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Unscrupulous? Spartanburg County sinks Greer annexation plan

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Spartanburg County is footing the bill for a $1 million sewer project that effectively precludes Greer’s participation in the development of Bass Pro Shops at I-85 and Highway 101. The crux of that is it takes the idea of annexing any part of the 77-acre property, bordering Greer, out of sight and out of mind for Greer City Council.

That’s just the way Spartanburg County Council wanted it. The council approved 1.25 miles of a gravity sewer line on Tuesday with the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District which will be repaid $150,000 per year until the project ($1,050,000) is paid off.

“What hurts is this sends a pretty clear signal of us versus them,” Greer Mayor Rick Danner said. “What is disappointing is we’re big boys. We do economic development all the time and understand you are going to win some and lose some. We never had an opportunity, other than with the CEO of the organization, to make an offer of our services. If we could have gone head-to-head (with Spartanburg County) and the decision be the same, then we could have lived with that.”

Spartanburg County elected officials and economic leaders have made Greer persona non grata at any meeting or event concerning Bass Pro Shops since its announcement in the city of Spartanburg last April. County Council’s decision to exclude Greer and its utilities was indicative of its secrecy Tuesday when it was announced the normal bidding process was bypassed to award URS, a Greenville engineering firm, $114,000 for design work.

Essentially, by keeping Greer representatives from participating in the Bass Pro Shops enterprise, Spartanburg County officials were able to protect what it considered proprietary information that would enable Greer to benefit by annexation or other related projects. No one contacted by GreerToday.com would confirm that strategy on the record.

Greer CPW has sewer infrastructure available at Highway 101 and city officials suggest Spartanburg County’s decision on its sewer line is not the most practical and least cost-effective to its taxpayers.

An exchange between City Administrator Ed Driggers and Greer City Councilman Jay Arrowood (District One) at City Council’s meeting Tuesday night was telling.

Arrowood: “I guess there’s been no communication with Spartanburg County Council as to why they were willing to spend over $1 million of Spartanburg County taxpayer money to extend the sewer lines when Greer CPW is right there with no cost to extend sewer lines? Is it just ill will? I guess they want to thumb their noses at us and spend their constituents’ money.”

Driggers: “There has been limited communication. Our request to discuss the project, our request for those discussions have been declined. They have been both declined by the project and by Spartanburg Council.”

Arrowood: Any discussion about traffic and how that will impact industry on (Hwy.) 101 and that corridor?

Driggers: “Not with us. Not that I am aware of. I have not been involved in these discussions.”

Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt, in a Spartanburg news report, told county council members, “You can’t grow the county without having water and sewer. There are more than just the 16 (properties adjoining the new sewer line) because we can grow like fingers off that line. … When a project comes, you have a real reason to go ahead and make the investment. It’s so expensive to run sewer lines and water lines out into an undeveloped area. You can’t do it.”

Jane Hall is Greer’s representative (District 4) on Spartanburg County Council. Hall held a town hall meeting last year to answer questions about the Bass Pro Shops development but did not reach out to Greer City Council or GreerToday.com to attend. A phone call from GreerToday.com to Hall was not returned before this story was posted.

Danner, however, said the message to Hall was pointed. “Mrs. Hall has been told people didn’t want another Woodruff Road. If we can’t use smart growth in developing this, they just planned another Woodruff Road.”

Danner said other issues need to be addressed in the Highway 101 corridor in the Bass Pro Shops vicinity.

“I hope it’s not indicative of how we’re going to move forward, because there’s some big issues to be addressed,” Danner said. “Traffic being one, further development another, homes in that area, commercial businesses, sewer services to those businesses along 101 and the Abner Creek area. (Spartanburg County) running that sewer along a creek that has been under I-85, and isn’t really along 101, wasn’t intended to service other businesses or anything. It just goes to the Bass Pro project.”

“My trust in Spartanburg County is way lower than it’s ever been,” Wryley Bettis, Greer city council (District 5), said. “This entire project has been under the radar. Is this in the best interest of taxpayers of Spartanburg County? Greer should have been consulted with CPW in place.

Danner has been one of the faces of economic development and a proponent of selling Greer and the Upstate to regional, national and international businesses and communities. He is on the Local Leaders Council of Smart Growth America and has visited China and Japan as part of the Upstate Alliance’s mission to promote international growth.

“Spartanburg County has done citizens a disservice, and I truly believe, that given the opportunity, Reno (Greer Economic Development), Rick (Danner) and Ed (Driggers) can give a reason of being in the city,” Bettis said.

Danner, looking disappointed and perplexed Tuesday, was asked what he thought was Spartanburg County’s message to Greer. “That’s an interesting question, and I have no answer for it. That’s a question for the other side of the table.”

 

 

 

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