News Archive

(1207) Week of March 21, 2007

Financial inaccuracies, providing sewer services top discussions
Williamston officials consider allowing sewer systems to hook on
Park committee members appointed
Few residents show for forum

Disputed taxes fund turnout gear
Better communication with school district among goals set by county
County to proceed with impact fee study
Seems to Me . . . The (solid waste) game

Financial inaccuracies, providing sewer services top discussions

During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council discussed adding two sewer treatment systems to the current system, discussed financial inaccuracies, the town’s cannon and numerous other issues.

During the meeting which lasted more than four hours, Council was presented with an agenda of 22 items and added one that was inadvertently left off. Eight of the 23 items were either tabled or discussed in an executive session that lasted for over an hour.

A familiar issue was raised as Councilmen Marion Middleton, Jr.   and Carthel Crout expressed concerns that they are not receiving a monthly financial statement.

Mayor Phillip Clardy acknowledged that a statement could be made available daily, but it would not be accurate. He said that the town is in the process of changing computer software and hiring a bookkeeper. Until then the statements would not give an accurate report or breakdown for each department.

The bottom line is correct he said, but allocations to individual departments may be off.

Crout said the situation was causing problems for department heads with budgeting because they do not have accurate figures to work with.

Health Insurance was one of the biggest expenditures not being reflected properly, according to Crout.

“I haven’t gotten a financial statement since January,” Crout said. “I haven’t gotten one since I’ve been on council.”

Clardy said the statement provided would be marked as preliminary and the figures would change. He said the system would be accurate, “When the system is transitioned and a bookkeeper is on board. You have reduced the staff by half and have four times the work.”

Clardy also said that shared expenses between departments were another part of the problem.

Responding to Crout’s request, the mayor said, “To what point of accuracy?”

Council unanimously approved receiving the statements every day.

There was also some discussion concerning issues with check requisition procedures.

Council voted unanimously to proceed with looking into the feasibility  of allowing a developer to install a pump station and connect onto the town’s waste water treatment system.

Developer Joel Hammond requested the town consider allowing a proposed sewer system and new lift station connect to the town system. If approved, the agreement will allow twice as many homes to be built on property located off Mill St. which Hammond plans to develop.

Council was also asked to entertain a request to allow the Forest Hills subdivision, which has its own sewer treatment facility, to hook onto the town’s sewer system.

Steve Goldie, of Goldie and Associates, presented a request by Jacob Utilities, which operates the small waste water treatment facility service serving the residents of the subdivision located just outside the town’s city limits.

Feasibility studies will be conducted on both requests. (See separate story this issue)

At the request of Councilman Carthel Crout, the town will request Duke Power show where all of the town’s meters are located.

“We need to have responsibility for the bills we are paying,” Crout said.

Councilman Middleton said the town had recently purchased a GPS lap top system which can be used to locate all meters, water cut off valves, fire hydrants and eventually put together an infrastructure map for the town.

Council also unanimously approved $47,000  for purchasing a new tractor for the street department.

The Case 570 MXT tractor will replace a 1993 and a 1994 tractor that need expensive repairs.

According to Street Department Head John Owen, the two tractors need approximately $10,324 in repairs and are only valued at $6000.

Council approved allowing an agreement with the Anderson County Museum that will provide renovation and display of the town’s historic civil war cannon.

According to Councilman Middleton, under the agreement the cannon will be restored, a carriage will be built by the Amish, and then it will be on display for four to five years.

With written notice, the town could move the cannon for special events or  “to show it off.”

Until the issue with the local guard is resolved, the cannon will remain in the custody of the Williamston police department.

Other actions taken by Council were:

* Council approved a request made by Kempie Shepard to allow use of the park amphitheater for a sunrise service at 8 a.m. on April 8.

* Council approved a request by Shepard to allow a room at the Municipal Center to be used for a food storage pantry.

* Council members will hold a work shop to go over job descriptions. No date was set.

