Thursday, April 30, 2020

Governing Through the Coronavirus Emergency

Ever since the coronavirus began disrupting health, safety and economic stability in South Carolina, the state’s cities and towns have worked to provide leadership and support for their residents and businesses. Leaders everywhere have been learning and finding ways to continue their operations and public meetings under unprecedented circumstances. 

Council, finance operations 
City and town councils have discovered ways to continue their public meetings and address pressing business items while using caution. They achieved this through holding virtual meetings — working their way through technical issues and learning curves — and applying social distancing at in-person meetings. 

Other issues have grown more critical as the emergency has progressed, including developing and passing budgets, as well as staging public hearings when needed. In the past month, the Municipal Association of SC has created a videocast series, Local Resources for COVID-19. In it, Association staff help with many of the governance questions that have arisen. The episodes have covered many topics:

  • Episode 1: Meetings During COVID-19 Response – Virtual meetings create questions for issues such as quorums, emergency ordinances and SC Freedom of Information Act. This presentation provides guidance on those issues. 
  • Episode 2: Meeting Schedules – This session includes frequently asked questions for the Municipal Association’s field services managers, and provides guidance on scheduling and delaying public meetings. 
  • Episode 3: Electronic Meetings – This video takes a look at the basics of calling an electronic council meeting and establishing councilmember procedures for them. 
  • Episode 4: Electronic Meetings Best Practices – Once an electronic meeting is scheduled, city councils need to be able to manage the software for the meeting and making sure that councilmembers can adequately participate in the meeting and the public can see the proceedings. 
  • Episode 5: Public Hearings During Emergency – Learn about issues to consider when postponing public hearings, or setting them up using social distancing precautions. 
  • Episode 6: Public Input When Meetings Cannot Be Delayed – There are issues for public bodies to consider when postponing public hearings or setting them up using social distancing precautions. 
  • Episode 7: Business License Collection Processes – Disruptions in regular commerce are likely to make paying business license taxes on time more difficult. Cities have different options for helping local enterprises stay in business. The information in this session is also found in written form here
  • Episode 8: Adopting a Budget – Most South Carolina cities have a July 1 start date for their fiscal year, so they need to be developing and adopting budgets in the face of fiscal uncertainty. This session looks at issues to consider when handling the budget process. 
  • Episode 9: Municipal Budget Impacts of COVID-19 – This session looks at the potential impact of COVID-19 on a variety of municipal revenue sources. 
  • Episode 10: Borrowing Funds – Take a look at borrowing issues relating to general fund cash flow, enterprise fund revenue, hospitality and accommodations tax payments, refinancing as well as existing covenants.  

Find all the videos here

The Association has also created guidance on many of the governor’s executive orders issued during this emergency. 

Business support 
Cities and towns have often found ways to help businesses faced with hardship from the pandemic. Many have served as a source of valuable, current information to businesses on federal assistance programs and other resources. In other cases, cities have amplified the message that their local businesses remain open, through website listings, social media, and even by posting signage for dedicated pickup locations for curbside restaurant service. 

Resources that can help with these efforts are available on the Small Business Support page. Also, in a recent City Quick Connect podcast, Main Street South Carolina Manager Jenny Boulware talked to the Main Street directors in Cheraw, Florence and Laurens about how they have been helping businesses with COVID-19 disruptions. 

Find all of the Municipal Association’s coronavirus resources on this web page.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

May Is Building Safety Month

Building codes protect the people who live and work in buildings from fire hazards, structural collapses and weather-related disasters. Each May, the International Code Council organizes Building Safety Month to raise awareness of the need for local governments to adopt modern building codes and update them regularly. The month is also intended to help the public better understand what the creation of safe, sustainable structures requires. The ICC provides an awareness campaign toolkit and a proclamation guide cities and towns can use to declare a Building Safety Month. 

This year’s Building Safety Month is split into four weekly emphasis areas: 

The Building Officials Association of South Carolina, an affiliate of the Municipal Association of SC, assists the state’s hundreds of licensed building officials, inspectors, plans examiners and the construction industry in their vital work. BOASC offers educational and networking opportunities, an annual meeting and legislative advocacy for the needs of building officials. As an example of its outreach efforts, BOASC partnered last month with the Homebuilders Association of SC and other industry groups to promote a COVID-19 job safety awareness day. And for municipalities looking to adopt the International Building Code, BOASC also provides a guide for adoption

A recent issue of Uptown took a look into a day in the life of a codes enforcement officer. The article brought together the perspectives of the staff members fulfilling this role in Abbeville, Hartsville and Loris on everything from the legal to administrative and even interpersonal issues involved.