News Archive

(0707) Week of February 14, 2007
Council determines priorities at retreat
Committees volunteering for town improvements
Committee looking at Williams grave site
Cemetery committee asking for community for help
Towns explore possibilities for funds
Piedmont man charged with CSC
Sheriff Crenshaw defends department operations
Presidential hopeful Romney visits Anderson
Gray Drive bridge to reopen Monday

Seems to Me  . . .Where is the gravy?

Council determines priorities at retreat

Williamston Town Council held a goal setting retreat Saturday at the Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG) offices in Greenville.

The retreat began at 9:30 a.m. and lasted until approximately 3:30 p.m. according to  Governmental Services Director Joe Newton who mediated.

Williamston’s four council members and mayor came up with 20 items they felt were important for them and the town.

The top five priorities they listed were establishing and refining purchasing procedures; revising personel policies procedures manual; improving communication between council, mayor and staff; improving financial reporting; and working on  compensation, classifications and job descriptions for the town’s employees.

Some of the 20 goals were individual priorities and included items such as recodifying the town’s ordinances, establishing a capital replacement fund for vehicles and equipment, improving service provided by the town, to promoting commerse and small business, implementing the first phase of the downtown redevelopment program and renovation of the park and depot.

“They set common goals and direction and ended with a list to work on for next year,” said Newton. “It went very good. They were intent on resolving issues.”

Councilman Carthel Crout commenting on the retreat said, “I think we did what we had agreed to do. I think it was positive and we got a lot accomplished.”

Crout said the council will focus on the top five goals and will look at the other goals on the list very soon.

“It was a very rewarding day,” Crout said. “I think the main thing is to improve communication,” which he said has been non-existant.

Other priorities for Council, according to Crout, are hiring an auditor, demolition of town hall and a finding a grant writer.

“I think this was a blessing for this town council,” Crout said. “We need to have several more.” 

Attending the goal setting retreat were Ward One Councilman Carthel Crout, Ward Two Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr., Ward Three Councilman David Harvell, Ward Four Councilman Otis Scott and Mayor Phillip Clardy.

Committees volunteering for town improvements

The Williamston Area Historic Commission, The Cemetery Committee, The Williams Cemetery Committee, The Springwater Committee, Mission Jerusalum, Greater Williamston Business Association, Streets and Roads Committee. What to these and other local organizations have in common.

They are all comprised of local people who are interested in restoring community pride and making Williamston a better place.

Interest among citizens and civic organizations in restoring community pride and helping the town improve is being reflected in offers to help the town with several projects.

Dianne Lollis, a local resident with deep ties to Williamston and the surrounding area, has been working as a member of the Williamston Area Historic Commission and the Springwater Committee, to have repairs and other restorations done to the scout hut.

Through the years, the hut has been neglected resulting in rotting wood and termites. It needed floor, ceiling, roof, wall and window repairs. Lollis spearheaded an effort to raise money and recruited local builder Gary McAlister, who donated some manpower and materials for the project.

A new floor has been installed and repairs are to be made to the timber walls. 

Lollis has also been spearheading an effort to make other much needed repairs in the park. All of the shelters need some repair and reroofing.

Several have gapping holes in the roof, leading to further damage including rotting support beams.

The historic gazebo over the Mineral Spring is also in need of foundation, roof and other repairs, Lollis said.

Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr.  has said that he believes the Spring House Gazebo and the Band Gazebo next to it may be the oldest remaining structures from the town’s glory days as a tourist town built around the  health benefits of the town’s mineral spring.

Lollis has appeared before Council several times during recent months asking for support or approval for projects she is involved in.

She recently asked Council to allow her to use donations she collected from Christmas Park visitors to paint the Bethelehem building. Her plans call for  a sand color similar to colors expected on a similar structure in the Mid East.

Lollis would also like to see the shelters and amphitheater stage painted in a color other than the green which has been used for many years. Lollis said she would like to see the park structures color coordinated to reflect a Victorian period color scheme.

A local mission group from Calvary Baptist Church has also offered manpower and funding to help with projects in the park. Pastor Mark Roberts offered the help of members of the Mission Jeruselem team.

