News Archive

(1206) Week of Mar 22, 2006

Road projects to be funded by new county sales tax
Public hearing Thursday on property auction
West Pelzer amends budget to reflect changes
Pelzer officials drop fees for “town residents”
Kickoff planned for family activities
Preston, Busha address harassment
Riverside Center to present art Gala
Lions present “Elvis”
Judge declines to rule on Wilson - Preston FOI issue

Winthrop track team opens outdoors season

Seems to Me . . . Upcoming elections

Barnes to run for County Council District 7 seat
Harvell announces for House District 7
Greer to seek reelection to Council
Rep. Townsend not seeking reelection

Road projects to be funded by new county sales tax

By Stan Welch

 The Williamston area, among others, broke in line this week at the trough which will hopefully be filled with funds from the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB); assuming that a $.01 county sales tax referendum is approved later this year. That is an assumption that few of the sales tax projects commission are willing to make.

 Three projects from the Williamston area were presented, with the project dubbed the Ida Tucker Parkway moved to number eight on the secondary road list. The other two, which are unlikely to be constructed in the near future, include replacing the bridge on Main Street with a four lane structure, and a project dubbed the College Drive Extension.

 The top three priorities, which are major projects, have already been selected. They include the widening of Hwy. 24 between Hwy. 187 and I-85, at a projected cost of $100 million; the widening of Hwy. 76 from Honea Path to U.S. Hwy. 25 in Greenville County, at a projected cost of $53.5 million; and the widening of Hwy. 247 from Belton to U.S. Hwy. 25 at a projected cost of $80 million.

 If the sales tax is approved, and the monies are generated as projected, and the SIB provides the grant for $150 million that the County is hoping for, then eventually, over the seven year life of the sales tax, a number of local projects will also be constructed. For purposes of selection and prioritization, the commission set a figure of $40 million, which they hope will be available.

 Ten projects were chosen and prioritized. Priority, for the Commission’s purposes, means that those are the projects they want funded. It does not refer to the order in which they will be constructed, since engineering issues most often determine that order.

 The ten local projects chosen, in order of priority for funding, are as follows: 1) Mt. Airy Church Road and 2)Three Bridges Road, in the Powdersville area; 3)the entire length of Concord Road, 4)Airline Road to Middleton Road, 5)New Hope Road, 6)US-29 between Shockley Ferry Road and Murray Avenue,7) Dixon Road, 8) Ida Tucker Road, 9) Lebanon Road, Phase One, 10) North Avenue at Main Street and Boulevard.

 The Commission, chaired by government consultant and ombudsman Rusty Burns, also reviewed a draft copy of two referendums that have been used by other Counties in the state to obtain similar funding. The Orangeburg version, as McNair Law Firm attorney Jay Tothacer explained, has been successfully implemented, while the Beaufort County version has been less successful. A specifically drafted document will be presented to Anderson County Council for its approval.

 The Commission hopes to report its findings and present the referendum question to the full County Council sometime in May. The language has to be adopted and approved by the US Department of Justice by late June, in order to make the ballot in November of this year.

Public hearing Thursday on property auction

By Stan Welch

Williamston Town Council will hold a public hearing this Thursday to allow citizens to comment on the town’s property sale. The hearing will be held Thursday, March 23 at 6 p.m. at the Williamston Municipal Center.

Interested citizens are invited to comment on the auction sale which will be held March 30.

Town officials have been reconsidering several pieces of property that are on the list to be sold, due to citizens concerns and possible deed restrictions.

The Lander property, the old Gossett School property and the old town hall property on Main St. are three that are under consideration.

There are also concerns with eleven lots that were donated to the town in November, some of which have renters living on the property.

Local realtor Hugh Durham, who is coordinating the property sale, said Tuesday he has met with some of the residents to discuss their concerns.

Durham said in an effort to allow those renters interested to purchase the property they live on, the $3,500 deposit due upon a successful bid will be waived if the person has a letter from a bank indicating that they have been approved for a loan. The waiver is only for the renters currently living on the lots that are located on Ragsdale, Parker and Scott/C streets, Durham said.

Durham also said they are looking into the restrictions that are on the Lander and Gossett School propeties.

He said he had not received a definite decision from the town on whether the old city hall building and property will be on the list. Town officials have until 24 hours prior to the sale to add or pull properties.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said Tuesday Council is still considering some of the properties and will probably hold  a special meeting on the day before the sale to decide on the final list.

Preparations for the sale of the Town’s non-essential properties continued during a work session last Wednesday (Mar. 15).

