News Archive

(0606) Week of Feb. 8, 2006

Council approves increases for businesses, residents
Councilman Cothran resigns

Thursday work session sets stage for Monday’s meeting
Business pickup trashed
Resignation will lead to May election
Petition being circulated
Forum to discuss Medicare
CSX to abandon local railroad line
Grant payments made on sidewalk
New grocery stores coming to area
District One Kindergarten registration March 1
Register Feb. 10 for Kindergarten in Greenville County
This Week in the House

EDITORIAL - Town government
Seems to Me . . .The budget process

Mandolin workshop offered by Herschel Sizemore
Whitefield Baptist concert to benefit Haven of Rest

Council approves increases for businesses, residents

During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council unanimously approved four ordinances to bring in additional revenues for the town. Before voting on the ordinances, Council unanimously agreed to set a time limit of Dec. 31 on all fees being voted on.

Council then approved a 30 percent increase in the business license fees, a 20 percent increase in the water and sewer fees, a 1 percent increase in the Duke Power franchise fee, and a $14 household garbage fee for residents.

The business license change will be effective for any new business that may open and with the current billing for those already operating in the town. The water and sewer increase will be on the next statement residents receive. The household garbage fee will be on the March billing.

To continue dealing with the crisis facing the town, Council set a work session for 9 a.m. Thursday Feb. 9, and another for 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13.

Council then went into executive session to discuss a contractural matter concerning hiring an auditor. Before leaving, there was some discussion about adjourning from the session as Clardy announced they would. ACOG representative Joe Newton advised the mayor that they should return to regular session to vote to come out of executive session.

Many of the citizens attending the meeting left at that point.

Approximately 35 minutes later, council returned to open session.

Upon returning to regular session, ACOG representative Joe Newton addressed questions brought up by several citizens concerning hiring a forensic or fraud auditor to examine the town’s books.

Newton said that SC law requires an annual audit and the town does not have one for year 2005. He very strongly urged council to hire an auditor and “get that audit done.”

He said Bob Daniel is a good accountant and that the work he has done will allow an audit to be done quickly. He also commented on a special audit which he said would be more detailed. He recommended the town take bids from independant auditors.

Responding to questions about not having an audit done, Newton said  that problems that will arise such as not being able to get a loan from banks, having the state take over the town and “nobody will do business with you.”

Doris Cole then commented on the poor financial decisions and said she wanted clarities on where all the money was spent and asked about a cost estimate for an auditor.

Newton reiterated that he was “seriously concerned” about the town and that things were “moving very fast and you need to support them.”

He also said that if the town can make the cuts and bring in revenues, “it will keep you going longer. He said if the town makes it to December (with no waste), tax revenues will be coming in.

After Newton’s comments,  Council unanimously agreed to hire an auditing firm at the Monday (Feb. 13) meeting of Council.

Council then unanimously agreed on a motion made by Councilman Cole to eliminate insurance for the mayor and council indefinitely and a second motion to eliminate the mayor and council salary for the rest of the year, until Dec. 31 when it will be reevaluated.

Councilman Cecil Cothran made a motion to park the town’s car at City Hall and that it only be used for official town business with a mileage log and purpose log. Mayor Clardy seconded the motion with the stipulation that it be supervised by the police department. “It should have been a police car to begin with,” he said. Council approved the motion 5-0.

Clardy then made a motion that members of town council be required to put in at least 20 hours per week to learn the business of the town. Before taking the vote and after a comment from Cothran that some councilmen have to work, Clardy responded, “Councilman, you’ve stripped me of every privilege of the office.” Council then voted 4-1 for the measure with Cole voting against it.

Councilman David Harvell then made a motion for Council to sign all checks. After some discussion they agreed to add one more signature to the two required. There was also discussion about any purchase over $250 having to be approved.

“It will be an eye opening experience which I am looking forward to,” Clardy said.

After further discussion about signing checks and hours, Council unanimously approved the motion that a fourth signature be added and that the requirement that two of four signatures must be on checks.

Cothran then made a motion to have Council work two hours per day which was approved 3-2 with Councilmen Cothran, Cole and Harvell voting for it and Scott and Clardy against.

Council tabled discussion on a motion by Councilman Scott to add a 2 percent hospitality tax on all prepared food sold in the town.

Council unanimously approved a motion by Scott that all department heads be paid a salary instead of hourly.

Following the meeting, Clardy said about his motion to have council work at least 20 hours per week. “They need an eye opening experience of what it takes to fund the operations of this town.”

He said they (Council) need to get involved in every department and every service of the town from riding on a trash truck (which he said he has done) to approving invoices.

“It is obvious that some councilmembers have no concept,” he said. “Then they will understand some of the decisions I have made.”

Clardy said he thinks the councilmen need to be involved in the business office, see where the money is going and that they need to educate themselves on the amount of money it takes to provide the services.

Clardy said he has “worked 40 to 60 hours for this town,” to justify his salary and with the most recent decision to cut the council and mayor’s salary, he “will be seeking employment elsewhere.”

Councilman Cothran resigns

By Stan Welch

Efforts to remove some heat from the response to news of Williamston’s financial crisis appear to be less than successful, according to public comments made at Monday night’s meeting of the Town Council.

