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Aiken County legislators preview year ahead at North Augusta event

August 18, 2018

There’s plenty to tackle in 2019, energy-related projects, local infrastructure and education included, members of the Aiken County Legislative Delegation said Friday.

State Sens. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, and Tom Young, R-Aiken, as well as state Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, gave a legislative update to the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce that morning.

The group’s presentation included forecasted topics for the year to come: utility reform, workforce development, education funding, tax conformity and distracted driving, to name a few.

“You know, everything that was up there is important,” Massey said after the event, “because every one of those things is going to touch a certain segment of people across the state in important ways.”

More specifically, Massey expects “utility issues” – the future of state-owned Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas litigation, for example – to “rank near the top” alongside education, which he said is always an attention-grabber.

“We’ve been trying to focus a good bit on workforce development, and I think we’ve got to continue doing that,” Massey said.

Young reinforced Massey’s points regarding utility work. But Young also brought up the future of the Savannah River Site, which he said is a major focus despite its strong federal ties.

“Again, locally, another big concern for us is longterm missions at Savannah River Site, the pit production mission, what is the future for the MOX mission, and what entity will be the longterm landlord for the Savannah River Site,” Young said.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous U.S. Department of Energy agency, is actively debating taking over SRS landlord responsibilities or relocating the Site’s tritium mission, among other things. The NNSA, along with the U.S. Department of Defense, also recently recommended terminating the Site’s Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility and refitting it to be a nuclear weapon core factory.

Any of those current considerations, if properly executed, would be a major SRS shakeup.

On Thursday night, an NNSA senior spokesperson confirmed to the Aiken Standard a working group met at SRS this week to discuss the agency’s future at the Site. The NNSA’s chief of staff, William “Ike” White, toured the Site on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hixon said on top of everything mentioned during the presentation, roads deserve attention, too.

“We want to make sure the roads are getting paved and repaved and redone,” Hixon said.

The widening of I-20 near the South Carolina-Georgia border is also on Hixon’s mind.

“They’re going to go from where the canal bridges are in Augusta,” he said. “They’re going to start there and do six lanes all the way to Exit 1. We have a tremendous amount of wrecks there, on the interstate, where it sort of bottlenecks down.”

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