Durham addressed two specific parcels, which he sought to have returned to the sale list, after they were removed by Council two weeks ago.

One tract is 14 acres that lies just below the dam that creates the old town reservoir. Durham reported that his research indicated that the property had no connection to the reservoir. “I suggest that you sell that property, reserving an easement to reach the reservoir if needed, and place some restrictions on the property.”

Durham also recommended surveying the parcel which contains the old town jail and city hall, on Main Street. “There was no grant on the old city hall. I would suggest that you survey that property. I believe it’s closer to .79 acres, instead of 1.32 acres. But it may well be the most valuable property in the town, and would bring a lot of money.”

Some parcels have been removed from the first list compiled. A 6 acre tract where an old wastewater lagoon was located has been removed due to concerns that there may be heavy metals on site. The Lander property has PRT grant restrictions which are being looked at and the Gossett School property was granted to the town by one of the mills years ago, with the stipulation that it be used for recreation.  A walking track located on Gray Drive has also been removed from consideration for sale.

The 14 acres below the dam was returned to the list by a 3-1 vote, with Councilman Cole declining. The old city hall site will remain unavailable for the time being.

Mayor Clardy said that a $50,000 grant had been obtained but that it wasn’t tied to the property itself. “That money was used in part, however, as matching funds to apply for grants that are tied to the specific property.

Joe Newton, ACOG representative who is working with the town on its financial problems, explained that if the grants had not been received already, the worst thing that could happen would be that the grants would not be awarded. “I’m not prepared to give the Council a decision on that piece right now,” said Mayor Phillip Clardy.

The issue of zoning came up at the workshop, with Newton insisting that it be made clear to all potential buyers that any zoning decisions lie with the town; and that every property seeking a specific zoning designation would have to go through the legal process.

Not paying the IRS also happened to come up at the meeting. The proceeds of the land sale are designated for use in paying off the Town’s tax liabilities. “The IRS will come first,” said Newton.

He presented two letters to the Council for signature. The letters, one to the IRS and one to the state Department of Revenue, ask that the fines and penalties for non-payment of taxes which are accruing against the town be abated.

Abatement of fines and penalties can be done following an appeal by the Town. The fines facing the Town from the IRS are approximately $100,000, and are growing daily. The state fines are approximately $7000.

“The agencies involved are basically seeking assurances of several things, including that the Town has addressed the problems and taken steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. We are providing them with those assurances, including the fact that the town has obtained professional assistance, that steps are underway to contract for a thorough audit for the year 2005, and a number of other issues. We have pointed out that having to meet those fines will only slow the Town’s recovery, and effectively punish 3800 innocent people. There is, however, absolutely no guarantee that these fines and penalties will be abated.”

Mayor Clardy reported that the South Carolina Retirement Fund has agreed to waive all fines and penalties previously due them.

The twelfth draft of the budget included two line items which established reserve funds in both the general fund and the water and sewer fund, to allow for possible emergencies. The general fund contingency will be funded, at least theoretically, in the amount of $50,000. The water/sewer contingency will be funded at $40,000.

Newton admitted that the numbers are hollow, saying, “I laughed to myself when I put them in the budget draft, because I know you don’t have even this much to spare. You really should have hundreds of thousands of dollars in contingency, especially the water/sewer fund. But this is a start. This year, we’re running a survival budget, but next year, you should look really hard at trying to build these reserve accounts.”

The accounts can be accessed only by a majority vote of Council.

In addition to the public hearing Thursday, the next scheduled meeting of Council is their regular meeting, Monday April 3 at 6 p.m.

West Pelzer amends budget to reflect changes

By Stan Welch

 The West Pelzer Town Council held a special called meeting at 8 a. m. on Tuesday to amend the Town budget to reflect the loss of revenues resulting from Pelzer’s recent decision to discontinue the two towns’ police protection agreement.

The Town of Pelzer had been paying $1500 a month for limited police services from the West Pelzer department. Pelzer voted last month to drop that service, resulting in a loss of $4500 in revenue for the last quarter of the fiscal year. West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton explained that the Town had already received payment of $13,500 for the period from June 2005 to April 2006. “We didn’t lose $18,000 from this year’s budget. We will have $18,000 less revenue for next year’s budget.”

She presented council with an amended budget to reflect the impact of the cancelled agreement with Pelzer. That impact was essentially nullified by the discovery that $4700 in insurance costs for the police department’s vehicles had already been included in the general insurance paid by the Town.

Several other adjustments were made to reflect the change in revenues, as well as other minor adjustments, such as a reduced salary cost for a new police officer, compared to the higher paid officer who left to work for the County. The reduced salary also resulted in reduced payroll deductions.

