News Archive

(0806) Week of Feb. 22, 2006

Williamston wrap - developments concerning the Town of Williamston financial crisis since January 2006

Deficit higher than reported - over $629,000!
Town to discuss auctioning town properties to pay IRS
Fee increases approved, budget work begins
Special election date set
Moore's stores bought out

West Pelzer officials look at town’s operations, finances
Piedmont looking at insurance, tax rate
Hunting, fishing expo in Piedmont
District One hires football coach, adopts school calendar

LeCroy named head coach, AD at Palmetto High
FEMA announces ice storm disaster aid
Suspects receive sentences

Advance Auto robbed
Ballenger announces for Congress
Walgreens holds open house

Area officials looking into forming special sewer district
Seems to Me . . . Banks and politics
County puts price on sewer project opposition

Williamston wrap - developments concerning the Town of Williamston financial crisis since January 2006

February 13 -
Council finds details, changes not as easy as expected

February 8 -
Council approves increases for businesses, residents
Councilman Cothran resigns
Thursday work session sets stage for Monday’s meeting
Business pickup trashed
Resignation will lead to May election
Petition being circulated

January 30 -
Town might not make payroll by March
Citizens call for resignation, mayor declines
Council to make recommendations at Thursday worksession

January 25 - 
Town taking steps to deal with serious financial crisis
January 16 -
“The town will come through this” ACOG official says
Week of Jan 11 -
Williamston finances worse than expected
Withholding payments could result in tax lien
Williamston residents express concerns at Council meeting

Week of Jan. 4 

Williamston continues operations at 2005 budget
Williamston’s 2006 budget shows $350,000 increase
Enterprise fund budget is $1.4 million

Deficit higher than reported - over $629,000!

Updated version - In December 2005, The Journal reported that the monthly figures for The Town of Williamston for November showed the town was $253,125.21 over budget with expenses for the month of December still to come. The actual figure turned out to be much higher.

According to information provided to Williamston Town Council by accountant Bob Daniel at the Feb. 16 and Feb.20 work sessions, the Town had a fiscal year 2005 deficit of $581,874. Added to that is a $47,961 deficit for the water and sewer fund, for a total deficit for last year of $629,835.

The figures are based on 2005 revenues of $2,490,674. Council was led item by item through the revenue part of the budget by Newton to come up with estimated total revenues of  $2,632,900, or $142,226 more than brought in during  2005.

The estimated 2006 revenues include $817,000 from property taxes which has already been collected, and spent. The 2006 revenue fiqures also include an additional $30,000 from the Duke Franchise fee increase of 1 percent; $33,000 more in police fines; $313,000 from the new $14 sanitation fee (for nine months); $66,000 FEMA reimbursement for the ice storm; $7,000 emergency response insurance billing; and  $44,000 sidewalk reimbursement.

At present, set expenses, before including each departmental expense, includes a debt payment of $296,000 to the IRS for FICA and withholding; $95,208 for payments to SC retirement; SCDOR fines of $85,000; SCDOR payroll of $37,000, past due payables of $200,000 and repayment of the $350,000 BAN.

Department expenses for the 2006 budget have yet to be determined due to the many cuts and changes underway. Daniel is expected to present estimates for Council based on the personnel and other cuts already in place. Budget expenses will be discussed in future meetings. The next meeting is set for Monday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.

A Thursday work session is set for February 23 at 9:30 a.m. to continue working on the town’s financial crisis. In 2004 year the Town experienced over spending of $222,635 and  ended the year with a total deficit of $329,468, according to the 2004 audit conducted by Greene, Finney and Horton, LLP.

Town to discuss auctioning town properties to pay IRS

During a special meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council again put off hiring an auditor and took steps toward selling town properties to satisfy delinquent IRS payments. Both issues will be discussed in more detail during a work session set for 9:30 a.m. this Thursday, Feb. 23.

At the request of Willie Wright, Council agreed to allow public comments to come after other agenda items and they set a time limit of 5 minutes per speaker at the request of councilman Otis Scott.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said the town had contacted four possible auditors. Two declined to accept the offer to work on the town’s 2005 audit with one  auditor stating they didn’t want to enter the town’s political situation, Clardy said. A third auditor was deemed too excessive in cost.

A fourth auditing firm is still in negotiation with the town and Clardy said the officials may have to look at other firms, hopefully making a decision by this Thursday.

Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG) advisor Joe Newton then discussed some budget items.

Newton said the budget figures would be changing constantly and that the town had “a very bad cash flow” with money trickling in at various times throughout the year.

He said a check sent to Anderson County for a business solid waste fee had apparently been lost and a new one had been sent to them.

He also mentioned an auction will probably be held in March for the public to bid on municipal properties.

Town officials had stated that any proceeds from the auction sale of 21 acres on Cherokee Road will go toward payments on the $350,000 BAN note.

Clardy made a motion that any additional property sale proceeds will go to the delinquent Federal withholdings.

Newton suggested that any payments that are made be on the owed taxes and interest and that he hoped to negotiate on the penalty and interest owed to the IRS. The total presently amounts to $296,000.

Newton was to meet with an IRS representative Tuesday of this week to discuss the penalties.  Council approved Clardy’s motion 4-0.

Newton also said that the town plans to borrow on a five or six year term GO bond, rolling the short term $350,000 BAN into the loan by June or July.

He said the SCDOR had agreed to a payment plan of 12 to 18 months on what is owed to them. He also said the payables of $200,000 will continue to increase.

Newton said that when town officials begin working on the expenses for the 2006 budget Thursday, they will have to equal the $2,632,900 in revenues that are projected on the draft presented Monday.

Newton said the town can transfer funds between the General Fund and the Water and Sewer Fund but that transfers have to be done very carefully and have to be accounted for separately.

The effect of the recent salary cuts  and layoffs is still being calculated and the updated numbers will be plugged into the draft budget as Daniel gets them, Newton said.

