City News
September 2020




City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Announces Almost 12,000 Free Meals Distributed to Youth
 
City of Columbia Parks and Recreation would like to thank our community for their support of these past couple weeks, the meal distribution was a huge success with a total of almost 12,000 meals distributed.
 
Meals were distributed Monday, August 10th through Friday August 28th 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. The City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department partnered with a local faith-based organization who is authorized through the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), providing well-balanced nutritious meals to youth 18 years of age and under. Families came and picked up a lunch meal for that day and also a breakfast meal they could eat the next morning. The (10) distribution sites covered all City Council districts.
We would also like to thank, First Choice by Select Health for donating 500 back packs and school supplies to Parks and Recreation on Friday, August 28th to distribute during our meal distribution program. The book bags and supplies were provided at the same locations as the meals.
 
MEAL DISTRIBUTION TOTALS
Booker Washington Heights Culture Arts Center- 1486
Colony/Northpoint (All Stars Baseball Field)- 1000
Greenview Park- 1466
MLK Park- 1342
Hampton Park- 750
Heathwood Park- 210
Hyatt Park-1480
Lorick Park- 1500
Pinehurst Park- 1176
South Edisto Park- 652
Woodland Park- 728
Mayor Steve Benjamin and City Council Pass Resolution Declaring Juneteenth an Official City Holiday
 
On Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Mayor Steve Benjamin and the City of Columbia City Council approved a resolution to declare Juneteenth a City of Columbia holiday and beginning June 19, 2021 will begin observing the day as an official City holiday. Juneteenth will be observed in addition to the other 10 holidays observed by the City of Columbia every year. City offices will be closed and employees will be granted the day off with pay. Because June 19, 2021 is a Saturday, Juneteenth will be observed on Friday, June 18, 2021. 
“This important moment in the history of our country gives us a tremendous opportunity to properly contextualize the contributions of those that came before us,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Earlier this year, we adopted a new city flag that is based on the value of inclusion. Now, we are taking an important symbolic step to recognize the sacrifices of the enslaved men and women who helped build this city, and this nation. Establishing Juneteenth as a city holiday is a way to celebrate the end of one of the darkest periods in human history.”
June 19th, Juneteenth, is recognized as the end of slavery and is the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth was officially declared a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and a number of other states subsequently followed suit to celebrate the culture and achievements of African Americans globally. The country has recently seen racial injustice and violence toward African-American citizens which have resulted in national protests, demonstrations, and a unification of voices crying out for the need for judicial racial reform. The Juneteenth holiday is being implemented by the City of Columbia to pay tribute and recognize the holiday’s enormous racial and cultural significance in this country.
Mayor Steve Benjamin and City Council amend Rental Housing Ordinance amid Pandemic
Mayor Steve Benjamin and Columbia City Council have amended the rental housing ordinance in order to assist in stopping the spread of coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
Concerns were expressed by citizens regarding large gatherings, parties and etc. in the community during the pandemic.
Please be reminded this is the 1st reading regarding the amendment of the rental housing ordinance. The second and final reading will be held during an upcoming City Council meeting.

*click here for latest document *

City of Columbia and Norfolk Southern Railway Company Moving Forward with an Agreement for the first Quiet Zone in the City of Columbia
 
The City of Columbia and Norfolk Southern Railway Company have agreed on the preliminary engineering agreement necessary to begin designing the railroad related elements of the first quiet zone (which consists of 14 crossings – from Gadsden to Beltline).
 
The Columbia City Council created a Quiet Zone Committee on April 4, 2017 and the Quiet Zone Committee and City staff worked together to develop a plan for the establishment of Quiet Zones throughout the City of Columbia.
 
“We are excited that the hard work of the Quiet Zone Advisory Committee and City staff is resulting in this next step,” said Brenda Kramer, Co-Chair of the Quiet Zone Committee. “Quiet zones in Columbia will lead to safety improvements at rail crossings and significantly improve quality of life for city residents and visitors. We will continue our support for the city’s efforts in implementing quiet zones.”
 
At the direction of City Council, City staff has worked alongside the Quiet Zone Committee, FRA, SCDOT, Norfolk Southern and CSX to study and develop a plan to implement Quiet Zones throughout the City. While the goal is to address crossings throughout Columbia, the Citywide project is large enough that it has been divided into manageable phases that meet FRA guidelines for establishment of Quiet Zones. The first Quiet Zone has been selected as having the highest impact and most cost effective use of limited resources out of the 11 possible zones that have been identified across the City. 
 
