City Provides Updates on Israel Brooks Jr. Park
August 11, 2022
City Manager Matt DeWitt provided City Council with an update Tuesday on the former Wise Street Park, now, Israel Brooks Jr. Park.
DeWitt said the demolition phase had been completed with a partial ball field renovation. Still needed on the ballfield were the bleacher and benches installation and infield work. The fields backstop and foul line fencing is complete.
The park’s community garden is in the works with the garden beds on order. A small storage shed still needs to be purchased with fencing to be installed around the garden. The park’s basketball court renovation is completed, DeWitt said.
The new playground equipment is in and officially open to the public. A single sidewalk connecting the parking lot and walking trail still needs to be finished. DeWitt said the hope was that all outstanding elements would be completed in the fall of this year.
Under new business, council approved an outside water request for a property located at 5756 SC Highway 34-121. Mayor Foster Senn said the property owner has agreed to execute an annexation covenant indicating a willingness to annex if the property becomes contiguous to the city limits and council determines it is in the best interest of the city to annex the property.
The property is located adjacent to an existing water line, so no bore is required. There will be a $1,400 outside water tap fee.
Motion to approve the request was made by Councilman David DuBose and seconded by Councilman David Force.
Two requests were also approved by council Tuesday to allow alcohol in designated areas. The first, during the Main Street Shop and Dine event taking place on September 30. While typically held on the first Friday of each month, Senn said the event was moved up one week to align with Newberry’s Oktoberfest event the next day.
“It’ll be an action-packed weekend,” he said.
This will allow for event patrons to travel the event area with an alcoholic beverage of beer or wine only, by foot, if they are carrying the allowed beverage in a plastic cup. Event patrons will be carded and over 21 wristbands provided to them by the approved event vendors. Liquor consumption is not to be permitted in the event area.
The event area includes Main Street from Nance to Holman Streets, McKibben Street from Main to Boyce Streets, Caldwell Street from Friend to Boyce Streets, Boyce Street from College to Nance Street, and the Newberry County Courthouse parking lot. Motion was made by Councilman Carlton Kinard and seconded by DuBose.
An additional request was approved with a motion from Councilwoman Jackie Holmes and seconded by DuBose to allow alcohol for Newberry Oktoberfest on October 1.
The Parks, Recreation and Tourism department requests permission to allow beer and wine only, served and sold by the designated event vendors and venues with the proper permitting, using plastic cups no larger than 16 ounces, to be taken from designated vendors and venues into the outdoor event area.
This would allow for event patrons to travel the event area with an alcoholic beverage of beer or wine only, by foot, if they are carrying the allowed beverage in designated cup size and are wearing the approved over 21 wristbands. Liquor consumption is not to be permitted in the event area.
The event area includes Main Street from Nance to Holman Streets, Boyce Street from Nance to Lindsay Streets, McKibben from Boyce to Main Streets, Caldwell from Boyce to Friend Streets, College from Boyce to Main Streets and Lindsay from Martin to Main Streets.
Council passed a resolution pledging to practice and promote civility on Tuesday. Senn said the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) was asking local councils across the state to pass a resolution pledging to practice and promote civility. Motion was made to pass the resolution by Mayor Pro Tem Lemont Glasgow and seconded by Holmes.
Senn read the resolution and it was signed by all members of council.
Senn provided a report from MASC’s annual meeting citing one of his favorite quotes from the meeting: “The purpose of local government is to enable individuals to join together in solving problems and recognizing community possibilities.”
Another point to note from the meeting, he said was of a session on ADA compliance to municipality websites. DeWitt mentioned that city staff had been looking into making updates to the city’s current website.
Other updates Senn made included compliments on the most recent Spartan Race held in Newberry, in which he thanked the Johnson family for the use of their farm as it was a great combination with Lynch’s Woods, he said.
Senn thanked the Newberry Downtown Development Association for their recent Christmas in July event.
Newberry County, Senn said is asking for public input in their strategic planning process, with a couple sessions in Newberry on August 15 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and August 23 from 8:00-9:30 a.m.
