The following "Letter to the Editor" was submitted to the Florence Morning News on Monday, July 13:
Recently, a lot has been said and several articles have been written about the Capital Penny Sales Tax III (CPST III) that residents of Florence County will be voting on in November. The additional penny tax on goods and services proposed by County Council would bring much-needed revenue to the smaller municipalities in our county, as well as the City of Florence. Investment in capital projects in these municipalities will greatly benefit these areas specifically and, in some instances, will impact the entire county.
One such project is the renovation of the Ellis Maples designed Wellman Club golf course in Johnsonville. Our golf course was started by a group of local community leaders in 1966 as a nine-hole course. In 1971 Wellman Industries founder A. O. Wellman and his son, John G. (Jack) Wellman, finished the layout to provide employees and residents of our City with a much-needed recreational facility. The course quickly became one of the top inland courses in South Carolina, as reported by the “Golf Traveler Magazine” (February 1986).
As Mayor of Johnsonville, I support this project which will again provide a recreation facility to be used not only by the residents of the greater Johnsonville area, but by residents of the surrounding cities and town in our county. Other municipalities in Marion, Horry, Williamsburg and Georgetown will benefit from it as well.
The Wellman Course has a long and rich history in our city. The course is well known from as far away as the New England states, as far west as Oklahoma, to the tip of Florida. Our course has hosted tournaments such as the Class A High School State Championship (11 times), The FMU Invitational and Peach Belt Conference collegiate events, USGA major qualifiers, numerous SCGA and SCJGA events, Hooters Tour events, and one-day qualifiers for the then PGA backed Nike Tour event in Florence. Traffic generated by renovating the course and hosting these events as well as everyday play, will boost the economy of our city, raise county tourism numbers and provide much needed job growth.
Tom Watson and his partner, Robert Gibbons, have agreed to take on modernizing the golf course which will include new tee boxes and green complex locations, as well as new fairway contouring.
A thriving golf course in our town will create an economic engine that will spur retail growth and services all along the Highway 41/51 corridor. Spending our share of the CPST III revenue to renovate and revitalize The Wellman course is an investment in our city’s future. Our water and sewer infrastructure is in better than average condition and is in the best condition it’s ever been. Our City Administrator, Jim Smith, has worked diligently working on all areas of our city’s infrastructure since his arrival in July 2017. We recently completed a $4.7 million water project that will provide our city with a new much-needed water supply, as well as provide clean, treated water to our customers in our rural areas.
A championship golf course will not only benefit the 41/51 corridor, it will also be a catalyst for the development of Johnsonville’s downtown and residential areas. City leaders have taken the first step by investing in a new $2.1 million municipal complex on Broadway Street (Highway 341). We anticipate that increased traffic downtown will attract new retail businesses, and in return make our downtown area a more desirable location.
If given the opportunity, I hope the voters will approve the CPST III proposal in November. It will have a tremendous impact on Florence County and it's municipalities as it has in the past. The Wellman Golf Facility as a public recreation facility will not only benefit the economy and residents of our city, but all residents of Florence County and beyond.
Johnny Hanna, Mayor
City of Johnsonville