South Carolina editorial roundup
Posted October 4
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier of Charleston on Volvo investing another $500 million at its campus near Ridgeville:
Two years ago, Volvo announced that it would build a $500 million facility in Berkeley County and hire 2,000 people to produce its S60 sedan. That news was greeted with celebration.
Now double that. Volvo's decision to invest another $520 million at its campus near Ridgeville and hire another 1,910 workers to produce its SC90 SUV gives the region twice the reason to celebrate.
The expansion will mean more money infused into the state and local economy, more jobs that pay well, more business for the port of Charleston and more visibility as a place ready to compete successfully in the global market.
It also means that Volvo, a Swedish company that conducts business around the globe, has enough confidence in South Carolina to start expanding even before the first automobile is produced.
Indeed, Lex Kerssemakers, president and CEO of Volvo's North American operations, said just that, adding that the state's "entrepreneurship, infrastructure and attitude" drew Volvo here.
State leaders and budget officers should pay special attention to his assertion that the state's technical college system was a key incentive and that all the production workers hired to date are state residents who have gone through its ReadySC training program. The program deserves continued, ample funding by the state.
Volvo is enjoying financial incentives provided by the state and Berkeley County. Berkeley County Council has approved $3.5 million toward the expansion, mostly for a waterline tie-in to Lake Marion and road improvements. Further, the S.C. Department of Commerce is seeking $46 million from the state to help offset infrastructure costs associated with the expansion.
It is important for Volvo and for the Lowcountry to use those funding sources to provide infrastructure able to handle taxing new demands on roads, schools, hospitals and the environment in this mostly rural area and beyond.
The first XC90 SUVs are expected to begin construction here in 2021. It is the most popular Volvo car in the United States but is manufactured only in Sweden and Malaysia. A crossover, it is credited with helping the turnaround of Volvo in this country. Volvo, headquartered in Sweden, experienced a slump under the ownership of Ford. It is now owned by China's Geely Holding Group.
Berkeley County has an opportunity with Volvo's growing presence to attract more businesses, and to show the state how such growth can be facilitated without compromising the natural environment and quality of life.
The Island Packet of Hilton Head Island on how new police record policies affect the public:
The Bluffton Police Department just took a potshot at the public that is petty and unnecessary.
The department erected a new barricade between itself and the people it serves by making it harder for the public to find out about crime and public safety in their own neighborhoods.
The public will no longer be able to get timely details about incidents responded to by the police.
Reports with full narratives will no longer be released in real time.
Instead, the public will have to file a formal Freedom of Information request. This is a hassle, and it can slow down the release of information for weeks, depending on how much a governmental body wants to game the system.
The new policy is a gross disservice to the public. There is no administrative need for it. No other local law enforcement agency has such a policy. The public has both a right and a public-safety need to see in real time crucial information the police department is now hiding from them.
The policy change appears aimed at this newspaper, but we're not the issue. It won't stop us from reporting vital public information. It may make it harder and slower, but the ones hurt by this policy are the citizens, not the newspaper.
The policy was introduced a day after we reported that overtime pay in the Bluffton Police Department during Hurricane Matthew last year was disproportionately high when compared to other police departments in the county. Most of the department's 50 employees were paid nearly 200 hours in overtime. Former Police Chief Joey Reynolds made $16,216 in overtime during the period, and current Police Chief Joseph Manning made $12,343.
We also reported that an anonymous complaint within the department was made to former chief Reynolds, claiming that officers, including a supervisor, were rumored to have gotten drunk during the time they were being paid overtime for working the hurricane. No internal investigation was conducted, and Reynolds ruled there was nothing to it.
Reynolds retired last year after we reported that he had traveled out of town for almost five of the most recent 15 months, including to places like Argentina, Chile and Morocco, in his separate role as a board member of an international police organization — mostly while receiving his regular taxpayer-funded annual salary of $118,000.
His overall travel time connected to his involvement with the FBI National Academy Associates was almost 10 months, or about 17 percent, of his nearly five-year tenure as chief. The estimated cost to Bluffton taxpayers while he was absent: $78,738. In addition, he was eligible for a cash payout of as much as $41,911 for his unused paid time off when he retired.
As Chief Manning told a reporter asking about the high overtime bill, town manager Marc Orlando "takes care of his people."
But now, the police department is doing the exact opposite to the people it serves — the public, the taxpayers.
The public now has to jump through bureaucratic hoops simply to get basic, timely information from the police department about public safety on their own streets.
It's not right.
Aiken Standard on one of the largest urban forests in the nation:
Hitchcock Woods is one of Aiken's many treasures, and is enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.
The Festival of the Woods, held last Friday, was a celebration of one of the nation's largest urban forests. The celebration included a fundraiser for the Hitchcock Woods Foundation as well as a nature hike for Mead Hall students.
The school's fifth- and sixth-graders explored the 2,100-acre preserve used by equestrians, walkers, joggers and hikers, learning about different habitats and looking for evidence of wildlife and prehistoric inhabitants.
"Hitchcock Woods is a treasure - to have one of the largest urban forests here right in the center of Aiken," said Darlene Smalley, who helped to lead the eco-hike. "We've got 70 miles of trails to explore where only walkers and horseback riders are allowed. That's a special opportunity. It's important for kids to get out and connect with nature, and Hitchcock Woods is a fantastic place to do that."
We couldn't agree more. It is important for the younger generation to appreciate Hitchcock Woods for the wonderful and unique natural resource it is. Understanding the importance of the woods and their connection to the history of Aiken and its environment hopefully will make these students more invested in preserving it for future generations.
"These students need to know where they came from, know who was here and know their place on the planet," said Carl Steen, president of the Diachronic Research Foundation. "Hopefully, they'll take a lesson that we're not the only ones who were ever here and that we need to leave it to our children better."
In addition to raising awareness for the woods, The Festival of the Woods also is a fundraiser for the Hitchcock Woods Foundation.
This year's festival was attended by more than 300 people, and featured exhibits on subjects including the reintroduction of red-cockaded woodpeckers last year to Hitchcock Woods and artifacts found during a Cultural Resources Survey.
The Foundation should be commended for its efforts to return the woods to a longleaf pine ecosystem.
Naturalist, activist and award-winning writer Janisse Ray praised the Foundation during the Festival, saying "I am struck this time by the changes. I don't know if you remember what it looked like five years ago and if you can see how much you have been able to take this place back to being God's idea of what a longleaf pine forest should look like."
Hitchcock Woods is as much a part of Aiken as The Winter Colony and the Blessing of the Hounds. It offers a respite from the bustle of daily life and gives a glimpse into Aiken's past.
It provides a home for red-cockaded woodpeckers and a playground for equestrians.
"I have been walking in the Woods since I was able to walk," Stephanie Wilds said. "It is right in the center of Aiken, and it is such a beautiful, peaceful place. I love listening to the sound of the wind in the pines."
Hitchcock Woods is an important piece of Aiken's history and we must do all we can to make sure it endures for future generations.