One thing the Mayor did which appeared to nettle the Council was to remove the $12,000 building fund line item from the amended budget. Council had sought that amount to be used in renovating Town Hall, and had placed the burden for the additional revenues on the police fines and forfeitures.

Councilman Joe Turner questioned the removal of the building fund. “You just took that out of the budget?” he asked the Mayor. “Yes, I don’t see how we can afford it without planning for it. It should be taken off for now just to be safe.”

Councilwoman Maida Kelly added that the building fund is needed and should be included. Paxton pointed out that within a few weeks, the Council will be starting to work on next year’s budget. “We can put it in next year’s budget, but right now, I don’t see how we can justify the expense.”

The question of the Town’s leasing of the police building at the corner of Main and Hindman Street came up as well. The cost of the lease is $285 month, or $3240 a year. “Can we get out of that contract,” asked Marshall King? The mayor responded that they probably could but asked, “Where are we going to put the police department, and all their stuff? We don’t have room in Town Hall.”

Following the discussion and review of the proposed amended budget, Councilman Pete Davis said he needed some time to study it before voting. Paxton said she thought that’s what the special called meeting was for. “Does everybody feel that way, or do you all want to vote on it?

After some more discussion, the Council and Mayor voted unanimously to give first reading approval to the amended budget. Second reading will be held at the next Council meeting.

 

Pelzer officials drop fees for “town residents”

By Stan Welch

The Pelzer Town Council took an unusual step last week, in an effort to attract more homeowners to seek annexation into the town limits. Acting upon the advice of the Town attorney, Jimmy King, Council gave first reading approval to an ordinance to abolish the town’s sanitation fees, and the sewer surcharge fee, for all the residents living in the Town limits. The basic charges for water and sewer, however, cannot be waived.

Known as inside/outside rates, the practice is intended to make annexation more attractive. According to experts in the field of government, the practice is legal. According to Lara Payne, an area specialist at Rural Development, which funds the water and sewer systems for many small towns in the state, a pending loan to the Town would, upon closing, require that all users pay for the services, in order to ensure that the loan could be repaid. “The town is currently under a letter of conditions in reference to a proposed 40 year loan. One of those conditions prohibits providing water and sewer to anyone for free,” said Payne, in a telephone interview. The surcharge, however, can be removed for Town residents.

The current sanitation fee for residents is $8.80 per month, or approximately $106, per year. The sewer surcharge is $9.50 a month, or $114.00 per year. Since there are 34 households in the town limits, the total loss of revenue will be approximately $7480.00 annually. Each town resident will save $220 a year.

Town manager Skip Watkins said that the Town has a unified rate structure, which charges everyone the same rate for the basic service, regardless of where they live. “The fact that the voters inside town are receiving some consideration will be very well received by them. Those outside town will probably have some questions. This is a decision that has been discussed for awhile, now.”

The move had been suggested at the February meeting of the Council, by Councilwoman Sandra Ragsdale, but it was tabled when Mayor Kenneth Davis explained that the Town currently loses approximately $4000 a year on its garbage pickup. Watkins said that the Mayor was correct, but that he had focused too narrowly on the issue of sanitation fees, and not the overall revenues received by the Town, in the form of license and franchise fees.

Ragsdale, who said at the time that she wanted “to do something for the people who vote for us”, raised the issue again at the March Council meeting.

Watkins said that the loss in revenues would be somewhat compensated for by the fact that the Town dropped its agreement with West Pelzer for police services, saving $18,000 annually.

Second reading of the ordinance will be held at the April meeting of the Council.

Kickoff planned for family activities

Local community leaders are working with Strong Communities, a public service outreach of Clemson University to create family activity centers in the Pelzer, Williamston and West Pelzer area.

The family activity centers can be lcoated in churches, schools, fire departments, parks, and other places where parents and their young children can enjoy a play group, craft lesson, or workshop.

One of the first centers in the area will be at the Caroline Community Center in Williamston.

To build for this initiative, a Family Activity KickOff will be held at the Caroline Community Center on Saturday, April 22. The day will include entertainment, food, a community wide baby shower, and a work day.

Volunteers are needed to scrape and paint an empty room at the Center as the first step in an “extreme makeover of the room into a family friendly place for parents and young children, organizers said.

The completed room will be utilized for activities and events associated with supporting parents with young children.

Activities or programs planned include Drop In and Play; Moms and Tots Exercise; Parents Night Out and Grandparents Raising Young Children.

The community is invited to attend the Family Activity Center kickoff.

