Friday, September 15, 2017

Social media helps local leaders during Irma

This week’s hurricane reminds us all about the importance of planning and preparation. But it’s not just about evacuation plans, inventory of sandbags and public safety readiness.

The ability to communicate effectively in an emergency can mean the difference between a smooth process and a disastrous one.

This week’s earlier blog post showcases how Bluffton and Edisto Beach effectively used social media as part of their emergency communications plans. An article in the January issue of Uptown, showcased Mount Pleasant and North Charleston’s social media use last year during Hurricane Matthew.

Back in June, members of the SC Association of Municipal Power Systems participated in a session at their annual meeting that gave step by step plans for incorporating social media into emergency preparedness planning. Get the handout.

Still a little intimidated about hashtags? Don’t quite understand the difference between Twitter and Facebook? Not sure how to grow your base of fans and friends? Take a look at this glossary the SCAMPS members got during their session this summer that outlines what all this means.

Here are a few tips on integrating social media into your emergency preparedness plans:

•    Remind followers and friends to adjust their settings to receive a notification when new information is posted.

•    Plan ahead. Setting up social media accounts on the fly during an emergency can be counter-productive.

•    Get training on equipment. Even if you’re just using a cell phone for Facebook Live broadcasts, make sure the phone has a fully charged battery. Check the lighting to make sure everyone who needs to be seen in the video is well lit. Run a quick sound check to make sure the audio of the person speaking is clear and the ambient sound doesn’t overwhelm the speaker.

•    Ensure everyone who needs access to the sites has it. The middle of a hurricane isn’t the time to be searching out passwords or debating who has access.

•    Be consistent. Scheduling Facebook Live briefings in advance to help drive traffic.

•    Work with other officials involved with the emergency to share and retweet posts. There’s no need for everyone to be creating the same content. Leverage other information sources to share.

•    Put one person in charge of managing the social media. This doesn’t mean one person has to do it all, but one person needs to be aware of what’s going out and what’s being planned at all times to avoid duplication and ensure accuracy.

•    Keep equipment charged at all times. Make use of the small portable USB chargers. The middle of a Facebook Live briefing isn’t the time to lose the phone’s charge.

Get more social media resources on the Association's website.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cities showcase collaboration during Irma: Social media and mutual aid

A crisis can often bring people together in ways we don't expect. The past week with Irma's progress has illustrated in several ways how crises bring out the collaborative spirit in South Carolina cities.

There are so many great examples of leaders of South Carolina cities and towns taking full advantage of the collaborative nature of social media as they anticipated impact from Irma. Elected officials, police chiefs, EMD officials and others made frequent use of Facebook Live and posted often with safety updates and photos/videos of affected areas.

Facebook followers could adjust their personal settings to get notifications when a Facebook Live event was happening helping hundreds of people stay on top of the ever-changing forecast.

Coastal cities leverage social media
Take a look at what a couple of coastal cities have been doing.

Bluffton: A constant stream of photo and video updates on Facebook gave residents who stayed and those who evacuated up-to-the-minute updates on flooding, evacuation routes and general safety tips. Mayor Sulka’s informal and frequent updates prompted lots of positive feedback from residents and others who have visited Bluffton.

Several Facebook posts gave shout-outs to city staff members who were quickly dispatched to clean up debris. The town Facebook page and the police department Facebook cross-posted many posts allowing a great reach for both.

The town's Facebook page also shared links to the Governor's press conferences and other messages from the state Emergency Management Division.

Edisto Beach: With their second big hurricane hit in less than a year, Edisto officials already knew the power of social media to disseminate safety information and help residents find out about the state of their property. In fact, during the aftermath of Matthew, Mayor Jane Darby’s Facebook post about the plight of Nichols went viral and brought in many offers of help for the small Pee Dee town even while her own town was digging out. The Irma response was no different. 

Mayor Darby used her page to keep people informed, while also cross-posting with the town’s page and the police department’s page.

The Edisto Beach Facebook page also shared links to local news media coverage giving residents and others a one-stop-shop for information.

Mutual aid for municipal electric utilities
The state’s 21 electric cities initially came together more than 30 years ago to form the SC Association of Municipal Power Systems to serve as a conduit for mutual aid in emergencies. The power of this collaboration is never more evident than in a situation like Irma.