Newberry City Council’s next regular meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 13 at 7:00 p.m.
City PRT Director Retires After 23 years
With just over 23 years, Scott Sawyer has retired as Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director for the City of Newberry and said he feels very comfortable that he has left the department in good hands moving forward.
Sawyer graduated from North Augusta High School and played baseball at Piedmont College in Demorest, GA and the University of South Carolina-Aiken, before transferring to the University of Oklahoma, graduating in December 1996.
As he was growing up, Sawyer said he played “whatever sport was in season.” However, working in Parks and Recreation wasn’t initially in the plans until he was introduced to the idea of a recreation degree by an admissions counselor at the University of Oklahoma.
“That was all me,” he said. “That was where my recreation journey started.”
Sawyer interned with the City of North Augusta’s recreation department during the summer of 1986 and the following January an opening for a program coordinator became available within the department.
“I was there for two years, chased a dream and went to umpire school in Florida, graduated and became a minor league baseball umpire,” he said.
Sawyer said he continued that path for four years until meeting his wife, Jody and then going back to his previous job in North Augusta.
In January 1999, Sawyer accepted the job with the City of Newberry Parks and Recreation, saying it just seemed like the right fit.
His main goal as Parks, Recreation and Tourism director, has been to work hard and for the department to do the best it can be.
“I don’t know that I had a specific goal other than to live up to our department’s mission of “connecting community through people, parks and programs.” he said. “We’ve recognized City Council’s desire to maintain a focus on quality of life. PRT is all about quality of life. I think as a staff that we’ve risen to the challenge. You can’t drive through Newberry without seeing something that PRT has had a hand in.”
Newberry is the horseshoe capital of the state, Sawyer said. The Marion Davis Park horseshoe court facility was built in 2000 and soon hosted The SummerFun horseshoe tournament, which was the 4th largest horseshoe tournament in the United States in 2006. Participants have come from 24 states over the years to pitch in Newberry. The SummerFun is now the first tournament of the Horseshoe Tour’s annual schedule. Sawyer was a 2021 inductee into the Horseshoe Tour Hall of Fame and the first non-pitcher to be inducted.
“Over the years, participants in The SummerFun have won 52 world championships. The horseshoe world loves Newberry,” Sawyer said.
In 1999 when Sawyer was hired, the department was primarily based around athletics – specifically baseball, softball and basketball. Sawyer was a part of some of those programs. He and his wife have five children and Sawyer has been on the field with them.
“I coached kids in t-ball and training league. Two teams at the same time,” he said. “We would all practice together. If Jody was working, I would be operating the pitching machine during a game with a kid attached to me in one of those baby carriers.”
Sawyer said things began to change for the department in 2005 when the city was asked to take over downtown’s Oktoberfest event. He felt like the event really laid the groundwork that allowed their department to grow.
In 2007, the department began overseeing the Firehouse Conference Center and the tourism budget of the department came to be. Sawyer said it was then that they added to advertising and began to see growth in many downtown events.
A park improvement plan was introduced in 2012, Sawyer said and with council’s commitment to improving quality of life, the department began to make improvements to city parks.
The next big growth area occurred in 2014 with the establishing of an arts program and the Newberry Arts Center. During that time the park improvement plan led to renovations at the Glenn Street ballfield, Kendall football field, Grant Park, Gallman Park.
In 2018 the Oakland Tennis Center opened has been successful in getting the community out on the tennis court and increasing their activity level.
“That is one of the main reasons the tennis center was built; To get people out on the courts and hopefully healthier. We have also said that we didn’t want to build a tennis center, we want to build a tennis program. We’ve done that. But I hope we will do an even better job in the coming years. Tennis is a great, inexpensive sport,” Sawyer said.
With the 2016 Capital Projects Sales Tax referendum passing, the buildout of the Newbery Recreation Complex began. Sawyer said the Gully Washer Splash Park has been a big hit, with the complex’s first full season of baseball and softball this year.
“We refer to the complex as an ‘outdoor recreation experience,’ he said. “The hope is that before we are done, the site has something for just about everyone to do.”