That heat became too intense for Cecil Cothran, Ward 2 Councilman, who resigned Tuesday morning, citing health reasons. The letter sent to Mayor Clardy states:

Dear Phillip, I regret to inform you that due to health related conditions of my own and my wife, I must resign my position as councilman for the Town of Williamston effective immediately. I have appreciated the opportunity to serve in this position for the past three years and wish you well for the future.”

The press release was issued by the Mayor from Town Hall, but Cothran also spoke briefly with The Journal. “I am getting older and I have heart problems. In addition, my wife has lost most of her eyesight. This is just too much stress for both of us. I was begged to run and try to help the town, and I did. But I don’t know how much good I did. I just think it’s best for me and for the Town that I resign,” said Cothran in a telephone interview Tuesday morning.

Ironically, no one called for his resignation at Monday night’s meeting, though several people repeated their earlier calls for Mayor Phillip Clardy to resign.

Carthel Crout said that it pained him to speak before the Council and townspeople but he felt he had to make his voice heard. He spoke to the council about providing leadership to the Town in its time of need; and he challenged the Mayor to either back up statements to the media that there was more information to come out, or to shut up about it. “I thought we were here last week to get all the information. It’s time to put up or shut up, Mr. Mayor.”

Don Hughey focused on Otis Scott, his Councilman, saying that there “are two Otises. There’s the one who made all the wonderful promises before the election and the one who sits here now.  This is not the same Otis we elected and he has not performed well in office.” Hughey quoted newspaper articles from before the last election and then compared them to what he says Scott has really done. “Broken promises, Otis, that’s all these are.” Hughey also warned the council that the dissidents in town, which he described himself as, will be loud and present and a big old royal pain in your butts until you do what’s right.”

Gary Bannister challenged the Mayor and council to pay themselves only $1 a month until the city recovers. “We could take that money and hire an administrator to run the town. That’s permissible under the strong mayor/council form of government.” Bannister also repeated his call for a forensic audit to be done. He called for abolishing the recreation department and making it volunteer. He also said that he’d rather see the town surrender its charter than see Clardy continue as Mayor.

Tim Cox demanded that a time limit be placed on any fee increases or any new fees imposed. “You say you’ll revisit those, but who can take your word for it?”

Jane Chastain also called for more volunteerism and less paid staff. “We can do the recreation in town. We can do without a police department. We pay county taxes and we’re entitled to their protection. Cut administrative staff down to 2-3 people, only until the town can once again support these programs. Take your own garbage to the convenience centers. Cut the Mayor’s salary, his power and his ability to sign checks. We can run our own town, and the mayor needs to resign.”

Jan Dawkins rose to speak and also demanded the employment of a forensic auditor. So adamant were her demands that Mayor Clardy said that SLED could be called right away. He added that they had just completed their investigation, but he didn’t elaborate. Dawkins assailed the council saying, “How dare you ask for more money without hiring an auditor to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” She referred to the Mayor as King Phillip, and said, “The time for the final curtain to fall on your performance.”

Marion Middleton, Jr. also spoke, asking about the $96,000 interest that was paid on the $250,000 BAN loan. “Where did you go to get the money, Check and Go? How do you get an interest rate like that?”

Middleton cited several statistics concerning the income levels in Williamston, especially among the elderly.  Saying that people have become too dependent on their government, and it’s up to us to help each other, he volunteered to have the difference in the average water bill and the $14 a month sanitation fee for one senior citizen from town added to his water bill, “so that one person doesn’t have to choose between their medicines and their garbage pickup.”

Pastor Kempie Shepard changed the subject asking about the skate board situation. Shepard said that the boarders were now going to the park. She also said that she thought she would be contacted about helping with the situation. “I thought I would be asked by now,” she said. “We better be taking care of our young people or they will be leaving our town.”

Shaun Lister said he was still in need of answers. He asked about the town’s constitution and where it stated garbage pickup was a provision in it. He also mentioned health benenfits , stating that council’s benefits amount to $60,000 while expenditures such as the Spring Water Festival and others mentioned by Clardy amount to only about $20,000. “You were worried about yourselves first,” he said.

Following the comments portion of the 3.5 hour meeting, Council approved serveral new ordinances enacting fee increases on businesses and residents. (See separate story)

Thursday work session sets stage for Monday’s meeting

During a work session February 2, mayor and council passed several resolutions that were to be presented as ordinances Monday (Feb. 6) dealing with the town's operations in an effort to cut expenses and bring in revenues before the town runs out of money.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said the town has contacted the SC Department of Revenue and SC retirement and their agents have been more than cooperative.

He also said that two consultants representing the town, Bob Daniels and Joe Newton have been given the authority to negotiate with the IRS. Local vendors are being contacted and will be paid in full.

According to Clady, the town will discontinue all non essential services and have a one third reduction in staff. He also said the administration had been reduced by three persons including the codes enforcement and an administrative assistant.

Among proposals to cut expenses: cut 15 staff immediately, cut all unnecesssary spending, park police vehicles not being used on patrol, stop use of the town's credit card, eliminate commercial trash pickup, eliminate recycling pickup.

Among revenue options: set a $14 per househould sanitation fee, increase water/sewer rates, increase business licenses, increase the Duke Power franchise fee.

