(1205) Week of Mar. 23, 2005
Week of Mar. 23, 2005
aid agreements help on Piedmont house fire
A house fire Friday on Golf Course Road in Piedmont, which would not vent, resulted in more than 60 firefighters from area departments including South Greenville, Donaldson Center, West Pelzer, Wren and Dunklin Fire Departments either responding or on call all night.
Piedmont Fire District Commissioner Al McAbee said each of the fire departments sent a chief and were working with our chief during the house fire. Several said they had five fresh men ready to take over, McAbee said.
The Piedmont Fire Department initially responded to the fire which was burning along the floor and would not vent or burst into flames because of tight construction of the home, according to McAbee.
The result was firefighters used more air bottles than ever before while on the call. McAbee said at least 30 air bottles were used by firefighters during the fire and other departments brought in portable fill tanks.
McAbee said the call was the only one he has seen where fuel had to be brought in to refuel a truck on the scene.
Firefighters worked until 4 a.m. and then every thirty minutes there after during the night to eventually put out the fire, McAbee said.
The blaze was an example of mutual aid agreements between local departments, McAbee said, during a meeting of the Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners Monday.
Piedmont Fire Department Chief Butch Nichols said the Wren Fire Department brought a truck to Piedmont Headquarters as mutual aid back up during the call.
By Stan Welch
United States Senator Jim DeMint spent Monday, March 21, on a tour of Anderson County. The visit was part fact finding and part good old political handshaking.
He spent the morning at a local restaurant, meeting folks. Lunch at Tuckers, was spent discussing Social Security reform with those attending.
Later in the afternoon, the Senator met with several members of Anderson County Council, as well as County Administrator Joey Preston and a number of department heads.
Members of the print media were on hand as well. The meeting was informal; despite the presence of a quorum of County Council, no meeting was convened. Instead, Sen DeMint spoke glowingly of Anderson County and its potential for future growth.
He spoke of the importance of economic development, using Glen Raven Mills as an example. They export approximately 40% of their production. As we try to expand our world markets, while also fighting the imports, they can serve as an example to other businesses, said the Senator.
He explained his role as Senator. Its my job, as it is Sen. Grahams and Rep. Barretts, to do what is best for the entire country, while also fighting like the dickens to get South Carolinas fair share. It can be quite a balancing act, he said.
The Senator stressed the importance of infrastructure and education in attracting businesses to the area. In response to a question from Economic Development Director John Lummus, Sen. DeMint said it puzzled him to hear that in a county with such a high unemployment rate, it is difficult for industries to find workers.
The key is in educating new workers and retaining experienced workers in the skills needed to attract high tech jobs. Years ago, you could quit high school and go to work in the mills. You cant quit high school and get hired at Glen Raven or these other high tech, high production jobs. That takes education and skills, he said.
He credited Clemson and Tri County Tech for their retraining programs for displaced workers in the area.
We have to be willing to change education. We are currently spending approximately $8000 per student in this state, and the results just arent there. Only 39% of our states African American students are getting high school diplomas. That simply wont work. I agree with (Microsoft founder) Bill Gates when he says we have to redesign our high schools. By the time a student is a sophomore or junior, they should be getting educated within the context of developing skills for their future. By that, I dont mean just mechanical skills, but marketing, business, and other valuable skills. Let the tech schools host a high school and get that process started sooner, DeMint said.
The Senator also supported the Governors efforts to develop alternative schools.
I do support that in concept. I think we have to be careful about the funding of the public schools, but at the same time, we have to create an atmosphere that lets alternatives develop where they can flourish, he said.
In response to County Administrator Joey Prestons question concerning homeland security, DeMint was wryly supportive of past efforts to throw as much money as we could at the problem. I suspect that practically every fire department in the country got some new piece of equipment. Some of them can actually be used in a homeland security application. But it seems to me that we need to spend $10 million on countywide communications systems that are compatible across the state, instead of spending $10,000 each on a thousand small projects.
DeMint also expressed his support for various programs and legislation to ensure that reservists and National Guard troops who are called to active duty have medical insurance. At the same time, he cautioned against promising more than the government can afford to provide.
