Newberry Fire Department Celebrates 150 Years
September 20, 2023
The Newberry Fire Department is celebrating 150 years on Saturday, September 30 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The celebration will take place at The Newberry Museum.
Speakers will include past fire chiefs and the South Carolina Firefighters Association’s historian Chief Carter Jones. There will be a commemorative coin presentation to active and retired city firefighters and the department’s ladder truck and 1917 fire engine will be on display for the community to view.
“It’s a great way to let the community meet and greet our firefighters,” Fire Chief Gene Shealy said.
Shealy said another aspect of the event is thanking active and retired firefighters for their service and recognizing those that passed before them.
For those firefighters that have passed away, the event will include a ringing of the bell ceremony.
“It’s just a special moment of those who came before us,” Shealy said.
In partnership with The Newberry Museum, an exhibit featuring unique artifacts is planned for the museum beginning on that Saturday. Steven Knapp, the museum’s executive director says the exhibit features original fire nozzles and hose reels, helmet badges, the 1911 championship trophy from the state hose wagon rase and more.
With October being Fire Prevention Month, Shealy said the department would have coloring books, stickers, pencils and kids fire helmets to hand out to those attending. Newberry County First Steps will also be present to provide free children’s books to families.
“This is our way of saying thank you to the community for their support of the fire department,” Shealy said. “We’re excited to celebrate.”
Christmas Film to be Filmed in Newberry
September 18, 2023
Daniel Fisher and Durham Harrison, owners of Fisher Films shared with Newberry City Council on Tuesday their intent of filming a Christmas movie, primarily in Newberry during the weekend of November 17.
What originally began as a stage play of Harrison’s, has been adapted into a Christmas script and when scouting locally, Fisher said Newberry was the perfect location for the film.
Fisher Films plans to film Friday, November 17 during the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting, as an overall bigger picture of the event. The following day, they plan to bring in their actors and invites the community to participate as extras for those scenes.
Fisher said they planned to work with others in the area such as Newberry Manor, the Newberry Museum and The Gallery Tearoom. With some shots taking place in Beaufort, SC, approximately 75-80% of the film, he said would be shot in Newberry.
Their goal for the film would be to have it available via streaming services with an anticipated release date during the 2024 holiday season.
Other good news and updates were shared by Mayor Foster Senn to include city employee spotlights – Shakeen Collins and Gretchen Haskett, new Oakland Tennis Pro Mark Gardiner, ribbon cuttings at Newberry College facilities, the first responders’ monument dedication by Community Hall and a remembrance ceremony of fallen officers, including Newberry’s own Lt. Michael Wood.
Senn also shared an update about the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which gives a family or individual $30 off per month on their internet bill if they meet certain qualifications. Qualifications include household income, if you/your child/dependent participate in certain government assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, WIC or other programs, or if you or anyone in your household already receives a Lifeline benefit.
More information on the program is available at affordableconnectivity.gov/do-i-qualify/.
Several proclamations were presented Tuesday, the first designating September 15-October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month. Another was presented designating September 17-23 as Constitution Week.
During the month of October, the week of October 1-7 was designated as Public Power Week through a proclamation signed by Senn and October 8-14 as Fire Prevention Week.
Assistant City Manager Jeff Wicker provided council with an update on the US EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant to say the next task force meeting would be held on September 28 at 6 p.m. in the Oakland Community Center.
“The more people we have to attend, the more we can put this grant to work for the entire city of Newberry,” Wicker said.
The grant allows the City of Newberry to administer funds on current or former industrial or commercial properties to determine the appropriateness for continued or better use.
Wicker said it was a great opportunity to take properties that may be considered blighted or that had concerns of potential contaminants and allows the city to administer funds to alleviate those concerns.
Wicker said he had been and would continue to give presentations to community groups to spread the word about the grant program.
