BATESBURG-LEESVILLE: Lexington County community waits on federal aid along with many small South Carolina towns

BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, SC (WOLO) — In South Carolina, $435 million is set to go to 254 towns in the Palmetto State with fewer than 50,000 residents.

However, South Carolina is only one a few nationwide that has yet to request those funds.

In Batesburg-Leesville, $2.7 million are expected to be coming to the twin cities in western Lexington County.

Yet due to the state’s concern about how those funds are spent by the smaller cities, many projects here and across the state are having to wait on that money.

“I don’t fully understand what the holdup is,” said Batesburg-Leesville mayor, Lancer Shull. “There is some concern that the state would be held liable if municipalities did not spend that money correctly. The US Treasury Department has made it clear that the state will not held responsible for spending at the municipal level.”

According to the US Department of Treasury, the funds can go to a handful of things such as relief for small businesses and infrastructure projects.

Mayor Shull says Batesburg-Leesville has not made a final decision but a large amount of the money would go towards water and sewer projects.

“We also have shovel ready projects. As you can see around the room here, in Batesburg-Leesville, we have a strategic plan,” the mayor said. “We’ve started doing engineering design using what funds we have and some hospitality tax money to make changes inside of our town and bolster the economy.”

He says the town is doing okay economically due to the largest employers being the school district and manufacturing.

However, some local restaurants and barber shops were unable to stay afloat during the pandemic. Others are making it any way they can.

“It’s like a roller coaster. It comes and goes,” said Rodney Coleman, owner of Kosmo’s Barber Shop in Leesville.

“It wasn’t easy. We did what we did. We took all the precautions we needed to take,” said Ashley Sims, owner of The Root Cellar in Batesburg.

The Batesburg restaurant had to increase its online presence, do to go orders and even partnered with a food delivery service. Business is now starting to pick back up.

“We still take precautions, cleaning extra daily. With people getting vaccinated, I think they’re more comfortable coming out and enjoying the dining experience again,” Sims said.

Kosmo’s Barber Shop has seen fewer customers. Many have been unable to afford a haircut because of hard times. Relief funds received by the local business were only a drop in the bucket.

“We got a little bit but by the time you went back to get anything else, guess what? From all the scams that were happening, money wasn’t there then,” Coleman said. “Corporations got the money so small businesses got hurt.” 

Coleman tells me his barber shop has had to make sacrifices to survive. The shop is down to just the owner cutting hair, no employees. On top of that, he has also been homeschooling his son due to the unpredictability of the pandemic.

Entrepreneurs as well as the city itself are in need of federal assistance.

The state’s decision to wait to receive the money has drawn criticism from elected officials due to the potential interest on the money that is not being gained.

Accelerate SC, a committee created by Governor Henry McMaster, is working on recommending where federal funds in the state should go. Ultimately, municipalities decide where the funds are spent but the state can provide incentives.

Mayor Shull is hoping the money comes towards Batesburg-Leesville’s way by September.

Categories: Lexington, Local News