County Rec. propose new fitness park

NEWBERRY COUNTY – Newberry County Council heard plans to possibly bring a new fitness park to the community, as well as news from Newberry County Memorial Hospital’s (NCMH) partnership with Newberry College at their June 15 meeting.

Jerry Alewine, dean of nursing and health sciences at Newberry College, and Brenda Williams, of NCMH, spoke on the college’s new nursing and health sciences building and the programs that will help alleviate the nursing shortage in the area. Newberry College nursing students will be able to partner with the hospital to help local staffing needs.

In addition to partnering on education, the new facility at the corner of College and Evans streets will have what Alewine referred to as “a doctor-in-a-box” sort of clinic that will be open to the college community and the public.

Council also heard from Jessie Long, county director of parks and recreation on plans for a possible National Fitness Campaign Fitness Court self-workout park. The parks are self-contained and may be decorated with murals from local artists. The Fitness Courts are supported by an app that users may download to create a customized workout.

The proposed Fitness Court location would be on land near Piedmont Technical College (PTC), on the area behind Family Dollar and the county offices in the PTC plaza. Stated by Long as the site of the old Winn-Dixie.

Council asked about funding for the park, Long said that a portion could be covered by grants and the county would have to raise the difference. Cost estimates for construction are between $137,350 and $157,350, $30,000 of which may be covered by grants. Council voiced some concerns over the cost of the project as well as insurance and maintenance going forward.

County council recognized Newberry’s Juneteenth committee with a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth in Newberry County.

The proclamation reads in part: “Therefore, I, Todd Johnson, Chairman, Newberry County Council of the County of Newberry, South Carolina, do hereby declare June 19-20, 2022, as Juneteenth in the County of Newberry, South Carolina, and urge all citizens to become more aware of the significance of this celebration in African American history and in the heritage of our nation and county.”

In other business, council approved the third and final reading of the FY 2022-23 budget, though there was some concern raised about building permit fees and copy fees that are increasing in the new budget.

Councilperson Henry Livingston raised concerns during council discussion of the budget about how building permit fees are now being calculated under the new budget. Previously, Livingston stated, fees were calculated based on value of construction, but now are based on a fixed price per square foot. The county will now use the International Code Council’s (ICC) building valuation data to calculate the total cost of a building permit.

Director of Building, Planning, and Zoning at County of Newberry, Ron Powell said that the new valuation is currently based on $148 per square foot on new construction per the ICC. Powell reported that of the last 10 permits pulled for new construction half were above the $148, and half below.

“We’re trying to make this an equitable number that will balance across with all builders,” he said.

Myron Cantrell of MC Builders spoke during public comments and raised concern about the higher fees and where the funds are going. He said he would like to see any higher fees go back to the Building Department rather than to the general fund. Cantrell further said that he felt the inspection department was understaffed, with inspections sometimes having to be scheduled days out, and could use the funding.

A third reading also passed for appropriations for Newberry County Library, Piedmont Technical College, and the Newberry Agency for Disabilities and Special Needs. Funding was not cut for any of these entities and due to the increased value of the mill. The entities actually see an increase in their funding. The anticipated value of a mill for FY 2023 is $160,370, an increase of 6.5%.

Also approved were the recommendations from the Accommodations Tax Committee allocating funding for the fiscal year.

On second reading, council passed rezoning of .779 acres parcel number 395-39 from RS Single Family to R2 Rural. Also, second reading on adjustment of 2017 CPST funds for reconstruction of the building behind Whitmire Town Hall passed.

Council considered a bid to repair Scurry Island Road and Doc Hollow Way from Satterfield Construction. Cost of the project is to be $439,412.60. Council expressed concern about this being the only bid received. Mike Pisano stated he felt the bid was reasonable and that the proximity of the contractor (Greenwood) made sense for the project.

Alliance Construction/Lindler Engineering presented information to council on increased costs of a retaining wall at Mid-Carolina Industrial Park. The overrun of costs is expected to be $88,894.

Following executive session, council returned to nominate Tomekia Means to the Joint Planning Commission, she was unanimously approved.

In public comments, multiple residents of the Colony Church Road area of ​​Newberry County came to voice concerns of the slow expansion of fiber internet service in their neighborhood. Council stated that they do not determine who is served by internet service providers (ISP), specifically Carolina Connect, rather that is up to the ISP.

County Administrator Christopher Inglese asked those with concerns about internet service to complete a survey on the need for service in the area.

“The state is collecting data specific to addresses and they are sensitive to students in households that don’t have internet and are prioritizing the next round of grants,” said English.

He did note that he saw the irony in asking those with slow or no internet to submit an online survey, but those with questions should contact the county administrator’s office.

English also noted that the county is in contract negotiations, and the “ink is nearly dry” on a contract to bring the Spartan Races to Newberry County. This is an obstacle course style race that has a 5K and 10K race and is expected to draw between 6,000 to 8,000 people at the events July 30 and 31.

Council also took a moment during comments to thank and offer best wishes to County Attorney Jay Tothacer who will be retiring after 14 years of service to Newberry County, and 40 years of legal service.

Andy Husk is the publisher of The Newberry Observer, reach him at 803-768-3117.

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