* Council will be conducting an interview process on March 27 for the bookkeeper position.

*Council unanimously approved paying the recently rehired grant writer the same salary as before, $1250 per month.

* Council announced appointment for the newly formed park committee.

The committee will be responsible for coming up with a list of repair projects needed in Mineral Spring Park and Brookdale Park.

Committee members include the town’s parks and recreation director, Dale Martin; the Spring Water Committee chairman, David Meade; and appointees by Council including Kempie Shepard, Jim Davis, Walt Smith, Steve Ellison and Dianne Lollis. Staggered terms were set later in the meeting.

* Four consecutive items on the agenda were tabled because the town’s attorney would not be at the meeting until later.

* Tabled were the vandalism ordinance (unanimously approved at the end of the meeting), painting the water tower, development capacity usage (tabled to April 2) and discussion on overtime/comp time.

* The agenda item on issues concerning costs associated with the parks security system was to be discussed (under contract issues) in executive session. Mayor Clardy also said he had requested a representative be at the April 2 meeting.

* Council unanimously approved a motion by Councilman Crout to have the grant writer position answer to and receive direction from the town council.

* There was brief discussion of the tax status of groups involved in projects with the town, but no action was taken.

* Council approved allowing the Williams Family Cemetery Committee to use the historic depot for fundraising a music event.

Prior to going into executive session, Council voted 3-2 to allow a vote on municipal judges on the agenda, Councilmen Middleton and Crout were opposed.

Items mentioned during the meeting that were to be discussed in executive session included a commercial trash pickup issue and Big Creek Hammond.

Upon returning to open session, Council approved second reading on the vandalism ordinance.

Councilman Middleton appointed Jim Davis to the Park Committee.

Staggered terms were assigned to the park committee members with Shepard, Smith and Davis serving three year terms. Ellison, and Lollis will serve two year terms.

Williamston officials consider allowing sewer systems to hook on

The Town of Williamston is in the process of looking for alternatives to the sewer treatment lagoons currently used by the town which eventually discharge into the Saluda River.

The town’s consultants, Goldie and Associates, is  negotiating for a loan/grant with Rural Development Authority (RDA) and planning for a land application process that will meet ever tightening DHEC standards.

The Town is also in the process of working out a capacity issue raised more than a year ago by Anderson County.

These two issues could affect whether the town can accept two requests from different developers to provide service to residents and future residents outside of the town limits.

The town is looking into the feasibility of allowing a private sewer system serving residents of Forest Hills subdivision and whether to allow a developer to connect a system proposed for property off Mill St. to hook onto the town’s waste water treatment system.

In both cases, the system owners will build pump stations and run lines, at their own expense, to connect with the town’s current system.

Developer Joel Hammond requested the town consider allowing a proposed sewer system and new lift station to connect to the town system. The system will serve an undeveloped  property, known as the grinder property, which was sold by the town last year.

If approved, the agreement will allow twice as many homes to be built on the property as could be built if septic tanks are required, officials said.

According to Steve Goldie, of Goldie and Associates, who is negotiating with the developer, Hammond offered to pay for construction of a new pump station that would be necessary.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said that the town will need to consider the waste water treatment capacity issue before deciding if the town can accept the additional capacity.

He said there are other questions that will need to be addressed including providing sewer service to customers located outside the town limits and any other associated costs.

During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Councilmen unanimously agreed to allow the parties concerned to look into the feasibility of the request with final approval to be made by Council.

Council was also asked to allow the Forest Hills subdivision, which has its own sewer treatment facility, to hook onto the town’s sewer system.

Steve Goldie, of Goldie and Associates, presented a request by Jacob Utilities, which operates the small waste water treatment facility service serving the residents of the subdivision located just outside the town’s city limits.

The company is proposing construction of a pump station, at no cost to the town, which will pump to the nearest manhole.

Depending on fees set by the town, and at the current flow of 32,000 gallons per day, the agreement will result in an annual income of $12,276 for the town, Goldie said. If additional houses are constructed in the area, at buildout, revenues could amount to $29,247, goldie said.