Second and final reading of an ordinance was passed to amend the zoning and future land use map for a parcel located on 301 Holly Circle to R8. Motion to approve was made by Councilperson Lemont Glasgow and seconded by Councilperson Edwin Wicker.
Prior to second reading, a public hearing was held of an ordinance to amend the zoning map for the parcel, with no one speaking in favor or opposition.
Second and final reading of the property on Holly Circle was then held to annex the property into the city limits.
Second and final reading of an ordinance to amend the zoning and future land use map for a parcel located at 2518 Main Street to R6 was also approved by council. Motion to approve second reading was made by Councilperson David Force and seconded by Councilperson David DuBose.
Prior to second reading, a public hearing was held of the ordinance, with no one speaking in favor or opposition.
Under new business, council made an amendment to the previously approved alcohol request for the September 15 Newberry Shop and Dine night to include adding a wine walk hosted by the Newberry Downtown Development Association.
Two considerations for alcohol requests were then approved – one to allow alcohol in designated areas of the wine walk on September 15 and the other for Newberry Shop and Dine Night on October 6.
Moving forward, Interim City Manager Ed Driggers suggested establishing a policy to grant permission for these events to be held, delegating the authority of approving to the city manager in compliance with the policy.
“Then, if there are exceptions to that policy that are being requested, those certainly would be brought to council for consideration,” he said. “It would allow for routine requests to be approved in an expedited manner."
Jeff Wicker presented a plan to council to add an additional wayfinding sign at the corner of Lindsay and Main Streets directing visitors to Wells Japanese Garden. Wicker said a citizen brought it to council’s attention that there were no signs directing people to the gardens and city staff explored the possibility by reading out to Creative Impressions, the company that did the city’s original wayfinding signage.
Wicker said signage would be ordered and installed by the city’s Public Works department.
Other updates included the passing of a resolution committing the city to provide a local cash match for a Community Development Block Grant from the SC Department of Commerce.
Planning and Development Director Wayne Redfern said the grant funds 90% of the cost of demolition of the properties, Redfern said, with the stipulation that the city pay the remaining 10% of the costs.
These funds were already allocated in this year’s budget for the city. The city’s portion of the funding amounts to $26,850. Motion to approve the resolution was made by Glasgow and seconded by Councilperson Jackie Holmes.
Another resolution was passed committing the city to provide a local cash match for a Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) Hometown Economic Development Grant and following its procurement policy when securing services and products with grant funds.
Driggers said the city was resubmitting the project for the Willowbrook Park scout cabin. While resources have already been appropriated in this year’s budget, if grant funding was secured, those dollars would give the city the flexibility to use within other areas of the park, he said.
This grant would require at least a 15% match of the city because of Newberry’s population size, Jeff Wicker told council. Motion to approve the resolution was made by Holmes and seconded by DuBose.
First reading was passed of an ordinance to repeal and replace chapter 9, article 5 of the city’s code of ordinances to better address solid waste collection and disposal.
Following a recent work session by council and the previous decision to eliminate the city’s commercial garbage program, that the city’s language in its code of ordinances needed to be updated.
This language would eliminate commercial garbage from the code of ordinances as well as establish a uniform fee schedule of $15 per utility account holder in the city’s central business district for garbage collection services. This would take effect January 1, 2024, Driggers said. The city will not be eliminating the community bins from the central business district, but rather contracting out a company to collect those for them. Motion to approve first reading was made by Holmes and seconded by Councilperson Carlton Kinard.
In his report to council, Driggers mentioned that he was continuing meetings with employees and finishing operational visits with staff to city facilities. Working with Newberry County, he advised council that he was looking deeper into the Capital Project Sales Tax funding and the county’s expectations, how projects were managed, etc. Driggers mentioned city employee health screenings coming up and that open enrollment was during the month of October.
Newberry City Council will hold their next meeting on Tuesday, October 10 at 7 p.m.
