News Archive

(0405) Week of Jan. 26, 2005

Reserve program request prompted by suspensions
State Constables suspended for SLED policy violations

Committee to look at student reasssignment in Greenville County
Pelzer man wanted in connection with Friday chase
West Pelzer Council decides against applying for new grant
Board reorganizing West Pelzer Fire Department
District One Board approves bond sale, school calendar
Armed robber strikes Williamston business
President Bush takes Oath

Reserve program request prompted by suspensions

Williamston Police Chief Troy Martin said this week that the recent suspension by SLED of two state constables who have been assisting the Williamston Police Department was the result of the two men violating State Law Enforcement regulations regarding the constable program and had nothing to do with policy of the Williamston Police Department.

“There was no violation of the law, Chief Martin said. “They violated their (SLED) regulations by having blue lights on their vehicles.”

SLED Chief Robert Stewart said  the four month suspension of State Constables Joey Griffin and Ken Willis, was the result of a complaint received by SLED that the men were using private vehicles with blue lights mounted on them and were operating independently in the performance of police duties.

He said upon investigating, SLED agents removed the blue lights and a radar unit provided by the town of Williamston from one vehicle and that both men had city ticket books.

Chief Martin said he approved a letter authorizing the use of the blue lights, radar and sirens on the constables vehicles.

Martin said he authorized the constables to run radar units and to run radar while working in the town of Williamston, which he said the law allows. “We didn’t do anything illegal, he said. “It violated their (SLED) policy.”

According to Chief Martin, “police chiefs can appoint emergency vehicles and equipment,” which he said is what was done in this incident.

Chief Stewart said that no criminal charges are pending against the men and that it is unlikely that either the individuals or the town will suffer any penalties.

The situation prompted Chief Martin to request Williamston Town Council to reinstate the reserve police officer program for the town.

Martin recently asked council to amend the current ordinance regarding reserves to bring it in line with state law.

He said he plans to add 10 reserve officers in the near future and many of the reserves will come from the constable program.

“Using the constables saves us a tremendous amount of time,” Martin said

According to Martin, a reserve officer is required to have 72 hours of training. The constables already have most of the training and can be classified as a reserve officer with an additional 12 hours of training, according to Martin.

He said there are other benefits of adding constables to the reserve program.

“They have worked in the community for two years and we know which ones we want in our reserve program,” Martin said.

Constables assist officers in community patrols, special events, and at traffic checkpoints, he said. They are also used to serve warrants outside the city limits,  Martin said.

Under the current State guidelines, constables can’t ride patrols unless a certified officer is along with them.

After receiving the required training, reserves can ride patrol by themselves, Martin said. He also said reserves can’t be paid under the new reserve program being considered for the town.

Martin said he also plans to continue using State Constables.

 “We don’t plan on eliminating constables, we want to use them to complement what we have.”

Martin said his goal is “to provide a better police department with the resources we have.”

State Constables suspended for SLED policy violations

Two Simpsonville men were recently suspended as state constables following a State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigation of a complaint that the two were using private vehicles and blue lights while performing police duties without proper authorization.

SLED Chief Robert Stewart confirmed the suspension of Joel N.  Griffin, Jr.  and Kenneth J. Willis.

Both men have volunteered to assist the Williamston Police Department as part of an ongoing policy by the department of relying on State Constables to relieve overtime associated with special events and other   duties.

Letters of suspension, issued to the men by SLED’s Public Information Officer Catherine Richardson, listed additional violations of SLED policy concerning the state constables program.

The program came under SLED regulation as a result of an executive order issued by then Governor Carroll Campbell.

Griffin was cited for several violations including working without direct police supervision, using a personal vehicle outfitted with blue lights, sirens, and other official police equipment and wearing improper constable uniforms which did not include the words ‘state constable/police’ on the back. He was also cited for issuing summons tickets, warning tickets, and actually effecting arrests.

Willis was cited for possession of blue lights, radar, a siren and having an official ticket book in his personal vehicle in connection with his constable duties.

