Mayor Senn, Community Members Provide 2021 Update
Mayor Foster Senn hosted a 2021 City of Newberry update Wednesday complete with conversations with local guests in the fields of healthcare, business and public safety. The update was hosted via an online platform and broadcasted on WKDK Radio.
“I want to salute the citizens of Newberry. Throughout the pandemic, Newberry citizens have been resilient and adapted,” Senn said.
At the start of 2021, Senn said he was hopeful.
“I am hopeful of the vaccine that is rolling out now, hopeful things will get better and I’m hopeful and inspired by the fact that Newberry citizens have been looking out for each other,” he said.
While 2020 was a difficult year across the country, City Manager Matt DeWitt echoed Senn’s sentiments that the City of Newberry had been resilient through it all.
Some of the accomplishments DeWitt said the city was still able to achieve in 2020 included the completion of the city’s fiber optic network, bringing the option for high speed internet to every resident and business within the city limits.
Another proud moment of 2020, DeWitt said was the buildout of the Newberry Recreation Complex.
“It’s to be enjoyed by the entire county and was paid for with the capital project sales tax,” he said.
Amenities at the recreation complex include ballfields, a walking trail, splash park and accessible playground.
DeWitt said he was encouraged by the community’s support last year of local businesses and that they were continuing to do that at the start of the new year, and he saw this new year as being full of promise.
Jessica Piersol at Newberry County Memorial Hospital said they had many things going on at the hospital. As of recently, the hospital has pulled back their visiting privileges and restricted visitation due to a surge of COVID-19 cases in the hospital for the safety of their staff, patients and community.
As for COVID-19 vaccinations, Brenda Williams of NCMH said their frontline staff have had the option to receive their vaccine.
“We have been very pleased with our staff, more and more have been stepping up,” she said.
The next phase of the vaccination process includes emergency workers, law enforcement and those in community service that were out in the community. Williams said the hospital was still signing those employees up.
The next phase of the vaccine includes those ages 70+. While Williams says the hospital unfortunately does not have the resources to provide that number of vaccines to the Newberry community, that they were steering people to the SCDHEC website (www.scdhec.gov) to view information on a map of what locations are available to residents to receive their vaccinations.
“They’re saying this could take several weeks to complete once signed up and registered,” she said. “Just because we have to wait for the vaccine to arrive here in our state.”
As far as a message to the community, Piersol encouraged residents to continue doing the things that they were asked to do at the beginning of the pandemic – wearing a mask, practicing good hand hygiene, staying home when not feeling well and practicing social distancing.
“We are a strong, united community and I know that we can do it,” she said.
Newberry County Chamber of Commerce
Michelle Long, director of the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce told Senn that many of Newberry’s businesses had learned a bit last year in innovation.
From moving services online, to making sure to limit their customers in store and to the transition of curbside pickup, Long said Newberry’s businesses brought that small-town service to residents that you can’t find elsewhere.
“I’m glad to say that we’ve not lost anyone specifically due to covid, when it comes to a business,” she said.
Moving forward, to support Newberry businesses, Long told Senn that the economy was built on small businesses and encouraged residents to shop local.
“If you need a service or a product and you’re not sure where to get it locally, call us at the chamber. That’s what we’re here for,” Long said. “We’re a resource.”
Jeff Sommer, with Retail Strategies represents Newberry as a retail consultant/recruiter. Over the past five years, Sommer said their company has worked to find sites in Newberry, catalog them and then represent the city on a national scene to get retail brands to come to the area.
Senn thanked Sommer and Retail Strategies for helping the city recruit businesses such as Starbucks, Firehouse Subs, Citi Trends and Papa John’s to come to town.
“While we can’t make people come to Newberry, we can sure encourage it,” he said.
Sommer said he was pleased to announce that Burke’s Outlet would be taking over the former Goody’s retail location in Newberry, selling things such as apparel, general merchandise, home goods and other items.
