NEWBERRY – Mayor Foster Senn updated the community on news and events throughout the city at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
The Oakland Tennis Center held its grand opening on January 27, Senn said there was a large crowd in attendance. The center officially opened at the beginning of January and has since had many residents and Newberry College students utilizing the facility.
Senn told the community that the tennis center’s Tennis Apprentice Program would start on February 20 and that there was still room for participants. For a $50 fee, citizens can learn the game of tennis for a six-week period and will receive a tennis racket as well as a one year membership into the United States Tennis Association.
Other updates from Senn included the upcoming South Carolina Clay Conference that will take place February 23-25.
“There are still spaces available for anyone that would like to sign up,” he said.
The Healthy Chili Cookoff took place on Saturday, Feb. 3 downtown and more than $1,145 was raised through chili sales and bowls made by students and volunteers of the Newberry Arts Center. Proceeds, Senn said, were donated to the Zion United Methodist Church Food Pantry.
Senn reminded the community of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department’s senior luncheons that take place on the second Tuesday of each month and to contact the department at 803-321-1015 for more information.
Other updates provided by City Council Tuesday included the 2018 Accommodations Tax Applications. The City of Newberry Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee (ATAC) will be accepting applications for funding from non-profit community organizations engaged in “Tourism Related Activities” benefiting the City of Newberry.
City Manager Matt DeWitt said a total of $70,284.37 would be available for distribution for 2018 projects, and organizations requesting funds would be required to make a presentation to ATAC. DeWitt said entries in the past had included monies for the Newberry Opera House, the Ritz Theater and others. All applications must be received at City Hall by 5 p.m. on February 23. Organizations must be a certified non-profit and advertise outside of Newberry County to be eligible.
Under old business, Council passed second and final reading of an ordinance to amend the zoning map for 2516 Kinard Street from R-8 Residential to OC-Office Commercial. White Oak Manor, Inc. placed a contract on the property located on Kinard Street that is contingent on the rezoning of the property. A vacant home sits on the property and it is the intent of the White Oak Corporation to create an office space on the property with additional parking.
Prior to second reading, council held a public hearing with Bobby Shealy, representative with Lane Properties, speaking in favor of the amendment to zoning.
“They [White Oak Corporation] know that they will have to put a buffer of some sorts around the site and dress it up nice,” Shealy said. “But if you’ve ever visited a loved one there on a weekend, you know that they are in desperate need of parking.”
The motion to approve the change was made by Councilman Thomas Louis Boyd and seconded by Councilman Lemont Glasgow.
Second and final reading was also held to amend the Newberry Opera House bylaws. The Newberry Opera House and its subsidiary the Opera House Guild have conducted reviews of their bylaws. Senn said the reviews are the first of their kind since the inception of the program and they needed to conform to the growth of the Opera House. The changes were approved following the first reading of the ordinance last month and city attorney, Robert Lake has approved the recommended changes to the bylaws for the Newberry Opera House Board and the Opera House Guild. Motion was made by Boyd and seconded by Councilman David DuBose.
Also under old business, Amy Talbot with the Newberry Downtown Development Association requested to speak before council to revise the originally approved time for the Groove ‘N Brewfest along with the method of serving alcohol that Council approved in January.
Talbot told council that food vendors would like to have the opportunity to serve both lunch and dinner for festival goers on April 7 downtown and asked council for the festival to run from 1 p.m. until 10 p.m. The original approved beginning time was 3 p.m. Talbot also asked council to change from the traditional method of using approved event cups to serve alcohol to using craft beer cans. She told council there would be recycling boxes to dispose of the cans.
“It has been a learning process as it is our first festival, but we are excited,” Talbot said. “Craft beer is not kegged in kegs like domestic or imported beer and it’s more cost effective and better to control waste by not having to pour the beers into cups.”
DeWitt was asked his opinion by Council to which he said he felt that city events were effective in that they had a proven method of alcohol being served in designated event cups. While Talbot told council the craft beer cans would be very specific, DeWitt said it would be difficult for city officers to discern whether a can someone was carrying downtown was an approved can from the event or something they brought from outside the venue.
Both DeWitt and Senn spoke of other events such as Irish Fling and Oktoberfest that is put on by the city and has had success using the event cups and had even obtained sponsorships for the cups.
“I believe the city has reduced liability with the way they have done events and handled alcoholic beverages,” DeWitt said. “We are extremely excited about the downtown merchants doing this event and want them to do more in the future so we want to set them up for success.”
Senn made the motion to change the start time of the event from 3 p.m. to 1 p.m. and not to change the policy on the event cups. Boyd seconded the motion.
Under new business, Council passed first reading of an ordinance to amend the purchase power adjustment calculation. The Piedmont Municipal Power Association (PMPA), where the city purchases their power, has voted to issue each PMPA participating city a wholesale credit on their bill for the next 11 months based on their base billing demand. The total amount expected to be credited to Newberry over this time period is approximately $1.9 million.
The base billing demand for the City of Newberry will increase starting in May 2018 by approximately $17,000 per month. City staff is requesting that the city retain approximately 50% of the credit and place into reserves. The remaining 50% will be credited to customer’s accounts and will be enough to cover the increase in base billing demand and decrease the wholesale power cost by an additional $353,000.
DeWitt said that the remaining 50% of that money would sit in savings until city staff brings it back before council to decide what should be done with it. Motion was made by Councilman Zebbie Goudelock and seconded by Glasgow. Second reading will be held at a special meeting on Friday, February 23 at noon.
Also under new business, council approved two considerations of outside water service requests for property located at 199 and 235 Robin Road and an outside sewer service request for property located at 4000 College Street. Property owners have agreed to execute an annexation covenant indicating a willingness to annex if their property becomes contiguous to the city limits and council determines it is in the best interest of the city to annex the property. All pieces of property are adjacent to existing water lines providing service for the property with a tap currently in place.
Council approved a request to allow alcohol in designated event areas of Irish Fling for Friday, March 16. Alcoholic beverages must be served in designated event venues using pre-approved plastic cups to be taken from designated venues into the outdoor event area. This allows event patrons to travel, by foot, from one designated venue to another with an alcoholic beverage if they are carrying the beverage in the approved plastic event cups and wearing over 21 wristbands, provided by event organizers. Motion was made by Boyd and seconded by Glasgow.
Brantley Satterwhite and Sami Truong were approved by council as additional members to the Miss Newberry Board to assist with the planning and execution of the pageant. Their three-year terms will expire in 2021. Motion was made by Boyd and seconded by Councilman David Force.
Alex Dowd was recognized by council for his 10 years of service with the city’s Utility Department. Dowd began his employment on January 22, 2008 and holds the position of Warehouse Inventory Agent.
“Alex is always willing to help and lend a hand,” said Utility Director Tim Baker. “He is outgoing and one of the most polite people I’ve ever met.”
City Public Works Director Mac Bartley was recognized for his more than 25 years of service as a volunteer fireman with the city’s fire department. Bartley began volunteering with the department in January 1993 and continues to serve the needs of the public when calls come in.
“Mac stays trained and has been very dedicated to our department,” said Fire Chief Keith Minick.
Senn recognized Ann Smith for chairing the 2017 Main Street Lights Christmas Campaign. Senn said Smith did not attend the meeting, but passed along the news that she had agreed to be the chairperson this year, and that seeing the people downtown during Christmas enjoying themselves was all the thanks she needed and she looked forward to this year.