He was also cited for work performed as a constable on a weekly basis for a county magistrate as a courtroom security officer and bailiff.

The violation is working without SLED approval, working without police supervision, and working without Worker’s Compensation/ liability insurance. The magistrate in question was not identified in the letter.  

Willis also sells police supplies and equipment. 

“That case was a little more complicated, since the individual is allowed to have lights mounted in order to demonstrate them for potential customers,” said Stewart. “But no one is allowed to use blue lights on a private vehicle under any circumstances to effect police stops of this sort.”

Stewart explained that the state constable program allowed Level 3, or volunteer, officers to assist police chiefs or sheriffs for a limited time up to 6 months, upon request by name and in writing.

Local or county departments are also required to insure the constables and to ensure that such officers would be under supervision at all times.

He added that SLED is currently in the process of changing the program to enable constables to receive additional training in order to qualify as reserve officers, giving them “a bit more leeway”, according to Stewart.

Richardson indicated that the Town of Williamston is seeking to renew its reserve officers program, but has not done so at this time.

Stewart pointed out that there are approximately 700-800 constables in the state. Approximately 300 of them are actively involved in assisting police officers in their work.

“It is a good program, and offers valuable assistance to smaller towns and counties. But you have to abide by the regulations governing the program. It’s just that simple.”

Chief Stewart explained that no criminal charges are pending against the men. 

“This is an administrative matter. No criminal acts have been committed. It is unlikely that either the individuals or the town will suffer any penalties,” he said.

Both men received four month suspensions, which began on January 1, 2005 and end on April 30.

During their suspensions, neither man can assist law enforcement in any capacity that relates to their commissions as state constables.

Both men were required to submit their commissions to SLED Regulatory Services prior to January 1, 2005.

 

Committee to look at student reasssignment in Greenville County

Greenville County Schools Superintendent Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher recently announced the charge for the Student Assignment Advisory Committee (SAAC).

The committee is appointed by the School Board and administration to provide citizen recommendations to the District on school attendance line adjustments.

This is the third year that the SAAC has met to assist the District with the important task of student assignment.

Meetings of the SAAC will be announced through local media outlets and on the Greenville County Schools website, officials said. The committee will complete their recommendations by early March.

Several schools are being expanded and/or relocated and two relief schools are being constructed with the intent to reduce overcrowding and to address needs in some of the fastest growing areas of the district.

The committee will focus on these schools while guided by the district’s Education Plan and student assignment factors identified in the Board’s student assignment policy.

Specific student assignment adjustments to be considered include:

Woodmont High School – The school is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2005. It is a new relocated facility with 1,600 student capacity to provide overcrowding relief to Hillcrest High School. The committee will look at providing a minimum student relief to Hillcrest High of 300 students.

New South Central Middle School - A new relief school being constructed within the Woodmont Middle attendance area for a capacity of 750.

It is to provide relief of 250 students to Bryson and Hillcrest Middle Schools. It is to balance new growth between Woodmont Middle and the new South Central Middle School considering the schools capacities. Provide a minimum student population of 400 students at the new school. The school is scheduled for completion the summer of 2006.

Other plans include: J. L. Mann High Academy – New relocated facility with 1,500 student capacity to provide overcrowding relief to Mauldin High School. Provide a minimum student relief of 150 students to Mauldin High School. The first full year of occupancy in the new facility will be the 2007-08 school year.

Beck Middle Academy – New relocated facility with 1,000 student capacity to provide overcrowding relief to Mauldin and Riverside Middle Schools. Provide a minimum student relief of 300 students to Mauldin Middle and Riverside Middle. The school is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2006.

New Southeast Area Elementary School – New relief school with a capacity of 750 to relieve overcrowding at Bells Crossing and Bryson Elementary Schools. Considering growth potential in the area, provide a minimum student population of 250 students for the New Southeast Area Elementary. Provide a minimum student relief of 250 students to Bells Crossing and Bryson Elementary. The school is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2006.

