Week of March 14,
West Pelzer officials
decline alternative joint sewer project
By Stan Welch
West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton and Town Council listened politely Monday night as a representative of the Goldie and Associates engineering firm once again made a pitch for a feasibility study of a joint approach to the sewer problems facing West Pelzer, Pelzer, and Williamston.
After hearing Paul Lewis briefly explain the land application approach to wastewater treatment and the Rural Development Associations (RDA) support of the technique, the Mayor and Council basically told him they had been there and done that several times.
Since Ive been Mayor, weve talked to DHEC four or five times about different ideas. Theyve basically told us that we have a deal with Western Carolina and thats all they want to know, said Mayor Paxton, as several members of Council nodded their heads.
Lewis was clearly surprised by the information that the Town had been in close contact with DHEC for such an extended period of time. I didnt realize how long you have been talking to DHEC. I guess we need to talk with RDA and see what they think.
Paxton said, What I cant understand is why we dont have a choice in the matter. We have come up with several great alternatives, but DHEC isnt listening. In 2004 we had an enforcement meeting with them and they told us what we had to do. Weve been working on it ever since, but they arent interested in any other ideas.
Town administrator for Pelzer, Skip Watkins, whose town is also committed to the Western Carolina treatment plant on the Saluda, confirmed the length of the two towns efforts to meet DHECs demands. We began this project in 1993. The latest e-mail I had from Lee Proctor at DHEC basically said to get on with it and stop looking for different ways to do it.
The land application method is land intensive but offers two major benefits, one environmental and the other financial. The wastewater is applied to the ground and is not discharged into the river. At the same time, this technique gets the town off the regulation merry go round that imposes new demands every five years as the discharge permits have to be renewed. The end result is stable rates. said Lewis.
The deal with Western Carolina is expected to increase customers rates by several fold. A plan proposed last year to have all three towns pump their wastewater through Belton and Honea Path on the way to a treatment plant that already exists in Ware Shoals would have provided the most economic rates for the customer. Mayor Paxton explained however that the projected thirty million cost of building the pipe line killed the idea. I still think that would be the best idea, but DHEC pretty much said that wasnt going to happen.
Goldie & Associates, which also represents Belton, stated at the time of that proposal that Belton would not support it.
After further discussion, Council told Lewis that they would listen to any proposal, if he could get some sign from DHEC that the idea had a chance of approval. We have nothing to lose by listening, said Councilman Joe Turner. Anything would be better than what were looking at.
Lewis promised to do some more homework and report back to the Council.
In other business, the Council approved an intergovernmental agreement that will result in Anderson County collecting all the town property taxes, including delinquent taxes. The County will then issue the Town periodic revenues generated by those tax collections.
Mayor Paxton and the Council also accepted a check for $8000 from senator Billy ODell to be used in funding the water and sewer construction project that is underway. Said Senator ODell, I have to tell you that Rusty Burns is instrumental in assisting me to obtain these funds as well as others for you folks. I couldnt do it without him. Mayor Paxton also acknowledged Burns assistance in helping obtain funding for the project.
Council voted unanimously to apply the funds to the Towns match of grant funds from RDA.
The Mayor also swore in Dale Glasscock as the third member of the Towns municipal election commission.
By Stan Welch
As the deadline for candidates to sign up draws near, interest in running for the West Pelzer Town Council is fairly low. So far, while Maida Kelly has signed up to oppose incumbent Mayor Peggy Paxton, only one person has signed up for one of two Council seats that will be available.
Candidates must sign up and present their petitions by noon on March 22, or run as a write in, as current Councilman Marshall King did a year ago. Randall Ledford, Jimmy Jeanes, and Michael Moran have signed up for one of the two at large seats on Council which are up for election this time. Since the seats are selected at large, the two highest vote getters will win the seats on Council.
One seat that is open currently belongs to Kelly, who must vacate it to seek the Mayors job. The other seat is currently held by Pete Davis, who was chosen in a special election to finish the term of Councilman Terry Davis, who passed away unexpectedly last year. Davis has not yet signed up to run for a full term.