Clardy said the cuts will involve eliminating events the community has been identified with including the Spring Water Festival, the Christmas Park, Christmas Parade, July 4th fireworks and others. “All expenses have been cut off,” he said. He said the town will be in need of volunteers to head up some of the events. “It will have a detrimental impact on our community.”

Clardy said the downsizing will put the town about where it was in the 1970’s and ’80’s. He said the current 51 employees will be reduced to 35, eliminating 16 or 17 positions.

Clardy said  the town is evaluating all departments and department heads were told to prepare for the worst.

“I am very disqualified to tell a department head who to cut,” Clardy said. “I am responsible for the administration.”

Clardy said the town will  begin the cuts immediately and that there could be one more cut in administration. 

Other cuts will include 2 in the water and sewer department, 2 to 2.5 in parks and recreation, 4 in the street department, and 4 in the police department, for  a total of 15.

Williamston Police Chief David Baker said that any cut will make a difference but that “the town’s police protection will be there.”

ACOG representative Joe Newton said that the employee cuts are a starting point and “If things get worse, other positions will have to be looked at.”

Clardy said the town was initially looking at 20 employees being cut, but will evaluate the numbers after cutting out the 16.5.

The cuts will provide immediate relief from retirement and health benefits but the town will have some unemployment costs to pay, Clardy said. Council approved the 16.5 personnel cuts 5-0.

Clardy said that when the town gets back to where payroll can be increased, the people cut will be the first to consider rehiring.

Acting on a motion by Councilman Otis Scott, Council unanimously approved the mayor and council salaries be cut in half until December 31.

Other items to be revisited included suggestions by Councilman Cecil Cothran to cut out fax machines for council, credit cards be canceled, Dodge Durango be sold, town’s Ford Crown Victoria (mayor’s vehicle) be sold and any money spent that is not in the budget be approved by Council.

Clardy then made a motion that every invoice be required to be signed by Council. Newton advised that that they may want to make it a majority of Council because the proposal “will stop business.” if someone is not available.

The motion was approved unanimously.

Councilman Cole recommended that a requisition form or purchase order be required for any purchase over $200.

Cothran’s motion was then restated by Clardy to discontinue the council fax and phone line for the fax, discontinue cell phones except for the mayor and police chief, the Durango be sold, the Ford be sold and the Visa card be canceled. Seconded by Councilman Harvell, the motion passed unanimously.

There was then some discussion on use of the town’s vehicles and use of police vehicles. The issue was tabled and will be revisited with suggestions made in writing at the next meeting.

There was then some discussion about employee health insurance. Acting on a recommendation by Newton, which was put into a motion by Councilman Scott, Council unanimously agreed to raise the deductible from $500 to $1250 and to look at it at a later date.

After some discussion about insurance for elected officials, the issue was table for further discussion. Council and mayor’s insurance amounts to approximately $20,000 officials said.

Council unanimously agreed to drop the recycling trash pickup route.

Council unanimously agreed to eliminate commercial garbage pickup effective April 1st.

Council agreed to freeze hiring and pay increases until brought back before them for a unanimous vote.

There was considerable discussion about overtime and possibly changing department head pay from hourly to salary. After talk about changing the entire pay structure, council tabled the issue to gather additional information and for later discussion.

Council unanimously approved a motion by Councilman Cole to eliminate funding for classes, seminars, and other out of town training unless pre-approved.

After a short recess, Council reconvened to discuss options to bring in revenue as soon as possible.

Newton told Council they needed $1.1 to $1.2 million in expense cuts and revenues. The cuts will save approximately $565,000 over a  period of time. The town will still be paying unemployment and liability insurance.

Newton said if the changes in expenditures and revenues didn’t make a difference by July to October, “Things will really get ugly.”

Newton said the town will have to go up on every fee and at the end of the year, on taxes.

Among the options for additional revenue for the town: increases in business licenses, water and sewer fees, implementing a sanitation fee, increase of the Duke Power franchise fee and selling properties the town owns.

With the new revenues, “You might make it,” Newton said. “Nobody is making guarantees.”

Council then approved a resolution for a 30 percent business license fee increase which will increase a base fee busienss license of $75 to $97.50 and 90 cents per $1,000 after that. An ordinance reflecting the change was to be presented Monday.

There was considerable discussion about the condition of the town’s sewer lagoons, capacity issues and increases from Duke Water which were not passed on to residents. Newton said there were also problems with payments not made to BB&T on a water bond.

Newton said that concerning water and sewer rates, “Whatever you do, it won’t be enough.”

Before deciding on a 20 percent rate increase, Council unanimously agreed to revisit any rate increase by year end. Council then unanimously decided to go with a 20 percent rate increase that will bring in approximately $280,000 in additional revenues over a year.

There was some talk about selling properties as soon as possible. The town has 21 acres on Cherokee Road which has been appraised for $168,000. The town also has other properties which could be sold including a recent donation of property on Belton Drive valued at $99,000.

Discussions on that property raised  questions when the mayor said that there were trailers with people living in them on the properties.

Clardy said the residents were bringing rent payments to the town which were being declined because there was no policy for dealing with collecting the money. “They are living there rent free,” he said. There was also discussions of eviction notices.

