The City of Newberry has been recognized for the second year in a row as the overall winner of the annual S.C. Public Employee Benefit Authority (PEBA) Partners Health and Wellness Award, setting the bar for worksite wellness. Mayor Foster Senn made mention of the special recognition at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Senn said that City Manager Matt DeWitt and the city’s human resources department had done an outstanding job in promoting a healthy worksite for city staff.

The awards program, also known as the PEBA Partners program was implemented in 2016 as a way to recognize employers that are promoting a physically, emotionally and financially healthy worksite. In May of each year, a survey is sent out to each of PEBA’s employer groups assessing how they promote health at their workplace.

“To have 270 different employer groups submit the survey and the City of Newberry to be number one, that’s quite impressive,” Senn said. “We’re really proud.”

DeWitt said he was very proud of the award and of the job that Tamra Tootle, division director and Jana Boice, human resources specialist do for the city of implementing the employee programs that helped the city in receiving this distinction.

“We strive each year to provide a great environment for our employees,” DeWitt said.

Each year the nominees are reviewed in May and the recognition occurs at the annual PEBA benefits conference in August with categories in Best Public Subdivision, Best Public School and Best Higher Education Organization/State Agency.

With over 600 eligible organizations representing over 194,000 employees who are eligible for this recognition, the City rose above them all for a second year running to be recognized as the overall winner – best of all three categories.  

 The City of Newberry was recognized as the overall winner of the annual PEBA Partners Health and Wellness Award for the second year in a row. Mayor Foster Senn made mention of the special recognition at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Pictured from left to right are Mayor Foster Senn, Division Director Tamra Tootle and City Manager Matt DeWitt.

Several members of City Council along with Mayor Foster Senn took their oaths of office Tuesday as part of October’s regular City Council meeting.

Prior to oaths of office, Senn explained that South Carolina law required the certification of election results which showed that he, along with Councilmen Zebbie Goudelock, Thomas Louis Boyd and LeMont Glasgow were unopposed in their re-election bids for Mayor and City Council seats one, three and five.

Following the certification of municipal election results, City Municipal Judge Frank Partridge administered oaths of office to Senn, Goudelock, Boyd and Glasgow. Family members were present to participate in the ceremony.

Senn said he along with council were thankful for the opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of Newberry.

“Things run really smoothly here thanks to our great city staff and we appreciate what y’all do to make this job pleasurable,” Senn said.

Several recognitions were made by council Tuesday night to include Mary Alex Kopp for her five years of service with the City’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism department. Kopp began working full time with the city on September 9, 2013 and serves as the tourism and events manager.

Scott Sawyer, director of PRT said Kopp was recently promoted in July to her new position of tourism and events manager and did an amazing job of her responsibilities with the many events the city put on, including the most recent Oktoberfest event.

“She’s done an excellent job and we’re excited to have her with us,” Sawyer said.

David Hurst was also recognized Tuesday for his 20 years of service as a volunteer firefighter with the city’s fire department. Hurst began volunteering with the department on August 10, 1998 and is also a full-time veterinarian at the Friarsgate Animal Hospital in Irmo.

Fire Chief Keith Minick said Hurst was active in assisting the department with fundraisers and staffing events in the community.

“We can’t say enough about David’s involvement with the department’s golf tournament that helps us raise funds for our Kids Fun Day event,” Minick said. “We appreciate all you’ve done in your 20 years and we hope for 20 more from you.”

Under updates and announcements, Senn highlighted praise he has received about various city departments. Senn said he was recently contacted about the city’s police department and their work in solving the case of a robbery at a local bank and how good the bank felt being within the city limits with the city police department. Under the fire department, Senn said he received many compliments about their Kids Fun Day event and their work at local elementary schools for Fire Prevention Week.

Senn read recent comments about the city’s utilities department from citizens regarding the positive attitudes of city lineman and their efficiency in restoring power. Under parks, recreation and tourism, Senn mentioned the success of Oktoberfest and a compliment from visitors to the area that evening saying the turnaround of the cleanup from that event had been spectacular which was a compliment to the public works department. He concluded by complimenting the city’s finance department for their friendliness when greeting customers each day that pay their bills at City Hall.

With the upcoming threat of Hurricane Michael, DeWitt spoke on the city’s preparedness plan. With the possibility of heavy wind and rain, DeWitt said they had a team of city staff pulling together on Wednesday to follow up on plans and would have an update at the Newberry County Emergency Operations Center later this week.

“We just went through this process with Tropical Storm Florence a few short weeks ago so we’re still geared up from that,” DeWitt said. “We’ll make sure we have a good team coordinated and all of our supplies ready to go.”