“It’s a good, strong brand,” he said. “We were pleased to hear that Burke’s was looking around the Southeast to take Goody’s spaces, so we immediately reached out.”
As the landlord, Sommer said they then let Misty West take over to negotiate lease terms, etc.
While he wasn’t able to name the brand, Sommer said Retail Strategies was working on bringing a chicken, quick-service restaurant to Newberry.
“Not necessarily Chic-fil-A, but it’s a brand that you all would recognize,” he said. “They have great chicken-sandwich type products.”
The developer has signed and closed on the property, Sommer said, however they were waiting on the lease to be signed by the corporate entity. Construction is expected to begin in quarter two of this year, he said.
Sommer said the company also had a tool, home improvement style brand that was interested in Newberry and that they were looking for the right location for them.
As far as addressing the town’s concerns for wanting an additional grocery store, Sommer said every brand [of store] has their specific criteria that they must meet in order to want to be in a market.
“While Newberry has a lot of great things to offer, it may not hit certain demographic points or things this brand may want to have in order to make money in the market,” he said.
Daily and weekly, Sommer said Retail Strategies was reaching out to grocery brands, trying to have those conversations as they know it’s a priority for Newberry.
Parks, Recreation and Tourism
City Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Scott Sawyer touched on the Newberry Recreation Complex that opened in 2020 at 1786 Glenn Street Extension.
The park property encompasses over 100 acres and includes a lake, three baseball/softball fields, two rectangular multipurpose fields, a nature trail, splash park and an accessible playground.
A few picnic shelters have just been constructed at the complex, Sawyer said, along with the prepping of the concrete pad for the pickleball court. Construction is also underway for the concessions/bathroom/scorers building.
“We don’t anticipate playing on the ballfields this year, so we’re looking at 2022 year for the first baseball/softball field playing out there,” he said due to construction timelines.
Work is also soon to begin at the Japanese Gardens, Senn said as well as improvements to Wise Street Park.
Councilman Lemont Glasgow spoke on behalf of his work with the Living Hope Foundation. While in the middle of a pandemic, Glasgow said there were many that were suffering financially, but that the community had stepped up to help.
“What has been humbling for me is to see how many people have stepped up to help us achieve our objectives,” he said.
The number of people needing service has increased during the pandemic, Glasgow said – an average about 500 households per month, with an average of four people per household.
Glasgow said the organization gives out noncooked food to those individuals to last them about one week and that they were able to do that thanks to partners like Harvest Hope and local helpers like Food Lion, BiLo, Walmart, Merchant Foods and Little Caesar’s.
“There are also small businesses that host can drives to donate to the Living Hope Foundation as well,” he said.
What has been huge for them this year, Glasgow said was the increase in individual donations
“Without the help of others, we would not be able to do all the things that we do,” he said.
Even if it’s not to the Living Hope Foundation, Glasgow encouraged those to give if they were able so that organizations like theirs could continue to do good things in the community.
Nationally in 2020, Senn said there had been a lot of discussion about police training and that the city’s police department was all very well trained.
Police Chief Roy McClurkin said one of the things his department did last year was look at some of the standards that were put out there concerning what police officers need and that thankfully the city was already doing that training.
One of the topics of training mentioned de-escalation, McClurkin said which the department was already receiving annually. Each one of the city’s officers each year is getting between 60-75 hours of training between what they receive in-house as well as specialized training.
The definition of de-escalation, McClurkin said was using verbal dialogue to keep from having to use force.
“Our officers are professionally trained and when they go to a scene and someone is upset, the first thing we do is listen to them,” he said. “You’ll find that they just want to be heard, want you to listen and that takes care of that problem.”
McClurkin said he wanted Newberry citizens to know that what they’re hearing in the news about police officers needing training here and there, that the city is already doing that, and they have a professional police department.
For those in the community with concerns, McClurkin said his door was open.
“We are here to serve the citizens of Newberry,” he said.
Fire Chief Keith Minick said the fire department stayed busy throughout 2020, despite the pandemic and were still able to provide smoke alarms to those in the community that were in need through their smoke alarm program.