According to Goldie, Jacob Utility will bill the individual customers. The town will send one bill directly to Jacob Utility based on  reading from a new flow meter which will be installed to monitor flow into the town system.

Goldie said Jacob Utility customers are currently paying $38.50 for sewer. The utility company is approved by the Public Service Commission for a fee of up to $54, he said.

“DHEC is clamping down on discharge and the facility will not be adequate for  future permits and associated upgrade costs,” Goldie said. “Residents will be faced with a larger bill. The town would realize an income to treat that waste water.”

A feasibility study will be done on the project and is expected to be presented at the April 2 meeting.

Goldie and Associates is also looking into whether Anderson County will allow the necessary capacity to be applied to their reserved capacity. The county has 300,000 gallons of capacity reserved in the Williamston sewer treatment facility. There could also be associated charges that will  have to be paid to Anderson County, Mayor Clardy said.

Clardy and Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. both expressed concerns of the impact of adding additional capacity to the current facility while the town is working with RDA on the town’s fiuture treatment plans.

The Town is planning to fund and develop an alternative treatment and disposal method called land application. The plans call for the town’s 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.

Town officials are awaiting approval of the plan by the relative agencies including  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.

Park committee members appointed

Williamston Town Council appointed seven members to a new committee that will oversee park improvements in the town’s two parks.

The committee will be responsible for coming up with and prioritizing a list of projects and repairs in Mineral Spring Park and Brookdale Park.

Committee members will include the town’s parks and recreation director, Dale Martin and the Spring Water Committee chairman, David Meade.

Appointees by Council members including Kempie Shepard, Jim Davis, Walt Smith, Steve Ellison and Dianne Lollis.

Staggered terms were assigned to the committee members with Shepard, Smith and Davis serving three year terms, Ellison, Meade, Martin, and Lollis will serve two year terms.

Few residents show for forum

By Stan Welch

A public forum held last in Williamston week to review the results of air quality testing done in and around the Gatewood subdivision drew as many Town Council members as it did residents. Two couples from the neighborhood, which was the scene of the controversial dumping of landfill leachate beginning last year, were on hand to hear the results of the testing conducted by Goldie & Associates.

Council members Marion Middleton, Jr., Otis Scott, and Carthel Crout, as well as Mayor Phillip Clardy , were also on hand.

What they heard were the results of less than eight hours of testing, done on a single day, last August. Sonya Harrison and Bob Mussro, of Goldie & Associates, the Town’s wastewater engineers, reported that there is no health hazard associated with the strong smells that residents complained about all last summer.

That information was of scant comfort to the residents, who reported that the smell was unusually bad just the night before the public forum. “If you had tested last night, you would have gotten different readings, I guarantee you,” said James Bowman, who has led the residents in their push for testing and information.

Mussro explained that the testing was scheduled for the best conditions possible to get accurate results. “ A number of conditions affect the readings, including temperature and wind and other things. It cost $5600 to test that one night, and we simply didn’t get a strong smell that night. But we still gathered a great deal of information.”

The study draws a distinction between compounds found in either the leachate or the wastewater in the plant, and compounds which are airborne or occur in the surrounding environment. For example, some of the compounds detected by the test canisters occur only as gases, and so could not be present in the leachate or wastewater.

Eight compounds of interest were found. Most are not listed by the appropriate agencies as cancerous, whether breathed or ingested, at the levels detected. One of those compounds, acetaldehyde, was detected at levels that were borderline toxic, but the highest concentrations of that compound were found upwind from the treatment plant, indicating that another source is responsible for the high levels. Acetaldehyde was not found in the leachate or wastewater.

Mussro said that acetaldehyde is listed as possibly cancerous, but not at the levels detected. “The levels are three or four times less than the minimum for cancerous impacts. There is no cancer risk at these levels.” He did add that the compound is capable of causing irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory system. Those are some of the effects mentioned last summer by area residents.