Greenbrier Elementary – Expanded facility for 1,000 students to provide relief to Mauldin Elementary School. Provide a minimum student relief of 175 students to Mauldin Elementary. The expansion is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2006.

Pelzer man wanted in connection with Friday chase

A 22-year-old Pelzer man is wanted in connection with an incident last Friday in which a vehicle attempted to ram a Williamston police officer, leading to a chase that ended in Greenville County with shots being fired.

Zachary Wayne Thompson, 22, 9 Stephanie Dr., Pelzer, is wanted for failure to stop for a blue light, vehicle license suspension and assault and battery with intent to kill in connection with the incident which began after a white Mercury and a green Dodge Neon were observed at Cothran’s P&M Store, 620 Greenville Dr. at approximately 2:10 a.m.

The Mercury vehicle fled the scene heading directly toward the officer and attempted to strike the vehicle. The officer avoided the vehicle and followed it on Greenville Dr. toward Pelzer, Courtney St., and Hwy. 8 into Greenvile County where the vehicle turned onto Old Georgia Rd. and Eastview Rd., then onto a dirt road.

The Williamston officer reported hearing multple gunshots from the area of the vehicle.

Greenville County officers were called in along with a tracking team and K9 unit. The Anderson County Sheriff’s helicopter was also called in to assist. They were unable to find the suspect and the search was called off after approximately three hours.

Greenville County authorities received a call regarding a white female knocking on the door of a residence in the area.

Reports state a 15-year-old female juvenile who was a passenger in the vehicle was advised by the driver to get out and run when the vehicle came to a stop.

The juvenile told officers the driver of the vehicle stated that he has outstanding warrants and was not going to stop.

The juvenile was identified and released to her mother.

The 1994 Mercury belongs to the juveniles grandfather, who lives in Piedmont. A 17-year old male passenger in the vehicle was not charged in the incident. J. L. Barnes investigaed.

Jan. 23 - Crystal Dawn Manning was served a warrant and arrested on three counts of forgery.

Jan. 20 - John Paul Henry, 66, 1112 Elizabeth St., Anderson, was arrested for speeding and driving under suspension after a 1987 Dodge truck was observed on Ida Tucker Rd. Sgt. J. T. Motes investigated.

Jan. 20 - Robert Dorland Farmer, 47, 100 W. 3rd St., Williamston, was arrested for breach of peace after officers were dispatched to the residence. J. L. Barnes investigated.

Jan. 19 - Rocio Cobos Hernandez, 29, 31 Brockside Circle, Apt. 14, Greenville, was arrested for no drivers license, operating an uninsured vehicle after a Honda Accord was observed on Greenville Dr., with a vehicle tag light out. Sgt. K. P. Evatt investigated.

Jan. 17 - Jason Alan Cottrell, 26, 203 Park View Apts., Williamston, was arrested for speeding, improper license tag, failure to transfer ownership, driving under suspension and no proof of insurance after a 1988 Chevrolet pickup was observed travelling at a high rate of speed on Parker St., Z. E. Gregory investigated.

Jan. 10 - Wade Leslie Lanier Jr., 36, 224 E. Pine Circle, Greenville, was arrested for possession of stolen goods, driving under suspension (more than 1st) operating an uninsured vehicle and no vehicle license after a 1986 Chevrolet Z-28 was observed on West Main St. with a stolen tag. Sgt. W. S. White investigated.

Jan. 3 - Heather Brianna Bennett, 17, 132 Foster Rd., Williamston, reported numerous withdrawals on an ATM card that was reported stolen. T. A. Call investigated.

Jan. 14 - Keelan Fowler, 24, 107 Middleton Blvd., Apts., Williamston, reported $800 in damage to a vehicle which was scratched while at the location. T. A. Call investigated.

Jan. 12 - Eckerds, 201 East Main St., Williamston, reported two people attempted to take two hand held baskets containing $1,204.97 in items. When confronted by a store employee, they fled the store. Z. E. Gregory, J. H. Kirby investigated.

