Another zoning request coming

As most know, when it comes to development and zoning, Richland and Lexington County Council decide those matters. Not me at the State House. Our area is represented in council district 1, represented by Bill Malinowski.

That being said, I was informed by many of you about a proposal on Johnson Marina Road that would greatly impact our area (to include the already overcrowded Lake Murray Elementary School). I contacted our local Richland County Councilman last week, Bill Malinowski, and informed him of the meeting that was to be held last Friday at Lake Murray Elementary School. He is aware of my concerns; however, he needs to know your concerns as well.

Looks like the October 2nd Planning Commission meeting will NOT have this proposal on their agenda. Instead, I’ve been told it will appear on the November agenda.

It’s my understanding the developer plans to attend the October 2nd meeting of the Ballentine Dutch Fork Civic Association (6:30pm at Ballentine Park). I would obviously encourage you to attend if your schedule permits; but know I will be there as well as I try to visit with the association at their meetings as much as possible.

Please email me directly at nathanballentine@schouse.gov any feedback/concerns you have about the proposal so that I can share those with our councilman. Obviously you can email him directly; but I’m happy to print every email and deliver to him so that I will also know of your concerns in this local matter (and be sure he does as well)

12th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast

Can’t believe it’s been 12 years since my friend, Representative Huggins, and I decided Irmo needed something that would far outlast our time in office. Twelve years later the community comes together in what Chip and I refer to as “the kickoff of the Okra Strut” – held every Thursday before the Okra Strut Festival at rotating churches in the area.

This year, we have invited retiring pastor Dr. Wendell Estep from First Baptist Church in Columbia to be our speaker. Many of you may see him each week on TV, but several have not and we wanted to bring him to Irmo for this special occasion.

The event is FREE (thanks to the support of our wonderful sponsors). PLEASE RSVP before September 21st so that we can be sure your Chickfila Biscuit is waiting for you that morning! RSVP to DesireeWatson@me.com or by calling (803) 348-5416.

As always, doors open for breakfast at 7:30 am and the program begins promptly at 8:00 am.

This years’s event is the first one hosted by River Springs Church located at 1007 West Shady Grove, Irmo, SC 29063.

For quick 2 minute videos from past breakfasts, you can click here: 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012 .

This year’s host church is the 9th different host for the event! Past host churches and speakers are listed below:

2016 Union United Methodist Church – speaker Marcus Lattimore
2015 St. Paul AME Church – speaker in memory of Senator Clementa Pinckney
2014 Gateway Baptist Church – speaker Chris Joye
2013 St. Andrews Presbyterian – speaker Shelley Bryson King, Miss South Carolina 2006
2012 Riverland Hills Baptist – Jim “Soni” Sonefeld – member Hootie and the Blowfish
2011 Seven Oaks Presbyterian – Steve Arnold, operator Chick-fil-A Ballentine
2010 First Baptist of Irmo -speaker Adrian Despres, chaplain USC football team
2009 St. Mary’s Episcopal – speaker Eddie Walker, then principal of Irmo High School
2008 Gateway Baptist – speaker Jeff Davis, former Clemson football player
2007 St. Andrews Presbyterian – speaker A.V Strong, director A Better Way, Project Gang Out
2006 Riverland Hills Baptist – speaker Bob McAlister, McAlister Communications

Local Non Profits – are you a member? Together SC

Yesterday, I enjoyed speaking with board members and other professionals at Together SC .

From their wesbite:

Together SC is South Carolina’s only organization focused solely on supporting and strengthening the state’s nonprofit community through education, advocacy, communications, collaboration and leadership.

We are comprised of 700+ members representing nonprofit organizations, business partners, associations, foundations, government agencies and academic institutions. We believe the world will be a better place when all people work together for good.

When I left, they gave both me and my House colleague Beth Bernstein a note with an offer to provide a free membership for the non-profit of our choice!

So….if you work or serve with a non-profit in the Irmo/Chapin area and are not currently a member of Together SC, please reach out to me and let me see if I can help connect you to this fantastic group and resource!

VC Summer – Prudent?

Video above: Attorney, Scott Elliot, who testified Wednesday seems to agree the project was not prudent. The Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission disagreed with this obviously.

***

This past Wednesday, the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee convened for the first of what is expected to be many meetings investigating the mismanagement of and decision to abandon the VC Summer Project.

