With help from the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the City of Newberry has secured a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to improve the city’s appearance and to assist in increasing property values throughout areas of town.

For several years, the City’s Planning and Development Services department has been identifying dilapidated houses in city limits, said Ward Braswell, director. In addition to being unsightly, some of these houses were being used for unwanted activity, he said. Criteria for the houses selected included health and safety concerns.

“The SC Department of Commerce with assistance from the Central Midlands Council of Governments helped the city obtain the grant to remove the dilapidated houses,” Braswell said.

The grant will fund $475,000 of the project, with a 10 percent match from the City of Newberry.

City Manager Matt DeWitt said the city had been able to budget to take down several dilapidated houses each year, but the impact had been minimal at best.

“This new grant will allow the city to make a more noticeable impact and experience the positive results from this investment,” he said.

Experience the magic of the Holiday Season in Newberry! Here are just 10 things we’re looking forward to but be sure to check out our website for all things Christmas in Newberry: www.newberrychristmas.com .
Scenes from Main Street Lights
1. Main Street Lights: Community Christmas Tree Lighting
The Holiday season in downtown Newberry kicks off on Friday, November 22nd from 5 pm to 8 pm at the annual Main Street Lights Community Christmas Tree Lighting! While the sun is setting experience caroling at the tree and snap a photo with the Southern Victorian Society, dressed in full replica Victorian era Holiday attire. The Lighting Ceremony will begin after dark at 6:15 pm and will feature local school choruses as well as Mayor Senn and a special guest from WISTV. The ceremony ends with a countdown to light the town. After the ceremony view the décor, listen to the Newberry College Madrigal Singers caroling, and consider stopping by the Ritz Theater at 7:30 pm for a free showing of The Polar Express. www.newberrychristmas.com
Last year's photo contest winner- Child looks at the lights in Memorial Park
2. #AVeryBerryChristmas Photo Contest
Join in the Christmas Cheer by entering this annual photo contest! To enter, simply post your photos of you, your friends, and family enjoying the decorations in downtown Newberry to social media, using the hashtag #AVeryBerryChristmas. The photo that best captures the magic of downtown Newberry during the holiday season will win 2 tickets to a show at the Newberry Opera House. www.newberrychristmas.com
 
