News Archive

(0407) Week of January 24, 2007

Middleton pardon denied

Williamston Council passes resolution in support of pardon
Williamton Town Council plans goal setting retreat
Benefit music show at Municipal Center
GWBA elects officers, reviewing bylaws
Board approves calendar, contract
Greenville County releases calendar for 2007-2008 school year
Six District One Schools Gold/Silver award winners
Last chance to comment on planning
Residential development strong in this part of County
State perspectives
Vandals target mailboxes

Emergency call delay results in changes
Upstate center of emerging Megapolitan area
Seems to Me  . . The TriCities

Middleton denied pardon

By Stan Welch

Former Williamston Mayor Marion Middleton Sr. was denied a pardon on his third request. Middleton, along with several supporters, appeared before the South Carolina Pardons and Parole Board Wednesday, January 24. Despite the passage of a resolution by the current Town Council, supporting his application for pardon, Middleton was again denied.

Mayor Phillip Clardy, who defeated Middleton for the Mayor’s job, also spoke in support of Middleton’s application. “As Mayor of Williamston, I speak today as the representative of a divided community. As a business owner and resident, I present my own conscience as well. Some will interpret these crimes, for which pardon is sought today as contributing to what may be Williamston’s darkest hour. History will judge Mr. Middleton’s actions, and their effect on the town, just as it will mine.”

Clardy acknowledged the resolution recently passed by Council supporting Middleton’s application, adding, “I would advocate your consideration of this pardon. This is my official position as Mayor. It is also my personal conviction, formed without pressure or influence of others. I would like to share in the leadership of healing that this pardon would serve.”

Middleton had earlier spoken to the Board, saying that he had fully and publicly acknowledged his transgressions, and had apologized for them. “I would ask your consideration of my request for a pardon of my crime against the Town of Williamston. I am truly sorry and take full responsibility. I have repaid what was owed. I have served my time in jail. I have no ambition in the political sense. I ask this pardon for my family and especially for my grandchildren.”

Also speaking in support of the application was Lee Cole, son of former Town Councilman Greg Cole. Cole spoke of Middleton’s service to the community, as well as of the donation of real estate which was later sold at the town’s auction, and which Cole said generated some $35,000 in revenue for the Town. He also referred to a donation of land to allow for the construction of a turn lane at an area school.

Sarah Dacus, present along with her husband, John Dacus, spoke of their long friendship with Middleton, and his service to both his country and his community. Kempi Shepard, pastor at Grace United Methodist Church also spoke on Middleton’s behalf, saying that his faith had transformed his life, and stressing the importance of forgiveness.

After everyone had spoken, they went out of the room while the Board discussed their decision. Since the hearings are an open meeting under state law, the media was allowed to remain. The media was asked to leave before the decision was announced to Middleton.

The Board members expressed concern over two issues in particular. The first, and apparently most important, was the fact that Middleton’s term of probation has not expired. “I don’t see how we can grant a pardon when he hasn’t completely fulfilled the terms of his sentence,” said one Board member. Also at issue was the length of time, described as ten years, during which Middleton’s crimes occurred. “That bothers me a good deal,” said the same Board member who was bothered by the probation issue. The vote of the six members (one was absent) was unanimous to decline the pardon. Five of the seven votes would be necessary to approve the pardon.

Mr. Middleton declined to comment to the media after the hearing. Mayor Clardy, however, said, “The Town of Williamston needs to heal. My position today was in support of that healing. I do not advocate what happened, but the healing must begin. I hope that this helps. I want to be a part of that healing so that the Town can move forward.”

 Asked why he had abstained from voting on the resolution in support of the application, he said, I abstained for two reasons. First, I think the resolution was brought up improperly. It was not on the agenda, but arose from general conversation of the Council. Secondly, I did not wish for my position to be known in advance, in fear of the impact that position might have had on the situation.”

 

Williamston Council passes resolution in support of pardon

Williamston Town Council voted 4-0 with Mayor Phillip Clardy abstaining, to pass a resolution Monday in support of a pardon for Middleton, who pled guilty to embezzling $76,000 from the Town of Williamston during his term as mayor.

The vote came after a citizen raised the issue during public comments portion of the meeting.

When asked by West Cox if he intended to attend the hearing and his recommendation, Mayor Clardy said that he intended to be present and that he personally objected to the pardon.

Cox then asked council to pass a resolution on the issue.

Council amended the agenda and then voted 4-0 in favor of a resolution of support for the pardon of Middleton.

The resolution carries no legal weight and the final decision lies with the Probation, Pardon and Parole board.

Mayor Clardy said Tuesday he has not decided if he will support or oppose the pardon when he speaks to the board on Wednesday.

Middleton, 77, was considered for pardon on January 24, 2007 at 2 p.m. at the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, 221 Devine Street, Columbia. Middleton was turned down by the board on his first request in 2003 and again in 2005.

Middleton submitted the first application for pardon in November 2002, just three months after he pled guilty to embezzling $76,000 from the Town of Williamston during his term as mayor. He served 46 days of a 90 day sentence, receiving early release due to a work-credit program.

Persons requesting a pardon must complete an application, submit three letters of reference, and pay a $50 application fee.

