Monday, May 3, 2021

Mask Ordinance Expires Today in West Columbia

After almost a year, the mask requirement for the City of West Columbia, S. C. is no more. With the first ordinance enacted by Mayor Tem Miles and the West Columbia City Council in June, 2020, there have been subsequent renewals every other month to keep the restriction in place. 

Patrons enjoying the Gervais 
Street Bridge dinner 
The last version of the ordinance was signed into being on March 2, 2021 and expires today, on the sixty-first day after taking effect. Emergency ordinances were intended for short-term use.


The publicly-posted agenda for the May 4th West Columbia City Council meeting contains an agenda item to continue the state of emergency, thereby allowing virtual meetings in place of in-person. However, there is no mention of the mask ordinance for the meeting. A council member stated privately that the March renewal was going to be the last one. 


Governor Henry McMaster (R - S. C.) spoke strongly this past week against the continuation of COVID-19 restrictions and mask ordinances. “I’d ask that the cities and counties that have restrictions out there to wrap it up,” Governor McMaster said. “We’ve got to get back to normal. There’s a lot of businesses pent up. They want to do things and except in some circumstances there is no reason to hold them back anymore.”


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Lexington Group's Billboard Asking for Mask Choice in Lexington District One Is Changed without Permission

A group of freedom fighters in Lexington School District One have organized a visual protest of the requirement in the Lexington District One school system for students and teachers to wear masks. The request is simply for students and parents to have a choice about wearing a mask at school.

The billboard image was posted on a digital billboard on Highway 378 in Lexington near the intersection with Mineral Springs Road. It was a plain text billboard with white lettering on a black background with the following message:

Dear Dr. Little & Molly Spearman,

Make Masks Optional

Sincerely,

Lex 1 Students, Teachers & Parents

Paid for by Lexington Mask by Choice, Not by Force - Kati McCown

The billboard was a group effort and paid for by many individuals who are very concerned about the erosion of freedom and the dangers for children being forced to wear a mask throughout the school day. 


There has been an immediate backlash from a group of teachers and parents that believe in the oppressive COVID requirements and their never-ending continuation. WIS TV did a story on this billboard situation on the Friday evening news. In the time since that story aired, the billboard company Lamar, which is the firm selected to run the message, changed the copy on the billboard without asking the people who placed the order. 


In an apparent cave to the vocal few, Lamar changed the line that formerly read, “Sincerely, Lex 1 Students, Teachers and Parents” to instead read, “Sincerely, The Lexington Masks by Choice, Not Force Facebook Group.”


The advertiser agreement was for the submitted content to read as originally approved. Would a billboard company, a magazine, newspaper, radio station, television station or social media outlet ever take the step to change ad copy without the permission of the advertiser?


If Lamar found the content objectionable, the content could have been rejected prior to publication. 

The organizers of the protest message plan to seek an immediate legal remedy against Lamar Advertising for changing their desired billboard content without permission.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Lexington County 911 Launches Text-To-911

Lexington County Emergency Services is pleased to announce the successful launch of Text-to-911 service. The County’s Text-to-911 uses the latest state-of-the-art technology allowing hearing- and speech-impaired residents, as well as those in potentially dangerous situations, to reach out for help. 

Text-to-911 will be available for all Lexington County residents and visitors in the County’s service area. Text-to-911 will not be available for residents within the City of Cayce, City of West Columbia or Town of Batesburg-Leesville, as those agencies provide their own 911 call services. 

In an emergency, dialing 911 is a call for help. But people with hearing loss or those who must remain quiet in a dangerous situation aren’t able to place a call safely or at all. That is why the County of Lexington 911 Emergency Communications Division has worked with AT&T and West to implement Text-to-911 on the County of Lexington’s Next Generation 911 call-handling system. 

Text-to-911 is an alternative to calling in an emergency when it would be unsafe for an individual to speak. “If a caller is in a dangerous situation where they are unable to speak, such as an intruder in the home or a domestic violence situation, then Text-to-911 would be an emergency lifeline,” said 911 Communications Chief Nikki Rodgers. “However, speaking to a 911 dispatcher is still the fastest way to receive help to the location; so, remember: Call if you can, text if you can’t.” 

If there is an emergency and you cannot call 911, take these steps: 1. Enter the numbers 911 in the "To" field. 2. Text your exact address and type of emergency. 3. Send the message. 4. Use simple words, but do not include abbreviations, emoji’s, pictures or slang. 5. Promptly answer questions and follow instructions. 

Text-to-911 comes with challenges. For instance, emergency response may be lengthened due to the time it takes for a text to 911 to be typed and sent. Delivery of texts and speed of delivery are also not guaranteed. 

Here are several reminders to ensure the best service and response from dispatchers: 

• Dispatchers prefer calls so they can get cues from background noise and voice inflections. If you text 911, dispatchers will ask if they can call you. 

• Location is not as accurate with texting as it is with a call. Be sure to text your exact address. • A text or data plan is required to use Text-to-911. 