Jan. 11 - Travis Dean Seigler, 17, 41 Ridge Ct., Williamston, was arrested for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of marijuana after being observed walking on Greenville Drive. Reports state a small clear plastic bag containing a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana and a clear plastic bottle with a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana were found in his possession. J. L. Barnes, Sgt. K. P. Evatt investigated.

Jan. 8 - Danette Williamson, 39, 453 n. Flatrock Rd., Peidmont, reported a cigarette case valued at $11 stolen from Mitchell’s Washerette, 126 Greenville Dr. The case contained a drivers license, pendant, library cards and medicard. Sgt. J. H. Kirby investigated.

Jan. 9 - Hank Richard Williams, 49, 102 West 2nd St., Williamston, was arrested for no tag, no proof of insurance and driving under suspension after a white Isuzu pickup was observed on Parker St., Z. E. Gregory, Sgt. J. H. Kirby investigated.

Jan. 11 - Officers are investigating missing street signs which have been an ongoing problem in Williamston according to recent reports.

Jan 12 - Reports state a rock was thrown through a skylight in the men’s restroom in Mineral Spring Park causing $100 in damage. J. H. Kirby investigated.

Jan. 11 - A 15-year-old male at Palmetto High School was arrested for distribution of cocaine proximity of a school after a tip that several students purchased what appeared to be cocaine in the gym class. Two female 9th graders and one male  were placed on suspension in connection with the incident.

 The male juvenile was placed under arrest for distribution of cocaine. Reports state juvenile referral was completed and he was released to parents. Test results of the substance believed to be cocaine came back negative. The stepfather of the juvenile advised officers that the substance was crushed up aspirin. D. W. Bryant investigated.

Jan. 12 - Christopher Matthew Ellison, 17, 615 A Parker St., Williamston, was arrested for operating an uninsured vehicle and improper vehicle tag after a Honda was observed on Main St., Sgt. K. P. Evatt investigated.

Jan. 4 - Jessica Vallejo Samaniego, 21, 1215 Dorchester Rd., Belton was arrested for speeding, no S. C. drivers license. Four small juveniles in the vehicle were turned over to the husband who arrived with proof of insurance. Z. E. Gregory, H. H. Kirby investigated.

West Pelzer Council decides against applying for new grant

West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton said she has highly disappointed that three of the Council members voted against applying for a $200,000 ISTEA grant that she said the town had a good chance of getting.

The 3-2 vote against applying for the grant came after hearing a presentation by municipal consultant Rusty Burns during a special called meeting January 20.

The main concern expressed by council members voting against the grant application was the fact that an up front fee of $3,380 was required by the consulting firm to prepare drawings and the application.

The fee would be partly reimbursable if the grant is awarded, officials said, but would not be refunded if the application  is  not approved.

The grant would be used to create an area unique to the town which would help to identify the town and set it apart, according to Mayor Paxton.

During a previous meeting, Mayor Paxton had expressed her full confidence that the town would be awarded the grant, which she said was to be used to enhance the downtown area of West Pelzer.

The goals of the grant project include increasing pedestrian safety, improving traffic flow, and enhancing the area’s appearance.

The area being considered would comprise the stretch between Dunlap Street and Railroad Boulevard, Paxton said.

The town recently received a $500,000 community development block grant to be used in repairing a number of  existing sewer lines in town.

Board reorganizing West Pelzer Fire Department

By Stan Welch

In a clear effort to change both the way  the West Pelzer Fire Department conducts its business as well as the way the department is perceived by the public, the WPFD Board of Directors held its first open meeting on January 25.

Board Chairman Danny Sutherland quickly announced that the board reviewed the department’s financial records for the year 2004 and recommended to their district representative to the Anderson County Fire Protection Commission, Glenn Holliday and Anderson County Interim Fire  Chief Rocky Whitfield, that an independent review of the records be conducted.

