Thursday, October 29, 2020

12 Cities and Towns Receive Hometown Economic Development Grants

The Municipal Association of South Carolina has awarded Hometown Economic Development Grants to 12 cities and towns. 

These grants, available in amounts of up to $25,000 each, aim to support those economic development projects that will make a positive impact on a municipality’s quality of life. The program also promotes and recognizes innovation in economic development practices. The Municipal Association board of directors created the program to fund those projects that will produce measurable results, can be maintained over time and illustrate best practices that can be replicated in other cities. 

After all submissions are made in September, an awards committee of former and current local government and state agency professionals evaluated the grant applications. 

Cities and towns receiving a grant must provide matching funds, with the amount based on their populations, submit reports about the progress and successes of each grant-funded project and provide financial details of how the grant funds were used. 

In recent years, the grants have spurred on valuable projects in many communities, such as the construction of an alleyway park where a blighted storefront had stood in Union, or the renovation of a historic Art Deco theater in Saluda

Work began in recent months on the The Depot alleyway project in downtown Union, seen here in a concept rendering. Photo: Alison South. 

As in past years, the projects from the 2020 cycle come from every part of the state. They represent cities and towns with populations ranging from 93 to 11,524. 

Here are the grant recipients and their projects: 

City of Belton – “Facade Mini-Grant Program” 
In an effort to improve the look of its downtown area and recruit new business, the City of Belton will provide matching grants of up to $2,500 for businesses to rehabilitate storefronts. 

Town of James Island – “James Island Arts and Cultural Center” 
With the loss of the library as an educational and social focal point for residents, the Town of James Island will repurpose its former library into an arts and cultural center. Grant funds will be leveraged with other funding to help renovate the interior of the building. 

Town of Lake View – “Lake View Strategic Plan” 
The need for a strategic plan for the Town of Lake View has become more important as the town acquires its most prominent natural asset, Page’s Mill Pond. Seeking to plan properly for the pond to become a destination, the town will use grant funds for the development of its future. 

Town of McClellanville – “Preserving McClellanville’s Working Waterfront: Phase II Implementation” 
Continuing the town’s efforts to preserve its working waterfront, the Town of McClellanville’s grant will fund efforts to build capacity and market the town’s seafood industry and culture. 

Town of McConnells – “Community Center Renovation” 
Built in the 1990s, the McConnells Community Center is a focal point of this rural, agricultural community. However, the center’s interior spaces were never completed. The town will use its grant to renovate the center’s interior, which will allow for more use in the future. 

Town of Pageland – “Downtown Farmers Market” 
Building on investments the town has made to improve its downtown and attract visitors, the Town of Pageland and its local partners will use grant funds to establish a downtown farmers market. Planned to be located next to the town’s green space, the market will host educational and entertainment events as well. 

Town of Patrick – “Revitalize Downtown Landscaping” 
Seeking to improve the aesthetics of its downtown and attract business, the Town of Patrick will use several partners to revitalize and renovate public landscaping along the lengths of its main roads. 

Town of Pinewood – “Rehabilitation of Historic 1889 Depot” 
Seeking to preserve and make use of the last train depot in Sumter County, the Town of Pinewood will rehabilitate the interior of its historic structure for use as an event center and museum. 

Town of Salley – “Destination Downtown Septic Study” 
The Town of Salley has lost out on opportunities for downtown growth because of a lack of adequate wastewater disposal options. The town will use its grant to conduct an engineering study in support of applications for funding construction of a wastewater system to serve downtown businesses. 

Town of Springfield – “Seeing Springfield” 
Inadequate lighting downtown and along the town’s walking trail is an obstacle to attracting visitors after dark. In partnership with Dominion Energy, the Town of Springfield will use grant funds to convert existing street lights and install new ones with energy-efficient LED fixtures. 

Town of Troy – “Town Hall Polling Place Modernization” 
After years of the Town of Troy’s town hall being used as a polling place, it was deemed unsuitable due to its lack of Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. The town will use grant funds to make its town hall ADA-compliant to restore it as a polling place for all residents. 

City of Woodruff – “Block 224, A Downtown Multi-purpose Space” 
The City of Woodruff will use its grant to transform a dilapidated downtown building from an eyesore into a shining public space that connects downtown businesses with off-street parking. The space will have a modern vibe and be used for public and private events, outdoor dining and relaxation. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Plan for the Risks With Festivals and Holiday Events

Many special events have gone on hiatus as a result of the pandemic. Planners delayed and canceled events even before Gov. McMaster’s executive orders addressed occupancy limitations for public gatherings. Several guidance documents have come about to help planners determine the questions to ask when moving ahead with an event, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Readiness and Planning Tool

Planning and preparation for special events is still happening. The governor’s executive order from October 2 requires that those planning events for more than 250 guests must request approval for the event from the SC Department of Commerce, and demonstrate that they will comply with federal and state safety procedures. 

Cities and towns will also need to consider the risks beyond the pandemic for the events they host. For events like festivals, parades or Christmas tree lightings, risk coordinators and other key municipal staff should form a special events committee and start special events planning far in advance. 

Stakeholders such as police, fire and public works should meet to determine the types of special events that occur within the city, identify risks, develop effective controls, and assess the potential impact on the city, residents and local businesses. City officials should also consider designating one staff member to serve as a coordinator of all special event activities and oversee the special events committee. 

When planning events, cities need to answer several questions to determine how best to protect both residents and city assets. First, what could go wrong at the event? What preventive measures can be taken against these negative outcomes? If something does go wrong, how will the city or town pay for it? Drafting a special events policy and having it reviewed by the city attorney is a key way to manage the risk that special events can create. 

Most liability insurance policies have exclusions that can affect special events, and municipal officials should be familiar with the exclusions stipulated in their policies. 

Activities commonly excluded by liability coverage 
  • Communicable diseases, including the coronavirus 
  • Bungee jumping and similar amusement devices
  • Fireworks displays
  • Skateboarding
  • Parachuting and hang gliding
  • Airplane, helicopter or ballooning rides and shows 
  • Archery
  • Mechanical amusement devices 
  • Zoos 
  • Traveling carnivals and circuses 
  • Rodeos