Hotdogs wil be served by members of Senior Solutions, and a community wide baby shower will be hosted by members of Women’s Missions of Calvary Baptist Church.

Community members are asked to bring a  new, unwrapped baby gift of diapers, wipes, books, clothing, toys, or other items for babies. The items will be distributed to famililies through the Family Service of Anderson School District One and Operation Care of the Palmetto Baptist Association.

Five work groups of 10-15 volunteers are needed for each 2 hour block of work time in scraping and painting, organizers said. Work will begin at  7 a.m.  and wil continue to completion.

Volunteers are needed to provide stage entertainment and to supervise children’s activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p. m.

For more information on helping or attending, contact Doris Cole Outreach Worker for Strong Communities at 847-9186.

Riverside Center to present art Gala

The Riverside Nursing Center in Piedmont will hold an art Gala and Auction this Thursday, March 23 at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited, especially persons with family or friends living at the center. Black tie is optional.

Paintings done by the artist/patients at the center will be auctioned to the highest bidders. “It will be like a true arts gala,” Riverside Executive Director Carla Heritage said. “The artist will present their painting and there will be copies of their painting made for them,” she said.

The arts gala is a followup event in a unique program that combines art, singing and praise to help Alzheimers patients open up and enjoy life.  The program is called Art Without Boundaries. It involves Mnemetecnic Therapy, a unique multidisciplinary approach used to stimulate synaptic activity in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments.

The process includes art, singing, sensory stimulation, movement and praise “to allow patients to reconnect to the wholeness as human beings through life affirming pleasure of creativity,” according to instructor/therapist Noell Hammer.

The program was created by Hammer, who while working as an Executive Director of a small Alzheimers Association chapter in Ohio, decided to use her artisitic ability to enable Alzheimers patients to create art.

In the process, she found that it helped the patients. As more patients were involved, Hammer began hearing reports of changes in many of the patients who participated in the painting sessions.

 The Arts Without Boundaries program was expanded to include a fundraiser in which the paintings created by the patients are auctioned at a Gala which involves the community and brings in money which can help fund the program.

During her four days stay at Riverside, Hammer worked with approximately 10 patients each day. Heritage said the program is beneficial to the patients and the caregivers.

Riverside Nursing Center is located at 109 Bentz Rd., Just off Hwy. 86 in Piedmont. For more information call Heritage at (864) 845-5177. The facility is licensed for 88 residents.

They are seeking sponsorships and asking for donations from anyone who would like to participate. For more information on Art Without Boundaries, see their website at www.artwithoutboundaries.org.

Lions present “Elvis”

The Pelzer Lions Club will present Rick Wade in a tribute to Elvis at Palmetto High School on March 25.

Doors will open a 6 p.m with the show beginning at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Reserved seating is available for $20 for adults and $10 for children.

Tickets are available at First Citizens Bank of Williamston, Gray Mortuary in West Pelzer or from any Pelzer Lions Club member. For more information call Beverly Atkins at 847-4505.

Preston, Busha address harassment

By Stan Welch

Those in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Anderson County Council were treated to a stunning presentation by county law enforcement officials; a presentation requested by Council Chairman Larry Greer and intended, in part, to explain recent reports of misbehavior by County Administrator Joey Preston.

Chief Tim Busha, speaking for Sheriff David Crenshaw, who was also present, reported that Preston has complained as early as last November that he was receiving unsigned letters which Busha described as “vulgar and salacious.” According to Busha, the letters “reached a crescendo in January and February.”

Busha’s remarks came on the very day that two Anderson citizens were picked up and interviewed by agents of the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), reportedly in relation to the sending of threatening and harassing letters. One of those witnesses, Amanda Felton, appeared recently on a local radio talk show, where she claimed that she and her husband had witnessed Preston and an unidentified female engaged in inappropriate and intimate behavior. The other person picked up by SLED was Jerry Welch, the girl’s father.

According to reports, both were later released. Amanda Felton was seen briefly at the Council meeting Tuesday night.

Busha addressed that issue by saying that someone was observed following Preston on February 10, and a decision was made to send Preston to various locations at various times to allow law enforcement to observe those following him. Busha, in response to a specific question from Chairman Greer, said that Preston’s controversial visit to Cater’s Lake on March 10, at which Anderson City Police responded to a call for service and found Preston and an unidentified female together, was in fact part of the County’s undercover operation.

Greer later reiterated that Preston’s presence at Cater’s Lake was at the request of the Sheriff’s Department.

