City News June 2021
Mayor Steve Benjamin & The City of Columbia Launch “It’s YOUR Shot, Columbia” Campaign to Ensure Everyone in the Midlands is Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Virus
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and the City of Columbia launch the “It’s YOUR Shot, Columbia” campaign to let all Midlands citizens know that COVID-19 vaccinations are safe, effective, free, and thanks to multiple partners located across Richland County, easy to obtain.

Currently, 42% of Richland County citizens have been vaccinated, resulting in a continued decline in COVID infections and viral spread. Mayor Benjamin and City of Columbia officials seek to increase the vaccination rate to ensure citizens can safely return to gathering together, businesses can fully re-open and all of our communities become free from the virus.

“Throughout the pandemic, our citizens have taken the difficult steps to follow guidelines and halt the spread of the COVID virus. Now, with easy access to vaccines, we are coming closer to eradicating the threat of the virus, but everyone needs to do their part by rolling up their sleeves and getting their vaccinations,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “With so many partners throughout the Midlands offering free vaccines, it’s easy to do the right thing now to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community. Once you’ve gotten fully vaccinated, you’ll know you’ve done your part in helping everyone get safely back together again. It’s YOUR shot, Columbia!”

Today, the City will release its first vaccine encouragement PSA featuring Mayor Benjamin, which can be seen here: https://youtu.be/ATOFMJyxPYk . Included in the PSA is SC DHEC’s vaccine locater website address, which is located here: https://vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov/ .

In addition, the City of Columbia will utilize print and online ads, radio spots, TV commercials, billboards, water bill inserts, emergency messaging and social media outreach to further the “It’s YOUR Shot, Columbia” campaign.

Follow the City of Columbia on social media for more information and use the hashtags #ItsYourShot and #ResilientColumbia for updates.
Twitter: @CityofColumbia
Instagram: @WeAreColumbia
Mayor Steve Benjamin
Resilient Columbia: Maintaining Service Delivery During the Pandemic
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Columbia persevered and consistently served community members with strength and resolve. Follow the link here and listen to City Manager Teresa Wilson explain how Columbia maintained service delivery during the pandemic.
Public Art Initiative Captures Stories of Civil Rights and African American History
Please watch the videos for each ceremony for full details regarding these amazing murals. The videos are available in the video hub section of this newsletter.
1401 Main St. Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
1401 Main St. Mural
Woodland Park Mural
Woodland Park Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Valencia Park Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Hyatt Park Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Valencia Park Mural
Hyatt Park Mural
City of Columbia Announces New Business Liaison to Help Better Streamline Conducting Business in the City
The City of Columbia is pleased to announce our new business liaison, Greg Williams.
In this new position, Greg Williams will be the professional liaison who will coordinate and communicate with local business owners, within the City of Columbia, and developers to help navigate the approval process for projects, as well as, resolve friction points or issues with the City.
“Greg has the perfect temperament, patience and knowledge of City departments and processes to assist citizens, members of our business community and others who may need to navigate planning, development, engineering, licensing and numerous functions. The Business Liaison role is an important tool as we continue to streamline how individuals do business within the City,” said City Manager Teresa Wilson.
 
Greg Williams transitioned into the public sector after first working with the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce and as a Deputy Administrator in the City’s Business License Division. “All of this experience has given me a unique perspective working for the City of Columbia as the Business Liaison. It allows me to see both sides of commerce within the City and how to enhance it,” said Greg Williams.
 
As the business liaison, Williams will be able to expedite and handle complex issues that have been known to cause delays in the past. The position also builds goodwill with the public and shows the City is eager to work with the community in a business friendly and timely manner.
Greg Williams is looking forward to working with business owners, solving problems, and showing the public that the City is amenable to finding different solutions to issues.
 
The new business liaison visited businesses/business owners in the Five Points business/hospitality district this morning. 
Greg Williams, Business Liaison
Councilman Will Brennan, Greg Williams and owner of Papa Jazz in the Five Points District talk about future plans for of mending a better relationship between the business district and the city. 
Councilman Will Brennan introduces Greg Williams to Sunrise Artisan Bath and Body owner, Tzima Brown. 
American Legion Recognizes CRFD Firefighter 
Congratulations are in order for CRFD Assistant Fire Marshal Bengie Leverett who was named the 2020 ‘Firefighter of the Year’ by Richland Post 6 of the American Legion.
 
