Friday, March 20, 2015

City Manager's Report - March 20,2015

       Planning Training: The Planning Department had training on March 16th for new Planning Commission and Design Review Board members. The training was held at the M.S. Bailey Center with the City of Laurens participating. The continuing education training for all Planning Commission, BZA, and DRB members will be on April 20th, 5:30pm at the Bailey Municipal Center.

       Planning Commission: The Planning Commission met on March 16th and discussed possible ordinance changes to temporary structures and temporary signage.

·       Design Review Board: The DRB meet on March 17th an approved signage for a new business, Pet Styles II, at 200 Musgrove Street.

·       City of Clinton Community Easter Egg Hunt: The City of Clinton will have its annual City of Clinton Community Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, March 28, 2015 from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. at the Pine Haven Park/American Legion Hut off of Highway 72. The Egg Hunt begins in front of the American Legion Facility at 2:15 p.m. Bring your children and grandchildren for a fun filled afternoon. The Easter Bunny will be making an appearance as well!

·       Christmas for Kids Benefit Basketball Game: The Clinton Department of Public Safety will be taking on the Laurens County Sheriff's Office in a benefit basketball game to support the annual Christmas for Kids Program in Laurens County. This action packed sporting event will be held Saturday, March 28, 2015 at the Clinton YMCA at 2:00 pm. Admission is Free but donations will be accepted at the event. All funds raised will go to the Christmas for Kids Program. Come out and cheer your favorite team on!

·       Rhythm on the Rails: Saturday, May 16th the City will be hosting our first annual spring festival, Rhythm on the Rails. This will be an all-day event focusing on the train heritage of our town.   The event will kick off at 9:00 a.m. with a 5K run followed by opening ceremonies at 10:00 a.m.  There will be a stage at the Municipal Center and at the Depot.  We will have vendors set up around the square, rides in the West Main Street parking lot, a trackless train, and bounce houses for children.  Bands, as well as local groups, will be performing throughout the day, and the evening will conclude with a street dance from 6pm to 9pm. 

·       Direct Deposit: All employees will be converting to direct deposit of paychecks prior to the end of the fiscal year and all employees have complied with this change. This is being done primarily as a cost saving measure and the city will save money by not having to print paychecks on special paper and the time associated with generating paychecks will be reduced.

·       Frontage Road Electric Tie Line: The electric utility line extension project for West Corporate Center Drive is currently out for bids and bids will be opened by Southeastern Engineering on March 26th. More information regarding these bids can be found in the procurement section of the city’s website.

·       Dilapidated Structures: Inspections and Planning is working with property owners all over the city to improve property conditions and remove dangerous and dilapidated properties. Properties at 51 Beech Street, 105 Neighborhood Drive, #1 Prather Circle, 316 East Ferguson, and North Adair Street have been demolished. The industrial property, the old shirt plant, on Davidson Street is also scheduled for demolition.

·       New Technology and Training at DPS: New in-car cameras for all DPS patrol cars have been purchased and have arrived. The camera system will be installed in the vehicles over the next couple of weeks, with the final installation scheduled to be completed the week of April 6th. Four DPS employees are also attending classes to become certified Fire Marshals and Inspectors as part of our effort to cross train personnel so that they can fulfill multiple roles in the department as needed.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Break Out the Fancy Scissors - We Need to Cut A Few Ribbons

I love groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings. To some people, I guess, these are tired, clich├ęd rituals that maybe have lost their purpose or potency. To me, though, groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings that celebrate the birth of a new business or a new enterprise remind us that our local economy is vital and strong. And if we’re fortunate to have more ribbon cuttings than closings, well, we can all agree that’s a very good thing for the City of Clinton.

But while we get excited about the openings of new retailers and service providers or the addition of a new industry, we often forget that a healthy local economy depends not only on adding new businesses but also on growing our existing economic base. We have many great businesses here in Clinton that provide customers plenty of opportunities to shop locally. I also believe there are people here who have thought about starting a business in their hometown but may not yet have the incentive or expertise to get their ideas off the ground.

We’re all in luck. Thanks to our work with the Kauffmann Foundation in Kansas City, the City of Clinton will offer a 10-week FastTrac® GrowthVenture™ course for existing business leaders. Program participants will meet for three hours once a week over the 10-week period and will meet each time with a different expert in numerous fields. One week, for example, the class will meet an expert on financial management. The next week, it could be marketing. Or business law. More importantly, the course gives members of our business community the chance to ask questions and learn from leaders in their fields. They also can learn from one another successes they’ve experienced – or obstacles to avoid.

This is a golden opportunity for local business people. The FastTrac® program is a very successful, highly-recommended curriculum that we are very confident will yield tangible results. We feel that way because it has worked in countless communities across our nation.

