Thursday, March 28, 2013

City of Hartsville offices move to new City Hall

Following more than six months of renovation work, the City of Hartsville’s new City Hall at 100 E. Carolina Ave. will open for business the first time Monday, April 8.

The move will close a lengthy chapter in the city government’s history. For decades, the City’s headquarters has been found at 133 W. Carolina Ave. These offices will close for the final time at their current location Thursday, April 4. Neither location will be open for business Friday, April 5, as offices are transferred to the new site. The 110-year-old building at the intersection of Carolina Avenue and Fifth Street which will now house City Hall was built originally as the Bank of Hartsville and served most recently as a Bank of America branch. As with the current City Hall, the adapted facility will include the Hartsville City Council chamber, the City Manager’s Office, Administrative Services, Finance Department and Special Projects/Planning. The public is invited to see the new facility during a reception and open house Tuesday, May 14 at 5 p.m., just ahead of City Council’s May meeting at 6 p.m.

Efforts to relocate City offices and the Council chamber into a larger space began in November 2011, when City Council purchased the building. Renovation work began in September 2012, addressing such issues as outdated wiring and plumbing, an outmoded elevator system and a second floor in poor condition because it was not included in some of the previous renovations.

The new City Council chamber will provide much more space for audience members and presenters during council meetings. With nearly 1,500 square feet, the chamber will have an occupancy rating of 102 people, or about one-third more capacity than the current space. Audio/visual upgrades will allow Council meetings to use a speaker system for the first time.

“When we first learned the historic bank would be vacated, we knew we faced a danger for Hartsville, but also an opportunity,” Mayor Mel Pennington said. “An iconic, highly visible building might not have found a proper use, or could have sat empty for a very long time. At the same time, the City government had a wonderful opportunity to fill this vacancy at the center of the city permanently, and we came together to make it happen. Not only will this City Hall provide a single location for many city services, it will also stand as a revitalized piece of Hartsville’s heritage, a source of pride for future generations, and another anchor for downtown’s economic and cultural growth.”

The new location will have hours of business between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. In anticipation of the move, the City Hall Drive-Thru for utility bill payments at 133 W. Carolina Ave. closed earlier this month, when the SPC Credit Union Drive-Thru, found at 204 N. Fifth St., began processing utility bill payments. Walk-in payments may still be made at the current City Hall until the move, and made at the lobby counter of the new City Hall beginning April 8.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Moment with the Manager: Upcoming spring events

By Natalie M. Zeigler
City Manager

Renofest will roll into Hartsville for the 16th year this weekend, bringing together bluegrass performers and music lovers from around the nation with locals and regional visitors. For years, Renofest has provided an excellent example of the ways in which Hartsville has been unusually blessed with cultural and entertainment opportunities.

As always, the City of Hartsville has also been working to contribute to our community’s full calendar of events. A week from today, March 29 at 6 p.m., we will be hosting our own Easter egg hunt, free of charge, and sponsored by The Living Church. We’re inviting children and families to search for eggs hidden around Burry Park. At dusk, we will be showing a free movie on our large outdoor screen at Burry Park. When I tell people about this event, they are always able to guess what movie we will be showing: “Hop,” the 2011 children’s movie about the Easter Bunny’s teenage son.

Soon after, on April 11, we will bring back Thursdays on College, the street concert series taking place on East College Avenue. We began this effort last fall and had a great time with the crowds who came downtown for some music, food and drink after work.

We will have two spring concerts this year, with the April 11 date belonging to country/folk rock performer and songwriter Patrick Davis. I’m particularly excited about Davis, since he is a Nashville-based songwriter who has written for such acts as Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Jewel and Jason Michael Carroll, and has performed as a supporting act for many big names as well. He originally comes from just down the road in Camden, so he is returning home for a performance tour in South Carolina, including the Hartsville concert. We’ve also brought on more South Carolinians for the May 9 concert, since Josh Roberts and The Hinges are a Columbia-based group. A rock group which tours in South Carolina and beyond, they have recently released their latest album, “Mighty Old Distance and Murky Old Time.” The City’s concert series has already done very well, and with these acts we’re really looking to make it better than ever in 2013. Concert times will also move back to 6:30 p.m., giving people more time to make it downtown after work.

