Monday, May 7, 2018

General Assembly designates May 6 - 12 as Municipal Clerks Week

It's Municipal Clerks Week in South Carolina! The General Assembly deemed it so with resolutions recently passed by the House and Senate. Goose Creek Rep. Joe Daning (former city councilmember) and Manning Senator Kevin Johnson (former mayor and former president of the Municipal Association) introduced the resolutions.


There's also an article in this month's Columbia and Greenville Business Monthly magazines touting the good work of municipal clerks.

The position of city clerk is the only municipal staff role that is required by state law, regardless of a municipality’s size or form of government. All 271 cities and towns in the state are required to have a clerk. Read this Uptown article for more background on the role of a city clerk.

And while the title “clerk” may conjure up an outdated vision of an old style secretary, nothing could be further from the reality in today’s complex world of local government. Municipal clerks play a critical and varied role to support the mayor, city council, and city manager or administrator.

The clerk’s responsibilities under state law include giving notice of meetings to council members and the public, keeping minutes of its proceedings, and performing other duties as assigned by council. A combined municipal clerk and finance officer role, referred as clerk/treasurer, is common in small to midsize cities. In larger cities, a standalone municipal clerk position usually exists.

Regardless of city size, clerks have seen their roles and responsibilities keep pace with changing times. The state’s only professional organization serving city clerks has played a critical training role as the clerk role has expanded over the years. The South Carolina Municipal Finance Officers and Clerk Treasurers Association, an affiliate organization of the Municipal Association of SC, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

With more than 250 members statewide, MFOCTA trains clerks and clerk/treasurers on the complexities of running a local government.


A number of cities have passed resolutions in honor of their city clerk.



Thursday, May 3, 2018

Orientation class draws newly elected mayors and councilmembers from around S.C.

More than 40 newly elected mayors and councilmembers gathered at the Municipal Association of South Carolina this week for an orientation class on local government issues.

Officials from 33 cities representing diverse sizes and locations participated in the class. Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie represented the largest city and Govan Mayor Wilma Edmonds represented the smallest. Plus, the entire council from the Town of Pelzer participated.

“People often run for office on a specific issue. But when campaigning turns to governing, things are different,” said Wayne George, executive director of the Municipal Association. Wayne is a former mayor and councilmember in Mullins, S.C. “Most newly elected officials don’t come to the office with a deep knowledge of municipal budgets, forms of government and general city administration. Today’s session helped get them off to the right start.”

The session that got the most questions was on the topic of the Freedom of Information Act and ethics. “Typically these topics draw a lot of questions during Association training sessions,” said Tiger Wells, who led the session. Tiger is the Association’s government affairs liaison and staff expert on FOIA and ethics issues.

Tiger supplied the meeting participants with resources available on the Association’s website to help answer questions about FOIA and ethics, including the S.C. Press Association’s FOIA handbook.

Tiger noted that the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, Meghan Walker, recently met with Association staff to discuss ethics questions often posed by local officials. Tiger passed on Meghan’s advice about contacting the Ethics Commission with questions: “Always ask first when you have questions about a certain activity.” She strongly encouraged local officials to ask questions and assured the Association staff that the commission’s staff will be responsive.

Other issues covered in the orientation class included leadership, advocacy, risk management, budgeting, forms of government and general city administration.

Local officials also learned about participating in the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The institute offers both in-person and online training. Mayors and councilmembers can enroll in the classes immediately upon election. The next MEOI session is on May 18 covering the Freedom of Information Act and Municipal Governance/Policy.

At the conclusion of the training, Wayne left the group with some sound advice from his years as mayor in Mullins: "Invite your legislators to visit your city so they understand the challenges you face before you need to ask them for a vote" and "Hold regular council retreats to establish your priorities and take time to understand each other's perspectives."

A copy of the Power Point presentations and all of the resources shared during the session are here.









Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Orientation class draws newly elected mayors and councilmembers from around S.C.

More than 40 newly elected mayors and councilmembers gathered at the Municipal Association of South Carolina today for an orientation class on local government issues.

Officials from 33 cities from all over the state and from all population sizes participated in the class. Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie represented the largest city and Govan Mayor Wilma Edmonds represented the smallest.

“People often run for office on a specific issue. But when campaigning turns to governing, things are different,” said Wayne George, executive director of the Municipal Association. George is a former mayor and councilmember in Mullins, S.C. “Most newly elected officials don’t come to the office with a deep knowledge of municipal budgets, forms of government and general city administration. Today’s session helped get them off to the right start.”

The session that got the most questions was on the topic of the Freedom of Information Act and ethics. “Typically these topics draw a lot of questions during Association training sessions,” said Tiger Wells, who led the session. Tiger is the Association’s government affairs liaison and staff expert on FOIA and ethics issues.

Tiger supplied the meeting participants with resources available on the Association’s website to help answer questions about FOIA and ethics, including the S.C. Press Association’s FOIA handbook.

Tiger noted that the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, Meghan Walker, recently met with Association staff to discuss ethics questions often posed by local officials. Tiger passed on Meghan’s advice about contacting the Ethics Commission with questions: “Always ask first when you have questions about a certain activity.” She strongly encouraged local officials to ask questions and assured the Association staff that the commission’s staff will be responsive.

Local officials also learned about participating in the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government that includes in-person and online training. Mayors and councilmembers can enroll in the classes immediately upon election.

Other issues covered in today’s orientation class included leadership, advocacy, risk management, budgeting, forms of government and general city administration.

At the conclusion of the training, Wayne left the group with some sound advice from his years as mayor in Mullins: "Invite your legislators to visit your city so they understand the challenges you face before you need to ask them for a vote" and "Hold regular council retreats to establish your priorities and take time to understand each other's perspectives."