Some of you may be skeptical. That’s natural. But I believe very strongly that this tried and tested, fact-based program can provide a positive boost to the economy that will more than make up for the cost. Call it what it is – an investment in our economy that is relatively low risk and high reward.

I have no doubt there will be challenges that arise from this course. Business owners will be challenged to rethink their strategies and the different way today’s customers search for and purchase products they want or need. They may have to consider marketing their businesses for the first time – or providing products online. This much change all at once can seem a little scary at first but I believe this is the real strength of the FastTrac® program. Oftentimes when we consider a new path, the way seems dimly lit and the ground full of holes we cannot see. So, why not meet with experts who know firsthand the way to daylight?

We are fortunate, as well, to welcome Tom Ledbetter, a recognized leader in economic development and business growth in South Carolina. Tom will serve as the facilitator for Clinton’s FastTrac® GrowthVenture™ course and we couldn’t have a better leader. In addition to his own expertise, Tom knows a lot of people who can help our business community better understand the changing, global economy that affects even small towns like ours. He understands that no business can ever find a comfortable niche for itself and expect to keep the doors opened for the next decade or so. That’s not our current economic reality and we all have to get used to doing things differently – or closing the doors for good.

We are also fortunate that we have a City Council in place that wants to see more opportunities for businesses to succeed and see our local economy grow. Our council understands the challenges faced by small businesses because many of them work with or own small businesses. Their desire to see our economy grow led to their commissioning of an economic development strategic plan and this partnership with the Kauffman Foundation.
I am confident that our business community will rise to the occasion, learn what it needs to be successful, and bring about an economic revolution. Sure, I’m an optimist – but I also believe in our ability to get things done and make things happen around here. All we need is a little guided boost – and we’re about to get it. While this program is for current business owners, we haven’t forgotten about those of you who dream of starting a business. If this first round is successful, we will bring other  FastTrac programs designed to help you start a business from scratch to our community.
Then we can someday reap the benefits – and I may get to go to more ribbon cuttings.

It's Time to Talk About the Toilet.

Nobody really ever wants to talk about sewer. Let’s face it, there are lots of more interesting things to talk about. Fire trucks are interesting. Economic development is interesting. But sewer? All we want is for the sewer to work the way it is supposed to, but we don’t necessarily want to talk about it.

However, few things are more important than a properly functioning sewer system. The sewer system is a critical component of our public health system. It whisks waste away with a simple flush, preventing the development and spread of disease throughout the city. It takes water tainted by chemicals in the manufacturing process or that dirty dishwater in you sink away to be treated, made safe for the environment, and released back into a river or stream.

With over 60 miles of sewer pipe and several pump stations, the City of Clinton’s sewer system is a complicated maze designed to take waste away from your home, businesses, stores, restaurants, and factories efficiently day in and day out.

However, we are not as efficient as we used to be. After nearly 100 years in the ground, many of sewer lines are old, in need of repair, and some are failing. It’s the failing that led to several Sanitary Sewer Overflows over the past three years. A Sanitary Sewer Overflow, or SSO, is very simply an incident which occurs when the sewer in the pipe escapes and overflows into the environment. Every time a SSO occurs, the city has to take steps to notify the public, clean up the impacted area, and then notifies the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control that the incident occurred. The city had five SSO incidents in 2012, and immediately began to take steps to try to improve the sewer system. Although the number of SSO incidents has decreased over time, the number of SSO incidents triggered a South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control review which resulted in a consent order between the City of Clinton and the State of South Carolina.

The consent order is a voluntary agreement entered into by both the State of South Carolina and the City of Clinton. The consent order has several requirements, but the first requirement is to have an independent review of the sewer system and create a long range plan for rehabilitating the system so that it operates efficiently. The audit will result in a comprehensive maintenance, operations, and management plan that we will use over the next several years to bring our decades old sewer system up to the modern standards that federal and state regulators expect in a modern sewer system.

Over the next few months, you will hear a lot about our sewer system, and there will be many discussions about the best way to improve the system and what needs to be done. Some of the conversations will have to do with two main problems in our sewer system: FOG and I&I.

FOG stands for fats, oils, and grease. Fats, oils, and grease in the sewer system can congeal against the walls of a sewer pipe, and build up over time until the pipe is blocked, resulting in a sewer overflow. When you pour grease from cooking into your sink’s drain, or when you rely on your sink’s disposal to handle greasy food waster rather than scraping it into your garbage can, grease can get into the system and contribute to forming a blockage. How serious can it be? In August of 2013, sewer workers in London, England responded to a blocked sewer system to find a mass of fats and grease the size of a city bus blocking the sewer system.