Later in the summer, the City will be offering even more things to do. In May, the Piratesville Splash Pad will open at Byerly Park, giving children a chance to use the largest water play area of its kind in the region. Screen on the Green, the free outdoor movie series in Burry Park, will also begin in May. This year, we’re showing “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Earth, by Disney Nature,” “Brave,” and “The Princess Bride.” A full schedule can be found on our website.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

City of Hartsville obtains grant for sewer main upgrade

The City of Hartsville has successfully sought a $332,000 grant from the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority to replace a vulnerable portion of its sanitary sewer main.

The 1,400-foot section of the force sewer main to be replaced, in operation since it was installed in 1965, moves all sewage in the system to the City’s Wastewater Plant. Buried underground, it passes beneath Black Creek, Hartsville’s primary waterway. The creek has gradually shifted over the years, however, unearthing the portion of the main now planned for replacement. Exposed to the creek’s waters, the main is vulnerable to hazards including flooding and floating debris. Without the improvement, any serious damage that could occur to the main might result in the release of sewage downstream.

This economically vital sewer main services 4,700 sewer customers, including those in the city and those industrial customers located outside the Town of McBee. In January 2013, an average of 1.5 million gallons of sewage moved through the main every day.

The new infrastructure to be installed, high-density polyethylene pipe, will improve safety both by burying the pipe underground, and by slightly widening the pipe’s interior from 16 inches to 17.44 inches, increasing its capacity. In addition to the $332,000 awarded for sewer construction, the City of Hartsville will contribute $50,600 for the project’s engineering and permitting costs.

The upgrade is planned to begin construction in May and be completed by the end of November.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fire Department Advisory: Smoky Conditions

Hartsville residents may experience some smoky conditions in and around the city today.

This smoke originates from a grass fire now burning in Chesterfield County, according to the Hartsville Fire Department.

If you experience high levels of smoke, consider avoiding unnecessary outdoor activity to reduce smoke inhalation. Children and those with respiratory conditions can be especially susceptible to problems from smoke.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hartsville Police make additional arrests in homicide case

The Hartsville Police Department has made additional arrests in connection to the death of Chandler Spencer of Hartsville.

Irene Foster, 37, and her daughter Kieara Laquashia Foster, 17, both of Cheraw, have been arrested and charged with accessory after the fact. The arrest of these suspects comes after the March 9 arrest of John Rubin Mitchell, 46, of Hartsville. After the victim had been found dead in his Hartsville home on March 4, Mitchell was arrested and charged with murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime as well as grand larceny and petit larceny.

Several items were found missing from the victim’s home as well, including a minivan and jewelry. Hartsville Police believe Irene Foster and Kieara Foster were in the company of Mitchell when he sold items stolen from the home.

The case remains under investigation.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hartsville Police make arrest in homicide case

John Rubin Mitchell, 46, has been charged with murder following the death of Chandler Spencer of Hartsville.

Mitchell was arrested by the Hartsville Police Department on March 9. Hartsville Police began the investigation after Spencer's body was discovered in his home on March 4.

A minivan usually driven by Spencer, discovered missing during the investigation, has been recovered. Mitchell faces additional charges, including grand larceny and petit larceny.

The case remains under investigation.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Moment with the Manager - Duke Energy Center for Innovation

By Natalie M. Zeigler
City Manager

If you have passed by the City of Hartsville Public Service Department on West Carolina Avenue lately, you may have noticed a transformation there. The office space has been split up, with the Public Service offices remaining open in the rear of the building, the new front office area undergoing a remodeling, with its walls painted in many vibrant colors.
This office’s unusual and creative appearance will hopefully mirror the program soon to be launched in it: the Duke Energy Center for Innovation in Hartsville. Part of a program created by the Clemson University Institute for Economic and Community Development, this business incubator has been made possible with a grant from the Duke Foundation, and serves as one of the first programs to be driven by the newly formed Hartsville Community Development Foundation. The office space itself was provided by Hartsville City Council. Going forward, the center will be supported not by tax dollars but by private investment.

