(0805) Week of Feb. 23, 2005
Pelzer mayor questions close County Council vote
By Stan Welch
The closeness of a vote which made it possible for West Pelzer to retain a $500,000 water improvement grant has the towns Mayor puzzled and concerned about the future of the towns efforts to improve its lot.
The vote by Anderson County Council allowed District 7 Council Representative Cindy Wilson to redirect $29,000 in funds that had been earmarked for paving in West Pelzer to instead be used towards a $50,000 fund match to ensure the grant.
The final vote, with three votes for, two against and two abstentions, allowed the redirection of funds by the narrowest of margins.
Either abstention, if cast against the motion, would have defeated it.
Council members Gracie Floyd and Fred Tolly abstained, while Bill Dees and Larry Greer voted no. Wilson, McAbee and Thompson voted in favor.
First of all, Id like to thank those Council members, Mr. Thompson and Mr. McAbee, who voted, along with our Council member Cindy Wilson, to allow us to use those funds, West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton said. I really appreciate them standing up like they did. We were in very real danger of losing the entire grant, which our legislative delegation worked very hard to get for us.
A total of 28 communities and municipalities across the state received similar grants.
Mayor Paxton went on to ask how any County Council member could vote to deny such a request to a town in Anderson County.
It doesnt matter which district youre from. This is a health issue. It just seems to me that a little compassion would go a long way. We all have the same county delegation, and I just dont understand why they would oppose the grant that the delegation helped us get, Paxton said.
The grant will permit the replacement of more than 3 miles of 2 and 4 inch existing lines with 6 and 8 inch lines, alleviating water pressure and supply problems.
The grant was awarded in December of 2004, as the result of efforts by State Representative Dan Cooper and State Senator Billy ODell, according to Paxton. They really went to bat for us, and the people in town appreciate it, she said.
Paxton also expressed concern that well-publicized differences between District 7 Council Representative Cindy Wilson and County Administrator Joey Preston may be affecting the towns ability to access county resources.
A federal lawsuit involving Wilson and Preston was recently settled; a case concerning Wilsons efforts to obtain county legal records, as well as financial records, which Preston has refused to provide without full council approval, is scheduled to be heard on March 9.
Last week Preston did provide some of the financial records Wilson had sought. She is seeking complete access to those records, as well as to the complete records of county expenditures for legal services.
Wilson also participated in a legal challenge to the Countys Beaverdam sewer project, another legal action which involved Preston in his official capacity. Wilson has also questioned Prestons handling of the sale of Big Creek Landfill to Allied Waste Inc.
Wilson also frequently complains that other Council members have access to resources which are denied her and her district.
These other members are able to walk into Mr. Prestons office and ask for funds to be earmarked for things like this, Wilson stated during the County Council discussion of the West Pelzer funding request. I am not able to do that, so paving funds are one of my few choices.
Mayor Paxton stated, I know that there is a tension between Ms. Wilson and Mr. Preston. I think everyone knows that. The people in her district must think she does a good job for us. Otherwise, she wouldnt keep getting elected. Personally, Im very proud of her, and the job she does for us. Who else has put anything aside for West Pelzer? But its important that whatever differences they have be put aside when it comes to the welfare of the people of Anderson County, the Mayor said in a recent interview.
I ask this question of the council members who voted to deny us the use of those funds. Are we being punished because we are in Councilwoman Wilsons district? If they truly represent everyone in the county, then shouldnt they represent us too, Paxton said.
Isnt the health of 1000 people reason enough for a yes vote on that question? It shouldnt be a battle to get help when we pay taxes just like everyone else in Anderson County, she said.
By Stan Welch
Violations by the Town of Williamston of Anderson County Detention Center policy concerning the use and supervision of county inmates has not resulted in a loss of that privilege by the town, according to ACDC officials.
ACDC Captain of Security Eric Boggs explained that recent problems with the county inmates and their management stemmed from inadequate supervision by the towns responsible agents.
Earlier this year, complaints were received that some inmates assigned to the Town of Williamston had been obtaining alcohol, possessing cash, and wearing clothes other than the identifying clothing issued by ACDC. They were also reported to be walking around town in areas where they were not supposed to be.
Capt. Boggs explained that the policy for the inmates requires that they remain in the issued clothing at all times, that they have little or no contact with the public, and that they perform their jobs and follow their supervisors directions.
Obviously, use of alcohol is absolutely forbidden.
Boggs pointed out that the inmates in question were serving time for non-payment of child support and other similar offenses, and were not considered any danger to the public.
These men were working off jail time by taking part in this program. They have since been removed from that program, and lost their opportunity to reduce their sentences.
The program serves to address manpower problems in smaller municipalities, with inmates performing such jobs as custodial and landscaping work, or washing cars for the town or the police department. In return, the inmates can reduce their sentence substantially.