Clardy said the town may look at hiring a real estate attorney to handle the sale of the property.

Council unanimously approved a 1 percent increase in the Duke Power franchise fee, raising it from the current 3 percent to 4 percent. Proceeds from the fee, which is collected by Duke Power, are paid to the town quarterly and will amount to $80,000 to $90,000 per year.

There was some discussion about a hospitality tax on restaurants but the issue was tabled for later discussion.

Council unanimously approved a $14 per household garbage collection fee which will be implemented with the March billing.

After some discussion, it was decided to donate the mayor’s vehicle, a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria to the police department.

Business pickup trashed

Due to recent cuts being made by the The Town of Williamston, trash pickup for residents and businesses will change effective Monday, February 13.

Beginning Monday, the Town will no longer pick up any commercial trash dumpsters. Business must find a private hauler to provide the service, Town officials said.

Street Department Supervisor David Roberts said that a list will be available of alternative providers that offer pickup of the rearload dumpsters the town has used.

Residential garbage collection will permanently change to the following schedule beginning Monday: Pickup will be for Ward 1, Mondays; Ward 2, Tuesdays; Ward 3, Wednesdays and Ward 4, Thursdays.

Residents are asked to place garbage on the roadside for pickup by 7 a.m. on their respective day. The town has also eliminated the curbside recycling program.

An alternative plan to provide a recycling dropoff station is being considered. 

For additional information call David Roberts at 847-7473.

Resignation will lead to May election

Williamston Councilman Cecil Cothran announced Tuesday that he is resigning his position as Ward 2 Councilman, citing health reasons.

The resignation letter sent to Mayor Clardy states:  Dear Phillip, I regret to inform you that due to health related conditions of my own and my wife, I must resign my position as councilman for the Town of Williamston effective immediately. I have appreciated the opportunity to serve in this position for the past three years and wish you well for the future.”

The press release was issued by the Mayor from Town Hall, but Cothran also spoke briefly with The Journal. “I am getting older and I have heart problems. In addition, my wife has lost most of her eyesight. This is just too much stress for both of us. I was begged to run and try to help the town, and I did. But I don’t know how much good I did. I just think it’s best for me and for the Town that I resign,” said Cothran in a telephone interview Tuesday morning.

Marion Middleton, Jr. announced this week that he will be seeking the vacated seat. Middleton said that he is running for the council seat “because of my knowledge and love for the town.”

A rumour has also circulated that Ward 4 Councilman Otis Scott has resigned which the Councilman says is not true. Scott said Wednesday, “I am going to serve the people regardless of whether I get paid or not. I have no intention of resigning,” he said. He said he was staying to do what he was elected to do and to “help get the town out of debt.”

The resignation of former Councilman Cothran will necessitate a special election to fill his seat, since the general election, at which his seat would have been up for reelection, is more than 180 days away. The seat held by Councilman Greg Cole is also up for grabs at that time.

Gary Baum, Public Information Director at the South Carolina Election Commission, says that state law requires that the seat be filled within that 180 day time frame. According to Baum, the special election must be held on the thirteenth Tuesday after the vacancy occurs. Based on Cothran’s resignation on Tuesday, February 7, that would make May 9 the date of the election.

 State law also requires that filing for the seat be closed no later than 60 days prior to the election, since Williamston uses the petition method of qualifying candidates. That would mean that the filing date would be no later than March 10th at noon. The Town, however, can close filing sooner, if they wish.

Petition being circulated

A petition is being circulated in Williamston for citizens to request the governor step in to remove Mayor Phillip Clardy from the office.

A loosely organized group of individuals have made the petitions available to citizens and some area businesses.

Reasons listed on the petition, which organizers say will be presented to the Governor, include: Failure to answer 21 FOI requests dated October 3, 2005 and 13 FOI requests filed in 2004.

Dereliction of duty in office, failure to follow a budget, allowing debts to accrue in excess of $1 million.

Failure to enforce the payment of various federal and state payroll taxes, payment of health and retirement funds, collected fines, unemployment compensation and other various required payments.

Failure to keep town council honestly informed. Town council was given information that had been screened by the mayor.

Failure to maintain a working relationship with the auditor of the town and to implement the various ways of restoring financial health recommended by the auditor.

The failures listed have added to the expenses of the town through many impositions of late payment penalties.

The petition also states: We feel that Mayor Clardy can no longer effectively administer this town and bring it to proper financial health. We feel he has been extremely neglectful in his fiduciary duties of the town of Willliamston and the citizens.

Depositions in a case involving 21 FOI requests which have not been answered by the Town of Williamston will be held on February 16.

Forum to discuss Medicare

Anyone enrolled with Medicare is invited to attend a town meeting on Medicare prescriptions, Medicare Part D, on February 15 at Williamston Municipal Center.

Three sessions will be offered at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. 

The forum will be hosted by Mayor Phillip Clardy with guest speaker Medicare expert Robert Sweetman with The Council on Aging and Elderly Affairs.

Topics to be discussed include changes in Medicare, Differences in Medicare parts A, B, C, and D. and How will Medicare Part D affect you.

For additional information call (864) 847-7473, extension 106.