Roberts told Williamston Town Council last week that the group would like to be involved in making necessary repairs in the park to help build community unity and restoration.

The local mission group has been involved in Church starts, building projects, renovations of houses and civic buildings and other community unifying events such as block parties, bible clubs and holiday festivals, Roberts said.

“For the past year, the leadership of Calvary Baptist Church has had a strong burden for the community spirit within the town of Williamston. We have also been concerned about the lack of money to continue enhancement projects within our town.”

Roberts said that after hearing of repair needs in the park, members of the organization decided they could provide repair in the park and in doing so “strive to rebuild harmony and unity within our community.”

Other groups are also stepping forward to help beautify the town and, in their words, promote healing in the community.

A member of the WAHC Anne Earnest, also appeared before Council last week to offer services of the organization in beautifying the gravesite of West Allen Williams, which is located in the Mineral Spring Park along Main St.

Earnest said that the site needs beautification improvements and the organization is considering, in addition to adding flowers, placing a rock type formation within the grave site, with moss planted in between. The results are an attractive decor and very little maintenance, Earnest said.

The committee would also like to add a marble slab with the Williams’ family names on it and steps to the site. The steps will be placed in the front of the fence and the slab will be placed on the ouside of the fence with the surrounding area mulched, she said.

Committee looking at Williams grave site

A subcommittee of the Williamston Area Historic Commission has formed to help with beautification improvements of the West Allen Williams gravesite located in Williamston’s Mineral  Spring Park.

The Williams Cemetery Committee includes Connie Barnwell, (a family member), Wanda Evatt, Ann McClellion and Anne Earnest. A meeting was held on Feb. 2 at P. C.’s on Main to discuss ideas.

Barnwell brought information related to the moving of the graves from their original location in South Greenville County to the center of Williamston.

Newly elected Mayor Phillip Clardy first proposed the move shortly after taking office, to better care for and offer respect for the town’s founding father.

After approval by Williamston Town Council, Town employees with the help of others including Gray Mortuary, dug up and reinterred the founding father’s family.

Committee members said that in addition to floral beautification, they would like to either place gravel inside the gravesite or place a rock formation with moss. Both proposals will require low maintenance she said.

They also want to include a marble slab with family names and steps at the site. 

Rather than having a chairperson, the group decided to work as a team and to vote as a group on any ideas. They also discussed possible fundraising ideas. The committee is already selling a window sticker promoting Williamston as a historic town.

The reusable decals are available for $3 each at Williamston Town Hall, ERS Video, PC’s on Main, MVPizza, Ace Hardware and The Journal. Proceeds from sale will be used for restorations in Mineral Spring Park.

The group also plans to work with Dianne Lollis and the town, Earnest said.

The group plans to hold a weekly  meeting. 

The next meeting will be held this Friday, Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. at Earnest’s home at 23 Norwood Dr., Williamston.

For more information, contact Earnest at 847-5384 or email her at annetearnest@bellsouth.net.

Cemetery committee asking for community for help

The Williamston Cemetery Committee is working on several projects to make the historic cemetery more attractive.

Several improvements have already been made or in the process, according to Carolyn Duncan, secretary for the Williamston Area Historic Commission.

 The organization undertook a project several years ago to raise money for a lighted flagpole for the cemetery. The plans also called for a garden area with benches to be located in the center of the cemetery.

With recent funding by the Town of Williamston and Anderson County, some of the improvements have been made already.

Electrical lines have recently been run for the lighted flagpole and streets have recently been resurfaced with the help of County Council District 7 representative Cindy Wilson.

The lighted flagpole should be added soon and the organization is in the process of removing unwanted shrubbery. In the future the committee wants to trim or remove large Oak trees which have been damaged or are a potential danger.

Duncan said that removing shrubbery is a problem and that they are looking for volunteers to help.

“The cemetery does not have what one would call perpetual care,” she said. “Each lot is owned by individuals who are responsible for maintaining the care of that particular lot.”

