Aiken County's nine-mile stretch of rural Midland Valley communities between the city of Aiken and North Augusta are considering a merger. It could happen this year if Warrenville resident Sharon Gagnon has her way.
As head of the Committee to Unite Midland Valley, Gagnon hopes to get the issue on the ballot in November. She's out collecting signatures on a petition to make it happen.
"We want to incorporate the whole area under a non-biased name," she says. That name would be Midland Valley.
Currently, the area is made up of nine communities, mostly old textile mill towns - Burnettown, Stiefeltown, Warrenville, Mixville, Gloverville, Graniteville, Clearwater, Langley and Bath.
Burnettown, the only municipality in the group with a governing body, would have to change its name. Mayor Wayne Benson says he'd have no problem with that as long as the town's 2,720 residents agree.
It's hard to see why they'd object. Burnettown already has a high school and several businesses with the Midland Valley name.
But the primary reasons for Burnettown and the other eight communities to merge are improved efficiency and enhanced clout.
Efficiency because the communities would be operating under one unified government. Hopefully, says Gagnon, that would eventually lead to a larger and more effective police force and fire protection.
Clout would be increased, because one large consolidated community always has more political muscle than separate, disjointed communities with no common, coherent objectives.
Lack of cohesiveness is one reason why the Midland Valley communities are the last in line to benefit from the county's 1-cent local option sales tax.
With those communities coming together, that unfortunate circumstance is not likely to happen again if the sales tax is renewed in November.
Incorporation may not be a panacea for the Midland Valley communities, but there seems to be nothing to lose and possibly quite a bit to be gained by moving ahead.
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