“The establishment of Quiet Zones are another example of the city’s commitment to improving the quality of life for the people of Columbia,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Establishing Quiet Zones improve public safety, reduces sleep disruption, and is overall good for the public health of our citizens. Many thanks to Senator Dick Harpootlian, and the University of South Carolina for their support with moving this project forward.”
 

 
City of Columbia partnered with Local Organizations to Recognize Historic Moment of ‘Forward into the Light’ Campaign to Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment and Women’s Constitutional Right to Vote


The City of Columbia and local organizations have partnered together to celebrate and recognize the nationwide ‘Forward into the Light’ Campaign which honors the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and women’s constitutional right to vote.

Purple and gold lights shined on City Hall on Wednesday, August 26th to participate in the national recognition across the country.

“The series of events throughout our City commemorating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote from the passage of the 19th Amendment stand as a testament to the bravery, will and spirit of the powerful women in the US and here in South Carolina who stood up to the prevailing mindset of discrimination of their era,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “The indomitable courage, shown by social pioneers such as our state’s own Eulalie Chafee Salley, who flew in one of South Carolina’s first airplanes to toss suffrage pamphlets from the air, continues through the vision and leadership shown by the South Carolina Women’s Leadership Network, and the continuing efforts of all women who will not rest until every voice can be heard.”

Local organizations include, Columbia City of Women, Historic Columbia, League of Women Voters, SC Women in Leadership and The Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN). In honor of August being National Women’s Suffrage Month, local partners will highlight contributors to women’s suffrage and voting rights in Columbia, thoughts on voting from contemporary leaders, and a focus on continued obstacles for voting rights.

“Today as we commemorate the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment, we are reminded about the important role women play in our democracy. A role that continues today,” said Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine. “As we continue to work toward a more perfect union, we must continue to exercise our voices to ensure equity and equality for all.”

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was certified into the U.S. Constitution, forever protecting American women's right to vote. Although, Black and Latinex women did not gain the right to vote in 1920. It took South Carolina until 1969 to officially ratify the 19th Amendment.

“It is very important that we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The right to vote is key to our democracy. Now we must all exercise this hard won right,” said Councilman Howard Duvall.

The City of Columbia encouraged all citizens to participate in local events to acknowledge this historic day in history for women.


 

Board of Zoning Appeals | Thursday, September 3, 2020
 
In the interest of public health and authorized by City Council Ordinance 2020-032, the City of Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals will conduct a virtual meeting on Thursday, September 3, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.
 
Members of the public and/or media who want to observe the meetings may do so remotely, by
 
2.      E-Mail: S*ubmit letters and statements to COCBoardMeeting@ColumbiaSC.gov leading up to and/or during the meeting.
3.      Phone: Call 855-925-2801. When prompted, please enter the meeting code: 8787
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 Zoning@ColumbiaSC.gov. For additional information, please visit our website at www.columbiasc.net/planning-boards-commissions.
 
*Please see attached agenda*

City of Columbia Announces September COVID-19 Testing Dates!
Benedict College and CVS Health Launch COVID-19 Testing in Columbia
Benedict College and CVS Health today announced the launch of rapid COVID-19 testing on the College’s Columbia campus. CVS Pharmacists and pharmacy employees will staff the testing operation, which will be available at no cost to patients.

“I applaud Benedict College and CVS Health for partnering to increase much-needed COVID-19 testing in our community,” said Congressman Clyburn. “We must do everything we can to ensure South Carolinians have the resources they need to arrest the spread of this virus. I encourage all eligible residents to utilize this vital service by registering in advance and visiting the testing site as soon as possible.”

Testing at Benedict College, located at 1903 Two Notch Road in Columbia, will be open to the public by appointment. Patients will need to pre-register in advance by calling 803-705-4351
to schedule a time slot to come to the center for testing. 

“Working with partners like Benedict College is an important part of our comprehensive strategy to increase access to COVID-19 testing,” said Dr. Garth Graham, Vice President, Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer, CVS Health. “This joint effort allows us to tap into the network of a trusted organization with strong community ties to further expand testing in areas of greatest need.” 

A personal vehicle is not required for testing and results will be provided on-the-spot. To be eligible for testing, patients will need to meet criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to age guidelines.