He suggested Council should keep tabs all year on how money is being spent and that amendments to the budget may be made by Council at mid year. He also recommended that the public remain involved.

Council then heard from several speakers.

Sara Dacus and John Dacus yielded their alloted 5 minutes each to Gary Bannister.

Bannister thanked council for doing away with their pay and insurance. He then stated a number of things including:

Bannister asked where the $1.6 million in debt had gone to? He said Clardy had not hired an auditor; not reduced employees to the recommended 20; not reduced car use and gas consumption; not sold real estate including the 21 acres which were originally to be sold in 2004; not destroyed the signature stamp; not had a delinquent tax sale for  2004; and added a $14 garbage pickup fee.

He said Clardy had also increased water rates, business licenses and not resigned “for the good of the town.”

He then read from a memorandum from Joe Newton (ACOG) to Council concerning the town’s status.

Bannister mentioned that of 13 FOI requests submitted in 2004 and 21 more submitted in 2005, he had received about one third of them this week. Bannister and the Dacuses hired an attorney in an effort to get the FOI requests which have been delayed by the town, answered.

He also said he believes taxes for the town will double or triple.

Carthel Crout presented a suggestion of personnel cuts to the mayor and council “to get to a skeleton crew and get there fast.”

Roger Hayes asked if the town’s water customers will be cut off from water service  if the new trash pickup fee is not paid. Clardy responded that they would not though the town’s ordinance as approved stated it would. Some details on the fees are still being worked out town attorney Richard Thompson said.

Hayes said he could carry off his own garbage for about 25 cents and that people who “carry their own garbage should not be charged the $14 fee.”

Jan Dawkins asked several questions concerning the IRS and whether liens can be placed on the town’s property.

Newton responded that he will meet with an IRS agent Tuesday and that he will ask that liens not be placed on property so that it will not interfere with the town’s plans to auction the properties. Proceeds from the sales will go to pay the IRS, he said.

Responding to a letter to the editor in The Journal, she also asked how the loss of jobs make Clardy a caring individual. 

Ronnie Rowe, a former employee of the town, said he is now working out of town, and upon returning that “the town looks terrible and there is trash all over.”

He also questioned why there are two field supervisors for six employees in the water and street departments. “I know what the guys are going through,” Rowe said of the employees who have been let go.

Responding to a question by Dawkins concerning what would happen if the town ran out of money, Newton said that missing March payroll would be avoided at all cost. “We don’t get to the point we run out,” he said.

But, if it came to that, he said payroll would be the first thing to go and that the town will not make payroll if they cannot pay the IRS. “That went on too long,” he said.

There were also questions concerning property recently acquired by the town that has renters on it.

“That should have been taken care of before it was done,” Newton said. 

Newton said that if necessary the town would downsize much more drastically with no severance packages.

Olive Wilson mentioned the mayor making motions and said that the $14 garbage fee will be hard on some of the town’s citizens.

Tim Cox asked for clarification on the money from the Cherokee Road property sale.

Clardy said approximately 30 pieces of property will be sold at auction. A property sale was discussed with realtor Hugh Durham in executive session. A personnel matter was also discussed, Clardy said.

The sale of town owned property is expected to be discussed during the work session set for 9:30 a.m. this Thursday, Feb. 23. 

Fee increases approved, budget work begins

Williamston Town Council continued working on ways to stabilize the town’s financial situation during a work session held Thursday, Feb. 16.

The effects of the first cuts, officially made last Friday, Feb. 10, will be plugged into the preliminary budget figures to get a better picture of how it will affect the financial situation. There is some doubt among the advisors helping town officials with the crisis, that the first cuts will be enough.

During the work session several fee increases were voted on by Council including a new business garbage pickup fee and increased water and sewer tap fees. Other actions included preliminary work on the 2006 budget.

Council also set to rest a question over following Roberts Rules of order, approving a motion by Otis Scott 3-0, which allows the mayor to make a motion. Councilman Greg Cole abstained from the vote. Before the vote, Newton said that Roberts Rules does not allow a presiding officer to make a motion unless the chair is relinquished. He said the rules are followed for the most part, but that council can set their own rules.

Council agreed to set a $25  monthly garbage pickup fee for businesses that want pickup one time each week. Businesses that require two or more pickups per week will pay $35 a month. A limit of three 32 gallon containers will be allowed. Dumpster pickup by the town has been eliminated.

Council also agreed to increase water and sewer tap fees. Water tap fees will be set at $700 for in town, $800 for out of town; Sewer tap fees will be $800 for in town and $900 for out of town.

Early in the meeting, Council went into executive session to discuss hiring an auditor and payroll/personnel cuts. 

Upon returning to open session, Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said that four auditing firms have been contacted. He said two of those declined to  work for the town, one had not submitted a quote and one submitted a quote which was potentially too excessive. He also said the town may have to contact other auditors. It was decided the item will be looked at again at the Monday session.

As of this week, the town had reduced employees by the 16.5 announced earlier, to 34, according to Clardy.

The town’s four council members and mayor have also cut their own monthly salaries of $600 each for Council and $2,000 for the mayor, along with insurance benefits.

According to information presented during the work session, the town is saving approximately $8,000 to $9,000 weekly with the cuts. 

Town officials were also advised by accountant Bob Daniel that overtime should be cut out and that any overtime necessary should be approved formally.

ACOG advisor Joe Newton said that the $7000 to $8,000 savings from the initial personnel cuts won’t be seen for three to four weeks because of vacation time and severance payments that are required by the town’s policies.

Daniel also advised that the town will be in a very tight position for the rest of the year,  especially August, September and October when the town will have no income coming in.

He reminded the town officials that they still have past debt that needs to be paid off and that the town will have to secure a loan, “and even that probably won’t be enough.”

Daniel said that town will have approximately $100,000 left in the bank at the end of February.