Mussro also conceded that one day of testing is less than comprehensive. He suggested using a more simple and inexpensive test that could be put in place quickly enough to target days when the smell is heaviest. Councilman Middleton asked if Town employees could be trained to conduct the simpler tests, thereby cutting both expense and response time. Mussro assured him they could.

According to the town’s figures, Allied Waste, Inc. had paid the Town approximately $14,600 in January and February for dumping of leachate into the treatment system.

Disputed taxes fund turnout gear

By Stan Welch

The Piedmont Fire Commission wasted little time in putting to use a fair part of more than $100,000 in back taxes which it recently received from MetalCraft, Inc.The taxes, which had been in dispute, actually totaled more than $113,000. Senator Billy O’Dell was instrumental in helping to resolve the dispute and obtaining payment of the monies.

Commissioner Frankie Garrett also pointed out that Don Rawls had been working towards a solution for some time as well. “He did do a lot of work on it,” agreed Commissioner Al McAbee, who made several requests for equipment to be paid for with some of the tax receipts. Chairman Ed Poore also agreed, saying, “It is the official position of this Commission to pat anyone who had anything to do with getting this money on the back.”

Commissioner Garrett made a motion that $100,000 of the funds be used to pay on the fire truck debt service. The motion was defeated when it failed to receive a second.

McAbee requested that funds for three sets of turnout gear be reserved until the volunteers are recruited and brought into the department. The gear, which costs $2370 per man, will not be purchased until then because it is size specific equipment. Turnout gear is the heavy protective clothing worn by firefighters, such as helmets, boots, coats and other items. The request was approved.

McAbee then asked that forty new Plexron toll out receivers be purchased to equip everyone in the department. The pagers now used by all but a few high ranking members of the department take from two to four minutes to toll out the firemen after the call for assistance is received at the station. The handful of “new” units which provide instant notification to the user are twenty years old, and outdated, said McAbee.

The cost for the forty new units, which would provide instant notification to every member of the department, and which are verbal, and not alphanumeric, is $339 per unit. McAbee also asked that ten Motorola walkie talkies with mikes be purchased to allow for communication with units inside buildings. Those ten units cost a total of $5600. After adding extended warranties at a total cost of $1520, the final cost of the new communications equipment came to $21,813.00.

Commissioner Bobby Stover amended McAbee’s motion for funding to include a toll out receiver for any Commissioner who wanted one. “I have a pager now, but it won’t work once they changeover. I’d like one of the new units so I can keep up with what’s going on with the firemen,” said Stover. Chairman Poore said that the Chairman, whoever it night be, should have one. Every commissioner except Marsha Rogers chose to get one, bringing the final cost to $23,169.

The last request by McAbee was for funding for two new portable defibrillators to be carried on the two  pumper trucks. The current units the department uses no longer meet ISO and other professional standards. The units cost $2350 each. Commissioner Garrett wondered why two were needed. Chief Tracy Wallace explained that most departments have one on every response vehicle they use. “We can’t afford five of these, but I think we can afford two. And I think we can get by with two. But they are very useful. Someone could have a heart attack in this meeting, and need one of these units.”

Council approved the request, with Garrett opposing.

Following the various purchase approvals, Stover made a motion to take the remaining money and spend it on paying the fire truck debt service down. After some discussion, the motion was defeated 3-2, with Stover and Garrett voting for the motion, and McAbee, Rogers and Poore voting against.

 The Commissioners spent considerable time debating how or whether to advertise for bids on the lawn maintenance contract, as well as how much grass should be cut to begin with. Garrett wanted to have the firemen cut the grass at the fire stations, and he also reported that the Commission probably had no legal right to cut grass along the SCDOT right of way on Highway 86.

Following discussion of whether or not the firemen are supposed to cut the grass at the stations, Chairman Poore pointed out that a review of the Commission’s policy manual is coming up soon. “Why don’t we address the issue of the firemen’s duties at that time?”