Under state requirements, Middleton could apply for a pardon once his sentence was served and full restitution was made. Under the terms of sentencing, Middleton’s probation ended upon payment of the restitution.

The Town of Williamston received a restitution payment of $76,000 in 2003, prior to the first pardon request.

One of the biggest objections at previous hearings was that Middleton has not publically admitted his guilt and shown no remorse for his actions.

Middleton met with members of the media in January of 2006 to express his concerns with the town’s financial situation and to make a public statement.

In an interview held at the Lander Memorial Library, Middleton said he did transfer $76,000 into a corporation to avoid interfering with his state retirement. “It was wrong and when I was told that, I quit,” he said.

“I accept full responsibility for that and I paid the price and paid the money back in two months,” Middleton said. “I wanted to go on with my life.”

When asked if any lesson had been learned, the former mayor responded first “don’t get involved in local politics.”

He also said to ask questions and don’t make the same mistake, which he said was “a bad error in judgement.”

Middleton said that he had not been involved in the town’s politics until then because he had not been asked to and he felt if he spoke out it would be seen as a personal vendetta.

At that time, Middleton also said he planned to again ask for a pardon.

“I have done everything they have asked me to do,” he said, stating that the group that “he takes down” has been very vocal. “They hardly let me speak when I go down there.”

The Town has been on record opposing the pardon in the past, with Mayor Clardy and others speaking against the pardon during previous hearings. Middleton has had persons there in his support also.

According to state law, a person receiving a pardon is “fully forgiven from all the legal consequences of his crime and his conviction.” Persons pardoned may register to vote and vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, and be licensed for any occupation requiring a license.

Williamston Town Council plans goal setting retreat

Williamston Town Council covered a lot of ground Monday as they set guidelines for meetings, passed a resolution concerning Marion Middleton’s pardon, and agreed to hold a retreat to discuss goals and other issues.

After considerable discussion, Council agreed to set guidelines for meetings including restrictions on public comments and allowing timely and more detailed minutes of meetings.

Councilman Carthel Crout made the motion after public comments took approximately half of the town’s 3.5 hour meeting held Jan. 8.

Before being elected to the Ward 1 Council seat, Crout was himself a regular speaker during public comments. Crout proposed that public comment be allowed only at the regular meeting on the first Monday of each month. Council decided at the Jan. 8 meeting to meet every other week until June.

After approving the motion, 4-1 with Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. opposed, Councilman Otis Scott recommended that public comments be limited to five minutes.

The motion was approved 4-1 with Middleton opposed.

Crout said he was not trying to limit public comment to council, but wanted to allow the council to accomplish things during their meeting without having to listen to extended comments which have been turned into a question and answer period since the town had been dealing with the financial crisis of 2006.

During discussion on the two motions, Mayor Phillip Clardy said that council often conducts business by amending the agenda, and persons needing an action by council should discuss the issue with their councilman prior to the meeting and and allow council to bring the issue or have it placed on the agenda for action.

There was also discussion of having items place on the agenda 48 hours prior to a meeting.

During citizens comments at the beginning of the meeting, Dianne Lollis presented additional information on the security camera system for the park area which she said will cost $300 per month instead of the $350 per month quoted at an earlier meeting. It was accepted as information.

Council unanimously approved a request by Lollis allowing her to oversee painting of the Bethlehem building in the park. Lollis said community service workers will help with the project. Five gallons of gold or sand colored paint for the project will cost $114 and will be purchased with donations taken in the park during the holidays.

West Cox requested Council to pass a resolution in favor of a pardon for Marion Middleton, Sr.

When asked if he was attending the hearing and whether he was speaking for the town, Mayor Phillip Clardy said he was opposed to the pardon and that he would attend  representing himself.

Council voted 4-0 with Clardy abstaining to pass a resolution indicating that the town was in favor of the pardon.

Before the vote, Councilman Middleton asked town attorney Richard Thompson if there was a conflict with him voting. Thompson said that he could do so legally.

“I believe this is the first step in healing this town,” Councilman Crout said.  The hearing is set for January 24 in Columbia.

Kempie Shepard stated that skateboarders were being allowed on property on Williams St.

Council unanimously approved first reading on an ordinance allowing for removal of the old town hall building, which states the town will  give it away for materials or for a fee. The motion by Councilman Middleton. also stated the town will advertise for 30 days and will accept bids which will be opened on Feb. 19.

Council unanimously agreed to table discussions on qualifications for a grant writer until they can agree on a job description and terms of compensation.

Council unanimously approved second reading on the agenda minutes ordinance presented at the Jan. 8 meeting, with additions presented by Mayor Clardy which require more detailed information.

Council unanimously agreed to amend the agenda to allow discussion of a retreat before voting on second reading of a purchasing procedures ordinance.

At the invitation of Appalachian Council of Governments Advisor Joe Newton, Council unanimoulsy agreed to attend a retreat at the ACOG offices on Saturday, Feb. 3. from 9:30 am to 3:30 p.m.

The retreat will include discussions and goal setting, Newton said, with an ACOG facilitator. Councilmembers will meet for breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Municipal Center before attending the session.

