City of Aiken
The City of Aiken used to be reactive in its approach to utility infrastructure maintenance. But that’s no longer the case, thanks to new software that allows city staff to be proactive. By using a GIS-based asset management and rehabilitation planning program for its water, sewer, and storm water utilities, the city is now able to pinpoint potential problems and make highly informed decisions when planning sewer rehabilitation projects.
Funded through the city’s operational budget, the new software integrates GIS data, inspection data, work and service order data, while using spatial analysis to determine and score potential risk of failure for each asset in the utility system. City officials can then use these “consequence of failure” scores and “likelihood of failure” scores are then analyzed to create a rehabilitation plan and capital budget plan.
Data analysis for future projects will include rehabilitating an additional 58 miles of extreme and high risk sewer pipes, 67 miles of water pipes, and 25 miles of storm pipe.
City of Columbia
The City of Columbia’s Water Distribution Division and Wastewater Maintenance Division shared space with the Public Works Department in a former big box chain store site. They needed room to grow. Crews working in these divisions also needed to be able to service the city’s extensive water and sewer systems and to be centrally located to reach all areas quickly.
So with funding from its water and sewer capital improvement program, the City of Columbia developed a new LEED Gold Water and Wastewater Administration building on a former brownfield site and auto dealership, complete with green roof and low-impact landscaping.
The project brought a host of other benefits: Higher morale for employees, the transformation of a blighted area, a demonstration of sustainable building practices, the reinvestment in a local neighborhood and a jumpstart to the surrounding local economy.
Next up? City staff will host tours and trainings at the facility, including workshops for local builders, designers and landscapers on green design and maintenance.
City of Conway
The City of Conway had a historic gem of a building that sat unappreciated under decades of dust. When Horry County donated the building to the city, Conway officials knew just what to do with it. They restored the 6,800-square-foot National Register-listed property.
The restoration saved the building’s historic windows, flooring, interior openings and finishes. The space became the city’s visitor center that also includes community banquet and meeting space, and offices for Conway Downtown Alive, a National Main Street Affiliate working in downtown Conway.
In October of 2017, thousands of residents mingled with tourists at the building for the beginning of the annual Spirits of the Lowcountry ghost walk. Conway’s general fund and a matching grant from the state of South Carolina supported the project, along with labor from city workers.
The city plans to use this building for another 100 years to give the community a place to be proud of, use for social and other events, and to greet visitors and newcomers. The building will be the beginning of countless community and tourism related events for generations.
City of Denmark
The need to ensure fire safety and to remedy discolored water, low water pressure and waterline leaks drove the City of Denmark to make crucial waterline improvements.
The Denmark Public Works Department conducted a review of all water lines with particular attention to the age and the number of repairs a specific area had already undergone.
By using a Community Development Block Grant and matching city funds, city leaders were able to tackle a comprehensive upgrade project, one that will take more time and additional funding but represents an aggressive effort to bring the entire system up to date. Waterline upgrades and improved fire service assisted by new fire hydrants are an integral part of the city’s strategic plan.
But Denmark has more plans. The city has received additional CDBG funding, which will allow the upgrades to continue and to bring an additional five fire hydrants to the city.
Results are already apparent. The number of water leaks has gone down dramatically, and the new fire hydrants have already assisted with a house fire in Denmark. The new hydrant directly reduced damage to the house.
City of Easley
A planning grant revealed the City of Easley’s deficiencies in public walking and biking infrastructure. At the same time, the city was facing rising downtown home prices, which was in turn causing gentrification in the historic African-American neighborhoods.
So city leaders decided to do something about it. The City of Easley and the City of Pickens partnered on the creation of a 7.5-mile Doodle Trail, which opened in 2015. The 1-mile extension that leads into downtown Easley and the progressive planning of affordable housing along the Doodle Trail have transformed the City of Easley from an auto-centric, suburb into an active recreation urban core.
There’s more in store. The city plans to use a network of trails and sidewalks to connect all city parks together and to connect the Doodle Trail on the north side of the city to the Brushy Creek Greenway on the south side, while working toward the long-term regional goal of connecting the Doodle Trail, Green Crescent and Swamp Rabbit Trail. In addition, a nature park focused on sustainability, conservation, and education will be situated on the western side of the city.
Town of Fort Mill
The Great Recession hit downtown Fort Mill hard. Properties were vacant, commerce had slowed and businesses were struggling. The town had to act to bring back its downtown vibrancy.
