SPRINGFIELD — Rincon Mayor Ken Lee overflowed with information during Thursday’s Exchange Club of Effingham County meeting. He gushed so much that he apologized for exceeding the allotted time for his speech about the city he leads.
“I’m sorry I’m getting a little lengthy but I enjoy talking about our city,” Lee said. “I’m proud of it.”
The mayor, recently elected to his fourth term, started his remarks by sharing statistics about Rincon’s explosive growth.
“The population in 2000 was 4,376 people,” he said. “In 2016, our population was over 11,000. That’s an increase of 151 percent over those 16 years and it’s continuing at that rate even now.”
Managing growth is the city’s tallest order, Lee said. He added that the major recession that swept the country in 2008 gave city officials a time to catch up and make plans for the future.
“Now we are seeing that growth again and are better prepared for it in regards to our infrastructure, roadways and planning,” he said. “We feel real good about that.”
The mayor said Rincon's commercial development "continues to be good."
Lee touted the recent addition of the Kroger Marketplace and the growth around it.
“It’s their biggest, finest model,” he said. “I’m a little surprised that put a store like that in Rincon but I’m really glad that they did because it will kind of reverse what we’ve been experiencing. Our people have been spending money in Chatham County but the stores Kroger builds are built to draw from a 50-mile radius, so now a lot of people from the west side of Savannah, the west side of Chatham, Pooler and Bloomingdale come here.”
Lee said the traffic light that Kroger requested to be put on Columbia Avenue in front of its store has smoothed the city’s traffic flow.
“It wasn’t just adding the traffic light,” Lee said. “If you look at it, you’ll see additional turn lanes and all the lights were synchronized. ... The engineers knew what they were talking about.”
Eight new shops are being built next to Kroger and KFC and Taco Bell are slated to go up in front of it.
Lee also assured the club members that Chick-fil-A is set to go up next to Verizon this year.
Lee said that he is often asked why Rincon isn’t teeming with more restaurant options like nearby Pooler.
“My response would be, ‘I really don’t know that I want to be like Pooler,’ he said. “Some of those things are nice but Pooler has just grown to the point that I don’t know how they manage it — to be honest with you.”
Lee said the city recently invested $3.8 million to enhance Rincon’s recreational fields.
“We’ve got a facility out there now that is about as good as you can get,” he said. “The county just built one, too, that is probably as fine as you’ll see anywhere and we are glad about that, too. Between Rincon and the county, we’ve got recreational facilities that are comparable to any in our area and we are quite proud of that.”
The improved facilities have allowed the city to expand its recreational offerings to citizens of all ages, Lee said. He also noted that Giles Park and Freedom Park are being used more frequently.
Lee said, thanks to its police department, is a safe city. He credited Chief Phillip Scholl for having good morale among Rincon’s officers.
“I like where we are,” Lee said.
Lee said Rincon’s 19 certified patrol officers are well equipped and well trained.
“They have all the latest technology, cameras, computers and lap tops, and that means a lot to them,” the mayor said. “You are letting them know you support them by getting them the things they need to do their job. It creates a stability within our department.”
Rincon’s growth has resulted in an expansion of territory that needs to covered by the police and fire departments.
The fire department, led by Chief Cory Rahn, has lowered Rincon’s ISO rating from 5 to 3 since Lee took office. It has gone from being an all-volunteer force to having some full-time firefighters.
“Corey Rahn puts in a lot of time and is really committed,” Lee said.
Lee wrapped up his speech by reporting on water and sewer improvements. He said the city is well ahead of Rincon’s expected water/swer needs in the immediate years ahead.
The mayor ceded the podium with more on his mind, saying, “There’s a lot of activity in Rincon and I think there will continue to be.”