Speaking in an interview after the presentation, Busha declined to provide any details about the Cater’s Lake incident, which has been the subject of widespread speculation, and has received extensive coverage from local talk show host Rick Driver, WAIM-AM radio.

“I’m not going to say anything about Cater’s Lake,” said Busha. “But we did ask Mr. Preston to go to two or three locations, on several occasions. “He refused to say whether the unidentified female referred to by the Anderson City Police who responded to Cater’s Lake on Friday, March 10, was in fact a county employee. That woman remains unidentified at this point.

Busha reported that there were videos of certain persons of interest placing telephone calls from pay phones; calls which were later connected to telephone calls that coincided with calls received by Preston and other members of his family. “This is not a political issue,” Busha told the Council, as well as a standing room only audience. “It is a law enforcement issue. You can say what you want about a public official’s performance and what you may think of it. But when families begin to be harmed, it’s time to step in, and that’s what we did.”

Busha reported that the ACSO had conducted a preliminary inquiry, and had recently turned it over to SLED.

In a broken and emotional voice, Preston read a two page prepared statement, which appears in its entirety in this issue of The Journal. The gist of the message was that he and his family had been through an ordeal, but he remained undeterred in his commitment to Anderson County.

Preston considers the alleged harassment to be politically motivated, saying, “I believe the reason is political in nature, and I believe it goes to a desire by some to drive our community into a state of dysfunction and to reverse or stop the positive steps we’ve made.”

He referred to “those involved” as terrorists, whose “goal is to disrupt via fear by focusing on those that usually have nothing to do with an issue.” His statement also expressed his hope that the presentation by Busha would explain his failure to respond to the recent allegations concerning his presence at Cater Lake.

Rick Driver, the host of the highly rated morning talk show on WAIM-AM, and whose airing of the witnesses’ testimony last week was referenced by Preston in his statement, said in an interview following the presentation that he had one word for it.

“SPIN, SPIN, SPIN,” said Driver, a long time and vocal critic of both Preston and the county council. “This was predictable. What else could he do but try and spin this thing to his advantage? I’m not surprised by Preston’s mention of my airing the story; nor am I surprised by Council’s indifference to this matter. The entire event was orchestrated, and it isn’t the first time we’ve seen such doings from these folks. “

Driver said he had done nothing improper in allowing the witnesses to tell their story. “I required that they give me sworn affidavits, which SLED came and got yesterday. I also ran this by my attorney. I will continue to pursue the facts of this matter, and I have no intention of changing my programming.”

Judge declines to rule on Wilson - Preston FOI issue

By Stan Welch

A hoped for end to a protracted legal struggle between an Anderson County Council member and the County Administrator was not forthcoming Friday, March 17, as Judge Macaulay declined to issue a ruling sought by both sides.

The issue, which has dragged through the courts for several years now, concerns whether District 7 Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, or any other public official, for that matter, is entitled to complete access to the County’s legal and financial records.

Tenth Circuit Judge Alexander Macaulay declined to settle the issue, and may decide to force mediation.

“I am not opposed to letting the two sides work something out,” said Macaulay, who referred to Solomon, whose decision concerning a disputed infant didn’t turn out all that well for the baby. “The two sides worked that out much better than the judge did,” said Macaulay.

Councilwoman Wilson’s attorney, Jay Bender, told the judge he saw little hope for mediation in this matter.

Bender and Wilson first sought a writ of mandamus more than a year ago, in an effort to force the case forward. Preston has consistently claimed that the information included in legal vendor files is privileged, and that only the majority of County Council can release that privilege. That majority has repeatedly refused to do so, a point which Preston’s attorney, Ron Moody, hammered home to Macaulay.

This is a disappointed public official, said Moody, using specific legal language cited in a court decision, the Newman case, he considered pertinent to the issue. “She has repeatedly sought this access and has been unable to even get a second for her motions. The Council has made it clear that they do not intend to relinquish this privilege, and Mr. Preston cannot do so without specific instruction. The Newman case makes it clear that she cannot seek in court what her own body will not provide.”

Bender argued that the Newman case was irrelevant, since it dealt with the separation of powers issue between two co-equal authorities and not a “hired employee who is clearly subordinate to the elected officials.”

Moody also made much of Wilson’s deposed statement that she would release to the public information she found to be ‘silly’.

“She has done this before, releasing information obtained from the Department of Commerce through the Freedom of Information Act,” said Moody. “Who knows what additional mischief she would do?”

Neither he nor Bender pointed out that any information obtained through the FOIA is already public, and not privileged. The FOIA provides very specific protection for information related to contractual matters, legal issues and personnel issues.