Chief Leverett has devoted years of his career in the fire service to keeping city residents safe by promoting fire education in the community. During his time as the department’s fire education officer he helped install thousands of free smoke alarms for those in need throughout the City of Columbia as well as Richland County.
Kim Brown of Richland Post 6 of the American Legion presents CRFD Assistant Fire Marshal Bengie Leverett with his award for ‘Firefighter of the Year’
Planning Commission | Monday, June 7, 2021
 In the interest of public health and authorized by City Council Ordinance 2020-032, the City of Columbia Planning Commission will conduct a virtual meeting on Monday, June 7, 2021 at 5:15 p.m.
 
Members of the public and/or media who want to observe the meetings may do so remotely, by
 
b)     E-Mail: Submit letters and statements to COCBoardMeeting@ColumbiaSC.gov leading up to and/or during the meeting.
c)      Phone: Call 855-925-2801. When prompted, please enter the meeting code: 4423
1)     (star one) *1 will allow you to listen
2)     (star two) *2 will allow you to record a voice mail message that will be read into the record.
3)     (star three) *3 will allow a participant to be placed in a queue, so they may speak live when prompted
 
As this is an ever-evolving situation, please continue to monitor www.columbiasc.gov for additional information.
 
Questions can be directed to Zoning by calling (803) 545-3333 or by e-mailing Lucinda.Statler@ColumbiaSC.gov. For additional information, please visit our website at www.columbiasc.net/planning-boards-commissions.

Please see the agenda here.
Community Food Box Giveaway Draws Huge Crowd 
Last month a Community Food Box giveaway was held by Councilman Ed McDowell and Senator John Scott at the Busby Street Community Center. The event was a great success, with 1100 boxes of food distributed in only two hours.

"We are trying to make sure and effectuate that persons who need food can get food," Councilman McDowell remarked at the event. "This is powerful for this city and this community, being that we give for hope and possibilities."
Prisma Health Doctors Pay Visit to CRFD Training Grounds
The Columbia-Richland Fire Department was honored to once again host staff members from Prisma Health Midlands to give them an inside look at how firefighters respond to emergencies.
Doctors in residency at the hospital were invited to the CRFD training grounds on May 19 to take part in a session that focused on car accidents and how victims of them are aided by fire department personnel.
Fire Department & RCSD Announce Marine Teams Were Formed for Holiday Patrols on Lake Murray
The approach of the summer season is expected to draw more and more area boaters out on the waters of Lake Murray for events and recreation. In order to provide added security and safety for citizens, the Columbia-Richland Fire Department (CRFD) is now working with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) to joint staff two RCSD boats during peak days of lake traffic. These Marine Teams will patrol portions of Lake Murray to provide swift response for any incidents that may require law enforcement or emergency medical care. “We welcome the opportunity to partner with the Columbia-Richland Fire Department,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “This partnership will expand the services that would be available to   citizens on the waterways. Adding medical emergency services to the security, search and rescue and recovery efforts we already provide will increase our ability to address all emergency calls.”  “I’m excited for this partnership with RCSD as both of our agencies support the same mission to keep our citizens safe,” said Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “Every second   matters when a person is facing a medical emergency and if they’re out on the water getting access to them can be especially difficult. Reaching people in need of care will be significantly easier using these boats provided by the sheriff’s department.”  
 
RCSD boats will be staffed by members of both agencies during the Memorial Day Weekend,    Independence Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend as well as during large-scale boating events on Lake Murray such as Drift Jam Flotilla and the Reggaetronic Music Festival. All firefighters and deputies working the boats have had training in swimming and boat operations. 
Welcome New CPD Officers!
Battle of the Badges Blood Drive 
The Columbia-Richland Fire Department joined the Columbia Police Department and the Richland County Sheriffs Department in taking part in the annual ‘Battle of the Badges Blood Drive’ on May 28.
The yearly friendly competition puts all three agencies against each other to see who can get the most pints of blood donated.
Agency heads take part in a press conference leading up to the ‘Battle of the Badges Blood Drive’ (from left: Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook, Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and Rod Tolbert, Regional Executive of the American Red Cross of South Carolina)
CRFD Operations Chief Christopher Kip rolled up his sleeves to donate blood at the Drew Wellness Center for Battle of the Badges
Columbia Police Department Chief Skip Holbrook donates blood for the Battle of the Badges
Mayor Steve Benjamin Welcomes 2021 Summer Mayor’s Fellows
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin welcomes eight students to the 2021 summer session of the Mayor’s Fellows program. See More.
Advertisement of Vacancies on Various Boards and Commissions
The City of Columbia is accepting applications to fill several vacancies on the following boards and commissions. See More.
CRFD Firefighters Train for River Rescues
85 members of the Columbia-Richland Fire Department are now ready to provide emergency services for area citizens who will be recreating on the water this summer.
 