The Town of Williamston continues to have full access to the program, despite the failure to supervise earlier inmates.
They still get at least one every day, said Boggs. Their supervisor came over and apologized for failing to keep those guys straight. He assured us it would not happen again, said Boggs.
Williamston Police Chief Troy Martin was out of town this week and could not be reached for comment.
Students from Palmetto High School were introduced to the Victorian Period during a hands on, living history experience Tuesday at the Williamston Municipal Center.
The students attended Victorian Day, a special learning event funded by a state EIA grant written by senior english teachers Patty Bell and Meagan Chapman.
The made-up holiday featured activities and craft workshops for the students who are currently studying literature of the period.
The idea for Victorian Day came about after the teachers realized many of the students were finding it hard to understand and just didnt get it, according to Bell.
The $3,000 grant allowed the students to see it come alive, Bell said. The Victorian Period included the years 1835 to 1901.
Activities at the Municipal Center reflected the period with demonstration of Victorian dancing, hosted by Rebekah Edens; a period antique display, hosted by Patty Bell and Sandra Blanding; photographs in period attire, Dan Harvell; tea time, hosted by Meagan Chapman, Eleanor Roper, Lib Higgins, and Darlene Hester.
Other activities included making fans and ribbons; Terri Smith, Mrs. Marchbanks; Tussie Mussies (small flower arrangements), Rhonda Rhodes, Ellen Harvell; beaded ornaments, Patsy Fortune, Elaine Davenport; embossing and calling cards, Faith Davis, Dianne Lollis.
Students also enjoyed Victorian games, hosted by Brent Smith and Larry Baldwin; croquet on the lawn, Susan Beck; and storytelling by Andy Croston.
Johnnie Bell was the time ringer for the day, letting students know when it was time to move to the next activity.
Also assisting were Mike Kelly, resource officer Donnie Bryant and Teresa Morgan.
The Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners discussed applying for a new sewer grant and how to deal with unauthorized use of the Community Building during their regular monthly meeting Monday.
Board members Marsha Rogers and Fred Glenn were not present.
During the meeting, Administrator Butch Nichols told Commissioners the district is having an ongoing problem with teens entering the community building when it is not open.
Nichols said a doorway had been replaced and may help with the problem. Commissioners also discussed the possiblility of placing cameras on the premises.
Nichols also told Commissioners that the District is applying for another grant to help with sewer problems.
According to Nichols, a previous grant application which the District did not get, included information on the whole district, including higher income areas that are not in the sewer service area.
The new grant application will focus on the town area of Piedmont which is covered by District sewer, he said.
Nichols said some District sewer lines were recently cleaned, however video from a camera sent through the lines shortly after they were cleaned showed some type of metal shavings in them. Where the shavings are coming from has puzzled officials, who say they create a problem in the sewer system.
Commissioners also discussed painting and vinyl siding for the Community Building. The district received a $16,000 grant, with a $4,000 match, for a total of $20,000 available for the upgrade project. The District is currently accepting bids on the project.
Nichols said they are looking at installing heating and air for both gyms in the building and a new floor coating for the main gym floor.
Commissioner Al McAbee reported the Fire District responded to 8 structure fires, 4 grass fires, 5 auto accidents, 26 medical calls and 1 mutual aid. McAbee said the mutual aid call was for backup for West Pelzer, in which one truck was sent.
District personnel also responded to 2 sewer calls and a street light call for a total of 46 responses for the month.
Commissioner Rudy Rhodes questioned several purchases at Sams made by the district. Nichols said the purchases were for office supplies, oil for vehicles, Christmas supper supplies and toilet paper.
Commissioners also discussed upgrades at the ballpark including a wall, bleachers, and childrens seats which were funded by a $5,800 grant from Anderson County. The grant was secured by Anderson County Council member Bill Dees.
Commissioners also discussed accepting bids on projects and possible ethics violations by having relatives do work.
Nichols said it was hard to find someone locally to get things done because so many in Piedmont are related.
There was also discussion on the salary breakdown of assistant chief Terry Yates and on use of the assistant chiefs car.
Commissioner Frankie Garrett asked if use of the vehicle was approved by Commissioners. The discussion was tabled for discussion when all board members are present.
Nichols also said the District has approximately 1,200 to 1,500 sq. ft. of office space available for rent at the Community Building. Anyone interested is asked to contact Nichols at the Piedmont Fire Department.
Anderson District One Board of Trustees toured the new freshman academy at Palmetto High School before holding their regular monthly meeting there Tuesday.
Construction was recently completed allowing 9th grade students and teachers to begin using the new facility February 10.
The freshman academy allows 9th graders to transition to the High School environment by having them in a building separate from upperclassmen during most of the school day, officials said.
The new addition expands the freshman academy concept adopted by the District six years ago and allows room for additional growth according to Palmetto High School Principal Dr. Mason Gary.