That’s where Fort Mill Tomorrow came in. City officials developed the town’s 2008 comprehensive plan, “Fort Mill Tomorrow,” and subsequent 2013 update of the plan through significant public involvement, including citizens and stakeholders throughout the community. The plan envisioned both physical improvements and legislative fixes from Town Council to boost the downtown district, enhance its sense of place and spur future private investment.
The plan called for investing public money downtown while private investment interest was low as a way to prime the downtown area for private investment as soon as the economy rebounded from the Great Recession. The town’s Capital Projects Fund paid for physical investments in downtown. The town used these funds to leverage additional grant money and non-profit donations to increase the total investment.
Town officials are finalizing a new comprehensive plan, which provides a vision for next 20 years and builds on the successes of the 2008 and 2013 updated plan.
City of Greenwood
The City of Greenwood’s declining Westside neighborhood was at a juncture.
In 2010, land adjoining the neighborhood and the medical district had been cleared and prepared for redevelopment. But without a comprehensive planning effort, the neighborhood’s character was in danger of being lost. With the growth of the downtown and the medical district, city leaders saw an opportunity in the Westside neighborhood.
The Greenwood Partnership Alliance worked with planners to facilitate interviews, group roundtables and a public meeting that included Westside residents, property owners, city staff and elected officials at all levels, and other stakeholders. A steering committee directed the planning effort from start to finish. Partnerships and grants, including a Community Development Block Grant and private donations, helped the revitalization succeed.
The city removed some dilapidated structures. Now new homes are planned for construction, which will add to the city’s tax base and provide access to affordable housing. City officials plan to continue building upon relationships forged between residents and the historic religious institutions of Westside.
City of Greer
Trains are more active than ever in the City of Greer, where three rail companies — CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway and Amtrak — share railroad tracks. With a growing population of young families and increased rail traffic due to the addition of Inland Port Greer in 2013, the mix of train traffic, vehicles and pedestrians led to eight accidents involving trains from 2015 – 2017, including two pedestrian fatalities.
The public needed a greater awareness of the dangers. So the city partnered with Operation Lifesaver, a national organization that promotes rail safety to create Railfest, a family fun and educational event funded in part by the city and a grant from the S.C. Ports Authority.
“It’s getting bigger every year,” said Greer Police Department Sgt. Randle Ballenger. “We hope to get the word out — Don’t drive around crossings.”
City officials expect the event to grow exponentially in quality, partnerships and attendance, given the growing interest from volunteers. The city’s expanded marketing plan’s aim is to increase the attendees to include residents of cities across the Upstate.
City of Hardeeville
Hardeeville’s dramatic growth had created “neighborhood silos” that illustrated a clear divide between long-time residents and new residents, and a rising potential for gentrification that some feared would change the urban district’s character and culture. So in 2015, the planning process for the Hardeeville Youth Council was born.
City leaders created the Youth Council to recognize the importance of multicultural programs aimed at connecting young residents to their local government. They had a clear challenge — to unify the changing city in the face of its rapid change and development.
The Youth Council was made up of representatives from the city’s five public and private schools. Its mission was to discuss and vote on select issues taken from the Hardeeville City Council agenda and to provide input from the city’s younger residents to the Hardeeville City Council before the council voted. In its first year, the Youth Council launched two initiatives, an anti-littering campaign and an anti-distracted driving campaign, which offered education and outreach to more than 2,000 students and staff.
With the Youth Council’s positive impact already being felt, the city plans to expand its programs.
Town of Kiawah Island
The Town of Kiawah Island’s website wasn’t offering enough information.
“It was like any typical municipal website, text heavy and focused on residents who were interested in town council and what services were offered,” said Stephanie Braswell Edgerton, the town’s communication specialist. But as a private residential island with a golf resort, Kiawah is different.
“There was no one promoting the island as a whole. Everyone was doing their own thing,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that it was a community asset, supporting our tourism industry, supporting our businesses and our residents, as well as working to preserve and protect our island’s unique setting and natural resources.”
Over the summer and fall of 2016, town staff worked with a web design firm to develop a new website. The goal was to create an informative, easy to navigate, and exciting website for the residents and community. The town paid for the work from its general fund.
The town is now working to develop an app, in part, to help communicate with residents, visitors and businesses during hurricanes and other emergencies.
Town of Lexington
As the fourth-fastest growing municipality in the state, traffic in the Town of Lexington was becoming a serious concern. State traffic engineers kept traffic signals throughout town on an analog system, with programming occurring every five years. Due to Lexington’s rapid growth, the timing sequence was ineffective and caused congestion.
