Lamar Council hears historical marketing ideas
By Samantha Lyles
Lamar Town Council’s Feb. 10 regular meeting focused on how the community might use its history to enrich the present and ensure a brighter future for all residents.
Brian Gandy, director of the Darlington County Historical Commission, spoke to council members and meeting guests about how heritage tourism can generate revenue, and spotlighting Lamar’s history can enrich the lives of town residents.
Gandy began by referencing the 2018 Lamar Community Planning Project: Next Steps document created by Clemson University’s Masters in City and Regional Planning class. The plan noted Lamar’s population is declining and aging out, and suggested enhancements of the Main Street corridor and community livability projects may help slow or reverse that trend. He agreed with the report’s conclusion that playing up Lamar’s historic housing stock and railroad history could increase the town’s attractiveness to new residents.
The Clemson report urged Lamar to invest in adding new murals to downtown buildings, and refreshing and maintaining the current civic artwork. This could create points of interest and increase foot traffic around businesses.
“You’ve got some murals on Main Street, but have you even looked at them lately? When’s the last time you looked at them and didn’t see trees in front of them?” Gandy asked.
He used Clarendon County, which has 30 historic mural panels, as a successful example of using public art as a way to stimulate heritage tourism. Tour groups and individuals come year-round to visit Manning, Paxville, Summerton, and Turbeville and view outsized artworks depicting the wily American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion and various battles against the Redcoats along the Santee River.
Gandy also urged Town Council to consider adopting the Bailey Bill, which offers tax breaks to those who rehabilitate homes or buildings of historical significance. He observed that the lower tax bills could encourage new or current residents to preserve an older home, and could entice businesses to occupy some vacant — or soon to be vacant — older buildings. As an example, Gandy theorized that an antique mall or a community education center could purchase one of the two public schools slated for decommissioning when the new Lamar Elementary opens.
Also at this meeting, Glen Kirven of engineering firm Davis & Brown spoke of recent turnover at the Florence DHEC offices. This turnover resulted in new personnel unfamiliar with Lamar’s water and sewer system history conducting rather strict inspections on the town’s upgrade and repair projects. Kirven said that his firm is working with the new inspectors to make sure they receive all the paperwork and records they require, and Davis & Brown engineers are continuing work to upgrade aerators at the wastewater treatment pond.
Kirven said that a smoke test will soon be conducted to locate breaches where stormwater may be penetrating municipal sewer pipes. During this test, smoke will be forced through the entire system and exit through business and residential sewer vent pipes. Kirven said the Fire Department will be notified of the smoke test to prevent false reports of fires. A notice will be mailed to Lamar residents informing them of the smoke test date and time.
Finally, Mayor Darnell Byrd McPherson asked members of council to shuffle around their departmental oversight duties. This change was necessitated by the continued absence of council member Tamron McManus, who only sporadically attended meetings since his November 2017 election. McManus verbally announced his intention to resign in December 2019, but McPherson said the town requires a written resignation before it can declare his seat vacant and hold a special election.
In Lamar’s form of government, each council member is responsible for overseeing operations of a town government department, and McManus was assigned to cover the streets and sanitation branch of public works. McPherson requested that council member Inez Lee and Mayor Pro Tem Lang Howell continue to supervise the water and sewer department in addition to other public works employees, while council member Angele White Bradley covers the police department.