“It is gratifying when corporations like CVS Health recognize the commitment and service of Benedict College to the communities that support our students and the college,” said Benedict College President & CEO Dr. Roslyn C. Artis. “This is our second partnership to offer free COVID-19 testing to the citizens of Columbia and the surrounding area and we encourage everyone that is able to take advantage of this testing for health and safety of their families and communities”

Benedict College is a private co-educational liberal arts institution with over 2,100 students enrolled in its 34 baccalaureate degree programs. This Midlands HBCU has been a community leader for over 148-years and is a significant contributor to South Carolina and the region, contributing $130 million and 1,218 jobs in total local and annual economic impact.

“I’m glad to see CVS Health working with Benedict College to bring free, rapid COVID-19 testing to a location that is easily accessible in the community,” said State Senator Darrell Jackson. “Testing is important to stop the spread of this virus and I applaud these two organizations for their commitment to supporting public health here in the Midlands.”

In addition to offering testing together with several community partners across the country, CVS Health is offering drive-thru testing at more than 1,800 CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide. Nearly sixty percent of these CVS Pharmacy test sites serve communities with significant need for support, as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index.

“I, like most South Carolinians, want to ensure the safety of our citizens and for things to go back to normal,” said State Representative Todd Rutherford. “I cannot stress enough the importance of social distancing, wearing masks, and getting tested. I am pleased that CVS Health and Benedict College have opened a free, rapid testing site to increase access to testing here in Columbia.”
AARP Awards Community Challenge Grant to the City of Columbia
The grant will be used to incorporate socially-distanced public dining space and public art in the downtown area.
  The City of Columbia has been named a recipient of a 2020 AARP Community Challenge grant, one of five grantees selected in South Carolina.

The grant will be used to create vibrant outdoor dining space in the downtown area, that will support local business by allowing socially-distanced dining and showcase public art.

We are so excited to have this opportunity to create Columbia’s first parklet, building on the momentum of our vibrant Main Street district. Navigating the pandemic has made us consider public space differently, but it has also reinforced the importance of coming together in creative ways. We hope this will provide an example of how we can rethink parts of our City as flexible spaces that can shift to accommodate different needs over time.

This project is part of the largest number of Community Challenge grants to date with more than $2.4 million awarded among 184 organizations nationwide. Grantees will implement “quick-action” projects to create more livable communities across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All projects are expected to be completed by December 18, 2020, and are designed to achieve one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Create vibrant public places by improving open spaces and parks and activating main streets.
  • Deliver a range of transportation and mobility options by increasing connectivity, walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, and access a wider range of transportation choices.
  • Encourage the availability of a range of housing by increasing accessible and affordable housing solutions.
  • Increase civic engagement and demonstrate the tangible value of “Smart Cities” by bringing together local leaders and residents from all backgrounds to address challenges.
·        Support coronavirus response and recovery efforts by ensuring older adults’ access to information, essential services, and civic life.

“We are incredibly excited to support The City of Columbia as they work to make immediate improvements in Columbia, encourage promising ideas and jumpstart long-term change,” shared Teresa Arnold, State Director. “Our goal at AARP South Carolina is to support the efforts of our communities to be great places for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities and the coronavirus pandemic has only underscored the importance of this work.”

Other South Carolina grantees include, the City of Myrtle Beach, Greenville County Parks, Recreation, & Tourism, Mill Community Ministries in Greenville County and the Town of Summerton. The full list of grantees can be found at www.aarp.org/communitychallenge.

The Community Challenge grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which helps communities become great places to live for residents of all ages. View an interactive map of all of the Community Challenge projects and AARP South Carolina’s livable communities work at www.aarp.org/livable.

# # #

About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

About GRANTEE
The City of Columbia Planning Division is actively involved in promoting accessible, pedestrian friendly environments for all City residents. Planning staff have been part of the Mayor’s Age-Friendly Cities Advisory Council since 2017 and have facilitated an annual Park(ing) Day event since 2015.


