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
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.