A copy of the Power Point presentations and all of the resources shared during the session are here.









Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lineman competition honors Easley, Greenwood and Laurens utility workers

Linemen who work for the state's municipal electric utilities participated in an annual training and competition hosted by the South Carolina Association of Municipal Power Systems  on April 18 and 19. April 18 was National Lineman Appreciation Day. SCAMPS is an affiliate organization of the Municipal Association.

Fourteen of the 21 SCAMPS members attended the training, and 11 utilities competed in events, such as the crossarm changeout, knot tying, hurtman rescue, speed climbing and others. The events are timed and judged on how well participants follow proper procedures.

Easley Combined Utilities took nine first place awards while Greenwood Commission of Public Works received two and Laurens Commission of Public Works received one. Get the full list of awards here.


"Through this competition, we are promoting safe work habits and proper procedures," said Eric Budds, deputy executive director for the Municipal Association.

"This also supports one of SCAMPS' core missions of providing mutual aid during times of disaster. The linemen have a chance to get to know one another before they have to work together under post-emergency conditions."

SCAMPS member utilities not only provide mutual aid for in-state emergencies, but they also work with utilities around the southeast when disaster strikes. Read this Uptown article to learn more about how SCAMPS members in Rock Hill and Orangeburg lent a hand in other states last fall.

Municipal power systems can offer distinct benefits to cities and their residents — from the power of teamwork after a storm to lower rates to economic development support. In South Carolina, 170,000 residential and business customers in 21 cities and towns receive their power from municipal power systems, which range in size from 360 to 37,000 customers. All 21 municipal power systems are members of SCAMPS.

In municipalities operating power systems in South Carolina, the voters in the city elect the council or governing board responsible for operating the electric utility. Because of the local nature of municipal power systems, customers get quick responses to issues. And since public power utilities operate under the state's open government laws, customers can bring any opinions or concerns to an open meeting of the municipal council or governing board.


Teams participate in the crossarm changeout competition. Each event is timed and judged using specific guidelines. Participants can receive infractions for improper use of tools and failing to follow safety protocols.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Small wireless facility model ordinance ready to go

By Eric Budds, Deputy Executive Director
Columbia
Anyone who uses a cell phone or other wireless device knows the increasing importance of speed and access regardless of where you are located. The telecommunications industry is rapidly building out next-generation wireless networks and its associated infrastructure to meet this growing need. 

Read more about this issue in the March Uptown.

The challenge the telecoms face, however, is the need to enhance their infrastructure with a denser network of antennas, deployed at heights closer to street level, to supplement and communicate with traditional cell towers. These antennas and support equipment — called small cells or small wireless facilities (SWF) — are attached to a pole or support structure such as a building. The control equipment mounts on either the pole or structure, or on or under the ground near the pole or structure.

Cities and towns are increasingly feeling the impact of these telecom challenges because many companies need to place these SWFs in publicly visible — and in most cases publicly regulated — spaces.

Depending on the number of mobile device users and volume of data processed, the average spacing of SWFs in urban areas ranges from a city block to a few thousand feet compared to cell towers built many miles apart. To understand the potential impact, the City of Columbia’s experience is revealing. In less than two years, the city permitted 64 SWFs and continues to process permit requests.

Over the past year, the Municipal Association has been working closely with a variety of state telecommunications companies to hammer out a model ordinance that balances municipal and telecommunications interests by streamlining the review and permitting process.

At the same time, our goal was to preserve municipal authority to control rights of way and the design and aesthetics of SWF facilities to the extent permissible in state and federal law. The model is now online for cities to access and use.

Under this model ordinance, small wireless facilities are classified as a permissible use, subject to administrative review, in municipal rights of way and abutting utility easements unless the proposed SWF location is within a historical, design or underground utility district. In these supplemental review districts, SWFs are a conditional use that affords the municipality additional review authority and protection for the character of the districts. Fees for use of the rights-of-way and business license reflect the limitations imposed by the SC Telecommunications Act of 1999.

Get more details about this issue in the
March Uptown. Download the model ordinance.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New law brings clarity for building officials and construction industry

By Buddy Skinner, president of the Building Officials Association of SC and Building Official for the City of Greenville


The signing of H3649 by Gov. Henry McMaster this week is a milestone for the Building Officials Association of SC and proves that our partnering with the Municipal Association of SC in 2017 was a positive step for our membership and our vocation as building code professionals. 

The goal of the legislation was modification of the Engineer’s Practice Act to make it clear when an engineer’s seal was needed on construction documents for non-residential structures.


In 2016, the Act was changed to require design specifications be sealed by an engineer for nearly all non-residential structures, no matter their size. Prior to the change in 2016, an engineer’s seal was required only in certain, specific circumstances.

The change to the Act in 2016 caused confusion among building officials and the construction industry. But because chapter one of the International Building Code requires strict compliance with state statutes, code officials could only accept signed and sealed plan submittals for all projects requiring permits.

To restore clarity for building officials and relieve the regulatory burden on business, BOASC sought to revert to the language in the law that had worked so well prior to 2016. H3649 accomplished that goal and is now in effect.

Throughout the development and passage of H3649, BOASC members were able to network with multiple stakeholders to discuss and find agreeable solutions to the changes the bill proposed. BOASC’s involvement in the bill also raised our association’s profile within state government since many legislators didn’t even know it existed!


The catalyst for our success with this legislation was the Municipal Association and its staff. Without their guidance, knowledge and supervision, we would not have known where to start. Their team was able to put our membership in the right places and encouraged us to talk with the right people to accomplish the goal that we were seeking on this bill and others.

Thanks to all of the BOASC members, their municipalities and counties for their work on this important change.