Minick said the department had received several calls toward the end of last year, where there were no working smoke alarms in the residences.
“That concerns us, knowing that we have some that we can provide at no cost,” he said.
Over the last couple of years, Minick said they had had several people retire, but he was excited to announce they were now back up to full staff. Like the police department, Minick said training was very important to their staff, with each member gets about 300 hours of training per year.
Through 2020, the fire department was able to receive grant money and through working with Newberry County to put a Class A burn building together at the training facility for staff to use.
“That will allow us to do a lot more local training,” he said.
Newberry County Library
Due to technical difficulties, Abigail Fuller, the new director of the Newberry County Library was unable to complete her interview. However, Senn told the community that Fuller would be a regular guest on WKDK Radio and that he looked forward to hearing about her plans for the library.
As we go forward into 2021, Senn asked the community to be smart and to be hopeful.
City Council Provides Amendments to 2020-2021 Budget
Newberry City Council passed first reading of an ordinance Tuesday for amendments to the revenue and expenditure appropriations in the current year’s budget.
City Manager Matt DeWitt told council that each year when city staff produced the budget, they made their absolute best guess as to what the city would be facing in the upcoming year. However, sometimes mid-year adjustments need to be made as the year progresses.
“It’s a pretty normal process across the state for cities this time a year,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt went through a spreadsheet with council with the following items needing adjusted in the current year’s budget.
- Police Department body cameras – DeWitt said an addition of $60,190 was needed as the city received a grant for body cameras. While the city’s police officers were already wearing body cameras, these new cameras contain upgraded technology and act as an additional failsafe for officers when it comes to the activation of the cameras.
- Class A Burn Building – An addition of $335,000 was added for a Class A Burn Building used for fire department training. A check was received from the state last year for $250,000 DeWitt said in support of the building to be used by both the city and county fire departments. The money was transferred from a holding account to purchase the building. The house purchased for $85,000 behind the city’s Wilson Road fire department location was also included in that line item. Those funds were also transferred from savings.
- Confined Space Equipment – DeWitt said the city received a grant for $25,000 from Newberry County to purchase confined space equipment. While the city will house the equipment, it can also be used by Newberry County.
- Newberry Recreation Complex – A change of $250,000 DeWitt said was coming from Capital Project Sales Tax funding that was being held in savings for the buildout of the recreation complex. When funding was originally allocated, DeWitt said they were not expecting the increase in lumber which led to some of the money being pulled from savings and put to use to pay the increased costs.
- Fiber Optic Project – While a three-year buildout was initially planned for the city’s fiber network, it was completed much sooner with unexpected costs totaling $886,972. DeWitt said while there was more of a cost up front, the city was seeing much higher revenues than anticipated on fiber sales in the community.
- Water/Sewer Automotive – A truck was lined up last year for purchase in the utilities department, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to secure the truck was delayed. Funding of $40,000 was needed to purchase the vehicle.
- Wilson Road tie line - Contract labor in the amount of $185,550 was needed to complete the electric tie in on Wilson Road, Tim Baker, utilities director said.
- Finance Equipment – An adjustment was needed, DeWitt said of $60,000 for the purchase of a PayGo kiosk that will be placed in the drive-thru of City Hall, allowing PayGo utility customers another option of paying their bill 24/7.
- And finally, DeWitt said an adjustment of $886,972 was needed to complete the adjustments in the Utility Capital Fund as listed above.
Motion to approve first reading was made by Councilman David DuBose and seconded by Councilman Lemont Glasgow.
Also approved by council was an ordinance to temporarily suspend the normal operating procedures and to provide for emergency procedures applicable to public meetings during the continuance of such emergencies.
Originally passed last year, this ordinance was once again extended, allowing the Mayor, City Council and City Boards and Commissions to remotely participate in voting and operations procedures by telephone or other means of electronic communication provided that they comply with the provisions of the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.