By a 3-1 vote, the portion of the bids dealing with the fire stations was left in for consideration.

The portion of the bid request dealing with cutting along Highway 86 was removed from the request, with Garrett, Stover and McAbee voting to remove it.

Stover raised the issue of the cost of advertising the bids in the Greenville newspaper, saying, “That costs three or four hundred dollars right there. There’s some state publication I think we can advertise it in, too. I’ll check into that and see what it costs.” There was some confusion over whether the Commission has a set policy on advertising bids. There was general agreement that the process of advertising the bids has been going on for many years.

The issue of whether and how to advertise was finally settled by a decision to advertise the bids on the sign board out front of the main fire station, and to explore the costs of advertising in various publications.

 It was also decided to make it a part of the specifications be that whoever used any pesticides or lawn chemicals would have to be licensed to do so, although not necessarily through the contractor. “They just need to be able to produce a license if they are spraying. But it shouldn’t have to be in the company’s name” said Stover.

In other business, a motion was made to seek bids on windows to replace those in the small gym that are leaking and damaging the floor. The original bids were to simply board up the old windows and stop the leaks, but Garrett said that windows might be available for a price comparable to or lower than the bid for the repairs. All agreed that it was worth exploring the possibility. Repairs to the floor itself will be delayed until the leaks are dealt with, one way or the other, said Chief Wallace. “It doesn’t make any sense other wise.”

Council also voted to send a written expression of appreciation to Doug Eller, of Piedmont Industrial Coating, who refinished the floors of the fire station bays at no cost to the department. “They did a good job and it looks real good, too,” said Garrett.

In other business, Commissioner Stover again made a motion that the Commissioners forfeit their pay and return the money to the fire department. Again, the motion died from a lack of a second.

A budget workshop will be held on April 12th at 6 p.m. The next regular meetingof the Commission was rescheduled for 7 p.m. on April 23rd instead of the 16th, to accommodate a conflict in schedule for Mr. Poore.

Better communication with school district among goals set by county

By Stan Welch

In a day-long retreat Monday, the Anderson County Council  set a number of goals, including achieving better communications with the local school districts; being more aggressive in telling the County delegation their wishes; seeking alternate sources of revenue; promoting local agriculture as an aspect of economic development; and exploring the need for employee raises in the near future.

District Six Councilman Ron Wilson suggested offering economic incentives to local agriculture concerns that would be on a par with those offered to industries that come to the county.

“This may be difficult to incorporate into economic development, but I don’t see why small local farmers can’t receive the same advantages as a business coming in. This is a growing trend towards localizing markets for farmers. Some school districts around the state require that the schools buy their produce and such from local farmers whenever possible. Anderson is still a very rural and farm oriented county.”

Chairman Waldrep agreed in principle, but pointed out that many of the incentives for industry are established and supported by the state. “We may find it difficult to easily translate those incentives to agriculture, but certainly, we should look into it. Perhaps we should talk with our county delegation about doing something at the state level.”

Wilson went a step further, saying, “I think we need to pass resolutions letting our delegation know exactly what we want. We need to be aggressive in communicating our wishes to them. Let’s go on the record and let them know what we want.”

During the discussion of the county’s financial goals, one of which is to pass a budget that doesn’t raise taxes, the constant question of increased taxes versus prudent spending once again arose.

Councilwoman Gracie Floyd was persistent in her efforts to leave the option of increased taxes open, while Chairman Waldrep and District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson were concerned with efficiency and accountability.

County financial analyst Gina Humphreys referred to several steps taken by the state legislature that impact county revenues, such as the vehicle ratchet down reductions on taxes on cars, trucks, motorcycles, heavy duty trucks and boats. She explained that the vehicle tax cuts cost the county the equivalent of six and a half mils per year in revenues.

District Three Councilman Larry Greer decried those reductions, saying that they effectively ate up any revenues that were generated by growth within the county.

