City Council Discusses Projects

Elyssa Haven for The Newberry Observer
City Council discussed several projects during a work session Monday. -

NEWBERRY – Several projects are being researched into further detail following a City Council work session Monday night.

Council asked city staff to look into the process of becoming a Tree City USA designated community in 2018. City Manager Matt DeWitt said he had spoken in great detail with Dena Whitesides, a local forester in the area about sample ordinances, budgets and different requirements in order for the city to become a designee.

One of the requirements, an Arbor Day celebration, DeWitt said the city already does each year with local elementary schools.

“We do about as good of a job as Dena’s seen with a program like that,” he said.

Another requirement for the City of Newberry to become a Tree City USA designated community would be the need to designate a tree board, which DeWitt said would be a standing committee similar to other committees the city has.

An ordinance would also need to be passed that explained how public trees were cared for in the city such as in parks or on public city property.

A two-dollar per capita budget would also need to be passed. For example, in the city of Newberry, with approximately 10,000 residents, the budget would have to total around $20,000.

A concern city staff and council had about the process would be the city’s utilities department would have difficulty trimming back trees around power lines like they do currently. DeWitt said according to Whitesides, a contractor would have to come in to prune trees properly, according to the standards of a tree city designated community.

Mayor Foster Senn and council tabled the discussion until further information could be provided at a future work session. The motion was made by Councilman Lemont Glasgow and seconded by Councilman Edwin Wicker.

Fiber Network Plans

Utility Director Tim Baker and Assistant Utility Director David Eldridge also updated council Monday on the city’s plans for its fiber network. Baker started by telling council that cameras and fiber had been placed in some areas identified as areas that needed surveillance by Police Chief Roy McClurkin.

Baker said that he, Eldridge and DeWitt spoke with a company a few weeks ago that may potentially be interested in working with the city on their fiber network.

“They were very receptive,” Baker said.

A potential pilot area has been identified to include the areas of Nance, Calhoun, Friend and Martin Streets to test out providing a phone, internet and television combination to city residents and businesses. Eldridge told council the idea would be to hang fiber along the poles in the area on the outside, while installing drops into the historic downtown area through existing conduit that already exists underground. There are approximately 210 potential customers within the pilot area, Eldridge said.

It is still up for discussion, Eldridge told council as to who would be installing the fiber.

“City staff could do the installation or a contractor could be hired,” Eldridge said.

Glasgow was concerned with a potential internet speed to which Eldridge said he had seen anywhere from 100 megabytes per second to one gigabyte per second.

DeWitt suggested once the city was able to partner with a provider they would provide a business plan model to see what a possible take-rate would be as far as the interest of residents.

Senn said he felt like the pilot program would be a good start and could clear up any questions that may come up as the program progressed.

The discussion was tabled for city staff to report back to council soon with a business plan and potential revenue projections.

Recreation Center Plans

DeWitt along with Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Scott Sawyer presented plans and renderings from Alliance Engineering for the city’s future recreation complex, complete with a splash pad area.

Sawyer also presented to council additional requested items not included in the original Capital Project Sales Tax (CPST) base bid. The potential additional items included off-site utilities (water main, pump station and force main), additional underdrain systems for baseball and multipurpose fields, the addition of a tower bucket to the splash pad and an additional upgrade to the concession area to include a scoring tower.

The additional items, Sawyer said totaled to approximately $1,325,000. To pay for the additional items, Sawyer proposed $777,740 to be paid by the city, which is the balance of the $1.5 million they pledged as a match for the CPST. In the next fiscal year, Sawyer said $600,000 of the total could also be obtained split equally through economic development monies and Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant money. The LWCF grant awards will not be determined until later this year, Sawyer said.

The current planned walking trail in the complex is set to be mulch, rather than a paved surface. The ADA, Sawyer said does not currently have guidelines for how trails need to be constructed, other than there must be an accessible way to get to the trail. However, in the future, Sawyer and council agreed the trail could be paved as the park expands and council sees where the need for a trail expansion could also be needed.

“As people tend to walk their own paths, you’ll start to see over time where you may need to expand to the trail system to adapt to the walking patterns of those using the park,” DeWitt said. “Asphalting would be a good idea when we get a better idea of what’s going to be around the entire property.”

Council inquired as to if there would be a charge for the community to access the splash pad, to which Sawyer said they planned to have a fee to use it as the area will be fenced with a single entry point. He said they knew they would need to have the splash pad area staffed, but were looking into whether a lifeguard would be required for the area.

Other inquiries from council included sponsorships for the recreation complex. Sawyer said his staff currently had sample packets from Irmo/Chapin Recreation Commission that had been used at their locations and they were looking into how sponsorships were done from ball field sponsorships to banners, etc.

“We will probably need to feel that out with phone calls to see who may be interested and what they may be interested in,” Sawyer said.

Councilman Thomas Louis Boyd made a motion, seconded by Mayor Foster Senn for Sawyer and city staff to begin soliciting bids for recreation center plans.

City Council discussed several projects during a work session Monday. Council discussed several projects during a work session Monday.

Elyssa Haven for The Newberry Observer