Enacted due to the circumstances the city faces in combating the spread of COVID-19, the ordinance will expire in 61 days, unless extended. Motion was made by Glasgow and seconded by DuBose.
Under new business, Councilwoman Holmes made a motion, seconded by Councilman Edwin Wicker to pass first reading of an ordinance amending a previous ordinance establishing a rate stabilization fund for the City of Newberry Combined Public Utility System.
While the original ordinance passed in 2019 established a rate stabilization account for the city’s electrical distribution system, the flow of funds into the rate stabilization account was inconsistent with the covenants of the city contained in its bond ordinance.
The city’s amended and restated bond ordinance enacted on April 14, 2015, which provides the mechanism for issuing revenue bonds for the city’s combined public utility system, consisting of its electrical distribution system, waterworks system and sewer system previously provided the procedures to establish a rate stabilization fund. The city’s financial policies dated April 21, 2015 also make provision for funding a rate stabilization fund, which is consistent with the bond ordinance.
DeWitt said the city was enacting this ordinance to amend a previous ordinance in order to make it consistent with the covenants in the bond ordinance and policies.
Also approved by council was first reading of an ordinance to establish fees at the Newberry Recreation Complex. While splash park admission fees had already been discussed by council, these additional fees include athletic field and rental fees as well as other rentals.
Athletic field rentals at the complex will include an hourly rental of $25 per field per hour for non-tournament related use. A two-hour rental period is required for rental of any field as well as a field preparation fee of $50 per field rental. A $10 fee for lights will be charged for the use of lights to illuminate each field rental as well as a $50 security deposit, DeWitt said.
Tournament field rentals will include a fee of $200 per field per day for games scheduled to begin and end prior to 5 p.m. For games beginning after 5 p.m. the fee is increased to $250 per field per day. There is a required deposit of $500 per scheduled event for which one or more rental agreement is entered.
Individual hourly rentals for batting cages will be $5 per hour for individual use and $15 per hour for team use. Teams with more than 15 users are required to ren an additional cage.
The large shelter can be rented at a fee of $20 per hour while the small shelter is $15 per hour. A minimum of two consecutive hours is required when renting as well as a $50 security deposit.
Canoes, kayaks and pedal boats will also be available for rent at the complex’s Hidden Lake. These can be rented for a fee of $5 per hour per person for any of the equipment.
The pickleball court rental will be $10 per hour, per court, while the ping-pong table rentals will be $5 per hour, per court. Volleyball court rentals will be $10 per hour, per court.
While all of the courts and shelters have a fee associated with them, DeWitt said at any time, residents could come out and use these facilities on a first come, first served basis at no cost.
“You don’t have to rent them to use them, but if you do reserve them for a certain time, there is a fee for the convenience,” Dewitt said.
Fees will still be required to use the canoe, kayak and pedal boats.
For private event hosting, the city parks recreation and tourism director is authorized to establish a rental fee and security deposed based upon the facility sought to be rented at a rate of no less than $50 per hour, per facility requested.
Security for events if needed would be $20 per hour per security officer/personnel as assigned by the parks recreation and tourism director as they deem appropriate.
Parks Recreation and Tourism Director Scott Sawyer said in some cases, it may be required that a private agency provide security.
Adult supervision and a government issued photo identification card is required to be provided to all rentals.
Motion to provide first reading was made by Glasgow and seconded by Kinard.
Under updates and announcements, Sawyer said the recreation complex had been busy with many enjoying the park. The picnic shelter construction, to include the concrete pads had also been completed.
The splash park has been winterized, Sawyer said and the construction of the scorers building was still underway and making good progress.
Mayor Foster Senn said an expert from the waterfowl association had come to give advice about potentially putting ducks into the pond on the property.
Schumpert and Sons Paving, Inc. was awarded the contract for the paving of the Wise Street Park trail and should be completed quickly, pending any weather concerns. Sawyer said the trail will include a story walk being done in conjunction with Westview Behavioral Center and Newberry County First Steps to include story book holders along the trail for families to enjoy reading a book with their children as they walked the trail. The trail will be at least half a mile long, Sawyer said.