Jimmy Bagley, Rock Hill’s deputy city manager, has long been the point of contact for SCAMPS member-utilities offering and needing assistance. Already, Camden has sent crews to help in Sandersville, GA. Crews from several SCAMPS cities are on site today in Seneca and Laurens helping to restore power. Additionally plans are in place for a caravan of SCAMPS crews and equipment to leave tomorrow morning to assist the Jacksonville Energy Authority.

Watch for upcoming posts with tips on using social media in a crisis.

Monday, September 11, 2017

2016 grant winners showing progress: 2017 applications due Sept. 29

Success can be slow in coming sometimes. But when it comes to the Municipal Association’s Hometown Economic Development Grants program, results have come quickly for several cities and towns that were awarded grants in 2016. 

Beaufort Digital Corridor
The Beaufort Digital Corridor opened in January in the City of Beaufort and has already attracted several tenants who are using the BASEcamp hub to incubate their high-tech startups. This local news report describes the program.

The Town of West Pelzer and the Town of Pelzer teamed up to win a grant to fund a master plan for their shared Main Street. This local newspaper article describes the plan that will help guide the towns’ collective futures as they prepare for growth.

One of the three winners of the Gaffney Main Street Challenge is already open for business in downtown Gaffney while the others will be opening soon, providing much-needed foot traffic for other downtown merchants. Read more about the challenge’s winners in this local newspaper article and from this local television report.
Ridgeway School Arch

The Town of Ridgeway finished “Painting the Town Red with Revitalization” when work to stabilize the historic school arch and the world’s smallest police station was recently completed. Read more about Ridgeway’s success in this Uptown article.

Walterboro is making progress toward wrapping up its engineering plans for the
Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary Discovery Center and will be putting the project out for bid soon. Read this local news article for more information.

Building on the program’s initial success, the Association’s board of directors increased funding for the program for more grants that will enhance economic development opportunities and have a positive effect on residents’ quality of life. At least ten grants of a maximum of $25,000 each will be awarded in 2017.

Online applications for 2017 grant awards are being accepted until September 29, and winners will be announced no later than October 31. Get more information and details on the application process.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Communications workshop points to relationships as key

When it comes to working with the news media and engaging the public, the bottom line is relationships are key. That’s the conclusion that all of the speakers came to at this week’s “One of Many Hats” workshop in their presentations to more than 50 participants who have communications as one of their job responsibilities.

The Municipal Association of SC and the SC Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America jointly hosted the workshop.

Lt. Paul Vance
Sandy Hook police spokesman said media relationships meant trust
Paul Vance, former lieutenant with the Connecticut State Police, served as the sole police spokesman in aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. 

"Existing media relationships meant a high level of trust between local law enforcement and reporters immediately following the shootings,” he said.

Lt. Vance described several incidents during the weeks following the shootings when having trusting relationships with the media paid off. This was especially true in ensuring the privacy of the victims’ families.

Lt. Vance said that his top priority in dealing with the media after the shootings was making sure nothing happened or was said that could cause harm or hurt to the families. Because reporters already trusted him and the information he was sharing, they were more inclined to respect his requests about staying away from the grieving families.

Lt. Vance said he approached building media relationships by serving reporters as a customer. 

“When the press calls, you help, and that’s what I told my staff to do,” he said.

More details about Vance’s presentation will be posted later this week. During his time in Columbia, Lt. Vance also spoke to a class at the USC College of Journalism and led a training session for more than 150 law enforcement officers and staff at the Municipal Association.

Reporters want a “wow” factor

“Give me something with a ‘wow’ factor,” said Andy Shain, Columbia bureau chief with the Post and Courier, when asked about how to make press releases compelling. “Don’t tell me how many widgets your company is producing,” Andy said. “Tell me how the widgets are making life better.”
Andy Shain

He also noted having a good relationship with reporters can help get your release picked up or your story covered. Reporters and communicators both have a job to do. Understanding that humanizes the exchange.

“Plus, the 24-hour news cycle means PR people and reporters have to work together,” Andy said.