All agreed that the reviewing body should be from outside Anderson County to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

As a result, Sheriff David Crenshaw  was asked to contact SLED, which has been done, according to Sutherland. “We have not had a response from SLED yet, and have no further comment on this issue.”

Shaken by recent financial disclosures, which led to former chief Mark Vickery’s resignation and the 90 day suspension of assistant chief Ken Ellison, the board made it clear that the community is welcome to become informed about the department and the board’s business dealings.

The board, which was reactivated in mid December of 2004 at the request of several fire department members, has taken a number of steps to address the financial problems it faces.

Those steps began on December 14 when the Board reactivated and asked then Chief Vickery to attend a meeting with them.

He declined and no financial statement  was provided, but Sonny Lyle was there. He was asked to make all such records available by January 31, upon risk of the matter being taken to the solicitor.

On January 4, 2005, the board asked Vickery to turn over all the books and funds relating to the department.

On Jan. 6, Vickery resigned and Commissioner Holliday suspended Assistant Chief Ellison for 90 days.

The next day, the Board seized control of all bank accounts held by the department.

On January 9, the board met in executive session to review those records. 

Two days later, the department elected new officers, including current Chief Dale Mahaffey, who sits on the board as an at large member from the fire department. The other at large fireman is Brian Chase.

Other Board members are Gene Roberts (Sec./Treas.) and J.C. Cox. (Vice Chairman )

Sutherland explained that when the Board seized the department’s checking accounts, there were eight separate accounts, totaling $13,600.

Those have been consolidated to three accounts; the county taxpayers fund, the community fund, and the S.C. Fireman’s Fund. He added that each fund is intended for specific uses and misuse of those funds “can get you in a lot of trouble.”

Since then, $2000 has been added to the total due to repayment of some debts to the department. Total funds on hand are now $15,600. Treasurer Roberts pointed out that community funds, those which are earmarked for operating expenses, are short, with more than $7,500 in bills coming due, and an estimated $ 8,000 to $9,000 in roof repairs needed.

Other changes in financial procedures include the monthly posting of the department’s financial statement, and the withholding of check signing authority from the chief in the future. “That has nothing to do with Dale Mahaffey. The Board made that decision before he was elected. The Chief has enough to do, and the Board should really take over that responsibility,” said Sutherland.

A freeze on spending has also been imposed. “We’re behind on gas and power bills and a number of other things as well,” said Sutherland.

West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton reassured the Board during the public input portion of the meeting.

She stated that she had been with members of the delegation at a seminar in Columbia that day and had spoken with them about the department’s situation.

“They know that you guys are in a tough situation and need to get out of it really quickly. Now that the FEMA grant has been finally closed out, there are other grants that I feel sure will be available to you. I also suggest you contact our County Council member Cindy Wilson for some help with the roof. She has always been willing to help in the past, and it’s been a while since the fire department asked for anything,” Paxton said.

 “I also want to state that the town is willing to help you in any way we can. We know it’s a tough situation, but we appreciate what the department does for us. We’re with you 100%,” she said.

After the meeting Sutherland stated that the next step is to rebuild the public’s trust in the department. He added that an answer to the request for SLED’s help should be coming in the next couple of weeks.

The West Pelzer Fire Department Board of Directors will hold their regular monthly meeting on the fourth Tuesday of each month. The February meeting will be at 7 p.m. on February 22.

The meeting is open to the public and members of the community are invited to attend. Requests to be placed on the agenda must be received by 3 pm on the Thursday preceding the Tuesday Board meeting, officials said.

District One Board approves bond sale, school calendar

During their regular monthly meeting Tuesday, Anderson District One School Board of Trustees approved a bond sale to finance the Palmetto High School Freshman Academy building program and another refinancing the 2000 building program referendum which could save taxpayers several thousand dollars in interest.

At the recommendation of bond attorneys from Ross, Sinclair and Associates and the McNair Law Firm, board members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the sale of up to $3,450,000 and $4,500,000 in two separate General Obligation Bonds.