Requests for Qualifications for Wells Japanese Garden pond renovation were posted on SCBO, the state’s procurement services website, Sawyer said with a December 31, 2020 deadline. Bids are being reviewed, and the hope is for renovations to begin in March.
As for 2021 events, Sawyer highlighted that the department was hoping for a good year for events, including a new potential event, Juneteenth that was hoped to be held on June 19.
Senn ended the announcements by thank the city for their efforts on downtown Christmas décor as he said he had received many compliments. He also commended the police and fire departments for their work to spread Christmas cheer throughout the holiday season.
Following executive session, council returned to vote on appointments to several committees. The following were approved:
- Neville Glover, Debra Blizzard, Paul Ringer and Joy Sheppard for reappointment for the Accommodations Tax Committee
- Luvester Davis and Kevin Clamp for reappointment for the Architectural Review Board
- Robert Clark, Susan Smith and Jim Parks for reappointment for the Zoning Board of Appeals.
- Sami Worthington for reappointment for the Miss Newberry Board
City Council will meet again virtually on Tuesday, February 9 at 7 p.m. Information regarding how to view the meeting will be announced closer to that date.
Final Arrest Made in Holloway Street Homicide
Jalen Derand Glymph, 21, of 6206 Arbor Crest Court in Fountain Inn SC has been arrested on charges of Murder, Breach of Peace High and Aggravated Nature, Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime.
Acting on a tip from Crime Stoppers, officers with the Newberry Police Department, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Fugitive Task Force and the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office were able to arrest Glymph on outstanding warrants related to a murder that occurred on Holloway Street in Newberry on September 26. Glymph was taken into custody without incident. In addition to the outstanding charges, he was also charged with Possession of Crack Cocaine, Simple Possession of Marijuana and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Police Chief Roy McClurkin said officers executed a search warrant of the property located at Indian Hills Apartments in Newberry where Glymph was taken into custody and located crack cocaine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a handgun.
As a result of the execution of the search warrant, additional arrests were made of 22-year-old Talaisha Shaykerria Watson, of 1935 Drayton Street in Newberry. Watson was charged with Harboring a Fugitive, Possession of Crack Cocaine, Simple Possession Marijuana and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
A 17-year-old juvenile was also arrested for Possession of Crack Cocaine, Simple Possession Marijuana and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
McClurkin thanked the community for all their help that led to Glymph being taken into custody.
“It’s this partnership that is very beneficial in solving crimes and keeping the community safe,” he said.
Top 10 Things Every Newberrian Can do to Start the Year with Hope
***PLEASE NOTE The Harlem Hellfighters and Finding Their Voice exhibits at the Newberry Museum will now open January 26.***
Second Reading Passed to Ratify Utility Rates
Newberry City Council passed an ordinance Monday to ratify utility rates that were passed in the current fiscal year’s budget. Motion to approve second and final reading of the ordinance was made by Councilwoman Jackie Holmes and seconded by Councilman Lemont Glasgow.
Mayor Foster Senn said that during council’s review of the draft budget earlier this year, they discussed a continuation of the 2% meter minimum increase for both water and sewer rates to offset the additional debt capacity needed to fund the 2015 series bonds as it continues to be recommended by the city’s utility rate consultants.
As an additional step, the ordinance was read by council in order to codify the ordinance.
With no comments in favor or opposition to the proposed ordinance, the public hearing was declared adjourned Monday. Senn said that an advertisement had been placed in The Newberry Observer that those wishing to speak had the opportunity to provide public comment via email or telephone to the City Clerk up until one hour prior to the meeting Monday.
To remind the public of the budget discussions from earlier this year, Senn said the average city residential customer saw a total increase of $0.74 per month based on a 5/8” meter. No changes were requested in volumetric charges for water or sewer.
City Council will meet again virtually on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. Information on how to access virtually will be announced prior to the meeting.