Friday, February 27, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Report: February 27, 2015

·       Chamber of Commerce Update: The Laurens County Chamber of Commerce met this week to discuss routine businesses. The discussion included an update on the Davenport Scholarship program, a discussion of the new efforts to improve Lake Greenwood through Connect Lake Greenwood, and the impact various bills being considered by the legislature will have on the community.

·       Rhythm on the Rails: City staff continue to plan for the inaugural “Rhythm on the Rails” festival in downtown Clinton on May 16th.

·       Beautify Laurens County: The City Manager, Public Safety Director Robin Morse, and several other community leaders spoke at a Press Conference regarding the impacts that litter has on our community on Tuesday. Law Enforcement Agencies county-wide are committed to writing tickets and prosecuting litterers and those involved in illegal dumping as part of our county wide effort to clean up Laurens County.

·       Martha Dendy Park: City personnel met with the contractors this week for the final walk through of the Martha Dendy property.  Several punch list items were identified. The next steps are to secure an architect to assist in planning out the rehab of the remaining part of the building.

·       Vehicle Acquisitions: The city is in the process of acquiring two service trucks for the Department of Public Works. One is a service truck equipped with a crane for pulling and maintaining subsurface sewer pumps. The other is a utility service truck to support the electric division. The city also took delivery this week of two Ford Explorer Police Interceptors.

·       John Dowdle Reception: A reception honoring longtime City Council Member John Dowdle was held this week. Mr. Dowdle was presented with a proclamation honoring his service, key to the city, and a United States Flag from Congressman Jeff Duncan’s office.

·       Lydia Mill Sewer Line Replacement: A public hearing was held this week by the City of Clinton, the Upper Savannah Council of Governments, and the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission regarding the LCWSC and the City of Clinton’s joint application for CDBG funding to perform sewer rehabilitation and upgrades in the Lydia Mill neighborhood.

·       MASC Award Presentation: City staff will be presenting information regarding the Clinton High School Fire Devils Training Program to MASC staff as we compete for a Municipal Achievement Award on Monday.  

·       General Fund Reserve: For the first time in 15 years, the City’s General Fund Reserve Balance is in excess of $1 million dollars. Most experts recommend a general fund reserve equal to 90 to 180 days of operating costs, and in the case of Clinton that would be a sum between $1.5 and $3.1 million. While the city still has a long way to go to ensure that it has adequate operating reserves, we are moving closer to financial stability each day.

·       Dilapidated Structure Demolitions: The Inspections and Planning personnel continue to meet success in the removal of dilapidated structures. Three dilapidated structures are currently in the process of removal.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Report: February 20, 2015

·        Budget Process: Several budget meetings were held between the CFO, the City Manager, and Department Directors. This year is shaping up to be one of the most challenging budget years in recent memory due to the significant need to perform repairs on the sewer system, the need address parks, streets, and sidewalk maintenance, and the need to address ageing equipment and infrastructure issues.

·        Winter Storm: A winter storm this week disrupted power to approximately 1500 customers. The majority of customers had their power restored within four hours, and all customers were restored within 14 hours. City personnel were dispatched to the City of Abbeville after work in Clinton was completed in order to assist crews there is restoring power to the citizens of Abbeville. Crews worked in Abbeville for two days.

·        Severe Cold: The winter storm was followed by severe cold weather. The city took proactive steps by making a warming station available to the public during the cold weather.

·        Property Acquisition: The City, with the assistance of the Bailey Foundation, acquired property in the Lydia Mill area for a future town green / park this week. City staff are excited about the future possibilities at the property.

Q&A with City Manager Frank Stovall regarding the City of Clinton's response to last week's winter storm

Recently, City Manager Frank Stovall responded to several questions posed by Larry Franklin, Editor of the Clinton Chronicle, regarding the city’s response to the February ice storm.

Q (Larry Franklin): When did you first call in personnel?

A (Frank Stovall): The first personnel were called in at 1 am on Tuesday morning, but many of our people were involved in preparing for the storm well before the first precipitation fell. In advance of the storm, the city activated its emergency operations plan on Monday morning, raising our emergency operational level to condition 4, which begins the emergency response process. Senior staff held an emergency operations meeting at 9 am on Monday morning, and the county held their meeting, which city personnel attended, at 10:30 am on Monday. The city raised its status to condition 3 late Monday afternoon as the winter weather began to move into our area. The city raised its operational status to condition 2 at 1 am on Tuesday morning, when the first personnel who were not on duty at that time were called back in for emergency operations.

Q: How many workers were involved at the peak?

A: At peak, approximately 20 Department of Public Works personnel were involved in the response. This is in addition to the other Public Works, Public Safety, and administrative personnel who were working on Monday and Tuesday. During Tuesday, nearly 75 employees were at work either assisting with the emergency response or going about their daily duties of providing services to our citizens.  

Q: How many customers were without power at the peak?

A: Approximately 1500 customers were without power at the peak of the storm. Most had service restored within four hours.

Q: When did you get everybody turned back on?

