(0307) Week of January 17, 2007
West Pelzer Council
approves fee increases
The West Pelzer Town Council held a special meeting Monday night to give final approval to a new water and sewer rate structure, designed to increase revenues in order to build a contingency fund for those infrastructures.
The vote to approve the increases was unanimous, with Councilman Joe Turner absent.
The rates had been the subject of some debate, but recent events convinced several Council members that a rate increase was essential. The rate increases will apply only to town residents, since the last major increase applied only to customers living outside the town. The town had absorbed the last two rate increases imposed by Greenville Water.
The new rates will increase the basic water bill to $14. for the first thousand gallons used, with each additional thousand gallons costing $2.90. The sewer rates will increase to $18 for the first thousand gallons, and $2.25 per each additional thousand gallons.
The sanitation fee also increased from $3.50 per household to $4. The increase will go into effect on the next billing cycle.
Newly elected members of the Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners were installed during the first monthly meeting of 2007 held Monday.
Bobby Stover was sworn in by Commissioner Frankie Garrett. C. E. Ed. Poore Jr., was sworn in by Pastor Ron Thomas.
Poore was unanimously elected chair for the board, replacing Commissioner Marsha Rogers who has served as chairperson for the last 14 years. Al McAbee was elected vice-chair.
Craig Lawless was unanimously approved as the board secretary and parliamentarian.
In old business, commissioner Garrett asked about a utility report for the gym and ballpark.
Lawless responded that Duke Energy will provide the analysis hopefully by the next meeting.
McAbee reported the District responded to 7 structure fires, 6 grass fires, 3 auto fires, 23 medical calls, 1 electrical, 8 sewer and 3 service calls, for a total of 50 responses.
Assistant Chief Tracy Wallace reported that the district has received jaws of life equipment and has taken over extrication responsibilities from Greenville County.
Commissioner Rogers reported that new swings have not been delivered but should be in by next month.
Chairman Poore said there are other areas that need to be monitored and made the following recommendations:
The area of Administration/Finance be assigned to himself. Building and Grounds be assigned to Frankie Garrett; Sewage to Bobby Stover; Recreation to Marsha Rogers; and Fire to Al McAbee.
Poore said the positions will give District employees someone to come to for advice, support and to research the basics.
The proposal was approved by common consent.
Under new business Chief Butch Nichols said that the copier was having problems and needed replacing. Commissioners decided to obtain three bids and call a special meeting to approve the purchase if necessary.
Holding to an election promise, Commissioner Stover made a motion to do away with commissioners pay and to use the money to increase firemens pay and to cover maintenance items. The motion died for lack of a second.
Stover also mentioned that squad bays needed paint and other improvements.
Chief Nichols said that the floors will be done at no cost to the district by Piedmont Industrials.
Chairman Poore recommened that the building and grounds committee look into the items discussed.
Commissioner Garrett asked who had keys to the community building. No one could say for sure how many keys there were or who had them. Poore asked for the building and grounds committee to look into the question.
The board then went into executive session to discuss personnel issues.
Upon returning to regular session, McAbee stated that Chief Butch Nichols, citing health reasons, had presented a resignation letter. McAbee made a motion to accept it.
A motion by Garrett to table the discussion died for lack of a second.
The resignation was approved 4-0 with Garrett abstaining.
Rogers then made a motion to approve administrative leave for Nichols until the time of retirement in June. The motion was approved 4-0 with Garrett abstaining.
Acting on a motion by Rogers, the board then approved Tracy Wallace as Interim Fire Chief until the end of June.
The next meeting of the Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners will be held on Monday, February 19.
Longtime Fire Chief and Administrator for the Piedmont Public Service District, Butch Nichols, will be leaving the position he has held with the District for 15 years. Nichols will be placed on administrative leave effective this week until his retirement becomes effective at the end of June.
Piedmont Commissioners accepted a letter of resignation during their regular monthly meeting Monday and agreed to allow Nichols to remain on administrative leave until his retirement.
Assistant Chief Tracy Wallace was named Interim Chief.
Nichols said he will keep his office at the Fire Department and will be available during the period but will not be there full time or to repond to fire calls.
After 47 years, Nichols said leaving was hard because the department was like family. He cited health reasons for the request.