Sawyer’s retirement will leave two more projects nearing completion but not quite complete. Wise Street Park and Wells Japanese Garden are currently in their final stages of renovation.
“The Wise Street project has been on-going for about three years with separate grants obtained for a new bathroom and walking trail and a larger federal grant to complete the full renovation of the park. I hope the community enjoys the improvements for years to come.” said Sawyer. “Wells Japanese Garden renovations are also almost complete. The garden is a gem for Newberry. The Wells family has approved of the changes, and we have also tried to make it as authentic as possible. I hope people enjoy what has been done.”
City Manager Matt DeWitt said Sawyer has made a tremendous impact on the City of Newberry.
“Anyone who has had a positive experience playing a sport, visiting a park or attending one of the city’s various events owes Scott a bit of thanks; as he has had a direct hand in that experience over the past two decades, plus,” DeWitt said.
Following his decision to retire, Sawyer called a longtime friend to inform him, and the conversation led to his next adventure.
Sawyer said, “I called my friend Jimmy. He is the President of the Carl Jackson Foundation and he said needed some help (with foundation work). Jackson is Jimmy’s brother and has been Ben Crenshaw’s caddy at the Master’s golf tournament.”
The next adventure? Sawyer is now the Chief Operating Officer of the Carl Jackson Foundation.
Together, they’ll be working on Carl’s Kids, a faith-based ministry of the foundation, not only teaching young people the fundamentals of golf, but the fundamentals of life and having good character. Sawyer says this is a mission of sorts.
“I believe the timing of my retirement and Jimmy needing some help is a God thing. I can’t wait to serve the Lord through the ministry of the Carl Jackson Foundation,” he said.
Sawyer said he also plans to do Parks and Recreation based consulting, specifically with smaller agencies through Scott Sawyer Consulting LLC.
Throughout the years, Sawyer said the best thing about his job has been the people he works with.
“I’ve always told our staff that over the course of your lifetime, you spend more time with the people at work than you do your family, so we may as well get along as well as we can,” he said. “Our staff is very team oriented, and I think people actually enjoy coming to work.”
Sawyer said he felt comfortable that the department would be in good hands with the new director, Collin Shealy and that he would do an excellent job.
“I still have a copy of a 2007 memo we received relating to transition/succession planning. I took it seriously,” Sawyer said. “Collin has excelled in his role as Deputy Director, and he has earned the opportunity move up.”
Newberry Police Department Presents Honorary Oath of Office
The Newberry Police Department joined with law enforcement agencies throughout the state on July 15 to participate in a mass honorary commissioning of 10-year-old Devarjaye “DJ” Daniel.
Daniel, a young man from Houston Texas is battling terminal brain and spinal cancer and began his quest earlier this year to fulfill his wish of being sworn in by 100 police agencies. He has surpassed that goal and is now an honorary officer, deputy and agent of over 600 agencies.
Daniel’s family traveled to South Carolina last week to the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy to continue his journey and was sworn in by more law enforcement agencies across the state. This included taking an oath as an honorary police corporal for the Newberry Police Department.
Police Chief Kevin Goodman said it was an honor for members of the Newberry Police Department to meet Daniel and take part in the ceremony.
“DJ’s goal is to bring awareness to children battling cancer and to promote police, community relationships,” Goodman said.
From the Newberry Police Department, Daniel received his oath of office on a plaque bearing an official corporal badge as well as a proclamation signed by Mayor Foster Senn, celebrating him as an officer with the city’s police department and thanking him for his inspiration to thousands of Americans.
Sergeant Caitlin Branch, Police Chief Kevin Goodman and Corporal Khadijah Caldwell with DJ Daniel.
Police Chief Kevin Goodman presents DJ with his oath of office on a plaque bearing an official corporal badge.
National Night Out is August 2
Neighborhoods throughout Newberry County are invited to join over 38 million neighbors across 16 thousand communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide for National Night Out on August 2.
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live and work.
