City Council Recap

 In Local News

Several departments within the City of Newberry received special recognition and were mentioned during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting .

For the twenty-sixth year in a row, the City of Newberry has received a “Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting,” Mayor Foster Senn said. City Finance Director Shannon Smith accepted the recognition Tuesday by council on behalf of her department.

The award is presented annually by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States to those governments that have achieved the highest standards of perfection in their accounting procedures.

“We’re really proud of this,” Senn said. “Shannon and her staff are doing an excellent job.”

City Manager Matt DeWitt said receiving this award for the 26th year showed consistency, which he felt was the number one key to success.

“I can’t thank Shannon and her department enough for the job they do each and every day,” he said.

City Council also recognized several employees Tuesday for their years of service with the city.

Yolanda Williams was recognized for her five years of service with the police department. Williams began working with the department on November 17, 2014 and holds the position of Police Corporal.

“Yolanda is definitely a community-oriented police officer and is well known by everyone in the community,” said Police Chief Roy McClurkin. “She’s dedicated to her job and cares about the citizens of Newberry.”

McClurkin also spoke on behalf of Jason Stuhr, recognized by council for his 20 years of service with the police department. Stuhr began working with the department on November 29, 1999 and holds the position of Police Sergeant.

Stuhr plays a vital role in working to control traffic during events as well as any wrecks that may occur, McClurkin said. Stuhr is pictured above with McClurkin.

“He does a wonderful job, is very dedicated and I appreciate everything he does,” McClurkin said of Stuhr.

From the utility department, Jesse Folk was recognized for his 15 years of service. Folk began working with the department on November 22, 2004 and holds the position of Electric Lineman A. Utility Director Tim Baker said Folk along with his fellow lineman worked the hours while many were asleep, during power outages or other emergencies and he couldn’t thank them enough for their hard work.

In the finance department, Deborah Hawkins was recognized by council on her retirement. Hawkins began working with the department on March 30, 2004 and held the position of Financial Services Specialist.

Senn said Hawkins had been a great representation for the city and wished her the best on her retirement.

Finance Director Shannon Smith said she would be greatly missed.

“Deborah was a tremendous asset to the city and to the finance department,” Smith said.

Assistant Utility Director David Eldridge provided a monthly update for council on the fiber rollout within the city limits. Eldridge told council Zone 2 was completed, with the contract for Zone 3 having just arrived and work was planned to begin the following week.

Zone 3 will cover most of the West End area, Eldridge said. While the project is still approximately two weeks behind schedule, he said they had been in discussions about bringing in another crew to speed up the work.

Councilman Zebbie Goudelock asked Eldridge about the designated completion date for the project to which he said it was estimated to be fully completed in late April 2020.
As another update for council, Senn said the city’s Planning and Development Services Department had applied and received a grant in the amount of $475,000 from the South Carolina Department of Commerce Community Development Block Grant program. The money will be used to demolish vacant and dilapidated structures within the city.

DeWitt said the city typically budgeted to take down approximately 8-10 houses per year that were dilapidated and damaged, but this grant would allow them to make a larger impact in the community by removing close to 50 dilapidated houses.
Under public comment, Charlene Granville and James Harrington spoke on behalf of the group, Friends of Wise Street Park on the interest of getting improvements made to Wise Street Park. Granville told council they would be promoting their group and soliciting any donations from the community and other potential donors to get funds to make those improvements.

“That’s a great example of working together to get things done,” Senn said. “I think that would be outstanding.”

Old Business
Under old business, council approved second and final reading of an ordinance to amend sections 12-7, 12-8, 12-9 and 12-10 of the code of laws of the City of Newberry as they apply to the Firehouse Conference Center. The firehouse conference center last raised rates in 2017. The costs to operate the facility have increased due to the need for increased staffing, audio/visual upgrades and increased operational costs. The rate increase for regular weekend rentals is minimal, he said along with a moderate increase in wedding day events. Full facility weekday (up to 4:00 p.m.) rentals are only proposed to increase $25.

The proposal creates a new rental structure for third floor rentals for weekday rentals up to and after 4:00 p.m. Single room rentals have been removed and third floor rentals now offer three options: Full floor and two “wing” rentals. The “wing” rentals are comprised of a front wing rental of Room 301 and the Executive Board Room and also the rear wing combining Rooms 311, 314 and 315.

Motion was made by Councilman Edwin Wicker and seconded by Councilman Thomas Louis Boyd.

Financial Report
Under new business, David Phillips of Greene Finney, LLC presented City Council with an overview of the fiscal year 2018-2019 Comprehensive Financial Report. As of June 30, 2019, Phillips said their firm saw the City of Newberry in good financial condition.
The city’s total fund balance decreased $1.4 million over the previous year and within the general fund balance, Phillips reported that their unassigned fund balance this year was at 42 percent of 2019 actual expenditures.

The Government Finance Officers Association recommends a minimum of 16.7 percent, which is equivalent to two months, putting the city well ahead of that measurement, Phillips said.

Other positives Phillips said was that the city’s total long-term obligations outstanding at June 30, 2019 had decreased by $2.3 million from June 30, 2018.

Other items of note included a total of $99.5 million in total capital assets as of June 30, 2019 – an increase of $10.2 million from June 30, 2018.

On deficiency noted in the audit, Philips said was related to capital asset recording/tracking. Philips said the city needed to consider upgrading its capital asset system and ultimately the accounting system and software.

Senn said he did not want the city to be left behind on the financial side to which DeWitt said staff had been actively looking into new software and system upgrades.

Phillips commended the city’s finance department for their conscientiousness and how much they cared about their work.

Senn congratulated DeWitt and city staff on a positive year.