“We have all been accused of personal agendas,” Mayor Clardy said. “This will allow us to solve some problems and do what is in the best interest of the town. It will be good for Williamston.”

Council then tabled discussion on  the procedures ordinance, voting 4-1 with Crout opposed.

After discussions on hiring an auditor, Council decided to advertise, in local newspapers and on the interenet, that the town is seeking an auditing firm and that proposals be submitted by Feb. 19.  Interviews will be conducted by Council during the day prior to the 6 p.m. meeting.

Council approved making a second $3,000 payment to Anderson County, and to make additional payments by the 10th of each month, in regards to a sewer capacity issue. At the recommendation of town attorney Richard Thompson, Council postponed first reading on the actual agreement pending details of the wording of the contract.

According to Newton, Council agreed to make a payment in November for past capacity and some current capacity at the town’s sewer treatment plant, that is supposed to be reserved for the County.

After discussion of changing the town’s employee time-clock system to a card swipe system, Council decided to get additional information on the proposed system. Until a decision is made, town employees are to clock in at the police department beginning Jan. 24.

Council unanimously agreed to table discussions on compensatory time.

Council unanimously agreed to allow Councilman Middleton to look into possibilities for restoration and display of the town’s historic cannon. Representatives with the state museum, the county museum and the Palmetto Sharpshooters organization have indicated interest in helping with the project.

Council unanimously agreed to appoint the mayor pro-tem and another member of council to head the calendar committee. Mayor pro-tem Otis Scott and Councilman Crout will serve on the committee to establish a yearly events and holiday calendar for the town.

At the request of Councilman Middleton, Council unanimously agreed to separate and move council offices to other areas of the municipal center. All four council desks are presently in one room, leading to possible violations of the FOI if more than two councilmen are present in the room.

Council unanimously agreed to table appointment of a city judge until state qualifications could be determined.

Council then went into executive session to discuss contract and legal issues.

 Upon returning to regular session Council took the vote on public comments and time limit, which they failed to take before going into executive session.

Benefit music show at Municipal Center

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 Addison. 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 tributes 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.

GWBA elects officers, reviewing bylaws

Members of the Greater Williamston Business Association elected officers and discussed projects for the upcomng year during their monthly meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16, held at MVPizza.

John Thomason, of Citizens Insurance Agency was elected President of the association for 2007. He will replace Dave Maddox, of MVPizza who has served as President for the last six years.

Roger Welborn of The Corner Bargain Store was elected Vice-President and Beverly Flavell of Community First Bank was elected Treasurer.

The organization is also discussing changes in by-laws to better reflect their structure.

Proposed changes will allow two additional vice presidents who will be responsible for programs and events and a change in the number of executive board members from 11 to 7.

The seven member board will consist of the three current officers, two new vice presidents and two at large.

The next two meetings of the GWBA will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at Our Place restaurant and March 20 at Fiesta restaurant.

Board approves calendar, contract

During their January 9 meeting, Anderson District One School Board approved the 2007-2008 County wide school calendar and renewed the Superintendent’s contract for next school year.

The board also unanimously approved second reading on a school bullying policy, Food Serivce and nutrition and Physical Education policies.

Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler recommended the district sell three older maintenance vehicles and miscellaneous cafeteria equipment at auction. The board approved requesting permission from the county board to sell the equipment.

The Board then went into executive session to discuss a contractural and personnel matter.

 Upon returning to regular session, Board members approved the following personnel recommendations:

Resignation Mary-Elizabeth Whitehouse, District Occupational Therapist.

Resignation - Sherry Senn, Wren High School Math.

Recommendations - Charity O’Shields, Wren High Social Studies, Brian Barnard, District Director of Maintenance.

The board unanimously approved the superintendent’s contract for the 2007-2008 school year.

Anderson School District One Board of Trustees will meet next Tuesday, January 30 at 7 p.m.

Greenville County releases calendar for 2007-2008 school year

The 2007-08 calendar for Greenville County Schools has been released. The 2007-08 school year begins for students on Monday, August 20, 2007.

A new state law, passed in 2006, moved the school start date window to no earlier than the third Monday in August. The new law had little impact on Greenville County Schools based on previous years’ start dates, officials said.

2007-08 holidays are: Labor Day, September 3; Thanksgiving Break, November 21-23; Winter Break, December 20 – January 2; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 21; Presidents’ Day, February 18; and Spring Break, March 24-28. June 2-4 are half-days for students.

Three school makeup days, as required by state law, are included in the 2007-08 calendar: April 25, April 28, and June 5. These days become student attendance days if days are missed earlier in the school year. Makeup days, not used, become school holidays.

Input into the school year calendar has been widely sought. Compromise is necessary since there are many different concerns regarding the calendar. The Calendar Committee worked within the regulations of the State Department of Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and considered suggestions from parents, students, and employees. The calendar includes 180 days for students and 190 days for teachers.

District One Schools Gold/Silver award winners

Six Anderson School District One schools were named to either as Gold or Silver award winners under the Palmetto Gold and Palmetto Silver awards program.

