News Archive

(0706) Week of Feb. 15, 2006

Council finds details, changes not as easy as expected
Fee increases to take effect immediately
Council seat election to be held on May 9
Middleton, Jr. to run for council seat
Tim Williams announces for Ward 2 council seat
Trash schedule changes
Pelzer to drop police service, approves match for grant
Painting offers therapy for Alzheimers patients
Joint wastewater treatment options to be discussed
Skateboard meeting moves to Pelzer park
South Greenville Fire gets new pumper
Convenience Center accident claims life
Counterfeiters plead guilty
Seems to Me .  . . A time for everything

Council finds details, changes not as easy as expected

By Stan Welch

The Williamston Town Council found out last week that passing motions unanimously may look good to a population concerned about the Town’s financial future; but it isn’t necessarily the most effective way to improve that future.

At a Thursday morning budget workshop, following a Monday night meeting which saw the Council formalize several measures approved at a previous budget workshop, Council reviewed, revised and rescinded several of those measures.  On at least one occasion they ended up back where they originally started.

The workshop began with the Mayor informing council, as well as about forty citizens who attended, that staff cuts were being carried out “as quickly as we can in accordance with the appropriate regulations and laws.” Those cuts, resulting in the loss of 16.5 jobs, were among the first measures taken by the Council in its efforts to fend off the pending financial disaster that the Town faces.

Once they had been approved, however, Council discovered that such terminations aren’t as simple as they might seem.

A human resources specialist from ACOG (Appalachian Council of Governments) has been assisting the Town in making sure that all proper channels are followed, such as providing severance pay and assisting the released workers in accessing available resources, as well as with possible placements in other jobs.  All overtime, vacation, sick leave and comp time must be paid.

“People in town think that this round of job cuts is going to be an immediate help, but the truth is that no savings will be seen for at least a month, and unfortunately, a month is a long time when you’re in the shape Williamston is in. Nevertheless, we have to be very careful and be sure we don’t get sued by anyone. That could cost us more than we could ever save to begin with,” said Joe Newton, ACOG’s director of government operations.

The first round of layoffs was to be exercised on Friday, February 10. Indications are that even the one third reduction in the Town’s workforce may not be enough to offset the crushing debts the Town has incurred.

In fact, in an effort to salvage his department, David “Doc” Roberts, head of the sanitation department, slashed his staff to four people, including himself. The effort was in response to a proposal that the Town’s residential waste pickup service be privatized, or turned over to a private contractor.

Roberts made it clear that he wanted to preserve his department, but he also made it clear that he could provide only the most basic services with so small a staff.

“All we’re gonna be able to do is go out there and throw garbage. We can’t pick up limbs or bushhog or clear out ditches. It’ll be all we can do to throw garbage and do maintenance on the trucks,” he said.

Cell phones and their remarkable expense, have been a topic of considerable interest also. After voting earlier to essentially end all of the Town’s cell phone service, Council had to backtrack at the workshop.

Department heads pled their cases, saying that the convenient communication saved money that would otherwise be spent traveling to Town Hall and to various vendors to check on the availability of parts and supplies. Water and sewer department head Tim Hood volunteered to pay for his own phone, but added, “If I do, I’m changing the number. I’m not going to answer that phone at all hours of the night like I do now. And I’m not going to sit at home all weekend to be near that phone.”

Chief David Baker pointed out that some of the Town’s various phone plans were based on the number of phones included. “If we cut the numbers of phones, it’s possible that we could lose money by losing the best package deals.” He added that other police officers besides himself needed cell phone service.

Finally Council voted to allow the department heads to keep their phones, while other alternatives are investigated.

The question of parking all of the Town’s vehicles at the end of each work day also became a fiscal, if not political, football. The Council had voted to park all such vehicles except for the police chief’s.

At the workshop, Councilman Otis Scott amended his prior motion to allow the Chief, the department heads, and any police officers living in the Town limits to drive their cars. Captain Evatt, who lives outside of the town, was also allowed to use his car.

The Council then changed their earlier decision to continue commercial garbage pickup until the end of the billing period, which had just begun. The decision was made to refund the payments as they came in and to discontinue the service immediately. All dumpsters are to be sold for $250 a piece. Those businesses currently with a dumpster can buy it or buy their own at considerably higher prices.

