News Archive

(0607) Week of February 7, 2007

Town considers proposals that could pave the way for economic development
County officials revisit Blue Laws, sheriff’s budget loans
Waldrep memo addresses transfers
Sheriff’s Deputies investigate thefts
Winthrop recognizes students, graduates
Seems to Me . . . A new presence

Town considers proposals that could pave the way for economic development

During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved a security system for the park and heard from several persons offering to help with improvements in the park. Council also heard several recommendations that will be discussed at the next meeting that could affect future growth in the area.

During citizens comments, Jim Simpson asked about a date for removing the time capsule from the old city hall property and if it could be done in 30 days. He also asked about removing the building. Mayor Clardy responded that a date had not been set. He also said that the town only had one sealed bid for removing the old city hall and had heard nothing from the Ukrainians who were going to be contacted about removing the building.

Willy Wright asked about steps taken by council to get a grocery store in Williamston, printing wards on water bills and if Simpson would consider selling the property back to the town.

Judy Ellison stated that she was highly offended by comments made by Mayor Clardy at the Middleton pardon hearing and published in The Journal.

Council then unanimously approved placing a security system in the Mineral Spring Park. The system will cost about $300 per month and will allow monitoring of the park area 24 hours a day.

Councilman Marion Middleton said that one more light pole will be needed in the Park.

Mayor Clardy said that the system will be an example for other towns and that there will need to be additional lighting and trimming of tree limbs to allow proper visibility.

Council set the date for a public hearing to be held on Thursday, March 15 at 7 p.m. to hear a report from Goldie & Associates on findings of  air quality tests done at the town’s waste water treatment plant.

Reverend Mark Roberts on behalf of Mission Jerusalem, offered services of the local mission group to help make repairs on structures in Mineral Spring Park.

Roberts said that they wanted to offer their services and to strive to rebuild harmony in the town. Roberts offered labor and materials for work on projects agreed upon by the town.

“We hope others will catch the spirit and help make Williamston the town it can be,” Roberts said.

“We want to see the whole town, the whole community to come together,” he said.

Acting on a motion by Councilman Carthel Crout, council unanimously approved the offer of Mission Jerusalem to help renovate the parks in coordination with the Springwater Committe and with council’s approval.

It was approved with an amendment offered by Councilman Otis Scott to make necessary repairs before any new projects were begun.

Council then heard a presentation by Bill Meade, urging council to undertake a traffic study and to support several proposed road projects in the Williamston area.

“Now is the appropriate time and effort to try to solve these problems and look to the future,” Meade said.

Meade said that the town has access to the legislative delegation and others who can help with plans for future growth.

“Williamston and Pelzer are growing,” he said. “It is one of thehot spots in the county and traffic problems will only get worse.”

Meade pointed out that there is only one way through town and that the road infrastructure needs improvements. He also mentioned plans that were drawn up years ago by D. R. Chastain to help alleviate some of the traffic flow problems.

“Our residential areas are growing but the business section is not growing as it should,” Meade said. “People can shop in Anderson and Greenville. We need to try to do something to keep money here and provide convenience for shoppers. We need to do what we can to let the business area grow.”

Meade said the town needs new businesses to help the citizens pay for services.

Proposed improvements include a road from Minor St. to Mauldin St., a traffic light at Minor St., widening of Main St. and extension of Ida Tucker  to Beaverdam Road or to Hwy. 29.

He suggested council consider approving $2000 to $3000 for a traffic engineering study.

“We already have right-of-ways ready to give to us and the political capital to capitalize on this,” Meade said.

Council unaniumously approved a motion by Councilman Scott to accept the information and have the request placed on the agenda of the next meeting.

“If we want Williamston to grow, we need to have those cut throughs,” said Councilman Crout. “We have the right of ways already and we will see some growth in this town. If not it will be stagnant.”