The award winners and respective funding are: Wren High was named a Gold winner and will receive $25,089. Palmetto Elementary was named a Silver winner and will receive $6,175. Cedar Grove Elementary was a Gold winner and will receive $8,369. Pelzer Elementary was a Silver winner and will receive $1,304. West Pelzer Elementary was named a Silver and will receive $3,483. Wren Elementary was named a Gold winner and will recevie $10,106. The Career and Technology Center of Districts One and Two was named a Gold winner and will receive $17,138.

In its sixth year, the Palmetto Gold and Palmetto Silver awards program was created by the Education Accountability Act of 1998.  More than 300 public schools have earned cash awards recognizing high levels of academic achievement and high rates of student academic improvement.

“Anderson School District One Gold and Silver schools are to be commended for their focus on student achievement. The $54,526 will be used to provide more instructional materials and technology in the classroom.”

“We are excited to have additional schools receiving this award this year; some for the first time. Each of our administration and teachers are dedicated to helping students reach higher standards of achievement,” said Jane Harrison, Director of Elementary Education.

Developed by the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, criteria for the awards are based on the absolute and improvement ratings assigned to each school on the report cards.  At the elementary and middle school levels, report card ratings are determined by PACT scores while Exit Exam results, eligibility for LIFE scholarships serve as the criteria for high schools. Awards are distributed to schools that dramatically improve their students’ performance between 2004 and 2005, and who receive an absolute rating above unsatisfactory.

“These schools demonstrate what can be accomplished when everyone has high expectations and is focused on student achievement,” said State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum.  “The Palmetto Gold and Palmetto Silver awards represent the hard work of students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members over a sustained period.  I hope that they will serve to motivate other schools to continue their improvement efforts.” 

Award criteria were developed by the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee.

“The EOC is proud of these schools recognized for high performance and high rates of improvement,” said EOC Chairman Harold Stowe.  “We congratulate the students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members for a job well done.”

A total of 304 schools received awards: 159 Gold and 145 Silver.  Among elementary schools, 68 won Gold awards and 118 won Silver.  Among middle schools, three won Golds and 20 won Silvers.  Among high schools, 50 won Golds and five won Silvers. Thirty-one career centers won Golds and two centers received Silver awards.  Seven special schools won Gold awards. 

Each winning school receives an award flag, a certificate and a portion of $3 million in state funds earmarked for the awards program.  The financial award is determined by several factors, including the type of award received, student enrollment, student attendance, teacher attendance and dropout rates.  The minimum amount for a Gold award is $1,500, and the minimum for a Silver award is $1,000. 

The EOC’s award criteria were based on the absolute and improvement ratings that were assigned to each school on the 2006 report cards.  The report card ratings are determined by PACT scores for elementary and middle schools.  For high schools, the ratings are based on Exit Exam results, the graduation rate and eligibility for LIFE scholarships. 

Primary schools with only grades two and below are not eligible for the awards.  State law bases the award criteria on student achievement, and PACT tests are not administered to students in the early grades.

Awards went to schools that dramatically improved their students’ performance between 2005 and 2006, and any school with an absolute rating above unsatisfactory was eligible.

Last chance to comment on planning

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.

Residential development strong in this part of County

By Stan Welch

 At the January 16 meeting of the Anderson County Council, planning director Jeff Ricketson presented his annual report on the growth and the projected growth of the County population. According to County figures, the 2006 population of the County is approximately 187,000.

According to Ricketson, the numbers indicate a steady growth rate of 1.75%, slightly higher than the state average, but almost double that of the national rate of one per cent. The County’s average growth rate from 2000 to 2006 was 1.92%.

Ricketson’s report projects that that steady two percent rate of growth will likely continue over the next decade. Based on that projection, Anderson County should reach the 200,000 mark in population in 2010. Ten years later, the population, if growth remains steady at the rate projected, will be nudging a quarter of a million people.

Not surprisingly, the growth rate is also reflected in the construction of housing units. While single family housing construction dropped a surprising thirteen per cent from last year, multi-family housing construction was at its highest level since 2002.

A total of 1600 units were built last year, equating to approximately 3600 new residents. For comparison, the report points out that Pendleton has approximately 3000 residents.

The rise in site built housing, whether single or multi-family, has been accompanied by a significant drop in the number of new mobile homes being permitted. Those numbers are down from 642 in the year 2000 to just 111 last year.

A chart included in the report shows clearly that all reports of rapid growth in the Powdersville area are true and can be documented. Almost two thousand building permits were issued for County Council District Six since 2000, or an average of almost one per day. Only District Four, which is much larger geographically, had more, with 2077. District Five was third with 1333 permits issued. District Seven was fourth with 1059 total permits.

Generally speaking, the County’s fastest growth continues along and slightly north of the I-85 corridor. Still, the Williamston area shows signs of increasing residential development, with eighty one single family permits issued since 2000. That is the highest number in the Williamston/Pelzer/West Pelzer area.

Based on permits issued, the Belton/Honea Path area saw fewer than 30 single family permits issued per tax grid over the last six years.

According to the report, District Four absorbed 26% of the growth, with District Six close behind at 24%. District Five saw 16% of the growth and District Seven was fourth in growth with 13%. Growth in Districts One and Three was significant at nine per cent each; but the predominantly black District Two saw the slowest growth, with only three per cent of new residents.