Bender, who is considered the state’s preeminent expert on the FOIA, told Macaulay, “Clearly, some aspects of legal files are protected, but to assert that every line of every vendor file is privileged is absurd. This blanket claim serves to prevent Ms. Wilson from doing her job and meeting her obligations to those who elected her.”

The issue of the financial records is simply a matter of timing, according to Moody. “Mr. Preston is providing the general ledger reports to her, but not on a schedule to her liking. But Council has voted on and set priorities for Mr. Preston to perform his duties. Providing such information is low on that list of priorities.”

Bender countered with Preston’s sworn testimony in deposition during which he stated that he routinely reviews the reports before giving them to Wilson, in order to “see what she might throw at us next.” Bender stressed that Preston has made it clear that he considers Wilson an adversary, adding “There is no provision in law that allows a hired hand to withhold information from an elected official because he doesn’t like them.”

Both sides had filed for a summary judgment, just minutes apart on the same day according to Macaulay. Preston seeks dismissal of the writ of mandamus application, while Wilson seeks the writ’s issuance, which would compel the immediate release of the information.

 

Winthrop track team opens outdoor season

The Winthrop Eagle Track team had a phenomenal outdoor track season opener last week in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, competing  in The Alabama Relays, along with more than 30 teams including SEC powers Alabama, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

In addition to qualifying two athletes for the NCAA East Region in May, sophomore Brad Orr of Powdersville, and freshman Brandon Hudgins, of Rock Hill, claimed a 1-2 finish in the 1500m run. Orr ran 3:53.8 and Hudgins 3:55.3. Hudgins time qualifies him for the USA Jr. National meet in June. Orr’s time was a personal best, four seconds faster than last year.

The same duo then helped the 4x 800m squad, along with sophomore Justin Meade of Williamston, and junior, Derrick Zinnerman of Powders Springs, Ga., to a runner up finish in the relay just behind Alabama and ahead of Mississippi State. The 4x800 finish was a new school record at 7:50.3 .

In the 800 meter run, Meade finished 18th with a time of 1:56.79. Zinnerman finished 26th with a time of 1:58.52.

The Eagles will compete in the Raleigh Relays at N. C. State Friday night and the UNCW Seahawk Relays in Wilmington on Saturday.

Seems to Me . . .
Upcoming elections

By Stan Welch

Well, I’ m preparing for my first election cycle as a resident of Anderson County, as well as a reporter. If early indications are at all accurate, it promises to be a doozy of an election year.

From what I’ve seen, Anderson County is as politically divided as any place in the state. I always used to say that Horry County was schizophrenic, because the interests of those who live east of the Intracoastal Water were so different from those of the people west of the ICW.

But those lines have become blurred as development has jumped the big ditch, and as tobacco’s decline as a crop has lessened the importance of farming in the county.

Still, if Horry County was schizophrenic, Anderson County suffers from multiple personalities. There are the retired Yankees, who sold a 3Br 2Ba home for $400,000 in Connecticut or someplace, and came down here needing to spend that money to keep the tax man’s hands off of it. So they built a five bedroom, half brick, half vinyl siding home and gladly paid $200,000 or more for it. It never dawned on them what that would do to the taxes on all those modest, yet adequate, homes that had been there for thirty years before they moved into the neighborhood.

On top of that, those folks are used to seeing a policeman every hundred yards or so, and a fire station every five blocks. They expect that kind of coverage here; and since their taxes are a third of what they were at home, they don’t mind seeing them go up to provide those, and other, services. For example, the extraordinary public library in downtown Anderson has just as many supporters as it does critics. The same could be said for the arts center, and Keep America Beautiful. Call it warm and fuzzy if you’d like, but there are those who see those services and facilities as a valid function of government.

This is not to say those supporters are wrong. But that approach to government growth and increased spending comes pretty close to socialism in the minds of a lot of the natives and old timers in Anderson County. I can say without fear of contradiction that I have never lived anywhere that has such a strong conservative strain of financial and political philosophy. Salt Lake City might come close, but I wouldn’t guarantee it.

The tension between those philosophies is natural and sustained. Adding to it is a coincident tension between those who consider professional government as defined by Home Rule to be the end all and be all for running Anderson County and those who think that a hired administrator is still subject to control and supervision by the elected officials of the County. Those parallel lines of tension aren’t always exactly coordinated as to the earlier distinctions drawn between recent arrivals and old timers, but they are pretty close.

So, we have an upcoming election cycle that will be strongly influenced by these opposing philosophies and beliefs. Add to that the natural lightning rod that is county administrator Joey Preston and it proves to be a stormy summer, indeed.