 Columbia Water to Implement Payment Plan for Customers 
 In order to lessen the burden for those who have fallen behind in water bill payments, Columbia Water is placing everyone that has a past-due balance on a six-month payment schedule. For customers with a past-due balance, their October bill will reflect their current bill as well as their six-month payment arrangement.
“We understand that many of our customers have faced financial hardship during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Clint Shealy, Assistant City Manager over Columbia Water. “Our goal is to work with all customers to allow them time to pay off any past-due bills they may have. Hopefully this will benefit customers most in need. For those who are able, we strongly recommend that they pay their bill as normal in an effort to avoid large balances and allow us to continue to provide the high quality service they are used to.”
“We would also like to remind customers of the various assistance opportunities available to customers,” continued Shealy. “The Deborah Christie Customer Assistance Program (previously known as the ChangeUp Program) is available to Columbia Water customers in critical financial need to help pay their past-due water and sewer bills. For those who qualify, the program will pay for up to 75 percent of a water or sewer bill up to $500. Deborah was the long-time Community Development Director for the City who not only was dedicated to assisting citizens in need, but also designed innovative programs to do so including the Change-Up Program.” Customers can visit www.columbiascwater.net/billing-assistance for more information or call Customer Care at 803-545-3300 to see if they qualify.
“In addition to these programs, there may be assistance available locally through the Salvation Army of Columbia and the Cooperative Ministry,” said Shealy. “The Salvation Army can be reached at 803-765-0260 and the Cooperative Ministry can be reached at 803-799-3853.”
Columbia Water offers several convenient ways to pay: • Online at https://cwa.columbiasc.gov/cwa01/p_template. Payment fees will continue to be waived for the foreseeable future. • By phone by calling 803-545-3300 and pressing prompt 1 • By mail to PO Box 7997, Columbia, SC 29202 • By our drop box at our Payment Center at 1339 Main St. (the drop box is on the Washington St. side of the building). • At First Citizen Bank locations. See our website at www.columbiascwater.net/payment-options for locations. You must bring your bill.
If you have questions, feel free to call to our Customer Care team at (803) 545-3300 or by email at customercare@columbiasc.gov.
Mayor Steve Benjamin and Columbia City Council Unanimously Approves Emergency Ordinance Extending Mask Face Coverings and Temporary Suspension of Meetings

Mayor Steve Benjamin and Columbia City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that extends the temporary suspension of the normal operating procedures of City Council and City Boards and Commissions meetings. 
This allows for the Mayor, Council Members, Board Members and Commission Members to remotely participate in voting and operational procedures by telephone or other means of electronic communication and extends the requirement that face coverings or masks be work in public in the City of Columbia.
This emergency ordinance shall be terminated by the issuance of another ordinance or shall automatically expire on the 61st day after enactment of this ordinance.
City of Columbia Parks and Recreation to Close South End of Riverfront Park Due to Construction
 
City of Columbia Parks and Recreation will close the south end of Riverfront Park (312 Laurel St.) on Thursday, September 17 and Friday, September 18.
 
Contractors will be boring into the canal levee to assess soils using drill rigs. Guests can still access the restrooms and fitness area, but will not be able to cross the pedestrian bridge. Guests can also still visit the north end of the park at 4122 River Drive, but travel south of Interstate 126 will be prohibited.
 
Work will conclude on the evening of Friday the 18th, and normal park operations (6 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily) will resume.
Columbia Animal Services Clear the Shelters Event Yields 46 Adoptions
 
On Friday, August 14, 2020, Columbia Animal Services held a Clear the Shelters event, in which adoption fees for all available pets were waived. A total of 46 pets were adopted, with every available dog finding their forever home.
 
“We love this event in that it takes place at our busiest and plays a big part in helping us make space during our Summer months,” Columbia Animal Services Superintendent Marli Drum said, “We are always so grateful to our citizens who are willing to provide these much needed homes.”
 
For anyone looking to adopt a furry friend, Columbia Animal Services is located at 127 Humane Lane and can be contacted at (803) 776-PETS (7387).
The City of Columbia Office of Business Opportunities Annual Mentor Protégé Program Meeting


WHAT: Columbia Office of Business Opportunities Annual Mentor Protégé Program Meeting.

WHO: The City of Columbia Office of Business Opportunities to hold conference call for all Mentor Protégé Program participants. New firms interested in participating in the program are encouraged to join as well.

WHEN: Dates Changed to Tuesday, September 29, 2020 and Thursday, October 1,2020 

WHERE: For more information and to register, please go to


Park(ing) Day Celebrations to be Virtual
 
In the interest of public health, the Planning Division has decided to celebrate their 6th annual PARK(ing) Day virtually. PARK(ing) Day is an annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places.  The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.
 
