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City opens for business; police lift curfew

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By Chuck Crumbo
ccrumbo@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 12, 2015

Life appeared to be shifting back to normal today as City Hall resumed full operations, law enforcement lifted a nighttime curfew, and Richland 1 officials said they plan to open classrooms later this week.

“I’m happy to say the City of Columbia is opening for business today,” City Manager Teresa Wilson said at this morning’s press briefing.

That meant “non-essential personnel” like employees who review development plans, issue permits and pick up garbage returned to work, helping run the city as well as keeping other staffers focused on restoring water service and continuing to provide aid to victims of the Oct. 4-5 historic floods.

Wilson noted that it’s important for all services to be restored so that local government can provide assistance to this week’s upcoming events like the opening of the State Fair on Wednesday and homecoming celebrations this weekend at the University of South Carolina and Benedict College.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott also announced today that a countywide curfew that was imposed hours after the floods slammed through the area was lifted at 6 a.m. today.

The curfews appeared to have put a dent in crime, added Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook .

“We’ve seen citywide people seem to be behaving better,” Holbrook said.

Lott reported that there were no arrests for curfew violation overnight. However, on Sunday the sheriff’s department reported eight arrests tied to violating the curfew.

As for this week’s events, Lott said law enforcement will be able to maintain its response to the flood aftermath as well as handle the expected surge of thousands of people flocking to the State Fairgrounds and to the football games on Saturday.

“There’s going to be more than enough cops,” Lott said.

While law enforcement pointed toward the weekend’s events, the city continued to battle to restore safe drinking water to all of its customers.

On Sunday, the city lifted its boil water advisory for customers located north of Interstate 20, west of Hardscrabble Road, and east of the Broad River, as well as the area along Parkridge Drive between Harbison Boulevard and Lake Murray Boulevard. The advisory also was lifted for customers of the Irmo, Dutch Square, and Saint Andrews areas and those located west of the Broad River in Richland and Lexington counties. In addition, customers located in northeast Columbia in the areas between Percival Road and Hard Scrabble Road, north of Sparkleberry Lane and North Brickyard Road,  on Farming Creek Road and customers along Broad River Road down to Geology Road to include the Lost Creek Drive and Chestnut Hills area no longer need to boil their water prior to drinking or cooking.

The decision to lift the advisory was made following an intense flushing of the distribution system. Afterward, bacteriological samples were collected and analyzed. The results indicated that the system’s water is safe to use for drinking and cooking purposes.

Earlier, the city lifted the advisory for customers in the areas of Chapin, Ballentine, and around S.C. 6 who are served by the Lake Murray Water Treatment Plant.

The advisory remains in effect for about 73,000 customers served by the downtown Columbia plant located at Riverfront Park. It draws water from the Columbia Canal.

Work is progressing in rebuilding a dike used to pool water for the plant to draw from, said Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry. However, Gentry did not say when full service would be restored.

Meanwhile, Richland 1 school officials said they’re working toward resuming school later this weekend. Supt. Craig Witherspoon noted that one of the challenges in opening school is developing alternate routes for school bus drivers.

Officials said 29 roads in the city remained closed because of the flood.

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