Sumter Mayor F.B. Creech spoke to the Rotary Club on the improvements achieved by City Council during 1936. He gave a summary of the premier events of 1936 and offered a "forecast of the programs of development under consideration for 1937."
Creech noted with pride that the bonded debt of the City of Sumter was then at 2.1 percent of the assessed value of taxable property. He informed the audience that a bonded debt of 15 percent of assessed value is regarded as conservative, adding "that the City Council had no thought of increasing the bonded debt to the conservative level approved by the bond buyers." He also noted that the financial condition of the city government was on a "safe, sound and conservative basis," and that the rate of taxation for municipal purposes was low - much lower than the rates prevailing in other South Carolina cities having populations comparable with Sumter.
The article published in the Sumter Daily Item offered a synopsis of the remainder of the mayor's talk as follows: The city was able to complete the YMCA gymnasium valued at $15,000. The city spent $2,000 for the land utilized and $7,198.05 for labor and material, with the federal government supplying the balance. This new facility is one of the most modern gymnasiums in the South and has attracted considerable attention to the city from many people who otherwise would not have come here.
The city has begun to work with the Board of Trade in advertising Sumter as a tourist attraction, and recently it enjoyed a wonderful increase in its tourist business. The city and county have assisted each other with government projects that include establishing a sewing room, nursing techniques and other projects geared toward women. Also, with assistance of WPA labor, the Garden Club was able to improve Anne Park and made it into a beautiful section of the city. The many trees that adorn our city streets have been trimmed, and a new street was created by extending Crescent Avenue.
The parking arrangement has been changed on Main and Liberty streets, both allowing only one hour for parking. A new tractor and grader were purchased for $3,000 to help improve the condition of the city's dirt streets. Garbage is being hauled daily and "one day this year 112 tons were moved to landfill sites." The city utilized WPA forces in an attempt to eliminate mosquitoes and as many of their breeding sites as possible. The city constructed four additional wells to secure an additional supply of drinking water, while extending sewer and water lines to Charlotte Avenue, North Main and Pearson streets.
Additional acreage was acquired to develop a park in the industrial section under the direction of Julia Lester Dillon and the federal government. The city also deeded the government 35 acres to establish a nursery to be directed by the S.C. Forestry Commission. The city has also remodeled the city hall and constructed a state-of-the-art movie theater. This project cost approximately $119,000 and will be leased to the Palmetto Theater Company for a period of 10 years at "$500 per month for first five and $550 for the last five with an option on the next five years for $600 per month "
During the year, a government armory was constructed at a cost of $25,000. The city and county put up $435.78 each for the lot and $652.55 for labor, the difference being supplied by the federal government. This is a magnificent building and means that henceforth Sumter will have a unit of the National Guard stationed here, meaning a great deal to the city.
During the year, Sumterites have received a reduction in the power and light rates, and another reduction will soon be put into effect. ... City Council also is seeking an improved telephone service. No major crime has taken place in the city during the year. Our streets are patrolled at night, and we have a force of policemen, who are constantly on the alert for anyone who roams at night and could commit a serious crime. These people are removed from the streets.
Williams Furniture Co. was the only serious fire during the year; it is being rebuilt on a much larger scale than before. The Nu-Idea Furniture Company is also being enlarged and will hire more workers. An application to build a community house at Memorial Park has been filed. During the year the city acquired the China Farm property at a cost of $8,066.77. The reason for this purchase was to develop a park for the citizens of the industrial section of the city.
Also, the city has intentions of building a dining room at the Children's Home at an expected cost of $2,500. There are also plans to build an agricultural building at the corner of Harvin Street and Hampton Avenue.
The mayor summarized his report to the Rotarians by stating, "One reason that the tax levy of the city has not been increased in many years is because we collect the taxes when they come due. For this year 86 percent of the taxes were collected in November."
Information and photos used to prepare this article were taken from The Sumter Item archives.
Reach Sumter Item Archivist Sammy Way at email@example.com or (803) 774-1294.