RIDGE SPRING — Pat Asbill sat at the doorway of her home, which doubles as her antique shop, welcoming guests to the Town whose tourism slogan beckons, “Take Time.”
It was just another summer Saturday afternoon for the woman who four days earlier was re-elected Mayor of Ridge Spring after a full decade in office.
The Town held its municipal elections on Tuesday, Aug. 13, and Mayor Asbill was granted another two-year term, running unopposed and collecting 38 of the 39 votes cast.
Does the soon-to-be six-term mayor feel that those 38 votes represent a mandate?
“I think what it means is that nobody wants the job but me,” Mayor Asbill said, her laughter echoing off the hallway in her stately Ridge Spring home. “This is the first year that the State has ever required an election if you didn’t have opposition. So, we still had to hold an election.
Those same 38 actively engaged Ridge Springians who voted for Mayor Asbill elected two new representatives to Town Council: Patrick Arnold and Qwen Etheredge. They will join incumbents Richard Christie and Crys Lybrand when all are sworn in at the October meeting.
Mayor Asbill was first chosen to lead this village of 800 or so folks in 2007 but took two years off before offering again for the seat in 2009. Now, with her re-election, she and members of Town Council are looking ahead to what she called “the biggest project that Ridge Spring has seen in a very long time.”
The Town is about to embark on a sweeping renovation of its municipal parking lot and an adjacent park at the center of town. The downtown revitalization will add 24 parking spaces directly across from the Main Street commercial sector and its drugstore, bank and a nationally-lauded restaurant called Juniper – which along with the village’s small colony of antique shops, helps draw hundreds of tourists to the Ridge each weekend.
“We’re paving with brick pavers and adding a new park with an open-air farmers market, a veterans’ memorial and a splash pad for the kids,” Mayor Asbill said. “We are so excited.”
Construction on the downtown revitalization, projected to cost about $700,000, is scheduled to begin by mid-October. It will be funded by a $500,000 community development block grant from the Upper Savannah Council of Governments, combined with one-cent sales tax revenue collected by Saluda County and a grant from the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Another major issue facing the newly re-elected Mayor and Council will be evaluating the status of its current water contract with the Town of Batesburg-Leesville. Ridge Spring now purchases around 18 million gallons of water per month during the summer agricultural season — slightly less in the winter months — from Batesburg-Leesville’s municipal water system.
“We are using 24 million gallons of water per month,” Mayor Asbill said. “We have a well that makes a little bit, but not much. So, that’s a lot of water coming into a little town (from Batesburg-Leesville).”
However, the Town of Batesburg-Leesville now is studying alternative water sources to comply with a 2013 order from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control that “cited several areas of required improvements and upgrades, including the Town’s source water quantity,” according to an October 2018 request for proposals issued by Batesburg-Leesville, seeking an engineering firm for its water improvement project.
“We are waiting to see what they’re going to do,” Mayor Asbill said of her municipal neighbors just up Highway 23, “and then we’ll have to go out for contracts. Right now, they’re trying to find a good water source, so we’re hanging in there with them and trying to find to find out what the source will be and what our cost will be.”
If the numbers don’t compute, Mayor Asbill said, she and Council are prepared to explore their options.
With a newly refreshed downtown in the works, a vibrant tourism- and agriculture-driven economy keeping their weekends busy, and water service contracts on the horizon, Mayor Asbill and her cohorts in the Town of Ridge Spring government know they have plenty to keep them busy, trying to satisfy those 38 voters who went out and exercised their civic duty last week.
Story by Tony Baughman / Posted August 26, 2019