Candidates signing up to run by March 22 must also present petitions bearing the names of at least five per cent of the Towns registered voters. The Municipal Election Commission, comprising Sue Trotter, Dale Glasscock and Peggy Rainey, will certify the petitions, as will the Anderson County Election Commission. Those unable to meet the deadline, or who choose to do so can run as write in candidates.
The election will be held on the first Tuesday in June, which falls on June 5 this year. For more information on signing up to run contact Town Hall at 947-6297.
By Stan Welch
A public hearing will be held this Thursday, March 15 to address environmental and health concerns raised last year by residents near the Towns wastewater treatment plant.
Mayor Phillip Clardy said the preliminary results of the testing by Goldie & Associates indicate that there are no significant health issues.
A new chemical will be used to treat odor and it will also work to reduce the sludge in the towns lagoons, Clardy said.
Last May, the Town Council adopted a resolution declaring the Towns intent to accept leachate from the Anderson Regional Landfill, formerly known as Big Creek. The water is collected at the site in a holding pond, then pumped into tankers for transport to treatment plants in the area. Belton currently has such an agreement with ARL as well. Residents of the Gatewood subdivision and other neighborhoods near the treatment plant complained about odor, the number of trucks using their streets to reach the plant, and other health issues they said were related to the acceptance of leachate.
A series of meetings were held to address their concerns, resulting in the Towns decision to conduct air quality testing. It is the results of that testing that will be the subject of next weeks public hearing.
The Town is also planning to fund and develop an alternative treatment and disposal method called land application. The plans call for the towns treated wastewater to be drip fed into a large drain field which will absorb the water, and result in no introduction of wastewater by the town into the Saluda River.
The Town is awaiting approval of the plan by the relative agencies including Rural Development Authority ( RDA).
The RDA, which provides funding for many small towns and rural utilities, sets the rates at a level adequate to ensure repayment of the grants and/or loans being made to the borrower.
By Stan Welch
The Pickens County Sheriffs deputies who were involved in a shootout that resulted in the death of a Liberty man last week have been returned to full duty, following an investigation into the incident.
Paul Gorby, a forty one year old white male, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with two Pickens officers after they attempted to stop the truck he was riding in. Gorby, who was wanted on a Pickens County warrant for manufacturing and distributing methamphetamines, was riding with Randy Brooks, of Williamston, a 32 year old white male wanted by Anderson County on similar charges. The officers were attempting to serve the Anderson County warrant on Brooks when they encountered the two men in a truck.
According to police reports of the incident, the deputies tried to stop the vehicle, but Brooks, while not attempting to escape, refused to stop until he had traveled approximately two miles. As the deputies got out of their car, Gorby jumped out of the truck and opened fire on them, firing several shots. One of the deputies fired back and Gorby was killed.
The two officers were Lt. Chad Brooks, a nineteen year veteran of the force, and special operations Agent Brett Barwick, a seven year veteran. Both men were placed on administrative leave pending parallel investigations by SLED and the Pickens Sheriffs office.
Brooks was arrested on charges of failure to stop for a blue light and driving under suspension. He is currently being held in the Pickens jail, on a $7500 surety bond. Anderson County also has a hold placed on him on the original drug charges.
Pickens County Assistant Sheriff Tim Morgan said that while a February 7 warrant issued against Brooks claimed that materials and equipment for manufacturing methamphetamines were found at his home on Joe Black Rd. in Williamston, Brooks had apparently relocated to Pickens County.
Morgan said that while SLED hasnt released their findings yet, the internal investigation showed that the officers reacted properly. It is always a tragic circumstance when a life is lost, but our officers handled the situation extremely well. Their training and experience allowed them to handle a very stressful and sudden situation appropriately and effectively.
Sheriffs Deputies investigated a missing person incident and several thefts during the last week. Among incidents investigated:
On March 9, D.L. Barton was dispatched to 1304 Fire Tower Rd. in Williamston, where Alvin Simmons stated that his 19 year old son was missing. Simmons stated that his son, Andrew Simmons, WM, 19, 57", 140 pounds, with brown hair and eyes, had gone to 205 Saluda Dr. in Piedmont the previous evening after his brother Allen called him to help some friends move. Allen later came to the Simmons home and said that two friends of his had talked Andrew into driving them to Moore, SC.
