City Manager proudly says Hartsville is doing very well

Hartsville City Manager Daniel Moore. PHOTO BY STEPHAN DREW

By Stephan Drew, Editor

Hartsville’s City Manager is quite happy with the progress the city has seen during the last decade and is extremely proud of what the City Council and his team have done over the past 3 years since he moved here from Goose Creek, SC, where he was Assistant City Administrator. Daniel Moore and his wife, Sarah, have 3 children – Oliver (9 years old), Ava (almost 6 years old) and Miles (almost 2 years old). They moved here during the pandemic and are delighted to call Hartsville their home. “There’s an energy here,” he said, “you can feel it. The people are so friendly and there’s just a feeling of good will.” 

He explained the specific operating structure of Hartsville’s City government. “It’s really set up like a Board and CEO type situation,” Moore said, “They’re in charge of the direction and what things they want to see done in the city. It’s my job to implement them. I assist with direction and give my input when asked. But, really, it’s teamwork where they set the stage and, then, we make it happen.”

Describing a few of the challenges he faces daily, Moore explained,  “It’s managing the city holistically. There are so many different needs in various spots. When I make a decision or we implement a change, it is based on the whole. We always keep everyone in mind.” He admits that COVID was one of the greatest challenges faced by everyone, across the state but, through it all, Hartsville found different ways to keep businesses open and actually prospered over the past 3 years.

Moore is very proud that Hartsville has been able to find other ways to increase revenue besides raising taxes. “Raising taxes is something I’m glad we’ve kept away from,” he said, “Our city is in great shape but, I want to do a better job of telling that story.” He is also researching city records and updating outdated or expired contractual agreements. “We’ve been able to fix some of those old agreements that were handshakes in the past,” Moore stated, “and get them on paper. That’s important because, let’s say everyone involved got hit by a bus tomorrow, what’s going to happen? Where do those (handshake) agreements go? It’s important that you have these things in place.” 

Touting one of his favorite accomplishments, Moore reported, “Something that was a huge win for us was the Fire District. The City of Hartsville actually serves outside its fire district. We won that in a lawsuit in the 1990s. The contract went defunct in 2015 and we were still operating under this paper-thin agreement. It could have been dissolved like that and people outside the county would have no fire protection.” 

Praising the Darlington County Administrator, he said, “Charles Stewart and I got together and we made it work. With the support of both our councils, we now have in place a 5-year agreement that has been defunct for 8 years. I was told it couldn’t be done.” Before the lawsuit, only county departments were allowed to service outside the county. The City of Hartsville’s Fire Dept. only had individual contracts with companies like Sonoco or Duke/Progress Energy. Now, there is fire coverage available outside the previously allowed serviceable area. “One of the big wins in this new agreement,” he said, “is that we got millage dedicated to a fire truck. The city has ordered a new firetruck.” Moore said that, of the $1.1 million needed for the firetruck and other equipment, 60% has already been paid for by the extra millage received from the agreement. “Both city and county governments worked very hard on this and got it done,” he said, “I’m very proud of that and I’m really thankful to Charles for helping me push this through. It could have been catastrophic and people in the county would have suffered.”

Moore discussed several improvement projects going on around the city, one of which is the Canal District. The 10-acre cleared site is surrounded by Coker University, the residential South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, a future Florence-Darlington Technical College (FDTC) campus, and All America City’s downtown. After allotting $1 million for the first phase of the project, the city created the Hartsville Public Development Corporation, which solicited the Byerly Foundation for $2 million in funding to prepare the property for development and construction of apartments. “We are deeply grateful to them for their partnership in this,” he stated, “they immediately forgave $500,000 and then, if we can pay off the remaining $1 million, they will forgive another $500,000.” Therefore, The Byerly Foundation will have granted the city a full $1 million in funding which will not have to be repaid by the taxpayers. 

