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Town of Springdale sprucing up to set an example for everyone

Springdale, SC (Paul Kirby) – The leaders of the town of Springdale, SC have a vision plan for their little town near the Columbia Airport. Several years ago, they had that plan put down on paper so that everyone who wanted to, could see it. Now, according to Mayor Michael Bishop, the town is moving ahead with some of the changes they can make immediately. This is being done to show both residents and visitors of the town that leaders are serious about improving the quality of life in Springdale and they're prepared to do this by setting the example themselves.

Recently, I tagged along with Springdale’s Mayor Michael Bishop as we rode and looked around the town. During this time, he shared his personal philosophy, a philosophy he said the council shares, about what Springdale should be like. “We really have to set the example as a town,” Bishop said. “We can’t really ask business or homeowners to make their properties look top-notch if the rest of the town isn’t. For that reason, we are leading the way in making the town look better, and basically be a better place to live, play, and even work.”

Since this philosophy has been implemented, town employees have been busy edging grass away from sidewalks, redoing the landscaping in the medians along Platt Springs Road, the town’s main drag, replacing the lighting fixtures around the town’s main park beside the town hall, and hanging seasonal banners from improved street lights and better looking ornamental poles. Bishop sees these as a way to set the example for folks who call Springdale home.

As we rode the streets, avenues, and by-ways of the town, Bishop was a constant flurry of motion regarding how to improve the town. If he saw a pot hole starting, he was immediately on the phone with the SCDOT to ask for a crew to come out and fill it. When we passed a state crew restriping a stop line at an intersection, he stopped, got out, shook the men’s hands, and thanked them for their work to make the roads look new again. “The DOT has worked well with Springdale in the past. They do everything that they can immediately do to help us improve. The things they can’t do quickly, or have little control of, they work on over time and try and keep us informed about whatever progress is being made,” Bishop said.

He echoed these sentiments with Lexington County. “We also have a good rapport with the county’s public works too. They do what they can to meet the needs of the people of our town.” Of course, as we rode along, it is obvious that Bishop subscribes to the theory that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. As we drove around, his cellphone was constantly in his hand, and squeak he will if he thinks the town needs attention from some other agency that can help.

We stopped at several of the landscaped medians on Platt Springs Road. “These already look so much better, and that’s a result of the hard work of our town’s employees,” Bishop said. “We’ve changed to a more attractive stone base, trimmed the Crepe Myrtles, pulled all the weeds, and planted flowers that we plan to change with the season.” Bishop explained that he didn’t want the same flowers to stay all year because he felt as if the residents and people who passed through would enjoy some variety in the town.

Town leaders have made this work possible without adding staff. “We looked at when the garbage and recycling was collected, and by adjusting that schedule some, we made it possible to get more done with the employees we already had,” he explained.

On the side streets, we got behind a town garbage truck that didn’t have its flashing warning lights on. Bishop once again turned to the cellphone, and in a matter of moments, the amber lights were flashing. “It was something they overlooked, but it matters to me. I don’t want our employees working in the street without every tool they need to do a good job and to be safe,” he explained.

The mayor sees the little details and thinks they’re important to the overall presentation of the town. As the recycling crew worked the streets, he noted that the crews were setting emptied containers back perpendicular to the road as he had asked them to several weeks ago. That way, the town’s logo could be read, and all the bins looked orderly from driveway to driveway in a nice, straight line. “It’s little things like that that set the example and change people’s attitudes about their place. We feel like if we care that things look nice, neat, and orderly, the citizens will too!” When I pointed out a cracked and faded bin in one yard, he was back on the phone again asking his staff to develop a procedure to replace those when they got in bad shape. “That’s any easy fix, but something we need to have a policy or plan for,” he explained.

Bishop pointed out some yards in neighborhoods that still needed work. The town has ordinances about how the grass should look and what debris can be left spread around an owner’s property. You also have to keep the outside of your home looking respectable; facias painted, rotting boards replaced, normal property upkeep. If folks don’t follow these rules, they are subject to fines from the town’s code enforcement officer. I paused for a moment at this point and asked the mayor what people would do if they wanted to improve their property, but simply couldn’t afford it. “If you want to do better, but you are elderly, handicapped, or simply aren’t financially able to make improvements, I’ll either find someone to do it for them, or I’ll do it myself. We’ve already involved churches, youth groups, and others in the past. As long as they have a desire to improve, and don’t have the means, we’re not going to let that get in our way,” Bishop said. “It’s when they just don’t care that we have a problem.”

As we continued our tour, Bishop stopped at the home of a man who had just bought property inside the town. The man seemed a bit taken aback as we walked through his yard, but he was quickly put at ease by Bishop’s big smile, his outstretched hand, and his welcoming tone. It was immediately clear the man was renovating the home himself, removing brush and older trees from the yard, and working to improve his home. “Are we doing everything we can to help you, because if you’re working to make your property look better, we want to do everything we can to help too,” he told the man. The property owner assured the mayor that everything was going smoothly and that the town’s staff had done everything possible to ensure he had all the tools he needed to improve his part of Springdale. They had hauled away some brush and organics he’d already cleared and had helped guide him through the permitting process and town regulations that governed the changes he was making.

According to Bishop, Springdale’s leadership is working together better than he can ever remember. He says that the town’s staff is responsive and responsible. By that he means that they all are participating in the revival and revitalization of the town by working hard, working together, and thinking outside the box if necessary. They're inputting their own ideas without any fear that they’ll be scorned, laughed at, or rebuked for taking part by leadership; whether they're one of the men that rides the back of the garbage truck or the highest level of management.

If growth and interest in making Springdale home are examples, the town’s plans are working. District Two is investing a large part of their bond money that was approved by voters several years ago to completely renovate and expand Springdale Elementary. This new and improved school will have more curb appeal, be more student and staff friendly, and in general be a nice addition to the area. It is expected to be completed by the start of the 2017/2018 school year.

Between Wattling and Ermine Roads, a developer is in the planning process for the construction of a new, six phase sub-division that could bring as many as 158 new families to Springdale. The town has worked with the developer to make sure that green spaces and communal areas are included in their plans. The entrance to that would be near Parrish Plantation. Bishop thinks that the development will do well for a number of reasons, in part because Springdale is a quiet, family friendly community that’s close to the airport, the city of Columbia, and the modern conveniences that people desire.

In other areas, the town is seeking grants or other funds to improve their parks and recreational opportunities. They are considering installing restrooms at the small park by the tennis courts, and maybe even building a “bark-park” for people to play and exercise their pets in the same general vicinity. This is a place they already own that’s suitable for something like that. Currently, it’s just a grassy field.

The town has also been buying strategic properties when possible. Bishop said that they have other ideas that fit with their master plan, and those properties are being held for just the right project at just the right time in the future.

As Springdale, like many of the communities west of the Congaree, re-makes itself, it will be both exciting and interesting to see what the future holds. An arts and entertainment district, small shops, a coffee house, and boutique eateries are all things that the town’s leaders say they would consider a good fit. “In the end, everyone may not love me, they may not even like me, but I hope that they will eventually come around and truly enjoy and be proud of Springdale as a great place to live, play, and work,” Bishop concluded.

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