Simmons said he became concerned after several hours and called his son on his cell phone. After getting the voice mail several times, one of the two friends answered but said that Andrew didnt want to talk to his father and hung up. He did identify himself as Michael. Mr. Simmons said he has been unable to reach his son since. Andrew was driving a green 1999 Ford Escort, with SC tag #137-WHL. He was last seen wearing a yellow and blue striped shirt and jeans. He also has burn scars all over his body, according to his father.
March 6 C. Whitfield responded to 341 Mize Rd., where he received a report of simple assault from Christopher Alewine, who said that when he and his wife arrived home, his father, Ronnie Clary was waiting to resume an argument the two had had the day before. Clary, WM, 44, 58", 250 pounds was arrested and transported to ACDC.
March 6 M.A. Whitfield was dispatched to Big Daddys Towing at 2513 River Rd. Travis Carter the tow truck driver reported that Zachary Lawrence, WM, 19, 59", 150 pounds, brn/brn, had told him he couldnt pay the bill for the towing. Carter told him hed have to tow the subjects car back to the shop until he could pay to pick it up. Lawrence then threatened him with a knife, saying he would cut him.A witness confirmed Carters account and Lawrence was arrested and taken to ACDC.
March 11 M.A. Whitfield responded to 112-C Halter Dr. where Eric Bang reported the theft of an air compressor from behind his place of business. It had been there only three days, and was valued at $3000.
Williamston police officers investigated an incident involving paint balls and another involving a fight between which resulted in a drug arrest. Among incidents investigated were:
March 4 Ptl. M.W. Ritter responded to 8 Randall St. where LaGonda Sanders reported that someone had stolen several CDs, valued at $250, from her vehicle.
March 4 Ptl. M.D. Creamer and Sgt. Z.E. Gregory received a report of malicious mischief from Mike Kelly, at 521 Minor St., who said that someone had driven by and shot his house with paintballs. In a related incident, Jeffrey Hudson, of 114 West First St., reported that his house had been shot with paintballs, which he cleaned up. He said that the subjects then came back and did it again. This time, he was able to follow the car until it left the town limits. He identified it as a purple Dodge Neon, and gave a partial tag number. He said there were three people in the car. The officers then went to his house and Hudsons son said the car belonged to Jonathon Rothell who lived on Academy St. Sgt. Gregory located the vehicle at 306Academy St. Rothell, 17, admitted being involved and named the other two people. He was ticketed and issued a summons.
March 5 School Resource Officer J.M. Hall at Palmetto High school was informed by Assistant Principal Kelly that a student who had been expelled was back on school property. The student, a 16 year old white male was found on campus and was transported to the police department.
March 5 Ptl. A. Digirolamo and SRO J.M. Hall responded to 17 Pelzer Avenue in response to a report of fighting on the alternative school bus. The driver, Janie Dobbins, had removed the two students from the bus and separated.
March 5 Capt. K.P. Evatt observed someone enter a building at 17 Jehue St. The suspect, Melissa Ann Boyd, WF, 27, 57", red/brn, had previously been placed on no trespass notice. The house has been condemned by the county building inspector due to unsafe conditions. She was arrested and transported to the WPD.
March 7 Ptl. M.W. Ritter and Sgt. T.A. Call were dispatched to 10 Ridge Court where Monte Perkins, WM, 33, 57", 200 pounds, of 7 Ridge Court, and his wife Renee Perkins, WF, 32, 51", 115, brn/brn were fighting. While handling the domestic disturbance, the officers found methamphetamine in the wifes pocket. Both were arrested for criminal domestic violence, and she was arrested for possession of meth.
The Saluda Valley Country Club is offering a reward for the arrest and conviction of person or persons responsible for recent vandalism at the local golf course located on Beaverdam Road. Anyone with information is asked to call SVCC at 864-847-7102 or the Anderson County Sheriffs office at 260-4400.