As I have written earlier, there is much blame to pass around. These hearings are designed not to point blame but to instead how best to avoid another disaster like this again. And hopefully – to protect the ratepayers (and taxpayers) from continuing to pay for a big hole in the ground.

Rather than write for hours how we got here, I’ll provide links for all those who might be interested on the history of this debacle. Please see those links at the end of this post.

First, yes let me state up front that I did vote for the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) As I shared in my August Community Update, back in 2006-2007 finding new sources of reliable energy was a state priority not just for the utilities, but also the legislature as well. Staring at a potential billion dollar carbon-tax (and several other economic factors) our state was told we were on the verge of an energy crisis. We were warned of partial blackouts and waves of planned outages along the coast in the warmer months of the year. Finding new sources of clean energy was paramount. Legislators were told passing the BLRA was absolutely necessary to facilitate this new energy production in South Carolina. With almost unanimous support (only 6 officials out of 170 are on record voting “no”), the bill passed quickly.

Unfortunately, as we have now learned, the level of mismanagement and lack of oversight of the VC Summer nuclear project was off the charts. After 5 hours of State Senate committee testimony on Monday and 5 hours of State House committee testimony Wednesday, this became painfully obvious.

One thing stood out to me in particular this week. Inside the language of the BLRA, the word “prudent” (or variation of the word…imprudent, prudency, etc) appeared 33 times. Surely, someone at the PSC, or ORS, or even at the utilities would have noticed how important that word was since it appeared no less than 33 times in the bill.

Please take a minute to watch a few of the videos and read some of the articles I have included below for more detail on this.

Do you agree with Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and Public Service Commission (PSC) that the project was “prudent” from the start? Was it “prudent” to have so many cost overruns? Was it “prudent” to forgive the repeated delays of Westinghosue responsible for overall construction? Was it “prudent” for ORS and PSC to let those utilities continue spending money without any detailed construction schedule? Was it “prudent” for ORS and the PSC to approve 9 (yes, nine) rate hikes? Was any of this “prudent”???

No, it was not prudent. It was a gigantic failure of management and oversight all throughout this process.

The BLRA states “Where a plant is abandoned after a base load review order approving rate recovery has been issued, the capital costs and AFUDC related to the plant shall nonetheless be recoverable under this article provided that the utility shall bear the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the decision to abandon construction of the plant was prudent. Without limiting the effect of Section 58-33-275(A), recovery of capital costs and the utility’s cost of capital associated with them may be disallowed only to the extent that the failure by the utility to anticipate or avoid the allegedly imprudent costs, or to minimize the magnitude of the costs, was imprudent considering the information available at the time that the utility could have acted to avoid or minimize the costs. The commission shall order the amortization and recovery through rates of the investment in the abandoned plant as part of an order adjusting rates under this article.”

So, tell me…if this entire mess was deemed “prudent” every step of the way; how can the costs related to the plant be recoverable because NOW the decision of the utilities to abandon construction of the plant are prudent?

Much more to come. As always, I’ll keep you informed and I appreciate the insight you give me each and every day. I will make sure we get (your) questions answered and ultimately figure out how to fix this going forward.

* Legislators told law may block SCANA from charging V.C. Summer costs to customers
* House Speaker calls for resignation of utility watchdog; Gov. Henry McMaster disagrees

* Management shake-up? SC utility chief expected to leave Friday

Text here.

What questions do you want asked? VC Summer

As I shared earlier, when news broke that Santee Cooper and SCE&G were abandoning VC Summer, I was away on family vacation. I picked up the phone (from Montana) and spoke with our House Speaker. Asked him to panel a committee that could effectively look into this and set about to make REAL REFORMS and I’m grateful that he did just that – and named me as a member of the committee.

Our Speaker recognized the reforms and results I have championed and supported in order to affect real change for our state. I will continue this with my service on the committee.

The best way I’ve been able to get results for you is by listening to you and being your voice. That’s why I’m writing again today to ask for you help. What questions do you want me to ask on your behalf (and others) from the Office of Regulatory Staff and the South Carolina Public Service Commission?

This will be just the first of many meetings to come as we work through the complicated process of determining how best to protect ratepayers, our state, and taxpayers. Many families in our community were impacted and I am looking for every solution possible to help. Thank you for being a part of the solution!

Another fantastic Community Cookout!