There is a real danger in getting these folks off of their insurance at work, then finding out later that the government cant afford to maintain the program. We have already cut money from some weapons systems to pay for health insurance. The government has been promising too much to too many for too long now. It cant go on forever.
Council Chairperson Gracie Floyd thanked the Senator for coming, adding that the most important thing for any elected official is to stay in touch with their constituents.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, Senator DeMint expanded on his view of the Social Security reform issue.
The General Fund has borrowed over a trillion dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund which, by the way, consists mainly of IOUs right now. We need to begin paying that money back, and to quit spending the SS surpluses in the future. That will amount to another trillion dollars by 2018. If we do that, we can make an obvious difference in the state of the system. Raising payroll taxes drives business away, giving it another reason to locate overseas, the Senator said.
He also defended his recent vote to involve the federal government in the case of Terry Chiavo, the Florida women whose case recently led the Congress to pass a bill empowering the federal courts to conduct a judicial review to ensure that her rights were protected.
Asked to reconcile his vote with his conservative philosophy of less government intrusion into private matters, the Senator stated, To starve and thirst someone to death without a judicial review is simply wrong. It is important that her Constitutional rights be protected. We also need to develop legislation to address these issues in the future.
The Senator was also asked about the status of a federal review of the Beaverdam sewer project. District 7 Councilwoman Cindy Wilson recently requested that the Senators office look into alleged violations of federal laws regulating wetlands.
USFWS and COE officials have confirmed that they are pursuing enforcement actions in reference to the project. Sen. DeMint said that it seemed a local issue, but that his office was looking into the question of whether federal regulations are involved.
By Stan Welch
The West Pelzer Town Council met on March 21, and moved closer to annexing two tracts of land, one of which the town owns.
The two parcels are adjacent to each other on Mill Street. One is owned by a resident of the town, while the other is land owned by the town at the sewer plant. First reading approval of the ordinances that will allow annexation was unanimous.
The town also gave second reading approval to an agreement by which the town provides police services to Pelzer as well, for a monthly fee of $1500, payable on the first of each month.
The council also heard several complaints from Charles Hood, a postman in the town. He asked that the town enforce their leash laws by any means necessary. Following considerable discussion of the problem, public works director Mike Mahaffey asked that the town replace a tranquilizer dart gun that was stolen from the town hall several months ago.
Mahaffey referred to a recent incident where a raccoon and a dog were in a fight on Tasha Street. The coon was killed and tested for rabies. It tested positive, leading to the dogs humane destruction when it was found to be unvaccinated.
The price of the gun was quoted at $585 and tax. Councilman Joe Turner made a motion to purchase the gun and whatever supplies were needed. The vote was unanimous.
Hood complained about people piling their garbage up around or near their mailboxes, citing the filth and smell.
Ill tell you, in the summer time, thats no fun, he said.
He also reported that a number of businesses in town were not handicapped accessible, as required by federal law.
Now, you all know my son is handicapped and in a wheel chair. There are a lot of businesses that he cant get into. I was told at one restaurant that he could come in the back door, through the kitchen. Well, his money is as good as anyone elses. The town needs to step up on this and make these businesses aware of this, he said.
Councilman Joe Turner, who is also in a wheel chair, agreed and promised to provide the town with the pertinent federal and state laws so that they could look into the problem.
Mayor Peggy Paxton reported that Town Clerk Beth Elgin had been awarded a three year scholarship by the Municipal Financial Officers, Clerks and Treasurers association in the amount of $1,200.
Elgin will attend two special sessions per year for three years. She will learn about employment law issues, the different roles of the clerk, financial issues, and other aspects of managing the towns business.
Im very excited about attending the sessions in Columbia. It will help me serve the town better, said Elgin.
Were very proud that Beth was chosen. She really works hard for the town, and this will help her even more, said Mayor Paxton.
Mayor Paxton recapped her appearance several weeks ago before the Anderson County council seeking approximately $60,000 in funding for several critical needs the town has. Chief among those concerns, now that the town has received $29,000 in matching funds for the water line improvements, is $10,000 to be used in upgrading the towns utility billing system.
That is really a crucial need for us right now. It will make everything so much easier, especially when we tie onto Western Carolina Waters lines, she said.