• Texts to 911 will get a bounce back message if you are roaming. 

• Texts to 911 have a 160 character limit, can get out of order, or may not be received. 

• There is no language translation service for texts to 911. 

• Do not text and drive! 

The new service should only be used in emergencies. Texting 911 with a false report is a crime. If you accidentally send a text to 911, send another text, or call 911 to let the dispatcher know that there is no emergency. Remember: Call if you can, text if you can’t.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Disaster for Lexington Real Estate - Six Month Moratorium for Neighborhood Construction in Lexington County

By S. Wade McGuinn

Lexington County Council voted 8-1 for a 6-month home building halt. Council says large builders have created a public health and safety crisis. Public health and safety? Homes where we recently were mandated to stay as schools, government offices, restaurants, sport, and entertainment closed down in the Covid 19 epidemic? 

This will not help anything right now, and it will create a housing shortage in 2023. What about all the county employees who will lose their job or be laid off for six months while the Council sorts this out. What about landowners whose land is now rendered “farmland” and can’t be sold at a fair market price for development?

21-02 should not be a controversial issue. It is not a political issue. It is an issue that needs the attention of everyone involved. It should have never happened. I don't think we will find a resolution by public pole or arguing with those we disagree with. There are already literally hundreds of laws and ordinances on the books that give the county complete control of Zoning, Water, Sewer, Storm Water, Roads, and traffic. So why "close the county" for 180 days and create a 2023 housing shortage, lose county employees and impact local business?

I have lived in Lexington for over 45 years. I am a businessman and CEO of a medium-size homebuilding company for 35 years. I am also a housing author, national panel speaker on housing, habitat board member, and I represented our Home Builders Association at the height of the recession in Columbia and Washington. I survived several market downturns, including the great recession. 

As a home builder, I make a $1 million annual payroll for our team and support our vendor base and trade business to the tune of $50M in Lexington County. We (builders and developers) create jobs and a tax base. We do not build unsafe and insecure environments as this 21-02 refers to. I know most council members, yet no one called my colleagues or me and sought our opinion or expertise. Why?
Big business chooses Lexington County because the lifestyle for their employees is excellent. High-quality, affordable housing, great schools, and a safe place to live and raise a family. Where will the people who work at Amazon, Nephron, Micheline, Lexington Medical, Teachers, Policemen, Nurses, and firefighters go if they can't find a home in Lexington County they can afford? 

Where will new companies go when they learn affordable housing is gone from Lexington?

Other victims of the moratorium are everyone who serves the people who live and invest in Lexington county's growth. Like restaurant owners, grocery stores, public utilities, and small business people who need a new home to grow their businesses.

Housing affordability is simply an issue of lot size and density. Affordable housing cannot be on an oversized lot. As a business owner, the biggest problem and fear is the one that we can't see. That was true when the Council passed 21-02 with no input from the business community. As we wind down one of the scariest times in our history, the Covid 19 pandemic, we face a problem that no one saw coming. Politicians are interrupting the supply chain to the most important thing a family wants and needs. A home!

The pandemic taught us that when parks closed, schools close, restaurants close, we can find refuge in our homes. The safety of owning an affordable home in an affordable area has been the hallmark of what separates Lexington county and the United States from nearly every country on earth. Our ability to own a home and have personal property rights are fundamental rights in Lexington county too!
Whose rights are being violated? Who could have seen our fundamental right to a home in Lexington county would be stopped by a county council using fear as their tool. Health and safety are not their concerns. 

The concern is socio-economic. The council member's vote will hinder the ability of the very workforce that makes Lexington County great to live in or near them. The secret language is hidden in the real meaning. Like "½ acre lots, subdivision of 10 or more". Think of the cost of a new home on a half-acre lot with only nine neighbors. It is not affordable with land and development costs. The price of such a home would be more than $400,000.00.

Think about this, why a moratorium when:
• Interest rates are at an all-time low.
• The supply of used and new homes is at an ALL-TIME low. People want and need a home!
• There are plenty of government controls already in place by Lexington county. The county controls the following items: Zoning, Water, Sewer Storm Water, Roads, and traffic.

Why is there an emergency now in a process they already control? There are only about five developers and 6 builders (large and medium) in Lexington County. This should be resolved in private-public meetings, not in a public process. We all want to do the right thing. We need to agree on what the right thing is.

Under the moratorium, the county now will refuse applications for large residential subdivisions in unincorporated areas. The moratorium begins immediately and may be ratified into law in May. 

The 21-02 moratorium would prevent applications and the administrative processing of applications for: 
• Residential subdivisions of ten lots or more, or; 
• Residential subdivisions with lots averaging less than ½-acre, and;
• Residential attached land use activities as defined by the Lexington County Zoning Ordinance (apartment complexes).
• If a newly proposed subdivision consists of ten lots or more, the number of lots will be determined by many lots in the entire planned subdivision development, including all phases of the proposed development.
• New residential projects that have been formally submitted for review before enacting the moratorium will continue to be processed using the current development review process. 
• The moratorium is applicable in the county's unincorporated areas, which are defined by any sites that do not fall within the municipal boundaries of local towns and cities.
• County officials said the moratorium would allow for an opportunity to study, analyze and make recommendations to the Council concerning the consequences and impacts of large-scale residential growth and apartment complexes throughout the community.

