“Let’s chase the money.”
That is how Peter Higgins, 56, decided to approach his campaign for a seat on Rincon’s city council, his first run for public office.
In doing so he found the linchpin in Rincon’s — and the county’s — future: the loss of tax dollars to other counties.
“Everybody’s screaming about their property taxes,” Higgins said, noting the rise in property values this year. “Well, that’s the American dream.”
The problem, he outlined, is that Effingham County residents take their sales tax dollars to Chatham and Bulloch counties, keeping the county’s sales tax coffers low. As a result, residents are forced to make up the deficiency by paying higher taxes.
If the county collected more sales tax through more businesses, the less the household taxes would be.
“You’re complaining about taxes, but you’re spending over there,” Higgins criticized. “Come on, it’s not rocket science.”
Much is made of the fact that Rincon has no property tax, however Higgins noted that Rincon residents are still paying county and school board taxes.
He views the city as the target location for businesses in the county.
“Rincon needs to be that hub,” he said.
Higgins acknowledged that the key to bringing in more businesses is addressing the current ordinance that prohibits the pouring of alcoholic drinks.
Without it, the nicer and full-service restaurants are not going to come here, he said. And without them, other businesses will not come, either.
“If I bring a business here, where are my people going to eat?” Higgins asked.
In addition, when people go shopping they usually like to stop somewhere to eat, too. Where will shoppers go after shopping here? Furthermore, where will they shop?
Higgins noted, for example, that there’s nowhere he can go around here to buy a men’s shirt.
These types of support services and ancillary businesses are what the city needs, in his opinion, to lure big businesses in.
The argument that establishments that serve mixed drinks will somehow lead to more crime and domestic violence does not hold up for him.
“That’s already here,” Higgins said.
The ironic thing, he noted, is that the same people who don’t want establishments that serve alcoholic drinks here will drive to Savannah and dine at a restaurant such as Longhorn Steakhouse.
Despite his frustration, Higgins does not believe the elected officials should make the decision about whether to change the ordinance, but rather the residents.
“I know that’s a very sticky situation,” he admitted.
However, with the arrival of Lowe’s, Higgins pointed out, the city has the opportunity to bring in more businesses. Yet, it must take advantage of this.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to bring everyone here,” he remarked. “I want to keep it growing.”
Higgins is a part of that residential side of that growth. He moved here in 2001 with his wife of 27 years Sylvia and their 4-year-old daughter, Olivia Grace. They reside in the Willowpeg section of Lost Plantation, where he serves as treasurer of the Willowpeg Homeowners Association.
“I really like living here; the people are very nice,” he said.
A good bit of his time is spent commuting each day on Highway 21. He owns ECOM Solutions, a merchant payment business, in Savannah.
“I hate it,” he said of his commute.
In his opinion, officials need to look at alternative routes and possible widening of the choked highway. Light synchronization between Goshen Road and Fort Howard Road also would help, he believes.
Yet, Higgins is not just concerned about how the route is used, but how it looks, as well. He would love to see some flowers and nice greenery in the median along 21.
“Make it the hometown,” he said.
He’s all for garden or civic clubs getting out there planting flowers. He, for one, enjoys gardening.
Pedestrian traffic along Fort Howard Road is another concern of his. He has noticed a man in a wheelchair traveling down the busy road and pedestrians walking along it at night. A sidewalk is sorely needed, in his opinion, for obvious safety concerns.
Drainage and efficient use of water are also important to Higgins. Unkempt ditches are both an eyesore and a health hazard, he pointed out. And residents should not use one of the city’s most valuable resources, potable water, for things like watering their plants, he admonished. He favors reuse water for such tasks, instead.
This weekend Higgins plans to hit the streets of Rincon, going door-to-door to encourage residents to vote for him and learn what issues are most important to them.
On Nov. 6 he celebrates his 57th birthday and he joked that he wants everyone to vote for him as a birthday present.
His campaign message is “Pro-Family, Pro-Business, Pro-Effingham.” He said that he brings a different perspective to the city council, and that’s why he decided to run.
“I’ve been in business; I know what it takes to run a business,” he said. In addition, he described himself as hard working, a problem-solver and a visionary.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Higgins admitted. “I think I can make a significant difference.”