Chief Baker then asked about replacing any officers who leave. He was told to get approval from the Council. Baker went on to talk about the low morale at the department, saying that use of the cars had been one of the few benefits available to the department. “There hasn’t been a raise in two years. It looks like it will be at least that much longer before we see one. Now the cars are supposed to be parked. We’re going to see a lot of people leaving over this situation.”

After further discussion, Councilman Scott again amended his previously amended motion to allow policemen living in Anderson who transport prisoners to the Anderson County Detention Center on the way home to drive their police cars. Council approved, based on Baker’s assertion that such a plan saves time and money in transporting prisoners.

After a break a few minutes later, Scott again amended his twice amended motion to return to the original position of allowing Chief Baker to use his own discretion in letting his officers drive their police cars while off duty.

During the discussion of the garbage fees, Joe Newton made it plain that the decision to try and salvage the sanitation department was a short term concession to a preferred privatization of the garbage service.

“David Roberts said he thinks he can do this with four people and he wants to try and save his department. We can give him a chance or we can hire a private contractor right now. But either way, the $14 a month fee is going to be paid. It just depends on how you want to approach it,” Newton said.

Roberts was clearly unhappy upon learning that the effort would be subject to constant review. “If you’re going to revisit it every month, what am I supposed to tell my people. If you’re going to cut us anymore, we’ll be gone. You might as well get rid of us now.” 

Newton made it clear that he was prepared to follow the privatization plan right away. “David, you say you can do this. If you can, it will save the town approximately $200,000 to be used in paying other bills. You’ve asked for a trial basis. If you can operate for $160,000, and the Town can use the $200,000 difference in what the garbage fee will produce, that’s fine. Otherwise, we have to go to franchising. “

Council voted to give the plan a chance, with the understanding that if it didn’t work, the alternative of privatizing the service would be the next step.

Consulting accountant Bob Daniel had some strong words for the Council as well.

“The payroll taxes will be paid from now on, even if the payroll isn’t. The federal and state tax people are not amused any longer. They have a very bad attitude at this time, and that attitude is that they don’t care whether your Town survives or not. They will be paid. They want us to borrow the money to pay them. But I don’t think we can borrow any money right now.”

Newton agreed, saying he jokingly mentioned a pound of flesh to the tax people. “They seemed to think that was a good idea.”

The discussions will continue with a budget work session this Thursday, Feb. 16, at 9 a.m. and another for 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20. Public comment will be allowed at the Feb. 20 meeting, town officials said.

Fee increases to take effect immediately

During a special meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council unanimously approved second reading on four ordinances to bring in additional revenues for the town.

Council then approved second and final reading on 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 immediately for any new business that may open and with the current billing for those already operating in the town. The water and sewer increase and the household garbage fee will be on the March billing.

Before holding first reading during their regular meeting Feb. 6, Council unanimously agreed to set a time limit of Dec. 31 on all fees being voted on.

Council then went into executive session to discuss hiring an auditor.

Upon returning to open session, Council agreed to a list of three potential auditors and will vote in Thursday’s work session after considering bids.

Though public comment was not allowed during the meeting, several citizens took the opportunity to speak anyway while Council was in executive session.

Olive Wilson asked about Roberts Rules of Order and if the Chairperson can vote and make motions. She also mentioned several items that were rescinded during the work session Thursday. She said that a Williamston police vehicle was seen near Laurens.

Ruth Ferguson stated that a proposed 2 percent hospitality tax on restaurants was another example of hurting local businesses.

Gary Bannister said he wanted to thank Council for some of the decisions made. “It is not easy to make the hard decisions,” he said. He said volunteers could help with recreation and that the jail and police dispatch could be done away with.

Bannister also said there are a lot of citizens, including himself, who would pay an estimated tax to help the town get out of the financial mess “if the person that got us in would leave town.”

After Council returned to open session, ACOG representative Joe Newton made a plea to residents to  “please hold off on FOI requests.”

Newton said that the town was being overwhelmed with requests to the extent that the staff “can’t get their work done.”

He also said that the figures for the town’s finances are changing every day.

Questions that have arisen over  $96,000 in interest that some thought was on the most recent BAN note were actually on a $2.5 million water and sewer bond (outfall line) the town is paying on.

It was also announced that a special election to fill the seat vacated by former Councilman Cecil Cothran will be held May 9.

Books will officially open February 24 and close March 6, clerk/treasurer Michelle Starnes said.

A Council work session will be held this Thursday, Feb. 16, at 9 a.m. and another at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20.