He also gave his insights about the future of traditional newspapers. He said we could see a future when the Sunday edition of a newspaper might look more like a news magazine that “you would read over the course of a week. Maybe you’d see a three-days-a-week print edition with seven-days-a-week online coverage.” 

Greer creates successful media partnership
The City of Greer partnered with WYFF-TV in Greenville to offer safety tips to residents about the "100 deadly days of summer," a period when teen drivers have a higher rate of automobile-crash fatalities.

Lt. Randle Ballenger with the Greer Police Department explained how this initial partnership with the television station resulted in an ongoing relationship with the station.

Lt. Randle Ballenger
The initial four-part series continued as WYFF's "4 Your Safety" with more than 40 segments. The series covered topics such as the importance of yielding the right of way while driving, how to spray a fire extinguisher and how to clean out a lint trap in a dryer to prevent fires. While the Greer Police Department received positive feedback, WYFF's viewers also began calling and emailing with segment ideas.

WYFF also shared stories on Facebook Live, garnering thousands of views. The results? Labor Day passed with zero traffic deaths in the city. And the city has the added benefit gaining a positive relationship with the television station.

Community engagement results from relationships
Lauren Sims
Relationships are also key to engaging residents in what’s going on in the community, according to Lauren Sims, executive program manager with the Town of Mount Pleasant. The town has found success with several outreach programs to engage residents.

“Our research showed our top outreach job should be letting people be heard.” Town staff put together a multiprong strategy to get elected officials and staff out into the community engaging small groups at a time.

“We found people were more willing to talk honestly and engage when they were in a small group outside of city hall,” Lauren said. “This kind of engagement leads to ongoing relationships between city officials and residents, and that’s a win-win” in a city that’s one of the fastest growing in the country.

The town’s approach included coffee with the mayor gatherings, the town administrator’s e-brief and mobile office hours, roundtable meetings with neighborhood and community groups, reading patrol with police officers, and a planning college that teaches the public and people in businesses dealing with planning about the details of this city function. Mount Pleasant has won three municipal Achievement Awards for these outreach programs.

Good relationships with FOIA requests

Tiger Wells (l) and Bill Rogers
Relationships also come into play when dealing with Freedom of Information requests from reporters and the public. 

Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, and Tiger Wells, the Association’s lobbyist who works on FOIA legislation, reviewed the changes (get a summary of the changes and the updated version of the Press Association’s FOIA handbook).

Through the course of the presentation, both agreed some of the law’s new provisions give requesters and the government entity more guidance and, in some ways, more flexibility in responding to requests.

“Both parties can work together to come to an agreement about when documents will be made available,” Tiger said.

Bill agreed. “Having an established relationship with reporters who are making requests can always help.”

Social media can help government/community relationships
Meredith Houck
Social media is another way of developing relationships between government and the news media. Meredith Houck, the Municipal Association’s website and creative services manager, shared tips on two social media topics: creating social media policies and using cell phones to take visually pleasing photos for social media. Get her PowerPoint presentation and tips for taking photos.

Get all of the handouts and PowerPoints from the workshop presentations.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lots of economic impact in 2.5 minutes next week

There will be lots of economic impact packed into a few minutes next Monday when much of South Carolina experiences the once-in-a-lifetime eclipse.

With spectators coming from around the world, some 140 South Carolina cities and towns are positioned to offer a memorable weekend followed by an awe-inspiring few minutes. Get a list of what some South Carolina cities have planned and read this Columbia Business Monthly article to find out what several small towns are doing.

In preparation for the approximately 2 ½-minute event, the Municipal Association’s Risk Management Services staff has offered a number of safety tips cities should consider when hosting large crowds.

If the city is sponsoring a free public viewing event, make sure there is some shade and cool beverages. Consider hiring a vendor to manage or support parking, traffic and sanitation efforts. Coordinate with public safety officials and logistics organizers. Security should be heightened, considering the recent attacks seen around the world. Minimize outdoor construction and maintenance activities on the day of the eclipse, since the event is expected to attract additional onlookers and travelers on the city's roads and properties.