Other requests include funding for ground penetrating radar for easier water and sewer line inspection and repair; a pump for the Spring St. lift station; an asphalt roller for road work; repairs to a sewer machine; and meth lab safety equipment, some of which can be used to meet OSHA safety requirements within the sewer system as well. She also asked for an additional $20,000 or a used dump truck for the town.
So far, I havent heard anything back, but I believe they are starting their budget process soon, so were still optimistic, said the Mayor in an interview after the meeting.
She also responded to comments by Councilman Turner that he had been told that the mayor and the police chief had been seen in Myrtle Beach a month or so ago in the towns police car. I dont know why that comment was made, unless it was just to try and degrade my character in front of the people who were there, said the mayor.
Turner raised the issue during Councils comment period at the end of the meeting. I just wanted to tell you we dont have a ride along program in West Pelzer. That police car shouldnt have been in Myrtle Beach. The mayor told Turner during the meeting that she had not been to Myrtle Beach, and if the police chief was it was while he was at a training seminar.
I cant recall exactly when he went down there, but it was on town business, she said.
Turner, in a telephone interview the next day, conceded that he had no hard evidence that the police car was in Myrtle Beach.
Im just going by what I was told by some people who saw the town clerk, the mayor and the police chief in that car. But it coulda been coming from Hilton Head, I dont know.
When asked to pinpoint the cars location when it was seen, he finally conceded that it was reported to have been on Highway 418.
Like I say, Im just going by what I was told, he repeated.
Town Hall will be closed on Good Friday.
By Stan Welch
West Pelzer recently took a large step towards complying with SCDHECs requirements for managing the towns water enterprise.
The town recently signed on with the SCDHEC Technical Assistance Program. The TAP is a program developed by the SC Bureau of Water to assist public and private water systems with free technical assistance in developing business plans.
Jason Miller, of the consulting firm Force and Associates, presented the towns individual plan, which took over a year to develop, to the town council at a work session on March 21.
Force and Associates is the Bureaus agent in implementing these plans across the state. Systems serving less than 10,000 customers are eligible for the assistance. Funding is provided under the EPAs Safe Drinking Water Act, and is administered through a revolving fund.
The purpose of the program is to provide financial, operational, engineering and managerial assistance to smaller systems. The goal is to help those systems develop a plan that will enable the systems operator to remain in compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. Three subdivisions of the plan are the financial plan, the facilities plan and the management plan.
In working on the plan, Force &Associates found a number of positives in the towns existing system.
They include the towns achieving a satisfactory rating on the June 04 Sanitary Survey; reception of a $500,000 CDBG for system repairs and improvement; efforts towards obtaining proper certification for operating the system; cooperation with Gray Engineering in developing plans for the improvements; efforts to upgrade accounting and billing software, and the writing and implementation of a personnel manual.
The consulting firm also found a great deal of room for improvement, in all three areas. Some of the suggestions are to develop policies for communications, roles and responsibilities, safety, purchasing, and record keeping. Significant changes in the accounting and billing systems are also mentioned as well as the need to at least study a merger of systems with Pelzer.
The plan will serve as a template that we can use, whether we require further help from Force & Associates or not, said Mayor Peggy Paxton. This is a tool we have really needed.
Anderson County Sheriffs deputies investigated several thefts in thearea. Among incidents investigated:
March 14 - T.B. Dugan investigated a complaint by Tammy Jean Darnell, of 120 Whippoorwill Lane, who reported several items stolen from her car while she was unloading groceries at her residence. She left the car unlocked, while she spent about 90 minutes between trips to the car.
March 14 - R.G. Alexander investigated a complaint by Robert Charles Williams. He stated that while he was in a location on Hwy. 20, someone stole his 1971 long bed Ford truck.
T.B. Dugan responded to a complaint by Amber Gremmer. She reported that someone had smashed the drivers window out of her 2005 Toyota, and stolen several CDs, a jacket and a book bag.
March 14 - J.J. Jacobs investigated a complaint by Roy Medlin, of 720 Bryant Rd. Medlin said that a tool set, cigarettes and his reading glasses had been stolen from his truck. The items were valued at $325.
March 10 - T.B. Dugan responded to a complaint from Tammy Miller, 4 Archie St., who reported the theft of a go cart, valued at $300, from behind her residence.