Hispanic Heritage Month Proclamation
City Council Discusses Commercial Garbage Program
September 1, 2023
Newberry City Council discussed Thursday implementing a uniform $15 per account fee for solid waste collection for those businesses and residences located within the central business district.
With the City of Newberry ending their commercial garbage pickup at the end of September, Interim City Manager Ed Driggers told council he wanted to ensure everyone was on the same page and knew all circumstances involving downtown’s commercial garbage in the central commercial district.
Driggers put together a map for council identifying the central business district downtown, along with the discovery that while some businesses were paying for commercial garbage pickup, others were not.
Of those not paying for collection, some use downtown community bins, Driggers acknowledged.
“When we start looking at moving forward, we know that there are these ‘community bins,’ and we’ll have a responsibility for the collection for those bins,” he said.
The City of Newberry plans to keep the community bins downtown, contracting with a private carrier at a cost to the city to empty them. To subsidize that cost, council asked Driggers to move forward with the idea of each customer with a city electric account in the central business district paying a $15 fee for solid waste collection.
Several estimates were presented to council during the work session, with the fee implementation being the only way to subsidize the funding the city would be using to pay the private carrier to empty the community bins.
Other estimates included losses of over $20,000 or more to the city.
With each customer paying $15 monthly, Driggers said they estimate a net yearly revenue of $6,708. However, he said they felt that number would get closer to zero and be revenue neutral as they estimate the city would have to add more containers and/or pickups which will incur additional costs to the city.
This change requires a city ordinance, with first reading planned to bring before council on Tuesday, September 12. The ordinance would require two readings before it could be put into place.
Council expressed that they would like city staff to draft a letter to be sent to all in the central business district that this would impact so they’d be aware ahead of the changes.
Also discussed by council were several city limits signs that had been in place a long time and were showing their age and the possibility of having those removed.
Driggers said with today’s technology and dispatch, that there was no reason from a public safety perspective (police, fire, EMS) that the signs needed to stay in place, especially if they weren’t in the best condition.
If there were locations that council felt would be more appropriate for modern signage on a smaller scale, similar to the city entrance signs, Driggers said that could also be discussed for the future.
Other discussion of council included evaluations happening city-wide on identifying narrow streets. Because Newberry is a historic city, Driggers said we would have many narrow streets by today’s standards.
While Driggers said the city had many streets that were narrow relative to safely being able to operate equipment such as garbage collection, or public safety equipment, his belief was that we did not want to come in with many “no parking” signs.
“The regulation of public streets is the authority of council,” he said.
Parking violations on city streets are non-emergency service calls, Driggers said and there would be the expectation of enforcement with the implementation of any no parking signs.
City staff and council agreed to monitor any safety concerns on streets on a case-by-case basis with any recommendations being brought forward to council.
“We want to make sure with all of our residents that this is something we’re giving attention to,” he said. “But we have to approach that in a very intentional way.”
Under public comment, Mandy Butler, city resident expressed concerns over the recent change in housing in her neighborhood around Reid and Nance Streets with the new, duplex housing.
The residents in the newly constructed housing, she said were blocking their driveway and causing disturbances in the area.
Driggers told council that the city’s police chief had visited the residents, spoken with them and addressed that certain behaviors could not take place there.
The city is in the process of ordering signs addressing the blocking of driveways and parking along the curbing. The Public Works department would soon be painting yellow lines along the curb in the no parking zones, he said.
Newberry City Council will hold their next meeting on Tuesday, September 12 at 7 p.m.
City KinderFun Program Returns this Fall
September 5, 2023
Registration is now open for the City of Newberry Parks, Recreation and Tourism department’s KinderFun program.
For ages three to five (with a birthday cutoff of September 1), the program offers a variety of activities for children to enjoy. Similar to the model of the summer’s RecMobile program, KinderFun will be a free service offered on Saturdays from 9:30-10:30 a.m. beginning September 23 and ending October 21.
Unless noted elsewhere on the program’s schedule, each week will be held at the Newberry Recreation Complex, 1786 Glenn Street Extension.