Daniel advised Council the town should cut gas consumption which he said is running about $5,000 to $6,000 per month. Supplies, repairs, salary and gasoline are the main things to look at, he said.

Newton said that an official from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will meet with town officials and employees Tuesday. He said it was clear that “they want their money” and there will  be penalties and interest for the town.

During the work session, the mayor and council also began looking at the 2006 budget beginning with expected revenues.

Working on 2005 revenues of $2,490,674 compiled by Daniels, the town had a fiscal year 2005 deficit of $581,874. Added to that is a $47,961 deficit for the water and sewer fund, for a total deficit for last year of $629,835.

Council was led item by item through the revenue part of the budget by Newton to come up with estimated total revenues of  $2,612,800, or $105,500 more than in  2005.

The new revenue figures include an additional $30,000 from the Duke Franchise fee increase of 1 percent; $33,000 more in police fines; $313,000 from the new $14 sanitation fee (for nine months); $66,000 FEMA reimbursement for the ice storm; $7,000 emergency response insurance billing; and  $44,000 sidewalk reimbursement.

At present, set expenses include a debt payment of $235,000 to the IRS for FICA and withholding of $1.6 million; $95,208 for payments to SC retirement; SCDOR fines of $85,000; SCDOR payroll of $37,000, past due payables of $200,000 and repayment of the $350,000 BAN.

Other expenses for the 2006 budget will be discussed in future meetings.

Mayor Clardy said that the town will have a public forum at the Monday meeting and will discuss hiring an auditor. Clardy said the fees recently approved will be effective on the March billing.

Council will meet Monday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. and Thursday March 2 at 9:30 a.m. to continue working on the 2006 budget and other items to deal with the town’s poor financial situation.

Special election date set

The Municipal Election Commission of the Town of Williamston will hold a special election on May 9, 2006 to fill the vacancy for Council Ward 2 term expiring December 31.

Polling places for the special election will be Williamston Precinct at Palmetto Middle School, 803 N. Hamilton St., Williamston; Williamston Mill Precinct at the National Guard Armory on gossett Dr.; and the Cedar Grove Elementary School at 107 Melvin Lane.

Person planning to vote in the election must be registered by April 8. Candidates may file at the Williamston Municipal Center beginning February 24. The books will remain open until noon March 10.

Filing fee for the offic of councilman is $50. The election is non-partisan and no party affiliation will be placed on the ballot.

Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on election day.

Any runoff will be held two weeks after the election on Tuesday, May 23.

Moore's stores bought out

B. C. Moore and Sons has been purchased by Stage Stores, a Houston, Texas based family apparel company.

Stage Stores, Inc. brings nationally recognized brand name apparel, accessories, cosmetics and footwear for the entire family to small and mid-size towns and communities with over 540 stores in 30 states.

The company has annual sales of more than $1.3 billion and operates under the Stage, Bealls and Palais Royal names throughout the South Central states, and under the Peebles name throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern and Midwestern states.

According to the company’s website, the average size store is approximately 18,850 selling square feet located principally in strip shopping centers.

“Our corporate mission is to provide our customers with exceptional service, merchandise selections and value in conveniently located, easy-to shop locations,” the web site says.

 Plans are for the acquired store locations to be converted and re-opened by late summer, officials said.

The company operates stores in Barnwell, Georgetown, and Conway, S. C. and in Monroe and Charlotte in N. C.

West Pelzer officials look at town’s operations, finances

By Stan Welch

The West Pelzer Town Council was surprised and disappointed to hear that Pelzer planned to drop their $18,000 contract for police service to be provided by their neighbor. But they were even more troubled by the way they learned of the decision. “I didn’t know about it until I read it in The Journal,” said Mayor Peggy Paxton. Other Council members agreed that they also were unaware of the change until the paper came out.

The Pelzer Town Council decided to drop the service and let the County Sheriff’s Department take over providing police protection. They voted unanimously to do so at last week’s meeting.  The contract was due to be renewed on April 1. Pelzer Councilman Tony Riddle said that he simply didn’t see where the town was getting their money’s worth.

West Pelzer Police Chief Bernard Wilson produced statistics at Tuesday night’s Council meeting that indicated that Pelzer had received services far in excess of those they paid for. Wilson said that since April 1, 2005, his department had made 117 arrests, of which 23 occurred in Pelzer. That equals approximately 20% of arrests made. Of 166 police reports generated by the department, 33, or again approximately 20%, originated in Pelzer.

In addition, Wilson said that 97 tickets had been issued in Pelzer, including 17 for criminal offenses including drug violations. “We also had 12 felony drug arrests, 4 felony gun violations, and two cases of assault and battery of a police officer with intent to kill. That looks like we were spending about twenty percent of our efforts in Pelzer, but if you take the $18,000 we received and figure its percentage of our department’s budget, and it comes out at 8%. So it appears that they were getting a lot more than they were paying for.”

Mayor Paxton agreed, saying that the money would be missed, but added, “We did without it for a lot of years before this contract started, and we’ll get along without it fine now.” She suggested dealing with the drop in projected revenues by deleting a line item for $12,000 in improvements to the Town Hall until the 2006-07 budget.

Concerns over the Town’s financial status, sparked by reports of the financial crisis being faced by neighboring Williamston were also evident among the Council. On at least two occasions, the Mayor was cautioned to obtain several prices on equipment that was proposed for purchase, including a used dump truck to be purchased with FEMA monies reimbursed to the Town for its cleanup costs after the ice storm. Also, bids were to be sought for a new printer that would be compatible with the Town’s new billing software package.

Questions were raised about the number of Town credit cards. Mayor Paxton reported there was one card, but four holders. “I have one, department head Brad West has one, Town Clerk Beth Elgin has one and Chief Wilson has one. But we almost never use them, and we all know when one of the others is going to use the card. Some things, like training sessions and accommodations almost require a credit card number to make reservations. But we have all receipts and records available to you to see.”