In fact, based on the number of candidates offering for office from the various districts, this election shows a great many signs of being a referendum on Joey Preston as much as it is a contest of wills on any other issue.

Rightly or wrongly, Preston is seen by many as a champion of growth and modern, professional administration. He is seen by at least that many as a symbol of shady dealings, unrestrained spending, a confrontational attitude towards at least one of the members of county council, and a general arrogance towards the elected officials of the County that many find infuriating.

Preston’s main critic on the Council, District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, will face at least one opponent and perhaps two. If the past is prologue to the future, those candidates will receive significant financial support from those who favor Preston, such as Allied Waste, Inc., BP Barber, Inc., and Carrithers Real Estate, among others. All those corporations, or their representatives, acting as individuals, have contributed substantial amounts to the campaigns of both Wilson’s opponents and every other member of Council except Wilson in recent elections.

The races in other districts are also drawing a lot of interest. Council Chairman Larry Greer, who may opt for pursuing the General Assembly seat recently surrendered by Rep. Ronny Townsend, will face opposition if he decides to seek his Council seat again. Fred Tolly is retiring, and interest in that seat is high. Michael Thompson and Bill McAbee will likely both face challenges, based on widespread expressions of disappointment in their first term efforts. Bill Dees may well face a challenge in his district also.

Based on what I’ve seen of the local political scene in Anderson County, I anticipate a nasty, rough election year. I would caution the voters to sort and sift the information they receive very carefully. There is a tremendous amount at stake in this election. For some, it is money and power that are on the table; for others, it is a chance to change the way they think the County is being run. Regardless of the side you may be on, the game promises to be hard fought, and occasionally dirty.

Seems to me it should be a heck of show, but it won’t be for the faint hearted. Stay tuned, and keep reading your local paper.

Barnes to run for County Council District 7 seat

Julia Barnes recently announced that she is running as a candidate for Anderson County Council District 7.

A life-long resident of Anderson County, Barnes said, “I feel that I have benefited from the work of others who have made this county a better place to live.  At this point in my life, I feel the need to do more for the betterment of my county and to my local district,” she said. “While I respect the opinions of our current representative, I find that the divisive relationship with the county council and administration is hurting our district.   I believe that we have ineffective representation at this point, for whatever the reasons.   I have heard many citizens remark that they feel we are the “stepchildren of the county. That must change.  We can control spending and watch our taxes wisely without creating fights and lawsuits that have cost our county huge amounts of dollars in legal fees and lost revenue.” 

 “I am concerned with the ineffective leadership for our representative due to the combative environment of our county council, of the huge waste of taxpayers’ money on legal squabbles, and a huge percentage of negative or abstaining votes by our representative.  I intend to take a stand on issues, and not be single-issue oriented.”

She has served on the school board and other groups and said she has met many citizens and heard many concerns.  “I believe that I can have a direct impact on growth and development, sidewalks, roads, and real quality of life issues because I am willing to listen to our citizens and consider all sides fairly.  I have begun a new career in the education of returning adult learners at Forrest Junior College and see the needs for their futures, as well as the future of my own child.  I also see the need for a business orientation for our district in order to enhance our economic development.  I want my own child to remain in our area – without jobs, this won’t happen.” 

“All of us want to make this district a better place to live, and I would like to have the opportunity to be a voice for progress and responsible government. Yet I also enjoy the fresh air and spacious beauty of our district and want to preserve and enhance our quality of life,” she said.

“I see a need for District 7 to have more opportunity and stronger representation.  My goal is not to attack anyone else serving this county, just to offer a new face and fresh approach.  I find our current representation to be ineffective in meeting the needs of our district.  I will have an open mind and am willing to learn how to serve our district better.  My goal is to have a clean and fair campaign.”

Her platform includes having a common sense approach to solving problems in District 7. Working with the constituents of District 7 on tough issues. Cooperate with Council Members for the benefit of District 7. Strive to improve growth for the citizens and return jobs to our district. Upgrade infrastructure of District 7 by improving roads & bridges – Many of our districts transportation routes are in poor condition and need upgrades; Ensure that the tax dollars are used in the best interest of District 7; Use recreation & paving accounts for equitable use of the entire district and have careful review of budget process

Barnes has served as a member of Anderson County District 2 School Board and has been an educator for more than 30 years. She is currently the Interim President of Forrest Junior College. She describes herself as a fiscal conservative and community minded. Barnes said she has a voting record of opposing tax hikes.