Work will begin on the budget during the work session Thursday. 

Council will continue work on the 2006 budget and public comment will be allowed at the Feb. 20 meeting, Mayor Clardy said.

Council seat election to be held on May 9

A special election to fill the Council seat vacated by former Williamston Councilman Cecil Cothran will be held on May 9. Books will officially open February 24 and close March 6, clerk/treasurer Michelle Starnes said.

Cothran announced last week that he was resigning his position as Ward 2 Councilman, citing health reasons.

Two candidates, Marion Middleton, Jr. and Tim Williams, announced that they will seek the open seat on council.

The resignation  resulted in a special election to fill the seat which would have been up for reelection in November, because the general election is more than 180 days away. The seat held by Councilman Greg Cole is also up for grabs in November.

Gary Baum, Public Information Director at the South Carolina Election Commission, says that state law requires that the seat be filled within the 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.

Ward 4 Councilman Otis Scott said he will continue to serve in his elected position.

Middleton, Jr. to run for council seat

Marion Middleton, Jr. , 321 South Hamilton St., Williamston officially announced this week that he will seek the Council seat left open by the recent resignation of former Councilman Cecil Cothran.

Middleton, 46, is a 1978 graduate of Palmetto High School and a graduate of the Citadel, with a degree in history. He also has a MA degree from Furman University.

He has been a teacher for 17 years, 13 of those at Palmetto High School. He presently teaches world geography in the Freshman Academy at T. L. Hanna High School.

Middleon attends Central Presbyterian Church in Anderson where is active in mission work. He and his wife Cheryl have three children, Will, 16; Garrett, 8; and Libby, 6.

Middleton said that he dicided to run for the offices after attending recent council meetings and becoming concerned with the towns finances. He said that financial information being provided to him didn’t make sense.

“The information that has come to light over the last weeks that the town was $1.7 million in debt, was the worst news possible,” M iddleton said.

Middleton said that the financial condition of the town and the resignation of Councilman Cothran were deciding factors for him to consider running for the council seat.  “I knew it was time for me to do what I could,” he said, “to offer my assistance.”

“This is such a serious situation,” Middleton said of the problems facing the town. “I have ideas and energy to contribute to the resurgence of Williamston.”

Areas Middleton said the town needs to work on include the budget, archives, water and sewer and establishing a reserve fund.

He said that in comparing the budget with the audit, “the numbers don’t match up. We still don’t have good numbers,” he said.

He also wants to make line items of all expenditures and any that are over budget be requiree to be brought before council for approval.

Middleton said he wants to have a citizens advisory council made up of representatives of local banks, the GWBA, and a citizen from each ward.

He said that he wants to make the Freedom of Information Act functionally obsolete by having minutes, agendas, audits and other information readily available on a town website.

He wants to work on document retention and organization. According to Middleton guidelines provided by the S. C. Dept. of Archives provides standards of local government which tell how long to keep records in inventory and he said he wants to “know what’s in there.”

Middleton said the thing that disturbs him the most are the cuts in the water and sewer department, basic services the town provides to residents. He said as it stands now, the sewer plant is operating at full capacity and “the town can’t grow anymore.”

He said improvements in the lines could help with water inflow and runoff.

Middleton said he also plans to have monthly meeting for persons in his ward to ask questions and get answers. “There has to be communications. People are getting frustrated,” Middleton said.

He also wants the town to have a reserve fund. “We have go to look forward.”

Middleton said anyone with question is welcome to bring them to him.  “I will be glad to tell them,” he said. “I want to look forward to the future and make it a positive future for Williamston,” he said.

Tim Williams announces for Ward 2 council seat

Tim E. Williams announced this week that he is planning to run for the Ward 2 Town Council seat in Williamston.

Williams retired in 2004 after 25 years of service with the State of South Carolina.

He served as the Anderson Outpost Coordinator for the South Carolina Governor’s Office Division of Continuum of Care from 1999 until his retirement in 2004.

He is a 1966 graduate of Palmetto High School and a graduate of Anderson College and Southern Wesleyan University.

He and his wife Margaret attend Williamston First Baptist CCCCCcchurch where he serves as a deacon and teacher for the Ruth Sunday school class.

Williams said he would like to see the town of Williamston receive positive exposure and respect that is so deserved by the citizens.

He said he has no ties to the current or previous town leadership and simply has a desire to see the town consistently improve.