The city employees keep the roads and walk ways trimmed, and in the past school groups and others have helped with the problem, Duncan said. A local contractor removes the overgrown shrubbery.

Many of the plots are taken care of by family members but some are being neglected, Duncan said. 

“There are several fenced-in lots that have been neglected for a long time, and the shrubbery has grown between and around the wrought iron fences making it impossible to remove the roots.”

Duncan asked that information on some of the plots be included in an effort to contact the owners of the lots.

“We are providing the names of the deceased that are buried in these fenced lots in an effort to contact the owners of the lots. If we are unable to do this, then we may have to remove the fences to correct the situation. If you know of any living relatives of these families please call one of the committee members,” Duncan said.

Cemetery lots of concern include: The fenced lot of Langon Wallace, 1881-1905, H. E. Wallace 1886-1959 and Ernest Chales Boulineau 1891-1909.

The fenced lot of Jacob Rogers 1863-1913, Nettie Elmira Rogers 1866-1942, and Margaret Rogers 1874-1940.

The fenced lot of Gist Bigby 1803, Claude P. Bigby 1887 and Mary H. Swygert 1907.

The fenced lot of Julia Pauline Clement 1849-1913, Austin Clement 1837-1907, Deveaux French 1884-1937.

The fenced lot of William Hand 1837-1904, G. W. Hand 1861-1940, and Emma Susan Clark Hand 1870-1938.

Anyone with information about living relatives of these families or others in the Williamston Cemetery or anyone interested in helping take care of or making improvements in the Williamston Cemetery is asked to  contact Duncan at 847-1583 or President Johnnie Bell at 847-9157; Lib Ford, 847-7801; Willie Wright, 847-6981; Martha Jo Harvell, 221-8159; Julia Mize 847-9704 or Councilman Otis Scott at 221-7467.

 

Towns explore possibilities for funds

By Stan Welch

Representatives of the Anderson County Council, as well as from various municipalities and other civic organizations gathered in Honea Path last week to explore funding possibilities for a wide spectrum of projects.

Also on hand were representatives from U.S. Senator Jim DeMint’s office as well as that of Congressman Gresham Barrett. Danielle Gibbs is Sen. DeMint’s grant specialist, while Darrell Broome and Zack Benton were on hand from the Congressman’s office.

District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson arranged the meeting. She has used the same approach to finding funds in the past. Also on hand was District Three Councilman Larry Greer, Honea Path Mayor Earl Lollis Meyers, Belton Mayor Rufus Callahan, and Councilwoman Jean Martin, Williamston Town Councilman Otis Scott, and Les Griffin, ACTC committee member.

Representing various boards and committees were Barbara Davis, Diane Lollis, Sherry Pace, Steve Ellison and Dale Martin.

Wilson began by citing the successes of the approach in the past. “By working together, we can access some of these pots of money that are around. We have funded seventy miles of water lines, as well as extensive road improvements in this area in the last few years.”

Steve Ellison began by explaining that the Mineral Spring Park is in need of a lot of repair and maintenance. “Some of our shelters in the park are from the late 1800’s. They need roof repair and replacement.” Dale Martin agreed, adding that some area churches had agreed to provide labor if funding for materials could be found.

Rusty Burns, Honea Path town administrator and a grant writer for several area towns and utilities, reported that all PARD state funds have been allocated for the current budget year. “You might look into a Palmetto Pride grant,” he told Martin. “And there’s a possible grant program that could be available in March, but it hasn’t been approved yet. It will provide some nine million dollars if it gets funded. But the Town will have to apply for that.”

Burns also suggested that Williamston consider a hospitality tax, which he said would easily produce an additional $75,000 in revenue for such uses in Williamston. Councilman Scott has been pushing a hospitality tax for more than a year. “We’re going to pass that tax,” he said. “Sooner or later, it will pass.”

Other projects needing funding include a plan to beautify and improve the cemetery in Williamston, to repair and restore the log hut in the Mineral Spring Park, to promote and use the Heritage Corridor program to attract tourism, and to find funding for infrastructure projects.