March 12 - A. Digirilamo responded to a complaint from Tim Martin, 103 Drewmar Road. Martin went outside to move a van from the driveway. He surprised someone in the van, and found several items missing.
March 13 - T.B. Dugan responded to a complaint by Donna Khosrowjerdi, 756 Blossom Branch Road, who reported that someone used a wheelbarrow to climb in her back window and go through her belongings. Nothing was reported missing.
March 15 - D.B. Anderson responded to a complaint by James B. Couch, at 757 Blossom Branch Rd. Couch reported that he observed a white male standing under his open garage. He went outside and yelled at the man, who fled across a nearby field. Couch went to investigate and found his Jeeps door open. His cell phone and a bag of hand tools were missing. He later found the tools on the ground at the back of the Jeep
March 14 - B.W. Parker investigated a complaint by James Blackstone, of 704 Hwy. 17, who reported that someone broke into his storage building and stole an air compressor valued at $500.
March 14 - R.G. Alexander investigated a report from Claudia Keeler, 723 Hwy. 17, who reported that someone had stolen a purse, CDs, $57 cash, and a checkbook from her vehicle at that address.
March 14 - J.L. Bergholm investigated a complaint by Pat Williams, of 101 Evert Dr., that someone had stolen a red mini-chopper motorcycle with yellow flames from his driveway. The bike was valued at $600.
March 14 - W. Cunningham responded to a complaint by Judy Davenport that several items had been stolen from her car in the parking lot of the Wise Corporation, 118 Hurricane Creek Rd. A white male with a black mustache, driving a black Toyota 4 Runner with tinted windows, was seen in the parking lot at the time of the incident. A purse, clothing and credit cards were stolen.
March 15 - Ryan Elrod, 125 Cottonwood Rd., reported that he had been assaulted at the Monkey Park in Pelzer. Reports state he and another man had argued earlier over a stolen cell phone. They met at the park where he was assaulted.
During their regular monthly meeting Monday, the Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners discussed possible ethics violations in the hiring of relatives of Board Chair Marsha Rogers to do work at the ball field and followed up on other questions brought up at the last meeting.
Commissioner Frankie Garrett read an informal opinion provided by Cathy L. Hazelwood, Assistant Director and General Counsel of the State Ethics Commission.
The response was to questions submitted by Piedmont Administrator and Fire Chief Butch Nichols which asked the following:
1) Can an elected commissioner of the Piedmont Public Service District do contract work for the District and receive an IRS 1099 form at the end of the year?
2) Can the spouse or child of an elected commissioner of the Piedmont Public Service District do contract work for the district and receive an IRS 1099 form at the end of the year?
Hazelwoods response letter states that a public official who must make a decision concerning an economic interest must perpare a written statement describing the matter requiring action or decisions and the nature of the potential conflict of interest and have the statement printed in the minutes and be excused from any votes or discussions on the matter.
It also states that a public official may not have an economic interest in a contract with a political subdivision if the official is involved in preparing bid specifications, acceptance of bids, or awarding the contract.
The opinion stated that the only way a public official of the Piedmont Public Service District may contract to provide services to the District is through a public notice and competitive bid.
It also states that a spouse or child can work for the District but in the case of the spouse of a District official, the official must abstain from taking any action related to the contract.
It also stated that a child is not considered a member of the public officals immediate family unless the child lives in the public officials home. Other than that, a public official is not prohibited from participating in the decision, however the appearance of impropriety is evident and the public official should abstain.
A second opinion concerning hiring of family members distinguished between immediate family members and family members.
A public official may not take any action on the hiring of an immediate family member. The restriction is not that the immediate family member cannot contract with the district, but that the public official can have nothing to do with the contract or negotiations.
As to siblings of the public official or of the public officials spouse, no such restriction exists. The public official would not be prohibited from voting on the contract or participating in the discussions to hire a brother-in-law or sister-in-law.
Board members Frankie Garrett and Rudy Rhodes raised questions about the hiring of Terry Rogers, Marsha Rogers spouse and other relatives who have been paid by the district to do various things.
Both commissioners said they have been approached by citizens asking the questions.
