town.

“I think it’s been a good year for Fort Lawn; the financial position is probably the best it’s been for a while, or at least for a number of years, particularly the sewer fund. We’ve seen some significant improvements in that.

“We’ve been able to adhere to the budget we set – the budget has been met throughout the year and we completed our annual audit, and the results were very positive,” he said.

“Also we had four grants provided to the town by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program. One of those is concluding, and that was the one to install the sprinkler and alarm system at the Fort Lawn Community center. The idea for that grant was to enable the FLCC to eventually have a preschool program over there. The alarm and sprinklers are one of the things needed to meet S.C. DHEC requirements. That grant and the project are nearing their end. We extended the contract to compete that work through December 31st,” Rumford said.

Another one of the grants provided an SUV for the Fort Lawn Police Department. That vehicle is currently in use. A third grant is for another police vehicle.

“In addition we got another grant from the USDA for an engineering study for the sewer system. Their recommendations will be vital to us as we take a look at the sewer system and see if there are things we need to do to upgrade it, and how we can get grants for that,” he said.

Rumford estimates the results from that study should be available in the early part of next year.

The town bought some new playground equipment during the year and is enhancing the capabilities of that park on Willowbrook Street and plans to continue doing that.

“Overall, we are in a very good financial position,” Rumford said.

Two other milestones took place in Fort Lawn that were associated with the town. The newly-created Fort Lawn Fire District held a groundbreaking at the El Bethel substation, which will serve more Fort Lawn citizens and provide them with an improved ISO (Insurance Service Office) insurance rating and a break on their homeowner’s insurance.

“One of the problems within the fire district is the fire insurance rates for our homeowners in the rural areas have been higher because they were not within a certain distance of the existing fire station in Fort Lawn. That substation will alleviate that problem, and those homeowners may see a reduction in their insurance premiums,” Rumford said.

“In addition to that, the town council decided to get rid of one of the buildings that belonged to the town that had been used by the fore department for many years. It occurred to me that there was not going to be use for that building, the town had not been using it for quite a long time, and it would be better for the fire district to have it as their property. We are now in the process of getting that property transferred to the county (and the fire district).” Long-term plans call for that property to be used to build a new fire station.

The Fort Lawn community received some national recognition this year as the non-profit Orton Family Foundation, in partnership with the J. Marion Sims Foundation, picked them as a Heart & Soul Community. The community will see some transformative revitalization efforts in January as a part of this Heart & Soul initiative, Rumford said.

“The Fort Lawn Community Center is the leading light in all of the effort to get the community named as a Heart & Soul Community and town council has a representative on the advisory committee. We are pleased to participate in that.

“That planning committee’s goal and function is to imagine how they see Fort Lawn looking in the future, and to make plans and recommendations to bring that about,” he said.

“This is all very positive stuff that we’re very pleased about,” Rumford said.

Looking to next year, Rumford said the town hopes to write another grant to replace another vehicle in their aging fleet, this time for Lewis Jordan, who is both Public Works Director and Zoning Administrator for the town.

Rumford also expects to begin work based on the engineering study of the town’s sewer system.

“What the engineers tell us will determine some future directions and where we need to go with our sewer system in the future,” he said. “Those recommendations will be very important with regards to the town and the sewer system.”