2018 Gingerbread Winner, "Classic Christmas"
3. Newberry Gingerbread Competition
Bakers! It’s not too late to sign up to compete in the Newberry Gingerbread Competition. Featuring two categories- “Newberry Village” for any age and the “Kids Village” for children ages six to sixteen- competition entrants to the Kids Village will compete to win a gift certificate to the Newberry Arts Center while Newberry Village entrants will compete to win the grand prize of $500! Competitors are encouraged to think outside the box as this competition is not just looking for houses. Past entries have included Newberry landmarks, Christmas Trees, and even a peacock! Entries will be on display in the Newberry Arts Center beginning December 7th, where at 9 am winners will be announced at “Breakfast with Santa.” This event is free and open to the public. The gingerbread will remain on display in the windows of NAC through December 23rd. www.newberrychristmas.com
Santa on the fire truck with the NFD
4. Santa’s Tour of Newberry
This holiday season Santa will be touring some of Newberry’s neighborhoods by fire truck. On Fridays in December before Christmas, from 5 pm to 6 pm, watch for Santa as he checks in on Newberry’s children to insure all are being good boys and girls leading up to Christmas. Santa will end each of his tours in Memorial Park to attend North Pole Nights. Neighborhood tour details can be found at www.newberrychristmas.com.
Scenes from North Pole Nights
5. North Pole Nights
Fluttering snow, Santa, stories with Mrs. Claus and more- the wonders of the North Pole are coming to Downtown Newberry. On Fridays in December prior to Christmas visitors can come to the free North Pole Nights events to experience the holidays. Play in the fluttering faux snow in Memorial Park, take pictures with Santa, visit Santa’s workshop at the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce office for a Christmas Craft and Storytime with Mrs. Claus, and stop by the Newberry Arts Center to view the entries and winners of the Official Newberry Gingerbread Competition! Don’t miss the fun downtown December 6th, 13th, and 20th from 6 pm to 8 pm. www.newberrychristmas.com
Newberry Christmas Parade
6. Jaycees’ Christmas Parade
Held annually on the first Saturday in December, don’t miss the Newberry Jaycees’ Christmas Parade on December 7th at 4:30 p.m. This year’s theme is The Polar Express! Imagine the possibilities for floats and participants! Don’t miss the wholesome Christmas fun of this classic holiday parade. For more information and to apply to be in the parade visit www.newberryjaycees.com.
The Nutcracker Ballet with Dance Alive
7. Christmas Shows
For a special evening with family this season consider taking in a show! The Newberry Opera House will be hosting an array of holiday shows; musicals, dance, singers, bands, and the annual showing of the Nutcracker Ballet. Visit www.newberryoperahouse.comfor complete listings. Additionally, the holiday production by the Newberry Community Players will be The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a stage show based on the popular children’s book, December 6-7th, 13-14th at the Ritz. Find out more at www.theritzonline.com.
Children visit a tree farm
8. Local Christmas Tree Farms & Stops
The Christmas season just isn’t complete without a visit to your local tree farm and taking a fresh cut beauty home to fill your house with the wonderful scent of pine! Newberry County offers two local tree farms in our area, Wicker’s Tree Farm and Shine & Lee’s Christmas Trees. Both locations offer visitors a chance to get a warm cup of cocoa or cider while wandering through their fields to find the perfect tree, photo op spots, as well as fresh wreaths and other decorations. Chappells Nursery, in town, also offers fresh cut Fraser firs and fresh wreaths, as well as beautiful Christmas poinsettias and Wicker’s Greenhouse on highway 76 also offers a wide variety of poinsettias and décor for the season. For details on these locations visit their websites: www.wickerschristmastreefarm.com, www.shineandleeschristmastrees.com, www.chappellsnursery.com, Wicker’s Greenhouse can be found on Facebook.
Christmas tree at the Newberry Tour of Homes
9. Christmas Tour of Homes
Organized annually by the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce, the Christmas Tour of Homes offers visitors a chance to take a self-guided tour of private homes of Newberry fully decorated for the holiday season. The 2019 tour will feature Homes on Harrington Street, Summer, Oak, Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church decorated for the advent season, as well as a wine and cheese reception and tour at the newly renovated Old Newberry Hotel. The tour is scheduled for December 14 from 4pm to 8pm. Call the Chamber at 803-276-4274 for tickets and details.
Luminaries on the side of the road
10. Christmas Eve Luminaries
Every year on Christmas Eve nearly 8 blocks of Newberry’s Main Street is lined with the soft glowing light of luminaries. Along the sidewalks, in front of the historic homes that line the streets from Caldwell to Kinard, homeowners place matching white luminaries and light them at nightfall. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself near downtown on this night take some time to stroll the quiet glowing path and experience a quaint, small-town Christmas Eve.
 

With the arrival of downtown’s community Christmas tree soon to come, the holiday season is almost underway! The 20-foot Fraser Fir tree will arrive downtown on Tuesday, November 19.

Driving a total of six hours, Austin Willingham of Willingham and Son’s in Newberry will pick up the tree from Avery Farms in North Carolina and then deliver it back downtown for all to see.

Fraser Fir trees are not farmed any farther South due to the climate, which is why the city purchases the tree each year from Avery Farms.

Mary Alex Kopp, tourism and events manager for the City of Newberry said the city was always grateful for their partnership with Willingham’s and their willingness to get the tree every year.

Parts of Main Street will be closed next Friday evening for Main Street Lights to include Coates to Nance, Caldwell from Friend to Harrington, Boyce from College to Nance and McKibben from Main to Boyce Streets. Street closures will take place at approximately 3:30 p.m. as those with booths will be setting up shortly after that time. The event is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and lasts until approximately 8 p.m.

Additions to this year’s Main Street Lights event, Kopp said include three multicolored ornaments alongside the large red ornament in Astwood Park.

“The three multicolored ornaments will be at the base, with the red ‘Merry Christmas’ ornament on top,” Kopp said. “It turns the display into a much larger stack.”

Banners will once again be placed on the smaller Christmas trees lining Memorial Park to recognize sponsors that donated $1,000 or more to include (sponsor names).

A full list of donors will be listed on the gift tags of the large present boxes in front of the tree at Community Hall.

The snow machines will be back in Memorial Park this year, Kopp said and will run for the first time Friday night following the tree lighting.

The Southern Victorian Society will be downtown singing Christmas carols again this year in full Victorian replica dress. The group is made up of volunteers and organized by Rose Marie Favors.

The official ceremony begins at 6:15 p.m. featuring choirs from Boundary Street Elementary and Newberry Academy. The choirs will be positioned on the balcony of Community Hall.