State perspectives

By Stan Welch

Governor Mark Sanford’s ambitious plan to restructure state government is dominating the recently opened session of the South Carolina General Assembly.

In a series of interviews conducted in Columbia with several members of the Anderson County Legislative Delegation, that theme surfaced again and again.

Senator Billy O’Dell, of District Four, said that he voted along with former Governor Carroll Campbell when Carroll advanced his plan to restructure.

“I thought the idea made sense, but I don’t really see where we’ve saved any real money through that approach. Now, Governor Sanford seems to want to absorb almost all the existing Constitutional offices. I’m not sure about all that, and I think he’ll have a hard time, especially since each of those Constitutional amendments requires two thirds of both Houses.”

The Senator added, “This governor might be fine with all that authority, but what about future governors? On top of that, I believe that with all these Constitutional offices under one person’s control, the rural areas of our state will be neglected, when it comes to resources, especially in the area of infrastructure development. We need to move very carefully on this extensive proposed restructuring. To basically rebuild the power structure of this state government should not be done hastily, or haphazardly.”

 Sen. O’Dell made it clear, however, that the recent call for restructuring the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) will probably fare well.

“There have to be changes made there. We need to get to the bottom of that whole mess over there. I think there will definitely be a significant restructuring of that department, and rightfully so. What form it will take remains to be determined,” he said.

While leery of widespread restructuring, the Senator would like to see an adjustment in the state’s economic development strategy.

“I was hoping that our economic development efforts would give more attention to our small businesses, instead of concentrating on all these show dog projects. Small businesses consistently generate the majority of new jobs created, but they get almost no help with the many problems they face. I’d like to see that corrected. It also just makes sense to readjust those strategies to replace the mills we have lost, and to assist small businesses in filling those voids.”

He would also like to see an infrastructure bank established for water and sewer projects, along the lines of the existing infrastructure bank for highways.

“Our infrastructure, especially in the rural areas, is essentially collapsing. In addition, there are virtually no small towns that can independently meet the costs of water and sewer improvements. It really throttles growth in those areas,” O’Dell said.

House District 10 Representative Dan Cooper also agrees that the SCDOT is the number one issue.

“ I think everyone agrees that the DOT has to be changed. It seems like every fifteen or twenty years, this problem comes up. But I think we’ll end up with a hybrid form of the department that leaves the commission in place, and changes the way it is established,” Cooper said. “They’ll retain some oversight authority, but it will be considerably less than it is now. I also think that DOT employees, down to the engineering level, will be made at will employees, making it easier to exert control over the staff.”

One suggestion Cooper had for selecting the commissioners is to have one from each Congressional District, to be elected by the delegation from that District. Then, the House and Senate would elect seven commissioners, one from each of the seven engineering districts in the state. “Tee Hooper can continue as Chairman, appointed by Gov. Sanford. The Secretary of Transportation, if the position is raised to Cabinet level, would also be the executive director of the agency.”

Rep. Cooper, who serves as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, says that the emphasis on restructuring won’t detract from the general conducting of the state’s business.

“We’ll find the balance between addressing these specific issues and conducting our business. We also face the challenge of crafting a good budget. Number one on that list is to avoid the trap of annualizations, or one time money. We made that mistake in 2001, when we used so much one time money to fund programs. Then the dot.com bubble burst, hurting the national economy, followed by the shock of 9-11. For the first time, state revenues actually went backwards that year. All those factors produced a deficit that we have only now recovered from. No one wants to go through that again.”

Nevertheless, Rep. Cooper stressed that there are funds available for use by his constituents. “I started a V Safe program last year, which provides a $3 million fund pool. First responder units, such as fire departments or EMS units, can receive a grant of up to $30,000 once each three years, to be used in purchasing equipment. Did you know it costs two thousand dollars to buy turnout gear for one fireman? That can be prohibitive for a department, especially a volunteer department,” Cooper said. “There is also a competitive grant program that will be funded at around nine million dollars this year. Towns and other agencies, like EMS or other organizations, should apply for that money.”

Rep. Cooper says that there is $180 million available this year in the state infrastructure bank, but holds out little hope that this area will see any of it. “That money will go to Florence and Charleston Counties, almost certainly. For starters, the County has to pass the sales tax for infrastructure in order to even be able to apply for SIB funds.”

Representative Michael D. Thompson, District Nine, quoted Ronald Reagan, when talking about the DOT situation. “President Reagan used to say that ‘status quo’ is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’ That’s very appropriate when talking about this DOT mess,” Thompson said.

Rep. Thompson isn’t convinced that giving the department Cabinet status is the best approach, but he does see the need to open the department up. “We need representation from around the state. We need the input of people on the ground, who know what their areas need.

What many people around the state don’t realize is that only about a fifth of the agency was involved in the audit. We have barely scratched the surface here. We clearly have to establish some sort of central accountability. There is none at this time.”

Thompson also understands the need to avoid being too distracted by the issue of restructuring. “We still have to function, and that includes DOT. The General Assembly has to produce an efficient budget, avoiding the use of one time money to fund programs. We also need to get more help from our Congressional delegation in accessing federal road funds.”