Speaking as chairman of the Planning Commission, Jim Simpson recommneded rezoning property on Mill St. Extension from Residential 3 (R3) to Industrial. The zoning change will reflect the use of the property which was sold by the town at auction last year. The property is being used for grinding mulch.

Council unanimously agreed to place the request on the agenda for the Feb. 19th meeting.

Simpson also said there needs to be reconsideration of zoning for storage buildings located on Minor St. According to Simpson, the buildings are zoned for use by residents of the adjacent apartment complex and are not supposed to be available for rent to the general public.

Council unanimously agreed to have a letter sent from the planning commission to the storage building owners.

Council unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. and the regular meeting at 7 p.m. on March 5 to discuss the zoning clarification.

The Vice Chairman of the planning commission presented a recommendation to Council that Pelzer Avenue be relocated to align with the traffic light at Main St. and Mill St. Property owner Jim Simpson said he will exchange property to allow the road relocation.

Simpson indicated that is in discussion with two significantly interested parties that relate to a grocery store. He said both are not interested without the old city hall property being included and the entrance being at the traffic light.

Simpson said the primary entrance to the shopping center would be at the traffic light and an exit with a right turn only may be in the area where the entrance is presently located.

Simpson indicated that some engineering sub plans have all ready been done and will have additional information comprised and available at the Feb. 19 meeting.

Council voted unanimously to approve a request by Anne Ernest of the WAHC to allow the organization to plant flowers and dress up the grave site in Mineral Spring Park.

The request was approved with the condition that a sketch of the plans will be submitted to Council for approval.

Council then went into an executive session to discuss personnel matter.

Upon returing to regular session, Mayor Clardy said no action was taken.

Clardy announced that Council will attend a work session retreat this Saturday from 9:30 to 3:30 at the ACOG offices in Greenville.

County officials revisit Blue Laws, sheriff’s budget loans

By Stan Welch

Anderson County’s on again off again blue laws are one third of the way to being off again. County Council, which approved the abolition of the blue laws last December, and then reinstated them in a vote taken at the first meeting of this year, has now given first reading approval to an ordinance again removing Sunday work prohibitions from the County books.

The most recent vote was four to three; the same vote count that reinstated the laws in early January. 

Chairman Bob Waldrep provided the swing vote in both cases. Both the vote in January and the manner in which it occurred had stirred controversy. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson voted against the ordinance to abolish the blue laws on the first two readings, then voted for it on the third reading. She conceded at the time that she had done so in order to be able under Parliamentary law, to bring the issue back up for reconsideration.

Once the newly elected and reportedly more conservative Council was seated, she wasted no time in doing just that. Her efforts were successful, as Waldrep joined her, Councilman Greer and newly elected Councilman Ron Wilson in voting to rescind the December vote.

Tuesday night, Waldrep, whose District One encompasses a large part of the Anderson business district, reversed himself, voting to give first reading approval to the reintroduced ordinance.

The question of a referendum was raised but was quashed when it was explained that any such referendum would be non-binding. “A referendum to decide on blue laws was available to the counties only in 1996,” said Councilman Thompson. “Anderson County chose not to hold one. Their chance passed.”

District Five Councilman, as well as District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd both repeated their earlier concerns that a process which involved three readings of the ordinance, as well as a public hearing, had been undone by a single vote to reconsider.

Said Floyd, “I said it was illegal then and I say it is illegal now. You cannot undo an ordinance with one reading. It was law once we voted on it the third time.”

Thompson said that “the new Council members didn’t have the benefit of three votes and the feedback from their constituents. They were sworn in at five o’clock and they were in action at six. I just think a little confusion might have set in.”

In reversing himself, Waldrep referred to the advisory referendum suggested earlier. “I sometimes think that advisory measures are a way of us denying our responsibility in this republican form of government we have. Our constituents elected us to make these decisions. Sometimes we have to bite the bullet, face the issue and cast a vote.”

The ordinance will require two more readings and another public hearing before receiving final approval or denial.