Councilwoman Maida Kelly went so far as to give a brief, impromptu report on the Town’s financial health. “We have $36,184.08 in the general fund, $24,980.08 in the water and sewer fund, and $24,694.04 in the court fines fund. I just wanted every one in town to know we’re in good shape. As of December 30, 2005, we are current on all our IRS payments. They have a right to know that.”

Mayor Paxton thanked Kelly for her report, adding that the Town pays all its bills in a timely manner. “The Town of West Pelzer, I’m proud to say, doesn’t have to worry about that. I would certainly come to Council to work things out before they ever got too far.”

Paxton also reported that she, along with several political leaders from neighboring towns, as well as Belton and Honea Path, are working to find an alternative to a contracted arrangement with Western Carolina Water and Sewer to tap onto their sewer lines. “We hope to be able to put together this proposed alternative, because it would be so much cheaper and better for us all. It would be my dream that we could do something else than hook onto Western Carolina.”

The proposal would run lines from Pelzer and West Pelzer out along the Highway 20 corridor, to Honea Path, where the line would connect to an existing line from there to Ware Shoals. The Ware Shoals treatment plant is currently using less than one million gallons of its eight million gallon capacity. “This would help everyone along the line,” said the Mayor. Councilman Pete Davis, who works in the Greer public works department, said that Western Carolina is the second most expensive utility in the state.

Piedmont looking at insurance, tax rate

Piedmont Public Service District Commissioners agreed Monday to rebid the lawn maintenance contract and to take bids on opening, closing and maintaining the ball field and restrooms.

Anyone interested can call the Piedmont Fire Department for details. The jobs will be posted and advertised in The Journal District officials said.

Applicants will be required to attend a prebid meeting sometime in March detailing specifications of each job. Bids will only be accepted from those attending this meeting.

Administrator Butch Nichols asked for permission to replace a television set in the station that is used for training. The commissioners told Nichols to get three prices for one the same size and go with the lessor price.

Commissioner Frankie Garrett made a motion to stop paying health insurance for spouses and children and also on retired employees.

Marsha Rogers stated that taxes have not be raised since 1989. She asked if any of the commissioners, (all business owners), have raised their rates since 1989.

“I’m not for it. We have good men. We need to take care of them,” she said. “We are not up to standard (on pay). We need to raise taxes on fire.”

Garrett said all businesses across the country were cutting benefits and having employees pay on health insurance costs.

After a heated discussion between Garrett and Rogers and information about the open enrollment period provided by District Secretary Craig Lawless, Rogers called for a second to the motion. No second was given.

Rogers then asked how much revenue a mill tax increase would bring in and at what cost.

Nichols said that based on last year’s budget, each mill would produce around $16,000 in revenue and cost the average household about $40 per year.

Garrett pointed out the cost of insurance for an employee is $358.94, employee and spouse is $875. 74 and family coverage is $1104.33 plus life insurance and dental. The District currently pays 100% of the cost.

Commissioner Rudy Rhodes pointed out that even though there have been no millage increases, reassessment of property values have caused increases in tax amounts. Rogers responded that she was aware of that.

“If we raise millage, it will be one and a half years before we reap any benefits,” Rogers said.

Nichols said they would get the projected figures for 2006 taxes March 31.

The Commissioners agreed that they would schedule budget workshops in April after they received the tax projection. They also agreed to change the April meeting to April 24 because of Easter. The meeting adjourned.

Hunting, fishing expo in Piedmont

The Piedmont Area Hunting and Fishing Expo will be held this Saturday, February 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, at the Piedmont Community Building, 1 Main St., Piedmont.

The expo is sponsored by the Greenville County Recreation District, the Piedmont Public Service District. There is no admission fee. 

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will be providing children’s activities and hunting and fishing licenses free for senior adults.

It will feature exhibits from top hunting and fishing vendors in the area with equipment, clothing and a variety of other products, organizers said.

Featured vendors will include local taxidermist Chip Hamilton,  Foothills Motorsports, D. K. Littleton Outfitters,  Travis Sumner (Primes Hunting Calls and Turkey calling contest),  Foothills Animal Rescue and Wildlife Rehab, Part-ronics Fishing World and more.

Other special activities will include, kids rides, live entertainment, and cooking demonstrations.

Persons attending can sample Kush, a Piedmont delicacy from  a recipe dating back to the early 1900s which is listed in the SC Historical Society Archives in the State Museum. The dish will be prepared by the Piedmont Fire Department.

There will also be funnel cakes and other treats available and and a drawing for prizes with a $1 donation. For more information call (864) 288-6470 or online at www.gcrd.org.

District One hires football coach, adopts school calendar

Anderson School District One Board of Trustees named a new football coach for Palmetto High School and approved other personnel during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday.

Jody LeCroy, a coach at Laurens High School for five years, was named to the position of Head Football Coach and Athletic Director at Palmetto High School.

LeCroy said he was “humbly honored to be the next athletic director and football coach at Palmetto.”

He said the support from the community and the school board “is unbelievable. ” He said that he will work for the kids, that he is dedicated to and will work for the family.

LeCroy said he is a teacher by heart and that he coaches, “as an extension to these kids’ academic career, to give them the opportunity to learn and to go into society to be successful.”

LeCroy was introduced to the Board by Palmetto High School Principal Mason Gary.

Tanya Richbourg presented information on a family service program offered through the District.

Goals of the program are to increase school readiness levels of incoming students and to improve student achievement through increased parental assistance and involvement in each child’s education.

A number of Districtwide programs are associated with the Family Services program including parenting, family literacy ESL, homeless children, Therapeutic Behavioral Service, Title I, Special Services and others.

The program receives funding from several organizations with which partnerships are formed in the community, Richbourg said.

One of those is Strong Communities, a program funded by the Duke Endowment through Clemson University.