Still, Waldrep and Wilson persisted in expressing their preference for no tax increases. Floyd agreed they should be as a last resort, but tried mightily to leave the option open in the language of the Council’s expressions of its goals.

“We are all afraid to talk about raising taxes, much less doing it. We are all afraid,” said Floyd. Waldrep disagreed, saying, “I am not afraid to raise taxes. I am terrified.”

District Five Councilman Michael Thompson added that every recent effort to find additional revenues, such as the proposed one cent sales tax to fund road work, the proposal to increase the county’s percentage retained from FILOT revenues, and the issue of impact fees have all been voted down.

 “We say we don’t want to raise taxes, but we’re trying to have our cake and eat it too. We have to find some alternatives.” Ron Wilson agreed, saying, “I’m not the kind of guy who’s likely to vote for a property tax increase, but everything else is on the table as far as I’m concerned.”

Waldrep reiterated that prudence has a large part in the process. “We shouldn’t raise taxes unless we just absolutely have to. We need to look below the surface on these things and be sure that the money we have now is spent wisely. Everyone wants to just move forward but looking back at things can help us in several ways to plan better.” 

District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson again questioned the need for and the wisdom of constructing the Beaverdam sewer line, citing the surplus capacity available at the Six and Twenty wastewater treatment plant.

“That plant is only treating eighty thousand gallons a day, yet they have allocated four hundred thousand gallons per day in capacity. If that capacity is committed to users who aren’t using it, that capacity is a marketable commodity. We should sell it to someone who will use it.”

County sewer consultant Dewey Pearson replied that the Six and Twenty plant is the only treatment plant that is so underutilized.

“We have allocated far more than we are treating at that plant, but Raven Mills was taken off that line and moved to a different plant because some of their dyes were causing some treatment problems.”

Wilson pressed her case, saying that the need for capacity was part of the County’s justification for building Beaverdam.

“Could we get the updated figures on daily flows and allocations to the various treatment plants? I would like to review those and see exactly where we are,” she asked.

Wilson’s persistence finally caused District Four Councilman Bill McAbee, whose district uses the Six and Twenty plant, to say, “You seem willing to use all of my capacity in order to avoid building Beaverdam.”

Wilson responded. “When you get anywhere close to your capacity, you will have my vote to expand the plant.” 

Jim Longshore, of BP Barber, the county’s sewer engineers, said that Beaverdam may not have had customers at the time of construction being started, but it was being built to provide infrastructure for the future.

District Five Councilman Michael Thompson then spoke up, saying “Well then let’s build on out Highway 24 in my District. It will boom out there once we do. People beg me all the time to get the lines extended.”

Wilson then addressed sewer issues in the several small towns in District Seven. She finally got a promise from Pearson and Longshore to at least look into the two year old proposal to run a line from the Pelzer/West Pelzer area through Williamston, and Belton to Honea Path. From there, the line would run to Ware Shoals, where an eight million gallon a day treatment plant is currently treating less than a million gallons a day.

“Honea Path says the price for treating a thousand gallons at that plant would be about seventy seven cents. I think we need to explore that,” said Wilson.

In discussing administrative and financial matters, Gina Humphreys said that the target of the administration was to get third reading approval of the budget at the first meeting in May.

“We hope to present the budget for first reading at the first April meeting,” she said.

Chairman Waldrep, who represents District One, asked if the Council had met with the County delegation yet this year. “We really need to do that so we can pass our wishes along to them.”

Humphreys also announced that the County had recently retained its AA bond rating, and bids for county bonds on the Kroger project had come in at 3.79%.

County to proceed with impact fee study

By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Council meeting Tuesday night began with an announcement by Sheriff David Crenshaw that the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office has joined a handful of other sheriff’s departments in the Palmetto State which have received national accreditation.

A little over two hours later, County Administrator Joey Preston informed Council that the Sheriff was seeking an additional $445,000 in operating costs for the detention center for the remainder of the budget year.