The addition includes adminstrative offices, 8 classrooms including a dual science lab, a commons area and a gym.
The gym and locker room facilities should be completed by March 1, Gary said.
Gary reported that 92 percent of the academys first class which started the academy four years ago are on track to graduate from high school this spring. That figure is up from 64 percent before the academy concept was adopted.
Gary and Board Chairman Fred Alexander both said that figure alone showed how well the concept is working for incoming freshmen at the school.
During the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler reported that the County Board of Education had approved a $3.45 million general obligation bond and a $4.5 million bond reissue if the market improves.
Director of Elementary Education, Jane Harrison reported that 96 students in the District will have to take a ESLA test which measures increases in English proficiency.
Assistant Superintendent David Havird reported the nutrition program continued a trend of showing a profit. The program posted a $34,693 profit for February, with three more days before the end of the month. The program has a year to date profit of $198,591, he said.
Board members unanimously approved first reading on a policy revision allowing teachers who retire under the State offered TERI system, to be rehired one day after they retire.
The revision is for policies GCE and GCE-R for professional staff recruitment and policy GDF, support staff retiring, Fowler said.
Approximately 900 district employees could be affected by the TERI system guidelines which could leave the district with the problem of replacing teachers or administrators mid-year or other times which are hard to fill positions.
The policy allows the District to send an open letter to employees who may be affected by the plan, stating that after a break of service of one or two days, an employee can be rehired to work for the district until the end of the school year.
It gives us flexibility, Fowler told the board. First reading was unanimously approved.
Board members and Palmetto High Staff members attending the meeting also were treated to a presentation by Steven Henderson of R. A. I. D. Corps. Inc.
The company provides K-9 narcotic and weapon detection, consulting and education for School District One and other schools across the Upstate.
The presentation included bringing in a drug dog which is trained to detect the odor of a variety of drugs including marijuana, hashish, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, Henderson said.
In other action board members approved the following personnel requests upon the recommendation of Superintendent Fowler.
Request for leave of absence - Sheila Evans, West Pelzer Elementary, grade 3, seven week leave; Ann Hill, West Pelzer, grade 3, extended leave; Mimi Melehes, Palmetto Elementary, LD Resource, nine week maternity leave; Christie Wright, Spearman Art, three week maternity leave.
Transfers - Alison Webb, transfer from Palmetto Middle EMD class to Spearman Elementary EMD for the 2005-2006 school year.
Resignations - Dr. Kim Clardy, Palmetto Elementary, Assistant Principal; Margaret Dickert, Wren Middle Math.
Sharolyn Inman, Technology support Services, software technician; Christine McAlister, Pelzer Elementary, grade 4; Brooke ONeal, Wren middle, Language Arts.
Retirement - Helen Gillard, Spearman Elementary, EMD; Garry Green, Powdersville Middle, math; Betty Moon, Palmetto Elementary, Grade 4; Lorraine Stewart, Spearman Elementary, Grade 3.
Recommendations - Mary Evans, West Pelzer Elementary, Grade 3, interim position; Carol Fillet, Concrete Primary, Kindergarten, interim position; Lori Randall, Wren Middle, Math interim position; Jolyn Young, Palmetto elementary Pre-school Disabilities Teacher for 2005-2006.
Twenty-eight administrative positions were also approved.
By Stan Welch
The West Pelzer Fire Department continues to openly confront financial issues which arose under the previous fire chiefs administration and possible reasons for those financial issues are the subject of an ongoing audit of the department by the State Firemans Association.
The auditor stopped by and picked up our books. As I understand it, SLED wants to see his report on the firemans fund before deciding whether to proceed with their own investigation into the taxpayers fund and the community fund, Board Chairman Danny Sutherland said during a board meeting this week.
Those are the three main funds maintained by the countys various fire departments. Each is designed to be used for specific purposes.
Concerns over the former chiefs administration of those funds led to the Boards reactivation in December, at the request of several firemen.
Former Chief Mark Vickery resigned on January 6 and Assistant Chief Ellison was suspended by County Fire officials.
At the February 22 meeting of the WPFD Board of Directors, Sutherland explained that fiscal difficulties continue to challenge the board and the department.
A clear indication of that is the line on the financial statement Sutherland published which indicates that 80% of the income claimed for the period from January 24 to February 22 is listed as monies due the department.
Other challenges include the remaining balance due, approximately $4,000, on the Departments rescue truck.
The situation exists in part because only one payment was made per year for a couple of years, according to Sutherlands report.
The department is also several months behind on most of its regular bills, such as utilities and other normal operating expenses.
We are trying to catch up on these bills. But in addition to the normal operating costs, we also have several large bills that must be addressed, Sutherland said.
The Board went into a brief executive session to determine how to handle one of those bills; the lease agreement on a laptop computer which was signed by former chief Mark Vickery in February of last year.