I&I stands for inflow and infiltration. Inflow and infiltration occurs when water gets into the sewer system from outside sources. This water can overwhelm the sewer system and result in overflows. Groundwater can seep into the sewer pipe through underground cracks in the pipes. Storm sewers and sanitary sewer may have cross connections that need to be separated. Residences might have piped their gutters into the sewer, which was once an acceptable practice but now contributes the problems associated with inflow and infiltration. Even the top of a sewer clean out in your yard sheared off by a lawn mower can create a hole that allows rainwater in and can contribute to the I&I problem.

So what can you do to help us improve the city sewer system? First, don’t pour grease down the drain. Pour it into an old can, or pour it into a plastic bag, and toss it in the trash. Second, if the top of your cleanout is broken, fix it, and if you have connected your gutters to your sewer system, disconnect your gutters form the sewer. Finally, stay informed. Your city is going to have to make several tough decisions over the next year in regards to the sewer system, and you as an owner of the system need to be part of those decisions. Visit the city website frequently for new information regarding the sewer consent order and its impact on you.

City Manager's Report - March 13, 2015

Budget: After a long week of fine tuning the budget, the document draft will be distributed Monday to members of City Council. A draft will also be placed on the city website. The budget is balanced and includes no electric utility rate increase for the first year in many years.
Fiber System Expansion: The City of Clinton met with Presbyterian College this week to discuss expanding the city’s fiber network. The network allows for interested parties willing to invest in fiber equipment to utilize an optical fiber network for date, internet, and telephone.
Economic Development Strategic Plan: Final drafts of the proposed economic development strategic plan are in hand, and the plan will be presented to the Clinton Economic Development Corporation on March 31st and to City Council in May.
Pole Attachment Fees: The City notified other utilities utilizing City of Clinton poles that it intends to renegotiate the pole attachment fee structure. Previous attempts at renegotiating the structure were unsuccessful, so the city has retained legal counsel to assist.
Business License Bill: The City Manager attended a Municipal Association of South Carolina meeting regarding proposed legislative changes to the business license program. If the proposed bill passes, the city would lose over $750,000 annually, resulting in significant operational reductions.
Spotlight on Agriculture: The annual Clemson Extension Laurens County Spotlight on Agriculture dinner was held this week. Congratulations to Clinton High School educator Annette Vaughn who received the e horticulturalist of the year award for her work at Clinton High School.
Annual Statewide Tornado Drill: The City participated in the annual statewide tornado drill this week. All departments practiced their tornado response plans and reviewed emergency protocols for post tornado operations.
Project SWITCH: The second Project SWITCH (Stop Working in the City Hall) day was held this week. The city manager spent several hours riding along with PSO Shane Harris to observe public safety

Friday, March 6, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Report -March 6, 2013

·                MASC Award Application: The city applied to the Municipal Association of South Carolina for a Municipal Achievement Award for the Clinton High School Firefighter Education Program. The City Manager, Director of Public Safety, and personnel from the Department of Public Safety as well as a student in the program all went to Columbia this week to present the program to a panel of judges. The awards will be announced over the summer.

          PARD Grant: The city received a grant from the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism as part of the PARD (Parks and Recreation Development) program. The grant will fund improvements at Lydia Bailey Children’s Park’s playground, improvements to the playground at Josh and Ella Savage Park, and the repair of the basketball court at Josh & Ella Savage Park.

          MUNIS Utility Billing: The MUNIS implementation team spent this week continuing to work on transitioning our utility billing operations from the old computer system to the new system. A discussion regarding what the new bill will look like was had, and it was determined that a focus group of citizens should have the opportunity to comment on the new bill design before it is put into use. Interested citizens should contact Amanda Addison, 864-833-7505.

          TANTULUS Meter Implementation: City personnel met with their counterparts at the City of Newberry to discuss how the two cities could work together to assist Clinton in the implementation of the TANTULUS meter system. The City of Newberry has personnel trained in the splicing of fiber optic cable, which is a skill the City of Clinton will need during the implementation process.

          Frontage Road / West Corporate Center Drive: Remobilization continues to prepare to complete the frontage road construction project and the intersection widening at the intersection of West Corporate Center Drive and SC Highway 56. Work is scheduled to restart on March 16.

          Radio System: The radio system used by the Department of Public Works is decades old, and no longer works well enough to be reliable. The need for better communications was apparent during the November snow storm, so the City of Clinton solicited proposals from various radio companies for a new radio system for the Department of Public Works. The system could be tested by the Electric Distribution Division before committing to the new system for the entire department. After reviewing several bids, a Motorola system was selected and has been ordered. The new system should be in place in late May. 

          There’s an App for us: The senior staff continue to test an application for mobile phones that will allow citizens to log and track work requests. We hope to have the app ready for public use in April.

          Thornwell Water Tank Valve Installation: Department of Public Works crews and private contractors began to prepare the Thornwell Street Water Tank for a control valve replacement planned for next week. The tank will be temporarily off line while the work is completed. Customers should not notice a difference in their water service while the work is underway.