Josh Ammons, program coordinator said the program started in 2020 as a fall activity for children that were not old enough to participate in youth football or cheerleading, taking the place of the previously offered Kinder Soccer program.
“With there being other opportunities for children to play soccer, we wanted to offer a unique program,” Ammon said. “We teach a new activity each week, with the goal being to introduce children to games that need minimal amounts of equipment.”
Ammons said the program was fun for participants, parents and staff, with all activities being something parents could play with their children at home.
“The growth of the program has been amazing, with the maximum number of participants each year,” Ammons said. “We hear all year from returning participants how excited they are for KinderFun to start.”
The program will be limited to the first 20 participants to register. Participants must provide their own drink bottles.
Registration can be completed by visiting the Parks Recreation and Tourism office at 1323 College Street or online at www.NewberryPRT.com. The deadline for this program is September 15 or until filled.
Any questions can be directed to the department at 803-321-1015.
Newberry City Council Discusses Setting Aside Change in Government
August 14, 2023
Newberry City Council has set aside the discussion for a possible referendum on a change in their form of government, as discussed last week.
Mayor Foster Senn said when Interim City Manager Ed Driggers came to the city, council tasked him with researching what they could do to make the city’s government better and if it could be improved or if council should look at possibly changing the form of government.
With one-on-one meetings with council as well as city staff, Driggers said he had had the opportunity for serious evaluation and consideration of the subject, discovering that it wasn’t really the city’s form of government that was an issue, but rather things that council needed to make sure they could do the jobs they were here to do.
“It’s my belief and professional opinion that through the individual and collective concerns I’ve heard that I believe those can be addressed through our organizational structure and modifications to our city code,” Driggers said.
Driggers told council his suggestion was that they set aside any further consideration or actions that would call for a referendum in the change of form of government. He asked council to allow him 90 days from the meeting date to provide them with a plan of action.
“I honestly believe that you have legitimate concerns that can be addressed in other ways,” he said.
Also in Driggers’ monthly report was an update to council that he had completed individual meetings with city staff and was continuing operational visits to city facilities. Plans were discussed to do ride-arounds to council districts with individual council members.
Driggers also told council he planned to meet with Newberry County to get into discussions on the Capital Project Sales Tax funding and that he had also reviewed the city’s strategic plan.
As an update to council, Newberry Opera House Director Anne Smith, along with Keith Avery and Jack Shields, members of the NOH board, provided an update on the opera house’s economic survey that was conduct this past spring.
The report included the impact of NOH to employment and labor income to include 496 local jobs being directly supported by its annual activities and in terms of tax revenue benefits, the opera house operations have contributed $2.44 million of direct impact on federal, state and local revenue, Shields said.
Avery said he would make copies of the report to distribute to council members.
“We see the economic impact of the opera house every day and now, I’m glad we get to read about it and promote it,” Senn said.
Also under announcements, Senn shared that the city had received many words and condolences from around the state following the passing of Lt. Wood. A moment of silence was held for him during the meeting.
Senn also shared correspondence from a citizen about their experience at Gully Washer Splash Park. “Thank you for using resources for young children and families,” a portion of the letter read.
Under new business, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Collin Shealy discussed the possibility of dog parks within the city limits.
Shealy said he had had discussions with community members and city staff over the last few months about the logistics of creating a dog park in the city.
“I certainly believe the community has expressed interest in having one,” he said.
After researching dog parks across the state, as well as traveling to some close by, Shealy brought forth the idea of a dog park located within Marion Davis Park. From his research, Shealy said costs should be fairly minimal from required materials needed, with the biggest expense coming from fencing and the installation of fencing.
“You’ve got trees there for shade and benches could be placed underneath those,” Shealy said.
Other aspects that made Marion Davis Park an optimal location, Shealy said included the park having restrooms and public park as well as water lines easily accessible by the city’s utilities department.