Williams said he wants to citizens of Williamston to feel safe and proud of their town and believes the town needs to focus on the future by learning from the past.

“There needs to be an aggressive plan to bring new businesses to the town. In addition, the town needs to be conservative in spending and have a budget that everyone can live with,” Williams said.

Williams feels that much can be learned by looking at other towns, such as Belton and Iva, which have experienced similar economic issues.

Williams said his grandfather once worked for the Town of Williamston, his father grew up in Williamston and he said he is “very proud to call Williamston my hometown.”

Trash schedule changes

Due to recent cuts being made by the Town of Williamston, trash pickup for residents and businesses will change this week.

Street Department Supervisor David Roberts said that residential garbage collection will permanently change to the following schedule beginning Feb. 13: 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. Residents are asked to either place recyclable materials in with their other trash or keep it until the recycling center is set up.

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

A list of alternative providers that offer pickup of the rearload dumpsters the town has used was made available to businesses.

For additional information call David Roberts at 847-7473.

Pelzer to drop police service, approves match for grant

By Stan Welch

Pelzer Town Council made several decisions Monday night, including the decision to discontinue a contract with the Town of West Pelzer to provide police service. That contract is due to expire soon and the Council decided that the $18,000 a year was too much for the service they were receiving.

“I never see them around here,” said Councilman Tony Riddle. “We can just get the county to help us out.” Mayor Kenneth Davis said the Sheriff’s Department had been very responsive to several calls he had made recently. “They’ve been great, as far as I’m concerned. I just don’t see where we’re getting anywhere near $1500 a month in service from West Pelzer. I’d rather just send a $1500 check once in a while to the Sheriff and say, ‘Here, take your boys to dinner. We appreciate what you’re doing’”

Town administrator Skip Watkins said the contract is for six months at a time, and he will give West Pelzer written notice that it will not be renewed.

Council also approved an expenditure of up to $40,000 in matching funds, in order to obtain a $200,000 DOT grant to rehabilitate the Town gym. Several of the associated projects have been done already, which may lower the cost of the remaining work. The gym has been roofed, painted, and had HVAC work done. The entire amount of the project is set for $239,000. Any and all expenses over that amount would be the Town’s responsibility.

Council also approved spending up to $6,000 on a sewer study to determine whether the Town would fare better by establishing a treatment facility at the current lagoon site, in cooperation with West Pelzer, rather than signing a proposed deal with Western Carolina. Town administrator Skip Watkins stressed that both Towns would have to agree or the study would not be done. “West Pelzer will have to do their share also. Neither of us can put this project together alone.”

Councilwoman Sandra Ragsdale proposed eliminating the sewer surcharge and trash fees for the 33 households within the Town limits. There would be no increase for those outside the limits, but the overall impact of the change would be $3623 loss of revenues each year.”

Watkins explained that it is legal and appropriate to establish different in town/out of town fees. “The state recognizes such fees. They can help provide an incentive for people to come into the city limits. Right now, there is very little reason for those outside our limits to want to come into the town. There’s no difference in services, or the amount of fees paid.”

Ragsdale said “People are struggling to pay their water bills. I just thought it would help the people in town, you know, the ones who vote.”

Mayor Davis opposed the idea, saying that the Town currently loses about $4000 a year by picking up garbage at the current fee. “We’re in the red on garbage pickup now. I just can’t see dropping these fees.” The motion was finally tabled, despite Council continuing to discuss the issue for several minutes after the motion to table was made. A proposal to provide rolling trash cans to Town residents was also tabled.

Watkins and Davis also pointed out that expenditures related to the Town’s recreation programs had already cost the Town almost $100,000 for fiscal year 2004-2005. The programs generated $21,773 in revenues, while the expenses were $45,117. The Town had to provide $23,344 to cover the shortfall.

The Town also provided an additional $74,517.32 from the general fund to roof and paint the gym, cut grass at various facilities, build a picnic shelter, and pay insurance and audit fees, as well as salaries. The total burden on the Town came to $97,861.32.

Council also voted to approve pursuing the sale of a small strip of property across the street from Town Hall to Roger Scott, a local businessman, and Councilwoman Tonya Scott’s father- in- law. Councilwoman Scott recused herself from the vote. The property will be sold for $500, with Scott to bear all associated costs, including the moving of any utilities that might be required.