According to Bob Duke, vandals have caused damage at the course several times in recent days.
By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Sheriffs Office has sold one of its three helicopters, and is in the process of closing the sale of a second machine. The sales reduce the Anderson County Air Force, as some refer to it, to one OH-58 observation helicopter.
Chief Deputy Creed Hashe provided documents indicating that the Huey UH1was sold last April by the Division of General Services, which handled the sale of the surplus property for a service charge of $16,850.00. The amount that was paid to the Anderson County Sheriffs Office totaled $151,650.
The first of the three helicopters was purchased more than a decade ago by ACSO through the same surplus plan. The chopper, an Army model OH58 was purchased for $500, according to former sheriffs department employees who were involved in the departments flight operations division. The price was set at one per cent of the original cost of the machine, with a $500 cap. In fact, those same sources report that the second helicopter obtained was actually paid for by Belks in Anderson, which donated the sales price to the department.
In February of this year, Sheriff David Crenshaw sent a letter to Ronald Cathey, coordinator of the State 1033 Program, seeking permission to sell one of the Departments two OH58 models. The OH indicates an observation helicopter, and is the familiar version often seen in the skies above Anderson County. The helicopter is used in searches, and was instrumental several months ago in locating a suspect wanted in a housebreaking and assault of a police officer in the Wren High School area.
The helicopter was bought by Dakota Air Parts, from North Dakota. The sale price was $171,111.11.Chief Hashe said that the transaction is still in the closing process.
We used approximately $65,000 from the sale of the Huey to do the upgrades and maintenance on the OH58 to get it in shape to sell. We really didnt need the Huey. We dont have any twenty story buildings to put a SWAT team on top of, or any mountains we need to rescue people from. It just made no fiscal sense to hold on to that machine, especially when we could use the proceeds to fix up the other machine, as well as do some necessary upgrades on the helicopter were keeping. said Hashe.
By Stan Welch
Monday, the committee charged with rewriting Anderson Countys animal control ordinance met to review the proposal and make some changes. By the end of the meeting, Chairwoman Gracie Floyd had dissolved the committee, pledging to make the final decisions herself.
Like many things created by committee, the proposal pleases almost no one except the committee, including the woman most instrumental in seeking the changes. Mary Wilson, who until last December was a sergeant with the countys animal control department, is so unhappy with the committees results that she says the changes need to be defeated completely. This needs to be shot down entirely. Its ridiculous and accomplishes nothing, said Wilson.
Wilson says that there were only two goals involved in the proposed ordinances. We wanted to basically come into compliance with state regulations so that we could enforce state laws and address large animal issues. And we wanted to change the definition of a pet. Two changes, thats essentially all we asked for, and we were making progress until Keith Bowman, of the Animal Control Dept., started meeting with the attorney. We now have almost six hundred changes in the ordinance, and the two we wanted have not been accomplished yet.
Floyd presented the proposed ordinance to the full Council at their February meeting, where several issues were raised. Then, at the March 6 meeting, following a public hearing on the proposed ordinance, Floyd tabled the ordinance for further study. She referred to that decision at Mondays meeting, saying she did so at her own choice. I wasnt coerced or frightened into it. Im not going to change the complexity of the ordinance, but there are some things we can look at.
She spoke about some issues involving animal sales at the Jockey Lot, which is well known for its sale of dogs, cats and fowl. I heard a lot about the Jockey Lot at the hearing, and what I got from that is money!money!money! Thats all thats about. But I also heard from Dickie McClellion who owns it, and he said that they try to provide a service by having a safe sanitary place to buy animals. He also admitted that they could make improvements, and are willing to do so. So Im going to talk to him myself, along with some of you committee members. Ill let you know whose expertise I need.
She added that once she had met with McClellion and with committee attorney Adam Artigliere to review language referring to civil procedures covered in the ordinance, she would make any decisions that needed to be made. Once Ive met with him and talked about the civil procedure concerns, Ill make these decisions.
Floyd expressed her intention to present the ordinance to the full Council at the March 20 meeting.