“We need roads to attract industry,” said Mayor Meyers, of Honea Path. “We want to keep our young people in town, but they have to have jobs, and that means roads and access. We don’t even have a four lane highway in our area, but if we could get US Hwy. 76 four laned, it would really open up that whole end of the county.”

While the Senator and Congressman’s staff members offered encouragement, they offered little else. Federal fund in any meaningful amount seems doubtful, given the current federal climate concerning earmarked federal funds. Both offices’ staff members, however, promised to explore various possibilities.

Piedmont man charged with CSC

By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office recently arrested James E. Kennedy and his wife Lois Gaynelle Kennedy, of 216 Crawford St., Piedmont, for a series of sexual acts allegedly performed by James Kennedy on his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Kennedy was charged with the various acts, which occurred over more than two decades, while his wife was charged with failing to report Kennedy’s offenses.

 Kennedy, a white male born on March 25, 1944, faces a total of ten charges involving what appears to be three generations of his family.

Kennedy is charged with 3 counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st degree, 6 counts of Committing a Lewd Act with a Minor and 3 counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd degree. Lois Gaynelle Kennedy was charged with 3 counts of Child Endargement.

 According to warrants issued by the ACSO, and provided to the media, James Elbert Kennedy, during a period from 1971 till the present, performed various acts on minor children, and forced them to perform various acts as well. The youngest victim, and the most recent, was allegedly a three year old female.

Reportedly, it was his assault on her that led to the child’s mother coming forward to law enforcement. Several of the warrants refer to acts performed during the period from 1971-1983, and referring to a child under the age of sixteen. Two warrants refer to acts that reportedly occurred between 1979 and 1983. All the acts referred to reportedly took place at 216 Crawford Street, in Piedmont.

Other acts allegedly occurred during a period between 1989 and 1997, also involving a minor child less than 16 years old. A warrant issued for the arrest of Lois Gaynelle Kennedy, a white female born in 1943, refers to her as the victim’s grandmother and guardian, and charges Kennedy with unlawful conduct towards a child by a legal custodian. Another time period during which such acts are alleged to have occurred is during 1995. Gaynelle Kennedy faces the same charge in that case, though the only reference to her relationship with the alleged victim is that of legal guardian. According to the warrants, she is the great grandmother of the three year old named in the latest incident.

Gaynelle Kennedy was released on a $10,000 surety bond on each of the three charges against her. James Elbert Kennedy remains in custody. Bail was denied on the two charges of first degree criminal sexual conduct, while a surety bond of twenty thousand dollars was set on each of the other charges.

Sheriff’s Department officials asks if there are other victims out there to please contact the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office at (864) 332-5453.

Sheriff Crenshaw defends department operations

By Stan Welch

Anderson County Sheriff David Crenshaw makes no bones about accepting the final responsibility for the financial difficulties his department faces, but he bristles at the idea that any fraud took place.

“I have certainly made mistakes in this matter. For one thing, I trusted (former) Chief Deputy Tim Busha with too much authority and responsibility. I should have insisted on being more involved in the day to day administration of the department. But people need to know that the money was spent on efforts to improve law enforcement. The money didn’t end up in somebody’s pocket.”

Crenshaw was speaking in response to recent published statements by county administrator Joey Preston that the Sheriff had been warned by members of the county finance department that his fuel and personnel costs were going to lead to a considerable deficit. Crenshaw said in a recent interview, “I don’t disagree with what Mr. Preston says, but if he told Chief Busha that, it wasn’t getting to me. I let the Chief handle that. It’s one of the things I hired him for. Looking back, I should have gotten more involved. But it’s hard to manage what you don’t have. It’s not like we actually had that money in our hands. All that is done downtown.”

Former Chief Deputy Tim Busha left the department several months ago, citing private sector opportunities and media scrutiny as the reasons for his decision. His resignation came just weeks after his driving record, which included several suspensions of his license, became a matter of public record. He has recently become involved in a private investigation and bail bondsman operation in Anderson.

As evidence of the distance between himself and the actual operations of the department, Crenshaw cites the example of the $1.1 million he budgeted for the purchase of 45 vehicles.

