Columbia Council of Neighborhoods installs officers
Emma McGraw Myers was installed as the president, a position she had been serving in since February; Walter Skipper Marks as president elect, Bessie Watson as vice president, Gloria Woodard as secretary, Cynthia Daniels as assistant secretary, and Fred Hornick as treasurer.
The officer’s terms are for two years.
Benjamin also announced the Columbia City Council passed the 2015-2016 budget, which will go into effect July 1.
Among the highlights on the budget include a property tax cut of two mills, the elimination of the water and sewer transfer to the general fund, and a pay increase to City of Columbia employees.
The elimination of the water and sewer transfer will be replaced with a two percent transfer to public safety. The transfer will be evaluated every year, according to Benjamin.
The budget also designates $120 million to water and sewer infrastructure needs.
The end of the 2014-2015 budget will mark the fifth surplus in six years for the City of Columbia.
Benjamin also announced a new initiative called the Justice for All Initiative, which deals with reform for law enforcement. The initiative includes body cameras for Columbia Police Department officers and an annual internal affairs report. The report will include every arrest, every use of force report, and how every case ended. Benjamin said a Columbia resident has been added as a member of the internal affairs review board.
In other news, LaToya Grate, with the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, spoke on Target Zero, a program designated to find ways to reduce traffic fatalities. Grates says the program’s ultimate goal is to reduce the number of fatalities to zero. She says the program receives between $10 and $ 15 million in federal funds to disperse to law enforcement agencies around the state, only $8.5 million were distributed in the 2014- 2015 fiscal year.
The funds are to help police officials in areas such as impaired driving, DUI, child protection, and police traffic services.
In 2007, the agency began an Officer DUI Challenge. Participation in the challenges provides an opportunity for departments to draw for a chance to receive a fully equipped vehicle. The Columbia Police Depar tment won the challenge in 2009.
Nationally, approximately 32,000 people are killed in traffic related activities. Of the 32,000, nearly a third are killed in alcohol impaired driving crashes. South Carolina is the number one state in alcohol impaired driving crashes. However, the number of fatalities has decreased from 1,077 in 2007 to 823 in 2014.
Felicia Wilks, the senior housing loan officer for ComDev, announced two programs, the Maintenance Assistance Program (MAP) and the Property Enhancement Assistance for Rental Housing program (PEAR).
To be eligible for MAP, homeowners have to live in a single-family home, the household income must not exceed 80 percent of the median income, and homeowners must not own any other improved properties.
The program is a forgivable loan that requires homeowners to stay in their homes for at least ten years following the completion of the repairs.
Appointments can be made by calling 803- 545- 373. Homeowners must provide proof of ownership, copy of current mortgage or satisfied mortgage, and the last two pay stubs among other items required for the loan.
Among the items eligible for repair are energy efficiency items, roofs, exterior trim, exterior siding, tree removal, demolition, and improving home accessibility.
PEAR is a loan, up to $50,000, for current homeowners.
Homeowners are required to invest 10 percent of the total rehab cost.
The loan agreement requires homeowners to adhere to City of Columbia housing codes, repairs to be approved by the City of Columbia, and include energy efficient measures. The interest on the loan is three percent.
Lieutenant Ron Felder, with the CPD, announced the sixth annual National Night Out Kick-Off Celebration will be held Thursday, July 30 at the Columbia Convention Center beginning at 4 p.m.