The most technologically advanced peanut-shelling facility in the world is scheduled to begin operations in Santee in about 12 months.

Premium Peanut officials shared that information with Mayor Donnie Hilliard during their five-day visit in late April.

The officials got a look at how construction is progressing on their facilities in the South Carolina Gateway Park, which will include peanut seed treatment processing and the first peanut-shelling facilities in the state.

The officials told Hilliard that 75 local residents will be hired as employees and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College will provide their training.

The company will transfer the plant manager and four other key employees to Santee from the company’s headquarters in Douglas, Georgia.

At the groundbreaking ceremony a year and a half ago, company officials said the workforce could eventually grow to 130 and the company’s investment in the Santee facilities could reach $64.3 million.

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Founded in Georgia in 2014, Premium Peanut began shelling peanuts in 2016 and handles over 10% of the peanut crop in the United States. It has declared $70 million in dividends payable to its more than 450 grower-owners.

Its customers consist of major snack, candy and peanut butter manufacturers in the U.S. and in more than 30 countries around the world.

Hilliard updated the Santee Town Council during their monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 1.

To help feed all these new people in South Carolina, we must protect farms and farming. That means continuing to support our farmers with policies and programs that make farming a financially viable proposition now and in the future.

Also during the meeting, Hilliard praised the volunteers and town employees for doing “a wonderful job” in presenting a Diamond Jubilee week full of events celebrating Santee’s 75th anniversary.

He said the events increased a sense of unity among residents and business people, which builds “a stronger Santee” where “we can all prosper.”

During the public comments time, Rene LeBlanc and others reiterated their concerns about the response to a medical emergency in Bradford Village.

Since the previous council meeting, LeBlanc said, the police chief provided an explanation for his department’s absence.

But he still wanted to know why the fire department didn’t respond and why it took so long for the ambulance to arrive.

“You have an ally: I’m concerned, too,” the mayor replied. However, he noted that the town has no authority over the county emergency medical services or the fire district. He advised LeBlanc to express his concerns directly to them.

Deloris Stokes asked why the town halted plans to create a community garden. Hilliard replied that there were too few volunteers and too many expenses to proceed this year, but another attempt might be made in 2025.

Stokes also said a town playground seemed to have “lost its shine and glory during COVID.” Hilliard agreed, and said he’d look into how it could be improved.

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Stokes also asked if there would be a children’s food program this summer in Santee. Hilliard said there is no federal money to pay for it, because Gov. Henry McMaster refused to allow South Carolina to participate in the program this year.

Another question concerned faded paint lines on Old Number Six Highway. Hilliard said he would “make a phone call” to the state highway department.

The council voted to appoint Robert Smalls and Barbara Wilkerson to the Santee Board of Zoning Appeals.

The council voted to allow the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10980 and its Auxiliary to conduct Buddy Poppy drives on Memorial Day weekend (May 24-25) and Veterans Day weekend (Nov. 8-9). On those days, VFW members will stand at a major intersection, give out plastic poppies, and receive donations. They were told they must wear safety vests.

A public hearing was held on changes to the town’s planning ordinance, including charging higher fees for requests that require the publication of legal advertising in a newspaper. Hilliard said the cost of placing those ads has risen substantially. There were no public comments. The council then gave final approval to the changes.

The Santee Town Council’s next monthly meeting is set for Wednesday, June 5, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at 192 Municipal Way, across from the town hall. Contact Town Clerk Willia Wright at 803-854-2152 for more information.

Hilliard said that a special called meeting might be necessary before then. He gave no details.

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