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Chapin leaders participate in panel discussion regarding the future of the area

Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – The town of Chapin held a panel discussion Thursday evening to allow its elected leaders to discuss what they see as the future of Chapin. The panel Included Mayor David Knight of Chapin, Lexington County Councilmember Erin Long Bergeson, and Ken Loveless, a member of Lexington Richland School District Five’s Board of Trustees.

The discussion was well organized and attended. It was put together by Nicholle Burroughs, Chapin’s director of public affairs. Burroughs also moderated the event. Although most in attendance were citizens, District Five Trustee Nikki Gardner attended as did Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon.

Questions were submitted in writing prior to the discussion and Burroughs sorted and combined them so that they fit several key categories. On several occasions, each category had a subcategory that was more specific than the broader question.

The discussing began with public safety. Each spoke about his part in providing for those services in various ways. Loveless revealed that the school district was moving to add additional mental health professionals at their school. He said the board had passed a drug policy based on a principal’s reasonable suspicion that someone was using drugs.

Next, there was a question regarding development. Bergeson gave a recap of the county’s work to get businesses to locate in the Chapin Tech Park. She sounded optimistic but said that Lexington County lost two full years in recruiting because they focused exclusively on nuclear power support businesses until SCE&G’s failure at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.

Loveless gave an update on the old Chapin Elementary School property. He said the district was going through a process of evaluating their surplus property. They were working on environmental assessments and appraisals of those. His thoughts were that the property be sold to the highest responsible bidder. His vision is a mixed-use development that would include some residential, retail, and businesses like restaurants. Loveless feels the property is, “Key to the development of the town.”

Mayor Knight gave a recap of current projects in the works. This included the Zaxby’s, the professional center beside Palmetto Bone & Joint, and O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.

When a question arose regarding the relationship between governments and the area’s school districts, Bergeson pulled no punches saying there’s nothing happening on that front in Chapin. She said that Lexington County had reached out to work with the district, something they’ve had success with in Lexington District One, and they’ve not received any return call. Several times she reiterated this lack of communication on District Five’s part.

Later, Knight spoke about the impact the Ellett Brothers closing had on Chapin. They were leaving some police positions open and were not filling the planning director job. He recapped the widening of Columbia Avenue and the bypass. Knight said that the DOT was years behind their first projected start date for this and had not even begun their right-of-way acquisition yet. The actual start date is unknown.

Later, all three discussed planning in the Chapin area. Bergeson spoke of road reclassifications to slow growth and Lexington County’s new standard for buffers. Loveless talked about the need for a Performing Arts Center for the Chapin Schools saying, “We have to beg churches to let us perform,” because of a lack of one now. He also said that the high school would need a new football stadium because of its reclassification to 5-A. All three talked of the importance of planning to prevent the uncontrolled, short-lived prosperity of other areas of the county.

In the end, people could address a few questions to the group. All were along the same line as the ones e-mailed in. The answers didn’t vary and eventually the discussion came to an end.

This was an informative and well-run discussion. Hopefully, those in attendance left knowing more than they had and will share their newfound knowledge with their families, friends, and neighbors. Several said that it would be nice to have these more often so they could hear about the workings of the government in a recap. Most said that in the past, they had heard bits and pieces on these topics and could only stay well informed by attending multiple meetings.

More in-depth pieces are in the works regarding the specifics of some of the panelists’ answers and comments in the coming days.

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