Thompson plans to reintroduce a bill he sponsored last year which would require a .25% increase in the reserve fund for each 1% increase in the debt limit of the state. “The bill received broad bipartisan support last year, but we ran out of time and didn’t get it passed. I hope to do so this year.”

Vandals target mailboxes

A number of area mailboxes were either damaged or stolen by vandals and sheriff’s deputies investigated several break-ins including one at the Pelzer Gym. Among incidents investigated were:

The Pelzer Community Center at 25 Park Street was broken into overnight on January 9. Town administrator Lyle “Skip” Watkins reported the break-in to W.E. Gregory. While it appeared that nothing had been stolen,  two doors, a light fixture, and three lockers were damaged, causing total damage of $1000.

BELTON

 Jan. 11 – M.J. Burns responded to a report of burglary at 101 Lochenshire Dr. A neighbor reported seeing a white, older Chevrolet truck in the driveway at that address and later leaving with a stove and refrigerator in the back. The deputy found the back door open and a window broken. The stove and refrigerator were valued at $1800.

Jan. 11 – W.E. Gregory was dispatched to 108 Clairidge Dr., where Carl Aho reported that someone had driven on freshly laid sod at a newly constructed home. The subject also broke out a window to get in and walked around on the new carpet, damaging it. Total damages were estimated at $1000.

Jan. 12 – M.B. Arflin responded to 6024 Belton Hwy., where Dorothy Johnson reported the theft of her blue lawn tractor, valued at $1400.

Jan. 12 – R. S. Turner was dispatched to 703 Dorchester Rd. where Brandy Brock reported the theft of several items from her car, including a purse and a check book.

 Jan. 14 – R. S. Turner responded to 4531 Hwy. 29 North at the Jockey Lot, where Michael Kelly reported that someone had stolen a Pioneer CD player from his vehicle.

Jan. 15 – W.E. Gregory was dispatched to 2231 Cannon Bottom Rd. where Mike Hoover reported the theft of his John Deere mailbox and post.

 Jan. 15 – W.E. Gregory filed a report of animal cruelty after responding to a call at 2271 Cannon Bottom Rd. Linda Myers reported that she found one of her dogs dead in its pen that morning, and a green substance, believed to be poison, scattered around the pen. Myers also found one of her cats dead with a wound in its side.

Jan. 15 –S.M. Ambridge responded to 433 Rector Rd. where Mike Chapman reported the theft of SC tag #553 EFH from his truck.

EASLEY

Jan.15 – Mailboxes at eight different addresses on Sassafras Dr. were damaged. The mailboxes served 252, 258, 259, 263, 264,265,269, 272 and 279 Sassafras Dr. Each was badly damaged. One resident heard the noise at approximately 3:30 a.m. and saw a white four door sedan leave the area.

Jan. 15 – T.L. Chapman responded to 1031 Briarwood Rd. where William Becknell reported that someone had damaged his mailbox. A neighbor reported hearing a loud noise at about 2 a.m. but didn’t see anything.

PELZER

Jan. 11 – W.E. Gregory was dispatched to the BiLo where Gregory Jones reported that two unknown white males had loaded a cart with two 18 packs and five cases of beer and walked out with it. They loaded it in a blue Chevy Silverado truck, tag # 423-VVHand drove off towards Greenville County on Hwy. 20.

PIEDMONT

On January 9, someone tried to obtain 3 prescriptions on forged forms, from a doctor’s office in Duncan S.C. The suspect, a WM, 25-30 years old, was told the prescriptions would have to be verified because of the drugs involved. The prescriptions were for Lortab and Zanax.  Police were notified after the Doctor’s office confirmed that the prescriptions were forged. The Eckerd’s drugstore was staked out on January 10, but no one returned for the drugs. On Jan. 13, a white male came through the drive through window and tried to get two prescriptions filled, also for Lortab and Zanax. He offered a driver’s license  which turned out to be forged too. The license plate on the green minivan he drove turned out to be registered to a Kia Sedona.  He later returned to get the medications but fled when told that the law had been contacted. The driver’s license was kept by the clerk, and she confirmed that the picture was correct, although all the other information turned out to be false.

Jan. 9 – D.L. Barton was dispatched to Checker Lube at 102 Halter Dr. where Michael Miller was waiting, after finding a broken glass in one of the bay doors. Barton swept the building for suspects and found that the cash register had been emptied of $200. A camera taped the suspect, who wore a hooded sweatshirt, gloves and a cloth over his face.

Jan. 13 – M.A. Whitfield was dispatched to 2100 Hwy. 86 to the Century Farm Store, where he observed a subject walking around and appearing disoriented. The subject attempted to purchase several beers. The clerk told Whitfield she was uncomfortable selling him any beer because he was already drunk. Whitfield approached Mark Buchanan,WM, 38, 6’ 260 pounds, black/hazel, of 1431 Hwy. 86. He found him to be intoxicated and smelling of alcohol. Buchanan became irate and belligerent when questioned and was placed under arrest for public disorderly conduct.

Jan. 13 – J.L. Barnes responded to 209 Cotton Gin Road where an eighty seven year old woman reported that a stranger had stopped and asked to use her phone. She refused saying she was busy trying to get her lawn mower started. He offered to help and got a screw driver from a large red metal tool box in her carport. Later, when she returned from an errand, she discovered the toolbox missing.