To fix the problem, town officials switched to an adaptive computerized signalization system that constantly measures traffic volume, detects the approaching and standing vehicles using cameras, and uses an algorithm to develop the most efficient way to move traffic. With the new system, signals adjust throughout the day and evening to maximize and improve efficiency in traffic flow based on traffic spikes. Lexington County, the local council of governments, the Columbia Area Transportation Study Share Funding and local medical center helped provide funding for the technology.
Phase II of the system to connect an additional 16 intersections is underway. Once complete, all 35 intersections in town and its borders will be part of this high-tech innovation.
City of Marion
City leaders took an unfortunate accident and turned it into a boon for residents and downtown businesses. In 2011, a fire destroyed several downtown buildings, damaged others and displaced businesses. But city leaders weren’t going to give up on the area. They asked residents and organizations what the city should do with three empty lots on Main Street.
The property owners sold two lots to the Historic Marion Revitalization Association. Proceeds from the sale of one donated building helped create a new downtown venue. From the gaping space left by the fire emerged the Main Street Commons, an outdoor gathering place with electricity and elevated stage for music entertainment, health fairs, farmers markets and other events.
The city plans to acquire an adjacent vacant lot to expand the space with permanent restroom facilities, an arbor and a dining venue. Two businesses have already added rear access points to their businesses. City officials predict other businesses will follow suit as business owners take pride in the enhanced aesthetics of the Main Street Commons.
City of Mauldin
Over the years, the City of Mauldin had grown into a suburban, commercial community driven by zoning provisions that paid little attention to walkability and favored large building setbacks and expansive parking lots.
“If you’ve ever heard the term suburban sprawl, it epitomized that — your sprawling commercial and sprawling residential, all disconnected,” said David Dyrhaug, the city’s economic development planner.
City leaders knew they had the power to reverse course and raise the development standard.
So beginning in 2017, the City of Mauldin adopted several revisions and amendments to its zoning regulations in an effort to foster and promote mixed-use spaces, pedestrian considerations and place-making principles. Among the changes were amendments that altered how height is measured and provided for a bonus of greater height in select districts in exchange for attention to urban design. The city also created a new zoning district known as the Urban Village District.
Mauldin officials aren’t resting. They will continue to identify regulations that can be adjusted to align with the city’s vision and strategies.
Town of Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant is surrounded by water — the Cooper and Wando rivers, the Intracoastal Waterway, salt marshes and wetlands. City staff noticed that crews were responding to an increasing number of spills related to traffic accidents, where materials entered storm drains, potentially polluting creeks and waterways. If the town did not have enough trained personnel to clean it up, they would have to hire special contractors and incur a larger cost.
The challenges called for a more formal response plan and a coordinated effort. So the town formed the Spill Response Team, a cost-effective, voluntary program meeting the need to adhere to the Clean Water Act guidelines and protect the natural environment.
“The program has grown to meet several needs, to deliver cost effective and cost efficient services, to train and promote safety, to foster team building across our divisions, and to help the town protect residents and environmental resources,” said Hillary Repik, the town’s stormwater manager.
As safety and regulatory requirements change and demands for town services grow, the program will evolve to meet those needs.
City of Newberry
“Nothing will crush your soul more than to go out and see an able-bodied child playing, while their brother or sister sat on the sidelines and watched,” said Newberry City Manager Matt DeWitt.
So Newberry leaders made sure that doesn’t happen in their city. Children with disabilities will now be able to play alongside other children.
In 2016, the city’s director of parks, recreation and tourism received a text message from a neighbor who knew someone who would like to see the city offer a wheelchair-accessible swing. The city formed a Recreation Accessibility Team, a community-based group dedicated to bringing accessible and inclusive play opportunities to people of all ability levels. City funding, community donations and a Parks and Recreation Development Fund grant helped bring four inclusive swing chairs and two wheelchair accessible swings to two city parks.
But Newberry’s not finished. The city is working to add more playground equipment for all ability levels, along with a recreation complex, funded with from capital project sales tax revenues, that would house an inclusive playground and other inclusive equipment.
City of Orangeburg
The City of Orangeburg’s Department of Public Utilities upgraded its existing plant, originally constructed in the 1970s, after a five-day biochemical oxygen demand test revealed an increase in pollution. The management team decided it was best to prepare the plant for the next 20 years.
The system upgrade was funded by the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which also includes provisions for a Green Project Reserve. The project was also eligible for the Green Project Reserve because the energy savings exceeded the 20 percent reduction in energy consumption required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The upgrade certainly ensures our ability to return the treated wastewater back to the environment significantly cleaner than when it was first extracted for use,” said Randy Etters, key accounts manager for the Orangeburg DPU.