Old Business

The following readings were passed Tuesday by City Council under old business:

  • Second reading was passed of an ordinance to amend the text of the zoning ordinance for the city. Motion was made by Councilman Thomas Louis Boyd and seconded by Councilman David DuBose.
  • Second reading was passed to establish standards for the placement of small wireless facilities in covered areas in the city in an effort to encourage an investment of a wireless infrastructure and the set of standards by which interested parties would follow. The ordinance was assembled using the Municipal Association of South Carolina sample language. Motion was made to accept second reading by Councilman Boyd and seconded by Councilman Glasgow.
  • Motion was made by Councilman Goudelock and seconded by Councilman Boyd to accept second reading of an ordinance to amend sexually oriented businesses. Over the past year, the Planning and Development Services department has worked closely, Senn said with a consulting firm to update the zoning code. Through that process it was recommended to staff that the sexually oriented businesses ordinance become a stand-alone ordinance as it has other facets unrelated to the zoning code.
  • Motion was made by Councilman Goudelock and seconded by Councilman Boyd to authorize the renewal of the Newberry Dove Club lease.
  • Second reading was passed providing for the construction, management and leasing of a dark fiber network to be owned by the City. Senn said the network would extend the fiber the city currently has to manage its infrastructure for use of residents, businesses, etc. Motion was made by Councilman Glasgow and seconded by Councilman DuBose.
  • Motion was made by Councilman DuBose and seconded by Councilman Glasgow for second reading of an ordinance providing the allocation of surplus funds to extend the city’s existing fiber network for use by the city to manage its infrastructure as well as for use by residents, businesses and organizations of the city.
  • At a previous meeting Councilman Edwin Wicker asked that pre-approved minutes be placed on the city’s website so that if a citizen wanted to challenge something a board or commission was doing and there was a 30-day time limit for an appeal, the pre-approved minutes would communicate what the boards and commissions were working on. Senn and Wicker clarified Tuesday that those boards and commissions that had a 30-day timeline for appeals and would post pre-approved minutes included the city’s Architectural Review Board, Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Construction Committee. Wicker made the motion that those four committees would be the ones to post pre-approved minutes and the motion was seconded by Councilman Goudelock.

New Business

Under new business, Utility Director Tim Baker reminded the community that it was currently Public Power Week. However, because the City of Newberry ran a combined utility that they were celebrating the week as Public Utilities Week to include the water/sewer portion of the utility as well as electric. A celebration is planned for Friday at Marion Davis Park from 3-6 p.m. and will have a variety of activities for the whole family, Baker said.

“We’re trying to make this a really fun event, thank our customers and show them the benefits of being a part of a public power utility,” he said.

A motion was made by Councilman Glasgow and seconded by Councilman Boyd to nominate Councilman Goudelock for another term as mayor pro tempore for a term of not more than two years. Senn said that following each general election it was required that the council elects from its membership a mayor pro tempore.

Also under new business:

  • Motion was made by Councilman DuBose and seconded by Councilman Boyd for first reading authorizing the city manager to execute the dark fiber lease with qualified vendors. Senn said the ordinance allowed the city the authority to sign an agreement should a vendor wish to use city fiber.
  • Motion was made by Councilman Glasgow and seconded by Councilman DuBose for first reading to authorize to allow the city manager to execute a professional service agreement to manage the city’s fiber network.
  • First reading was passed with a motion by Councilman DuBose and seconded by Councilman Boyd to change the publishing requirements for service of complaints. Senn said that South Carolina state law states that publishing requirements for service complaints should be two weeks. The current zoning code dictates a three-week time period. The ordinance would conform the city to state regulations.
  • Motion was made by Councilman Wicker and seconded by Councilman Boyd on a resolution to establish a set color palette to help direct the color selections available to property owners wishing to enhance their property through the Architectural Review Board. Colors and changes to the palette may be made only upon council approval.

 Several members of council took their oaths of office Tuesday. Councilmen from left to right (pictured with family members): Councilman LeMont Glasgow, Councilman Zebbie Goudelock, Councilman Thomas Louis Boyd and Judge Frank Partridge. 

 Mayor Foster Senn took his oath of office Tuesday night and is pictured with his wife, Sharon and Judge Frank Partridge. 

 Mary Alex Kopp was recognized by City Council for her five years of service with the city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism department. Kopp began working full time with the city on September 9, 2013 and serves as the tourism and events manager. She is pictured with PRT Director Scott Sawyer and City Manager Matt DeWitt. 

 David Hurst was recognized for his 20 years of service as a volunteer firefighter with the city’s fire department. He is pictured with Fire Chief Keith Minick.

In an effort to better serve customers, the City of Newberry’s Finance department has rolled out the use of a live chat feature on the city’s website.

When visiting cityofnewberry.com and clicking on the City Services tab followed by Finance Department, visitors will see a chat bubble in the bottom right-hand-corner of their computer screen opting them to ask a question.

“The link instantly connects website visitors with someone to help answer their questions,” Smith said.

At this time, the feature is only available for those with inquiries regarding the finance department to include questions about utility billing and general information on a customer’s account.