Jan. 14 – M.A. Whitfield was dispatched to 108 Beardsley Rd. where Nancy Porter reported that someone had broken into her house and stolen jewelry, a handgun, and other items totaling almost $8500 in value.

Jan. 15 – T.L. Chapman responded to 3529 River Road, where William Hawkins reported the theft of two of his vehicles. One was a 2002 silver Honda van. The second vehicle was a 2003 red Pontiac Grand Am, SC tag # 192-VHH. A SC tag # 300-4CT was taken from a truck in the yard, as well.

Jan. 14 – M.A. Whitfield responded to Grandma Peaches Café in Powdersville where café owner Jonathan Gosnell reported a break-in and the theft of cash from the store.

WILLIAMSTON

Jan.10 – M.D. Creamer was dispatched to 1630 Campbell Road, where Isaac Stokes stated that his 1993 Honda Civic EX, black with a primer gray hood, had been stolen. The vehicle carried SC tag # 393UXM.

Jan. 10 – J. D. Crawford was on patrol when he observed a gray GMC Blazer. The tag had the expiration date covered by a gray border. While checking the driver’s license and registration, he noticed the smell of marijuana. Two other passengers were asked for ID. One, a Kevin Durham, WM, 31,5’9", 155, black/brn of 2532 Broadway Lake Rd. in Anderson, could not provide an ID. Crawford checked him for warrants and found that there was an active warrant on him. He was placed in custody. A search of the vehicle revealed almost 17 grams of methamphetamine, which Durham claimed possession of. Durham was also arrested on a charge of trafficking methamphetamines.

Jan. 14 – M.A. Whitfield responded to 8 Dacus Dr. in reference to an assault. Steven Burroughs stated that a green Jeep had been in the area spinning its tires and driving recklessly. Since there were children playing in the yard, he went outside to talk to the driver and ask him to stop. A red Chevy Cavalier then stopped and the driver got out. He stated that the driver began to yell at him and threatened to come back with his gang and take care of Burroughs. A brief fight ensued and the suspects left. The Jeep carried SC tag# 418-PKT. A witness at the scene verified Burroughs’ account. Burroughs told Whitfield he would seek a warrant.

Emergency call delay results in changes

By Stan Welch

A situation which could have ended tragically for a Williamston couple was at least partly the result of a lack of communication between Williamston and Anderson County agencies.

On Saturday, January 20, a young couple was in town with their infant child, when the baby suffered an apparent cardiac arrest. Efforts to summon an ambulance from the Williamston EMS failed because the local squad was on a call. Efforts to reach the Pelzer rescue squad failed, for the same reason. The parents, whose identities have not been made public, took their child to the Williamston Police Department, looking for help. Williamston police officers contacted Central Dispatch, asking that they send help.

 It was at that point that the communications breakdown, which had actually existed for some time, made its impact felt. Instead of Central Dispatch for Anderson County tolling out the Williamston Fire Department, they contacted the West Pelzer Fire Department, and dispatched them. The West Pelzer firefighters, realizing while en route that the scene was inside the Williamston town limits, called Central Dispatch back to confirm the toll out call.

According to Ike Brissey, Anderson County coordinator of emergency services, they were told to return to station. “The West Pelzer unit did not go to Williamston. Eventually, an EMS unit from Belton responded. The child, thankfully, had not suffered cardiac arrest, and did not even require transport. Still, this should never have occurred, and we are reviewing our protocols to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

What should have happened, according to Brissey, and to Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison, is that the Williamston Fire Department, located just two blocks from the police station, where the parents and infant were waiting, should have been tolled out. The reason they weren’t is that they were not registered with the County as first responders, a higher level of certification and training than many departments have.

“There are only four or five fire departments in the County certified as first responders. Williamston, according to Chief Ellison, has the necessary training, equipment, and personnel to qualify. They have two paramedics and two EMTs. But they were not on the County’s list, and so the other unit was dispatched.”

The issue will be resolved by Chief Ellison sending written verification of his department’s status as a first responder, said Brissey. “The Chief was gracious and cooperative enough to contact us and help bring this situation to a positive conclusion. We dispatch more than 200,000 units a year in Anderson County, and this sort of thing is bound to happen occasionally. That doesn’t mean that we don’t all take it very seriously, or that once isn’t too often.”

Upstate center of emerging Megapolitan area

By Stan Welch

Does it seem sometimes as if the I-85 corridor from here to Charlotte is completely grown up, with little if any rural character left? According to urban planning experts, it’s going to get worse, not better.

As a part of his presentation to the Anderson County Council earlier this month, planning director Jeff Ricketson provided Council with information compiled by Robert Lang and Arthur Nelson, co-directors of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

The focus of their work, titled The Rise of the Megapolitans, is that America’s population is massing in specific areas, eventually covering hundreds of miles, known as megapolitan areas, or megas. Dallas and Fort Worth, of the Eighties, have become Dallas/Fort Worth just decades later. Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md. did the same.

The entire Northeastern coast line has become one huge mega, though it is still technically divided into the Core, New England and Chesapeake megas.