Nichols began his career with the fire department at age 15 while working with the mill, under former chief Doug Cowart and Newt Blackstone. In the 1960s the fire department was operated as the Piedmont Manufacturing fire department.
He said he remembered when the department budget was $6800 and there was no gas money.
Nichols said he will also miss helping needy families, a project he has been involved in since he joined the fire department 47 years ago.
The Williamston Springwater Committee will sponsor live entertainment featuring local performers on Saturday, January 27 at the Williamston Municipal Center Auditorium.
Featured will be John Rutland, The Saluda River Catfish and Joseph Greco. Proceeds from the event will go toward improvements in Mineral Spring Park, organizer Dianne Lollis said.
John Rutland is known for his soulful, bluesy voice, described as a combination of Ray Charles, Rod Stewart and Taylor Hicks. He loves to volunteer for fundraisers and benefits and to show the love of the Lord.
The Saluda River Catfish includes local musicians Rick Whitten, Marshall Whitten, Barry Segers and Thomas Addisson. They have been entertaining crowds around the Southeast for approximately 30 years, with an eclectic blend of Country, Beach, Blues, Gospel, Bluegrass, Traditional, Rock, and Pop music.
Joe Greco performs country classic tribute to Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves and other country legends along with gospel and original music.
The show will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and there will be a $3 admission charge for adults and $1 for children, with all proceeds going to park improvements.
In addition to music, there will be food, popcorn and drinks, Lollis said.
Lollis said this is the first of several live music events being planned for Williamston this year.
The draft plan of the Imagine Anderson initiative will be presented to the community for review during a final town hall meeting on Thursday, January 25th from 6-8 pm at the Civic Center of Anderson, 3027 Mall Rd., Anderson.
At the meeting, staff from Carpe Diem Community Solutions, who facilitated development of the plan, will present its key findings and recommendations.
We need Anderson County residents to look at the draft plan and make sure it reflects the visions for our county that came from the town hall meetings, focus groups and interviews they participated in, said McDougald.
People planning to attend the meeting are encouraged to review the draft plan prior to the event. It will be available on the Imagine Anderson website, www.ImagineAnderson.com and county residents will be able to make comments on the draft via the website. Copies will also be available at all branches of the Anderson County Library. Residents can also receive a copy by calling the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce at 226-3454.
Ideas expressed during focus groups, interviews, and town hall meetings over the last few months were compiled and then clustered under the key categories that emerged from the commonality of responses. The five key categories are Growth Management, Education, Economic Development, Health and Human Services, Leisure and Recreation.
The comments received at the Jan. 25 meeting will be used to prepare the final report, which will be presented to county residents during an event on Thursday, April 19th.
The personalities, both collective and individual, of the newly reconfigured Anderson County Council continued to be revealed Tuesday night, as several major issues were dealt with.
The Councils decision to reinstate the Countys blue laws at the last meeting continued to be a political football, with several people speaking against the Councils reconsideration of the earlier decision to abolish the laws. One woman said that she had been called a Yankee devil for circulating a petition to seek the abolition of the laws, and had gotten calls from back home in Connecticut asking how South Carolina could be so backward.
The vote to abolish the laws was taken at the last meeting in 2006, and was rescinded at the first meeting of the new Council, after incumbent Cindy Wilson brought the issue up for reconsideration, and received the votes of the two new Councilmen, Ron Wilson and Bob Waldrep. Incumbent Larry Greer, who had originally voted against abolishing the blue laws held to his vote to provide the majority.
Tuesday night, Councilwoman Gracie Floyd railed against the rescinding of the original vote, and called for a referendum to let the people decide the issue.
The rescinding vote had sparked a storm of protest, especially within the districts which partly comprise the Anderson city limits, such as Waldreps District One. Despite the demands of citizens at Tuesday nights meeting, there is apparently no procedural mechanism available to allow for reconsidering a reconsidered vote. Chairman Waldrep later referred to efforts with the county attorney to find just such a mechanism.
That fact frustrated District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, who scheduled a presentation on the agenda to revisit the issue. She said that the Council had been told that even the reconsideration was subject to review. She went on to say that the new Council had undone with one vote what it had taken three votes to achieve. (The ordinance abolishing the blue laws required three readings.) People are laughing at us everywhere. They are laughing at us in Savannah, she said.
