Penny for Progress Program Revitalizes Sumter County, SC
The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce first brought the idea for the program to the County Council, and in 2008 voters approved a temporary one-cent tax increase that will be removed in May 2016 or when $75 million is collected, whichever comes first. The $75 million is going toward 16 major improvement projects occurring throughout the community, including construction of a rural fire station, traffic intersection improvements, and purchasing critical land that borders Shaw Air Force Base.
The formal name of the initiative is the Sumter County Capital Projects Sales Tax, but it mostly goes by the nickname of Penny for Progress. The 16 projects are being overseen by the Sumter County Administrator and the Sumter County Council, and is managed by a team of experienced project coordinators.
The Chamber of Commerce remains a large supporter of the program and rasied money to hire Penny for Progress campaign manager Chris Caison.
“One project that already has been completed is the construction of a Patriot Park Athletic Complex and Activities Center,” says Caison. “Patriot Park’s baseball, softball, soccer and football fields can host regional tournaments that will draw visitors from throughout the Southeast. Those visitors will spend money in our community at hotels, restaurants, stores and gas stations to bolster our economy.”
Caison says more than 3,500 young people in Sumter County now access Patriot Park for sports, plus the complex also has walking paths and green space.
“Meanwhile, another completed project is vast improvements to the Sumter County Civic Center, formerly known as the Exhibition Center,” he says. “Several beautification upgrades have occurred, which is good news around here. Those improvements have been needed for many years.”
Specific upgrades to the Civic Center included replacing the HVAC system, improving the parking lot and fencing, renovating restrooms, installing new carpet in conference rooms, and improving the sound system.
“It is the only facility in the county large enough to hold graduations and other big events,” Caison says. “Now it is a showpiece of the community once again.”
All Fired Up
Besides Patriot Park and the Civic Center, another key Penny for Progress project is the construction of a rural fire station to serve residents in Cherryvale, Dabbs, Wedgefield, Dalzell, Bethel, Pinewood, Rembert, Concord, Horatio, Oswego, Graham, Pleasant Grove, Mayesville, DuBose, Byrd and 521 South.
In addition, another project will feature sidewalks constructed to connect schools and neighborhoods, plus multiple improvements will be made to the intersection of Lafayette Drive, North Main Street and Highway 378 – the single most congested intersection in all of Sumter.
Also, a new $20 million judicial center will allow Sumter County to handle a per capita docket on par with Columbia and Greenville, while road infrastructure improvements at Airport Industrial Park will allow the city and county to better compete for industrial and economic development prospects.
“Penny for Progress a big project but well worth it,” Caison says. “There are many positives that will result from this effort."