District One Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said  that Clemson wants to work with the District to build and expand on what is being offered and to serve more people.”

Assistant Superintendent David Havird reported that the nutritional program  had a monthly profit of $26,183 and year to date profit of $217,462 which he said is a little ahead of last year.

Havird said they plan to upgrade freezers at Palmetto Elementary and Pelzer Elementary.

The Board unanimously approved a Gateway to College Program which will be offered in conjunction with Tri-County Technical College.

The dropout retrieval program will allow youth ages 17-20 to simultaneously earn a high school diploma nd college credits up to an associate degree.

The program is designed to help prevent  students from dropping out of high schools and retreiving drop out students to allow them to graduate with a diploma from Wren or Palmetto High Schools.

The program also allows postsecondary credentials awarded by Tri-County Tec. with all courses taught for dual credit.

Dr. Fowler said a student can reenroll in one of the high school’s database but will not go to the school, instead attending classes at Tri-county Tec.

New state department guidelines now allow the dual credit, Dr. Fowler said.

“It is an outstanding opportunity for our students who have dropped out of school and who need another opportunity,” Fowler said.

Acting upon the recommendation of Dr. Fowler, the program was unanimously approved 6-0.

The Board also unanimously approved changes in the vacation policy for GCC, GCD, GDC and GDD to reflect vacation and holidays policy for rehired employees.

The policy states that with a break of service to the district, all leave and vacation time ends and states that it does not accumulate.

The Board then went into executive session to discuss personnel and a contractural matter.

Upon returning to regular session, Chairman Fred Alexander said no action was taken in executive session.

The board then unamiously approved personnel recommendations made by Dr. Fowler.

Included were: Leave of absence - May Godfrey, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Grade 5; May McKee, Palmetto High Science.

Transfer - Debbie Baker, Wren Elementary Grade 1 to District WSOL teacher.

Retirement - David Babb, Palmetto Middle Grade 7 Social Studies; Pat Bobbitt, Powdersville Elementary School, Science; David Bridges, Powdersville Middle, Grade 7 Math; Myra Cantrell, Spearman Elementary Grade 1; Tommy Davis, Palmetto High Athletic Director and Head Football Coach; Ann Hunt, Palmetto High Science.

Also Mary Ann Kennedy, Spearman Elementary, Grade 3; Pamela Parker, Powdersville Middle, Grade 6 Language Arts.

Resignations - Janice Crocker, Concrete Primary Grade 2; Mary Grills, Powdersville Elementary, Grade 4; Lindsey Reyes, Wren Elementary, Grade 4; Shannon Roper, Palmetto Elementary K5 teacher.

Recommendations included Jody LeCroy, Palmetto High Athletic Director and Head Football Coach; Stephanie Tiwari, West Pelzer Elementary Academic Assistance.

The board also approved principals, vice-principals and school psychologists for the next school year.

They will be listed in the next edition of The Journal.

During their January meeting, the Board approved the 2006-2007 school calendar which has the start date of August 3 for students, and staff development beginning July 31. The calendar shows PACT testing through May 17 with graduation on May 18, 19.

Last day for students is set for May 22, with staff development and snow make up days on May 24 and 25.

 LeCroy named football coach, AD at Palmetto High

Anderson School District One Board of Trustees announced Tuesday that Jody LeCroy has been named Head Football Coach and Athletic Director at Palmetto High School.

LeCroy will replace retiring Coach and Athletic Director Tommy Davis effective July 1.

LeCroy has been a defensive coordinator, defensive back coach and strength and conditioning coach at Laurens High School since 2000.

He has athletic director  experience gained while at Silver Bluff High School, where he coached from 1993 to 2000, District officials said.

LeCroy has a combined 13 years of experience coaching a variety of athletics including track, basketball, and baseball. He led his teams to ten playoff appearances during the past thirteen years.

LeCroy earned a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education from Newberry College in 1992. While attending, he played baseball and earned several awards. His academic background includes teaching physical education and weight training since 1993. He earned his AA Liberal Arts degree from Anderson College.

District One officials said the search for head coach/athletic director resulted in 31 applications. The final pool consisted of 13 applicants with head coaching experience at the high school level, one assistant at the college level and 17 with assistant coaching experience at the high school level.

LeCroy said he was “humbly honored to be the next athletic director and football coach at Palmetto High School.”

He said that from what he has heard and seen, the support from the community, the staff, the kids and the school board “is unbelievable.” He also said that he will work for the kids, and that he is dedicated to and will work for the family.

“I am a teacher by heart,” LeCroy said. “And  that is the way I coach, as an extension to these kids’ academic careers, to give them the opportunity to learn and to go into society to be successful.”

“Mr. LeCroy is the perfect fit for Palmetto High,” Dr. Mason Gary, Principal at Palmetto High said. “He is a man of excellent moral character and has a tremendous work ethic.”

Gary said Coach LeCroy had a long-term vision for leading Palmetto High athletics and commitment to the student body, staff and community. 

Coach LeCroy’s dad is a graduate of Palmetto High and his grand parents still reside in Williamston. 

“Mr. LeCroy will soon begin joining the staff meeting with coaches, players and parents. He is anxious to tour the area to meet local, business owners and community members,” Gary said.

FEMA announces ice storm disaster aid

Local governments and private non-profit organizations were recently reimbursed for costs associated with the December ice storms.

The U. S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said that more than $1,082,000 in federal ice storm disaster aid has been approved for government entities including special purpose districts and certain private non-profit organizations.

President George W. Bush, at the request of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, signed a major disaster declaration on Jan. 20, triggering federal aid to seven counties hard-hit by the Dec. 15-16, 2005 ice storm.

“Although the majority of debris from fallen trees has been removed, these funds will help communities deal with the piles of bills that remain,” said Marianne C. Jackson, federal coordinating officer for FEMA’s disaster recovery effort, from the State/FEMA field office in Greenville.