The many community leaders behind this incubator plan for it to be a means of transforming small business opportunities in Hartsville and around the Pee Dee. It works by providing resources, guidance and business space for technology-oriented businesses to take off using proven methods Clemson has developed in its Technology Villages program.

Many times, tech-heavy small businesses develop in large cities, but Clemson has been working to install these incubators outside of urban centers, creating a greater variety of businesses in the partner communities and therefore strengthening local economies. Hartsville is developing one of these incubators at the same time as Rock Hill, for example.

As we sought to bring this program to Hartsville, we became very familiar with the Don Ryan Center for Innovation, which another incubator launched last May in Bluffton, one of the fastest-growing cities in South Carolina. That success story has launched nine businesses now, including a company producing eco-friendly pest control products, one producing antimicrobial coating which can make surfaces self-sanitizing, a company creating presentation software for tablet computers and smart phones, and more. Economic development takes work and resources, but the payoff is very worthwhile. It creates jobs, and it provides our city more resources so that the next round of development can be built on top of what we are building now.

When we were lobbying for a business incubator in Hartsville, we knew our city’s assets made it an excellent fit for the program. We have major industries such as Sonoco, Hilex Poly and many others, as well as valuable educational institutions like the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics and Coker College. The Duke Energy Center for Innovation will expand Hartsville’s pool of assets and lay another part of the foundation for our city’s bright future.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Change clocks and smoke detectors this weekend

Daylight Savings Time begins this Sunday, March 10, and the Hartsville Fire Department is reminding Hartsville residents to change the batteries in their home smoke alarms while moving their clocks ahead one hour.

Every year in the United States 2,600 deaths occur because of residential fires, many times from exposure to smoke and toxic gases, and just a few breaths of toxic smoke can render a person unconscious. Smoke detectors save lives and prevent injury by providing residents valuable time in escaping from a fire. Those who live in a home without working smoke detectors are twice as likely to die in a fire as those living in a home with working detectors.

Batteries in smoke detectors should be changed at least once a year, and changing clocks can provide a useful time to remember that smoke detector batteries need to be replaced. Most alarms should be replaced entirely after about 8 to 10 years.

For more information and tips about smoke detectors, visit the U.S. Fire Administration's website at

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hartsville Police Department investigates homicide

The Hartsville Police Department is investigating the death of Chandler Spencer, 51, of 655 W. Washington St. Apt. 1E in Hartsville, as well as the theft of a van usually driven by Spencer.

Spencer’s body had been discovered in his Palmetto Apartments resident on March 4, and was last seen the previous Thursday, February 28. Following the results of an autopsy, Darlington County Coroner J. Todd Hardee ruled the death a homicide. No suspects have been identified in the case.

Awhite 1998 Chrysler Town and Country minivan, South Carolina license plate HUU-352, is believed to be missing from the apartment.

“Locating the missing vehicle is one of our primary focuses in this investigation, as it may help in the identification of suspects,” Police Chief James Hudson said. “We hope anyone with information which can assist in this case will contact us.”

Anyone observing a vehicle matching the description of the missing van or who observes any suspicious activity is encouraged to call 911, the Hartsville Police Department at 843-383-3011, or submit a tip using Crimestoppers by phone, 1-888-CRIME-SC, or online at

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hartsville Police Department investigates vehicle thefts

The Hartsville Police Department is investigating the theft of several off-road vehicles reported stolen from a residence on Waxhaw Way on Thursday, February 28.

The homeowner discovered three off-road vehicles missing from his garage by 7:30 p.m., including two different 2007 yellow Honda TRX420FE7 four-wheelers, one of which is painted yellow and the other red. The yellow vehicle has an attached back seat and storage compartments on the back rack. The other missing vehicle is an orange Polaris Razor four-wheeler, with LED lights and windshields on the front and rear. The items stolen were valued altogether at $27,720.

“The Hartsville Police Department takes this and all other reports of theft very seriously,” Police Chief James Hudson said. “As we search for these stolen vehicles, we hope that anyone with information which can help us return this property to its owner will contact us.”

Anyone observing vehicles matching the descriptions of these stolen items or who observes any suspicious activity is encouraged to call 911, the Hartsville Police Department at 843-383-3011, or submit a tip using Crimestoppers by phone, 1-888-CRIME-SC, or online at