The department held its annual training and recertification classes in swiftwater rescue during the month of April. During those classes firefighters practice swimming, deploying rescue boats and rescue scenarios in fast moving water conditions on the Lower Saluda River.
 
“This annual training is crucial for our rescue crews each and every spring,” said Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “The warmer weather always ushers in busier conditions on our rivers and lakes and with that comes the possibility of civilians needing rescue. That being said, any time we can get our crews practice working in fast-moving water is of GREAT value to us. We are grateful to have the support of our partners at Dominion Energy in making this training possible.”
 
Every year Dominion Energy commits certain days in April to flowing more water through the Dreher Shoals Dam. This creates white-water conditions on the Lower Saluda needed to maximize training for CRFD rescue crews.
 
"Whether providing safe and reliable electric and gas service or responding to emergencies, we've had the distinct privilege of working alongside Chief Jenkins and his team of professionals at the Columbia-Richland Fire Department for decades,” said Keller Kissam, Dominion Energy South Carolina President of Electric Operations. "Collaboration through exercises such as swiftwater rescue training is essential for serving our neighbors when they need us most."
 
Firefighters want to remind citizens to ALWAYS be aware of water flow conditions on area rivers before venturing out to recreate. Conditions on the Lower Saluda River are always accessible by logging on to www.dominionenergy.com . Planned operations that could change the flow of the river are listed.
 
While recreating on the water citizens are also highly encouraged to WEAR A LIFE JACKET or personal flotation device.
CPD and Law Enforcement Partners Hosted the 5th Annual Ceasefire Columbia Offender Call-In
Columbia Police Chief W.H. ‘Skip’ Holbrook and law enforcement partners including the United States Attorney’s Office – District of South Carolina host the 5th Annual Ceasefire Columbia offender call-in at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. 
 
The goal of Ceasefire Columbia, which was adopted by CPD in 2015 is to deter gun crime, develop and promote community outreach efforts and provide training for repeat gun crime offenders. 
 
The program identifies offenders and helps them break the cycle of recidivism using a team approach with committed stakeholders including local social service providers and law enforcement agencies. 
 
Ceasefire Columbia is administered by the Office of United States Attorney, District of South Carolina as part of the national effort for Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).  
 
The additional law enforcement partners that participated in the 2021 Ceasefire Columbia CallIn are: The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), United States Marshals Service (USMS), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), South Carolina Law Enforcement 
Division (SLED), Probation, Parole and Pardon Services (PPP), Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD), and the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.  
Amy Moore Recognized With Preservation Leadership Award
Amy Moore, Principal Preservation Planner with the City’s Planning and Development Services Department, was recently recognized by Historic Columbia for her leadership in preservation. See more.
Columbia Is 2021’s 5th Best City to Start a Career – WalletHub Study
Personal finance site WalletHub has released a study showing Columbia is #5 best city in the US for starting a career (one notch ahead of Charleston)! For more information and results visit: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-cities-to-start-a-career/3626.
City’s Misting Stations to Operate During Summer Heat
The City of Columbia will operate misting stations in several of the City’s parks to help guests stay cool on days when the heat index reaches 90 degrees or higher.
 
Misting stations will operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the following locations:
 
Misting Stations:
Finlay Park, 930 Laurel St.
Granby Park, 100 Catawba Street
Martin Luther King, Jr., 2300 Greene St.
Owens Field Park, 1351 Jim Hamilton Blvd.
Riverfront Park, 312 Laurel St. and 4122 River Dr.
Rosewood Park, 901 South Holly St.
Southeast Park, 951 Hazlewood Rd.
 
 
 