Disaster funding announced for the seven counties and state agencies include: Anderson $94,136; Cherokee, $361,048; Greenville, $45,085; Laurens, $12,596; Oconee, $187,838; Pickens, $316,781; Spartanburg, $52,847; State Agencies, $11,890.

The Town of Williamston, which also hosted a Red Cross relief center, was approved for $66,000.

FEMA is reimbursing applicants for 75 percent of total eligible costs for emergency work such as debris removal and necessary repairs to permanent structures.

Ronald C. Osborne, state coordinating officer and director of the State Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), said, “The ice storm that struck the region in mid-December was a severe event, but upstate South Carolinians came together and weathered the storm. Once again we are showing the benefits that the state/federal partnership can deliver to ease this storm’s burdens on our communities, and more importantly, local taxpayers.”

The State of South Carolina will determine how the non-federal share (25 percent) is split with the applicants. The state’s payment processing for eligible applicants with approved projects will begin shortly. Applicants must comply with state accounting requirements to include returning State Applicant’s Agreements and related expense documents prior to release of any funds. Any potential applicant that has not done so must submit a Request for Public Assistance prior to Feb. 21.

Suspects receive sentences

Earl Richard Thivener was sentenced on three charges associated with the armed robbery of Debra’s Designs in Williamston on January 24, 2005. Thivener pled guilty to charges of armed robbery, kidnapping and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. He received a sentence of 20 years each for the Williamston robbery and a similar robbery committed in Seneca the same day.

Two Williamston residents were recently sentenced in connection with a rolling methamphetamine lab that was discovered by Williamston Police Officers at Palmetto Primary School on May 17, 2005.

Jessica Marie Owens was sentenced to 7 years 3 months and Steven Eric Owens was sentenced to 13 years and 4 months for the incident.

Advance Auto robbed

Anderson County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Forensic Technician John Carpenter looks for fingerprints on the door at Advance Auto Parts in West Pelzer, after it was robbed Sunday night. Two black males armed with handguns entered the store at approximately 8:45 p.m. Feb. 19, tieing up all three clerks before emptying the cash tills and leaving the store, according to West Pelzer Police Chief Bernard Wilson. Chief Wilson said the incident is the third armed robbery of an Advance Auto store location in as many weeks. The other incidents occurred in Georgia, he said.

Ballenger announces for Congress

Lee Ballenger, a Ware Shoals High School teacher from Greenwood, announced Monday he is running for Congress as a Democrat. A small but enthusiastic crowd was on hand at the Anderson County Courthouse for the announcement, the first of three stops across the third congressional district. Bringing troops home from Iraq, health insurance and the loss of jobs were three topics he touched on.

Walgreens holds open house

An Open House was recently held for a new training center at the Walgreens Distribution Center in the Piercetown community. Walgreens will employ 200 people from the special need population as part of the 800 total for the facility. Among those attending were coach Harold Jones; Randy Lewis, Walgreens Vice President Logistics and Distribution Division, James “Radio" Kennedy and Congressman Gresham Barrett.

Area officials looking into forming special sewer district

By Stan Welch

The search for an alternative solution to their individual and collective wastewater treatment problems brought representatives from five towns to Ware Shoals Monday.

Pelzer, West Pelzer, Williamston, Honea Path, and Ware Shoals explored the process of establishing a special sewer district that would regionalize all their systems into one, with the line ending at the existing Ware Shoals plant.

The towns face various issues, with West Pelzer under perhaps the most pressure. The town is currently under a consent order from DHEC and cannot add any more customers to its existing lines. That order has effectively eliminated any chance for growth or economic development in the town.

Mayor Peggy Paxton, along with Councilwoman Maida Kelly and Water and Sewer department head Brad West, made their interest in the plan obvious.

“We’re in the eleventh hour as far as our situation goes. What is the impact of this idea on us,” asked Mayor Paxton. “We’re grasping at straws.” West Pelzer faces a pending deadline to begin constructing a line to connect with Western Carolina; a project funded in part by a Rural Development Authority grant.

Rusty Burns, who consults with West Pelzer on such matters, said that those funds could probably be used for the new proposal. “I can’t foresee any reason why you couldn’t spend that money going towards Williamston instead of towards Western Carolina. The costs of the project would be essentially the same.”

Paxton asked about the possibility of proceeding with a link between West Pelzer and Williamston in the near future, with the eventual running of the lines on to Honea Path later.

Williamston has been facing DHEC enforcement action for several months in relation to its outdated lagoon system. Sonya Harrison, representing the firm of Goldie & Associates, which works for the town, said that the Town was in compliance with DHEC’s orders as of December 30, 2005. “If you decide to run your lines to Williamston as a short term measure, you will need the County’s cooperation, because they have 300,000 gpd  reserved .”

County Administrator Joey Preston recently sent a letter to Mayor Phillip Clardy, containing allegations “that the Town of Williamston may be improperly selling and/or utilizing sewer capacity reserved for the County at the Williamston/Big Creek East Wastewater Treatment plant, without authorization from the County and without compensation being paid to the County.”

In tandem with the issuance of the letter, Preston also executed a Freedom of Information Act request, asking for information concerning the reserved capacity, which was made available to the County in exchange for $550,000, in 1987.

Among the items sought were documents or records which “could provide additional information to the County in its efforts to ascertain the amounts owed by the Town for the unapproved commitment of capacity to users other than the County.”

Clardy has stated that the capacity is available and that no improper activity has taken place. A source familiar with the FOIA and the letter stated recently that the Town is preparing a response that will verify the capacity’s availability.

Pelzer’s Town council voted recently to cooperate with West Pelzer in funding a $12,000 study by Dunn & Dunn to determine the feasibility of the two towns creating a small cooperative system.

David Rogers and Harrison represented Williamston, while Skip Watkins, Pelzer Town Clerk, was on hand. Mayor Earl Meyers, of Honea Path, along with Town Administrator and government consultant Rusty Burns were on hand, along with Ware Shoals Mayor George Rush and Councilman Kit Young.