Councilwoman Scott also announced that there will be an event at the skateboard park on February 18. A Christian skateboarding club, 33Y, which has met for three years on Monday nights at the Williamston home of Fred and Chester Garrett, is moving their meeting to the Pelzer Skateboard Park, to be held from 5 p.m. till 8:30 p.m.

“The kids will also have access to the gym, where they can play dodge ball or basketball,” said Scott. “They each bring $5 and order pizza. Drinks are provided. But you have to wear a helmet to skate, or we won’t open the park. There will also be a local band. Right after the club meeting ends at 8:30, there will be a meeting about the Pelzer Skate Park and upcoming fund raising events.”

Mayor Davis also announced Pelzer’s First Annual Spring rally for Pelzer’s Kids. “We’re expecting 400-500 bikers to take part. They’ll pay $25 a bike to ride in the 100 mile ride. We’ll serve barbecue plates at the ball fields and we have T-shirts made up to sell. “ He gave everyone a T-Shirt, which will also include the names of the corporate sponsors as well.

The event is scheduled for April 1. For more information, or to sponsor the event, call the Pelzer Town Hall.

Painting offers therapy for Alzheimers patients

Alzheimers patients at the Riverside Nursing Center in Piedmont recently participated in a unique program that combines art, singing and praise to help them open up and enjoy life.

The unique program is called Art Without Boundaries. It involves Mnemetecnic Therapy, a unique multidisciplinary approach used to stimulate synaptic activity in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments.

The process includes art, singing, sensory stimulation, movement and praise “to allow patients to reconnect to the wholeness as human beings through life affirming pleasure of creativity,” according to instructor/therapist Noell Hammer.

The program is the brainchild of Hammer, who while working as an Executive Director at a small Alzheimers Assocciation chapter in Ohio, decided to use her artisitic ability to enable Alzheimers patients to create art.

In the process, she found that it helped the patients. As more patients were involved, Hammer began hearing reports of changes in many of the patients who participated in the painting sessions.

After searching the internet to understand why it was happening, she came up with a hypothesis of how and why the art therapy helped Alzheimers patients.

The results being seen include enhanced cognitive ability, increased awareness, improved verbal and motor skills, greater personal motivation and improved quality of life.

The process is now know as Mnemetecnic Therapy and research is underway to document the process and the results.

The name was coined by Hammer because the program was not actually art therapy. During her internet research she found that Mneme is the short name of Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muse. Tec(h)nic is the science of art, which led to the word describing her process as Mnemetecnic Therapy.

Hammer said science has proven that imbalances or deficiencies in the brain result in a decline in neurocognitive functions linked to memory, attention, problem solving, perception, muscle control and enjoyment of life.

“We are not claiming this is a cure. We believe that Mnemetecnic Therapy stimulates the brain, resulting in some patients experiencing increased synaptic activity and remapping,” Hammer said.

While presenting an overview of the program during a luncheon held at the Piedmont center, Hammer said she had no idea that the idea to paint with patients was beneficial.

 “The process evolved over a period of three years, changing as I found better ways to make it work. When I started hearing the stories of improvement and change, I was as surprised as everyone else. It lit a fire in me to know why.”

Access to the internet and scientific knowledge helped her find what she believes is the answer.

“We saw some huge differences in some people,” she said.

One of the most noticeable was with an Alzheimers patient in Aiken. According to Hammer, the lady wasn’t talking and wouldn’t participate. She was depressed and was losing weight. After participating in the Art Without Boundaries program, there was a dramatic change.

“It was like she woke up,” Hammer said. “She started gaining weight. Now she wants to paint, talk and is happy. She is excited about life.”

Hammer said she uses a flowing paintbrush combined with movement, storytelling and praise. She said she believes the process stimulates other parts of the brain.

“It is a very negative disease. I tell them, ‘You can do this.’” “It allows them to express creativity.

The process, which takes about 30 to 45 minutes, involves having the Alzheimers patient look at a book of paintings. While talking and involving the patient, Hammer allows them to pick three that they like. The three are then narrowed to one design.

Hammer then uses her artistic knowledge to help the patient paint a similar picture and gets the “artist” to tell a story about it. The paintings often remind them of a memory somewhere in their life.

When the process is finished, the patient is brought out to show their painting to friends, family and staff members at the facility.

“It is their minute to shine and feel special,” Hammer said.

Hammer said participants in the program often show actual changes in behavior and facial acuity, and that it is making changes in the brain.