In between those two announcements, a number of things occurred, including Chairman Bob Waldrep ruling Councilwoman Gracie Floyd out of order after Floyd repeatedly interrupted his questioning of county financial analyst Gina Humphreys.

The tensions began building early in the evening, as Chairman Waldrep changed the agenda by bringing a previous resolution to authorize a feasibility study of impact fees back to the floor for discussion. The resolution, originally offered by District Six  (D6) Councilman Ron Wilson, had been tabled at an earlier meeting.

Once returned to the floor for discussion, by a 4-3 vote which saw District 5 Councilman Michael Thompson join Waldrep and Council members Ron Wilson and Cindy Wilson in the prevailing vote, the proposal invoked lively debate.

That alliance, still on wobbly legs, would be tested by a series of amendments to the resolution offered by the opponents of the study. Those opponents included Council members Floyd, Greer and McAbee.

The first amendment to the resolution was offered by District 4 Councilman Bill McAbee,  who repeated a concern expressed at an earlier meeting. “I just don’t like to see us spending a bunch of money to begin the process of implementing a new tax. I think Council should meet with an expert on these fees, or even the person who wrote the state law dealing with these fees.”

District 2 Councilwoman Gracie Floyd then announced that such a study would cost $100,000. “We should meet with the various stakeholders first and see if we can work something out.”

District 7 Councilwoman Wilson challenged the $100,000 estimate, asking where it came from. Floyd said it was based on information provided by Councilman McAbee, who in turn said it was derived from studies done in Lancaster County. Ron Wilson said that McAbee was trying to stall the process. “I would ask that this resolution not be amended, but voted on so that we can move forward.”

 District 3 Councilman Larry Greer said that there are several ways to raise taxes, including out in the open, and that he would prove at a later date that impact fees are in fact taxes. Ron Wilson then said that two of his colleagues were suffering short terms memory loss. “Tom Martin explained the difference between a fee and tax to us yesterday. I thought it was very clear.” (Editor’s note: At the Council retreat Monday, county attorney Tom Martin did explain that fees are applied specifically to those using the service, while taxes are applied to the general population.)

The motion to initiate the meeting before voting on the resolution was defeated by a 3-4 vote, with Greer, Floyd and McAbee voting for it. Greer then immediately made a motion to limit the cost of the study to ten thousand dollars. Councilman Ron Wilson said that the effort was obviously to strangle the attempt to conduct a study by imposing such a limit on the cost. The amendment was defeated by the same alliance as before.

Greer then amended the resolution to send the proposal to the finance committee  for study.

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, a member of that committee, said that there was a  reluctance within the committee to discuss the “nuts and bolts” of the county’s finances. “What makes you think we’ll get a real study of the study, so to speak?”

Floyd took offense to Wilson’s statements, saying that the committee had met and done what Chairman Waldrep had asked. “I don’t want it to be said that this committee, under my leadership, did not do what we were supposed to do,” said Floyd. The issue of the committee and Floyd’s leadership would arise again.

The amendment was defeated by a 3-4 vote, with no votes on either side moving. Finally, after attorney Martin explained that the resolution had to be passed to authorize the study, which had to be done in order to progress to the possible adoption of an ordinance, the resolution itself was voted on. The vote was 4-3 in favor of the study. The voters on each side of the issue remained unchanged.

Under the next item on the agenda, Councilwoman Wilson then presented Councilwoman Floyd with some letters she had referred to two meetings ago. The letters had been referred to as having been sent to Council raising serious allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the central dispatch office. Floyd had said that she had never received such letters, even though one of them was addressed to her when she was the Chairwoman. Upon receiving them from Wilson, Floyd waved them around saying they were “old news” and challenging Wilson to produce something new.

Ms. Wilson then moved to the next agenda item, the issue of fund transfers and the proper procedures for the Council’s notification of any transfers over $2500 in value within 30 days of that transfer. She cited approximately $1.6 million in transfers that remained unreported from late June of 2006 till just a couple weeks ago, She asked that the Chair obtain the working papers used by external auditor Elliott Davis in conducting their study of the County’s transfer system.

