By Mayor Pro-Tem
I would like to thank the City Council and the people of Dillon for their support over the last four years. This will be the last time I give the State of Dillon report. I am very thankful for my time as acting mayor, and I am extremely excited about the future of Dillon. The Council and I embraced the policy that our long-term good is not going to be carried out quickly. With that thought, we would like to set up the people who follow us for success. In doing so, we have set forth plans to address many of the problems that befall many small towns, Dillon included. Some of these problems are storm drainage, downtown revitalization, sewage treatment, crime, and many others. We would also like to improve and continue to improve the quality of life that you can have in Dillon by giving places of recreation, places to shop and places to eat.
First, I would like to talk about the flood control problem. We have a 30-million-dollar problem we are facing. These items have been prioritized based on the severity of the problem and the number of people affected by it. We are now entering into contracts to repair three of our highest priority projects. These projects will cost about 4.1 million dollars to perform them. This will not come out of our public funds; these are grants. The first three projects will concentrate on keeping downtown Dillon from flooding.
Downtown revitalization has also been a part of our long-term planning. We have about 1.1 million dollars from the state to revitalize downtown. Most of this will be cosmetic. We are considering taking out some of the mid-block planters and replacing the trees and putting some large planters along the sidewalks. This will make for an extremely attractive and functional downtown. We will also have a large symbol just west of Railroad Avenue on Main Street. This will be attractive, especially as it enters the park area next to the old First Bank Building. The First Bank building is going to be revitalized into our new police station. This, along with the building behind it will be renovated to house bathrooms and an activity room which opens onto the old Bethea land where we will have a farmers’ market. We have approved about $400,000 of our ARP (American Rescue Plan) money to start this project. This project will be close to a million dollars when we finish.
We are going to put new LED lights in the activity fields over behind the armory. We will also be building a new little league football field back there. The city is taking over the Little League football and we are excited about this. We will be buying new equipment and upgrading those facilities. Along the lines of recreation, by the time you see this in The Dillon Herald we will only have two payments left on the Wellness Center. This was our 5.1-million-dollar project which we started about 20 years ago. We only have approximately $480,000 dollars left on that debt. This money comes from our 2% hot meals tax money which we receive about $750,000 a year for these kinds of projects and projects like the golf course and recreation.
The golf course is now owned by the city. The Johnson Foundation generously donated this to the city. We are going to be spending about $550,000 of state money to renovate the parking lot, build a cart shed, build a shop, and redo the greens. This does not cost the citizens of Dillon any tax money. Also, to supplement the budget at the golf course, we use the 2% hot meals tax.
We also are about to complete a splash pad at the Wellness Center. It is not a large splash pad. We are also considering an Olympic sized swimming pool behind the Wellness Center after we have finished paying off the building.
I don’t know if many people are aware of the regular downtown events. Lisa Moody, our downtown coordinator, is busy and has created a tremendous amount of interest in the downtown revitalization and local merchants. This is an uphill battle as we live in an economically depressed area. Our hopes are to rejuvenate the facade downtown and create interest in new shops and restaurants.
If you look at the finances of the City of Dillon, the general budget is about 6.3 million dollars a year and water and sewage is about 4.1 million dollars a year. Presently, not including ARP money, we have about 10.4 million dollars in total bills for the year. We have about 7.2 million combined restricted and non-restricted money in the bank. This gives us about 69% of our budget or 253 days (about eight and a half months) in the bank. What this means is that if we stop receiving any money whatsoever, we could run the town for about 253 days. To put this into perspective the state just asked us to vote for a 5% reserve fund fee for the budget. This is basically saying that they want to have 20 days in the bank. This council has put the future of Dillon in a good place for growth. We have been fiscally responsible through our dealings with the budget and ongoing projects.
The long-term dream is the annexation of west Dillon. This would include the area around the new elementary school. Our hopes are to get this all annexed and grow our area so that our downtown will develop.
In the sewage treatment department, our long-term planning is to have a 10 million gallon a day sewage treatment plant, on the west side of I-95. At present, it is about 7 to 8 dollars a gallon to build a sewage treatment plant which means this would be a 70- or 80-million-dollar project.
As you can tell, the City of Dillon is remarkably busy. We have a tremendous future, and I am extremely excited about that future. I am excited about a new incoming mayor, that we will continue to grow and be fiscally responsible.