Newberry City Council approved the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget calendar and 2021 meeting dates at Tuesday’s meeting.
By this calendar, council will continue to meet on the second Tuesday of each month throughout the 2021 calendar year. May 4-6, 2021 will be scheduled budget work session meetings, with the first reading and public hearing of the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget to be read on June 8, 2021 and the second reading on June 15, 2021.
The addition of one City Council work session was made for Saturday, February 6, 2021. At that time, Mayor Foster Senn said council will have added a new council member and as was customary they would all meet to start off the new year.
With a motion by Councilman Lemont Glasgow and seconded by Councilwoman Jackie Holmes, the 2021 Jury List was also approved Tuesday.
South Carolina State law requires City Council to annually approve the jury list for the City of Newberry Municipal Court. The jury list consists of the registered voters within the City limits of the City of Newberry.
Council approved of an ordinance Tuesday to temporarily suspend the normal operating procedures and to provide for emergency procedures applicable to public meetings during the continuance of such emergency.
Originally passed earlier this 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 Holmes and seconded by Councilman Wicker.
Also under new business, was the approval of an ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of combined public utility system refunding revenue bonds of the City of Newberry.
The City of Newberry maintains its combined public utility system, providing water, sewer and electric services to customers inside and outside the City. Through the years and as necessary to finance capital improvements to improve, upgrade and support the utility system, the city has issued bonds secured by the revenues of its combined utility system.
Currently, the City has outstanding two series of revenue bonds secured by the revenues of its utility system: (1) $19,002,796 Combined Public Utility System Revenue Bond, Series 2009 dated June 24, 2009; and (2) the $39,005,000 original principal amount Combined Public Utility System Improvement Revenue Bonds, Series 2021 dated May 26, 2015.
Lawrence Flynn, of Pope Flynn, LLC, city bond council, joined council for their meeting Tuesday and said today’s municipal debt markets had historically low interest rates. The city was advised by its municipal financial advisor, Southern Municipal Advisors that the city’s 2009 bond (currently held by the State Revolving Loan Fund) could be refunded (refinanced) for substantial savings.
Preliminary and conservative estimates indicate the City could achieve approximately $200,000-500,000 in savings by refunding the 2009 bond, City Manager Matt DeWitt told council.
The city has engaged Bond Counsel, Pope Flynn, LLC, to prepare documents necessary to authorize the refunding of the 2009 bond. First reading was passing with a motion by Wicker and seconded by Holmes. Second reading is slated for December.
Under old business, City Council passed a resolution to add a color to the Architectural Review Board’s color palette. The owner of 1300 Main Street requested painting the trim of their building a Sherwin Williams color of SW6740 Kilkenny. Motion was made by Councilman Lemont Glasgow and seconded by Wicker to add the color to the approved color palette.
The color was approved as a trim color and as such, it may be applied to no more than 20 percent of the total exterior painted surface area of the building structure.
As an update on last month’s discussion of the commercial economic development rider proposal for recruitment incentive, Senn said County Council had a tax incentive that would include a break in city taxes and the city was looking towards a proposal that would help with utility rates and costs of getting the new business established.
City Attorney Robert Lake advised council of the Azar case versus the City of Columbia where a similar proposal was initiated to funnel enterprise money, such as a utility for economic development. The court took a dim view of that, Lake said finding that their specific statutes prohibited it in the form that was proposed by the City of Columbia.
Lake told council he believed there were problems with the proposal in that because there were specific sections that required the user fee be imposed and used to pay the cost related to the provision of the service.
“Taking that money and shifting some of it towards a prospective enterprise would run contrary to that statute,” Lake said.
Senn inquired how the proposal differed from the current rate the city had set for other utility customers to which Lake said the rate that is set by the city’s utility ordinance would not be collected, but instead a discounted rate because they were located in the city.
The statute in the Azar case, Lake said stood for the proposition that you could not fund economic development money on the front end, but instead on the back end once all of the fund balances had been made as budgeted for that fiscal year. That surplus would then be transferred into the general fund and could be used by the city for whatever purposes were appropriate.
Senn said that seemed unpredictable and suggested DeWitt and Utility Director Tim Baker do more research as well as speak with other cities that had similar plans in place to see how they may be doing things differently. An updated proposal will be discussed by council at their next meeting in December.
Under updates and announcements Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Scott Sawyer provided general updates to council on the department.
Construction has started at the Newberry Recreation Complex for the concession stand and bathroom area and home plates have been installed on the ball fields. Sawyer said construction on the two shelters had started that day and it seemed that many had been enjoying the playground area and nature trail.
The restrooms at Wise Street Park have been completed, Sawyer said and are on an automatic locking system. They will remain open daily from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. for park patrons to use and then automatically lock as the park closes.
The ponds and grounds for the Newberry Japanese Garden were turned over to PRT department staff and Sawyer said he expected the renovation process to begin at the first of the year.
Mary Alex Kopp, tourism and events manager for the city spoke on behalf of the city’s holiday plans this year saying this year’s décor will feature interactive event videos accessible by QR codes placed across downtown to include Christmas musical performances, story time with Mrs. Claus, Letters to Santa, and more.
All are invited to tune in at 6 p.m. on Friday, November 20 to www.newberrychristmas.com for a special premiere video of the 2020 Main Street Lights Tree Lighting Event. The show will feature special Christmas music performed by Newberry College’s elite music groups, other talented local musicians, a special message from Mayor Foster Senn, and countdown to light the town.
Following the Main Street Lights video premiere, downtown’s interactive QR coded videos will be activated. Visitors can then explore the sounds and sights of Main Street Lights as they visit various decorated locations in Downtown Newberry, as part of this hybrid holiday event model.
Kopp then went on to discuss plans for a Juneteenth Festival in Newberry. At the suggestion of Holmes, Kopp agreed the two of them discuss a small advisory group for further planning. The event would be a day focused on food, fun and fellowship, Kopp said and would possibly be an evening event to avoid the summer heat.
Senn said he thought the event sounded exciting and also suggested involving the Newberry Museum or the Newberry County Library for history.
Senn also spoke Tuesday on two recent proclamation signings – one of Arbor Day, held on the first Friday in December in South Carolina; the other, Red Ribbon Week which was designated this year as October 23-31.
Katie Werts, with the city’s planning and development department spoke on behalf of the Community Development Block Grant progress by saying as of Tuesday they had received 29 title searches back out of the 47 addresses submitted.
All hearings have been held for the 29 homes the department received title searches for and out of those hearings, 16 of the homes have been cleared for demo, she said.
Summit Engineering Laboratory and Testing has been awarded the contract for the asbestos surveying for the homes and once results are received, those 16 homes will be put out for demolition bids, Werts said.
Glasgow asked if asbestos was found, what the next steps would be, to which Werts said that asbestos would be disclosed to those placing bids and they whomever was doing the work would have to take into consideration how that demolition would be done safely.
“They’ve done a fantastic job in getting this organized,” DeWitt said of the department.
Other updates included the promotions of three staff at the Newberry Police Department – Emily Seibert to Lieutenant, Rebecca Ringer to Sergeant and Scottie Peay also to Sergeant.
Senn told council the County Transportation Committee (CTC) had approved the city to proceed with patching of areas of Main Street from Wilson Road to past the Newberry Opera House. The areas would be dug down to the dirt base, Senn said, a new subbase would be added and the following year the South Carolina Department of Transportation would hopefully be doing a complete repaving of Main Street.