She proceeded to read from something called the Model Rules of Parliamentary Procedure which clearly prohibited such a vote to rescind an ordinance. She conceded, however, that the Council has not adopted, nor does it operate under, that set of parliamentary rules.
She called for the issue of the blue laws to be placed on a referendum. I want the minutes to document that I contend that the decision to rescind the earlier vote was wrong. I am calling for a referendum or something better.
District Six Councilman Ron Wilson, who voted with the majority to reinstate the blue laws, said, I have had about fifty calls on this and two of them were negative. I am representing my district just as they want me to, and I dont care what they think in Connecticut or Savannah.
Chairman Waldrep, who hinted that he may have been caught off guard by the vote to rescind just a few minutes after he occupied the Chair at the first meeting, strongly suggested that the issue was not dead.
I think Council will address this issue again in the near future, if my crystal ball is right. He added that those seeking to convince a member of Council to change their view would be better served by using conversation instead of a barrage. You might well find it more effective.
Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, who originally voted for the abolition of the blue laws, though admittedly doing so in order to revisit the issue after the change in the Councils makeup, said that she had raised the issue for reconsideration because she felt it had been railroaded through in the first place, in order to prevent the new Council from voting on it. I have no trouble supporting a referendum on it, however.
The most significant news to come out of the presentation of the Countys audit was the information that the Sheriffs department is currently operating on money loaned from the Countys general fund, to the tune of $2,473,563. The revelation was referred to by County financial analyst Gina Humphries as the rough patch in the audit. Sheriff David Crenshaw had conceded last week that a deficit of $1.8 million existed in his department.
Councilman Ron Wilson asked several questions concerning the possibility that the County might just write off the loans, and the effects of such a decision on the Countys bond rating. After hearing from Humphries that such a tactic would probably not be an option, and that the plan for repayment by the Sheriffs department would likely be spread over three to five years, Wilson said, I personally want to see that money repaid. How can that department repay that money when they lost it all so quickly to begin with? He cant dodge around the fact that he has mismanaged his department very badly. I for one want to see that money repaid.
Other highlights of the audit included unqualified opinions in two areas that the County presents its financial statements in such a way as to reflect no material weakness.
The County received a clean audit, said Humphries. The Countys general fund balance was up $3.5 million, and all the enterprise funds (sewer, solid waste and the airport) all showed significantly improved performances.
Councilwoman Wilsons persistent concerns over the transfer of funds from one account to another, without Council being informed in a timely manner, were addressed. County administrator Joey Preston explained that such transfers had been listed from time to time in his administrators report and were in the minutes of past meetings. She responded that she hadnt seen $2.4 million worth of transfers in the minutes. Elliott Davis, the Countys external auditor, is currently reviewing those transfers and is expected to have a report by the end of the month.
Chairman Waldrep also appointed two standing committees, the first time in several years such committees had been established. The finance committee will be chaired by Gracie Floyd, with Cindy Wilson and Michael Thompson serving. The rules committee will be chaired by Ron Wilson, with Bill McAbee and Larry Greer serving. Larry Greer, Michael Thompson and Gracie Floyd were appointed to the ACOG board.
By Stan Welch
The last of three meetings scheduled to address questions about Anderson Countys financial operations was held Tuesday, with several Council members, as well as a large number of department heads, in attendance.
There was briefly a quorum present, but Councilman Larry Greer left the conference room to avoid any question of an unannounced meeting taking place. Remaining were Council members Bill McAbee, Michael Thompson and Cindy Wilson, who also attended the first meeting.
Laurie Smith was on hand to represent the Countys external auditor, Elliott Davis, LLC. County Administrator Joey Preston, who stayed only briefly due to another appointment, jokingly referred to the Anderson Independent Mail story last week, which spoke of Elliott Davis as a person. Smith laughed, adding that both Elliot and Davis had once been partners in the firm, but are no longer living.
Smith began her presentation by stating that Anderson Countys practice of issuing a full Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, or CAFR, exceeds state requirements.
Most counties, except for a few of the larger ones in the state, simply issue an audit of their basic financial statements. Anderson County, however, chooses to produce a full blown CAFR, she said.