Harvell announces for House District 7

Anderson County native and business owner Dan Harvell recently  announced his candidacy for the South Carolina House of Representatives District 7 seat, filing last Thursday for the Republican primary. Harvell is running for the seat being vacated by Ronnie Townsend who announced his retirement from the House after deciding not to seek reelection.

Harvell’s filing confirmed the intentions he shared with many in the area over the past several months.

“I have deep family roots in this district and feel a strong desire to serve the people that have so long been neighbors and friends,” Harvell said. “As a local business owner, I understand the need to move South Carolina in a direction that promotes a strong future. I also understand the cause and calling of public service and want to fight for District 7’s taxpayers and voice their values in Columbia.”

As chairman of the Anderson County Taxpayers’ Association and vice chairman of the South Carolina Association of Taxpayers, Harvell is no stranger to Columbia or state government and believes his experience within the halls of the Statehouse will be an asset after his election.

Harvell, who said he contemplated a bid for the state House of Representatives for some time, discussed a vision he believes will build upon what has been done and take District 7 and South Carolina to the next level.

Harvell said he wants to fight for property tax reform that will foster balance and fairness. “Property ownership is a precious right, and the people of South Carolina deserve to own their homes without making an annual property tax rent payment to the state. We can create a system that allows our citizens to enjoy their homes and not shift the tax burden to businesses. We need a permanent solution to this problem before it’s too late.”

He also wants to make educational reform a top priority. “We cannot allow our children to continue being last in every educational study. We know that 50% of high school freshmen will not graduate. We know that 52.4 cents of every dollar in the state’s education budget is funneled away from our children’s classrooms. We know that our children rank 50th in almost every standardized test when measured against other states. We have a broken system that needs to be fixed. Let the teachers teach, and give them the tools they need to do it.”

Harvell said he will follow Governor Sanford’s lead to aggressively pursue business interests that will bring higher-level, higher-paying, knowledge-based jobs to South Carolina.

“By fostering a more business-friendly climate for both large and small business, we can broaden the tax base, infuse our currently ailing economy, and ease the tax burden on all citizens of District 7 and South Carolina.”

“If elected, the people of District 7 will know that as their representative, I am there for them,” Harvell said. “I will address their issues at the Statehouse and communicate those issues here at home with a no-nonsense straight-talk approach representative of our area’s traditional values. I promise to do all I can to bring representation of state government to the doorsteps of the citizens of House District 7, and I ask for everyone’s vote on June 13 to make that a reality.”

In his bid to replace Townsend, Harvell will be on the ballot in the Republican primary election on June 13. House District 7 includes Belton, Honea Path, Starr, and Iva in Anderson County as well as a portion of Abbeville County.

For additional information on this release or the Harvell for House campaign, contact Dan Harvell by phone at 864/338-5658.

Greer to seek reelection to Council

Current County Council Chairman Larry Greer held a press conference on Monday to put an end to speculation that he might seek the House seat which Rep. Ronny Townsend will vacate later this year.

Greer announced that he would in fact seek reelection to the County Council, where he faces at least one opponent in the Republican primary.

Said Greer, “There has been some speculation that I was considering running for Rep. Townsend’s seat. I appreciate the confidence of those who believe in my ability to do that. I have discussed it with my family and with several friends. I have offered up prayers about it. It would be a wonderful opportunity to serve the people of this district. But serving on the Anderson County Council again would also be a wonderful opportunity. I do not think that my work on behalf of District 3 is complete at this time. I will seek reelection to the County Council.”

Greer says he plans to run on his record. “I think that there have been a lot of positive things and good changes in District 3. I think infrastructure is important and pursuing economic development.”

Rep. Townsend not seeking reelection

Representative Ronnie Townsend announced recently that he would not seek reelection to the South Carolina House of Representatives District 7 seat. District 7 covers the southern part of Anderson County and a part of Abbeville County. Representative Townsend has served as Chairman of the Anderson County Legislative Delegation since 1988 and Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee since 1994.

“I thank my wonderful wife and family for the support and help they have given me through the years. Without their love, encouragement and support I could not have been elected and continued to serve in this position. I feel that it is time for me to step down and allow someone else to experience being the House member for our wonderful district. I have been blessed in this experience far beyond my initial expectations of entering this office and will always be grateful to the many friends who have helped me. I will continue working for my community, county and state in any capacity I can.”

Representative Townsend expresses his appreciation to the people of House District 7 for their support, encouragement, and help since his election to the House in 1984. “I can never express the grateful feelings I have and the respect I have for the people who have worked with me, for me and voted for me through the years. I hope and pray that I have been the type of legislator the people expected me to be. I will always cherish the friendships of the many individuals I have worked with for our area.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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