CSX to abandon local railroad line

By Stan Welch

Plans by CSX Transportation to abandon the 12.74 mile rail line from Williamston to Belton should not affect the company’s legal commitment to repair the bridge at Gray Drive, says State Senator Billy O’Dell.

“They have committed twice to fixing that bridge,” said Sen. O’Dell, in a recent interview. “The first time was fifteen years ago, and still nothing has happened.”

The Gray Drive bridge has been closed for many years; its closing has caused hardship for the families on the far side of the bridge, as a result of restricted access by school buses and emergency vehicles. In September of last year, CSX announced that they would repair and maintain the bridge. Work scheduled to begin in mid November has yet to start. The bridge has been closed since 1991 due to safety concerns.

In a letter to Sen. O’Dell, as well as several other local officials, as well as a number of state and federal agencies, John W. Dillard, Director of Public affairs for CSX, confirmed the company’s intentions to abandon the line. The letter states that “After careful consideration, CSX has determined this line does not generate enough revenue to justify our maintenance and rehabilitation expenses.”

The letter goes on to say that “CSX will file a formal application for abandonment with the Surface Transportation Board. The STB will then review the application, considering all appropriate economic factors. We expect to begin this process in March.”

Sen. O’Dell says it won’t be quite that cut and dried. “They have a few hoops to jump through, some federal agencies to appear before. I plan to contact Congressman Gresham Barrett and Senator Lindsey Graham to ask for their help in assuring that this company honors their obligations, and that includes the repair of that bridge.”

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy stated that one of his main concerns is the impact of the proposed closing on the Gray Drive bridge. “I am very aware of that situation. The McNair Law Firm is our representative in this matter, and has been made aware of the intentions of CSX.”

Clardy added that he considers it essential that the Town have access to a working railroad. “That is such a major factor in attracting any new business that it is vital we maintain that. We will fight any such closing or abandonment to the best of our ablity. I’m sure council will approve a resolution to that effect as soon as we are together again.”

In a telephone interview, Dillard seemed to contradict the letter, saying “This proposed abandonment is not final. We have not filed with the Surface Transportation Board. We’re still looking for ways to avoid the abandonment. If our network rationalization team finds, in a month or so, that the line is still profitable, the abandonment may not be necessary.”

Dillard declined to comment on the Gray Drive bridge situation, saying that he thought that was still in litigation. “I would prefer not to comment on that at this time,” he said. That comment would also seem in direct contradiction of the public announcement made in September concerning the repairs.

Rusty Burns, a consultant who works with several of the towns along the line proposed for abandonment, said, “We are committed to doing everything we can to see that CSX honors all past commitments, and to see that rail service continues along that line.”

Grant payments made on sidewalk

By Stan Welch

Among the various concerns raised about the Town’s finances in recent weeks has been the Town’s ability to pay for a recently completed sidewalk project along Main Street. More than $225,000 was spent to repair and replace segments of sidewalk, as well as to install handicap access at corners. The funds were obtained through a state grant.

Rusty Burns, grant consultant and ombudsman, who assisted the Town in obtaining the grant, reports that the Town of Williamston received three reimbursement installments from the state this week, and immediately passed them on to the contractor, Wham Brothers, Inc.

“There was a snafu with the state office which administers the grant. We had submitted three reimbursement requests, which got lost in the shuffle in Columbia, so to speak. We have resolved those problems and this week received three installments, totaling $81,600, which has been paid to the contractor. We are back on schedule and anticipate no further problems in this area,” said Burns.

New grocery stores coming to area

Area shoppers will have the choice of two new grocery stores later this year, though if you live in Williamston you will have to drive to Moonville or Piercetown to shop them.

Food Lion LLC recently announced plans to open nine stores in the Upstate region of South Carolina by the end of 2006. The company will introduce two, separate store banners and concepts to Upstate consumers this year, opening Food Lion and Bloom stores, and Journal readers will have easy access to both.

In Anderson County, shoppers will be able to shop a new Bloom store location at Highway 81 and Hopewell Road. Greenville County shoppers will be closer to a new Food Lion store location at Highway 25 and Sandy Springs Road in Piedmont (Moonville). Williamston and Pelzer shoppers will have about the same distance to either.

According to spokesperson Jeff Lowrance, the new Food Lion stores will be approximately 35,000 square feet and will employ 50 to 60 people.

The new stores will feature the latest in Food Lion interior and exterior design. According to the website, Food Lion stores place an emphasis on fresh products in the produce, full-service meat and deli-bakery departments, while offering natural and organic products, international items and the everyday products customers want and need.

Bloom, which was introduced after two years of consumer research by a team from Europe and the United States, will bring a new store prototype to the Upstate, company officials said. Bloom provides a hassle-free, novel shopping experience and features unique technologies, a variety of quality products and a commitment to superior customer service.

Construction has started or will begin soon at the nine locations in the upstate. They are: 

· Anderson - Highway 81 and Hopewell Road - Bloom 

· Greenville - Pleasantburg Road and Augusta Road - Bloom 

· Greenville - Batesville Road and Highway 14 - Bloom 

· Greer - 1203 W. Wade Hampton Blvd. - Bloom 

· Lyman - Highway 29 and Old Spartanburg Road - Food Lion 

· Mauldin - Bridges Road and Holland Road - Bloom 

· Piedmont - Highway 25 and Sandy Springs Road - Food Lion 

· Roebuck - Highway 221 and Highway 215 - Food Lion 

· Seneca - Highway 123 and Old Clemson Highway - Bloom

Food Lion stores have served shoppers in other parts of South Carolina since 1978. The Upstate represents a new market for Food Lion and its multiple banners which includes Bloom, a new store concept introduced by Food Lion in 2004. There are currently five Bloom stores in the Charlotte, N.C., area.