She acts as the coach, lineman and cheerleader calling plays, remove obstacles and cheering on.

“Praise is very powerful,” she said. “The patients have accomplished something.”

During her four days stay at Riverside, Hammer worked with approximately 10 patients each day.

Riverside Executive Director Carla Heritage said, “These people deserve dignity and respect and still have a life. They have hobbies and food they love to eat.”

She said she first heard of the unique therapy at a Spirit of Caring banquet at which representatives from an Aiken facility gave their presentation.

Heritage said the program is beneficial to the patients and the cargivers. “We are trying to change the image. We don’t want to be a nursing home, but more of a living center. We want their last few days or months to be the best they can be.”

The Arts Without Boundairs program was expanded to include a fundraiser in which the paintings created by the patients are auctioned at a Gala which involves the community brings in money which can help fund the program.

“It also sends a message to the community, because people often don’t know how to relate to Alzheimers patients,” Hammer said. The auction Gala involves a big party with sponsors.

Hammer’s dream to use art and therapy was fulfilled in 2005 with The Art without Boundaries Foundation, Inc. was formed to provide grants for artisits and entrepreneurs who would like to open AWB chapters and for health care facilities who want to offer the services.

“Facilities and adult day centers willing to host a Gala to honor the patient/artist and auction the paintings can make the program self funding,” she said.

“Young women shouldn’t have to make a choice between being an artisit and having children. I’ve spent my whole life wanting to paint for a living. It takes time and money and those are two thing that are in short supply when you have kids. I stumbled on a way to make it happen and everyone benefits,” Hammer said.

The foundation offers grants to facilitate training artists. There are currently three other people in training.

Hammer said she believes everyone involved in the Art Without Boundaries program benefits including the patient, the family the facility, the artist and the community.

The Riverside Nursing Center is planning to hold their Gala on March 16 at 6 p.m. Everyone is invited, especially persons with family or friends living at the center.

Paintings by the artist/patients will be auctioned to the highest bidders.

“It will be like a true arts gala,” Heritage said. “The artist will present their painting and there will be copies of their painting made for them,” she said.

They are seeking sponsorships and asking for donations from anyone who would like to participate.

Riverside Nursing Center is located at 109 Bentz Rd., Just off Hwy. 86 in Piedmont. For more information call Heritage at (864) 845-5177. The faclity is licensed for 88 residents.

For more information on Art Without Boundaries, see their website at www.artwithoutboundaries.org.

Joint wastewater treatment options to be discussed

By Stan Welch

The search for a cost effective solution to the wastewater treatment problems faced by several area municipalities will continue next week, as representatives of those towns meet to discuss the possibilities.

The towns of Pelzer, West Pelzer, Williamston, Belton, Honea Path and Ware Shoals will all meet in Ware Shoals on Feb. 21 to discuss options for addressing the wastewater challenges that all small towns face these days.

There has been an ongoing discussion for several months concerning a proposed plan to run a sewer line from West Pelzer and Pelzer along the Hwy. 20 right of way, through Williamston and Belton, to connect with existing lines in Honea Path. From there, the wastewater would flow to the Ware Shoals plant, which has a tremendous excess of capacity available.

Rusty Burns, ombudsman and consultant to several of the municipalities involved in the discussions, says that the proposal has several points to recommend it. “The installation of the line would help several of these towns with what are really significant wastewatentr problems. West Pelzer, for example, can’t even add any new sewer customers, because they are under a consent order with DHEC, due to a total lack of capacity. If a new industry came to them wanting to build a plant and hire 100 people, the Town would have to say no.”

Burns added that Williamston also faces serious wastewater problems that the proposed line would alleviate. “This line would also allow for significant development of the Highway 20 corridor through that part of the county. Such development would help create jobs, which are sorely needed in this area. Honea Path and Ware Shoals would benefit from having others to share the cost of operating the treatment plant, which has 8 or 10 times the capacity that is being currently used. This idea simply offers so many benefits that it has to be given serious consideration. This meeting is just another step in that process.”

The meeting, which will be held at the Ware Shoals Town Hall at 1 p.m., will include town representatives, as well as various officials from the wastewater field.

Skateboard meeting moves to Pelzer park

There will be an event held at the Pelzer skateboard park on February 18 which will include pizza, drinks, skate boarding and a local band.