An issue that went unresolved during Mondays final committee meeting is what will happen to large animals found running loose. Tomas Jimenez, who until recently was a professor of animal and veterinary science at Clemson University, told The Journal that he was disappointed by the committees work.
What Sgt. Wilson had sought, as well as myself, was to establish a means of dealing with large animal rescue. We can hardly claim to have achieved that by this ordinance, said Jimenez, who now trains first responders across the country on how to handle large animals during accidents or disasters. It appears that we are now going to not call the one agency in the county which knows what to do and instead call the two agencies which are neither trained or equipped to handle these situations.
Jimenez was referring to Floyds statement that the county animal control will no longer concern itself with large animals running loose. When he pressed her on how a horse or cow in a public road would be handled by the county, Floyd said to call either the Sheriffs office if it were a county road or the South Carolina Highway Patrol if it were a state road.
Thats a state law. Call the Highway Patrol. Theyll have to deal with it. Call someone with the legislative delegation.
Lt. Keith Bowman, of animal control, added We dont enforce it.
That answer also angered and disappointed Wilson, who performed large animal rescues for two years before the County placed her on family leave due to her condition, and against her will. Wilson has been diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. One of the things that hurts me personally is how hard I worked to get this large animal rescue operation up and running. Thats why we wanted to adopt state regulations so that we could enforce them. Thats one of the key issues in the whole ordinance. This is absurd. Now this ordinance just proves I wasted the last two years of my life. Even worse, the decisions made here today were made before we ever walked in the room. Mr. Greer didnt even bother to come. He just called and told Gracie that he would vote down any ordinance that addressed agricultural issues.
Jimenez was puzzled at Floyds determination to forge ahead. What does it hurt to take some time and make a good ordinance? Why the hurry? I just dont understand that.
Ms. Floyd, in dismissing the committee referred to a letter she had, and mentioned that she didnt need any sabotage of the committees efforts, a reference that Nicole Walukewicz understood and resented.
Walukewicz has been involved in large animal rescue for several years, and has worked with Mary Wilson in trying to get an ordinance passed that would assist those efforts. She sent a letter to Chairman Waldrep expressing a number of concerns about the proposed ordinance.
For Gracie Floyd to call that sabotage is insane. The letter quotes state law which expressly prohibits the counties from adopting any ordinances that are not identical to state ordinances. But here we have an ordinance that purports not to enforce cruelty and neglect laws that relate to livestock. It is the definition of insanity to pass this ordinance, said Walukewicz.
The County hasnt even got a place to hold horses or llamas or donkeys that might be brought in. They dont even have a livestock trailer to transport animals they find running loose. So what is a state trooper going to do with a fifteen hundred pound horse if it wont get out of the road? Probably shoot it as a safety measure, because they dont know any other way to handle the situation. But Gracie thinks its sabotage to dare ask these kinds of questions.
Walukewicz also stated that there was never a vote by the committee to approve the ordinance in its entirety and forward it to the full Council.
The only vote taken was to remove the licensing provisions at this time. That was voted on. Approval of the actual ordinance was never voted on, said Walukewicz, who has accompanied Wilson to every committee meeting. So the whole ordinance is illegal, since there was no vote.
Votes were taken on the changes made during Mondays session.
Wilson agrees, adding, Are there more things that we should change in the future. Of course, but for now we just need to make the changes we asked for. I just dont know how we got to what we have now, but it is a disaster. Its going to set things back and cost people money. Thats the bottom line.
By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Council has held five meetings so far this year. Two of them were abruptly adjourned with several items remaining on the agenda. Thats forty per cent of the meetings, folks.
The last commando adjournment, while impeccably choreographed and crisply executed, was nevertheless clumsily timed. I say that because the motion to adjourn came just before two agenda items that promised to create some fireworks were scheduled to come to the floor.
Those two items, placed on the agenda by District Seven Councilwoman Wilson, would have addressed issues that have caused Mr. Joey Preston considerable heartburn in recent months. In the first instance, Wilson was prepared to present copies of letters originally addressed and sent to then Council Chairwoman Gracie Floyd and Preston.