$1.1 million dollars of the Sheriff’s budget deficit basically disappeared during a discussion of the question of department transfers of funds. Councilman Wilson asked both County Administrator Joey Preston and Financial Analyst Gina Humphreys several questions about the “loans” the County made to the Sheriff’s department.

“When you made these loans, did you inform Council of them?” asked Wilson.

Preston expanded his response from the last Council meeting, when he told Council that they had approved such transfers or loans by approving the budget.

“Council understood that the Sheriff receives all his funding  from taxes. On July 1, when the new budget year begins, he has no money, since tax notices don’t go out until November. The Sheriff has a budget and he borrows from a big pot of money, with the understanding that in June, it’s all supposed to balance out,” said Preston. “The Council approved 80 positions for the Sheriff in personnel, but they failed to provide the funding. The Sheriff hired more people than he could afford to pay. And there were increased fuel costs and uniforms and items like that.”

Preston explained that he wasn’t going to throw rocks at the sheriff, but added, “It is his responsibility. He’s accountable. We loaned him the money and he has to pay it back. But it was not a transfer. If Council voted to transfer the funds, you would have given him the money.”

Wilson continued to press Preston on whether or not Council was informed of the “loans” as they occurred. “Did anyone ever go to him and say, “Boy, you’re way over here. You better do something?” Preston said that the Sheriff was indeed made aware of the situation.

Preston then asked Humphreys to explain the car purchase, which in fact was a lease purchase. 

“The $1.1 million was not a cash outlay by the Sheriff. It is shown as a liability because we borrowed the money from the bank and paid the vendor off in full. It shows up as part of the $2.2 million deficit that has been reported but it isn’t a cash situation.”

Wilson responded that, in that case, the deficit was really closer to $1.1 million, to which Humphreys agreed. 

She also reported for the first time that there had been four occasions on which “loans” were made to the Sheriff. 

“We gave him a million dollars in July, at the start of the new fiscal year. Then we gave him two other amounts in October and November of 2005. Then we gave him another, I think, $300,000 in May of ’06,” she said.

Wilson asked for copies of those transactions. He also said that he had been receiving information he had requested in a timely fashion.

During the Council members’ remarks, which occur near the end of the agenda each week, Waldrep asked Preston is there was anything he could do to accommodate some of Ms. Wilson’s requests for information.

“Is there anything you can do about that, Mr. Preston? Can you find some time to address some of these things?” Preston replied that he was doing his best and that the Finance Committee, chaired by Floyd was working on that.

Ms. Floyd asked Waldrep if he was implying that Preston doesn’t provide for Wilson what she needs. “I attribute evil to no one,” said Waldrep. “I assume that everyone’s intentions are absolutely the best, But we have a responsibility to absolutely deal in complete information. We must do our jobs, because the buck stops here.” (See related story elsewhere in this issue.)

Councilwoman Wilson appropriated $17,000 for road work on Parker Street , which lies partly within the Williamston town limits and partly in the county. She also appropriated $2500 for the Town’s use in grading and ditching.

She also announced a revival of her program of joint meetings, in which grant writers from the federal level, as well as representatives of various municipalities and agencies  meet to address various funding needs in the district.

The first meeting, including representatives from Senator Jim DeMint’s office, as well as the office of Congressman Gresham Barrett, will take place at 10 A.M. at the Honea Path Town Hall.

Waldrep memo addresses transfers

By Stan Welch

A recent memo from County Council Chairman Bob Waldrep to newly appointed Finance Committee Chairperson Gracie Floyd contained as much information between the lines as it did within them. An interview conducted by The Journal with Waldrep concerning the memo revealed the purpose behind it.

At the last meeting of the Council, Waldrep, for the first time in several years, appointed two standing committees. One dealt with finance, and is composed of Ms. Floyd, Ms. Wilson and Mr. Greer. On February 2, he sent a memo to Ms. Floyd, addressing the issue of fund transfers and “loans”, which also arose at that meeting.