For more information, call the Columbia Parks & Recreation Department at 803-545-3100.
COVID-19 INFORMATION
Mayor Steve Benjamin & The City of Columbia Launch “It’s YOUR Shot, Columbia” Campaign to Ensure Everyone in the Midlands is Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Virus
Today, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and the City of Columbia launch the “It’s YOUR Shot, Columbia” campaign to let all Midlands citizens know that COVID-19 vaccinations are safe, effective, free, and thanks to multiple partners located across Richland County, easy to obtain. See More.
The COMET Partners With Uber, Lyft and United Way of the Midlands to Help Increase Transportation Access to COVID-19 Vaccines
Beginning June 2, residents can choose between getting the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer vaccine at the COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center (CVC) at Columbia Place Mall.
The CVC site is a FEMA-supported, large-scale vaccination clinic that's a partnership between the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), Richland County and the City of Columbia. The clinic opened April 14 and is operating through June 9, making free vaccines available to everyone 12 and older from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week. No appointment, insurance, ID, or documentation is required, and individuals can walk-in or drive-through to receive their shot.
The single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is approved for those 18 and older, and the two-dose Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 12 and older. All three of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are very effective in protecting individuals from severe illness due to COVID-19, and one vaccine brand isn’t recommended over another. Learn more about the different COVID-19 vaccines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
DHEC staff at the CVC site are assisting residents who choose the Pfizer vaccine with scheduling their second-dose appointments, so they know where and when to go for their second shot.
DHEC encourages all South Carolinians who have not yet received their vaccination to get their Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna or Pfizer shots as soon as possible. For the latest COVID-19 vaccine information, visit sdhec.gov/vaxfacts.
DHEC Urges Parents to Fight COVID-19 by Vaccinating Their Children Ahead of Summer Break
With summer break on the horizon, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging parents to get their children, ages 12 and up, vaccinated as soon as possible to protect against COVID-19.
 
Getting children vaccinated is important because they can spread the virus to vulnerable people, such as elderly residents, people with preexisting conditions, or those under age 12 who can’t get vaccinated. Other preventive measures, such as masks among unvaccinated residents, hand washing, and physically distancing among large groups, are also encouraged.
 
“Children can easily infect their parents, grandparents, teachers, and others that they will have close contact with who may have a higher risk of severe illness,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “For this reason, we urge parents to consider the risk of serious complications and protect their children, themselves, and others from COVID-19 infection.”
 
As vaccinations increase and cases decline, opportunities for outdoor activities are also on the rise. Though that may spark a sense of normalcy, it is still important for eligible South Carolinians to get their COVID-19 vaccination. Ages 12 and up are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, and adults 18 and older can also choose between the Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) brand vaccines.
 
While children are less likely to suffer complications from COVID-19, the virus can still cause some issues, such as Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C. MIS-C can cause kidney failure, heart problems, gastrointestinal problems and severe blood clotting that can result in strokes and organ failure. More than 100 children in South Carolina have developed MIS-C since the start of the pandemic. It is unclear what causes MIS-C, but many of the affected children had COVID-19 or were contacts of those who did. The COVID-19 vaccination will significantly decrease the chances of COVID-19 complications.
 
Parents who have questions about vaccinating their child ages 12 and up should talk with a trusted health care provider, pediatrician, or pharmacist to get accurate information that will help them make the best decision for their family. DHEC also has a dedicated webpage for vaccinating this age group that contains helpful information for decision-making.
 
Visit DHEC’s locator page to find a convenient vaccination location, and the information page to learn more about the vaccines.
Both Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and Pfizer Vaccines Now Available
at Community Vaccination Center at Columbia Place Mall 
Choose between receiving your single-shot or two-shot COVID-19 vaccine
Beginning June 2, residents can choose between getting the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer vaccine at the COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center (CVC) at Columbia Place Mall.
The CVC site is a FEMA-supported, large-scale vaccination clinic that's a partnership between the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), Richland County and the City of Columbia. The clinic opened April 14 and is operating through June 9, making free vaccines available to everyone 12 and older from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week. No appointment, insurance, ID, or documentation is required, and individuals can walk-in or drive-through to receive their shot.
The single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is approved for those 18 and older, and the two-dose Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 12 and older. All three of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are very effective in protecting individuals from severe illness due to COVID-19, and one vaccine brand isn’t recommended over another. Learn more about the different COVID-19 vaccines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
DHEC staff at the CVC site are assisting residents who choose the Pfizer vaccine with scheduling their second-dose appointments, so they know where and when to go for their second shot.
DHEC encourages all South Carolinians who have not yet received their vaccination to get their Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna or Pfizer shots as soon as possible. For the latest COVID-19 vaccine information, visit sdhec.gov/vaxfacts.
City TV Video Hub
1401 Main St. Public Art Dedication Ceremony
Woodland Park Public Art Dedication Ceremony
Valencia Park Public Art Dedication Ceremony
Hyatt Park Public Art Dedication Ceremony
The City of Columbia is a Bronze-Level Walk Friendly Community!
All-Stars Field Newly Installed Lights Ribbon Cutting
City Council Meeting | June 1, 2021
*The photos featured in the newsletter header are the winning entries of the #LoveColumbiaSC photo challenge. The winning photos were taken by:

Brian Ward, top left
Sylvie Smith, bottom left
William Brown, top right
Jeffery O'Shields, bottom right

Congratulations to all!