The $3.45 million GO bond will payoff a $2.7 million Bond Anticipation Note which provided funds to begin construction on the Palmetto High School Freshman Academy and repair and renovation of other school facilities.

The $4.5 million GO bond authorizes an option to refinance $3.97 million borrowed for the 2000 building program Bond referendum and is dependent on interest rates reaching a minimum of 3 percent.

In other business, Director of Finance Steve Uldrick reported the district has received $3.4 million in tax revenues this week. Monthly revenues totaled $5,376,246 and year to date revenues total $28,126, 282, he said.

Expenditures totaled $3,993,455 with year to date expenditures totaling $30,162,994.

Uldrick said the district has 10 new National Board Certified teachers which are being funded by the state.

Director of Elementary Education Jane Harrison reported that Pelzer Elementary Principal Dr. Charlotte McLeod was recently recognized by the Strong Communities organization.

The school recognition was for personal attention given to students, use of Clemson University student volunteer tutors, supporting after school programs and health services and fostering parent participation, she said.

Harrison also mentioned six District One schools were recently honored for winning Gold Awards as part of the Education Accountability Act which recognizes high levels of academic achievement and high rates of student academic improvement.

Winners were Wren High, Wren Middle, Cedar Grove Elementary, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Powdersville Elementary and Wren Elementary. The schools will be recognized at the February board meeting, she said.

Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler reported that the nutrition program continues to show a profit. The program posted a $23,805 profit for the month of December, operating with $182,000 in revenues and $159,000 in expenses.

Dr. Fowler updated the board on the building program at Palmetto High. Fowler said the school had received occupancy permit for administrative classrooms and the commons areas of the new freshman academy. He said some teachers are already moving in and school officials will choose an exact date for teachers to officially move in. Furniture is already in, he said.

The gymnasium has been painted and tile is being put down in the locker room areas. Fowler said occupancy for the gym will probably be approved by the end of February.

He said the district will set an official open house sometime in February.

Board members unanimously approved a request by Dr. Fowler to request approval from the County Board for the sale of two activity buses. The buses each have more than 300,000 miles on them. The buses were purchased in 1985.

Upon the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Fowler, Board member unanimously approved the 2005-2006 school calendar which four Anderson County School Districts also approved. Dr. Fowler said the calendar provides for the maximum number of days for instructional time prior to state tests.

Upon the recommendation of Dr. Fowler, the board approved the following personnel requests:

Request for leave - Amy Cothran, Wren Middle Assistant Principal, eight week leave of absence, maternity ; Annette Ghan, Palmetto Elementary, Grade 5 , six week medical leave; Julianne Kaye, Spearman Elementary, Grade 3, 12 week leave of absence, maternity; Heather Wilson, Wren Elementary, Grade 1, five week leave of absence, maternity.

Armed robber strikes Williamston business

Local authorities are searching for a suspect involved in an armed robbery which took place at Debra's Floral Designs located at 310 West Main St., Williamston at about 12:30 p.m.  Monday, January 24.

The suspect is described as a white male, approximately in his mid 30s, with dark hair and a dark thin mustache.

He was wearing a navy blue hooded sweatshirt with black or blue stocking cap and blue jeans at the time of the robbery.

According to police reports, the man entered the store and began looking around. After a short time, he approached the owner, Mary Ellen Harvell, armed with a black semiautomatic handgun, and told her to give him all of the money out of the cash register.

After she complied, he then wanted her to open the safe. Reports state she explained the business did not have a safe.

She was then forced into a back room and her hands were bound with a cord.

The robber told her not to move, that he would be taking her purse, and that if she called police he knew where she lived and that he would cause harm to her and her family.

He then left the premises on foot. It is unknown at this time if a vehicle was involved, police officials said.

Taken were $140 in cash, a purse valued at $50 and a cellphone valued at $100. Anderson County Sheriff’s deputies and K9 team were also called in to help investigate the armed robbery.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Williamston Police Department at 864-847-7425 or the Anderson County Sheriffs office at 864-260-4400.

 

 

 

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