NEWBERRY COUNTY – The Newberry County Council heard plans to possibly bring a new fitness park to the community, as well as news of Newberry County Memorial Hospital’s (NCMH) partnership with Newberry College at its June 15 meeting.
Jerry Alewine, dean of nursing and health sciences at Newberry College, and NCMH’s Brenda Williams discussed the college’s new nursing and health sciences building and programs that will help alleviate nursing shortages in the area. Nursing students at Newberry College will be able to partner with the hospital to help with local staffing needs.
In addition to partnering on education, the new facility on the corner of College and Evans streets will have what Alewine called a kind of “doctor in a box” clinic that will be open to the university community and the public.
The council also heard from Jessie Long, county parks and recreation director, about plans for a possible self-training park from the National Fitness Campaign Fitness Court. The parks are autonomous and can be decorated with murals by local artists. The Fitness Courts are supported by an app that users can download to create a personalized workout.
The proposed location of the Fitness Court would be on land near Piedmont Technical College (PTC), in the area behind Family Dollar and the county offices in the PTC plaza. Stated by Long as the site of the old Winn-Dixie.
The council asked about funding for the park, Long said some of it could be covered by grants and the county would have to make up the difference. Estimated costs for construction range from $137,350 to $157,350, $30,000 of which can be covered by grants. The Council expressed some concerns about the cost of the project, as well as future insurance and maintenance.
The county council recognized the Newberry Juneteenth committee with a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth in Newberry County.
The proclamation reads in part: “Therefore, I, Todd Johnson, President of the Newberry County Council of Newberry County, South Carolina, do hereby declare June 19 and 20, 2022, to be June 19 in Newberry County, South Carolina, and I encourage all citizens to become more aware of the importance of this celebration in the African-American history and heritage of our nation and county.”
In other business, the council approved the third and final reading of the fiscal year 2022-23 budget, although some concern was raised about building permit fees and copy fees that are increasing in the new budget.
Councilman Henry Livingston raised concerns during the council’s budget debate about how building permit fees are now calculated in the new budget. Previously, Livingston said, fees were calculated based on the value of the building, but now they are based on a fixed price per square foot. The county will now use International Code Council (ICC) building valuation data to calculate the total cost of a building permit.
Newberry County Construction, Planning and Zoning Director Ron Powell said the new assessment is currently based on $148 per square foot in new construction according to the ICC. Powell reported that of the last 10 permits obtained for new construction, half were above $148 and half were below.
“We’re trying to make this a fair number that balances out across all the builders,” he said.
Myron Cantrell of MC Builders spoke during public comments and raised concerns about the higher fees and where the funds are going. He said he would like to see the higher fees go back to the Building Department instead of the general fund. Cantrell further said that he felt the inspection department was understaffed, as inspections sometimes had to be scheduled days in advance, and he could use the funds.
A third reading was also approved for appropriations for the Newberry County Library, Piedmont Technical College and the Newberry Agency for Disabilities and Special Needs. Financing was not cut off for any of these entities and due to the increased value of the plant. In fact, entities see an increase in their financing. The anticipated value of a mill for fiscal year 2023 is $160,370, an increase of 6.5%.
The Lodging Tax Committee’s recommendations for the allocation of funds for the fiscal year were also approved.
On second reading, the council approved the rezoning of the 0.779-acre parcel number 395-39 from RS Single Family to R2 Rural. Also passed second reading on the 2017 CPST funding adjustment for the reconstruction of the building behind Whitmire City Hall.
The council considered a bid to repair Scurry Island Road and Doc Hollow Way from Satterfield Construction. The cost of the project will be $439,412.60. The Council expressed concern that this is the only offer received. Mike Pisano said that he felt the offer was reasonable and that the proximity of the contractor (Greenwood) made sense for the project.
Alliance Construction/Lindler Engineering presented information to the council regarding the rising costs of a retaining wall in the Mid-Carolina Industrial Park. The cost overrun is expected to be $88,894.
After executive session, the council renominated Tomekia Means to the Joint Planning Commission, it was approved unanimously.
In public comments, several residents of the Colony Church Road area of Newberry County raised concerns about the slow expansion of fiber internet service in their neighborhood. The Council stated that they do not determine who is served by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), specifically Carolina Connect, but that is up to the ISP.
County Manager Christopher Inglese asked people with concerns about internet service to complete a survey about the need for service in the area.
“The state is collecting address-specific data and they are sensitive to students in households that do not have internet and are prioritizing the next round of grants,” Inglese said.
He did note that he saw the irony in asking those with slow internet or no internet to submit an online survey, but those with questions should contact the county manager’s office.
Inglese also noted that the county is in contract negotiations and “the ink is almost dry” on a contract to bring the Spartan Races to Newberry County. This is a steeplechase style race that has a 5K and 10K run and is expected to draw 6,000-8,000 people to the events on July 30-31.
The Council also took a moment during remarks to thank and offer best wishes to County Attorney Jay Tothar, who will be retiring after 14 years of service in Newberry County and 40 years of legal service.
Andy Husk is the editor of The Newberry Observer, contact him at 803-768-3117.