Those letters made specific and significant allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment in the workplace and general mismanagement of the Emergency Services Division. At an earlier Council meeting, at which Wilson referred to those letters in countering Prestons claim that they constituted part of the harassment that he says led to the undercover sting operation that became known as CaterGate, Floyd denied knowing anything about the letters and challenged Wilson to produce them.
When Wilson appeared poised to do just that, Councilman Larry Greer suddenly moved to adjourn, for the second meeting in a row. Greer cited a heartwarming concern for the audience, saying that the meeting had gone on long enough. At that point, the meeting had lasted four hours; a period of time exceeded a number of times when Greer held the gavel last year. In fact, he usually closed the marathon sessions with eight or ten minutes of brief comments of his own. Apparently his compassion for the common folk is a recent development.
The second issue that was avoided, intentionally or not, was a scheduled presentation by Wilson concerning a number of fund transfers which Preston approved late in the last budget year. Wilson has consistently charged that Prestons technique of informing Council of such transfers after a delay of months is a violation of the Countys budget ordinance. According to the agenda, Wilson was prepared to expound on her charges at some length.
The question of such transfers gained new allure in recent weeks, when it became known that the County had loaned the Sheriff more than two and a half million dollars. Wilson, new Councilman Ron Wilson and newly elected Chairman Bob Waldrep all seemed taken aback by what they considered an end run around the budget ordinance.
Of course, anyone who follows the through the looking glass Anderson County government to any extent knows that things are seldom what they seem to be in this Wonderland.
This is, after all, the county where elected officials have to sue the administrator to receive routine financial records of the county. This is where a Chief Deputy decided to conduct a sting operation, when he in fact wasnt even certified to conduct any investigation. That same Chief Deputy was later found to have had his drivers license suspended several times. This is where an investigation into harassment and stalking, which was declared to be almost completed a year ago, has yet to yield a public report on its outcome, or to result in a single arrest. It is where the Solicitors Office clearly denied having any such report in hand just three weeks ago, while now saying they received it in January.
This is the county where the blue laws were off again, on again, off again more often than Britney Spears wig.
This is the county where a Councilwoman decided she needed to become involved in rewriting the Countys animal control ordinance. Asked for a little tweaking of the existing ordinance by various members of those agencies charged with protecting animals, this Councilwoman proceeded to supervise the creation of a sixteen page ordinance containing almost six hundred revisions. When she presented it to the Council, and encountered stiff resistance, she withdrew the proposal for further review. After forty five minutes of such review earlier this week, and a few more tweaks of the language, this Councilwoman announced that she would make the final decisions on several points still to be decided, and summarily dismissed the committee.
This is the county where several members of that committee have essentially denounced its work, saying that the ordinance as proposed achieves none of the goals the committee first set for it.
This is a county where departments can lose tens of thousands of dollars from their budgets to cover other deficits, without being informed, much less consulted.
Its the county where the supposedly accelerated budget process will be at least April getting started, and will likely be just as rushed and haphazard as it has in recent years.
It is a place where a Council member can be censured at the request of an employee for violating the county personnel policy, when the request for censure is a clear violation of that same policy, which sets the chain of command for handling such matters. Further, it is a place where the other Council members scurried to in fact censure their colleague, without so much as speaking to the employee, who by the way was involved in that sting operation mentioned earlier.
Are you starting to get dizzy yet?
In this down the rabbit hole world of Anderson County politics, it appears that the block of four incumbents who could regularly be counted on to support Prestons interpretation of Home Rule and the Councils minimalist role in the governing of the County have seen little in the looking glass that leads them to reconsider that view.
For example, their coolness towards the idea of a full and thorough audit of County finances seems unlikely to change. That four vote majority seems determined to sustain itself, even if they have to go home early to do so. Seems to me, in this often strange and sometimes illusory world, if the majority opposes it, thats reason enough to have such an audit.
Move over, Alice, and pass the aspirin. The Cheshire cat and the Mad Hatter have given me a headache.