In revealing the extent of the deficit under which the Sheriff’s Office is operating, county financial experts referred to loans to the Sheriff in the amount of $2.5 million. Gina Humphreys, county financial analyst, stated that the requirement to notify Council of any fund transfers in excess of $2500, did not apply to the loan.

In his memo, Waldrep clearly refutes that position. “The issue of transfers from department to department and ‘loans’ from department to department need to be addressed. While appreciating emergencies which may occur, the fundamental basis for the Ordinance of reporting transfers over $2500.00 appears to be completely abrogated by the system of loans being made.”

 Waldrep goes on to say that loans, in his opinion, are in fact transfers, and subject to the present ordinance. “It is imperative that any and all loans and transfers which exceed $2500.00 must be approved by County Council prior to disbursement.”

He added that the reports would be detailed and give a general idea of the nature of the various expenditures. “Not being accountants, we are forced to rely on our Finance Department for disclosure, and I would presume that while the information would be forthcoming, other reasonable requests for production would be honored, including contracts and related documents,” the memo continued.

District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson has consistently questioned the manner in which such transfers are made known to the Council. She has said in past instances that as much as a year has passed before some transfers have been made known. County administrator Joey Preston said at the last Council meeting that he includes that information in his administrator’s report, provided to Council members before each Council meeting.

A review of the Council minutes from January 2006 through January 2007 shows that Preston’s administrator’s report did in fact include department transfers in eight of the twenty three meetings held at which his report was presented to Council. Some meetings were cancelled, such as the Fourth of July meeting and the November 7 meeting. Called meetings do not allow for such a report. But of the twenty-three regular meetings held, there were eight such reports. In March and June, reports were available at both meetings.

The longest stretch between reports was from August 15 until December 19, or just over four months. The December 19 meeting included both the October and November department transfers, according to the county website, which provides the minutes.

 At the June 20,2006 meeting, such a report was included, but it was challenged by Ms. Wilson, who said that it included $1.5 million in transfers from June of the previous year. She objected, saying that county ordinances require a monthly report. Preston responded by saying that he is required to provide the report within thirty days of receiving the information himself. He added that the transfers were made as part of the auditing process and that they were entirely proper.

It was during the presentation of the 2006 audit that the $2.5 million dollar “loan” to the Sheriff’s Department was made public, again raising the issue of department transfers and notification.

Chairman Waldrep, asked by The Journal whether his emphasis on the monthly requirement being met indicated a shift in his position concerning a full and thorough audit of the County’s finances, said it did not. “My position in support of the audit is the same. But looking at the political terrain, I’m not sure we can get four votes in support of such an audit. I am a little concerned about the numbers being thrown around, that it would cost so many millions of dollars. But that’s really a red herring. Requiring the monthly reports will give the Council enough information to begin determining for ourselves whether anything wrong or improper is going on.”

Waldrep continued, “In an ideal world, we would have a full audit and dispel or confirm all the suspicions of impropriety. But damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead just isn’t the best way to go at this. If this Council won’t approve a moderate approach like this to open up this County government, then we are in deep trouble. I really can’t understand why any Council member would choose not to exercise their stewardship on behalf of their constituents.”

Waldrep added that one problem Council has is “We don’t have anyone on our side. We have no accounting instrument to challenge the administrator’s explanation. If his staff says white is black, we have no one to say, ‘Wait a minute. White is white.’ We have to work with the information they provide.”

Waldrep sees the transfer issue as emblematic of a larger problem. “Past Councils have abdicated so much of their power to the administrator that we have become potted plants, just sitting up there on the platform. It fascinates me that Council members would choose not to do their jobs. Responsibility without power is unacceptable to me. The buck doesn’t stop with the administrator. It stops here, with the elected officials. We will be held accountable in the end. This is just the start of a process. It is my intention to put us all in a position down the road to be able to exercise the authority vested in us by the voters.”