It’s been a privilege for more than a decade to bring our community together and give a everyone a chance to meet and speak with their elected officials in a casual setting – FREE right here in Chapin! From Governors, Lt. Governors, Treasurers and SC Senators and Representatives , to our officials in Congress – US Senators and Representatives, to Mayors and Town Council Memberss, Sheriffs, School Board, County Council Members, Coroners, and many, many more. Staying in touch helps us do better jobs for you!

Even with a forecast of showers, the weather held off and the crowd turned out. Like previous cookouts, this year was the first one for several in attendance. Many who just moved to the area or who had never been involved before. That’s what makes these events special.

One surprise was when Nan Barwick (90 years old in October) came up to me and asked “Do you remember knocking on my door 12 years ago?” Actually, I did; but I couldn’t remember her name. I replied “Yes, ma’am. Your dogs are Bertha and Putter!” She smiled and was surprised I remembered her dogs (they’ve crossed the rainbow bridge since). That was a special moment for me. Seeing her for the first time in a while and remembering the early days and those early supporters and memories who gave me a chance!

On top of getting to see many old friends and meet new ones, I was glad to see Governor McMaster present the Order of the Silver Crescent to former constituent Todd Latiff! Many might not be aware but because I was able to get Todd on the Richland Recreation Commission years ago, he was able to help bring about the changes that lead to a completely new board and helped us restore trust in that office. Todd was one who worked to help me clean up Columbia (well, Richland County in this instance).

Last Wednesday wouldn’t have been the success it was if not for our community taking time out of our busy schedules to come together. Also, thanks to the many sponsors, hosts and supporters for helping with the event and my re-election campaign.

As always, if I can ever be of service, please let me know ! I love speaking to your church groups, civic groups, and all the youth groups – Scouts, Backyard Bible Club, etc. Elected officials that stay in touch year round (not just at election time) are able to better serve our communities!

They’re baack! FLW Forrest Wood Cup this weekend

In another big catch for Capital City Lake Murray Country, the FLW Forrest Wood Cup is back again this weekend for their THIRD YEAR on Lake Murray!

I’ve attended before with my son, JC. He loved it and I did too!
Miriam Atria, President/CEO, of the Capital City/Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board, is right when she says “think Vegas” and “fishing” when she speaks of the official weigh-ins and awards ceremony/concert.

If you’re around the lake or downtown Columbia this weekend, be sure to check this out!

See schedule and lcoation of events here for August 11 – 13.

SC House to probe failed SCANA, Santee Cooper nuclear deal

The shuttered nuclear plant in Jenkinsville. Courtesy of High Flyer via The State

From The State, Jamie Self:

The speaker of the S.C. House announced a committee Wednesday to study the failure of a Fairfield County nuclear project, adding it is possible he could call House lawmakers back to Columbia for a special session.

Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, named state Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, to lead the 18-member Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee.

From the Midlands, the committee includes state Reps. Nathan Ballentine, R-Richland; Micah Caskey, R-Lexington; Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland; Russell Ott, D-Calhoun; James Smith, D-Richland; and House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland.

Lucas said the committee will study what went wrong with the joint SCANA-Santee Cooper nuclear project and determine a “viable plan that best serves the interests” of the state’s power customers.

“Based upon the multi-billion dollar disaster at V.C. Summer (Nuclear Station) and the nearly 6,000 workers who have lost their jobs, it is obvious that our current standard for energy development in South Carolina is flawed and in need of reform,” Lucas said. “Acting impulsively could potentially create greater turmoil for thousands of ratepayers who have spent their hard-earned paychecks on a service they will never receive.”

The state “has a responsibility to fully investigate this situation and ensure ratepayers do not experience this kind of failure again,” Lucas added.

To read more from The State and Jamie Self, click here .

$350,000 for Richland County parks goes to….

…City of Columbia, Parks and Rec Department
Colony/North Pointe Recreation Project Phase 1 – $88,914.74
Colony/North Pointe Recreation Project Phase 2 – $ 274,376.15

Yes, you read that correctly. Richland County money that our county parks could use for safety and other improvements went to the City of Columbia – for a new park. For perspective the City already has 60 city parks and green spaces; 600 acres of city-maintained park land; 55 tennis courts; 16 city pools, spray pads and ponds; and 9 city-maintained fountains.

I discovered this after I stopped in my State House Office the first day back from a family vacation. (Yes, I kept in touch while away, returning constituents calls, working with colleagues, making a request of our Speaker and calling in from Montana to Keven Cohen’s show when the bombshell of VC Summer news broke. More on that tomorrow.)