Following the songs, Mayor Foster Senn and a special guest from WIS News will perform the official countdown to the tree lighting followed by the singing of “We Wish you a Merry Christmas.”

By 6:30 p.m., Kopp said all of the lights should be on downtown and she invites visitors to walk around and check everything out.

The Newberry College Madrigal Choir will be walking downtown after the tree lighting singing Christmas carols and lights will also be on display in Astwood Park.

At 7:30 p.m., The Ritz Theater will be open for a free showing of The Polar Express by the Newberry Community Players.

Kopp said roads are set to reopen by approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday evening.

A total of $14,000 was raised for Christmas downtown this year by fundraiser, Samantha Snyder. Money is donated by local families and businesses, Kopp said.

“What’s really special is the fact that we have a community that really champions a beautiful and quaint downtown,” she said. “They donate with the understanding that no one has to pay to look at these lights downtown, as it’s a free gift to the Newberry community during the holiday season.”

More Christmas Cheer

Prior to the Christmas tree lighting this year is the downtown Holiday Open House on November 14-17 organized by the Newberry Downtown Development Association. In addition to what will be going on downtown, patrons will see sales, specials and even some free samples of products at downtown businesses.

Beginning next Friday and running every Friday through December 20, North Pole Nights will be in Memorial Park from 6-8 p.m. with the snow machines running downtown. The Newberry County Chamber of Commerce will have story time with Mrs. Claus at the Chamber as well as Christmas crafts.

Santa will be in Memorial Park during this time with a photographer for children that want their photo (for a small fee) taken on Santa’s lap. The Newberry Arts Center will also be open during this time with inexpensive keepsakes that children can create during their visit.

Kopp said that downtown’s Christmas tourism had gone up dramatically from years past with approximately 2,000 people downtown for last year’s event and anywhere from 100-250 people downtown on a given Friday night for North Pole Nights. 

As another part of the holiday season, Kopp said the Newberry Arts Center is taking applications through November 27 for the Gingerbread Competition for adults and children. The grand prize winner will receive $500. Applications can be downloaded from www.newberrychristmas.com or by calling the Newberry Arts Center at 803-597-1125.

Competition entries can be seen on display in the Newberry Arts Center, 1200 Main Street the first weekend of December through Christmas.

The winners for the competition will be announced on Saturday, December 7 at a breakfast with Santa at the Newberry Arts Center. Refreshments such as muffins, coffee and orange juice will be available. The breakfast is free and open to the public.

Santa’s tours of Newberry will be starting back up this year from 5-6 p.m. throughout the holiday season on December 6, 13, and 20. During this time Santa will be taking a tour of Newberry’s neighborhoods by fire truck. Times, locations and more details on this event can be found at www.newberrychristmas.com under ‘Events.’

For those that have social media, the City of Newberry will once again be holding their #AVeryBerryChristmas photo contest. On Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, those that post pictures using the hashtag #AVeryBerryChristmas will automatically be entered into the contest. Kopp asks participants to please make sure their posts are made public or they will not be seen to be entered into the competition.

The photo contest officially starts next Friday night at the tree lighting and will run through noon on December 20. Winners will receive two tickets to see Cirque Zuma Zuma at the Newberry Opera House on February 13, 2020.

The city’s Public Works and Utility department crews put in many hours to get downtown ready for Christmas, said Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Scott Sawyer.

“Newberry’s Christmas is a joint effort of several City departments,” Sawyer said. “The Public Works, Utilities and PRT Departments work together to light up Main Street to help residents and visitors get into the holiday spirit.”

Mary and Joe McDonald were recognized with a proclamation by City Council Tuesday night for the renovation and revitalization of the Old Newberry Hotel. Council’s monthly council meeting was held this month in the hotel.

“You both have touched so many lives in many ways,” said Mayor Foster Senn of the McDonald’s. “You’re known for your kindness and efforts to build up people and the community. We are delighted and appreciative of all you have done.”

Joe McDonald thanked council for the proclamation and for their support throughout the renovation process of the old hotel.

“We feel very fortunate that we were in the right place at the right time with the right resources to do this,” he said.

McDonald said the building dated back to 1878 and was now the permanent home for the Newberry Arts Center as well as 10 apartments for downtown living. The downstairs and atrium level, he said were to be used as event space.

Planning and Development Director Ward Braswell was also recognized Tuesday for his 20 years of service with the city’s Planning and Development department. Braswell began working for the city on October 18, 1999 and now holds the position of director for the department.

Senn said he had been told from businesses moving into the area that they found Braswell and his department to be superior to some of the larger cities they had worked with in the past.