Individuals planning to watch the eclipse should be careful. Looking directly at the sun with the naked eye or through an optical aid can be extremely dangerous, and there is only a brief phase, "totality," when the moon completely blocks the sun during which onlookers can remove their glasses.

Take the following steps:

  • Check for local information on the timing of when the total eclipse will begin and end. NASA's page of eclipse times is a good place to start.
  • Don't stare at the sun. It's too bright for the eye.
  • Research and purchase special-purpose solar filters, "eclipse glasses" or hand-held solar viewers. Make sure the glasses are certified. Some have been recalled as unsafe.
  • Smoked glass, X-ray films, sunglasses and camera filters, for example, are all dangerous and should be avoided completely for viewing.

Despite the warnings, there are plenty of ways to safely enjoy the eclipse. For detailed information on the path of the eclipse, maps, merchandise and more, visit this webpage.

SC Educational Television and Public Radio will be covering the eclipse live on television, radio and live streaming. Get links to previous stories looking at the safety of glasses, emergency preparedness, traffic, photography during the eclipse and more.


Friday, August 11, 2017

'Tis the season ... to start planning for the 2018 session

By Casey Fields, manager for municipal advocacy

It’s August - time for the once in a lifetime solar eclipse and time for the Municipal Association’s annual Regional Advocacy Meetings. Don’t miss either this year. You don’t need protective eyewear for our meetings, though.

Jump in the car with your fellow local officials and hit the road for an advocacy meeting near you. We’ve scheduled them so no one should be more than a 90 minute drive from one of the meetings.

We will share a good meal, some fellowship and talk politics. I loved seeing everyone at Annual Meeting. Regional Advocacy Meetings are just another opportunity for us to gather and keep up the momentum after such a great meeting in Hilton Head.

The Regional Advocacy Meetings start on Tuesday, August 15, in Myrtle Beach at the Historic Train Depot. If you haven’t already registered, do it now. The discussion and information are important, but we also serve up a good meal of local fare. We always try to use city facilities and local caterers to show off the city where we are meeting.

We will open up the meetings by looking ahead to big issues for the 2018 legislative session. Our staff will update on you on the progress with business licensing legislation, and we will talk with you about what’s on your mind about issues in your city or town. 

Advocacy staff will also go over important bills that passed during 2017 such as changes to FOIA, municipal elections and the state pension system.

This is not a lecture-style meeting. It’s a discussion among us, you and each other. Designed to be fast-paced but thorough enough to walk away with some good information, the meetings help us plan next steps for the months leading up to the new session in January.

I know you are busy. I know you have a lot of other responsibilities including running your city and protecting your residents. But this time together is important.

Register now for a Regional Advocacy Meeting. Don’t miss the opportunity to tell us what’s on your mind and hear what new laws are in place. I can’t wait to see your smiling faces! Never too soon to start planning our strategy to advocate for strong cities and towns in our General Assembly.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A $13,000 Lesson

By Tiger Wells, Government Affairs Liaison

The meetings of public bodies must be open to the public. This is a central and typically uncontroversial tenant of the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act

As is usually the case with general rules, however, there are exceptions.

For any of six reasons outlined in the Freedom of Information Act, a public body may go into a closed session. Five of these apply to municipal government. Before entering executive session, the public body’s presiding officer must announce the specific purpose of the executive session according to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Two years ago, the South Carolina Supreme Court made it clear that the words “proposed contractual matter,” for example, do not satisfy the specific purpose requirement. In Donohue v. City of North Augusta, the North Augusta city council was found to have violated FOIA when it invoked Section 30-4-70(a)(2) of the S.C. Code of Laws and stated that it was going into executive session to discuss a “contractual matter.” 

Now, just two years following that opinion, another public body has been admonished by a lower court for a similar violation. In a recently issued order out of the Newberry County Court of Common Pleas, Newberry County Council was found to have violated FOIA by holding closed meetings without sufficiently announcing the meetings’ specific purpose. 

According to the court’s order, meeting minutes from one of these public meeting indicate that the announced purpose of the closed session was “the receipt of legal advice where the legal advice relates to a pending, threatened, or potential claim or other matters covered by the attorney-client privilege.”