After the executive session, Sutherland reported that the leasing company had demanded a response under threat of possible legal action.
The board voted to provide a partial response of $2100, as well as to pursue any legal actions necessary to recoup their losses.
Sutherland reiterated that the department continues to enforce a freeze on basic spending. but pointed out several exceptions that had occurred since January 24.
First, we had to spend some money getting our tanker back on the road. If your trucks dont run, youre not a fire department. Its just that simple, he said.
The department also reimbursed Vickery $750, due to an overpayment made by Vickery.
During his term, a check was written for $1500 cash for a situation I dont care to discuss, Sutherland said.
Former Chief Vickery reimbursed the department at our request. Later, former Assistant Chief Ellison reimbursed the department for half the original amount, resulting in the refund to Vickery for overpayment.
While the departments financial statement, which is posted for public review on the bulletin board at the station, reflects total assets of over $16,000, Sutherland cautions the public not to be fooled by that number.
That may seem like a lot of money, but its not. We have $7 or $8,000 worth of bills coming due. We have a lot of work to do to get current on our bills and be able to begin spending on items like maintenance and equipment again, he said.
Sutherland also asked board members to think about what spending practices should be established in the future.
We have some temporary guidelines in place, but we need to put in an established system that can be followed years from now, no matter who is in the department or on the board. Its important that the situation were in now not happen again.
The department has paid a $250 fine to the South Carolina Secretary of State, which has reinstated the department in good standing, according to Sutherland.
This allows the department to perform as a non-profit entity in South Carolina.
I think the Secretarys office just felt like we couldnt be allowed to get off scot free, so they imposed this fine. But they have been satisfied, and we are reinstated, Sutherland said.
Anderson County Sheriffs deputies investigated the following incidents:
Feb. 11 - Ed Tate, Director of Bus Ministries, reported that a license tag BU24217 was stolen from the church bus at West Pelzer Baptist Church. C.H. Beusse investigated.
Feb. 13 - James M. Smith left the keys in his 1984 blue Chevrolet while shopping at the Lebby Street Bi-Lo. When he came out, the vehicle was gone. R.S. Turner investigated.
Feb. 14 - Peter Ide reported that he had loaned his 2002 Chevrolet Impala to someone. The vehicle was to have been returned that afternoon. They called at 10 p.m. to say the car was at the skating rink on River Road. When he went to retrieve it, it was not there. Also missing, according to Ide, were guns, cash, tools, and an uncashed paycheck. J.D. Parales investigated.
Feb. 15 - A 1991 Pontiac Sunbird, belonging to Robin Ward, was reported stolen from 7 Courtney street during the early morning hours. B.W. Parker investigated.
Feb. 16 - An unknown suspect or suspects damaged a vehicle belonging to Elizabeth Barnhill of 1004 McEnroe Circle. The side mirrors were smashed and a lawn lamp near the front door of the residence was also damaged. J.D. Parales investigated.
Feb. 16 - Veronica Arrington, 224 Smith Drive, reported the theft of approximately $1800 worth of jewelry.
Feb. 12 - Don Drenner reported a customers car stolen from his repair shop. B.W. Parker investigated.
Feb. 13 - A Ford F-250 pickup with various tools and equipment was reported stolen from Brock Landscape Contractors at 2522 River Road. T. B.Dugan investigated.
Feb. 14 - David Lee Lanier was arrested for credit card theft, which occurred while the victim was interviewing the suspects girlfriend for a job. The suspect was located and questioned in the buildings lobby by D.E. Tench, Jr. who investigated. The suspect said he was having a hard time financially and was trying to get on his feet.
Feb.15 - LaKendra Dawoone Hellams, who works at Hardees, reported that a former employee who blames Hellams for the loss of her job, came to the restaurant with a ball bat. She came in the first set of doors and threatened to get Hellams fired. She did not fully enter the restaurant and left when she was told to. A complaint of simple assault was filed. W. M. Patterson investigated.
Feb. 18 - Donald Chafin, of 125 Chafin Road, reported that his 1991 red Ford truck was stolen from the Super 8 Motel on Highway 153. R.S. Turner investigated.
Feb. 12 - Eric Buff reported the overnight theft of $1800 worth of merchandise from Spot 701 at the Jockey Lot. Surveillance tapes of the area were entered into evidence. R.S. Turner investigated.
Feb. 14 - A wallet was reported stolen from the purse of an employee at 431 Highview Road. In the purse was a wallet, credit cards, a paycheck, and a list of the victims family members Social Security numbers. D. Hodges, Jr. investigated.
Feb. 15 - Melanie Patterson reported damage and vandalism to her business, Alpine Engineering, at 2647 Anderson Hwy. A door and window were broken, but no entry was gained. J.D. Parales investigated.