As Orangeburg continues to grow, the wastewater treatment plant is positioned well to accommodate the added demands on its system.
City of Seneca
The City of Seneca’s downtown needed a boost. Its identity had faded due to a bypass that proved to be a faster, wider, more highly trafficked route through town. The appearance, convenience and infrastructure downtown were improving, but the city needed an event that would attract people. So the mayor and City Council designed Jazz on the Alley, an outdoor music festival held every Thursday night from April – October, to bring hundreds of people each week to downtown restaurants and businesses.
But Jazz on the Alley, funded by the city’s hospitality accommodation tax and created with the Downtown Seneca Merchants’ Association, does more than foster economic development and downtown vitality.
“We invited public service organizations and charities. ‘Hey, come down. Bring your information. Put your table out there and tell us what you’re doing,’” said Riley Johnson, the city’s events coordinator.
City officials hope to grow Jazz on the Alley and to expand it to several streets.
Town of Summerville
Recognizing that growth brings expanding pavement and other environmental concerns, planners at the Town of Summerville decided to get ahead of the impacts. They set about conducting an Urban Tree Canopy assessment that included a green infrastructure map to identify the town’s most precious natural, cultural and historical assets. This resulted in a green infrastructure plan, which the town adopted in February of 2017.
The green infrastructure plan offers specific goals, strategies, and tasks to build upon the town’s long-term plans and inform land development regulations, guide updates to long-term planning documents, and improve day-to-day planning decisions.
Summerville’s efforts to balance the economic, social and environmental concerns of an ever growing community have earned kudos. Largely because of its green infrastructure plan, the town was the first to be designated an Audubon South Carolina Climate-Resilient and Bird-Friendly Municipality.
As for what’s next? Town planners are overhauling the zoning and land development regulations into one unified development ordinance using the goals identified in the green infrastructure plan. Additionally, the Summerville Planning Department intends to hire an arborist/natural resource planner to help implement other goals contained in the plan.
City of Sumter
For many children in Sumter, a field trip to the Sumter Opera House is their first exposure to a live performing arts event. But with dwindling school funding for activities, most teachers must ask students to bring money from home to attend a performance with their class. This means some students are unable to participate.
City leaders believed no child should miss the opportunity to learn through the arts. The city worked with the Sumter School District to create the Y.E.S. (Youth Education Scholarship) Program in the fall of 2016 so that underserved students could attend live performances at the Sumter Opera House. To start the program, the City of Sumter paid the costs of the artist fees for all performances the first year. Since then, grants, private donors and general ticket sales have sustained the Y.E.S. Program, which also sends nationally recognized artists into local classrooms to lead workshops before or after students attend matinée performances at the opera house.
City officials hope to continue securing funding from public and private sources and ticket sales in order to continue offering the full array of matinee shows.
City of Tega Cay
Something was missing from the City of Tega Cay Police Department’s crime-reduction efforts. Officers would address traffic and crime needs in specific areas due to data or residents’ complaints, but the officers would fail to communicate to the community why they were targeting the area and their methods for doing so.
The department decided to film public service announcements to get the word out about their activities. By partnering with Fort Mill High School’s “The Buzz TV” media program, the PSAs cost nothing and also allowed law enforcement to build rapport with local high school students. By analyzing data, staff pinpointed when crimes peaked and then highlighted information in a PSA to reduce that specific crime. For example, in August when schools return to session, the PSA will be on traffic and crosswalk safety and when motorists must stop for a school bus.
Next up, the department will analyze data for the upcoming year and plan its 12-month PSA lineup to educate, inform, and reduce crime in the specific areas.
City of Walterboro
The city’s website needed a revamp. It was heavy on text, hard to navigate and failed to communicate the city’s “front porch of the Lowcountry” identity. Fortunately, Walterboro officials knew what was at stake — that a well-functioning website is integral to success in serving residents, attracting potential residents, recruiting industry, drawing tourists and keeping day-to-day municipal business running smoothly.
With these things in mind, the city launched a new website in 2017 with the help of the city’s web team, led by the city’s tourism department and assisted by representatives of different city departments. The new website reduced the number of pages from 99 to 48 pages by focusing on quality over quantity and created four categories to assist users: Government, Visitors, Business and City Services. The new site also communicates the marketing message of “the front porch of the Lowcountry,” using imagery, color choices, background and typography.
Looking ahead, the city plans to keep the website fluid and responsive to local dynamics. Staff plans to consistently generate new content, while keeping in mind that the process is due to begin again in two to three years.