Noting first that this description amounts to a partial reciting of the exact language of Section 30-4-70(a)(2), the court concluded reciting the applicable code section “in such a general way” constituted hiding the specific topic of the executive session. As a result, the public body was found to have denied the public its right to know what was being discussed, and ordered to pay $13,708.63 in fees and costs.

Through the Donohue case, the S.C. Supreme Court pointed to an example of how not to go into executive session, but stopped short of articulating precisely what form the statement of specific purpose should have taken. If this most recent case advances at least to the state Court of Appeals, it will be interesting to see if South Carolina’s appellate courts seize this opportunity to give more concrete guidance.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Palmetto Pride "talked trash" at the Annual Meeting

For some of us, tossing a McDonalds bag out a car window would seem strange and out of character.

If only everyone felt that way. 

On Friday at the Annual Meeting, Esther Wagner, special events program manager for PalmettoPride, laid out ways that cities and towns could control and prevent litter during a session that drew dozens of municipal officials.

Here are a few:

•    Mini grants — PalmettoPride is offering a mini grant for South Carolina municipalities to purchase trash receptacles for downtown areas or parks. Municipalities must demonstrate an active litter reduction program including, but not limited, to enforcement, regular emptying of trash cans, and routine maintenance and cleaning of area in need.
•    Awareness — The city website should feature disposal information and anti-littering messages. “You should be very clear about where things are to be dumped, which dumps will take mattresses, which ones will take e-waste. Have that easily accessible for your people,” Wagner said. “People are going to landfills and are being turned away and dumping stuff on their way back."
•    Ordinances —  “You can’t enforce litter laws if you don’t have litter laws,” said Wagner. PalmettoPride can provide a sample ordinance. “Make sure that your officers are well trained, so they know what to do for a litter stop and how to make a litter ticket stick,” she said.
•    Judicial support — “We get a lot of reports that the judiciary and prosecutors don’t support their tickets,” said Wagner. “If you have that issue, come to us, and we will see what we can to do help you train those people on why it’s important.
•    Hotline  — PalmettoPride sponsors a statewide Litter Busters Hotline, thanks to the cooperation of the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Safety. Call 877-7LITTER (754-8837) to report the location, time and the litterbug’s license number. S.C. DPS will send the offender a letter, noting littering isn't tolerated in South Carolina, and fines or jail time could result.
•    Tree grants — Wagner said PalmettoPride gets seedlings for pennies on the dollar. State inmates nurture the seedlings for two or three years until they’re old enough to adopt out for beautification. Inmates have gotten jobs in landscaping companies after this experience.

•    Parolees — A judge assigns a specific road to be cleaned up as part of an individual’s parole. A city employee can drive by and make sure the road’s been cleaned up. "If it’s not, let the judge know."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Annual Meeting opening session brings insight, elections and a couple of surprises

Walterboro Mayor Bill Young, president
Municipal Association of SC
New officers, graduates of the Municipal Association’s Municipal Elected Officials Institute, an inspiring keynote address and recognition of a state legislator headlined the opening session of the 2017 Annual Meeting.

Keynote address focused on cities finding their niche
The keynote speaker, Ed McMahon, with the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. had lots to tell attendees of the Annual Meeting. The gist: How cities and towns can make themselves competitive by accentuating their uniqueness instead of imitating other thriving places.

“Most Americans care more about the place they live than the political party they belong to,” he told a ballroom full of municipal officials.

These were among McMahon’s points:
•    Don’t compete with other cities in a race to the bottom by giving away tax incentives to big business.
•    “It’s not about what you don’t have,” he said. “It’s about what you do have.” Quality of life is critically important to economic wellbeing. Don’t join an “arms race” that only a few cities will win. For example, resist the urge to try to build the flashiest convention center, the biggest festival market place, or some other trendy attraction, such as an aquarium.
•    Green spaces aren't just a nice “extra.” Treat parks and green spaces like the sources of vitality that they are. Green spaces add value to property.
•    Preserving what is special about community is very good for business. McMahon pointed to a company called Brandywine Investment Fund. Its founder moved from Philadelphia to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, because of the outdoor recreation opportunities in Wyoming.
•    It’s good to be discerning when it comes to deciding what businesses you want in your city.  Don’t be afraid to say no. “If you’re afraid to say no to anything, you’ll get the worst of everything,” said McMahon. “… Communities that set high standards compete for the top.”
•    Mixed-use developments are the way to go. That means apartments, offices, swimming pools, small businesses, and any number of other establishments have a place on top of, for example, a downtown Walmart or Best Buy. McMahon cited the City of Fayetteville’s data from 2011 that showed a mixed-use Waffle House outperformed a “strip,” standalone Waffle House by 15 percent. 