A Christain skateboarding club, 33Y, which has met for three years on Monday nights at the Williamston home of Fred and Chester Garrett, will meet at the Pelzer Skateboard Park from 5 p.m. till 8:30 p.m.

“The kids will also have access to the gym, where they can play dodge ball or basketball,” said organizer Tonya Scott.

Person attending are asked to bring $5 for pizza. Drinks are provided. A helmet is required to skate, Scott said.

There will also be a local band performing right after the club meeting ends at 8:30 p.m.. the meeting will include discussions about the future of the Pelzer Skate Park and upcoming fund raising events.

Pelzer’s First Annual Spring rally for Pelzer’s Kids will be held April 1. “We’re expecting 400-500 bikers to take part. They’ll pay $25 a bike to ride in the 100 mile ride. We’ll serve barbecue plates at the ball fields and we have T-shirts made up to sell,” Pelzer Mayor Kenneth Davis said.  For more information, or to sponsor the event, call the Pelzer Town Hall.

South Greenville Fire gets new pumper

By Stan Welch

The South Greenville Fire Department can hardly be accused of throwing their money around. After all, it took them 31 years to buy a new pumper truck to replace the trusty old 1975 Ford that has now been relegated to duty as a reserve truck.

The Ford, which was the first and only pumper the station ever had until just recently, held 500 gallons, and could pump 750 gallons a minute. It could shoot a stream of water approximately 50 yards. It carried 600 feet of 2.5 inch fire hose, with the necessary appliances to use the hose. It had four air packs on it and a five speed transmission. It cost $23,000.

The new pumper, an American LaFrance model, has a 1000 gallon tank and can pump 1500 gallons per minute. It shoots a stream of water approximately 100 yards, allowing the crew to stand off at a safer distance and still fight large, hot fires.

The American LaFrance carries 1200 feet of 5 inch hose, and all the hardware needed. It has a six man cab, and is staffed by four firefighters at all times. It is powered by a 455 horsepower Detroit Diesel, instead of the small gasoline engine that ran the Ford, and has an automatic transmission. The new truck, which dwarfs the old one, cost approximately $300,000, and was budgeted for over a two year period.

Chief Ken Martin calls the new truck “the difference between the horse and buggy and a race car. This new unit just gives us capabilities we never had before. We’re just really glad to have it and proud to see it parked in the station house.”

Being a realist, however, the Chief doesn’t expect the kind of longevity from the new truck that the Ford had. “These new trucks last from 10-15 years. They’re just so much more complex, so many more systems on them, including computers. The more you have on a truck, the more there is that can break or wear out.” But it sure is nice to have it in the meantime.

Convenience Center accident claims life

An Anderson man was killed Monday afternoon after falling from his truck while attempting to unload a freezer at the Whitefield Convenience Center. According to the report filed by Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputy David Munger, John Waters fell from his truck to the ground several feet below and was killed. Waters, 58, WM, 6’1", 280 pounds, had backed his truck up to the edge of the concrete platform that sits approximately 10 feet above the receiving bins. As he opened the tailgate, the freezer, which had shifted during transport, slammed the tailgate open unexpectedly. Waters was knocked off balance and fell to the concrete below, suffering fatal head injuries. Waters, who lived at 732 Marshall Drive, in Anderson was divorced and had no children. A recent retiree from BASF Corporation, he lived alone. The Whitefield Center is slated for closure later this year, while the new convenience center on Highway 29 will open later this summer. The new center will also use the elevated platforms for off loading large appliances.

Counterfeiters plead guilty

Three persons involved in a local counterfeiting ring recently pled quilty.

James Michael Ellis, 30, of Piedmont, Luther Frederick Allen, 49, of Pickens and Regina Jeanne Gambrell, 32 of Honea Path, pled guilty Feb. 8 in federal court in Spartanburg, to conspiracy to make and pass counterfeit U. S. currency.

In a companion case, Ellis also pled guilty to passing counterfeit money. Evidence presented a the change of plea hearing extabllished that on Sept. 19, 2005, Ellis passed a counterfiet $10 bill at a service station in Belton. In October, Ellis, Allen and Gambrell joined to become a loose-knit group of individuals who made and passed counterfeit $10 and $20 bills in Anderson County.

Ellis admitted to making the counterfeit bills on a scanner/printer set-up at a motel on Hwy. 25 in South Greenville County. He provided bogus bills to Allen and Vaughn.