Terry Rogers is responsible for turning on lights and collecting garbage, bathroom maintenance and field maintenance at the Tom C. Pack Park (Piedmont ballfield).
Other relatives of Rogers have been paid for providing services, most recently spreading mulch and installing benches at the park.
Rogers stated in the meeting Monday that her husband has experience in ball field maintenance and spends many more hours doing things for the District than he gets paid for doing.
She also said that the park benches needed to be installed and that the people who did the work had the experience and time was of the essence in getting the benches installed.
These are people that care and just want to help, Rogers said.
Administrator Butch Nichols also stated that it is difficult to find someone to do maintenance type work on short notice.
Garrett and Rhodes both stated that they thought any spending for more than $500 should be brought before the commission for approval.
Commissioner Fred Glenn said, We need to bring things up that are over $500. It would eliminate this.
Rogers agreed that in the future, any items requiring an expenditure of more than $500 would be brought before the commission and responding to the ethics commission opinion, said that projects should have competitive bids and that she would not vote if bids were submitted by anyone related to her.
She also asked the commissioners to take a vote on continuing the services being provided by Terry Rogers.
Acting on a motion by Commissioner Rhodes and seconded by Garrett, Commissioners voted 4-0, with Rogers abstaining, to allow Terry Rogers to continue with upkeep and maintenance at the ballfield and to post the job at the end of the year for bids.
Commissioners also discussed the assistant chiefs vehicle.
Rogers said that the chief and the assistant chief need to drive a fire vehicle to get ther ein proper time when responding to a call.
After additional discussion, a motion by Garrett to sell the assistant vehicle died for lack of a second.
Students, teachers and administrators will return from spring break in Greenville County, and finish the year in the new Sue Cleveland Elementary School, located on Woodland School Road, just off Bessie Road.
Principal Karen Chambers and many of her staff are spending some, or all, of their spring break this week moving into their new school facility.
Final details on the new 82,700 square-foot school are being finished this week, even as teachers are moving in.
Chambers said most of the moving was done by Tuesday, with some classrooms completely moved and set up, ready for students returning from spring break on Monday.
Other teachers are still in the process of unpacking items and awaiting furniture.
According to Chambers the last two major items unfinished as of Tuesday were moving the library and finishing the gym floor.
The library was to be moved (today) Wednesday and the gym floor is in the process of being finished.
Exterior landscaping and work on a ballfield and basketball court will be completed soon, she said.
Other exterior features include tennis courts, a ballfield and basketball court, a covered play area for the kindergarten, and lots of parking, which was a big problem at the old school location in Piedmont.
The entrance to the two story facility features an impressive open atrium.
Kindergarten and first grades will be located on the first floor, along with the gym, cafeteria/assembly room, media center and computer labs and science lab.
Classrooms for grades 2 through 5 will be located on the second floor and will feature views of the surrounding area.
The interior of the building features colors and designs on the tile floors and walls which were voted on by the students, according to Chambers.
The building also has lots of storage space, according to Chambers who described a textbook storage room as a principals dream.
The school, designed for 600 students, has room to grow. Current enrollment of 420 students leaves the facility with 5 vacant classrooms.
The new Sue Cleveland school has 22 standard-size classrooms and a science/laboratory classroom.
The school features an 1800 square-foot curved media center reading room with an office and work room space; a 2400 square-foot dining/assembly space with a supporting food service facility and a stage for assembly purposes; a 3450 square-foot indoor multi-purpose gym for physical education includes two adjustable basketball goals and markings for basketball, volleyball as well as other physical education activities. Outdoor physical education facilities will include a multi-purpose softball field and play area.
Four kindergarten classrooms will be provided with a covered and fenced play yard. Special Education facilities include four self-contained classrooms and two resource rooms.
Chambers said the new school features lots of technology, with internet access in all classrooms.
All heating and air conditioning will be computer-monitored continuously and controlled centrally at the district offices.
School security will be maintained through cameras to monitor hallways, entrances and the exterior of the school. Using the capture concept, all exterior entrances will be locked once school begins except for the central reception and administrative area.
All classrooms will have an interior door lock, a telephone, five computers with Internet access, a printer and a television with a satellite connection.