“I recently asked the finance folks why those cars were paid off all at once, and they said it was part of the transition of my department from being included in the general fund to being a special source revenue account. But it was my understanding that the money for the vehicles would follow the vehicles. I didn’t know they were all going to be paid off at once. I’ll tell you this. When I made my budget request two weeks ago, I asked for funding for 40 more cars, but I made it clear that the amount I was asking for was for the first year’s payment only. If they are going to pay it all off again, I‘ll need to amend that figure.”

He says that the department’s fleet of vehicles “was wore slap out. We had cars with three hundred thousand miles on them. What we are noticing now, as we get the new cars in use is that our repairs are dropping considerably, so that expense is shrinking.”

Crenshaw’s budget request also includes three mils increase from his current 30.8 mil levy. “I asked for a mil for raises for my people from the rank of lieutenant on down. They haven’t had one in three years. I’m just really proud of my officers and I think they deserve a raise. I’m also asking for a mil for the jail. They are really shorthanded, and conditions aren’t the greatest there. We’re looking for funding for an addition, but we probably need 150 more beds. We’re seriously overcrowded. But I want people to realize, I’m not running a Hilton down there. I want them held safely, and I want them held securely. They don’t need as much food a day as a construction worker or somebody who’s working eight hours a day. Their basic life needs are being met.”

An additional mil is being sought for operating costs, as well.

Crenshaw is currently interviewing candidates for an accountant position in his department. “It’s hard to get timely information. The county finance department is short of people, and they don’t always get these expenditures and things posted right away. I’m looking for someone who can analyze what’s going on and ride herd on things on a daily basis. I will get these mistakes corrected, but I don’t plan to repeat them.”

He also said he has no objection to an audit of his department, a suggestion that has also been made in regards to the County’s general fund operations.  “I don’t have any objection to an audit. They make you sharper and stronger. As I said, this money has been spent to improve services to the public.”

The Sheriff cites two surveys done, one by the department and one by the County, which he says showed the public is willing to pay more for improved law enforcement. “People wanted reduced response times, which we have accomplished, and they want a real effort to solve crimes, which we have also improved.” Crenshaw says response times before his election ran in the range of two hours. “We have that down to twelve minutes from the time the call is received. If you count it from the time the car is dispatched, it’s eight minutes.”

Crenshaw disagrees with the charges of over hiring, and ballooning personnel costs. “We converted a number of positions from administrative or forensic to patrol positions,” he said. “The department had a full time polygraph operator, for example. I hired between twelve and eighteen people after taking over. To tell the truth, I’d like to have four more uniforms on each shift right now. If Council wants me to repay this money, I can do it. Shall I cut uniform officers, and revert to long response times? I can lay off drug investigators and let the sixty meth labs we’ve closed start back up. I can cut the staff. That’s no problem. Just tell me where to start.”

Sheriff Crenshaw repeated his determination to provide quality service to the people of Anderson County. 

“My family has been in this area for two hundred years. Anderson County is my home. I want to leave this department and this county better than when I took office. But I understand that this office doesn’t belong to David Crenshaw. It belongs to the people of Anderson County. If they choose to elect someone else Sheriff in two years, I will go home knowing my ethics are intact, and I have tried to do the best I can, as God gives me the grace to know it.”

Presidential hopeful Romney visits Anderson

By Stan Welch

Governor Mitt Romney, of Massachusetts, visited Anderson last week, shaking hands and seeking support for his 2008 run for the Presidency. He apparently found the encouragement he was looking for, since he announced his candidacy just a few days later in Michigan, where his father George Romney served three terms as governor.

Romney, who rose to national prominence by rescuing the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, is seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency. Facing a $379 million operating deficit, he erased that deficit, assembled and organized 23,000 volunteers, and oversaw one of the country’s most successful Olympic Games, despite the September 11 attacks just months earlier.

Speaking to approximately seventy five people in Anderson, he stressed the importance of that kind of innovation and adaptability in government. “We have to do things differently to keep America safe and to insure her prosperity,” said Romney. “You can’t stay the same in business or in politics. If you do, you fall behind. We need new approaches to our problems.”