While the new website feature has only been in place for a short amount of time, Smith said their department has already been able to assist a handful of customers.

“We’ve had questions from how to pay a utility bill online to our office hours,” Smith said. “We also had questions regarding areas of our website and were able to point them in the right direction.”

The feature was rolled out, Smith said in an effort to be more customer service friendly alongside the recently extended hours of the drive-thru window at City Hall several days per month to serve more customers. These extended drive-thru hours can also be found under the same link on the city’s website.

The chat feature is available to website visitors during regular business hours of 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

City Manager Matt DeWitt commended the department for coming up with yet another way to better serve the city’s utility customers.

“Finance has continued to look for ways to enhance customer service for our citizens and this is just another example of their efforts to provide more responsive and convenient customer service,” he said.

Reginald Wade Mayers, 24, of 2804 Milne Avenue in Newberry was charged October 9 with entering a bank with intent to steal and breaking into a motor vehicle.

At approximately 2:28 a.m., officers from the Newberry Police Department, Newberry County Sheriff’s Office and SC Highway Patrol responded to J.F. Hawkins Nursing home at 1330 Kinard Street in reference to suspicious activity. The complainant from the nursing home observed a black male in light colored pants walking around cars in the parking lot.

Officers on scene conducted an investigation and identified Mayers as the suspect who had entered a car in the parking lot. While on scene, officers were then dispatched to TD Bank, 2833 Winnsboro Road in reference to an activated alarm.

Responding to the alarm, officers from Newberry Police Department, Newberry County Sheriff’s Office and SC Highway Patrol discovered that someone had thrown a brick through a window at the TD Bank location and entered the building.

Officers surrounded the building and found Mayers inside. He was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Newberry County Detention Center. Bond has not yet been set.

Police Chief Roy McClurkin said this was an excellent example of the great working partnership between the Newberry Police Department, Newberry County Sheriff’s Office and the SC Highway Patrol in combating crime and taking criminals off the streets in Newberry County.

“All agencies work closely together to keep the citizens of Newberry safe,” McClurkin said.

More than 2,000 community-owned, not-for-profit electric utilities that collectively provide electricity to 48 million Americans will celebrate Public Power Week October 7-13.

The City of Newberry Utilities Department is celebrating all the services they provide customers by hosting Public Utilities Week (#PublicUtilitiesWeek), along with the National Public Power Week.

“Public Power Week celebrates the reliable, affordable electricity the City of Newberry provides to our community,” said Utility Director Tim Baker. “Public power puts the people of Newberry first, and Public Power Week gives us the chance to emphasize the advantages of locally owned power that supports strong communities,” Baker said.

Newberry’s utility services are reliable and safe and Baker says they take pride in serving their friends and neighbors.

“We are proud to have served Newberry for over 120 years,” Baker said.  

The City of Newberry Utilities Department invites community members to participate in a variety of Public Utilities Week events. Activities include:

  • Elementary aged students were invited to color a utilities tip coloring page posted on the City Utilities social media accounts and turned in to win a prize. Winners will be recognized and receive their prize at the end of the week at the Public Utilities Celebration.
  • A Public Utilities Week celebration on Friday, October 12 from 3-6 p.m. in Marion Davis Park (2905 Fair Avenue) in Newberry. The first 100 residents who bring the latest copy of their utility bill to the utilities tent will receive a City of Newberry utilities goodie bag! Customers can also enter to win door prizes and take part in spinning a wheel to win a prize. There will be inflatables, a few games of Bingo, games, popcorn, snow cones and much more for the whole family. The Captain Public Power and Mr. Water mascots will be available for pictures with the kids. Both Miss Newberry and Miss Newberry Outstanding Teen will be making an appearance as well to meet with the community. Please come join us in celebrating Public Utilities Week. In the event of inclement weather, the activities will be relocated to City Hall.
  • Follow City of Newberry Public Utilities on Facebook and Newberry Utilities on Twitter for the latest updates in energy saving techniques, updates on Public Utilities week and how public utilities benefit the community as a whole.

Today the City of Newbery Utilities Department has 47 employees.  The electric system currently maintains two delivery points, has a peak system load of 44.3 megawatts and maintains 200 line miles.  It serves approximately 4600 residential customers and 400 commercial and industrial customers.  The water system has a capacity of 8.1 MGD and serves approximately 4200 residential customers, 800 commercial and industrial customers and 2 wholesale customers through roughly 127 main line miles.  The sewer system has a capacity of 5.0 MGD and serves approximately 3600 residential customers and 600 commercial and industrial customers through roughly 124 main line miles.

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Public Power Week is an annual national event coordinated by the American Public Power Association in Washington, D.C. The association represents not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities that power homes, businesses and streets in nearly 2,000 towns and cities, serving 48 million Americans. APPA partners with its members to promote public power, helping community-owned utilities deliver superior services through joint advocacy, education, and collaboration. More at www.PublicPower.org.