The Upstate Food Lion and Bloom stores could open as soon as early summer, depending on construction schedules and weather, Lowrance said

Food Lion LLC is a subsidiary of Brussels-based Delhaize Group (NYSE: DEG). Food Lion LLC operates 1,300 supermarkets, either directly or through affiliated entities, under the names of Food Lion, Bloom, Bottom Dollar, Harveys and Reid’s. Food Lion LLC employs approximately 73,000 associates in 11 Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Food Lion was founded in 1957 in Salisbury, N.C. The stores offer more than 28,000 different products, including 2,900 exclusive Food Lion brand products.

Food Lion’s first South Carolina store opened in 1978 in Rock Hill. Currently, there are 124 Food Lion stores in South Carolina. There are more than 25 Food Lion stores in the Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach area and about 25 Food Lions in the Charleston market and on Hilton Head Island.

Bloom operates five stores in the Charlotte  market, including two in Charlotte and one each in Mooresville, Mint Hill and Harrisburg.

Upstate Bloom stores are slightly larger than Food Lion stores, which are generally 35,000 square feet. Bloom stores range in size from 35,000 to 38,000 square feet and employ approximately 70 people.

Bloom offers more than 30,000 products, including fresh seafood, a wide variety of wines and cheeses, specially baked breads, natural and organic products, international fruits and vegetables, signature items and much more. Bloom shoppers can enjoy new technology in the grocery industry including personal scanners; meat, seafood recipe and wine kiosks; product locators; a self-checkout option and more.

District One Kindergarten registration March 1

Kindergarten registration for 4 and 5-year-old students in Anderson School District One will be held on Wednesday, March 1.  

Palmetto Elementary will have pre-K registration (3-year-olds) for half-day programs on Wednesday, March 1, 2006.

All-day 5-year-old programs will be offered at Cedar Grove Elementary, Concrete Primary, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Palmetto Elementary, Pelzer Elementary, Spearman Elementary, West Pelzer Elementary, and Wren Elementary schools.

Half-day 4-year-old programs will be offered at Cedar Grove Elementary, Concrete Primary, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Palmetto Elementary, Wren Elementary, and West Pelzer Elementary. 

Full-day 4-year-old programs for students demonstrating the greatest need will be offered at Pelzer Elementary, Spearman Elementary, and Palmetto Elementary Schools.

Students must be 4 or 5 years old (or 3 years old for the pre-K program at Palmetto Elementary) by September 1st in order to enroll in the respective programs.  Students who register for the 3 or 4 year old program must first be screened and tested to determine eligibility.

Parents should register their children at one of the above named schools and parents will be given a number to insure that those who arrive first will be registered first. Once having received a number, parents should not leave the school until the registration of his or her child is completed. Parents who leave after getting their number, but before registering, will lose their place.  Note:  Because of attendance area issues, it may be necessary for a school to ask for proof of residency.

School officials request that parents bring their child’s birth certificate, a completed South Carolina Immunization Certificate, and social security card at the time of registration. These forms must be furnished before a child enters school. Children may be taken to the Health Department in Anderson for immunizations.  If a social security card has not been obtained, application forms will be available at the schools. 

For additional information, call the school or the District One Administration Office at (864) 847-7344.

On Monday March 6, a special free screening will be held to identify children birth through 21 years who are in need of special services and not currently in school. Child Find Screening will be held at Palmetto Elementary School only. To make a referral or obtain a screening appointment call Amy Bell 847-3631 extension 340 or Tanya Richbourg at 847-3632 by March 6.

Register Feb. 10 for Kindergarten in Greenville County

Greenville County parents are reminded that children who will be five years old on or before September 1, 2006 must enroll in public or private kindergarten, unless the parent or legal guardian signs a waiver. Greenville County Schools offer full-day five-year-old kindergarten programs to all students. A pre-registration day is scheduled for Friday, February 10. Students must be four, five, or six years of age on or before September 1, 2006 to enter each respective program. To enroll a new student, a parent must go to their assigned school and present the following: a state-issued birth certificate; a properly completed immunization certificate or religious objector’s statement, and a social security card is requested.  If you do not know the student’s assigned school, call INFOLine at 355-3100.

Parents may request a change in school assignment by going to the school they would like their child to attend and complete a Change in School Assignment request form. Parents are still required to register rising 5K or first grade children at the assigned school on February 10.

Four-year-old kindergarten programs are offered for eligible students to ensure school success. Space is limited.

Parents can register February 10 at any school that currently has a 4K program (see list below*). They are not required to live in the attendance area of that school to register at that location. 4K registration deadline is May 12, 2006.

Parents must bring their child’s birth certificate, immunization record and social security card (requested, but not required).  Pre-registered applicants will be contacted to schedule a screening appointment in May.