He was elected Governor of the heavily Democratic commonwealth of Massachusetts by preaching smaller government and reduced spending. HE said in Anderson that being elected was the miracle,and not what he achieved afterwards. Faced with a three billion dollar deficit, he erased that deficit without further borrowing or raising taxes. He also established a health care system that allowed people to purchase and retain their own coverage.

Romney’s father, George Romney, was CEO of the car company that made the Rambler during the Fifties and Sixties, as well as a three term Governor of Michigan. His son points to both his father and to Ronald Reagan as his political models.

Romney also drew applause when he said that he would insist that the nation’s borders be secured, and that all foreign workers be thoroughly documented. “I would initiate a program of identification for foreign workers that would require them to carry an ID that included all their biometric information, as well as their documentation as a legal worker, all in a bar code. Without that card, you wouldn’t work. Businesses hiring workers without proper documentation would face serious penalties, similar to those involved in evading taxes.”

Romney also said that English is the national language of the United States, and should remain so. “It is a key part of our culture, which I also believe must be preserved. America is a superpower because of what is in our hearts. Our culture should be protected, not attacked. We are an English speaking country, and if you wish to live here, you should learn our language.”

After he introduced his wife Ann as his best friend for the last thirty eight years, she spoke about their family, five sons and five daughters-in-law. “We have ten children as far as I’m concerned.”

She added that she and her husband had enjoyed the feeling of warmth and of being embraced by the people of South Carolina. “This campaign is such a great opportunity for us to get out and see just how wonderful the people in America are.”

Romney also stressed his belief in the importance of family, and his “vehement disagreement” with gay marriage. “We had one activist judge in Massachusetts who made a ruling in favor of gay marriage. We are currently seeking legislation that will reverse that ruling. Marriage is clearly a union between a man and a woman.”

“We are a country of strong values. We favor hard work over welfare. We feel you need to speak the language of America. We want to see our homeland safe, and our people prospering. A lot of people have lost faith in government, but we can restore that through innovation and new approaches to issues. Strong families are needed. Health care needs to be available and portable for Americans. We found a way to do that in Massachusetts. The American dream has changed over the last decades, but it has not died. It is still there.”

 Romney’s visit was arranged by Sen. Jim DeMint, who was unable to attend. State Representative Michael Thompson introduced Governor Romney.

Gray Drive bridge to reopen Monday

After 16 years of on again, off again announcements, the Gray Drive Bridge in Williamston is finally going to be reopened. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held Monday, February 19 at 2 p.m., according to Williamston officials. Anyone interested is invited to attend.

Workers began repairing the wooden structure about mid year of 2006 after an agreement was reached and signed by CSX, Anderson County and Williamston officials. The agreement came after the County and the Town partnered on a lawsuit which was brought against CSX in 1994. At the time CSX was also threatening to abandon the line, a move local officials were against.

According to officials, the structure was to be repaired to original 1920s standards. Once the repairs are made, SCDOT will inspect the structure and determine the weight limit, which is expected to be 4 tons.

Williamston citizen Pamela Owens, who has been instrumental through the years in keeping the issue alive, stated numerous times the bridge needed to be reopened for safety reasons, to allow medical and emergency vehicles access to the area. The repaired bridge will not support most of these vehicles, according to Anderson County Transportation Director Holt Hopkins. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1992.

According to the settlement, CSX answered the lawsuit shortly after it was filed in 2004, denying the complaint, and ownership or responsibility for repair or maintenance of the bridge.

In the compromise settlement, CSX agreed to complete sufficient repairs to the Gray Drive Bridge so that the bridge can be reopened at a load limit no less than the load limit the bridge supported when it was closed in 1992. The repairs are to be completed within six months of the agreement, which was signed by Mayor Phillip Clardy in February of 2006.

The agreement also stated that CSXT will continue obligation for the bridge as long at it owns and operates the track running underneath the bridge. Under the agreement, if CSXT sells or leases the track, the buyer/lessor will assume obligations. Also if CSXT abandoned the track, an option that was discussed last year, CSXT would transfer their interest to Anderson County and make a cash payment of $25,000 to the county.