The following agencies are set to be involved in this year’s event: Newberry Police Department, Newberry County Sheriff’s Office, Newberry Parks, Recreation and Tourism, City of Newberry Fire Department, Newberry County Coalition on Underage Drinking, Newberry County Animal Care and Control, South Carolina Department of Public Safety, the Department of Natural Resources, and the National Guard.
Held in Mollohon Park, 211 Player Street in Newberry, the event will be from 6-8 p.m.
Nationwide, this is the 39th annual National Night Out. The event is sponsored nationally by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW). The City of Newberry has held its own National Night Out event beginning in 2011.
Organizing this year’s event for the Newberry Police Department are Sergeant Will Bouknight and Sergeant Caitlin Branch. This event, they said is not only to strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, but to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness and to generate support for, and participation in local anticrime efforts.
Many familiar games and activities will be provided this year to include the dunking booth, bounce house, as well as activities with the Newberry Parks, Recreation and Tourism department’s mobile recreation vehicle. Other vendors from the community will also be present to give out information.
New to this year’s event is a video game trailer, sponsored by the National Guard and a boat simulator, sponsored by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Little Caesars pizza will be available for those who attend as well as popcorn, snow cones at no cost.
“Buddy cards” will be back again this year for children to get signed by local agencies in order to participate in the annual ping-pong ball drop. This event usually takes place towards the end of the night, followed by closing remarks.
Police Chief Kevin Goodman said that National Night Out was another great opportunity for police and the community to come together in a positive environment, enjoy each other and strengthen their relationship.
“Please come out and let’s work together to get this village back in order,” he said.
It is undetermined at this time, Branch said as to if there will be a shuttle for community transportation. However, if a shuttle is secured, this information will be posted on the City of Newberry’s National Night Out event page on Facebook. Closer to the event, those interested in potential shuttle service may contact the Newberry Police Department at 803-321-1010 for any updates.
Sergeant Will Bouknight signs a “buddy card” at last year’s National Night Out event.
City Council Recognizes Employees, Milestones
July 14, 2022
City employees were recognized for their career milestones Tuesday during City Council’s July meeting. The recognition portion of the meeting took place at the Newberry Firehouse Conference Center.
Michael Ballenger was recognized for his five years of service with the city. Ballenger began his work with the city in April 2017 as a water/sewer crewmember and is now a wastewater plant operator within the utilities department. Utility Director Tim Baker described Ballenger as having a big heart and never hesitating to help anyone in need.
Adrian Navarette was also recognized for five years of service with the city’s police department. Navarette began as corporal in 2017, was promoted to sergeant in 2018 and to his current position of lieutenant in 2021. Police Chief Kevin Goodman described Navarette as bringing a calmness to every situation and a calming force for the department.
For her 25 years with the City of Newberry, Lucille Kinard was recognized by council. Currently an administrative assistant with the Newberry Fire Department, Kinard was hired as a customer service representative in the finance department in 1997 and moved to her current position in 2000. Former Fire Chief Keith Minick described Kinard as the heartbeat of the department, taking care of every firefighter and citizens’ needs daily.
Former fire chief, Keith Minick was recognized for his retirement after 30 years with the city’s fire department on Tuesday. Minick began his career with the city in September of 1991 and worked his way through the ranks to chief in 2008. City Manager Matt DeWitt said that life in the public sector could be demanding and extremely tough at times, but that Minick had a dedication and consistency that is hard to find.
Mayor Foster Senn read a letter of appreciation Tuesday from the Nathan M. Wolfe Law Enforcement Cadet Academy, thanking Sergeant Caitlin Branch for her work with their 2022 academy. Senn said the city was proud of Branch and her efforts not only in the city, but with other outreach efforts.
Council also recognized and congratulated the city’s “Team of the Year,” to include Corey Brown, RJ Doran, John Dunbar and Chansel Minick. The team was chosen on their efforts during winter storm Izzy in January and their generosity to serve as a site to feed city utility crews and serve as a warming station and rest area.
“There is no doubt that the service offered drastically increased the restoration time and improved the safety of our crews,” the nomination read.
