Lexington County: Lowest Unemployment in SC

South Carolina’s unemployment rate remained steady at 6.6 percent in January, even as more people entered the job market, according to a report Tuesday from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

The workforce grew to 2,227,020 in January from 2,216,252 in December, as more people felt confident enough in the economy to resume their search for jobs, the report showed. At the same time, all industry sectors have created jobs since January 2014, resulting in a state wide job growth rate nearing 3 percent.

Allendale County had the state’s highest jobless rate, 13.2 percent. Lexington County was the lowest at 5.5 percent.

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Tale of Two Schools

This is a tale of two schools, two school districts and two superintendents who share a border and a view that a new vision is needed to remedy the glaring inequities in their Lexington County classrooms.

About 25 miles separate Swansea High School from River Bluff High School. But the two schools – one built in 1976, the other in 2013 – are light years removed in terms of facilities and opportunities they can offer.

The schools, neighbors in Lexington 4 and Lexington 1, are poster children for the complex debate going on in the South Carolina Legislature over how best to fund public schools.

It is a debate that has emerged out of a 22-year-old lawsuit brought by rural districts, including Lexington 4, that have a limited tax base and pockets of poverty. Lexington 4, home to Swansea High, was one of the original plaintiffs in Abbeville School District v. State of South Carolina and the only Midlands district to be included.

“We all want what’s best for our children,” said Linda Lavender, Lexington 4’s superintendent. “We do not, by any means, want to take anything from anybody else.

“It’s about bringing everybody up, about bringing the whole state up.”

But the best in each of the state’s 84 school districts has been shaped over time by economics, jobs, race, the dynamics of an industrial tax base and loyalty to the way things have always been.

Add to that the complexities and unevenness of local property taxation rules and changes made by the state Legislature to education formulas over two decades, and even the most visionary of thinkers can wind up in a confusing thicket.

Lexington 1 Superintendent Karen C. Woodward, presiding over one of the more prosperous districts and some of the state’s best high schools, said the issue requires long-range solutions rather than short-term remedies.

“What we really need to do is to decide what it takes for every child in South Carolina to have a 21st century education and then plan backward,” Woodward said.

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Lexington discusses turning historic courthouse into arts center

ColaDaily.com

Residents in the Lexington area won’t have to travel to Columbia or other parts of the state to get their arts-and-culture fix if plans to repurpose the historic county courthouse receive community and financial support.

Leaders from the town and Lexington County, including County Councilmen Ned Tolar and Johnny Jeffcoat and Lexington Town Councilman Ron Williams, met Tuesday night to discuss ways to make the Lexington County Courthouse a destination spot.

The courthouse was funded through the Public Works Administration, an agency created after the Great Depression. (photo provided)

Tolar presented a plan of action with Scott Adams of Adams Gyemant & Griffin Advisory Group and Tim Driggers, an attorney working in downtown Lexington. Their objective is to model a Lexington County performing arts center after the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, N.C.

The Earl Scruggs Center is named after banjo player and Cleveland County native Earl Scruggs and is housed in Shelby’s historic Cleveland County Courthouse. It features history of the region, an interactive music exhibit, space for traveling art exhibits and a full calendar of events for a small admission fee.

“This is something we don’t have here (Lexington) unless you go to downtown (Columbia),” Adams said.

The center also can be rented for events like community meetings, weddings and private parties.

Organizers in Lexington said they envision a public-private partnership for the county’s version of the Earl Scruggs Center. The county would retain ownership of the courthouse. A private foundation would raise funds for renovations, and an arts advisory group would manage events and exhibits. It also could be governed by a board of residents appointed by local government entities.

Potential exhibits would highlight Lake Murray, South Carolina agriculture, state music legends and the state’s official dance: the shag.

Tolar said necessary renovations to the courthouse would cost between $4 million and $5 million.

Adams said the Earl Scruggs Center has annual operating costs of about $400,000 and that it’s nearly self-sustaining from rental fees, admission prices, hospitality tax dollars and corporate sponsors.

“People come from all over to visit the center,” Adams said.

The “biggest hoop,” according to Jeffcoat, would be relocating the magistrates who have offices in the courthouse. Renovations also would have to adhere to regulations of the National Register of Historic Places since the courthouse was added to the list in recent months.

New businesses have sprung up in the downtown square of Shelby since the Earl Scruggs Center’s opening in early 2014. Greater Lexington Chamber CEO Randy Halfacre predicted the same thing would happen in Lexington.

“This would be the perfect compliment to the amphitheater down the street (being built by the town of Lexington),” Driggers said.

Tolar said industry leaders considering a move to Lexington County do look for quality-of-life amenities like this for their future employees.

“This would provide economic stimulus to the area … It will be a boom to the county,” he said. “In Shelby, they’ll never be able to measure the value of their center.”

Organizers said Lexington’s center could be welcoming visitors in as few as three years. Driggers said the Earl Scruggs Center took about three years to complete but that the historic courthouse on Main Street in “way ahead” in terms of needed renovations.

“We believe the support is there,” Tolar said.

An arts center and an influx of visitors could be just the thing to bring about change to the area’s roads, too, according to proponents.

“It may stimulate finding a solution,” Adams said of traffic concerns.

Lexington County man fatally shot

The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a shooting that left a Lexington man dead at a residence in the early morning hours Sunday.

Logan David Scott, 23, died after he was shot at approximately 12:03 a.m. Sunday at a home on Emanuel Church Road in Lexington, according to Lexington County coroner Margaret Fisher.

Scott was transported by EMS to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The sheriff’s and coroner’s offices continue to investigate the incident.

The State