Council asked questions regarding grant funding, to which Shealy replied it would be extremely competitive, but that there were options.
Other asks from council were to see rules for other city dog parks.
A resolution and ordinance to annex a piece of property containing a city water tower located at 301 Holly Circle into the city limits was approved by council.
Senn said that South Carolina Code of Law stated that a resolution was required if the territory proposed to be annexed belonged entirely to the municipality.
Motion was made by Councilperson David DuBose, seconded by Councilperson Lemont Glasgow to approve the resolution. Motion was made by Councilperson Jackie Holmes and seconded by Councilperson Edwin Wicker to approve the annexation of the property.
An ordinance was then passed to assign a zoning classification of R8 to the property with a motion by DuBose and second by Councilperson David Force.
Planning and Development Director Wayne Redfern said an R8 classification was for medium density housing and that the classification corresponded with the other properties in the area. Redfern said government type projects were allowed in R8 zoning classifications.
First reading of an ordinance to assign a zoning classification of a property located at 2518 Main Street to R6 was also approved. The parcel’s intended purpose would allow for residential use. Motion was approved by DuBose and seconded by Holmes.
Several resolutions were approved by council on Tuesday, the first being the execution and delivery of a membership agreement between the City of Newberry and the South Carolina Association of Municipal Power Systems (SCAMPS).
The nonprofit association is comprised of 20 members, including the city. Utility Director Tim Baker explained that the city had been members of the organization for a long time, possibly since it was founded.
SCAMPS, Baker said recently went through a process and determined that the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) would be the best organization to continue managing them. This agreement the city would be entering into would have more defined terms and would also require the city to provide a one-year notice if choosing to leave the organization.
One of the initiatives that came about through SCAMPS, Baker said was the lineman training school now located in Newberry.
Motion to approve the resolution was made by Holmes and seconded by Force.
- Council approved a request to allow alcohol in designated event areas for Newberry Shop and Dine on September 15. This request allows beer and wine only served by event vendors using plastic cups no larger than 16 ounces to be taken through the event area by foot. The event area includes Main Street from Nance to Caldwell Streets, McKibben Street from Boyce to Friend Streets, Caldwell Street from Boyce to Main Streets and Boyce Street from Nance to McKibben Streets. Motion to approve the request was made by Councilperson Carlton Kinard and seconded by Holmes.
- Council approved a request to allow alcohol in designated event areas for Newberry Oktoberfest on October 7. This request allows beer and wine only served by event vendors using plastic cups no larger than 16 ounces to be taken through the event area by foot. The event area includes Main Street from Nance to Holman Streets, Boyce Street from Nance to College Streets, McKibben Street from Harrington to Friend Streets, Caldwell Street from Boyce to Friend Streets, College Street from Boyce to Friend Streets, Coates Street from Main to Friend Streets, Lindsay Street from Main Street to the Newberry County Courthouse parking entrance and Wilson Street from Main to Friend Streets. Motion to approve the request was made by Glasgow and seconded by Wicker.
- A resolution was passed naming the Newberry Firehouse Conference Center as the “Edward Kyzer Newberry Firehouse Conference Center.” Senn said when Kyzer retired in 2010, council named the large meeting room at the conference center after him, but that the naming had never taken off. The resolution lists accomplishments of Kyzer and his work in the community. Motion was made by Wicker, seconded by DuBose. The resolution also calls for signage, a picture and a biography at the site of the conference center.
- A resolution was passed naming the new miracle league field at the Newberry Recreation Complex as the “Clarence Shealy Field.” Having passed away in 2021, Newberry’s longest serving mayor, Shealy passed away. Shealy served as mayor from 1967-1990. The resolution lists accomplishments of Shealy and his work in the community. As part of the CPST, Senn said the city would be building a miracle league field at the complex and his thoughts were it would be appropriate to name it after Shealy. Motion was made by Kinard and seconded by Glasgow. The resolution calls for signage, Senn said.