Smith explained that the audit conducted by her firm is not a complete department by department, account by account procedure. We alternate procedures from year to year. Some areas may require a deeper review, depending on various circumstances. Some areas are important enough and basic enough that we audit them every year, such as cash and investments.
Responding to a question from Councilwoman Wilson, Smith conceded that her firm had never done a complete and full audit on the Countys finances. She also explained that a separate study of the transfers of monies from one account to another was being conducted, with the results expected by the end of the month.
Wilson has repeatedly raised the issue of those transfers, citing County policy, which requires that the Council be informed of any such transfer in amounts greater than $2500 within thirty days of the transaction. Wilson has cited the fact that approximately one million dollars in transfers were made last year, with the Council remaining uninformed for almost a year.
Wilson also asked Smith about the firms performance in regards to the Home Gold Carolina Investors debacle, which cost thousands of people millions of dollars, and sent a number of the firms officers to jail. Smith answered that the firm had issued a going concern opinion, which stated their belief that the finance company would be out of business within a year. It took fifteen months for the company to fold, but Smith said that several agencies reviewed her firms actions, and agreed that they had met the professional standards to which they are responsible.
The Carolina Investors situation was not subject to federal regulation. It was a finance company, which the state regulates. After we issued our letter, the state apparently decided it wasnt their place to step in and close the company down. If they had done so, a lot more people would have kept a lot more of their money.
Smith, who was slated to make a presentation to the full Council at Tuesday nights meeting, did state that the County received a clean audit in two of the three areas reviewed. One area involves the CAFR, and the Countys actual finances.
The second was in the area known as the single audit, which relates to the Countys management of federal funds and grants received and expended. The County administered almost seven million dollars in federal funds this year, and again received a clean audit from Elliott Davis in that area. Again, Smith conceded that her firm does not audit every single grant, but added that federal officials were authorized to do so if they wished.
The third area, which relates to the Countys compliance with laws and regulations, reflected what Smith called a minor problem. Regulations require that certain accounts, in excess of $100,000 obtain collateral from the financial institution.
Three accounts established by the Sheriffs Department, totaling almost $350,000 did not receive such collateralization. This is a common matter, and was easily remedied by contacting the financial institution, which gladly assured the accounts with collateral, said Smith.
Hannah Rogers was named Miss Palmetto at The Miss Palmetto Pageant held Saturday at Palmetto High School. Winners were: First runner up and Miss Photogenic Kaisha Holloway, third runner up Emily Mahaffey, Miss Palmetto and Grand Talent winner Hannah Rogers, Fourth runner up Kendall Cole, Second runner up and Miss Congeniality Dee Powell.
Rosewood Partners, LLC recently announced the acquisition of the 60.59 acres of property located at Exit 19 in the northwest quadrant of I-85 and US 76/Clemson Highway in Anderson County. Known locally as the Sally Rose Estate, the property will be developed by a group of investors, all of which are South Carolina natives and residents, said Ned Pettigrew, Managing General Partner of Rosewood Partners, LLC. The partnership started working last year on a plan for the anticipated 500,000 square foot Lifestyle Center, presently referenced as Rosewood Mall.
Im excited about this project at exit 19, said County Councilman Bill McAbee. It will be an additional revenue source for our schools. District 4 and all of Anderson County will benefit from this new Lifestyle Center.
According to the Urban Land Institute, a lifestyle center is an open-air Main Street-like development with higher quality architecture that focuses on certain retail sectors and blends mixed uses typical of a traditional Main Street. They are pedestrian friendly centers where consumers can gather in public spaces and feel part of a community. The centers are vibrant places where people can work, play, and shop.
It is often referred to as destination retail, remarked Heather Simmons Jones, Director of Anderson Countys Economic Development Office.
Considering Anderson Countys distinctive location between Atlanta and Greenville, coupled with our quality of life, its understandable that visionary developers and progress-oriented business owners see the potential to capture and serve our growing community, said Anderson County Administrator Joey R. Preston. This is one more indication that Anderson County is one of the best places to locate businesses.
