With the start of a new year, each member of Aiken City Council has a series of goals they want to see both for their districts and for the city they call home.
A goal the council shared was to work on boosting Aiken's economy through improving the city's infrastructure and roads.
Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon wants to complete a comprehensive plan of action for specific economic development goals and objectives, including the Aiken Mall.
Osbon also wants to continue work to improve and expand infrastructure both old and new. This includes expanding water and sewer service to I-20 and new services to the Rudy Mason Parkway while staying on schedule for replacing the city's older infrastructure.
"Our roadways must continue to be a priority," Osbon said. "Projects that increase alternative routes such as the Powderhouse connector that relieve our most congested traffic areas must be seen through to finish."
Obson would also like to continue attracting new and much needed market rate housing throughout the city.
"With new missions and new hires at SRS and the letting of the contracts at the Army Cyber Center at Fort Gordon in 2020, it is crucial that we plan for and encourage housing to meet the future needs of those who want to live and be a part of our wonderful city," Osbon said.
Gail Diggs, council member for District 1, plans to continue to work toward the completion of major projects already on the table.
However, she also wants to address needed projects within the community, such as infill housing.
"We need to move forward on infill housing," Diggs said. "There are over 20 vacant lots located in District One’s Opportunity Zone and I look forward to more businesses taking advantage of economic incentives to assist with development."
Diggs said she would like to find a way to attract more minority businesses into downtown Aiken to enhance what is already there. She also said streetscape improvements need to continue to all entrances to the city.
"First impressions are the best impressions," Diggs said.
Diggs would also like to address the city's litter issue.
"Our city and county has a litter problem," Diggs said. "It pains me to see our streets and neighborhoods trashed. I intend to become actively involved in the coalition to address this problem."
Lessie Price, council member for District 2, would like to develop strategies for vacant and abandoned properties in Aiken for reuse.
"A number of abandoned and neglected properties exist within our city, causing neighboring property values to decline," Price said. "A plan is needed to turn blighted and neglected properties into assets."
Additionally, Price would like to reduce the "footprint" of properties owned by the city that generate no revenue for the city's tax base.
Price also wants to continue developing a plan to address ways to attract new businesses for Aiken’s current and future growth.
Similarly, Price wants to focus on innovative ideas for recreational activities for children and families of all ages.
"Aiken Parks and Recreation is seen as a leader in fitness and wellness programs for families in our state and community," she said.
Some suggestions already made for future expansions of Aiken's recreational facilities are a bowling alley, mini squash court for children, rock walls, a mini golf course and a café in fitness areas.
Price would also like to support equestrian growth strategies.
Kay Brohl, council member for District 3, has been part of Aiken City Council for roughly two months and has already seen what the city needs to thrive.
Her primary goals include public safety on and off the city streets.
"Public safety is a top priority," Brohl said. "We need to make sure public safety officers have the resources to keep the city safe."
Additionally, Brohl connects Aiken's economic growth with the quality of its infrastructure and roads.
"The city's quality of our life depends on the city's infrastructure and roads," she said. "Make sure they are in place so that we may promote economic growth, offer culture that welcomes investments and the creation of jobs, so that our children can grow up and get jobs here and not have to move away."
Council member Ed Girardeau of District 4's goals involve working on the infrastructure within the city.
His first goal is to start the connector road from East Gate Drive by Cracker Barrel and start its extension to Centennial Drive.
"This not only starts the process for relieving traffic from Whiskey Road but will also start the process for improving the drainage of storm water from Whiskey Road as well," Girardeau said.
Secondly, Girardeau wants to continue to work on the downtown parkways that were started this fall on Park Avenue between Newberry and Union streets. Lighting the parkways for use at night will allow for safer parking on both sides of the parkway and extend this to include the parkways on Richland Avenue to provide for public use from Waterloo to the Park Avenue Extension.
Girardeau would also like to work with the developer to get work on the Aiken Mall started.
District 5 council member Andrea Gregory said she is excited to see what the new year will bring to Aiken.
One of her goals is to better market the city.
"We are not very good at marketing the City of Aiken," Gregory said. "We use very mainstream approaches that do not move the needle. With a sound marketing campaign and economic development department, we should begin to see effective and substantial traction."
A second goal of Gregory's is to get the mall developed.
"The city needs to begin having more discussions with SouthEastern development. We have the right to ask for updates on where that project stands," Gregory said. "Also, we need to sit down with them and identify how the city can help market the City of Aiken to attract anchor stores and investors."
Gregory added that while the city understands that the private developer that owns the property can begin development at its own pace, the city would need to discuss the “park" component with the developer should the development continue to be delayed.
The city provided the developer with $1 million of taxpayer money that needs to be accounted for, and movement in the park component is key, Gregory said.
Gregory's final goal is focused on the city's infrastructure, especially the congested areas of Whiskey Road.
"We need to properly funnel resources to repair, improve, maintain and build infrastructure to suffice the needs of our growing city," Gregory said. "We need to address the traffic and the dangers associated with Whiskey Road. We need to think how we can improve the connectivity on that part of town to other parts of the City of Aiken. We need to think pathways to relieve traffic."
Gregory also noted that she recognizes Aiken's lack of properly developed sidewalks as a major issue.
"We have failed for many years by allowing investors, city and county to approve developments with no sidewalks, flooding roads, ditches, etc. In the cases where there are sidewalks, they tend to lead to nowhere," Gregory said. "We need to change this culture and this school of thought now."
As a member of the South Carolina Subcommittee of the Augusta Regional Transportation Policy Committee, Gregory plans to mention these issues and work to address them.
District 6 representative Ed Woltz wants to improve the infrastructure of the city as well.
A major goal he has for the city is its continuation of sewage and water repair. The project has started downtown and will hopefully work its way through the city, Woltz said.
"That will give us another 15 to 20 years of life in these pipes that we don't have right now," Woltz said.
Woltz also wants to get a defined agenda for Aiken's city growth for the next 10 years.
"We need to attract businesses in, and we need to attract new people into the town," Woltz said.
Wolz wants to bring traffic relief on Whiskey Road from a planning stage into an implementation stage.
"We've talked about it for many years," Woltz said. "Hopefully, 2020 will be the year we get started."
Aiken City Council will have its first 2020 meeting on Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.