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Gray Court taking steps with history, development

 The Gray Court Town Council is poised to pass second and final reading of a $730,000 budget for the next fiscal year – a budget that includes funds for downtown sewer development and the return of a full-time police officer – at its next meeting on June 26.

The second reading for the 2023-24 fiscal budget will be accompanied by a public hearing. The meeting was originally scheduled for June 19, but moved due to the Juneteenth holiday.

Gray Court Town Manager Garry Smith said some funds earmarked in this year’s budget, including $38,000 for public safety equipment, is a first step for the town toward once again having its own police force.

“We’re still working with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office in getting additional law enforcement and it’s a step toward once again getting a police force for Gray Court as the town continues to grow,” Smith said.

The town is modeling its plan after one implemented in King County, Washington, which includes hiring a full-time, sergeant-level officer through the LCSO while continuing to rely on off-duty county deputies during that officer’s off hours.

With over 260 homes set to be built on newly annexed property behind Gray Court-Owings School, Smith said the need for dedicated police officers in the town has become more prevalent.

“Part of our capital outlays include funding for a vehicle, equipment for the vehicle itself and uniforms and equipment for the officer as well,” Smith said.

The budget also includes $50,000 for a sewer lift station, which is sued to move wastewater from lower to higher elevations, as the town embarks on a sewer project for its downtown area.

That item is part of a larger sewer project in partnership with the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission that is expected to be funded largely by state and federal rural development grants.

A lack of sewer service in the downtown area has stymied business growth in Gray Court.

About $100,000 has been included in the budget for downtown development, part of which will pay for a matching historic preservation grant from the state.

“It’s part of a process we have started through the S.C. State Archives and Historic Preservation Division, declaring the downtown area as a historic preservation district,” Smith said. “We started that about two years ago and with the changes we made to the unified development code about 10 years ago.”

Both the sewer project and historic preservation effort are part of a plan by council to revitalize Gray Court’s downtown area along Highway 14 as more and more people are expected to move into the immediate area.

“We’ll be hiring a consultant to update a study done several years ago that will look at the region and identify historic properties,” Smith said. “For Gray Court, a large portion of that is the downtown area and downtown buildings.”

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