While different towns face different problems, the solution being proposed would serve them all. The three neighboring towns all face capacity problems; problems whose pending solutions would result in significant rate increases. The proposal would address those problems.

Honea Path already sends its wastewater to the Ware Shoals plant, but would continue to enjoy favorable rates if the plant began to receive and treat more wastewater. Ware Shoals would benefit from the increased revenues and by enhancing their efficiency in treating the wastewater.

The plant is capable of receiving 8 million gallons per day (mgd), but is processing about one tenth of that amount. “We have plenty of capacity but we need more water to operate more efficiently,” said Mayor Rush.

Bill Dunn, of Dunn & Dunn Engineering, explained the project, which would link all the towns with a forced main system. From the point in the line where it would join the Turkey Creek line, a parallel line would have to be run the rest of the way, to allow for the required flow capacity of 2.5 times the permitted daily amount. The existing Turkey Creek line contains 55,000 feet of 24 inch line.

Dunn says that many variables exist, including whether Belton would participate, a possibility that Harrison said is not under consideration at this time. “Goldie also works for Belton, and right now, they don’t have any reason to get into this. Their system is working fine and they have capacity available.” Others present expressed their opinion that if DHEC approved the plan, Belton would have little choice in the matter. “If DHEC says we’re going regional, we’re going regional. They’ll explain it to Belton, I promise you,” said Honea Path Mayor Earl Meyers.

Dunn said that he planned the project based on future growth in the region over the next twenty years. He stated that, with all the variables and increases in cost of materials, as well as their availability, the best estimate he could give for the cost of constructing the  approximately 25 mile line would be $30,000,000.

 “We are so far away from construction, if the project is ever built, that I hate to give any numbers, but I know you have to have something to work towards. But the cost of materials is very high now, and it could come down considerably. If oil prices go up though, so does everything else. Prices are so volatile, if you have a project that was bid a year ago, you’re 30-40% low on that project right now. But at this time, that’s my best estimate.”

Dunn also expressed his opinion that DEHC would look favorably on the proposal. “They are very much in favor of regionalization. This is a home run environmentally. For starters, it will eliminate four wastewater discharge points along the Saluda River. Plus it is more efficient.”

Harrison concurred, saying that recent meetings with DHEC had indicated to her that regionalization is indeed high on their list of priorities. “I think you will find them receptive to this idea, at least to the point of getting a fair hearing.”

The representatives of the various towns agreed to pursue the idea to the next step, which will be a meeting with DHEC and other officials. That meeting was tentatively scheduled for March 2. “We will need some serious help from both state and federal funding sources for a project of this size, but its regional impact and its environmental attractiveness are certainly factors in our favor.” said Burns.

Seems to Me . . .  Banks and politics

By Stan Welch

Let me tell you what I learned about my bank last week. I learned, that like almost all other banks before them, they are going to start charging five dollars to anyone who sends one of my checks through my bank, unless that person also has an account with my bank. Most banks are already charging this fee, but the fact that my bank resisted this form of robbery longer than most others is of little comfort.

Now calling this fee a form of robbery may seem a bit strong; but folks, it has never cost less to process a check than it does right now. Banks are so automated and computerized that the ATM outside automatically deducts your withdrawal and gives you the new balance when it gives you the money you asked for. It takes five seconds for the bank to process that transaction. Could it possibly cost more than a quarter?

I’m not naming my bank, for a couple of reasons. First, since virtually all banks do it, my bank is no worse than the others. Secondly, I have enough people in Williamston ticked off at me without going out of my way to tick off the people who are holding my money. But I did tell one of the tellers what I thought of the idea, even though I know she had nothing to do with the decision.

You may be asking why I care, since it isn’t my money. But it is my money, because I can’t run every single check I get on another bank through my bank. For example, sometimes a Carolina Trust check needs to go through Carolina Trust instead of my bank. So I get hit with a five dollar fee. It’s not just that my bank is doing this that bothers me; it’s that any bank is doing it. Let’s look at what this means.

Say I give old Joe Boy a check for cutting the grass. It’s drawn on my bank, which he has chosen not to bank with. But say he wants to cash that check while he’s in town so he can fill up his truck and lawnmower with gas. So he goes by my bank and they stick him for five bucks to cash a check that I wrote against my own money that is in my own bank.

Now when that bank was trying to sell me on doing business with them, no one told me that the other people I do business with would be punished for taking my check. It seems to me that my own bank has just devalued my worth as a customer to everyone but them by $5.00 per transaction. They have devalued my bank services by attaching a punitive fee to anyone else who accepts my check. How long does it take for that fee to be charged back to me by everyone who I write checks to? Thank you very much, friendly neighborhood bank. By the way, the toaster doesn’t work, either.

Of course, I’m reminded by what my Dad used to tell me about all those friendly neighborhood banks. He said, more than once, “Son, they pay you four percent interest on money you put in their bank, but they charge 12 per cent on what you borrow. Which part of that deal sounds friendly?” We all fuss and holler about taxes and the government taking our hard earned money, but they don’t have a monopoly on that kind of stuff.

On to another subject.

I don’t know how many of you folks read theTimes Examiner newspaper. It’s published weekly, with a good deal of support from the Anderson Taxpayers’ Association; and it is pretty relentless in its right wing conservative tone. As I’ve said before, I’m more of a moderate. I’ve lived long enough to know that I don’t have all the answers, and I’m pretty sure no one else does either. But the Times Examiner has a columnist whose work I enjoy reading, because she takes a stance, at least, and defends it vigorously.

I do not know this woman, this Nancy Collins, but she writes a pretty good column. 

I always enjoy reading the competition, especially when they’re worth reading. This week, she really takes Councilman Michael Thompson to task. Thompson, from District 5, ran as a conservative Republican who has since come to be considered by some a disappointment to the conservative side of the aisle.

Some, including Collins, go so far as to say he has become County administrator Joey Preston’s flunky on Council. It is an image he has done nothing to dispel, especially in light of his frequent sharing of post- meeting cocktails and hors d’oeuvres with Claude Graham, solid waste lobbyist and Anderson County government savant. Truth be told, that would hardly put Thompson in exclusive company, since more than one member of Council might qualify for the flunky role.

Collins, however, accuses Thompson of being a pawn in an alleged effort to cast aspersions on Councilwoman Cindy Wilson for her part in opposing the various phases of the Beaverdam sewer project. Collins clearly feels that the report on the project which was scheduled for Tuesday night’s council meeting is a transparent effort by Preston to embarrass or harass Wilson in an election year, hopefully damaging her chances in the seventh district come November; or perhaps even in June, at the primary.

 Early on, the smart money in District Seven says Wilson is pretty strong. She’s strong enough that there is no sign of interest from her two time opponent Bob Austin, who appears determined to sit this one out.

Julie Barnes, whose name recently came up in connection with a County funding snafu concerning the Sons of Confederate Veterans, of all things, may be slated to try and derail Wilson.

This accusation on Collins’ part is mildly disturbing for a couple of reasons. One is that it presupposes that Mr. Thompson is incapable of mounting such an assault on his own. While he is a mill who has proven to grind slowly, grind he does. In fact the only negative in terms of Thompson’s ability to process information effectively, is the fact that he seems to have decided on the Preston administration as the only source needed for that information.

But Collins’ assumptions as to Thompson’s motivation also raises the issue of a hired employee of the County, whether the top employee or not, being involved in political maneuverings and machinations. For a County employee to even hand out fliers for a candidate while on the clock is a violation of state law; for one to attempt to influence one or another Council member’s election or defeat is a clear crime, and well it should be.

It seems to me that an administrator as facile and agile as Mr. Preston would be far too cagey to undertake such a dangerous intrigue. Such participation would reflect a deep concern by Preston for his own future, dependent on the outcome of this year’s elections. Surely, Ms. Collins is mistaken.

County puts price on sewer project opposition

By Stan Welch

A public hearing concerning the rezoning of a tract of land along the Highway 28 bypass in Anderson dominated Tuesday night’s County Council meeting, lasting almost two hours, Speaker after speaker came to the microphone in support or opposition to the proposed change from a C-1 commercial status to a PD planned development rating.

After a long and sometimes contentious hearing, Council voted 5-1-1 to give first reading approval to the change. Councilman Michael Thompson,who lives in the affected area, gave an impassioned speech in opposition to the proposed change, citing the rights of the property owners to maintain their community as it was. Councilwoman Gracie Floyd voted against and Councilwoman Cindy Wilson abstained.

Joe Davenport, a 25 year veteran of the Appalachian Council of Governments Board who was recently replaced, received a resolution recognizing and honoring his contributions.

In other business, Council gave second reading to three ordinances. One granted a cable franchise to a small independent provider, Familyview Cablevision. The second authorized council to enter into an agreement to accept 90 percent of the taxes due from Owens Corning Fiberglass, which is currently under bankruptcy protection. The last authorized the Sheriff to assume control of the operations of the county detention center.

Council also authorized County Administrator Joey Preston to study the possibility of naming a street after Martin Luther King, Jr.

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson posed a number of questions to the representative of Elliott Davis, the auditing firm for the County. Among the questions she asked was one concerning the controls in place to assure that the county is receiving its full share of the host fee connected to the Anderson Regional Landfill.

“Since Waste Management in Spartanburg just offered that county $2.5 million a year in host fees for twenty years, as well as free garbage disposal for the county’s residents, it seems to me that we should be sure we’re getting what we were promised.”

She went on to question the performance of the County’s three enterprise funds, saying that all three were in trouble. She also referred to the capacity for wastewater available to the county, saying that the County is permitted for 9.4 million gallons per day (mgd), but is actually using only 1.86 mgd. “We have 34 million in debt for the sewer program, and $3 million in the sewer fund. We are in real danger here.”

The county administrator was prepared for the charges, and presented the results of a study requested by Councilman Michael Thompson about the costs incurred due to delays in the Beaverdam Sewer line project, which the study blamed solely on the actions of  Councilwoman Wilson. Environmental Services Director Vic Carpenter conducted the power point presentation, citing DHEC, ACOG and County sewer consultant Dewey Pearson.

The study, which cited a number of factors, such as Wilson’s efforts to defeat the second phase of the project, as well as projected revenues if certain developments had been built and available for taxation, and various circumstances had been met, eventually concluded that Wilson’s actions in opposition to the project had cost the County the extraordinary sum of $7,681,318.

Ms. Wilson responded by pointing out that no lawsuit against the County was ever filed. “We appealed DHEC’s rulings, which is our right as property owners. It was the only recourse we had,” said Wilson, who concedes that the manner in which the first phase of the Beaverdam line was conducted led her to run for County Council in 2000.

She asked Thompson, who had spoken so strongly in opposition to the proposed zoning change of his neighborhood earlier in the meeting, what he would have done if a sewer line had been run through his community. “What about our property rights, Mr. Thompson? Where was everyone then, when our property was the land in question?”

She also challenged Chairman Greer, in explaining her opinion that the line should have followed high ground along Highway 81 north. “We were told that forced main lines would be too expensive but there are 17.5 miles of forced main in the sewer line to Iva. Why was it too expensive on Hwy. 81 north, but not Hwy. 81 South?”

After the meeting, in an interview with The Journal, Wilson reiterated her claim. “We followed the legal remedies prescribed by state law. We never sued Anderson County, we appealed what we felt were flawed decisions by DHEC. The landowners, including myself, spent thousands of dollars of our own money, not the public’s money, to defend our rights.”

 

 

 

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