Firefighter Safety, Alcohol Distiller Fee, 10 Percent Local, Stimulus Requests 

News Blips

"Yes, South Carolina needs help. I'm all for infrastructure spending. ... You don't want to be crazy here."

Sen. Lindsey Graham on his willingness to take stimulus money for South Carolina, even though he says the bill will "damn the next generation." Graham called for more infrastructure funding in the bill to create more jobs. Source: CNN

Report Seeks National Look at Firefighter Safety

In some of the most pointed language yet in studies of the 2007 Sofa Super Store blaze that killed nine Charleston firefighters, a new report calls for a change in state and federal firefighting standards and implores departments everywhere to take note of the fatal lessons learned at the West Ashley store.

There weren't any surprises in the final report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Problems in staffing, coordination, and equipment have been highly publicized in the past, and the department says it has already taken strides to address those issues. But every NIOSH recommendation is directed at "fire departments" in the plural.

Fire Chief Thomas Carr says it's standard practice for all 35,000 U.S. departments to use these incident reports as manuals for changes in their own departments.

"This provides a good opportunity for departments across the nation," Carr says. "Everyone pays attention to every one of these reports. They can take lessons from them no matter how far away you are."

One recommendation calls for federal and state agencies to improve safety regulations for firefighters.

"Firefighters have a high rate of injury and death compared to other occupations, yet federal and state regulations addressing the risks of firefighting are sparse," the report states. —Greg Hambrick


That's how many inspections restaurants may be able to expect each year due to a proposed change necessitated by the state budget crunch. The Department of Health and Environmental Control had been inspecting venues every six months. Regardless, Tom Sponseller, president and CEO of the Hospitality Association of South Carolina, says that restaurants regulate themselves as a good business practice. As a faithful consumer of peanut butter crackers and a former stock market investor, we're digging hard for some comfort in that.Source: The Associated Press

$40 million

That's the restitution the federal courts are requiring of Al Parish. The former Lowcountry economist is serving 24 years for bilking investors out of tens of millions of dollars over more than 20 years. Source: The Post and Courier

Firefly Looks For Legislative Lovin'

A new bill that introduces a fee for alcohol distillers sounds like a bad thing at first blush, but it's the third attempt by the local entrepreneurs behind Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka to apply the same marketing tools they use for their wine businesses to the growing flavored vodka market.

Where there are currently no standards for manufacturers and micro-distilleries making these products, the new bill would create definitions and new fees for both — $50,000 and $5,000, respectively. But it will also enable tours, tastings, and limited sales at the distillery, something currently not allowed at Firefly's Wadmalaw site.

Co-owner Scott Newitt says that his operation would be filed under "micro-brew" and be able to sell three bottles at a time at the distillery, opening up marketing and branding opportunities. With the limits on sales at the site, Newitt stresses that this isn't about undercutting retailers.

"People try our wines, buy some and go home and buy more," he says. —Greg Hambrick

Lowcountry Local First Hosts 10 Percent Forum

On Wed., Feb. 18, Laury Hammel, co-founder of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, will discuss the "10 percent shift," a grassroots effort to strengthen local communities by supporting local businesses and farmers.

Shifting just 10 percent of our annual spending in support of local businesses can have a huge impact on our local economy, according to event host Lowcountry Local First. Kent County, Mich., which has a population comparable to Charleston's tri-county area, found the shift can create $140 million in new economic activity, 1,600 new jobs, and an additional $50 million in wages.

The premise is that $45 of every $100 spent at a local business goes back into the local economy, compared to only $14 when you buy from a national chain. The free event (a $5 donation is appreciated) begins at 6:30 p.m. at One Cool Blow. Show up early for a tour of the new development. —Candice Summers


That's the amount a seller was purportedly seeking on eBay for the bong Michael Phelps was photographed holding. It was just one facet of the story that unraveled last week as eight people were arrested on drug charges stemming from the Phelps photo taken in November. Source: WIS TV

City Readies Stimulus Requests

With the $790 billion plan now headed for the President Obama's desk, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley says the city will be promoting a handful of projects for stimulus aid once it is signed into law by President Obama.

"We need to get people back to work," Riley says.

Projects that would be ready to begin work within 90 days include a new city gym at Harmon Field and much-needed stormwater improvements along the Crosstown corridor. Riley says the gym could be one of the first projects to break ground if it receives funding. The city has already sent out bid requests for the work, though noting that it is dependent on the federal assistance. The gym would require $8.9 million in federal aid, while providing 151 jobs, according to city estimates.

The stormwater issue will require a larger federal investment (up to $127 million). Preliminary designs have already been drafted and approved by the Department of Transportation. The first phase of the work would cost $60 million and provide 840 jobs, according to city estimates.

Riley also takes on Gov. Mark Sanford's opposition to the stimulus, saying the governor should "energetically" support Obama's plan because it means much-needed jobs for South Carolina, with unemployment nearing 10 percent.

"The governor needs to feel responsible for the economic health of his state and the people of his state," Riley says.

The White House says the stimulus will create 53,000 jobs in South Carolina, and increase tax cuts, tuition tax credits, and unemployment benefits. —Greg Hambrick

"Seth Whipper napping, Leon starcubaks (sp) still needs a booster seat, freshman need to learn to keep their mouths shut!"

Rep. Thad Viers, an Horry County Republican, twittering about two Lowcountry Democrats last week. Thad tells us that he is friends with Rep. Leon Stavrinakis. He says that he makes fun of Leon's height and Leon makes fun of Viers' big head.


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