Vaughn then passed a fake $20 bill at a fast food restaurant in Williamston on October 24. On October 26, Allen passed two counterfiet $20 bills at town convenience stores in Piedmont.

According to Jonathan S. Gasser, U. S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, the maximum penalty that Ellis can receive in the September 19 case is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 20 years and a sspecial assessment of $100.

Gasser also noted that in the conspiracy case, Ellis, Allen and Gambrell face a maximum penalty of a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 5 years, plus a special assessment of $100. The case was investigated by agents of the U. S. Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney William C. Lucius of the Greenville office handled the case.

The Williamston Police Department was also instrumental in the case.

Seems to Me .  . . A time for everything

By Stan Welch

 “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun.” I believe that comes from Ecclesiastes, although I remember it  from the Byrds’ hit song of the sixties, Turn, Turn, Turn.

Whatever the source, the admonition is valid; the tone rings true. It is especially timely in Williamston these days, where priorities are so badly needed, and yet so hard to set. Disillusionment and anger cloud the mind and make clear thinking difficult. Shock and disbelief lead to hasty reaction, and lend confusion to situations that demand precision, both in thought and in action.

The recent financial crisis exposed in Williamston threatens to overwhelm the Town and its people; the metallic taste of panic is on the back of many tongues. So is the peppery bite of anger; anger towards those who are seen as having betrayed the Town and its people.

No target of such anger and resentment is larger or more often aimed at than Mayor Phillip Clardy. All indications are that he is a deserving target for many of the barbs and arrows of outrage that are regularly flung at him. Yet he continues to stand stoically before those who despise him and project the attitude that he forgives them, for they know not what they do.

Mr. Mayor, someone has to tell you this. They do know what they do. They blame you, far more than they blame the other members of Council; although their eyes are now clearly open to those gentlemen’s recent nonchalance and indifference to the Town’s plight as well.

They blame you because they feel that much of the Council’s confusion about the Town’s circumstances was created by you. They feel that you have withheld information to avoid responsibility for your actions. They feel that you misled an admittedly easily misled Council as to the amount of money you were spending. They blame you for allowing the services provided by the Town to outrace the Town’s financial ability to provide those services. Some of them blame you for the weather. That might be a little much.

To be sure, you have supporters of your own; people who admire you and believe that your only intentions are good ones. Perhaps a higher percentage of those supporters stayed home from the meetings that have been held in recent weeks. Discontent with a situation always spurs greater action than satisfaction does, so maybe your critics are just more motivated to appear in public than your supporters. Perhaps.

But of this there is no question: the Town of Williamston is in the worst financial shape it has been in for at least the last twenty years. Rightly or wrongly, fairly or not, the Mayor is held responsible for that. That’s one aspect of the strong mayor form of government that doesn’t get much attention, Mayor. It’s like being an NFL quarterback. You get the credit when the team plays well, and you get the blame when they stink. Lately, the team has stunk.

Frankly, your disingenuous statement that you didn’t do anything that the Council didn’t let you do has lost whatever small charm it had when you first uttered it. In my personal opinion, so has your self serving declaration that you owe it to the Town to see them through this crisis. Mayor, I may be wrong, but it seems to me that is one debt that the Town would release you from.

Your part in the fiscal fiasco that is the Town of Williamston’s current finances is major and, despite your repeated hints and utterances that the whole truth has not been told, indefensible. Whether legal culpability attaches to your behavior in this matter remains to be seen; but your complicity in getting the Town into the shape it is in can no longer be denied by any reasonable person.

But back to priorities for a moment. There are two desires in contradiction with each other in Williamston. One desire, shared by virtually everyone, is to see the Town recover and regain a solid foundation. The other is to place blame and score political points. The time to decide which is more important is upon you. Venting and blowing off steam is healthy and productive to a certain point. Has that point been reached or passed? Is there anything else to be gained by continuing to attend meetings just to take shots at the Mayor and Council?

Let’s face it folks. There are people speaking at every meeting, some out of sincere concern; some out of personal spite; and some because they have recently fallen in love with the sound of their own voices. But regardless of your motivation, after three or four appearances, three or four opportunities to speak your piece, how much can you have to say that is new, or that adds anything substantive to the public debate?

So is the priority to make the bitter choices that are needed to restore the Town, or is it to continue to rail against those who got it in such a mess in the first place? It’s possible to do both, I suppose, but it would be better done in turn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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