So, what's behind the "why"? Let have an open debate. Both sides in a public hearing let people understand the issues and agree on a resolution. Why don’t the current ordinances and laws work? Why interrupt progress as the economy starts to recover if we can resolve the real problems in an open forum?

Monday, April 19, 2021

S. C. Lawmakers Move Forward on In-Person Learning, Bus Purchases and Protecting Seniors



The House passed a joint resolution that requires all school districts in South Carolina to give an option for five days a week, in-person learning by April 26th. Providing an in-person option allows parents to decide what learning format is the best fit for their student. Additionally, this bill suspends the earning limitation for retired teachers. This ensures that retired teachers can come back to school and teach without fear of too little compensation during these unique times. 
 
Buying More Busses

Many K-12 students in SC will be getting a better ride with the decision to buy 235 propane-fueled school busses. The $23.6 million price tag will be paid from the remaining from the legal settlement from Volkswagen. A decade ago, SC’s school bus fleet was the oldest in the nation, with some busses on the road for more than 20 years. With the new busses, the fleet will have an average age of five years. More than 3,000 busses have been replaced since 2015.

Revitalizing South Carolina
 
The South Carolina Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act” qualifies taxpayers who make certain investments into rehabilitating and revitalizing abandoned property in the State to receive tax credits. This bill is a great incentive for people to bring life to abandoned and run-down areas of our State. This act was set to expire, but the House voted unanimously to renew it. 

Law Enforcement Help
 
Receiving a favorable vote from a House Judiciary panel is a bill (H.3939) extending workers compensation for law enforcement officers in deadly-force situations to PTSD or other injury caused by stress or mental illness. It is essential that we provide officers with these lifesaving resources to safely and healthily serve our communities. 

Protecting SC Seniors
 
H. 3180, also known as the Vulnerable Adult Maltreatment Registry Act, passed out of a House Subcommittee. This act aims to protect our most vulnerable, elderly populations from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This bill would create a registry for these populations, creating further protections for them in places like nursing homes. 

COVID Vaccine Update

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has identified 155 cases where individuals were diagnosed with COVID after being fully inoculated with a vaccine. According to DHEC, 17 of those patients were hospitalized, and at least one person has died in what they term “breakthrough” infections. 25% of SC residents are fully vaccinated; many more have received their first shot. The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine has been suspended in SC. The state is in Phase 1C of the vaccination process. Under these guidelines, anyone 16+ is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine with an appointment. Meanwhile, DHEC has a warning concerning scammers:

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Charleston Modifies Mask Ordinance

There is minor movement in the Lowcountry on the never-ending mask ordinance. Charleston City Council voted on Tuesday to extend the city’s mask ordinance through May 13.

The ordinance requires masks be worn in certain circumstances when six feet of social distancing from others cannot be maintained. An amendment to the ordinance strongly encourages masks to be worn in all public places, but does reduce the number of places where masks are required. 

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said this amendment is still requiring masks be worn indoors, but now strongly encourages they be worn outdoors. 

Harry Griffin, a member of the Charleston City Council, argues it's impossible to comply with the previous rules of the mask ordinance, and requiring masks under such strict circumstances “defies logic.” 

Other members said that with more and more people being vaccinated, they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is time to remove the requirement. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Want to See the Fireflies This Year at Congaree Park? You'll Need to Win their Lottery

Congaree National Park is offering several opportunities to see the park’s fireflies May 20 through 22, and May 27 through 29. 

To keep COVID restrictions, the viewings will be limited to 25 vehicles each night of the event. Tickets will be available through a lottery system posted on this website at recreation.gov/ticket/facility/300008. You will only be allowed to enter on the date and time of your specific ticket. Full lottery details may be viewed online at nps.gov/cong/fireflies.htm.

The lottery begins at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 15th and stays open until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 19th. The winners will be announced on Friday, April 23rd. Participants who are chosen will be required to pay a non-refundable $19 event fee plus a one dollar service charge to secure tickets ($20 total).

Tickets will only be issued for passenger vehicles up to two axles that can fit into standard parking spaces (i.e. no motor homes, vehicles with trailers, buses or mini-buses). 

“At our most recent fireflies event, over 12,000 visitors came to the park to view the fireflies and on some nights we welcomed over 2,000 visitors,” said Superintendent K. Lynn Berry. “After consulting with public health officials, we determined that a smaller-scale event would be a wise decision. The lottery system, which is based on the one that has been used for a similar fireflies event at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for years, seemed to be the fairest way of determining who will have access each night.”

There are three species of synchronous flashing fireflies, out of more than two thousand species in total. The mating season lasts approximately two weeks and the synchronized flashing is a part of the mating ritual.