With planning expected to take from six months to a year, the team has been assembled with most of the players lined up. Wood and Partners of Hilton Head Island, SC and Atlanta, GA has been selected to serve as the projects land planners and lead firm for the rest of the Rosewood team.
Other well-known firms from the State of South Carolina include Davis and Floyd Engineering out of Greenwood and Greenville; Newkirk Environmental, Inc of Charleston; and local surveyor, Samuel B. Glenn, Jr. from Anderson. In addition to these, Robert Charles Lesser and Company-Real Estate Advisors and Market Research Analysts from Washington, DC; Laura Hardy Graphic Communications of Maitland, FL, and Bruce Sauter and Associates-Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants out of Greenville, NC will finish out the team.
Additional properties in the same vicinity have already been acquired, said Pettigrew.
Williamston Police officers investigated the following incidents during the holiday period which included the last week of December and the first of January:
Jan. 6 Ptrl. J.R. McCauley II responded to 4 East Second St. where he found Sherry Kelly. WF, 32, 53", 143 pounds and Crystal Maness, WF, 52", 165 pounds, of 16 East St., fighting up and down the block. Both were arrested for fighting.
Jan. 4 Ptl. A. Digirolamo stopped a vehicle driven by Edward Williams, BM, 24, 59", 180, whom he knew to be driving under suspension. An open container was also found in the vehicle. Williams was arrested and transported.
Jan. 1 Cpl. D.W. Alexander stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation and found the driver, Earl Hood, WM, 45, 61", 180 pounds of Pelzer, to be driving under suspension. He was taken into custody.
Jan. 1 Sgt. Z.E. Gregory stopped a vehicle for speeding and subsequently found the driver, Francisco Bedolla to have no SC drivers license, no insurance, and no license plate. Bedolla was arrested.
Dec. 31 Ptrl. A. Digirolamo and Cpl. D.W. Alexander stopped John Fisher, WM, 38, 6, 210 pounds, brn/brn, of 203 Valley Dale Rd. in Anderson, for suspicious behavior after he had circled around an apartment building parking lot several times. Reports state they found crack cocaine, and liquor in the vehicle. Fisher was also found to be driving under suspension. He was arrested on various charges and transported to the police department.
Dec. 29 Cpl. D.W. Alexander responded to the Burger King, in reference to a subject refusing to leave when asked to do so. Stephson King, BM, 54, 58", 140 pounds, black/brn was found to be slurring his words and having trouble walking. He also had an open bottle of liquor in his pocket. He was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Dec. 28 Ptrl. A Digirolamo, Jr. and Ptrl. J.R. McCauley, II observed a vehicle speeding on Ida Tucker Rd. A subsequent stop and check with dispatch confirmed that the driver, Hannah Frady, WF, 18, 54" 101 pounds, brn/brn, was charged with speeding, driving w/o a license in her possession, driving an uninsured vehicle, and no license plate.
Dec. 28 Sgt. Z.E. Gregory was dispatched to 600 N. Hamilton St., where Kellie Chapman reported that Timothy Ray Billingsly, Jr. WM, 17, 5-7", 130 pounds had borrowed her truck to go to Burger King the day before. He had failed to return the truck, a red 1989 Mitsubishi with SC tag #4284BR.
Dec. 26 Ptrl. A. Digirolamo, Jr. stopped a Lincoln Town Car being driven by Roger Strickland, whom he knew to have a suspended license. That information was verified by dispatch, and he was arrested.
Dec. 24 Ptrl. M.W. Ritter stopped Suzette Garland, WF, 29, 55", 190 pounds, brn/brn, of Pendleton, for speeding. It turned out that her drivers license and license tag had been suspended. She was placed under arrest for DUS.
Dec. 23 Ptrl. J.R. McCauley II responded to 110 East Carolina St., where he found Jackie Lee Blanding, BM, 41,59", 130 pounds, arguing with Juanita Blanding. As McCauley approached, Jackie Blanding picked up a concrete planter and tried to throw it at the woman. He was subdued with a taser and placed under arrest for disorderly conduct.
Dec. 22 Ptrl. M.W. Ritter and Sgt. Z.E. Gregory were dispatched to the Burger King restaurant, where they found Deborah Pierce passed out at the wheel of her vehicle at the drive through window. Pierce, WF, 39, 56", 150 pounds, of 208 Ridgecrest Way, was awakened and asked to exit the vehicle. She was subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct and open container after two open beers were found in the vehicle.
