News Archive

(0808) Week of Feb. 20, 2008

West Pelzer citizens show support for police department
Check signing policy called into question
Road, sidewalk projects to be placed on capital improvement list
Flow monitors could help identify sewer line leaks
Memories by the Fireside program to feature FBI speaker, topics
WFD installs repeater
Michelin Boulevard likely to remain County road
Agricultural consulting not an issue for Council member
McAbee alleges Wilson profited from county related real estate deals
County Democrats to meet
Deputies investigate thefts, other incidents
Seems to Me . . . The Good Old Boys

West Pelzer citizens show support for police department

Approximately 150 people turned out for a town wide community meeting held at the West Pelzer Fire Department Tuesday to discuss the issue of police protection for the Town of West Pelzer.

What was called a public hearing was not an official meeting of town officials, however two members of the town police department, the town clerk, the mayor and one councilman were present.

Mayor Peggy Paxton told those in attendance that the issue of police protection was “A very serious and important matter” for the town and that the police department was still on course and that they had never been off duty.

She stated that she was there to hear comments from the residents, not to judge or decide, but to receive feedback before the matter is brought back up by council.

“I don’t think this is something to decide without hearing from the people. We want to hear from the people we represent.”

Paxton said that the town has provided a police department for citizens for 30 to 40 years and that the decision made by three members of council last week will affect public safety.

There are other considerations.

“There is no reason to collect taxes while providing no service,” she said. “This is a choice you have to make.”

“Your opinion is important to all of us.”

West Pelzer Police Chief Bernard Wilson handed out several sheets of information reflecting crime incidents over a period of years.

“Some have gone up and some have gone down,” he said.

Wilson said that he lives in the town and has a vested interest in the safety for the citizens and his family. Officer David Rainey also lives in the town he said.

Wilson said that his department is proactive in their approach to crime in the town.

Several business leaders stated that they feel safer and that having a police department is a deterrent to crimes at their businesses.

Resident after resident, including elderly ladies, women, widows, single moms and families related incidents in which the police department have helped them.

Many of the residents asked who the three councilmen that made the initial surprise decision to dissolve the police department were representing.

Paxton stated that she didn’t know and that the councilmen  had not stated a reason for their decision. They have also declined to comment to members of the press.

Paxton explained that the department could not be taken away that easily and can’t reestablish it that easy.

Since the department was established by ordinance, it must be dissolved the same way, requiring two readings or approvals by a majority of council and a public hearing.

A public hearing will be scheduled in 15 days, Paxton said. No official date has been set.

When questioned by one person why the meeting Tuesday was held on a day when the three councilmen were attending a municipal seminar in Columbia, Paxton replied that the decision to hold the meeting was made last week following the Council meeting and that no thought was given to the classes.

She also said that the classes were over in time for them to get back for the 7 p.m. meeting.

One citizen, who said she was a neighbor of one of the three councilmen, agreed stating that that councilman was back because his car was in the driveway.

Mayor Paxton urged citizens to attend the next meeting of council and the public hearing to let the council know how they feel about the police department.

Quotes heard during the meeting included:

Female citizen - “I think there is a personality conflict. The decision was made under the table and is not good for the town.”

“Who is going to take care of us, certainly not the three councilmen who made this decision.”

“You are the best mayor we’ve had in 40 years.”

A fairly new resident who moved from Pickens - “I thought this is a great little community.” “. . . I feel safe - what a ridiculous waste of energy.”

After a medical emergency caused her to arrive home at 3 a.m., an elderly lady said a WP policeman followed her home to insure she arrived safely - “I was scared. That’s why we need a police department.”

Former resident whose elderly mother lives in West Pelzer - “If there is one thing a politician understands it is the voice of the people. If enough people let these three guys know, we aren’t happy.”

“We need a police department folks. They may have had a good reason, but something this important you don’t do a quick vote.”

“I just moved here and I go to bed at night knowing the West Pelzer police department is there.”

“I have a lot of respect for the police department. I do want a police department and I do feel safe.”

A 6th generation resident - “If it is personalities, I don’t care. Just do your job.”

A burglary victim - “The presence of police is a great deterent.” 

“The action was taken behind our backs. Can council be abolished? I am ashamed for voting these people into office.”

Lady whose home was broken into - “The police department is why I sleep at night. It is ludicrous that any member of town council would take our police protection from us.”

Female citizen - After numerous breakins reported to the Anderson County Sheriff’s office, said she was given a stack of reports to fill out as they continued to happen. “I will not be a statistic. The new officers are just fabulous. They are the only reason I live in this town. Life is about caring and taking care of the ones you love.”

Young single mom - “It has been a lot safer for me and my children. I love being here.” “I see them (police) all the time. I couldn’t imagine not having them here to protect us.”

Elderly lady - “There is a lot less foot traffic because of the police presence.”

Check signing policy called into question

A draft copy of the town’s Policy and Procedures manual was presented to Williamston Town Council Monday night leading to a heated discussion between mayor and council about signing checks.

Councilman Carthel Crout said that checks were going out without council members signatures in violation of a town policy which states checks must be signed by the mayor or clerk and two members of council.

Mayor Phillip Clardy responded that  the checks in question were for routine expenses and that delays by councilmen in signing requisitions were leading to late penalties.

Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. said that he delayed signing off on some payments because he didn’t have up to date financial reports.

“I could not sign off until I knew how much money we had in the bank.”

Mayor Clardy responded, “Do you want the bills paid or not?”

Middleton and Crout both stated that paying bills without check requisitions and without having council signatures was in violation of the town’s policies which were instated as a response to financial problems experienced by the town in recent years.

“We are in violation of the ordinance because we pay bills without check requisitions,” Middleton said. “It is our job to keep track of the money of the town. We should follow the procedures that are in place.

Councilman David Harvell stated that four persons are currently authorized to sign checks including the mayor, mayor pro-tem, one councilman and “one person who doesn’t work here.”

Eventually Councilman Otis Scott made a motion, which was unanimously approved, that every check written should have a check requisition with no exceptions.

“There will be quite a stack,” Clardy responded. He then asked if the staff and department heads understood “that we will not sign any check without a check requisition?”

Councilman Crout said that either the mayor or clerk along with two councilmembers could sign the checks.

“You will bring the system to a halt,” Clardy said.

Crout responded that the town should follow the policy or change it.

“I don’t care what this council decides as long as the bills are paid,” Clardy said. “There is no a lack of accountability. I can pull the records of every check written.”

Clardy said he felt that the undercurrent is that money is being used or misappropriated.

Check requisitions weren’t the only problem brought up during the discussion. Mayor Clardy said that the town was being charged by engineering and consulting firm Goldie and Associates for individual meetings being held with councilman.

Road, sidewalk projects to be placed on capital improvement list

During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council reduced the yard sale fee, approved a water systems study and place four projects on a capital improvements list that will be funded from a 1 cent sales tax if approved later this year.

Council also approved and prioritized four projects to be placed on the Capital Projects list.

Acting on a motion by Councilman Carthel Crout, Council unanimously agreed to place the Ida Tucker Extension or Parkway project at the top of the list for Williamston.

The proposed project will extend Ida Tucker from Cherokee Road to Beaverdam Road, opening up considerable property for development and providing easier access into Williamston and particularly the Palmetto schools area.

“This will do more to cause this town to grow than anything else we can do,” Crout said.

A sidewalk project looping  along North Hamilton Street to the schools and down  Minor Street  were placed number two on the list.

A second sidewalk project that will extend sidewalks along Greenville Drive to the Lander Memorial Library was third on the list.

Extending Mauldin Street to Minor Street was the fourth project placed on the list by Council.

There was discussion on replacing the Hwy. 20 bridge and redoing the intersection with Gossett St., however the project was not placed on the list.

Funding for the projects will come from a 1 cent countywide sales tax.

Proceed from the tax will fund similar capital improvement projects across the county with each County Council District receiving approximately $4 million over a 7 year period.

The proposal must pass a voter approval through a referendum expected to be on the ballot in November.

Council revisited the yard sale ordinance after a petition with 137 names was presented to Council during their last meeting.

After a motion to eliminate the fee failed, Council unanimously agreet to drop the $5 fee for yard sales to $1. Persons planning to hold a yard sale will still have to get a permit and will be limited to four per year, or one per quarter.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said the fee was not to punish persons for holding a yard sale, but to regulate them. The ordinance must have two readings and a public hearing.

The final draft of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan was also unanimously approved.

The plan includes expanding the tax base by attracting more business, improve downtown streetscapes, promote recevelopment of older, obsolete residential areas and preserve the character of Williamston. Other goals are also stated.

Council decided to send a letter to Smith Data outlining ongoing problems being experienced with their accounting software and made changes to the yard sale ordinance.

Mayor Clardy said there is not a particular problem with the software and it is not that the company hasn’t fixed problems when they arise, but that there are continued problems, almost on a daily basis.

The town has experienced continued problems with the software.

Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. said, “Their software is not working. We should not be having these problems. Depending on the date run, the numbers change.”

Responding to a request by the Mayor, Council unanimously approved a vote of no confidence in the software, then agreed to send a letter reflecting the vote and stating there are ongoing problems with the software.

Town officials estimated the cost to change or replace the software at $25,000.

Council set tentative budget work session dates for 6 p.m. on March 17, April 21 and May 19. June 2 and 16 will be reserved for discussion if needed.

Mayor Clardy said he will meet with accountants on Feb. 27 to begin woring on a draft budget for 2008-09.

Council agreed to hold a budget retreat at the Appalachian Council of Governements offices in Greenville at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 5. The session is open to the public.

A motion made by Mayor Clardy to authorize a water rate study died for lack of a second. The cost for the study if done by Goldie and Associates is $5,000.

Clardy said the study was needed to determine if rates being charged by the town were comparable to the services being provided.

A study on the water systems was unanimously approved. The systems evaluation will allow the town to come up with a plan and preventative maintenance on the water lines according to Councilman Middleton.

The $15,000 study was unanimoulsy approved and funding for the study will be placed in the new budget.

Mayor Clardy announced that the Government Tour to Columbia is tentatively scheduled for April 17. Bus transportation and a meal will be provided for the cost of $35 to $40. All area citizens are invited to tour the State House, Governor’s Mansion and meet with elected state officials.

Council unanimously agreed not to advertise the administrator position in Greenville because of the price. The position has been advertised locally in The Journal, in Anderson and through the Municipal Association.

Numerous applications have been received, according to the Mayor and interviewing will start soon.

Council unanimously agreed to  pay the $2,900 replacement cost for steel doors at the park restrooms out of the hospitality tax.

Following an executive session, Council unanimously agreed to authorize Sonya Harrision of Goldie & Associates to  negotiate with Pelzer and West Pelzer to participated in a joint sewer upgrade effort and to negotiate purchasing property for the project.

Correction - In the Williamston Town Council story Feb. 5, Councilman David Harvell was incorrected identified as Mayor Pro-tem. Harvell is former Mayor Protem. Councilman Otis Scott is current Mayor Protem

Flow monitors could help identify sewer line leaks

By Stan Welch

During their regular monthly meeting Monday, the Piedmont Public Service Commission discussed a proposal to install three flow monitors in the area of the new Holly Tree subdivision to determine the amount of inflow and infiltration of stormwater into the area’s sewer lines.

The information, called ‘ammunition’ by Commission Chairman Ed Poore, could help establish whose lines are leaking – the town’s or Western Carolina’s.

“This data could show just who has the problem, us or Western Carolina,” said Poore. “Without it, we have almost nothing to argue with.”

The consent order which DHEC currently has on the town is the apparent justification used by Western Carolina to refuse to accept waste water from the subdivision, a condition that prevents the commission from collecting $14,000 in tap fees for the subdivision’s existing 28 homes.

Commissioner Bobby Stover asked Chief Tracy Wallace what the down side of not collecting the data would be. “Western Carolina would continue to deny future development” said Wallace.

The cost of renting the three flow monitors from Frazier Engineering, which performs such testing for Western Carolina, among other customers, would be approximately $1680 per monitor for one month.

Those numbers led Commissioner Frankie Garrett to ask if the commission should just purchase such equipment. Fire Chief Tracy Wallace pointed out that the town currently has no one certified to collect the data and analyze it. Garrett also questioned using an engineering firm “that is sitting in Western Carolina’s back pocket.”

Commissioner Al McAbee was in favor of collecting the data but added, “I’m not sure we need to do it tomorrow. I’d like to see Western Carolina’s flow numbers for the last 12 or 16 months, to see what exactly is going on. Also, if it stays dry the month we install these monitors, the effort is wasted. We’ve accomplished nothing.”

It was pointed out that if the monitors indicated a high flow, smoke testing could be done locally in the areas showing the high flows, to detect possible leaks in the lines that might allow stormwater to enter the system. Such water is treated as sewage, and can greatly increase the cost of treating the town’s wastewater.

Several small towns in the area are experiencing similar issues concerning the amount of wastewater treatment they are facing.

Following further discussion, Stover made a motion that Chief Wallace obtain more information concerning current flow rates, as well as investigating the possible cost of purchasing the meters. Additional bids for doing the study will also be sought. The motion passed unanimously.

Commissioner Marsha Rogers was absent from Monday night’s meeting.

The Commission also awarded a contract for the work to be done at the park and ball fields. That project includes the pouring of a concrete slab under the existing picnic shelter, the placement of three six foot and three eight foot picnic tables, pressure wash and paint the storage shed at the park, and put down tumble safe mulch at the swings and at the playground, as well as install a trash receptacle.

Two bids were received, with Creamer Landscaping of Pelzer submitting the lowest bid, at $11,489, compared to a bid of $11,900 from Bobby Brown Landscape and Renovation, LLC. PARD funds in the amount of  $9000 were obtained from Anderson County, while District Six Councilman Ron Wilson provided an additional $3,200 for the project.

Recreation committee Chairman Frankie Garrett, who solicited the bids, said two responses were all that he received. “I couldn’t get nobody else to come look at it,” he said.

A change in the way in which PARD funds were to be handled for the community building project was announced. Previously, State Rep. Eric Bedingfield had stated that $15,000 would be received from the Greenville County Recreation Department, which would serve as the receiving agent. Upon learning that such an arrangement would give the GCRD a vested interest in the community building for ten years, state officials encouraged the Commission to receive the funds directly. The only requirement is that the project be rebid, since the funding arrangements have changed.

Those funds will be used to repair the floor of the small gym, as well as replacing some doors and windows and doing other work on the large gym as well.

The commission also took action to clarify the recent implementation of a new rate structure for renting the recreational facilities. 

At the January meeting, rates on various rentals were increased, with the provision that anyone who had already booked a rental at the old rate would receive the old rate instead.

McAbee said, “I made that motion, but I didn’t intend it for those who had been using the facilities free to get to keep doing that. If we do that, we raised the rates for no reason at all. If someone had already booked a party or something at the old rate, they should get that rate. But people using the ball fields for free isn’t what I had in mind.”

Following further discussion, Stover made a motion that beginning March first, the new rates are applied to everyone. It passed unanimously.

McAbee reported that the department answered a total of 41 calls in January, with 19 medical calls making up the great majority of responses. 

During the commissioner’s comments at the end of the meeting, McAbee also raised the issue of funding for the continued operations of the department.

“We scramble for every grant we can find and we have done very well at it. But we cannot tie this department’s ability to provide the services it provides to our ability to always get the grants we need. I hate to ask this, but sometime in the near future, we have to look at increasing the millage. It may be two or even three years away, but it has to be looked at.”

Memories by the Fireside Program to feature FBI speaker, topics

The next Memories by the Fireside event will be held on Saturday, February 23, from 6-8 p.m. in the Historic Pelzer Gym. The event is titled “Don’t Break the Law!”. From 6:30 to 7 p.m., the program will feature guest Speaker Paul H. Heartel, Supervisory Senior Resident Agent of the Greenville office of the FBI. The program will commemorate Lawyers, Judges, Police Officers and Firefighters from the Pelzer area.

A book by Dary Matera, “FBI’s Ten Most Wanted” will also be featured. The book includes a story of how a member of the ten most wanted found out that it was a bad idea to sell a lemon car in Pelzer.

Dary Matera’s books and subjects have been featured on 20/20, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, among others. They have been reviewed and featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, and many other newspapers and magazines.

Matera, 50, was formerly a reporter for the Miami News and worked as an editor in the book division of Rodale Press, the publishers of Prevention magazine. At Rodale, he was responsible for the writing and editing of selected chapters in six health and fitness books with sales of more than four million.

The public is invited to attend this informative and interesting presentation.

For directions or more information, contact Will Rostron at (864) 947-8817 or will.cjr+cphs@gmail.com

WFD installs repeater

The Williamston Fire Department has installed a repeater on their radio system which allows a walkie talkie to be heard just like the base station.

“All radio traffic will now be just as strong as the base station, allowing everyone to hear both sides of the conversation,” said Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison. The frequency for the repeater and for dispatching has been changed to 155.850.

Anyone who monitors Williamston Fire will need to program this new frequency into their scanner to listen in on calls. 

“This addition will greatly enhance the fire department’s ability to communicate,” Ellison said.

Williamston Fire also recently received FEMA grant money for placing new 800MHz in all of their fire apparatus. These additional radios will go into service in the next few months allowing communications between all emergency agencies statewide, Chief Ellison said.

Michelin Boulevard likely to remain County road

By Stan Welch

The efforts by Anderson County to transfer ownership of and responsibility for Michelin Boulevard to the South Carolina Department of Transportation are coming to an end, according to Transportation Director Holt Hopkins.

“In the current political and fiscal climate, when SCDOT is actually trying to give us more state roads to maintain, it’s pretty clear what the chances are of them accepting any roads from us,” said Hopkins, in a telephone interview with The Journal this week. “I don’t see any chance of the state accepting that road. It’s just not going to happen.”

The county and state have been embroiled in a custodial battle of sorts, for more than five years, when the road, built as part of an economic incentive program to entice Michelin to locate here, opened. The difference is that neither parent wants the baby in this case.

 According to the terms of the agreement, the state was to assume responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the road. The SCDOT, however, points out that the agreement also called for the road to meet state standards.

According to results from numerous tests, the road consistently fails to meet those standards, and by a considerable margin. The depth of the road bed, for example, has tested more than two inches shy of construction specifications. Slippage has been a major issue, a condition in which large areas of the road itself slide or pile up.

More than forty major patches have been applied to the road in the six years it has been open. At one point, the grade and conditions of a major intersection had to be redone and completely reversed in order to achieve drainage and reduce a huge rise in the road bed.

The entire process by which the Michelin Boulevard project progressed was mired in controversy. In addition to questions concerning how the contracts were awarded, followed by the original contractor going bankrupt in the middle of the project, there were also serious issues concerning the manner in which the state and county conducted the business of the incentive program itself.

For example, with cost overruns approaching two million dollars, Anderson County administrator Joey Preston refused to pay them, saying that the county official who had agreed to that arrangement wasn’t authorized to enter such an agreement. The state eventually absorbed the costs, but feelings were so strong that legislation was subsequently passed that prevented county governments from doing the work on future projects. The state assumed such responsibility.

Anderson County has never undertaken legal action to recover the cost of the frequent repairs to the road, nor to enforce compliance with the state standards. For several years the two sides circled and squabbled about who should maintain the road, with SCDOT staunchly refusing to take on the burden.

In recent years, and especially within the last twelve months, the responsibility for maintaining roads within various counties has really shifted. Counties are being called on more and more to fend for themselves in such situations, a reality which Hopkins recognizes all too clearly.

“Any realistic chance we had of giving the state Michelin Boulevard is all but dead. In fact, we are facing being handed a number of state roads for which we will become responsible. We are already in serious arrears on the road maintenance for which we are already held liable. With these additional duties and no additional funding, things are going to get worse, not better,” said Hopkins.

Agricultural consulting not an issue for Council member

By Stan Welch

District Six Councilman Ron Wilson’s interest in local or sustainable agriculture is no secret. He has touted it as a viable factor in the County’s economic development strategy ever since taking his seat in 2006.

His daughter, Allison Schaum’s status as an agricultural consultant for Anderson County, is less well known, and offers Wilson’s opponents an opportunity to question the arrangement as unethical. Wilson understands that but says he is perfectly comfortable with his role in the matter.

“My role is that I have no role in this. I have been interested in local agriculture for a good while. It is the coming thing in American agriculture. Two or three years ago, I spoke to my daughter Allison and told her what I thought about local agriculture. I told her she should look into getting out in front of the issue, perhaps by starting a consulting business. She was working at a law firm in North Carolina at the time and taking a lot of grief about it, since that firm had represented me in some rather public matters.”

“One day last summer I was out at the farm helping put up some fence and she told me she had started a consulting business. I said that was great and she said she had a contract with the County. Since she and my son-in-law Chuck have a great relationship with the Farmer’s Market in Spartanburg, I assumed that was the county she meant. But a little later in the day I asked her what county she was working with and she said Anderson County. Well, I just about had to sit down. I knew what was coming, but she didn’t. She asked me what was wrong and I said she didn’t understand Anderson County politics.”

Schaum’s consulting firm, Palmetto Agricultural Consultants, LLC was organized and registered with the SC Secretary of State on August 17, 2007. She is listed as the registered agent for that firm on the SCSOS website.

The firm appears in county records as having received at least $6000 in compensation in September of last year, just six weeks after registering with the state. Those funds were paid from an account identified on county records as matching grant funds.

Other county records also indicate that the same fund, per account number, is also used to provide funds for special Council projects, and is used to supply some paving account funds to individual members of Council. In January of this year, the first annual Upstate Sustainable Agricultural Summit was held in Anderson.

Schaum’s firm was deeply involved in organizing and producing the summit, which was intended to bring various aspects of the agricultural community together as resources. Anderson County was listed as one of the sponsors, along with other governmental and corporate organizations.

Aside from the summit in January, Schaum said her main project is establishing a farm to school program, which allows and encourages the purchase and use of local agriculture products by the local schools. “This brings fresh healthy foods to the schools, and also reinforces the very real link between out children and the land that they draw their food from,” said Schaum.

She also sees local and sustainable agriculture as a viable factor in Anderson County’s overall economic development strategy. “The only segment of American agriculture that is growing is this segment. It can absolutely play a role in the  area’s economic development.”

Councilman Wilson said he realizes that the situation provides ammunition to his opponents. “I know many of them will say I had something to do with this, that this proves a closer tie between me and Joey Preston. But I don’t care. I told Allison she knows the truth and I know the truth. So that’s what matters.”

McAbee alleges Wilson profited from county related real estate deals

By Stan Welch

Several Council members made presentations on various issues at Tuesday night’s meeting. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson continued her push to reveal and clarify the financial dealings of the County Administration.

Raising the issue of travel expenses for various Council members and their associates, Wilson requested that the Council look into the matter of private citizens traveling on public funds. Records reviewed by Wilson and others in recent weeks have shown such arrangements involving District Four Councilman Bill McAbee and his appointee to the economic development board. 

Wilson also mentioned the frequent differences in the contents of the budget version the Council votes on and the bound version which is published after it has been adopted. “The numbers change from the time we approve the budget, which is in a loose leaf folder to the time when the official bound budget comes out. How can that be?” asked Wilson.

She also questioned County Administrator Joey Preston’s recent claims that monies spent on entertaining economic development prospects were reimbursed by corporate sponsors. Preston has claimed that he cannot reveal the financial details of that arrangement without violating the confidentiality of the sponsors.

“There is no evidence that these funds are being replaced. It is very difficult to see how the administrator can say that they are,” said Wilson.

District One Councilman Bob Waldrep again raised the issue of an ordinance to increase access to public information. He had proposed an ordinance at the last meeting only to see it largely ignored by the Council. “The basic essential fundamental need of elected officials for free access to public records seems so very evident to me. There is virtually no reason for such records not to be made available with 24 hours notice. This economic development umbrella which is used to shelter so many records is perhaps wider than an umbrella should be.”

Waldrep alluded to Animal Farm, George Orwell’s classic novel about government and corruption, describing a scene in which one of the characters declares that all the animals are equal. “Yes,” replies one,” but some of us are more equal than others.”

Waldrep said, “It seems when it comes to receiving information, some members of Council are more equal than others.” He also challenged the other Council members to come up with a better idea. “If you are sincere about open government, then suggest changes to my proposal. There is no pride of authorship here.”

Waldrep reported his dissatisfaction with the records provided concerning the credit card receipts. “We need itemized statements on these cards. We have policies in place which regulate the use of these cards. That’s a very basic matter and it is not too much to ask that these policies be followed.” He also intimated that a legal solution might be necessary. “When a system is not working as it should we sometimes have no choice but to employ another system.”

District Four Councilman Bill McAbee then launched an attack on Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, apparently in concert with a newspaper article that appeared Sunday, which questioned Ms. Wilson’s role in the Beaverdam sewer project.

McAbee attacked Wilson for alleged misuse of information she obtained as a Council member to help her family members receive higher settlements for their land when the sewer project ran through it.

Wilson actually began her opposition to that project’s location before running for County Council the first time. She has often said that the County’s way of doing business during the first phase of the project is what led her to seek a seat on the Council. Elected in 2000, she has won reelection handily ever since.

McAbee offered several viewpoints of  how he and the county administration allege that Wilson and her family profited from her access to information concerning the amounts being paid and offered in the settlements for property along the Beaverdam Creek. 

His efforts to raise ethical concerns about Wilson’s conduct lost their steam when Wilson, whose lone vote to refuse him an extension of time to continue his presentation would have ended the allegations, instead allowed him to continue. When the additional five minutes ran out as well, McAbee didn’t seek a further extension, although his power point presentation was still not over.

Later in the meeting, Wilson, during Council members’ remarks, blunted the presentation by McAbee, pointing out that her involvement in the purchase of land for the Alliance Park industrial park preceded her election to Council, which clearly removes any ethical issues. She stated that when she was involved in the purchase of land for the Walgreen’s distribution center nearby, she did a full ethical disclosure and recused herself from all votes by Council concerning the deal.

She also pointed out that real estate transactions in South Carolina are not confidential but a matter of public record. “If this information is confidential, why did the county administrator release it to the newspaper? How confidential can it be?” asked Wilson.

In other business, Waldrep, who had voted in opposition to a rezoning request for a 30 acre tract on Foster Road in Williamston, brought the issue back up. “I have spoken with the developers and they have resubmitted this plan as a planned unit development, with assurances that all the homes will be site built. I believe that addresses the earlier concerns about mobile homes being located there.”

Council gave unanimous first reading approval to the new request.

Council voted 4-3 to leave the issue of whether or not to support an incentive deal offered by the City of Anderson to a large retail site on the table, declining to bring it back to the floor. The Council’s reluctance to support the incentive package which would have given the site a large discount on providing water rose from the fact that a number of residents just outside the city who are paying a far higher rate than those in the city.

Waldrep also raised the issue that the incentive seemed to be more of a reward than an enticement. “If we had been involved in this process more, as we should be in matters of economic development, I would be more inclined to support this. But it appears that the project was moving along very well. Construction is underway, contracts are set. Why is this offer needed?”

 District Six Councilman Ron Wilson later brought the matter up for reconsideration, and the motion to remove the issue from the table and return it to the floor was defeated by a 3-3 vote. Councilwoman Floyd had left the meeting earlier due to another commitment.

County Democrats to meet

The Anderson County Democratic Party will hold its precinct organization meeting on Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 10 a.m. at the Anderson County Library, Main Branch, on McDuffie Street in Anderson.

They will identify precinct members, choose leaders, and begin the process which leads to choosing delegates to that State Convention. At the State Convention delegates will be selected for the National Convention, and they will be pledged to candidates based on the outcome of the recent Presidential primary.

All persons who are interested in being a part of the work of the local Democratic party, whether to run for delegate slots or simply to contribute to the effort to present candidates and platform to the public in the 2008 election season, should attend this meeting.

Additional information can be obtained at the local headquarters at 115 N. Main St. from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday or by calling 332-0595. The website of the state Democratic Party, www.scdp.org also has information about the process.

Deputies investigate thefts, other incidents

Deputies investigated a theft from a 91 year old man and other incidents. Among incidents investigated were:

BELTON

Feb. 9 – M.D. Campbell and D.T. Williams were dispatched to 4530 Hwy. 29 where Clariessa  Blasingame reported that someone had broken into her storage building. Nothing was taken.

Feb.  10 – J.M. Collins responded to 913 Glenwood St. Extension on a domestic call. Upon arriving he found John Hawthorne, WM, 31, 6’, 155 pounds, brn/blue was arrested for criminal domestic violence and trespass on real property. He was arrested and transported to ACDC.

Feb. 12 – W.B. Simpson responded to 1106 Oneal St. where Rebecca Garrett reported that she had allowed her son, Roger Vaughn, Jr. to use her 1995 green Nissan Pathfinder, SC tag 3695DA. He was later arrested on other charges. At a later time, Jennifer Ann Fowler, aka Jennifer Ann Campbell, got the keys to the vehicle and began using it. Despite being told to return it, she has not done so. She is described as a WF, 5’2", 110. brn/brn, of Anderson.

Feb. 12 – W.B. Simpson responded to U Save Auto rental where Andy DeWall reported that Cassandra McAbee had rented a vehicle on Dec. 27 and was supposed to return it on Feb. 8.,  she failed to do so and has refused to return it despite being contacted by telephone. McAbee is a WF, 30-35 years old, 5’7", 160 pounds, with brown hair. The vehicle is a burgundy PT cruiser with SC tag#893VHR.

EASLEY

Feb. 12 – J.T. Bowers responded to 8515 Hwy. 81 to Merritt Bros. where Sheila Donald reported the theft of a 1996 blue tri-axle Hudson trailer valued at $3200, as well as the power take off gear off of a dump truck that was valued at $500.

PELZER

Feb. 12 –L. Finley responded to 4 Hale St. where Pamela Burns reported the theft of an air conditioning unit. She saw a white four door Oldsmobile with two subjects in it and the A/C unit in the back seat.

Feb.12 – J.J. Jacobs was dispatched to 29 River St. where John Scroggs, 91, reported that a man had come to his home and offered to help him get assistance in paying his heating bill. The white male was about 45 years old, and after he left Scroggs found a metal tool box which contained important papers and about $50 in coins missing. He said he thinks the man distracted him while an accomplice came in the house.

Feb. 12 - R.D. Davis made contact with Pelzer Rescue Squad member Tony Benson at the new rescue squad site on Lebby St. Benson reported the theft of fifteen bags each of mortar and crushed gravel, with a total value of $240.

PIEDMONT

Feb.8 – S. Proner was dispatched to 1224 Tall Oaks Circle, where he met with Raymond Webber, who stated that someone had stolen a trailer from his front yard. The trailer was black, five by ten, with a wooden floor and two foot high plywood sides. The wheels were white with red center caps. It was valued at $500 and had two yards of red mulch on it valued at $38.

Feb. 10 – T.B. Dugan was dispatched to the Ingle’s where he spoke with Jerome Williams, BM, 25, of Fountain Inn. Williams reported that his father had a drug related seizure and methamphetamine had been detected in his blood by the hospital. Williams said he was on his way to his father’s house to kick out a woman who was living there and to get his father’s keys and ID. Dugan advised that he could not kick the woman out but would have to evict her legally. Williams then said he thought she was the source of the drugs and wanted the house searched. Dugan again informed him that there was no legal basis for entering the house. Williams then drove to the incident location at 9807 Anderson Rd. where Dugan also stopped. Williams entered the house with the permission of Mary Acton, who was at the house. Teena Williams, Jerome’s mother, soon came out of the house with a metal box allegedly filled with drug paraphernalia. Dugan explained there were no legal actions he could take since no legal search had been conducted.

Feb. 12 – T.W. Newman responded to the SavWay on Hwy. 86 where Missie Butler reported that a white male in his fifties, with a full beard, wearing jeans and a blue denim shirt, had driven off without paying for $70,02 worth of gas. He was driving a black King Cab F-150 pickup.

Feb. 12 – J.T. Bowers was dispatched to 2521 River Road where Jackie Evans reported the theft of four rifles from his residence. The rifles were valued at $550. There were three .22 caliber rifles and a .50 muzzle loader.

WILLIAMSTON

Feb.8 - S. Proner was dispatched to Palmetto Middle School where a 14 year old juvenile reported that her mother had struck her in the head two weeks earlier. Proner asked that DSS investigate since they already had an open case involving the girl, but they refused since there were no visible signs of an assault.

Feb. 13 – S. Proner responded to 1408 Beaverdam Rd. where Herman Alvin Richard told him that he was being harassed by David Kelman, WM, 44, 5’10, 300 pounds, of Taylors SC. The two had made a business deal for Herman to install gutters at Kelman’s house. When Kelman changed his mind and asked for his money back, Herman refused, saying he had bought the materials and could not return them for the cash. Reports state he began receiving repeated phone calls, which continued even after he sent a certified letter to Kelman informing him to make any further contact by mail. He was advised to seek a restraining order.

Feb. 13 – P.D. Marter responded to 234 Longview Dr. where Ryan Holub, WF, 23, stated she had left her 2 year old daughter in the care of a 21 year old male during her third shift job. She returned to find that her child had several bruises on her left side. Reports state Marter observed green and purple bruising on the child’s upper thigh. DSS was notified of the situation.

Seems to Me . . . The Good Old Boys

By Stan Welch

There is an illness in the body politic of West Pelzer. It is a constant presence, like a slow growing tumor, yet it flares up occasionally like hemorrhoids. That’s an uncomfortable and unhealthy combination of symptoms.

This slow growing illness has been around for many years. It showed itself in past sweetheart deals within the water department, and in the manner in which the Town conducted its business in the past. It shows itself in the failure of members of the Town Council to follow the Town’s own laws concerning business licenses and other ordinances.

It shows itself in the presence of various former elected officials who were unable to achieve certain things when they were in office, but who feel free to complain about and minimalize the achievements of those who have followed them. And it shows in the insistence of the current Council on injecting their presence into the day to day operations of the town, despite the fact that the responsibility for those daily operations falls on Mayor Peggy Paxton under the mayor/council form of government.

The condition I am talking about is a mixture of symptoms and circumstances. First and foremost, it’s the classic good old boy syndrome at work. The current Council offers a revealing glimpse of the syndrome at work. Just as the County Council has fractured into a 5-2 dysfunctional body, so too has the Town Council, except that the numbers are 3-2. On the one side, Mayor Paxton and Mike Moran face the frustrating prospect of being consistently in the minority on virtually every issue that comes up. On the other side, Councilmen Joe Turner, Marshall King and Jimmy Jeanes stand united in opposition of practically anything they do not propose, or concoct, themselves.

A key ingredient in the political philosophy of this Maalox majority is the idea that no one can tell the Town what to do. This idea has its roots in the political conservatism and independent spirit for which the Upstate area is known. It is an understandable and even admirable position to take. The only problem is that it is dead wrong.

All kinds of people can tell the town of West Pelzer, or Belton, or Anderson, what to do. The mill owners used to do it, and now the government does.

The county can tell the town, the state can tell the county, and the federal government can tell the state. The reason they can do so is simple. It is the modern version of the Golden Rule. They have the gold so they make the rules.

The funds which a town the size of West Pelzer can generate from its taxable assets don’t come close to meeting the costs of the services a town provides. So grants and loans and funds from larger governmental units make up the difference, and with those funds come conditions and requirements. For the political leaders of a town to take an adversarial position about such matters is short sighted and will produce nothing but trouble for the town.

Leaders who can see what the circumstances are have a much better chance of seeing what the future holds. This is where another element of the illness comes into place. There is a palpable resentment of Mayor Paxton and her approach to running the town. I believe it is based on the fact that she is a woman and that she does not hail from the mill hill of West Pelzer. In many places, such a person would be called new blood. I cannot print what such a person is often called in West Pelzer. 

Peggy Paxton can be confrontational and she can be stubborn. She is combative and she is not easily pushed around. Furthermore, she generally does her homework better than her political opponents, leaving them to try such disastrous tactics as the abrupt and unannounced vote to strip their town of police protection, almost as an afterthought.

Most recently, the flare up aspect of this condition showed itself.

One cannot help but sense the sexist atmosphere concerning Paxton’s efforts to lead the town. Many like her, many do not. But this cannot be denied. More progress has been made on the town’s infrastructure issues since Paxton took office than in the decade before.

She has sought and obtained funding that had gone unsolicited in the past, and she has freed up the funds obtained almost a decade ago, and which were nearly lost because of the inertia that the good old boys seem to relish so much.

For her part, Mayor Paxton should apply some of her energy and talent to reviewing the performance of all her departments, instead of blindly defending them, no matter what the complaint against them. Recent events have raised legitimate questions about the leadership of at least one of those departments. The responsibility for that comes right back to Paxton. It is the other side of the coin of having a strong mayor form of government.

Doing away with that department wasn’t the right way to go, but it seems to me, putting one’s head in the sand isn’t either. Next thing you know, folks will think you’re a good old boy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printing Services About Us www.sc.edu www.clemson.edu www.espn.com Weather Powdersville Piedmont Pelzer / West Pelzer Online Bookstore Community Williamston Anderson County Bulletin Board Classifieds School News Sports Obituaries Opinions Happenings Index Front Page News