A: The last customer was turned on around 3pm on Tuesday, making our longest outage fourteen hours in duration. While fourteen hours is a long time to go without power, we are proud of our response since many people in the upstate were without power, some in Laurens County, for nearly 48 hours.

Q: Did you get help from any other town/agency?

A: No, the City of Clinton had the personnel and resources to address this level of storm without outside assistance, but the city did reposition its personnel to provide assistance to other harder hit areas of the upstate after power was restored to all of our customers. City crews were sent to Abbeville to assist with restoration there, but only after all of our customers were restored. Our crews worked in Abbeville on Wednesday and Thursday following the storm.

Q: How many trucks were used, chain saws, other equipment?

A: The Public Works Electric Distribution fleet of vehicles consists of one 75’ Right of Way bucket truck, two 55’ bucket trucks, one 45’ service bucket truck, one auger truck for installing and removing poles, and three pick-up trucks. All of those vehicles were used, in addition to vehicles form the Water & Sewer Division and Administration. Most service vehicles are equipped with chainsaws, and some of the bucket trucks have hydraulic chainsaws that are attached to the bucket.

Q: Do you have an estimate of how much it will cost in salary, material, etc?

A: In addition to our regular daily operating costs, the city spent less than $1,000 on material due to the fact that very little of our system was damaged. Most of the outages were caused by trees in the lines, but we didn’t lose cross arms, poles, or transformers. The city also estimates that approximately $1,200 in diesel fuel was consumed by the standby generation system that kept city facilities such as the water treatment plant, the Department of Public Works facility on Gary Street, the Department of Public Safety Facility on North Broad Street, and the Enoree River Raw Water Pumping Station operating during the power outage. The raw water pumping station did not come back on electrical power until 11 am on February 18th. The city also incurred approximately $2590 in overtime salary expenditures. Of course, there were additional costs incurred when we sent our teams to help other communities, but those cities will be billed for our services.

Q: I understand one of the city trucks had an engine that blew up. Can it be fixed? How much will it cost? Will it be covered by insurance?

A: A 55 foot working height bucket truck developed an engine problem towards the end of the restoration effort. We now know that the truck suffered a wiring harness and fuel injector problem, and we anticipate the truck will be back in service by February 24th. Insurance does not cover mechanical failures. The truck is scheduled to be placed into reserve status in the latter part of 2015 when a new bucket truck, approved at the end of 2014, is delivered. The truck is fifteen years old, which is a bit longer than the normal service life of a utility bucket truck, but we are doing our best to stretch the life of our equipment to keep our operating costs low.

Q: Any comments on city employees?

A: The winter storm posed a significant challenge for our city and our residents, but through proper planning, a focus on preventative maintenance on the electrical system before the storm hit, and due in a large part to the dedication and skill of our city employees, we were able to restore power to most of customers in just a few hours, and all of our customers within fourteen hours. Our public works employees often leave their families at home, in the dark, in the cold, and without power to come and get power back on for your families. Our public safety & public works employees can’t take a snow day; they have to come in to be here when you need us because that is our promise to you as our citizen and our customer. I am proud of their dedication to the people of this city.

Friday, February 6, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Report - February 6, 2015

·        City Council Meeting: City Council met this week and took the following action:

o   Proclaimed February as American Heart Association Month, Black History Month, Children’s Dental Health Month, and Cities Mean Business Month in the City of Clinton.
o   Amended the December 1, 2014 meeting minutes and approved the January 5, 2015 meeting minutes.
o   Received a presentation from the Municipal Association regarding the proper use of executive session and FOIA regulations.
o   Conducted first reading of an Ordinance to Amend the Design Review Ordinance to reduce the number of Design Review Board Members from 7 to 5.
o   Approved a Resolution endorsing the application for Community Development Block Grant Funds by the Laurens County Water & Sewer Commission to upgrade sewer service in the Lydia Mill Neighborhood.
o   Approved the Data Management Agreement between the Department of Public Safety and Piedmont Municipal Power Agency to comply with new CJIS requirements.
o   Awarded a bid for the financing of the fire engine purchase to BB&T government finance with a term of 6 years and an interest rate of 1.75%
o   Passed second reading of an ordinance creating a multi county industrial park inside Clinton Corporate Park III to make the area available for economic development incentives.