Last week, students were saying goodbye to the old school and readying for the upcoming move with special acitivites including Sue Cleveland Memories, reciting the school pledge, and balloons.
With the move completed this week, Chambers said everyone is looking forward to being in the new facility. We will be waiting for the kids on Monday, she said.
The first day in the new facility will be sort of an open house for the students, Chambers said, where students will get to know your school.
Chambers said students will get settled in their rooms and begin to get familiar with the new surroundings. They will also be taken on a grand tour to allow them to get familiar with the building, she said.
On the second day students will meet in an assembly and will soon begin working on science fair projects which she said will be on display for an Open House planned soon for parents.
Chambers said parents were wonderful, helping pack and unpack for the move.
She also praised the Institute of Resources and Debeers Construction for their work on the project.
Sue Cleveland will definitely be a great place to learn, said the principal of her new school.
During their regular monthly meeting Tuesday, School District One Financial Director Steve Uldrick reported to the Board that the District was able to refinance a $3.25 million general obligation bond at an interest rate of 3.234 percent over a 7 year period. The low interest rate will save the District approximately $200,000 he said. The 7 year note will go to low bidder, Wachovia Bank, National Association.
District One principals of schools receiving the Palmetto Gold Award were recognized at the beginning of the meeting.
Recognized were Brenda Ellison, Cedar Grove; Nancy Prince, Hunt Meadows; Debbie Gill, Powdersville Middle; Becky Brady, Wren Elementary; Robbie Binnicker, Wren High and Robin Fulbright, Wren Middle.
Each of the school principals was presented a flag recognizing the accomplishment.
Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler reported that even though state money is being backpacked, a term used by the Governor which means EIA money was moved to EFA for funding for base student costs, the state budget sessions will show about a 10.25 percent increase over last year.
Fowler said the base per student cost has been funded at $2,000, with most schools budgeting $1,820 per student. It is a much better budget picture than weve seen in a few years, he said.
Fowler said they are expecting the base student cost to be based on $2,290 possibly adjusted to $2,030.
Assistant Superintendent David Havird said most schools will budget between $2,000 and $2,100.
Fowler said they will be able to go into more detail in future budget workshops.
Uldrick reported that the district has received 92 percent of the ad-valorem taxes and 53 percent of the auto taxes. EFA funding of $2.3 million had not been recorded yet, and will be deposited today (Wednesday), he said.
In his instructional report, Dr. John Pruitt gave a presentation on the after school program being offered in the District.
Pruitt said the four year program, funded by a $4 million grant, will be ending this year. He said he hopes it can be continued through state grants and other funding.
According to Pruitt, approximately one third of middle school students in the District participate in the program. The program targets students scoring below basic on PACT including low income, minorities and low achievers. It is an open program and also includes students seeking enrichment, teacher recommended and parent requested students, he said.
More than 600 students participated this past year, with 355 being qualified as regular attendees.
Pruitt said the program has produced significant data that shows participants have benefited tremendously from the program.
Some kids that were below basic have moved to proficient and advanced, he said.
Pruitt said the after school program is much more than homework tutoring and emphasizes attendance, completing homework and with athletics, trips and cultural events included, offers many participants a reason to enjoy school.
Pruitt said the program may be cut from 5 days to 3 or 4, with each session lasting approximately two hours.
Pruitt also reported that middle schools in the District will rearrange schedules for next year to reflect a new emphasis on science and social studies in PACT testing.
The two studies have been added as core group courses for testing which previously included only math and english.
The new schedules will reflect approximately 70-75 minutes of class teaching time for each of the four core subjects.
Fowler reported that the district is continuing a team effort for SACS accreditation for all 12 middle and elementary schools in the District.
Board members unanimously approved second reading on a policy revision allowing teachers who retire under the State offered TERI system, to be rehired one day after they retire. The revision is for policies GCE and GCE-R for professional staff recruitment and policy GDF, support staff retiring.
Board members then went into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.
The Board also approved the following personnel requests: Lori Davis, Cedar Grove Elementary grade 5, six week maternity leave; Beth Waters, Cedar Grove Elementary Grade 4, four week maternity leave.
Transfers: B. J. Brown, from Cedar Grove Elementary Kindergarten to Concrete Primary Kindergarten.