When reviewing the paperwork from the “FY 2017-2018 PARD (Parks and Recreation Development Fund) Recurring Funds Allocation booklet” that SC PRT mails to House/Senate at the end of July, I came across the lines items mentioned above “Columbia, City of Parks and Rec. Dept”. I’ve discussed PARD funds before on this website. Bottom line, PARD funds are allocated each year to COUNTY DELEGATIONS to be used for parks and recreation.

Much has been written about the mess with the Richland County Recreation Commission for many years on my website ) and I was pleased to see a group of my colleagues finally come together and support the push for much needed change at the Commission. In addition, I was pleased to see them agree for my push a new way for the delegation appointed members (the old way is what helped empower the former Director and led to the many problems that have been finally reported).

We have finally restored some confidence and trust in that department by replacing the former commissioners with individuals chosen from more than 60 applicants – all given a chance to speak before the delegation.

Earlier this summer, after the delegation secretary forwarded an email PARD request to the entire delegation for the Bookert Heights Community (which I shared with a colleague I would support), I replied to the entire delegation:

“How have we decided to handle PARD going forward? There is (sic) LOTS available to impact our communities and I want us to all be able to help our areas. I remember Chairman Neal had us “divide the money evenly”. Recently, it seems we have individual requests coming in. I’m supportive one way or another; but want to be sure the delegation is aware of the enormous amount available and that we work together for each other. Thoughts?”

Our delegation chairman responded: “We have usually wanted to make sure each member has an opportunity to make this important resource available to their constituents where appropriate. We have not done it always the same way. I will reach it (sic) to staff today and reply to the group with an update on the fund.”

There was no update until today when I opened the report. Worse, the update showed me that not only did the request everyone received not get approved, 2 OTHER requests were approved that the entire delegation DID NOT RECEIVE.

I called PRT and learned that 52% of the weighted average of the delegation had signed a letter of support. While a majority is required, what should be EXPECTED is that the delegation discuss these matters together – in meetings – not continue to have individual House members and Senators work to garner support from just enough colleagues to get 50.01% and not let the entire delegation know of their request.

That is what happened with these requests. Under secrecy, a money grab was made. As if that was not enough, the money – GIVEN TO COUNTY DELEGATIONS – was handed over to the City of Columbia.

Shouldn’t the City pay for their own parks?

Shouldn’t these delegation decisions involving hundreds of thousands of dollar be vetted in public at delegation meetings?

Out here in our area, the answer to both those questions is Yes. Where you live, I’m pretty sure that answer is Yes, too.

Maybe the approved project for the City is worthy and would have been supported anyway. Maybe. But our delegation cannot continue to spend money in this manner. YOUR MONEY. County tax dollars going to City project…and not even debated our discussed by the entire delegation.

I’ll continue my push to make these reforms to the way Richland County delegation operates. We need more meetings. We need more discussion. We do not need rogue officials supporting City projects with money that our county parks can use.

NEW LOCATION for Community Cookout! August 9th

We are just one week away from the COMMUNIITY COOKOUT and I need to let you know – we’ve outgrown our former location!

With 250+ RSVPs we needed more space and what better space than on the shores of Lake Murray!

Thanks to my good friends, Christina and Mark Woody, we will be moving the cookout to their home located at 203 St Thomas Church Road, Chapin. (Come down Wessinger Road, go straight through the four way stop (Palmetto Roads gas station/fire station) and turn right on St. Thomas Church Road. Their house is on the left IMMEDIATELY before the church. Park in the church parking lot and walk down the long dirt drive way and to the sign in tent).

The cookout starts at 6pm and goes til 7:30pm. If you arrive early, that’s fine. You’ll be greeted by volunteers at the sign-in tent and can then go around back and fix your plate, grab a drink, and find your spot under one of the large tents!

At 6pm, I’ll ask Dr. Ryan Pack, our new pastor at Riverland Hills Baptist Church, to say bless the food and our community. After that, I’ll introduce the elected officials in attendance (see list below) and then we’ll hear a few words from our Governor.

The rest of the evening? It’s yours to meet/talk with elected officials, friends, neighbors, and enjoy the music of Jim LeBlanc.

I want to thank all the elected officials who have agreed to take time out of their schedule to attend. I’d also like to think all the Sponsors, Hosts and Supporters who have helped me put on this event and are supportive of my work in Columbia!

Looking forward to another fantastic event!