August 2, 2013

Benjamin installs new Columbia Council of Neighborhood officers

The Columbia Council of Neighborhoods ( CCN) held its annual meeting Thursday, July 25.

The 2013-2014 CCN officers were installed by Mayor Steve Benjamin: Dean Slade, president; Emma McGraw Myers, president elect; Bessie Watson, vice president; Fred Hornick, treasurer; Gloria Woodard, secretary; and Cynthia Daniels, assistant secretary.

Benjamin discussed the continued development on Main Street, especially the expected 800 University of South Carolina students moving into the Palmetto Center in the coming fall. Benjamin says building has undergone $180 million of renovation.

Four new restaurants will also open on Main Street by no later than October.

Benjamin said Columbia has around 12,000 available jobs, but many of those interested arenít qualified for the positions. The mayor has worked with businesses like Michelin, SCANA, and Blue Cross/ Blue Shield to develop a program that allows residents to attend Midlands Technical College to receive the training they need for jobs available. Part of this program is a scholarship for the training, which also includes childcare and transportation to Midlands Tech. Out of the 100 people interviewed so far for the program, 14 are currently enrolled.

Public safety was another issue Benjamin addressed. He says the city has increased the public safety budget by $8 million without having to raise taxes. Another highlight according to him is the interagency agreement between the City of Columbia, Richland County, Lexington County, and Forest Acres.

According to Benjamin, with a fully staffed police department, the city has seen a reduction in overall crime by nearly 16%. Benjamin gives some credit to the cameras installed throughout the city. The city has installed 263 cameras, an investment of $100,000. Benjamin says Columbia City Council approved the installation of an additional 800 cameras. The bidding process for the project will begin August 1. The cameras will only be installed at main thoroughfares and gateways into communities.

Finally, the mayor addressed the allegations made by former Police Captain Dave Navarro. Benjamin says once the SLED report is complete, it will be made available to the public. He says the appropriate action will be taken.

The next Columbia Council of Neighborhoods meeting will take place September 26.

Contact Josh Cruse

The Columbia Star