Addressing the fiscal soundness of the city, Moore admitted that Hartsville has outpaced even their own expectations. When former mayor Mel Pennington was in office, City Council initiated a policy which would, within 3 years, increase the reserve fund to 17% and, later, increase it to 30%. Within only 2 years, Hartsville’s city government has been able to increase their reserve to 29.63%, far ahead of schedule. “Once we hit 30%, council is obligated to spend anything over that,” Moore stated, “so, that’s police cars and other equipment we need, while still preserving our ability to protect ourselves. It’s exciting that now, we have the opportunity to invest back, safely, into the community. It’s just sound fiscal policy.” Moore also said he’s looking into increases in city staff salaries to remain competitive and keep pace with other municipalities which are increasing wages around the state. “The people who do the work everyday are what makes the city tick,” Moore stated, “from the guys cleaning the streets and watering the plants to the CFO (Chief Financial Officer), there’s no one who is more or less important than anyone else. We’re all the same and I want to make sure that everyone is paid adequately for the job they do.”

Hartsville is a Tree City and has had problems with the abundant leaves, prompting them to change their collection of yard debris. Discussing the new Leaf Collection plan, Moore expressed his satisfaction that the program has been so successful. “We pick up more leaves and yard debris than our entire household and recycling combined,” he said, “we are a city of leaves.” Moore admitted that the old system was unsustainable, equipment was wearing out and many staff were being pulled from other jobs to help handle the overwhelming leaf problem. The city had to come up with a method which was sustainable yet not overly expensive. “Some residents can’t afford high monthly rates for leaf and debris collection,” Moore said. He and his staff spent approx. 18 months evaluating the problem and coming up with a workable, inexpensive program. They did a trial run with rollcarts, which significantly increased their speed and ability to pick up more leaves and yard debris. “If you put out one rollcart per week,” he stated, “you can manage a whole yard.”  For those who don’t want a rollcart in their yard, large leaf bags are available. Moore stated that they had 98% compliance. Some residents are taking advantage of the abundant leaves and using them for compost, which is a positive for soil nourishment. “Of the 3,300 residents who are affected,” he said, “one week only 31 didn’t bag their leaves.”

Touting the success and sustained growth of Hartsville, Moore expressed complete pride with businesses filling the downtown area. “We have a 93% occupancy rate,” he said, “every time a property goes up (on the market) it is filled.” In discussing the South Hartsville Corridor Revitalization Project, Moore stated, “When I first came to Hartsville, the one thing I noticed is, there is a disparity. I thought, ‘this is something we can fix.’ The South Hartsville community and the Butler Historic District is so full of amazing people, life and energy. They have a story and they need it to be told. And, it’s hidden by streets, ditches and by so much.” The project will start on Sixth Street, and will run from Sixth and Carolina Ave. down to Fifth, a 1.3 mile stretch. Moore plans to expand it, though, “From Sixth, we’ll go to Seventh,” Moore said, “then go to Eighth, Ninth, go up to 14th Street and then hit East Hartsville. We have to make that part of the city look as good as the rest of the city does.” He praised Barbara Carraway, Jannie Harriot, Alvin Heatley, Charles Govan and so many others for their tireless work in updating and improving the South Hartsville area.  “People like the late Mr. Franklin Hines,” Moore said, “I am so glad I met him and got the chance to talk with him about South Hartsville and its importance.” The city has plans to move power lines underground in that area to give safer, more consistent and resilient electrical power to the area. The project is expected to take approximately $11 million but, Moore admits, it may take more. “It’s worth it, though,” he said, “and we need to do it. We’re seeing this through.”

Hartsville may be considered a small city, with a population of 7,400 but, over 40,000 people per day visit and work within the city limits. The Neptune Water Park complex hosted over 90,000 people last year and the Walmart, located on S. Fourth Street, hosted one million visitors in the same 12 months. When asked where he sees Hartsville in the next 5-10 years, he stated, “I see the Pee Dee really coming into its own. It’s one of 5 regions in S.C. but, it doesn’t have a beach, it’s not the Low Country and Charleston, it’s not the Midlands with Columbia and lawmakers there every day. We’re not Greenville, they have mountains. We’re the Pee Dee. We have an upward hill to climb. With that, though, comes tremendous opportunity. I see Hartsville gearing up to be that one true city that is the shining beacon on the hill.” 

Author: Stephan Drew

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