Registration does not guarantee the child will be enrolled in the 4K program.  All registered children are screened and ranked district-wide and eligibility is based on the academic and developmental needs of the child.

The State requires that priority be given to those students who can benefit the most. Notification of 4K program acceptance will be mailed in July 2006.

Current Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Programs are offered at the following south Greenville County school locations: Ellen Woodside Elementary (355-4900); Fork Shoals School (355-5000); and the Riley Child Development Center (355-3400)

This Week in the House

By Kelly Mitchell

On the eve of debate on the property tax reform bills, Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell said the first vote will be very simple. “Either you’re for totally eliminating the operating tax on homes” or you’re totally against eliminating the tax, Harrell said.

Commenting at his weekly ETV press conference Tuesday, Harrell said the House specifically planned to discuss two property tax reform bills Wednesday.

The first bill, which Harrell predicted will be decided on a simple yes or no vote, is a Constitutional amendment that says the General Assembly will completely eliminate the operating portion of property tax on homes.

Rep. James Merrill, R-Daniel Island, said such an amendment is a priority. “We’ve tried property tax reform in the past and one of the glitches of that is that we haven’t done it in the form of a Constitutional amendment,” Merrill said.

Rep. Kenny Bingham, R. Cayce, said there was a successful effort to give property tax relief in 1994, but one of the problems with that is that the General Assembly did not kill the tax. “Now we find a situation where we’re right back in the same boat that we were in 1994,” he said.

The second bill before the House addresses “the mechanics of how you go about accomplishing” the first bill, Merrill said.  This includes a two-cent increase on sales tax to replace the money lost in totally eliminating operating property taxes, and completely removing the sales tax on groceries, Merrill said.

Bingham countered statements that a sales tax is regressive. “We consume based upon our income, and the more income we have the more things we consume and the more taxes we pay, but likewise we have control over that,” said Bingham.

Merrill added that a strong reason for cutting property taxes is that it “makes homes more affordable.”

For distribution of the proposed sales tax money, the House bill calls for a dollar-for-dollar credit to the counties and schools for the first year, then possibly using a weighted pupil formula, Merrill said.  “I think we’ll have those debates and quite frankly I think those debates have merit,” Merrill said.

“We do have to hold our districts harmless,” Bingham said. “We’re not going to be able to allow certain areas of our state to go under-funded because that won’t be popular for anybody,” he said.

Merrill said the tax issue isn’t going away. “We are hearing from the people that live in South Carolina, and they may not be the heads of Fortune 500 companies or editorial writers, or whatever the case may be, but they live in our neighborhood and they are telling us to do something,” Merrill said.

Editor’s note: To see this press conference in its entirety on the Web, go to: http://www.scetv.org/television/streaming/state_house_today/2006_state_house_coverage/harrell_archive.cfm

Kelly Mitchell is a graduate student at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism.

EDITORIAL - Town government

Williamston has seen a flurry of political and legislative action in the last few weeks. Revelations concerning the Town’s financial condition has led to a remarkable series of events.

Most recently, the pace and intensity of those events has caused Ward 2 Councilman Cecil Cothran to resign, citing health concerns and the stress of dealing with the Town’s circumstances. Mr. Cothran is clearly right to consider his health and that of his wife first and foremost. His three years of service to the Town should evoke gratitude from its citizens.

Another recent phenomenon has been the extraordinary level of public interest in the Town’s operations. Twice in recent weeks, the gymnasium at the Town Hall has been used in order to contain the crowds attending various meetings. The public’s voice, even if restricted to a relative few, has been heard and heard clearly. The fact that the public’s voice was being used for the first time in months should not go unnoticed, however.

Much has changed in Williamston government in recent weeks. The Council has voted to require a majority to approve payment of all invoices, to review and approve all time cards and overtime payments, to destroy the town’s credit cards and to greatly limit the Mayor’s ability to sign checks. In short, they have stripped the Mayor of virtually all the powers he had before.

This is clearly the will of the people, but it raises some questions. The Town held a legal and binding referendum in 2002, at which time they adopted the strong mayor form of government. That form of government, as defined by the state Home Rule Act, makes the mayor the chief administrative officer of the town. Recent acts by the Council have made the mayor much less than the town’s head administrator. Ironically, the same Home Rule Act also allows Council the power to restrict certain actions.

Events and changes of the last several weeks have essentially voided that referendum, and dismantled any recognizable form of Town government. An oft heard theme or variation of that theme, has been that the Town might do better “running itself”. “We can run our own town”, and “I’d rather see the Town dissolved than go on this way” are close to becoming a battle cry for some. It is a battle cry that should be carefully considered.

That the Town has problems is painfully clear. That mismanagement and shortsightedness are factors is obvious as well. But to think that disconnecting from generally accepted forms of government, and the access to resources and expertise that they offer is a viable option, is to compound errors already made.

Perhaps, among the generally good advice given to the Town by ACOG director of government services Joe Newton, would be a suggestion that the baby not accompany the bath water out of the Town Hall window.

Seems to Me . . .The budget process

By Stan Welch

Can you believe that February is already upon us? It looks like we may finally get some winter weather, aside from the one (and one is enough) ice storm we had.