As an update for council, Senn said the city manager had the authority to appoint an officer of the municipality to have the title of municipal clerk. Senn said a municipal clerk gave notice of council meetings to its members and the public, kept minutes of its proceedings, etc. He introduced Fabrienni Chaplin as the city’s new municipal clerk, saying she was a native of Prosperity and a graduate from Mid-Carolina and Piedmont Technical College.
Jimmy Stephens, president of the Newberry Downtown Development Association provided updates to council on the organization, saying they were developing a lot of ideas in order to bring more people downtown. Their event, Christmas in July will be held Saturday, July 23 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. in downtown Newberry.
Senn signed a proclamation Tuesday declaring August 2 National Night Out in the City of Newberry. National Night Out will be celebrated across the country on the first Tuesday in August and in Newberry, the event has been held since 2011, Senn said.
The event is an annual community building campaign to promote strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood comradery to make neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live and work.
Newberry’s National Night Out event will be held from 6-8 p.m. in Mollohon Park, 211 Player Street.
Senn held public hearings for proposed ordinances on four zoning classification amendments. The following public hearings were held with no one speaking in favor or opposition of the proposed ordinances. Following no comment, the hearings were adjourned.
- Ordinance #2022-1013 to assign a zoning classification and amend the zoning map for parcel 397-1-2-6 located at 1021 Wallace Drive to R10
- Ordinance #2022-1017 to assign a zoning classification and amend the zoning map for parcels 345-12 and 345-13 located on Dixie Drive to R6
- Ordinance #2022-1018 to amend the zoning map for parcel 343-8-9-5 located at 621 Drayton Street to R6.
Regarding ordinance #2022-1015 to assign a zoning classification and amend the zoning map for parcel 345-1 located on Dixie Drive to R6, Patricia Chassen with Forestar Group Inc. spoke in favor as the developer for the project.
Chassen said the company is proposing to develop the three properties (parcels 345-1, 345-12, 345-13) on Dixie Drive, annex them into the city limits and rezone them to R6 residential, the language for the adjacent neighborhoods. The developer, Forestar maintains the property until all lots are sold, then selling the property to a national home builder. She said the project was planned for three to four phases, looking at a full buildout in approximately five years.
“We’re looking to obtain all of our construction permits within the next year, break ground about a year from now and start selling lots about a year after that,” she said.
A traffic engineer performed a study, Chassen said to mitigate any impacts to the existing infrastructure and found that a lefthand turn lane, westbound on Dixie Drive would be needed to ease any impacts on traffic that may occur. These costs, Chassen said would be on their company.
Chassen said the plan would be to look at building out 300 lots over the next five to six years.
Under old business, second and final reading was held to annex property at 1021 Wallace Drive into the city limits. Motion was made by Councilman Lemont Glasgow and seconded by Councilman Edwin Wicker.
Second and final reading was then held to assign a zoning classification to the above property of R10-Residential. Motion was made by Councilwoman Jackie Holmes and seconded by Councilman David Force.
Second and final reading was held to annex property (TMS 345-1) on Dixie Drive into the city limits. Motion was made by Councilman David DuBose and seconded by Holmes.
On the above property, second and final reading was held to assign a zoning classification of R6-Residential. Motion was made by Glasgow and seconded by DuBose.
Second and final reading was held to annex property (TMS 345-12 and 345-12) on Dixie Drive into the city limits. Motion was made by Holmes and seconded by DuBose. Second reading was then held to assign a zoning classification to the property of R6-Residential. Motion was made by Wicker and seconded by Holmes.
Last item under old business was second and final reading to assign a zoning classification to property located at 621 Drayton Street to R6-Residential. Motion was made by Councilman Carlton Kinard and seconded by Holmes.
Under new business, first reading was held of an ordinance to amend the zoning classification of property located at 1517 Martin Street to R10-Residential. Currently the property is zoned as GC-General Commercial. The Newberry Planning Commission recommended a zoning classification of R10, Senn said. Motion was made by Kinard and seconded by Holmes.
A public hearing will take place prior to second reading on August 9.