“If this effort to enforce an existing ordinance, as a middle ground approach, fails, then it’s a simple exercise in political science 101. We try something else, because I’m not going to stop until this Council commits to meeting its responsibilities.”

Sheriff’s Deputies investigate thefts

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated several thefts and other incidents recently. Among incidents investigated were:

BELTON

Feb. 2 – Deputy J. J. Jacobs responded to Top Notch Egg and Refreshments, located at 539 Dorchester Road, where Harold Davis reported the theft of a 120 gallon propane tank, valued at $500.

Feb. 2 – N. M. Mitchell was dispatched to 2335 Bethany Church Road where John Ashley, owner of the Craytonville Feed store reported the theft of thirteen flats of cabbage plants, valued at $200. A surveillance tape showed a black male of average height and weight, wearing blue jeans, a brown jacket and a hat. He was driving an older model blue Chevy pickup truck.

Feb. 3 – M. D. Campbell responded to the Jockey Lot on Hwy. 29, where James Robinson reported the break in at his storage area, and the theft of some merchandise.

Feb 3 – W.T. Cunningham responded to 2 Sturbridge Court, where Travis Rogers reported that someone had broken into his vehicle and stolen several items. He reported that he saw someone sleeping in one of his roommate’s car, and went inside to get his roommates. The man, a WM, 20-25 years old, 5’8", 165 pounds, wearing all black clothing except for a white and orange Clemson stocking cap, fled the scene.

PIEDMONT

Feb. 2 – J. L. Bergholm was dispatched to 100 Halter Dr., Unit 2, where Matthew Chasteen reported that someone had broken into his business, Kids’ Shots and stole approximately $550 in cash and did $200 damage to the door.

 Feb. 2 – J. J. Jacobs and W. T. Cunningham were patrolling when a passing motorist stopped them and told them of an intoxicated person causing a disturbance a short distance away, on Oliver Park Drive. Subsequently, the deputies located John David Brantham, WM, 40, who was belligerent and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. He was arrested and taken to ACDC on a charge of public disorderly conduct.

Feb. 3 - E.S. Russell was dispatched to the Corner Stop convenience store at 901 Anderson street. The manager reported that an older model two tone (brown/tan) truck had driven off after pumping approximately 20 gallons of gas.

WILLIAMSTON

Feb. 2 – J. A. Frazier responded to 211 Pamela Dr., where Glenda Ryde said that her lime green 2007 Ford Focus had been stolen during the night.

Feb 3 – J.J. Jacobs was dispatched to 105 Hampton Road to investigate a report of a suspicious vehicle. The vehicle was suspected to have been used in several property crimes. Jacobs went to the nearest house to speak with the occupants, one of whom was John “Cody” Luther, WM, 19, 5’8", 150 pounds, brn/brn. He was found to have five active warrants out and was arrested. During a search of his person, a bag of meth amphetamine was found, containing .3 grahams.

Winthrop recognizes students, graduates

Area students were among those named to the President’s List, the Dean’s List and graduating from Winthrop University recently.

Justin Curtis Meade of Williamston was among students who had outstanding academic accomplishments during the fall semester and earned inclusion on the President’s List. To be named to the President’s List, undergraduate students had to complete a minimum of 12 semester hours of courses taken on a letter-grade basis (excluding S/U) and who earned a grade-point average of 4.00 (all As).

Several area students who also had outstanding academic accomplishments during the fall semester at Winthrop earned inclusion on the Dean’s List. To be named to the Dean’s List, undergraduate students had to complete a minimum of 12 semester hours of courses taken on a letter-grade basis (excluding S/U) and who earned a grade-point average of 3.50.

Students named to the Deans List include - Geoffrey Travis Buell of Piedmont, Megan Kimberly Hackenberg of Piedmont, Katherine Jean Hon and Jordon Elaine Jackson, Pelzer, LaToya Rahchele Johnson, and Alyssa Nicole Mason, of Piedmont.

