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The City of Florence has received a Municipal Achievement Award for its partnership with the Town of Timmonsville to improve its water and sewer system. Officials accepted the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina's Annual Meeting on July 18. The city won in the public works category. Twenty-nine cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.
Small towns with economic challenges often experience technical and financial trouble operating a public water and sewer system. This was the position that the Town of Timmonsville found itself in when officials approached the City of Florence for assistance. Concerned for the quality of life and services in a nearby town, Florence officials agreed to help Timmonsville achieve regulatory compliance, financial stability and restore public confidence in the system.
Before they could finalize an agreement, conditions in Timmonsville became desperate. Federal and state regulatory agencies cited and fined the town multiple times. Drinking water was often found unsafe for consumption, sewage frequently escaped manholes, and fire services were compromised by low pressure in the system. After discussions among the two municipalities and other interested parties, Florence agreed to take total control of Timmonsville's utility system.
To make the necessary repairs, Florence officials secured several state and federal grants with system revenues providing the rest of the funding. To relieve Timmonsville from the overwhelming financial obligations of unpaid fines, Florence assumed its debt by issuing a revenue bond that Timmonsville will pay back over 40 years.
After months of work, the small town's system is now in total compliance and the public's confidence in its drinking water has returned. The improvements were completed without an increase to existing utility rates in both communities and with all debt obligations met.
"Florence has demonstrated that partnerships among big cities and small towns is highly beneficial to residents and businesses," said Miriam Hair, executive director for the Municipal Association.
These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. More information and a video about the project are available on the Association's website.
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.