This year, the City of Columbia, in partnership with the South Carolina Chapter of the American Society for Landscape Architects and One Columbia for Arts and Culture, will celebrate PARK(ing) Day virtually on Friday, September 18, 2020 by posting on social media platforms @CityofColumbia, @ColaCompass, @ASLA.SouthCarolina, and @OneColumbia. Past participants are encouraged to join in the virtual celebration, posting their pictures of celebrations past with the hashtags #ASLAParkingDay and #ParkingDaysPast

For information on the international Park(ing) Day movement, see https://www.asla.org/contentdetail.aspx?id=46872
City to Observe Labor Day Holiday
The City of Columbia will observe Labor Day as a City Holiday.
 
The Solid Waste Division will run on its regular schedule for Monday, September 7, 2020.
 
City residents are encouraged to download the free “Columbia, SC Solid Waste” app for iPhone or Android for weekly collection reminders and holiday schedule changes. Residents can also sign up for other notification options online at http://columbiasc.net/solid-waste/recycling/waste-wizard.
 For additional information, please contact the Solid Waste Division at 803-545-3800.
First Choice by Select Health is donating 500 back packs and school supplies to Parks and Recreation on August 28th to distribute during our meal distribution program with Councilman Edward H. McDowell Jr., Market Director Courtnay Thompson and Director of City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Randy Davis
Free Pop-Up Produce Market Successful
City's food policy committee hosted a Pop-up Produce Market at Drew Wellness Center Tuesday August 25th with free food by the City's Food Policy Committee and partner agencies.

People were able to stock up on their favorite fruits and vegetables with 400 boxes of produce that were available.



Innovative #MaskUpColumbiaSC Public Health/Social Engagement Campaign Launched in Columbia, SC Lead the Way in Cutting Edge Social Media Strategy to Encourage Social Behavior to Reduce Spread of COVID-19
 
 
Seeking innovative public information and social encouragement strategies to augment Columbia’s existing public health initiatives to reduce COVID-19 viral spread, Mayor Steve Benjamin launched #MaskUpColumbiaSC campaign to inspire citizens to wear masks and other forms of protective facial coverings. #MaskUpColumbiaSC challenged Columbia citizens of all ages to express their individuality and imaginations by wearing fun and expressive facemasks, and then sharing across social media channels and on the newly launched MaskUpColumbiaSC.com website.

To radically expand the campaign’s social media outreach and footprint, Columbia Economic Development partnered with XOMAD, a well-known influencer marketing agency in Los Angeles, to activate local nano and micro influencers (median of 15K followers) on social media in Columbia, furthering mass understanding of the importance of wearing face coverings to stay safe, support a resilient and sustainable reopening, and recover the local economy.

As part of the Mayor Benjamin’s #MaskUpColumbiaSC campaign, the social outreach activated 64 local content creators with targeted audiences, to reach over 43% of Columbia residents within just 3 weeks. The participating influencers shared content across social channels including Instagram, Instagram Stories, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, and generated positive responses amongst the reached audience. Within the campaign’s first week, Columbia citizens posted hundreds of photos wearing facemasks throughout the city in public spaces on the website, as well as virally spread photos and videos across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, with some social influencers receiving more than 1,800 Instagram likes.

Mayor Benjamin’s office and the City of Columbia’s Office of Economic Development had researched XOMAD’s effective campaign for the State of California, launched earlier in July, which also relied heavily on nano and micro influencers. While nano and micro influencers have a smaller audience reach, their ability to generate strong audience engagement makes them an invaluable asset. Instagram in-feed campaign posts earned an average 7.22% engagement, compared to the 3.6% industry average.

A pioneer of the nano & micro influencer movement, Columbia, SC has set an example which hundreds of other local governments can follow to reach and engage with Millennial & Gen Z audiences who can help fight the rise in COVID-19 cases. Columbia extends an invitation to both influencers and brands to support this movement as they seek to partner with local influencers who can authentically speak to audiences and encourage healthy behaviors to help bring an end to the pandemic.



COVID- 19 INFORMATION 

Columbia City Council

Stephen K. Benjamin
Mayor
Sam Davis
Councilman District I
Tameika Isaac Devine
Councilwoman At-Large
Howard E. Duvall, Jr.
Councilman At-Large
Edward H. McDowell, Jr.
Councilman District II
Daniel J. Rickenmann
Councilman District IV
Will Brennan
Councilman District III
Teresa Wilson
City Manager