First reading was also held of an ordinance to amend the zoning classification of property located at 736 Caldwell Street to NC-Neighborhood Commercial. Currently the property is zoned as R8-Residential. The parcel’s intended purpose would allow for a mix of residential and event venue uses. The Newberry Planning Commission recommended a zoning classification of NC, Senn said. Motion was made by Glasgow and seconded by Kinard.
Two outside water requests for properties located on Pine Hill Circle were approved by Council Tuesday. Properties are located at 2103 and 2109 Pine Hill Circle. Both property owners have agreed to execute an annexation covenant indicating a willingness to annex if the property becomes contiguous to the city limits and council determines it in the best interest of the city to annex the property. There will be a $1,400 outside water tap fee for both pieces of property.
Consideration of an authorization was approved to allow alcohol in designated areas of the Main Street Shop and Dine Nights held in August, September and October. Motion was made by Wicker and seconded by Holmes.
Main Street Shop and Dine nights are the monthly first Friday promotional nights for the downtown district and take place from 4-9 p.m. when Main Street is closed to vehicular traffic and open to pedestrians only.
The Newberry Parks, Recreation and Tourism department requests permission to allow beer and wine only served and sold from inside downtown businesses with a current alcohol license using plastic cups to be no larger than 16 ounces, to be taken from said businesses into the outdoor event area. This would allow for event patrons to travel the event area with an alcoholic beverage of beer or win, by foot, if they are carrying the allowed beverage in a plastic cup.
A request to close downtown Main Street for the Newberry Downtown Development Association’s Christmas in July event was approved by council. Motion was made by Holmes and seconded by Kinard.
The NDDA’s Christmas in July is a singular promotional day for the downtown district that takes place from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday July 23. A request was made for Main Street to be closed to vehicular traffic and open to pedestrians only from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Senn led a discussion of informational items he learned at the recent American Public Power Association, South Carolina Association of Municipal Power Systems, and Piedmont Municipal Power Agency conferences. He mentioned a campaign originally created by the Oklahoma Municipal Power Agency on communicating the public power advantage, making sure customers realize they own their local utility. Senn asked city staff to look into similar campaigns for the City of Newberry as well as grants mentioned at the federal and state level.
Following a return into open session, Kinard made a motion to reappoint Robert Matheson and to appoint Candice Frick and Richard Mitchel to the Newberry Opera House Board for three-year terms. Holmes seconded the motion.
City Council will meet again on Tuesday, August 9.
Michael Ballenger was recognized by City Council for his five years of service with the city. Ballenger began his work with the city in April 2017 as a water/sewer crewmember and is now a wastewater plant operator within the utilities department. He is pictured with City Manager Matt DeWitt.
Adrian Navarrete was recognized by City Council for his five years of service with the city. Navarette began as corporal in 2017, was promoted to sergeant in 2018 and to his current position of lieutenant in 2021. He is pictured with City Manager Matt DeWitt.
Lucille Kinard was recognized by City Council for her 25 years of service with the city. Currently an administrative assistant with the Newberry Fire Department, Kinard was hired as a customer service representative in the finance department in 1997 and moved to her current position in 2000. She is pictured with City Manager Matt DeWitt.
Former fire chief, Keith Minick was recognized for his retirement after 30 years with the city’s fire department on Tuesday. Minick began his career with the city in September of 1991 and worked his way through the ranks to chief in 2008. He is pictured with Mayor Foster Senn and City Manager Matt DeWitt.
Sergeant Caitlin Branch was recognized for her recent work with the Nathan M. Wolfe Law Enforcement Cadet Academy. She is pictured with Mayor Foster Senn and Police Chief Kevin Goodman.
City Council recognized and congratulated the city’s “Team of the Year,” to include Corey Brown, RJ Doran, John Dunbar and Chansel Minick. The team was chosen on their efforts during winter storm Izzy in January and their generosity to serve as a site to feed city utility crews and serve as a warming station and rest area. From left to right: Mayor Foster Senn, Chansel Minick, Corey Brown, and City Manager Matt DeWitt.