Highlights of Ed McMahon's presentation

Cayce Mayor Elise Partin
Elections, recognitions and awards
New Municipal Association officers for 2017-18 are Cayce Mayor Elise Partin, president; Florence Councilmember Octavia Williams-Blake, first vice president; Isle of Palms Mayor Dick Cronin, second vice president; and Mauldin Mayor Dennis Raines, third vice-president.

Williston Mayor Jason Stapleton, Johnston Mayor Terence Culbreth, Clemson Mayor J.C. Cook, Hollywood Mayor Jackie Heyward, Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougall and Chester Councilmember Amy Brown are the newly elected board members.

Rep. Joe Daning
Representative Joe Daning (R-Goose Creek) received the Distinguished Service Award. This is an award that is not presented each year but only when someone outside of municipal government has truly exhibited the service that this award was intended to honor.  

Association President Bill Young, mayor of Walterboro, said “Rep. Daning has been a consistent and reliable ally to South Carolina municipalities, He’s stepped up repeatedly and spoken out in defense of preserving home rule and local authority.”

Two surprise recognitions rounded out the opening session when Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols received the Farlow Award for outstanding service to municipal government, and Miriam Hair was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in recognition of her retirement later this year.

Mayor Doug Echols
Mayor Young noted Mayor Echols’ many years of service to the City of Rock Hill and to the Municipal Association. “The real feather in his cap is happening next week  with Rock Hill hosting the BMX World Championships,” Mayor Young said. “This event will bring more than 3,300 riders from over 40 countries and an estimated 20,000 spectators to Rock Hill.”

Senator Floyd Nicholson (D-Greenwood) made a surprise appearance to present Miriam Hair with the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor. 
Following a video highlighting Miriam’s 32-year career at the Association, Mayor Young brought Senator Nicholson to the stage saying, “In the video, we saw Miriam’s letters for outstanding work in high school athletics. If it was possible to letter in municipal government, there wouldn’t be enough room on one jacket to recognize Miriam’s accomplishments at the Municipal Association. 

In the absence of that, we’ve done the next best thing…and brought her former high school coach to join us today for a special presentation. Before we all knew him as Mayor Nicholson or Senator Nicholson, Miriam and her family knew him as Coach."

Sen. Nicholson was Miriam’s high school basketball coach and later worked with her when he was Greenwood’s mayor and president of the Association’s board. Today he is the state senator representing Miriam’s hometown of Greenwood.


Annual Meeting Day 1: Get a peek at the mobile workshop with the Town of Hilton Head Island

More than 100 municipal officials learned that Hilton Head Island's redevelopment efforts have a lot in common with their own. In particular? The forces that drive redevelopment can be found everywhere.

They include: Aging infrastructure. Millennials. Changing lifestyles. The economic downturn. Growth. Aging buildings with lagging maintenance.

Hilton Head Island’s Mall at Shelter Cove was built in the 1980s. Today the Shelter Cove Towne Center is the result of re-envisioned development. But it took careful planning and design guidelines to get there.

An aerial photo of the old mall showed that Broad Creek, which is next to the property, wasn’t used to its full potential. 

“It turned its back on this beautiful view,” said Jennifer Ray, Hilton Head Island’s planning and special projects manager, during a breakfast at a restaurant in the development held before a bus tour of the town’s redevelopment successes. The tour was part of the Municipal Association’s Annual Meeting.

“The mall started failing,” said Ray of the old Shelter Cove shopping center. In the 2000s, this mall, just like many indoor shopping centers, faced competition as online retail increased and as the economy started to downturn.

The owners asked the town for a development agreement to spur activity, but the plans never came to fruition. A few years later, an Augusta, Georgia-based developer got involved. Instead of a strip mall design, the developer created a village atmosphere.