By Stan Welch
Im writing this column on Martin Luther King Day, a holiday that hasnt existed in South Carolina for very long. In fact, you dont have to mention this day to many people before youll hear several of them say that it still shouldnt be a holiday.
Personally, Im not sure Dr. King rose to the level of prominence and national importance to rate a national holiday, along with George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. If I were black, however, I would probably feel differently, and I respect that.
Ill tell you what I do believe about Dr. King. I believe he was the right man for his time, and for his people.
I was still becoming a young man when Dr. King rose to prominence, leading marches and being arrested for civil disobedience, and making some of the most spectacular speeches in the history of American oratory.
As a budding writer and a lover of language and its power even then, those speeches stunned me with their majesty, their ability to lift us above our pettiness and let us see possibilities many of us had never considered before. His I have a dream speech redefined a nation. To many of my generation, his words and actions forever altered our perceptions of ourselves, and our world, especially of we lived in the South.
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover considered him an outside agitator, a description many of Hoovers generation accepted without question. To people my age, it seemed as if the Old South could use some outside agitation. It had become increasingly clear that the old ways and attitudes no longer served either justice, or the South as a region. So we marched, we argued with our parents and our elders, we simply turned away from Jim Crow, and we helped change the way that blacks and whites lived and dealt with each other.
We did so in the hope that all races would find a way to coexist peacefully. We did so in tribute to Dr. Kings dream that one day we would all be judged by the content of our character, and not the color of our skin.
In that, I, at least, have been disappointed. I am disappointed by the hatred that so many blacks have adopted, after so many whites worked so hard to leave their hatred behind. I am disappointed that so many blacks continue to judge others, as well as themselves, by the color of their skin. It amazes me that so many of the children of a generation that once made being black a source of pride now cling desperately to the black as victim model.
When I hear the words of violence and contempt that make up so much of rap music, I wonder what Dr. King would think, after working his entire life to help us find peaceful ways to resolve our differences. I cant help but feel that he would be horrified to hear black women called the names that they are called in those songs. What would he think of the gangster mentality held up as a model today? Would he even believe, much less condone, the glorification of drugs and violence as a way to success? No thinking person of any color can ponder long over that answer.
As many of you know, I am a Southerner in heart and spirit. My family fought for the South, and suffered considerable consequences. I know of seven of my ancestors who wore the gray. At least one was captured as a prisoner of war, and suffered badly until the war ended, and he was freed; freed to walk hundreds of miles home, with only the food he could scrounge or steal, or that strangers were kind enough to provide.
I have read his personal letters and memoirs, and they both fill and break my heart. They fill my heart with pride at his courage and love for his homeland. They break my heart with the stark evidence of the futility and senselessness of the terrible conflict this country went through.
It was a century after the end of that conflict that Dr. King, with a courage that no earthly outside agent could have possibly inspired in him, dared to beard a still very fierce and powerful lion in its den. George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Bull OConnell, these were icons for some Southerners in the Sixties. For others, they were caricatures, symbols of a time which had passed.
All of us remember the scenes of fire hoses and police dogs turned loose on people, the sight of men, women and children being clubbed by policemen, because they dared call on America to live up to its claim as the land of the free. They were sights so shameful, so stark that they could not be ignored. They forced a nation to action where rhetoric had failed again and again.
There are still men today who stand as icons to some, and as caricatures to others. Al Sharpton apparently inspires many, as he struggles to find a spotlight bright enough to erase Kings shadow, in which he continues to live. To me, he has become laughable. Jesse Jackson, with a very real gift of oratory of his own, nevertheless seems a shell of his mentor.
Both men strive to establish themselves as leaders; both come up short, at least in my estimation. Sharpton sees skin color first and foremost; he is a shyster and a poseur, willing to say or do anything in order to garner attention and donations. Jackson champions so many questionable causes, he has lost all credibility with many of those who once thought him worthy of Kings robes. Both men confuse status with stature. Trying to envision a national holiday in either mans name strains the imagination.
It seems to me Dr. Kings dream has become their worst nightmare. They are being judged by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin.