News Archive

(1006) Week of Mar 8, 2006

Council working on 2006 budget

Public comments heard on fees, town government
Fire, police departments present revised budgets
New garbage collection fee now in effect
Town to sell property March 31

B. C. Mooores in transition to Peebles brand
Angel Food Ministries, PERC offer food box
Motor cyclists to help with skate park event
County working to avoid CSX rail line abandonment
Hospital bond, others on County Council agenda 
Future soccer fields
Board approves administrators
Vandalism results in $30,000 damage
Miss Tri-County winners
Seems to Me . . .Time is running short

 

 Council working on 2006 budget

Williamston Town Council continued working on the expense portion of the 2006  budget during a morning work session today, Wed. Mar. 8.

Council members, with the help of ACOG advisor Joe Newton, plugged in numbers on the budget for the general, council/administration and street sanitation departments on the general fund budget.

Working on estimated total general fund revenues of $2,652,600, the town currently has estimated general fund expenses estimated at $2,815,806.

Newton said the budgeted amounts may change and are still be worked on. It is also dependent on revenues from a GO bond of some amount by mid year and proceeds from the surplus property sale scheduled for Mar. 31.

In administration, salaries of $248,231 for 2005 have been reduced to $108,710. Supplies and expense of $71,747 have been cut to $23,500 though there was some question as to what comprised the cuts and the budgeted amount.

Office supplies was set at $10,000 and training expense at $1,500. Transportation and mileage was set at $1,500. Electricity/gas was set at $40,000, down from $46,000, phones at $6,000, municipal building repairs, $1,400 and capital expenditures at $2,500.

Salaries for Municipal Court judges was put in as a line item at $18,000. Court expenses set budget at $2,000.

Other expenses were also discussed and will be included in a followup story which will be posted on The Journal website at www.thejournalonline.com as soon as possible.

The tentative budget which is a work in progress, includes payments and penalty payments to the IRS, $296,000; SC retirement, $95,208; SCDOR fines, $85,000; SCDOR payroll, $37,000; past due payables, $125,000 and repayment of the $350,000 BAN.

 

Public comments heard on fees, town government

The regular meeting of Williamston Town Council, scheduled for 6 p.m Monday, (Mar. 6) began approximately 20 minutes late and, including a hour and a half executive session, turned into a three hour meeting.

The meeting also included public comment and a public hearing on the $14 garbage fee the town had implemented.

Mayor Phillip Clardy stated that the only reason another public hearing was being held that evening was because of what he said was an error printed in The Journal concerning the date of a public hearing on the garbage collection fee.

Public comment was limited to five minutes and persons signed up were not allowed to relinquish their allotted time to other speakers.

Sharon Crout urged Council to make sure proceeds from the property sale go to pay IRS and related penalties. “Take responsibililty that it will happen,” Crout said, “Do not assume that it will.”

Crout also said that residents had received assurance from Joe Newton (ACOG) but added, “It is assurance from the council that we need, not assurance from Mr. Newton.”

Willie Wright asked council and mayor to consider several items including burning limbs, having the Ward number of customers printed on water bills, suggesting the new fees be eliminated because of a burden on seniors and disabled citizens, and city services being minimized. “We should not have to pay for irresponsible spending by the city,” Wright commented.

He also asked about the $30 MS fee on a church water/sewer bill, a senior discount and mentioned limbs and wood that have been around for four months saying it should have been picked up before the layoffs of city workers.

Mike Hawkins, representing Calvary Baptist Church, requested permission to use the park for a youth event on May 20 which will include painting, hiking and an awards program. Council approved the request unanimously 4-0.

Gary Bannister had several comments and questions for council including:

He asked why council members did not make motions and suggestions instead of letting the mayor run council. He also questioned where the $1.6 million went.

He stated that there is a question concerning sewer lines which were run to the 21 acres on Cherokee Road. According to Bannister, a property owner has a disagreement with the town about the lines crossing his property.

Bannister also raised questions concerning a tree which was cut in front of Councilman Scott’s front yard following the ice storm.

Scott said that FEMA had reimbursed the town for the cost of removing the tree and that town employees had hauled it off. Bannister said the cost of the tree removal was approximately $900.

“The town paid for removing a tree from your yard, but the town couldn’t get limbs removed,” Bannister said.

Olive Wilson asked about the list of properties to be sold by the town and stated that a lot on Main St. at Cemetery St. (Gossett) was purchased with a grant to be used as part of the Mineral Spring Park.

Clardy responded that there were no records on the property. “We should have a lot of information that we don’t have,” he said.

Kempie Shepard brought up the issue of providing a skate board park and asked how much it would cost for volunteers to make a park. Shepard said that there are ballfields for children but “not every child or young person is a ball player. What’s it going to take,” she asked. “The past is the past. Let’s move on and focus on the good things and for a good community.”

Angela Whitmore asked what would happen if the town did dissolve.

ACOG representative Joe Newton responded, “The Town won’t go broke this month.”

He said that with cuts and fees, more revenues, carefully watching expenses, and with a GO bond later this year, the town survives.

He then said if it does dissolve, water and sewer utilities are taken over by a private company or a special tax district is set up, taxes are imposed by the county or some other entity to pay the outstanding state and IRS bills or a judge places it in receivership.

“We really can not let it go that far,” Newton said.

Ruthann Ferguson blasted the mayor for not admitting the truth and for frivilous waste. She also said that adding 16 employees was enough to bankrupt the town. She pointed out that Travelers Rest, a town she said was similar to Williamston in size, had not had a tax hike recently, had reasonable rates and pointed out that the 2 percent hospitality fee will be hard on local businesses.

She said that if Clardy had been truthful and managed the town, “This would not be happening. You need to do the right thing, the courageous thing, and resign.”

A second public hearing was held on the garbage collection fee.

Gary Bannister said, in his opinion, residents did not have to pay the garbage fee because no notice of the meeting was posted at the door as required by state law. He also stated that Roberts Rules of Order should apply to the town’s meetings.

Bannister said that the town must provide a public notice of public hearing on a local fee which he said is required by state law, to be held prior to the final vote. He also questioned how the garbage fee will be used and that it must be kept in a separate account for that purpose.

“We need somebody to lead this town,” Bannister said suggesting an administrator. “Someone with business sense to run this town.”

Newton responded that a council can set up their own rules and procedures. “It is very difficult to run a municiple government by Robert’s Rules,” Newton said.

Town Attorney Richard Thompson said the town had already had at least four meetings with public hearing on the issue and that the law has been subtantially complied with.

“The purpose of the law is to keep council from enacting a law in secret,” Thompson said.

Roger Hayes questioned if the town could charge for a separate service and can the town still charge for a service not being used.

He also questioned where the excess money that will come in after the IRS payments and others are satisfied will be used.

“Where will it go. In the general fund or will it be squandered like the $1.6 million?” Hayes asked.

Angela Whitmore questioned the MS fee, ice storm estimates provided to FEMA, why limbs had not been picked up and the property sale.

Clardy said the properties will be discussed at the Wed. Mar. 8 work session.

Clardy stated that the town has an auditing firm interested in working with the town and that they are in final negotiations with the firm.

Council unanimously approved an agreement with Bell South which will allow a 25 percent reduction in rates based on  three years of service, though Clardy pointed out that “a municipality is not bound to a contract.”

Council also unanimously approved a request by Family Connection, a nonprofit support group for special needs families, to hold a family oriented event in the park on June 10.

Council then went into a lengthy executive session,  lasting approximately 70 minutes to discuss personnel and contact matters. There was no action or discussion upon returning to open session except to adjourn.

Williamston Town Council held an agenda work session prior to the regular meeting of Council at 6 p.m. Mar. 6.

During the work session which lasted approximately 20 minutes, Mayor Phillip Clardy mentioned items on the agenda.

He also said council needed to go into executive session to discuss hiring an auditor and police personnel. No details were given.

The next meeting of Council will be Wed. Mar. 15 at 9:30 a.m.

Fire, police departments present revised budgets

By Stan Welch

Williamston Town Council met with ACOG representative Joe Newton, and department heads to finish working through the eighth draft of a budget document during a work session held on March 1.

It was the  Mayor and Council’s first unpaid meeting, since they agreed to surrender their salaries and benefits to help the Town get back on its feet.

The departments responsible for public safety were on the agenda this week. Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison held close to last year’s budget on most items, but managed to find considerable savings in terms of capital expenditures, which were reduced from an actual amount of $11,471 last year to a budgeted figure of $2500 this year.

As so often happens, a good portion of those savings were reallocated for possible use for maintenance and repairs in the coming year. That line item was budgeted at $6000 for the year 2006. That item includes air packs for fire fighters, physicals, and the possible replacement of a heating/air conditioning window unit in the fire house.

Newton has insisted on realistic budget numbers from the various departments, saying that the worst thing that the Council can do is present an unrealistic budget. “The Town faces a tough enough future without saddling itself with unrealistic numbers that will come back to haunt you.”

A leaking roof at the fire department may require $1000-$1500 in repairs, and a changeover switch for the department’s backup generator was replaced at a cost of approximately $3600. That switch was damaged as a result of the ice storm and was submitted to FEMA for reimbursement. The Town will receive $66,000 from FEMA for costs incurred during the ice storm, town officials said.

The issue of relaxing the Town’s ban on outdoor burning, in order to allow burning debris from the ice storm, was again raised. Mayor Phillip Clardy said he wanted the citizens to know that the Town hadn’t given up on limb pick up. “We just have to prioritize. I’ve told the employees, you’re not water and sewer or sanitation workers anymore. You’re Town of Williamston employees and we have to pool our resources.”

Clardy and Chief Ellison agreed that lifting the ban, which would require an ordinance, would cause its own problems.  Said Clardy, “The day we lifted the ban, you’d be able to see the column of smoke from Williamston in North Carolina.” Ellison repeated that such a decision “would sure cause us some problems with the fire department.” Concerns over toxic substances and other types of debris being burned were also raised, as well as the possibility that people might burn household garbage, in protest of the recently implemented sanitation fee.

Newton again put a grim face to the picture. “People must realize that it is simply not business as usual in Williamston these days. They should face the fact that these limbs might not get picked up at all this year.” Clardy disagreed, saying “I’m not ready to make that statement yet.”

Newton also announced that while the Town’s decision to increase employees’ medical insurance deductibles to $1250 would create savings on health costs, the savings would be reduced by an increase in the cost of the insurance. Newton also reported that a delinquent water bill from Big Creek Water might have to be paid. “That’s a killer right now,” said Newton.

He also announced that an eighteen month payment schedule had been worked out with the SCDOR for delinquent tax payments to the state. “There is a settlement agreed upon, but if the proceeds from the land sale allow paying it off completely, that is what you need to do.”

The controversial Dodge Durango drew only two sealed bids, neither of which even approached the payoff price. The vehicle, which is currently dressed out for law enforcement, cannot be sold to the public until it is “undressed”. In the meantime, council voted 4-0 to let the police chief take custody of the SUV, and use it for law enforcement until the Council decides what to do with it next.  “I’d really like to get it from out in front of Town Hall,” said Clardy.

Police Chief David Baker gave a breakdown of the current staff at the department. Aside from him, there are two captains, one supervising uniformed officers and conducting all investigations, while the other is supervising the jail, operations, and the clerk of court responsibilities. A lieutenant and three sergeants serve as shift supervisors. There are two school resource officers, the bulk of whose salaries are paid by the county. Six officers are available for patrol, and one dispatcher remains on staff, for a total of 17 officers.

Significant cuts were made in several areas of the police budget, including repairs/maintenance, supplies/expenses, and uniforms. But budgeted figures for utilities went up by$10,000 to be more on line with past figures: the new budget will also call  for a more detailed breakout of the costs.

Increased accountability via more detailed accounting has been a consistent goal as the Council has worked through draft after draft of the budget.

As one example of that increased accuracy in accounting, the Town’s two judges (one FT, one PT) were removed from the Police Department budget and placed under the department heading of Municipal Court. “An added advantage to that is that it should never appear that your Judges are employees of the police department. It’s not the case, and it never should be,” said Chief Baker.

Some reserve officers are also being used to provide coverage. Newton asked Baker a series of questions on the record, the purpose of which is to reinforce the notion that maintaining a local police department, even if it suffers further cuts, still provides a better level of law enforcement than the County Sheriff can provide without incurring considerable expense as well.

“If you can keep some level of local law enforcement, it is always better to do so, “said Newton.

New garbage collection fee now in effect

The regular meeting of Williamston Town Council on Mar. 6 turned into a three hour meeting which included an hour and a half executive session.

The meeting also included public comment and a second public hearing on the $14 garbage fee the town has implemented.

The Town held a public hearing last Monday Feb. 27 on the new fee. However, due to a miscommunication about the date of the public hearing, which was advertised in The Journal for March 6, a second public hearing was held.

Mayor Phillip Clardy stated that the only reason another public hearing was being held Monday was because of what he said was an error printed in The Journal concerning the date of a public hearing on the garbage collection fee.

The fee has been proposed by Clardy for some time.

In December, Williamston Town Council actually approved a new household garbage fee of $8.50 per month household collection fee for all of the town’s 2245 residents. The new fee was supposed to be enacted beginning with the January billing but second reading on the budget was not finalized after news of the town’s financial crisis became public.

The new fee was first voted on as a resolution during a work session Feb. 2, and then at two subsequent meetings of Council held on Feb. 6 and 13. It was also voted on at the Feb. 27 meeting, however, following the public hearing Mar. 6, no vote was taken by Council.

Druing the meeting, Williamston Town Attorney Richard Thompson said the town had already had at four meetings with public hearings on the issue and that the law has been subtantially complied with.

“The purpose of the law is to keep council from enacting a law in secret,” Thompson said during a discussion on the matter Monday.

Several residents spoke against the fee which Council has enacted to help fund the town’s garbage collection services and help with the financial status of the town.

The street department has seen reductions in staff to the point that only residential and 32 gallon can pickup for businesses is being offered.

Commercial trash dumpster pick up was suspended and is now being provided by several independent contractors.

Cuts also forced the recycling program the town sponsored to be suspended until a recycling center can be set up, town officials said.

Cuts in the department amount to approximate saving of $225,000, officials said. That department has been reduced to a crew of four, and provides only garbage pickup on a regular basis. “We haven’t written off picking up limbs and branches, but we simply have to prioritize these things,” said Mayor Clardy during a recent work session.

Several residents have complained about the new fee since the street department has been cut so much.

Council also announced their decision to use other means of enforcing the newly implemented sanitation fee of $14 a month, other than cutting off a customer’s water. “Even though the two costs are on the same bill, we will not cut off someone’s water for non-payment of the garbage fee. There are other administrative and legal channels we can use, and we will,” said Mayor Clardy.

Every water bill customer in the Town of Williamston should have had the  new $14 household garbage collection fee on their March billing, coded as MS or municipal service.

Residents in the town’s seven apartment complexes also saw the billing on their water bills. 

Businesses in the town also saw a new $30 fee on their bill. Council approved a $25 fee for businesses that have one pick up each week and $35 for two or more.  Town officials said the March billing will be for $30, an average of the two fees proposed earlier.

Businesses can have up to three 32 gallon cans for each pickup, town officials said. 

The proposal was voted on along with the change in water/sewer tap fees at the Feb. 16 meeting.

Although some residents have complained about the fee and how it was enacted, no business owners have addressed council concerning the new fees.

Town to sell property March 31

The Town of Williamston will be selling all non essential property, a list of approximately 42, by auction on March 31.

Discussion on details of some of the properties is expected to take place during a Council work session scheduled for today (Wednesday, Mar. 8) at 9:30 a.m.

The auction is one of many  efforts town officials are making to address the town’s financial crisis and town officials have earmarked proceeds from the sale to satisfy delinquent State and Federal tax bills.

Council will look at certain parcels to decide if they should not be sold for any reason. The sale of two properties has already turned out to be controversial, a fact that both Clardy and Durham acknowledged when the sale was discussed during a recent work session.

One is the site of the old town hall and jail. The other is the old recreation center site on Gossett Drive. Clardy acknowledged that the sale of those sites would stir controversy, but added, “The most controversial sites are also the most valuable.”

Another is property on Main St. and Cemetery, which was purchased with grant money according to some residents. The property, once known as the Lander property, is located at the corner of Gossett and Main, and was once designated as a part of the Mineral Spring Park, according to former mayor Marion Middleton. Middleton said that grant money helped purchase the property.

Other properties the town owns has been held as necessary for possible road projects.

Local realtor Hugh Durham will oversee the auction of properties to be held at the Williamston Municipal Center.  Durham will advertise and promote the sale, as well as establish a website for viewing the properties and their descriptions.

B. C. Moore’s in transition to Peebles brand

Hilco Merchant Resources, LLC  today announced that it has been selected by Stage Stores, Inc. to act as their management agent for B. C. Moore & Sons, Inc.  Stage recently completed the acquisition of the B. C. Moore chain,  consisting of 78 small retail department stores throughout Alabama, Georgia,  North and South Carolina, including the Williamston store. Stage plans to convert 69 of the acquired locations into Peebles stores and to close the remaining 9 locations.

Hilco will assume day to day responsibilities for all B. C. Moore stores, two merchandise distribution centers and corporate offices during a term of ordinary course business, as well as during the scheduled inventory sell-off that will precede the conversion of the B. C. Moore stores to the Peebles brand. In addition, Hilco will direct all B. C. Moore purchasing, personnel and marketing activities throughout the entire transition period, which is scheduled to conclude in October.

Jim Scarborough, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Stage, commented, “Our partnership with Hilco Merchant Resources allows us to remain focused on our core business and operations. We are confident that the expertise which Hilco will bring to bear during the transition phase will enhance our ability to successfully convert, integrate, and grow these additional stores.”

Cory Lipoff, Executive Vice President and Principal of Hilco Merchant Resources, stated, “We are extremely pleased to collaborate with Stage on the very exciting transition from B. C. Moore to Peebles. Our efforts will be dedicated to creating and managing a process that exceeds the expectations of B. C. Moore’s customers, employees and suppliers. In all aspects of retail operations, Hilco has the extensive experience and innovative techniques necessary to ensure the success of this important strategic initiative for Stage.”

Hilco Merchant Resources (www.hilcomerchantresources.com) provides high-yield strategic retail inventory disposition, store closing and interim management services. Over the years, Hilco principals have disposed of assets valued in excess of $35 billion. Hilco Merchant Resources is part of the Hilco Organization, a provider of asset valuation, acquisition, disposition and financing services to an international marketplace through 10 specialized business units, 400 employees and nearly 200 qualified field consultants.

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. The Company currently operates 194 Bealls, 48 Palais Royal and 134 Stage stores throughout the South Central states, and operates 174 Peebles stores throughout the Midwestern, Southeastern, Mid-Atlantic and New England states. For more information about Stage Stores,visit the Company’s web site at www.stagestores.com

Angel Food Ministries, PERC offer food box

The Piedmont Emergency Relief Center is now a host site for Angel Food Ministries. Orders for the next distribution date for the program, which is March 24, are now being taken.

There is no qualification to order from Angel Food Ministry other than prepayment with $25 cash or EBT Food Stamp card. 

A regular food box contains chicken leg quarters, pork chops, chicken tenders, breaded cubed beef patties, meatball sub sandwiches, boneless skinless chicken breast, Pillsbury garlic dinner rolls, roasted corn and vegetables, french fries, tomato sauce, vegetable blend, maccaroni and cheese, pancake mix, breakfast cereal, shelf-stable milk, dozen eggs and dessert item.

Persons purchasing a basic box can also  purchase specials of either eight 10 ounce N. Y strip steaks for $18 or 10 lb. of popcorn chicken for $15.

For more information please see the PERC website: www.piedmonterc.org There is also a link on the page to the Angel Food website. PERC became a host site to help area residents stretch the food dollar, a PERC spokesperson said. Deadline to place an order is noon, Saturday, Mar. 11. For more information call 906-7351.

Motor cyclists to help with skate park event

The Town of Pelzer with the help of motorcyclists will sponsor a fundraiser on April 1 to benefit Pelzer’s children. Proceeds from the event will go toward remodeling, relocating, and rebuilding the Pelzer Sk8 Park. The ride will begin at the Pelzer Ballpark.

Joining The Town of Pelzer will be Greenville’s Hells Angels and Greenwood Chrome Divas, along with the support of the Town Council and local residents. “We needed help planning the bike run and B. J. Mullinax from Greenville’s Hells Angels and Michael Mullinax from Greenwood Chrome Divas offered to assist because they are devoted to helping children in their area,” says Mayor Kenneth Davis.

The town of Pelzer is planning to build the largest skate park in Anderson County to offer local children a state-of-the-art recreational facility, officials said. Proceeds from the fundraiser are to be used in this expansion of the already successful Pelzer Sk8 Park.

With the collaboration of the sponsors, the spring ride is expected to be entertaining and eventful with door prizes, barbecue plates, vendors, a 50/50 drawing, and a live band: Lost Cause. “All bikers are welcome and we plan to have fun while trying to help our kids,” says Davis. “We look forward to a big turnout.”

Registration time is 10 a.m. to noon at the ballpark. The last bike will leave at noon with entertainment and festivities at the final stop.

County working to avoid CSX rail line abandonment

By Stan Welch

Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston has begun efforts to support his recent statements that the County will oppose any attempt by CSXT to close a 13 mile stretch of rail line that runs from Pelzer to Belton.

The company has recently announced its intentions to abandon the stretch, and plans to present its case to the Surface Transportation Board sometime in March. At a recent County Council retreat, both Preston and Economic Development Director John Lummus spoke about the importance of the line to the County’s economy, and to its ability to attract industries which use rail transport. “That line still has several sites along it that are attractive in part because of the rail service. Also, the companies who located there did so because of rail access,” said Lummus at the retreat.

Preston pledged to oppose the closing, even suggesting that the County might have to explore the possibility of purchasing and operating the line itself. “That is a scenario we would have to consider, if the line is abandoned,” he said.

Preston has, according to correspondence sent to members of the County Delegation, as well as Senators DeMint and Graham, and Congressman Barrett, met with representatives of businesses along the line which would be impacted by the abandonment of the line.

He offers correspondence from those representatives which make plain their desire to retain the rail service currently provided by CSX. Kym Cleveland, Vice President of Operations for the Carolinas Recycling Group, which deals in scrap metal, says that “We rely on CSXT to reach the national markets in regards to steel shipments and sales.”  

Cleveland goes on to explain that Norfolk Southern, another of the county’s rail service providers, is too small a railway system to give the access to markets that is required. According to Cleveland, trucking also fails to provide the options in shipping that are necessary to be competitive in the market place.

Several other companies echo those and similar concerns about flexibility in shipping, and possible rate increases as a result of the lack of competition. Belton Industries, Michelin, TriCounty  Fertilizer company all have expressed their support for the county’s efforts to keep the service in place.

One interesting note in Preston’s letter to the various elected officials indicated that “CSX Transportation’s justification for the proposed abandonment is that it would free it from maintenance and rehabilitation expenses on the line.” A portion of those rehabilitation expenses would presumably include the rebuilding of the Gray Drive bridge across the tracks in Williamston. The Town fought for almost fifteen years to force that rebuilding. Last fall, CSX told the town that it would be performing the work within months. Nothing has been done so far.

Preston also stated in his letter to the delegation that despite CSX’s assertions, “Its  abandonment of the line would severely and negatively impact the industries currently using the line, the communities through which the line passes, and Anderson County as a whole.”

CSX, which operates over 23,000 miles of rail system, provides access to 23 states and Canada. The company recently sold its international shipping terminal business, CSX World Terminals, to Dubai Ports International, the company whose pending deal to oversee several American ports has stirred a firestorm of controversy in the U.S. Congress, and across the nation.

President Bush has threatened to veto any legislation passed by Congress to stop the deal from going through. Many members of Congress, including Republicans, have said that  DPI , which is based in the United Arab Emirates, should not be in charge of or involved in security at American ports. They threaten to override any Presidential veto, should it be invoked. Among their concerns about the UAE is the fact that until the terrorists’ attacks on America in 2001, the Arab state had recognized the Taliban in Afghanistan as a legitimate nation. They were one of only three countries to offer such recognition.

CSXT sold six terminals to DPI, including several locations in China, as well as in Australia, Germany, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. According to the Company’s website, the deal was for $1.142 billion. The transaction gave DPI a portfolio of interests in 15 terminal operations in 13 different locations. The deal made DPI the sixth largest port operators in the world, a status which causes some concern among the nation’s leaders and lawmakers. 

 

By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Council meeting warmed up quickly Tuesday night, as District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson sought to remove a significant portion of the minutes of the last meeting from the public record.

Wilson challenged the inclusion of a report presented at the February 21 Council meeting which purported to represent the economic impacts of Wilson’s challenges to the first phase construction of the Beaverdam sewer project. That report, presented by Environmental Services Department Director Vic Carpenter, claimed that the overall costs totaled more than $7 million.

Wilson asked that the portion of the February 21 minutes containing that report be stricken, saying that it was “just innuendo, with no solid numbers.” Her motion died from lack of a second. She then tried to amend the minutes to reflect two minor changes in language; the motion again died from lack of a second. She then asked for a point of personal privilege; Chairman Greer denied it. Much later in the meeting, he granted her the privilege, whereupon she explained the minor language changes, and Council approved them.

Wilson also repeated her well established opposition to the second phase construction of the Beaverdam sewer project, which is slated to begin soon. Her concerns were expressed during discussion of an ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of a $5.8 million special source revenue bond to finance that construction. Wilson repeated her oft repeated complaint that the sewer enterprise fund is in deep debt, in the amount of $34 million, while it has revenues of only $3 million.

County Administrator Joey Preston, who has repeatedly denied Wilson’s claims of  the fund’s deep debt, told Council that the $5.8 million “is our limit for this year. We will have to come back to you after the first of the year in order to finish the project.”

Wilson also stated that the County currently has 9.5 million gallons per day (gpd), but is using less than 2 million gpd. “This bond requires that it be repaid by the users. Clearly, there are not enough users to do that. Where is this money going to come from, the general fund?”

Despite Wilson’s concerns, Council voted 6-1 to give first reading approval to the ordinance. 

The next item on the agenda was a resolution to apply to the State Budget and Control board for approval to issue the bond. Wilson resumed her attack on the proposal. “I’m asking the Council to think this through. How will this huge debt be repaid? It’s amazing to me that none of you have asked that question. May I have an answer to that question before we vote?”

Preston, in response to a question by Chairman Larry Greer, stated that “There are sufficient revenues, or the office of Budget & Control wouldn’t approve it.” Wilson retorted, “They’ll approve anything for a loan. It’s up to us to repay it, us and the property owners.” The vote to approve the resolution was 6-1, as well.

Another bond came before the Council for discussion, this one in the amount of $42 million. The bond has to be approved by the county, but it incurs no liability for the debt. That liability accrues to AnMed Hospital, which is seeking the bond issue in order to refinance a previous bond. Councilwoman Gracie Floyd raised some concerns about the language used in the resolution, especially that which dealt with maintaining “recreation, employment, and other public benefits”.

Floyd, as well as others, found it difficult to reconcile that language with the purpose of the bond, which according to McNair Law Firm/ AnMed attorney Doug Gray, is to save the hospital $2.8 -$3 million in interest on the outstanding loan.

Chairman Greer drew laughs when he asked if those savings would result in lower fees for the hospital’s services. Gray said he couldn’t make that promise. Councilwoman Wilson said that “We need to ask if AnMed has lost sight of its mission. They have a CEO who is paid more than $900,000 a year. On top of that, the hospital has been on a spending spree, buying properties and removing them from the tax rolls.”

Speaking after the meeting, Wilson said, “This is not just some benign entity whose only thought is for the patients. They have field liens and foreclosures against people’s homes and property for payment of medical bills.”

Gray explained that the language that concerned Floyd is essentially boilerplate, which is required to be included in the application. Greer repeated his serious request that the Board at the hospital be made aware of the Council’s concerns about the hospital’s fees being closely reviewed. Council approved the resolution 6-0-1, with Wilson abstaining.

Council voted unanimously, with Michael Thompson recusing himself due to economic interest, to refuse a settlement offer from a developer who is being sued by the homeowners’ association. The developer, whose road failed to meet county standards when it was built in 2003 now proposes to meet those standards; however, his proposal would not meet current county standards.

 Wilson, during a presentation on budget issues which was on the agenda, addressed her well publicized visit to the County’s finance office on Feb. 24. She read a memo she sent Preston in response to his memo essentially forbidding her from entering any county offices without his permission. She also repeated her request for several items of information which she says she still hasn’t received.

 

 Hospital bond, others on County Council agenda

By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Council meeting warmed up quickly Tuesday night, as District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson sought to remove a significant portion of the minutes of the last meeting from the public record.

Wilson challenged the inclusion of a report presented at the February 21 Council meeting which purported to represent the economic impacts of Wilson’s challenges to the first phase construction of the Beaverdam sewer project. That report, presented by Environmental Services Department Director Vic Carpenter, claimed that the overall costs totaled more than $7 million.

Wilson asked that the portion of the February 21 minutes containing that report be stricken, saying that it was “just innuendo, with no solid numbers.” Her motion died from lack of a second. She then tried to amend the minutes to reflect two minor changes in language; the motion again died from lack of a second. She then asked for a point of personal privilege; Chairman Greer denied it. Much later in the meeting, he granted her the privilege, whereupon she explained the minor language changes, and Council approved them.

Wilson also repeated her well established opposition to the second phase construction of the Beaverdam sewer project, which is slated to begin soon. Her concerns were expressed during discussion of an ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of a $5.8 million special source revenue bond to finance that construction. Wilson repeated her oft repeated complaint that the sewer enterprise fund is in deep debt, in the amount of $34 million, while it has revenues of only $3 million.

County Administrator Joey Preston, who has repeatedly denied Wilson’s claims of  the fund’s deep debt, told Council that the $5.8 million “is our limit for this year. We will have to come back to you after the first of the year in order to finish the project.”

Wilson also stated that the County currently has 9.5 million gallons per day (gpd), but is using less than 2 million gpd. “This bond requires that it be repaid by the users. Clearly, there are not enough users to do that. Where is this money going to come from, the general fund?”

Despite Wilson’s concerns, Council voted 6-1 to give first reading approval to the ordinance. 

The next item on the agenda was a resolution to apply to the State Budget and Control board for approval to issue the bond. Wilson resumed her attack on the proposal. “I’m asking the Council to think this through. How will this huge debt be repaid? It’s amazing to me that none of you have asked that question. May I have an answer to that question before we vote?”

Preston, in response to a question by Chairman Larry Greer, stated that “There are sufficient revenues, or the office of Budget & Control wouldn’t approve it.” Wilson retorted, “They’ll approve anything for a loan. It’s up to us to repay it, us and the property owners.” The vote to approve the resolution was 6-1, as well.

Another bond came before the Council for discussion, this one in the amount of $42 million. The bond has to be approved by the county, but it incurs no liability for the debt. That liability accrues to AnMed Hospital, which is seeking the bond issue in order to refinance a previous bond. Councilwoman Gracie Floyd raised some concerns about the language used in the resolution, especially that which dealt with maintaining “recreation, employment, and other public benefits”.

Floyd, as well as others, found it difficult to reconcile that language with the purpose of the bond, which according to McNair Law Firm/ AnMed attorney Doug Gray, is to save the hospital $2.8 -$3 million in interest on the outstanding loan.

Chairman Greer drew laughs when he asked if those savings would result in lower fees for the hospital’s services. Gray said he couldn’t make that promise. Councilwoman Wilson said that “We need to ask if AnMed has lost sight of its mission. They have a CEO who is paid more than $900,000 a year. On top of that, the hospital has been on a spending spree, buying properties and removing them from the tax rolls.”

Speaking after the meeting, Wilson said, “This is not just some benign entity whose only thought is for the patients. They have field liens and foreclosures against people’s homes and property for payment of medical bills.”

Gray explained that the language that concerned Floyd is essentially boilerplate, which is required to be included in the application. Greer repeated his serious request that the Board at the hospital be made aware of the Council’s concerns about the hospital’s fees being closely reviewed. Council approved the resolution 6-0-1, with Wilson abstaining.

Council voted unanimously, with Michael Thompson recusing himself due to economic interest, to refuse a settlement offer from a developer who is being sued by the homeowners’ association. The developer, whose road failed to meet county standards when it was built in 2003 now proposes to meet those standards; however, his proposal would not meet current county standards.

 Wilson, during a presentation on budget issues which was on the agenda, addressed her well publicized visit to the County’s finance office on Feb. 24. She read a memo she sent Preston in response to his memo essentially forbidding her from entering any county offices without his permission. She also repeated her request for several items of information which she says she still hasn’t received.

Future soccer fields

Grading has begun for soccer fields in downtown Williamston.  Hammonds & Son grading and erosion control of Williamston is donating equipment and manpower for grading for the fields.  The fields, located in a grassy area behind the historic depot and along Big Creek near the center of town,  are a joint project for the Palmetto Soccer Club and the Town of Williamston. Palmetto Soccer Club spokesman Ken Scales said once grading is finished, grass will be planted. Hopefully the field will be ready for use by the local organization by late fall or early next spring. Palmetto Soccer offers teams for boys and girls ages under 10, under 8 and under 6. The organization, which has approximately 200 participants, has been searching for a place to practice and play games for several years.

Board approves administrators

During the February 21 meeting of the Anderson School District One Board of Trustees, administrative recommendations made by Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler were approved.

Approved Administrative recommemdations included - Brenda Ellison, Cedar Grove Elementary, Principal; Lisa Cassidy, Cedar Grove Elementary, Instructional Assistant Principal; Patricia Russell, Concrete Primary, Principal; Nancy Prince, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Principal; Torie Tourtellot, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Instructionsal Assistant Principal, Dr. Mason Gary, Palmetto High Principal; Brian Couch, Palmetto High Assistant Principal; Mike Kelly Palmetto High Assistant Principal, Barry Knight, Palmetto Middle Principal; David Armstrong, Palmetto Middle, Assistant Principal; Ivan Kershner, Palmetto Middle, Assistant Principal; Jerome Hudson, Palmetto Elementary Principal; Sherry Padgett, Palmetto Elementary, Instructional Assistant Principal; Dr. Charlotte McLeod, Pelzer Elementary, Principal; Debbie Gill, Powdersville Elementary, Principal; Monty Oxendine, Powdersville Middle, Principal; Todd Binnicker, Powdersville Middle Assistant Principal; Milford O. Howard, Jr., Spearman Elementary Principal; Dr. Stacy Hashe, West Pelzer Elementary, Principal; Robbie Binnicker, Wren High Principal; David Coyne, Wren High Assistant Principal; Dr. Chris Ferguson, Wren High  Assistant Principal; Robin Fulbright, Wren Middle, Principal; Amy Cothran, Wren Middle Assistant Principal, Charles Edmondson, Wren Middle  Assistant Principal; Mark McCall, Wren Elementary, Principal; Amy Bagwell, Wren Elementary Instructional Assistant Principal; Jan Dawkins, School Psychologist; Kelly Quirk, School Psychologist; Tanya Richbourg, Family Services.

Vandalism results in $30,000 damage

The Williamston Police Department investigated a number of incidents during recent weeks including vandalism to businesses, churches and local signs with damages amounting to approximately $30,000, according to Williamston Police Chief David Baker.

Sgt. A. B. Singleton and Officer T.A. Call stopped the two man crime wave of vandalism and property damage when they apprehended 17 year old Joshua Ryan Allen, 226 Belton Drive, and a 13 year old white male companion. On Feb. 17, the two were charged with a string of offenses, including damaging or vandalizing Grace Methodist Church, spray paint damage to two vehicles, a stop sign at Hill Street and Sullivan Street, placing of two boards with nails in them on McDonald Avenue, in an attempt to cause flat tires, painting of a shed at Calvary Baptist Church, paint damage to two traffic signs on Belton Dr., spray paint damage to Iglesia Pentecostal Church, spray paint damage to Ken’s Used Appliances, damage to several signs and other facilities in the Mineral Spring park, paint damage to Erlene’s Flowers, and paint damage to Foothills Pawn Shop. According to police reports, the two suspects admitted causing the damages.

Among other incidents investigated: Feb. 1 – Lt. J.T. Motes stopped a car traveling at a high rate of speed. The driver, Heather Haynie, 19, was found to have a suspended license. She was arrested.

Feb. 1- J.R. McCauley saw Henry Rodriguez, who he had arrested for no driver’s license in January, driving a car. Rodriguez attempted to flee for several miles before stopping. He was arrested.

Feb. 6 – J. R. McCauley arrested Roberto Carlos Diaz, 27, for driving under the influence, after stopping him for weaving, and administering a field sobriety test to Diaz, which he failed.

Feb. 7 – J.R. McCauley stopped Robert Wayne Pitts, 46, of 104 Slawson Road, for driving a vehicle with no tag. Pitts was found to have a suspended license and was arrested.

 Feb. 9 – D.W. Alexander, while on patrol, discovered a light on at the press box at the football field. Further investigation revealed the windows to be broken out of the press box.

Feb. 9 – D.W. Alexander saw Johnny Robinson, 46, who he knew to have a suspended license, driving a white Sunfire automobile on Hamilton Street. He stopped him and placed him under arrest for DUS.

Feb. 10 – P. D. Marter and J.R. McCauley observed a woman driving into a private yard and into a ditch. While turning around to return to the scene, they received a dispatch call saying that the car had been drivin into the yard and the owner of the residence had called.. Reports state they arrived at the scene where the driver of the vehicle, Wendy Pearson, 40, was arrested for DUI.

 Feb. 11 – J. R. McCauley observed a vehicle approaching which failed to dim its headlights as it passed. Reports state he saw a portion of a joint, or a roach, sitting on the vehicle console in plain sight. The driver, William Cody Bagwell, 18, of 911 Cheddar Road was arrested. He was also found to be driving on a suspended license.

Feb. 12 – Lt. J.T. Motes observed a vehicle running 52 mph in a 35 mph speed zone. He stopped the vehicle and found that the driver, Michael Holcombe, 23, of 825 Joe Black Road, was driving under a suspended license. It was his third offense, and he was arrested.

 Feb. 15 – C. J. Sanders stopped a vehicle with a headlight out and discovered that Jeffrey D. Rogers, 19, of 119 Page Road, Pelzer, was driving on a suspended license. It was his second offense and he was arrested.

Feb.15 – Lt. J.T. Motes stopped a vehicle with a broken windshield. The driver, Pablo Gonzalez, 31, of Greenville, was driving without a driver’s license. He was arrested.

 Feb.17 – R. S. Creamer stopped a vehicle with a broken rear windshield, and subsequently arrested Moises Marcial, 21, for no driver’s license.

Feb. 20 -  Pamela McAlister, 32, 39 Estes Plant Road, Piedmont was arrested for prostitution, public drunkenness, and resisting arrest after J. R. McCauley responded to a report of a woman soliciting prostitution.

According to reports, a motorist reported that he saw the woman standing in the middle of Greenville Dr. near the Curb Market, and he pulled into the parking area to see if she needed help. Reports state she got in his car and offered a sexual act in exchange for money, saying she was hungry. He declined the offer, but did offer her a few dollars for food. She became angry and got out of his car. McCauley found her nearby and arrested her.

Feb. 20 – Lt. J.T. Motes stopped Terry Charmar Smith, Jr.., 29, of Greer, for speeding and arrested him for no driver’s license.

Jan. 17 – Sgt. Z. E. Gregory stopped Sammy Rae Bercot, 49, of 434 Eastview Road in Pelzer, for failure to use a turn signal and subsequently arrested him for no driver’s license, no proof of insurance, and no turn signal.

Jan.19 – P. D. Marter responded to a report of assault at 232 Prince Street, where Barbara Crowder reported her daughter, April Jenkins, 17,  of the same address, hit and scratched her. Reports state Crowder suffered minor injuries and Jenkins was placed under arrest.

Jan.19 – Lt. J.T. Motes observed a vehicle with a shattered windshield. He attempted to stop the vehicle, which continued on until it reached a residence on Cherokee Road. Gunther Mack Harlan, 31, was subsequently arrested for driving under suspension, 2nd offense, stolen license tag, unsafe equipment, and no proof of insurance. He was transported to the Williamston Police Department.

Jan. 20 –  Officer T. A. Call and Capt. K.P. Evatt attempted to serve several warrants on Tommy Houston Snead Jr., 28, 308 N. Flat Rock Road, Piedmont, who twice claimed to be John Bagwell. During an attempted pat down search, he pushed the officer and tried to flee. He was shot with a taser, and knocked to the ground. He admitted he was Snead, and was subsequently arrested for giving false information to a policeman, and turned over to Greenville County on a grand larceny warrant.

Jan. 21 – R. S. Creamer responded to Palmetto High School following a report of a white male walking around the school. Brian Steven Horne, 33, of 230 Willingham Rd., was questioned and searched. He was found to be in possession of marijuana and was arrested.

Jan. 21 – J.R. McCauley, Jr. stopped and arrested William Ridgeway, 50, for an improper license tag. Ridgeway was found to be driving under suspension and was arrested.

Jan. 21 – J. R. McCauley stopped a car for speeding and found that the driver, Tammy Bowling, 41, of 33 Randall St., Williamston, was driving under suspension. She was arrested.

Jan. 21 – Sgt. A. B. Singleton and Ptl. C. J. Sanders observed a white Toyota speeding and stopped it. Milton Elias Munoz, 30, was given a ticket for speeding, and was found to have no driver’s license. Reports state that during a vehicle search, a pipe and three rocks of cocaine were found. He was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.

Jan.22 – J. R. McCauley stopped Pablo Ramos Santos for speeding and found an open container in his vehicle. Santos was arrested.

Jan. 22 – R. S. Creamer stopped a vehicle with a broken windshield and found that the driver, Henry Rodriguez had no driver’s license. He was arrested. A passenger, later identified as Anita Tucker, of 109 Crappy Dr. in Williamston, gave the officer a false name. She was later found to have three bench warrants on her. She was served with those warrants.

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated the following incidents recently:

PELZER

Feb. 26 – D.W. Davis and R.E. Callahan responded to the AnMed emergency room, where they met Magan Wilson, a WF, 29, who reported that she had been assaulted while at her friend’s house at 244 Smith Dr. in Pelzer. She was at Maria Rosshirt’s house, and Rosshirt’s boyfriend, Hadji Robinson, BM, 24, from Honea Path became upset and pulled out a knife, according to Wilson’s report. Wilson tried to grab the knife and cut her right hand. She said that she caused the injury.

Feb. 27 – D.E. Tench received a report of theft from Charles Dalrymple, of 108 Main St. Dalrynple reported that he had a chain saw and a power saw stolen form his shed. The two were valued at $400.

 Feb. 24 – M.G. Arflin made a  traffic stop on Hwy. 178 in Anderson and subsequently arrested Stanton Welch, WM, 5’8", brn/brn for driving under a suspended license.

 PIEDMONT

Feb. 28 – T.B. Dugan responded to a report of shoplifting at the Ingle’s store on Hwy. 81. James Patrick Kubanek was being held at the store for stealing a bag of nacho cheese snacks. While Dugan was receiving the report from the store employee who apprehended Kubanek, Kubanek was seen by another witness to take a pair of sunglasses from a rack and hide them in his coat. Dugan found the glasses in the suspect’s coat and arrested him.

WILLIAMSTON

Feb. 23 - R.S. Turner responded to 136 Foster Road. where he received a complaint from Tiffany Mayfield, WF, 17, that her boyfriend, Jonell Owens, BM, 18, 5’9", 180 pounds, had gotten mad and broken the windshield of her father’s car. Owens was arrested for malicious damage to property.

Feb. 23 – R.S. Turner was dispatched to the area of Hwy. 29 North in reference to a possible stolen vehicle. He observed a green Rodeo with tag #581-SGM, which was listed as stolen from Belton. He stopped the vehicle, which was being driven by Fernandus Allen, 31, BM, 5’11", 210 pounds, blk/brn. Allen said the car was his girlfriend’s. Turner learned that Allen was wanted on a warrant for grand theft auto in the case and arrested him. He took him to ACDC and held him for the Belton Police.

Miss Tri-County winners

Winners of the Miss Tri-Couty pageant held at Powdersville Middle School were: Front (l-r) Kaily Paddie, Chloe Campbell, Jenna Marie Owens, Hayley Mitchell. (Back row) Megan Williams, Kelsie Smith, Hannah Wyatt, Bailey Vinson, and Kelly Stowe.

Seems to Me . . .Time is running short

By Stan Welch

This promises to be a difficult column to write, for one simple reason. It will likely hurt the feelings of some very decent men who are trying awfully hard to rescue their town from a terrible situation; one which they have placed it in.

I’m talking, of course, about the Williamston Town Council, including Mayor Phillip Clardy. The town that they all represent, and I fully believe, all love, is in the worst trouble it has been in, perhaps in its entire history. It faces financial ruin, and political extinction, all because these same men have been unable or unwilling to govern efficiently.

Years ago, omens beyond ordinary warning signs revealed themselves, giving ample warning of the trouble to come. That warning went either ignored or unrecognized. Both are troublesome possibilities.

When Phillip Clardy was elected Mayor, he began to increase the size of the town’s government, adding employee after employee; either in an attempt to shape the Town to his view of what it should be, or without any real sense of what such growth would cost. Many in the town today feel that Mayor Clardy has been complicit in spending Town funds improperly.

I do not know whether he has squandered the money or not. I think it is a question that deserves a true and conclusive answer. But as I watch the Mayor and the Council struggling to regain control over the Town’s circumstances, I see evidence that makes me lean, at least for now, towards another conclusion.

I see signs that Mayor Clardy is fairly conversant with the minutiae and detail of modern day government, but lacks a real grasp of what that modern government demands. He understands that even in its time of crisis, the Town must obey the forms dealing with the reduction in employees and in assuring their fair compensation as they lose their jobs. Yet he increased the number of employees to a remarkable degree, and never once considered how to pay for them from the same withering revenue stream that has been inadequately supplied for a decade or more.

One wonders, in retrospect, how Clardy could have possibly thought that his actions could result in anything but financial disaster. His often repeated mantra that he did nothing that council didn’t let him do rings hollow and childish, when heard in the context of families without incomes and people without jobs. To argue that you were no worse, no more complicit than the council allowed you to be is ignorance and hubris at the highest level. Your job, Mr. Mayor, was to be better than council allowed you to be. In fact, seen in the context of commonly accepted parameters of leadership, it was arguably your job to make sure they were better than they would be without you as Mayor.

I have watched as Joe Newton and Bob Daniel have spelled it out for you that the Town faces the direst circumstances. After weeks of having it pounded into you, and the council, as well, I believe you all get it at least. I just don’t believe that you have any idea what to do about it.

Mayor, you continue to take every opportunity to demonstrate for the public and the Council just how complex and difficult your job is and has been. You go to great lengths to show the intricacies of policy and the niceties of administration with which you have had to deal in the course of being Mayor. Yet you offer no other explanation for why you have failed at it so utterly.

Make any excuse you like; make none at all. Neither alters the fact that the Town has suffered terribly under your administration. I have said this before, and I believe it still. It seems to me that it may well be that the greatest act you could perform for the Town you clearly love would be the act of resignation.

I do not call on you to do so; it is not my place. But I offer this outsider’s viewpoint. Each day, more and more people tell me that while you are Mayor, the restored public confidence that is the intangible, yet essential, capital that the Town must have in order to recover will not be forthcoming; any more than the needed loans of mid-summer will be forthcoming from a banking community that knows the Town is running out of cards to play.

As for the rest of Council, I sit and watch and listen as you try to come to grips with this new and modern style of government, and to do so under the greatest duress. It seems to be a task that continues to escape you as a body. This transition from mill town dependence on others for decision making has been difficult for small towns all over the Upstate, even those who began it while they enjoyed financial and political stability. For those who must do it under the gun, the prospects are frightening. Self-sufficiency, so long a keystone of fiscal and political thought, has become virtually unattainable, in this day of grants and bonds and federal mandates that seem to come only with instructions, and never with funds.

The fact is that the days of low taxes and full service are gone. That approach was tried for the last few years. Household garbage was picked up free; commercial garbage for the next thing to it. Water and sewer fees stagnated; so did the infrastructure they were meant to support. Economic factors beyond local control changed the business landscape and there were no maps to show the new roads.

Someone must step forward and lead. Someone must move past what they wish things were like, and deal with what they might someday be. But time is running short.

 

 

 

 

 

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