Also David Derrick Stubbs of Easley, James Marshall Woody, Belton, Samir Zakaria Zahran of Piedmont and  Diana Stacey of Pelzer. 

Winthrop University graduates include Kayla Victoria Belk of Williamston, Bachelor of Arts Psychology; Christopher Taylor Chamberlain,  of Piedmont, Bachelor of Arts Economics; Jeanette LaTise Berry, of Piedmont, Bachelor of Arts Social Work.

Seems to Me . . .A new presence

By Stan Welch

Bob Waldrep has been Chairman of the Anderson County Council for a little more than a month, and his presence is clearly being felt. All indications are that his impact will increase as time goes on, rather than decrease.

Waldrep ran for and easily won the District One seat vacated by the retiring Fred Tolly. He quickly and smoothly engineered a palace coup, derailing District Four Councilman Bill McAbee’s anticipated reach for the gavel by receiving four votes before McAbee’s name even came up for a vote.

While Waldrep is clearly more accustomed to the procedures of the General Assembly, where he served between stints on the County Council, he seems to be settling in nicely. Frankly, he brings a great deal to the table. Not least of his various talents and attributes is a quick, sharp, yet curiously gentle, wit. He has long had a reputation for the pointed quip, or the homespun fable. The reputation is clearly deserved.

On several occasions already, he has used his wit, as well as his willingness to target himself with it, to reduce tensions or refocus a Council with a reputation for contentious, and sometimes personally rancorous, behavior. During a discussion at one Council meeting, the question of taxes being raised came up, in the context of a previous Council’s actions. When McAbee reminded Waldrep that Waldrep had been on that Council, he smiled and said, “Yes, and I apologize for that.”

But there is clearly more to Bob Waldrep than a quick and self-deprecating wit. He has made it plain that the County’s financial and accounting practices are less than satisfactory. According to sources with firsthand knowledge of a meeting Waldrep held with Sheriff Crenshaw and two other Council members last week,  Waldrep was heard to tell county financial analyst Gina Humphries and finance director Rita Davis that he for one did not care to go to jail, adding that he would appreciate being told if the County’s practices made that a possibility, whether now or in the future. He also, according to reports, asked pointedly if either of them were prepared to go to jail. The fact that he did so in a relatively lighthearted manner in no way detracts from the import of such a  statement. The fact that he delivered that message in the presence of Sheriff David Crenshaw simply proves that he is efficient, scaring two birds with one stone.

He has made it clear that the semantic description of a  two and a half million dollar transfer of funds from the general fund to the Sheriff’s budget was nothing more than an effort to circumvent County ordinances, which require that any transfer of funds in excess of $2500 result in notification of the Council within a specific time frame.

In a recent memo to District Two Councilwoman and recently appointed finance committee Chair, Gracie Floyd, Waldrep reinforced that opinion, and extended it. His position is that such disbursements must be approved by County Council, prior to being made. This position, if established and maintained, will represent a sea change, not just in the County’s financial practices, but in every relationship between Council and County Administrator Joey Preston. It is difficult to imagine a circumstance in which Waldrep’s presence would be more consistently and pervasively felt.

Waldrep says that his intention to enforce the ordinance requiring notification is an effort to find a political middle ground. His concerns about finding four votes are well founded, given the recent history of the County Council, which has repeatedly supported the county administrator’s efforts to extend and solidify his authority.

Waldrep says plainly that this approach is simply the first step in his plan to restore the authority of elected officials, authority which he says has been abdicated by the past Councils. He also states firmly that if this effort is not successful, he will continue to look for and find ways to pursue his goal.

Whether Waldrep can rally the four votes needed to enforce the ordinance, it seems to me his very announcement that he intends to do so ensures that his presence will continue to be felt for the length of his term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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