The megapolitan area that is engulfing the Upstate area, especially along the I-85 corridor between Atlanta and Charlotte, is known as the Carolina Piedmont. It’s northernmost limit is generally accepted to be the Raleigh area. The ever expanding Atlanta mega is known as the Georgia Piedmont. Within twenty years, the two areas will be virtually contiguous.

The emergence of megapolitan areas, and the even larger megaregions, such as the Great Lakes megaregion, is based on the idea that the American population, which is expected to increase by another sixty million people in the next thirty five years, will tend to congregate in areas that provide jobs, housing, appealing climates and a full range of services. Statistics gathered during the 2000 U.S. Census support the fact that development of such heavily populated regions is already well underway.

As of 2005, sixty per cent of the nation’s people lived in one of twenty megapolitan areas, which in turn were located within one of ten megaregions. By the year 2040, that percentage will increase to almost seventy per cent. The Great Lakes area, containing four megapolitan areas makes up a mega region. The Mid-Atlantic area, with Washington, New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia is a mega region.

The Carolina Piedmont is well on its way to megaregion status, and projected growth will only accelerate the process. According to the report, the decline of the old South, which followed the Civil War, was reversed by the introduction of air conditioning across the region, as well as cheap labor and the interstate highway system. Continuing to fuel the rapid growth in the South is the continued availability of open land, or greenfields. Some areas, such as the Treasure Coast megaregion in Florida, have so little open land available that they are forced to develop in ways that create tremendous population density.

The U.S. Census Bureau first recognized this phenomenon, defining such areas as combined statistical areas, and setting parameters for that definition. Economic interdependence is the chief deciding factor, as well as such other factors as overlapping commuter patterns.

Seems to Me . . .

The TriCities

By Stan Welch

 Alright, folks, for the few of you out there whom I haven’t angered yet, listen up. This is not meant to make anyone angry or to attack anyone’s civic pride. It is simply something I think needs to be said, and since I am a relative newcomer to the area, I think I should say it.

 The other day, I was talking with a bureaucrat (hey, they get lonely too) and he referred to the Pelzer/West Pelzer/Williamston area as the TriCities. Except for the fact that none of those municipalities qualifies as a city, it’s a great term. I do have one other objection to the term, I guess. It infers a certain commonality of purpose, some level of cooperation that I just don’t see. Pelzer and West Pelzer insist on remaining divided by a railroad track that was torn up years ago.

 People came from West Pelzer to attend the Williamston town meetings last year, so they could smirk at the Town’s financial problems. Now, the pinch of water and sewer costs has caught up with them, and the smirking is much less visible.

 The three towns do have things in common. They share tremendous problems concerning their water and sewer infrastructure, challenges related to expanding their tax bases, and the lingering effects of the loss of the mills that once dominated their civic and economic lives. In fact, a very strong argument can be made that those mills continue to exert a tremendous effect on the towns, even in their absence.

 Two of the towns also share a specific problem, and that is the existence of contentious, petty small town politics that are hindering their ability to both deal with current problems, and plan for future ones. Among the problems the two towns face, which fall into both present and future categories, are consent orders issued by DHEC which greatly affect the towns. Infrastructure is the circulatory system of any town, and all three

 Pelzer, with a strong and energetic town administrator manages to avoid the brunt of those effects. Of course, with less than fifty actual residences in the town limits, those challenges are somewhat more manageable.

 Nevertheless, perhaps the greatest problem the towns face is the fact that as separate entities, they have no political power. They are the three smallest towns in District Seven; and while Councilwoman Cindy Wilson has done a remarkable job of finding sources of revenue to address many of the towns’ and District’s needs, the fact remains that the three towns speak with three barely audible voices. Certainly they are seldom heard in the offices of the County administration.

 Based on the number of legal residents within the respective town limits, Honea Path is larger in population than the other three towns combined. I find it illustrative that Honea Path is pursuing efforts to establish a museum reflecting and acknowledging the its and the area’s rich textile history. It is equally clear that they have accepted the fact that that rich history is coming to an end.

 It sometimes seems to me that the TriCities are clinging to the past, at the expense of the future. More than once, the statement has been made, even in public meetings, that the loss of another mill will be devastating. 

 Folks, given the world economic climate, and the federal commitment to a free trade marketplace, it’s virtually inevitable that those mills will leave one day, and probably not too far in the future. Williamston, the only one of the three towns with mills remaining, cannot possibly offer sufficient economic incentive to secure the presence of its two remaining mills for any significant length of time.

 It is time for a sea change in the economic and political mindset of the area. The thinking that was established over the course of more than a century, the thinking that counted on the mills to provide, not just jobs and homes and resources, but direction and leadership as well, has to be reevaluated.

 I understand civic pride. I have lived in a number of small towns myself. But an objective, hard look at the circumstances of these three towns makes one wonder whether the pride has become pointless? Isn’t it time to reestablish that pride, based on new achievements and a new direction?

 Planning needed to survive, and even flourish, without the mills should be underway now. In fact, now would be late. Key in that planning should be serious proposals to at least consider merging the three towns into one city. The physical challenges of such a decision can be met. The distances between the towns is not insurmountable. The political and psychological distances involved might well be another story. But the idea is worth consideration, and the sooner the better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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