“The shops have a different flavor as you walk along. There are public spaces next to the route to encourage you stop and linger,” Ray said. And in the back by the creek, there is a public park.

“It would have been the loading dock in the back of the grocery store had the developer not been willing to say, ‘That jewel out there that Hilton Head Island prizes is valuable to our tenant as well.’”

“We have an extensive design review board and design guidelines,” said Ray. "Island character is a concept this island was founded on when Charles Fraser started development here. We take that very seriously and have a high quality, sustainable product that will be beautiful and last for years. It also blends into nature, which is another one of our assets that people come here for.”

Creating the new Shelter Cove Town Center took creativity and care to get the aesthetics just right. One way to do this was to add patches of public spaces, including benches and gathering areas, to the development.

Landscaping, pedestrian-level lighting also helped. Rethinking the power lines was yet another way.

“The town helped negotiate with Santee Cooper to move the power line,” Ray said, so that it runs through the parking lot. “That’s not the area that you want to focus on. You park your car, and you get out and you move on.”

Lower-storied buildings were placed closer to where automobiles are moving. Farther back on the site features larger buildings. Coordinating bricks and building materials helps create a cohesive project.

“You never feel like you’re right in front a large mass of large grocery or big-box store," said Ray.

Thursday’s redevelopment tour showed more than 100 municipal officials other highlights, including acreage of the future University of South Carolina Beaufort site on Office Park Road, the Sonesta Resort, which suffered damage from Hurricane Matthew and had to undergo repairs, and other hotel redevelopment projects and gated communities.

Friday, July 14, 2017

New FOIA Handbook now available

Now that changes to the state’s Freedom of Information Act have taken effect, the S.C.Press Association has updated its FOIA handbook

The Municipal Association shares this handbook on its website as a resource for local officials. The updated version is now available online, and copies will be available to officials attending the upcoming Annual Meeting.

Legislators introduced the bill with the intention of making public bodies more responsive to records requests. The bill gives the public faster access to an official ruling when a public body either rejects or otherwise fails to satisfy a FOIA request. The bill also establishes time frames for the public bodies receiving those requests. Get details in this earlier blog post. 

In May, the Association held a series of conference calls to outline the changes to FOIA. Two questions came up during the calls that prompted Association staff to do further research.

The first question focused on how to deal with FOIA requests for materials submitted to councilmembers from the public during a meeting. The second related to requests for records that include personal identifying information. Get details in this earlier blog post. 

This recent article in GSA BizWire also gives an overview of the changes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Countdown to the 2017 Annual Meeting

The 2017 Annual Meeting is just a week away, and it’s time to start thinking about how to get the most of out of your time at Hilton Head.

Read on for a sneak peek at a number of sessions that have been featured in recent Uptown stories.

Learning from other cities’ successes is a big part of the Annual Meeting. Greer Mayor Rick Danner shares his city’s story of working across jurisdictional lines to ensure success of several city projects. And Palmetto Pride shares how cities are working to put litter prevention strategies in place.

Crises come in all shapes and sizes. Hear from three city leaders who weathered recent storm incidents and find out some creative solutions to common problems they faced.

Law enforcement agencies are finding training through a simulator gives officers hands-on experience with situations encountered every day. Meeting attendees can attend a breakout session to learn about this training then give the simulator a first-person try

It’s not too early to start planning for the 2020 Census. Find out what cities need to be doing now to get ready.

Just because South Carolina hasn’t legalized medical marijuana doesn’t mean its use can’t be an issue for employers. A labor attorney will discuss this and other pressing HR issues.

Fifteen-minute tech talks on Thursday and Saturday give officials the chance to glance at trends and what’s new in technology for local governments.

Want the meeting in the palm of your hand? Download the meeting app before you leave home and get your schedule organized before you arrive at Hilton Head. 