City Manager Matt DeWitt said Braswell was very diligent in his work.

“He goes above and beyond to make sure people know what the department’s expectations are,” DeWitt said.

Assistant Utility Director David Eldridge provided a monthly update for council on the fiber rollout within the city limits. Eldridge estimated that fiber was approximately 55-60 percent completed across the city, with Zone 2 about 70 percent completed.

Five of the six fiber distribution hubs, he said had been set, with the sixth to be started that week, which would complete Zone 2. At this time, Eldridge said approximately 3,020 addresses had access to the fiber.

Councilman Zebbie Goudelock asked Eldridge if they were on schedule to which he replied that they were approximately two weeks behind, with Zone 2 scheduled to be completed in early December.

As an update to council, Samantha Snyder, this year’s Main Street Lights Chairman said over $14,000 was raised this year. The community Christmas tree is expected to arrive on Tuesday, November 19 around noon, she said with everyone welcome to watch it be unloaded.

The event runs next Friday, November 22 from 5-8 p.m. downtown, with students performing from Boundary Elementary and Newberry Academy, along with singing from the Southern Victorian Society. The official tree lighting will take place around 6:15 p.m.

“We appreciate the city and all of our donors for helping us out,” she said.

As another update, Senn signed a proclamation to officially declare the first Friday in December as Arbor Day for the city. He reminded council that this was one of the requirements in their quest to become a Tree City USA. This year, Arbor Day will be on Friday, December 6.

Hearing no one speak in favor or opposition during a public hearing held Tuesday, council approved second and final reading of an ordinance to amend the zoning map and future lap use map for parcels 340-1-57. Motion was made by Councilman Lemont Glasgow and seconded by Councilman David DuBose.

The proposed assignment of zoning classification and future land use and Zoning Map amendment is the result of the owner’s petition to reclassify parcels from PD – Planned Development to RD- Residential Development.

The change is made possible now that the zoning code has been updated to include the designation of RD- Residential Development. The parcels intended purpose would allow for single family dwelling use. This designation would apply to the 26.823-acre property located on Smith Road known as Newberry Landing.

The Newberry Planning Commission recommended a zoning classification of RD – Residential Development for the zoning and future land use maps.

New Business

Under new business, council approved the fiscal year 2020-21 budget calendar. Motion was made by Goudelock and seconded by DuBose to review the budget on May 5, 2020 and continue on the evenings of May 6-7, 2020 if needed. The regular council meeting was approved to remain at its normal time and date of May 12. Council plans to conduct first reading and public hearing of the fiscal year 2020-21 during the June 9 meeting, followed by a second reading and adoption of the budget ordinance the following Tuesday, June 16.

As part of the requirements to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, the city must complete a self-evaluation of all programs and services they operate. Based on the results of the self-evaluation, they then create a transition plan to take measures to remove any identified barriers to services and programs they provide. Tuesday, DuBose made a motion that was seconded by Wicker to adopt a self-evaluation and transition plan in fulfillment of the requirements stipulated in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A motion by Wicker and seconded by Glasgow authorized the City Manager to revise the relationship regarding supplemental power with the Piedmont Municipal Power Agency (PMPA).

This agreement pertains to the way PMPA buys supplemental electricity when the power available from the Catawba Nuclear Plant is insufficient for the City’s needs. The arrangement would specifically allow the City Manager to cancel that supplemental power contract.

PMPA’s primary power comes from the Catawba Nuclear Power Plant but sometimes there is not enough energy to serve all 10 member cities, and in those times, the City relies on the supplemental power contract PMPA has with Santee Cooper. This action will only take place if the current situation requires it.

 

Other business:

  • Motion was made by Councilman David Force and seconded by Goudelock to approve the 2020 regular council meetings and work session dates. All meeting dates are proposed on the second Tuesday of each month apart from January and September 2020 which will be held on the third Tuesday.
  • With a motion made by Glasgow and seconded by Councilman Edwin Wicker, council approved the 2020 jury list, containing the registered voters within the city limits.
  • Council approved a request to allow alcohol in designated event areas during the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce’s logo reveal within pre-approved cups in the event area that included in town square bound by the front of Community Hall, Main Street, Caldwell Street and Boyce Street. Motion was made by Wicker and seconded by DuBose.
  • With a motion made by Goudelock and seconded by Glasgow, council approved a request for outside water service for property located at 760 Kendall Road, owned by ISE America. The company has agreed to execute an annexation covenant indicating a willingness to annex if the property becomes contiguous to the city limits and council determined it in the best interest of the city to annex the property. This property, Senn said was located approximately 400 feet from the existing water line located on First Street and a single line extension would be required to serve the property and ISE America agreed to pay all costs associated with the extension in addition to tap and connection fees. Wicker recused himself from the vote due to the nature of his employment.
  • Motion was made by Goudelock and seconded by DuBose to amend sections 12-7, 12-8, 12-9 and 12-10 of the code of laws of the City of Newberry as they apply to the Firehouse Conference Center. The firehouse conference center last raised rates in 2017. DeWitt said the costs to operate the facility had increased due to the need for increased staffing, audio/visual upgrades and increased operational costs. The rate increase for regular weekend rentals is minimal, he said along with a moderate increase in wedding day events. Full facility weekday (up to 4:00 p.m.) rentals are only proposed to increase $25. The proposal creates a new rental structure for third floor rentals for weekday rentals up to and after 4:00 p.m. Single room rentals have been removed and third floor rentals now offer three options: Full floor and two “wing” rentals. The “wing” rentals are comprised of a front wing rental of Room 301 and the Executive Board Room and also the rear wing combining Rooms 311, 314 and 315.

 City Council recognized Ward Braswell for his 20 years of service with the City’s Planning and Development department. He is pictured with City Manager Matt DeWitt. 

 Mayor Pro Tem Zebbie Goudelock and Mayor Foster Senn present Joe and Mary McDonald with a proclamation for the renovation and revitalization of the Old Newberry Hotel.

 Newberry City Council met Tuesday for their monthly meeting at the Old Newberry Hotel downtown.

City of Newberry residents may soon see utility department employees in their area to flush fire hydrants, Utility Director Tim Baker said.

“South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) requires water systems to have a hydrant flushing program,” Baker said.

Every three years, Baker said the city is required to have a high velocity unidirectional flush of their hydrants throughout their water system. This differs from the occasional hydrant flushing that is needed in the system in the event of a water quality issue.

Hydrants need to be flushed to maintain proper water quality, Baker said as well as to ensure proper fire protection for residents.

“When we flush hydrants, we are taking static and residual water pressures at each hydrant,” he said.

The city follows the American Water Works Association’s method of hydrant flushing, meaning residents will see water flowing from two separate hydrants in the same area at the same time.

Unidirectional flushing allows the city to clean any residual from the lines, but also is a form of maintenance on the hydrants, said Newberry Fire Chief Keith Minick.

“Because the city is doing what is required of them from DHEC, it also helps with the fire department’s ISO rating,” Minick said.

The Insurance Services Office creates ratings for fire departments which calculate how well-equipped they are to put out fires within their community. This ISO rating is provided to homeowners insurance companies.

The water pressures taken by the utilities department are provided to the fire department to help them calculate how many gallons per minute are in a specific area for fire hydrants.

“It lets us know what we can expect to get from that water line in that area in case of a fire,” Minick said.

Baker said the testing and flushing of fire hydrants is also important from the standpoint of economic development as many developers as well as offices such as the Newberry County Economic Development Office often inquire as to the water pressure in certain areas of town.

At this time, Baker said approximately 25 percent of the hydrants on the city’s water system have been flushed. While utility workers try to be as non-disruptive to residents and vehicle traffic as possible, Baker said their department asks drivers to lower their speed and be cautious when driving through an area where hydrants are being tested.

“We ask that people be cautious not only for their own safety, but for the safety of our utility workers as well,” he said.

From the standpoint of the fire service, Minick said each hydrant is color-coded to dictate the gallons per minute they can expect from the water line for the hydrant in a given area, whether that color be blue, green, orange or red. Because of this color-coding system, he said it is imperative that people not paint, deface, or vandalize fire hydrants.

Minick also asks residents to be cautious when putting debris out by the road that blocks fire hydrants as well as planting vegetation around hydrants.

“Be careful not to block the view or access of the fire department to these hydrants,” he said. “We typically need a three-foot clearance around the hydrant to get a hose hooked and valve turned on.”

City Manager Matt DeWitt said this was just another example of city departments pulling together for the betterment of the city as a whole.

“I am proud of the work our team does to make Newberry a great place to live, work and play,” he said.

Baker said the city will make every effort to notify the public what areas they will be working in through their social media outlets of Facebook (City of Newberry Public Utilities) and on Twitter @PublicUtilities. For questions, please contact the City of Newberry Utilities Department at 803-321-1018.