It looks like we may finally get something else this month; at least we’d better. The Town of Williamston better come up with a budget, since they are already a month into their new budget year without having one. Williamston runs on a calendar year budget schedule, rather than a fiscal year schedule.

I’m sure at one time, there was a good reason for that. I just can’t imagine why it’s still a good reason. In fact, the Town plans to join the rest of the universe and move to a fiscal year schedule, once they are sure they’ve saved the town and will need a budget next year.

Producing a balanced budget within the next three weeks is one of the major steps in the Town’s 10 step recovery plan. It is essential for a very simple reason. A budget is the plan which a political entity has for spending its money for the next year. Unplanned spending is uncontrolled spending, and that leads to situations like the one Williamston is in now. And make no mistake, Williamston is in a nasty situation.

This is the time of year when all governments, even those on a fiscal year budget cycle, begin to plan their next year’s budget. Or at least they should.

This brings us to an interesting point concerning the Anderson County budget. That budget has increased significantly over each of the last few years. Those increases have led to tax increases; questions concerning the integrity of the county administrator, as well as his budget process; and an unrelenting debate over just what taxpayers’ money should or should not be spent on.

Many people in Anderson County have no problem with spending public funds to support, for example, Keep America Beautiful. I know of no one who questions the value of an organization that tries to beautify Anderson County, which has one of the worst litter problems I’ve ever seen. Man, people don’t think anything about throwing a Burger King bag full of junk out the window.

There are an equal number of people, however, who question spending tens of thousands of public dollars on what is supposed to be a volunteer organization. Issues over support of the arts fall into the same category. People have strong and disparate views on whether such activities should receive public funding. The bedrock philosophical differences over government’s role in daily life run deep and wide in this area, much like the granite beneath the red clay earth.

These diverse opinions are healthy, and have a place in the budgetary debate. The problem in recent years is that there has been no budgetary debate. There hasn’t been any time for one, because the budget is usually presented at the last moment, leaving Council with little or no time to review and revise the budget, as is their right and responsibility.

Last year, faced with tax increases that they could not easily stomach, nor defend back home at the corner coffee shop, several members of Council insisted on exercising their authority, and rewriting the budget. They also spoke loudly and clearly about the budget process being conducted in a more open and timely manner, so that such last minute disruptions could be avoided in the future.

Among those calling for an earlier start to the budget process were newly elected Council Chairman Larry Greer and Vice Chairman Bill McAbee. Councilman Bill Dees, and of course, Councilwoman Cindy Wilson all expressed their wish for a studied and unhurried budget process for this year.

If such a process is to take place, the time is nigh for it to begin. It is time for the Council and its leadership to move that process forward by requiring the county administrator and his award winning financial staff to produce a preliminary budget no later than mid March. This timetable will allow the Council to study the budget and understand its implications, without having to scurry to get three rubber stamp readings on the record before the end of the fiscal year.

It would allow them to revise the budget and to allocate resources in the most efficient manner. The Council/administrator form of government defines the budgetary responsibilities of all parties. It is the administrator’s job to present a budget. It is the Council’s job to adopt it. That adoption is not required to be automatic; indeed, no budget should eve be adopted under the pressure of a deadline, or without discussion and review.

Seems to me when you’re spending tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money, the least Council can do, would be to talk about it a bit first.

Both Greer and McAbee displayed their budgetary acumen to good effect during last year’s budget process. It is now time for them to display their leadership by getting that process underway as soon as possible.

Mandolin workshop offered by Herschel Sizemore

Professional bluegrass musician Herschel Sizemore will offer a mandolin workshop on Feb. 25 at the Pickin Parlor, located on Hwy. 20 North.

Sizemore will offer six hours of instruction for $65 from 9 a.m. to 12 and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. during the one day workshop.

Sizemore has performed and recorded with some of bluegrass music’s finest performers and has numerous well known compositions.

“I had the opportunity to attend Herschel’s four day workshop in Roanoke, Va,” said Pickin’ Parlor owner, Jack Ellenburg. “This was one of the grandest times of my life to sit down with a person of Herschel’s mandolin and music caliber and learn from a professional.”

For more information call (864) 847-0706.

Whitefield Baptist concert to benefit Haven of Rest

A benefit concert for the The Haven of Rest ministry will be held at 7 p.m., February 18 at Whitefield Baptist Church, Belton.

The concert will feature Greater Vision and Anderson’s own Total Praise. Tickets are $15. All proceeds will benefit Haven of Rest Ministries, Inc.

The Anderson based ministry was formed in 1960 to help homeless men. They have grown to four in-house ministries with sixthrift shops which provide funding.

The original Rescue Mission provides food, shelter, and clothing for homeless men along with daily Bible studies, singing, preaching and one-on-one couseling.

Victors in Jesus is an in-depth 90 day program which serves recently jailed men to develop a closer walk with God by learning anger management, patience and accountability.

Transformation Life Center is an intense program which lasts up to one year, for men with lifedominating addictions. It is located on a 49 acre farm in Belton where the men cook, clean, do farm work, learn auto mechanices and retail store operating and are assisted with job placement.

Under His Wings is an eight week Bible based program for women seeking refuge or dealing with new freedom from addictions.

Whitefield Baptist Church is located across from the Anderson Jockey Lot on Highway 29 North. For more information or tickets call (864) 226-6193.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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