·        Munis Update: The conversion of utility billing software to the new MUNIS operating system officially started this week. The conversion process will continue through December, 2015.
·        MASC Hometown Legislative Action Day: The City Manager, Director of Community and Economic Development, and several members of city council attended the annual Municipal Association of South Carolina Hometown Legislative Action Day in Columbia on Wednesday, February 4, 2015.
·        Municipal Elected Officials Institute: Councilmember Norman Scarborough graduated from the South Carolina Municipal Elected Officials Institute on February 4, 2015.
·        South Carolina Economic Development School: Councilmembers Byrd and Scarborough attended the first of four sessions of the annual South Carolina Economic Development School this week.
·        Water Main Repairs Pitts Meadows: A water main break near Pitts Meadows resulted in the area being placed under a boil water advisory on Friday January 30th, Saturday January 31st, and part of Sunday, February 1st. The city is sorry for the inconvenience that the break caused, but we had to take steps to repair the system in a timely manner and made every effort to personally contact each affected household.
·        YMCA Lobby: The lobby renovations at the YMCA have been completed and the new entrance looks wonderful.
·        Frontage Road / West Corporate Center Drive: The city began negotiations with the contractors to complete the final phase of work on the frontage road and hopes to have the road work associated with that project wrapped up by late spring.
·        Blood Drive: The city is sponsoring a blood drive on Wednesday, February 18th, from 10 AM to 2 PM in the Florida Street Public Parking Lot in downtown Clinton.
·        Streetscape Phase IV: The city applied for the permits needed from the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to begin the Phase IV Streetscape work which will include landscaping and sidewalk replacement along North Broad Street from Main Street to Florida Street.
·        LCDSNB Breakfast: Members of staff and city council attended the annual Laurens County Disabilities and Special Needs Board breakfast. LCDSNB staff presented highlights form the year and the city is excited about the new Cypress Center which will be opening on Carolina Avenue in 2015.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Time to Get in on the Action

I like technology. My love of technology manifested itself last summer when I discovered an app for my phone which would allow me take a picture of something and by pushing one button, I could send a picture, a map of where I took the picture, and an email to a person. Some of you might have thought of how you could use this app to keep up with your kids or keep your friends informed of what you are doing. Not me. No sir. I used it to track streetlights.

I discovered that if I waited until it got dark to walk the family dog, I could push the button on this app every time I found a streetlight that was not working correctly along my walk. Streetlight number 5437 out - click. Streetlight 6923 flickering – click. Streetlight 2364 looking a little dim – click.  Public works personnel joked that they could follow my dog walking routes by opening their emails the next morning and seeing all of the pictures, maps, and notes about the streetlights that were not working correctly. Then I figured out how to set it up for potholes. Click, click, click, click and click.
I also like history. Just as I believe that technology has the opportunity to make our future better and our city more efficient, I know that history holds the keys to lessons learned and can help guide our decision making now. History shows us in clear view the mistakes, the failures, and the successes that we may face or hope to have along the road.
Not too long ago I used my DVR (technology) to record the PBS documentary on the Roosevelts (history). While I knew a little about Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th President, I had never heard this quote from him: “Get Action. Seize the moment.”
Get action. I think that sums up your expectations of your local government pretty well. Fix the pothole. Fix the sidewalk. Fix the streetlight. Be here when we need you in an emergency. Don’t waste our money. Get Action on fill-in-the-blank.
I could write in these pages, as I have in the past, of the enormous challenges these economic times and decisions of the past have brought upon our city and inhibited our ability to “get action”. I could write, as I have done in the past, that we function better as community of people working hand in hand, citizens and government, to achieve the dreams we have for this city and our children’s children by “getting action” together. I could write, as I have done in the past, that we must all work together and not be a city of consumers consuming government services, but an organization of concerned citizenry focused on each citizen performing a part to make our city function effectively and “get action” for the whole.
Instead, I want to give you a tool to help you help us help you. It’s called the Citizen Action Center and it has been available for about a month. Visit our website at and look at the top right hand corner. Click on Citizen Action Center and you will be taken to a website that will allow you to browse frequently asked questions, and submit a service requests to get something in your neighborhood fixed. You, the citizen, can get in on the action.
The Citizen Action Center is more than just sending us a glorified email regarding your concern. It is a powerful tool that allows you to register your concern, and then monitor our response. That’s right. I said you get to monitor our response. You’ll get a confirmation email that we have received your concern, and when the work is done, you’ll get an email from us too that lets you know that your concern has been addressed. Supervisors, and yours truly, can monitor the system to make sure that our divisions in the field are responding quickly to your concerns.
What you won’t see is how the system works in the background. However, it’s pretty impressive so I want to give you glimpse behind the curtain today.  When you submit a request the system automatically routes your request to the right person to address it. Streetlight needs go straight to the electrical division, were a supervisor in the field is notified of the need to fix your light. Other requests get routed to the right people all throughout our organization. You might tell a meter reader about a pothole when you see him but he can’t fix it –the streets division can. Tell your concerns to the Citizen Action Center and your request goes straight to the people who can help you.
Once you submit a request, the clock starts. As time passes, the concern gets escalated automatically from a division to the appropriate Department and ultimately to the City Manager if the project is not completed in a preset time frame. This process is designed to keep your requests from falling through the cracks. Unfortunately, that has happened in the past. We get hundreds of requests a month, and we also have our own plans about what needs to be fixed, improved, or maintained. The new system will allow us to track these work issues better, ensure that they don’t fall through the cracks, and allow you to stay informed about where your request is in our organization and our planned response.
Now is the time! Seize the day! Get Action! Go to your computer, visit the website, open a free account, and tell us all about that streetlight on your street that needs to be fixed because its incessant evening flickering is driving you crazy. Then sit back relax, and know we are on the way.