CSXT transportation did sell a 12.74 mile stretch of rail lines from Pelzer to Belton, to the Greenville & Western Railway Company (GRLW,LLC).

A subsidiary of the Western Carolina Railway Service Corporation, the company closed the purchase of the line on October 20, and assumed operations the next day. The line provides interchange service with CSX at Pelzer and with Norfolk Southern at Belton, providing links to two of the Southeast’s major railways.

Seems to Me  . . .Where is the gravy?

By Stan Welch

I have written before about what I consider the folly that the Williamston Town Council committed by terminating the Town’s relationship with Rusty Burns, grant coordinator for several small towns in the area, as well as utilities and other organizations that require access to public funding in order to function.

My opinion of that decision remains unchanged; in fact, after a meeting I attended last week, my opinion has been greatly reinforced. That meeting took place in Honea Path, where Mr. Burns just happens to be the town administrator. There were a number of people present, including Mayors Earl Lollis Meyers, of Honea Path, and Rufus Callahan, of Belton. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was there. In fact, she organized the meeting so that various elected officials, as well as volunteers and staff members could address their funding needs to representatives from Congressman Barrett and Senator DeMint’s offices.

Several folks from Williamston were there, including Dianne Lollis, Councilman Otis Scott, Fire Chief and Spring Water Committee Vice chairman Steve Ellison, and Dale Martin, city director of parks and recreation. David Meade, chairman of the Spring Water Committee would have gone but he was sick as a dog, and isn’t much better even now.

Anyway, as the meeting got started, everyone from Mayor Meyers to Ms. Wilson to all the folks from Williamston all turned to Rusty for information and advice. There’s a good reason for that, too. It’s because Rusty knows more about getting state and federal money than anybody else around. Bar none. In fact, when he was asked by some of the Williamston folks how to go about getting the last twenty thousand or so in PARD funds, Burns told them there wasn’t any money left.

They challenged that, saying they had a list of projects which showed approximately $23,000 was available. He had to inform them that at a meeting the previous day those funds had been allocated to other towns and projects. While Rusty is too professional and diplomatic to say so, I’d bet a copper penny the money went to towns that Rusty Burns works for, because that’s what he does. He finds funds for his clients and he obtains them. And he’s good at it. He also does it for a living, and not for entertainment.

I’ve heard several of those clients talk about Rusty when he isn’t in ear shot, and they are unanimously thankful for his assistance in finding and securing sources of funding.

I’ve expressed my belief more than once that few, if any, small towns can be self-sufficient these days. Infrastructure costs are enormous and increasing daily; so are the regulations demanding more and more sophistication in that infrastructure. In such a regulatory and funding environment, experience and contacts are invaluable. Rusty Burns has both; since letting him go, Williamston has neither.

Now, let me just say right here that I consider Rusty Burns a friend. I say this so those of you who know Rusty and I won’t have to say it. And this column isn’t about taking up for Rusty. He’s perfectly capable of taking up for himself. He’s also doing just fine without Williamston.

The question is how is Williamston doing without him? Have they hired another grant writer? I know it’s been discussed. What I can’t figure out is why they ever got rid of Rusty Burns. It looks a lot like cutting off a nose to spite a face. The year they terminated him, he got them $200,000 in one grant alone. I don’t know what the Town’s total in grants was that year, but it certainly justified the fifteen thousand dollars a year they were paying him. He got ISTEA grants, PARD grants, RDA grants; shoot, he got just about one of everything but a Ulysses S. Grant.  He also brought in Bob Daniel to help the Town with its financial crisis.

Perhaps his role in forcing the Town to acknowledge and address its disastrous financial situation soured the relationship between him and the Town. Despite the fact that he worked for the Town during several years of Marion Middleton, Sr.’s administration, some Councilmen and other citizens apparently perceived him as an ally of Mayor Clardy, and that was sufficient reason to kill the golden goose.

Seems to me the diet is gonna be more feathers than gravy for awhile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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