New this year will be satellite parking at a church near the Palmetto Dunes entrance on the William Hilton Parkway for guests at the Sonesta, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express. All the details on the website and the app

Finally, the 2017 Communications Survey will be available for everyone to complete at the Annual Meeting. Or get a jump on things and take the survey online now to tell us how you like to get information from the Association.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

S.C. cities in the international spotlight twice this summer

South Carolina cities and towns will be drawing international attention twice this summer with the international BMX cycling championship coming to Rock Hill in late July and the "once-in-99-years eclipse" passing over more than 140 cities and towns on August 21. 

International cycling championship in Rock Hill

First, the week of July 25 – 29, the City of Rock Hill is hosting the UCI BMX World Cycling Championship. The event is just shy of the Olympics in terms of prestige and prominence in the cycling world. Organizers anticipate more than 20,000 spectators will be in Rock Hill to watch 3,300 riders from more than 40 countries.

This BMX event is anticipated to be the largest international sporting event in South Carolina history, according to Rock Hill officials.

Rock Hill was selected to host this event in 2014, two months before the track, modeled after the 2008 Beijing Olympic track, even opened. The last time the BMX world cycling championship was held in the U.S. was 2001 when Louisville, KY hosted it. The last two championships took place in Zolder, Belgium, and Medellin, Colombia.

Rock Hill has invested heavily in sports tourism in the past decade, and the results are showing. The Rock Hill Parks Recreation and Tourism Department estimates that sports tourism has had a $157.3 million direct economic impact on the city since 2006.

In recent years, Rock Hill’s reputation as a competitive cycling center has skyrocketed with the opening of the Giordana Velodrome (track cycling) in 2012, and the Novant Health BMX Supercross Track in 2014. Rock Hill’s cycling focus also extends to Cyclocross trails, a mountain bike course and Criterium course.

The City of Rock Hill recently held a media day “race event” for local reporters to experience the thrill of the BMX track personally. Read here about one of the participant’s race down the starting ramp that stands two stories tall and drops 40 feet down before looping about 1200 feet around the track of intensely rolling hills.

S.C. cities uniquely positioned for eclipse

Then, on August 21, more than 140 South Carolina cities and towns will fall into the swath of the first total solar eclipse in North America in 99 years. There’s a lot of economic impact packed into those two minutes and 41 seconds.

While Columbia is the largest South Carolina city to experience the “full totality” of the eclipse, many smaller towns in the “path of totality" are using the once-in-a-lifetime event to showcase their distinctive appeal.

As early as last August, officials in Newberry began thinking about their eclipse plans. A photographer from New York called to say Newberry’s location in the swath of the eclipse would provide him with the shot of a lifetime, and that's where he wanted to be. 

The Town of Blythewood and its local chamber of commerce are making the most of the week leading up to the eclipse. 

“When a ‘once-in-99-years’ event rolls through your town complete with NASA-predicted, overwhelming quantities of visitors, your town better be prepared to show itself off,” said Mike Switzer, executive director of the Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce.

The town and chamber are partnering with the local branch of the Richland Library to host eclipse-related seminars. There are sessions for both children and adults about eclipse photography, local history of eclipses and crafts related to the eclipse.

"Moondoggled: An Eclipsing Battle of the Bands" will take place the afternoon of the  eclipse before, during and after the totality at the town's new Palmetto Citizens Amphitheater in the 24-acre Doko Meadows park. Local bands will compete for a $500 prize. Their playlists must include at least one sun or moon-themed song.

“Plus there will be a shred truck at the park during that time so people can destroy those highly-classified, super-secret documents during the two minutes of darkness,” Switzer said. 

This Uptown article showcases what Newberry, Santee and Columbia have planned. Learn what other cities are planning here.

BMX photo credits: Wendy Waddle, City of Rock Hill

Friday, June 16, 2017

Water Water Everywhere

Take a look at the thermometer, and it’s easy to see summer is upon us. Time to head to the beach or the pool. Time to cool off floating down the river or frolicking in the local splash pad, right?
Not so fast. 
The water we count on to cool us off, water our yards and flow from our faucets isn’t guaranteed to always be there. Drought is common in South Carolina, and cities and towns need to be prepared when drought conditions occur.
Water is a limited resource that not only impacts the health and well-being of a community, but it also can be an important economic development catalyst.
The June issue of Uptown focuses on water as a resource for our state. Read more about drought, blueways, water pollution challenges and water safety.