Benjamin's regionalism committee meets to discuss city changes

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In a few weeks, the City of Columbia will have its first new mayor in two decades. But even before taking office, Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin and community leaders are trying to usher in an era of more regional cooperation.

From basic city services, to leading a push for high speed rail, members of group put together by Benjamin met to discuss how to find ways Columbia can reach past the city limits, build coalitions with other local governments and improve services.

"He's got friends on many boards and commissions, he's got friends that serve on many local governments," said committee member Damon Jeter.  "I just believe it's just this new spirit and folks finally think that it's time stop talking and go to work."

Committee members say some objectives can be accomplished with relative ease

"I think the joint city county planning function, how it's structured makes a lot of sense and would bring the two governmental bodies closer together in terms of cooperation and give them a common vision so to speak," said committee member Hamilton Osbourne.

"Right now the county doesn't have its own economic development department and the city does," said Jeter. "And we're in the process of in our budget this year putting dollars aside to hire a economic development director. The city has a full-blown office."

"There could be a multitude of things," said state Rep. Anton Gunn. "One could be the fact that we have two sanitation operations. One in the county and one in the city. You know there are some service areas within the city that are unincorporated areas where the county contractors have to drive them out into the city to service trash pickup. So there's a cost to all that."

The regionalism committee is one of several set up by the mayor-elect to help him formulate policy on everything from the environment to public safety. Benjamin will get reports from each group.

He was not in Columbia because he's taking part in the US mayor's conference in Oklahoma City.

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