Waldrep agreed to do so, but added that a motion made by Councilman Greer and passed by Council at the last meeting, requiring prior notice of such transfers, would address many of the problems Wilson claims exist.

ACOG director Steve Pellisier and Assistant Director Joe Newton then appeared to give their annual report to the County. According to the figures provided by ACOG, each dollar that the County invested in ACOG last year returned $119 dollars. More than two million dollars were loaned to new and expanding businesses in the county, while similar loans spurred an additional four million plus dollars in private investment.

Grant funds were also obtained for housing rehabilitation programs in Anderson and Belton. Williamston, Pelzer, and West Pelzer all availed themselves of the assistance provided as part of the Small Towns program.

Councilman Michael Thompson introduced an ordinance that would require ordinances addressed by Council to be reconsidered at the meeting at which third reading takes place. Failing that, any reconsideration of an ordinance, which requires three readings and approvals to be passed, would also require three readings to be changed.

The ordinance offered by Thompson was in response to the circumstances late last year and earlier this year which saw the County’s blue laws abolished, reinstated and abolished again, all within three months. The ordinance offered Tuesday night received first reading approval by a vote of 4-3, with Waldrep and both members Wilson opposing it.

It was during  the Council members’ remarks that Councilwoman Floyd asked to give a report from the finance committee which she chairs. She again stated that her committee had done what Chairman Waldrep had asked.

“We have met and looked at producing some documents that will help Council keep up with the finances,” said Floyd.

Waldrep, however, wanted to ask county financial analyst Gina Humphreys some questions about what kind of information would be included in the forms. Humphreys said that the proposed reporting form would be an executive summary, which “will let you get your arms around what is going on from month to month.  A budget to actual comparison is difficult to do than it looks because of the nature of government accounting..”

Waldrep asked her if the reporting form she was talking about would include all fund transfers in excess of $2500. She replied that the results of the transfers would be shown, as a debit from one account and a credit to another account, but that the actual transfer itself wouldn’t appear as such.” You’ll see the result, but not the actual underlying document. Fund transfers are brought to Council’s attention now in the administrator’s report.”

The County budget ordinance requires that the administrator inform Council within 30 days of any fund transfers in excess of $2500.

Councilwoman Wilson has consistently challenged Preston on that issue, saying that he routinely fails to meet that requirement. A recent study of the County’s performance in that regard, conducted by external auditor Elliott Davis, reports that more than $1.6 million in transfers went unreported during the period between June of 2006 and two weeks ago.

Councilman Ron Wilson asked Humphreys if a fund transfer like the ones used to address the Sheriff’s deficit would appear in such a report. She said it would not. “Cash advances are not a budget transfer. There is no mechanism currently in place to report that.”

Following further discussion. Waldrep said, “I would ask that these transfers of funds be marked as such no matter how the money is moved. That’s not a problem is it Gina?”

Humphreys replied that such a report would be burdensome.” The answer clearly displeased the Chair. “I asked you that very question two months ago. What was your response at that time? I asked you because I wanted to know if it would require additional manpower or a new computer or something like that. You said it would present no problem.”

Humphreys replied that she was unaware of the scope of what Waldrep was asking at the time, to which he replied that he thought they were parsing words.

Floyd then interrupted to ask if he would like for the committee to meet again. “We can take this back and look at it again, if you want us to, but we have done what we were asked to do.”

Waldrep responded. “Ms. Floyd, at your pleasure. Do what you wish. But I am trying to ask Ms. Humphreys some questions, and I would respectfully ask that you would allow me the latitude to do that.” As Floyd continued to speak and defend the committee’s work, Waldrep said, “At this time, I rule you out of order, Ms. Floyd.”

The Chairman and Ms. Humphreys agreed to meet and let her explain some of the issues to him, and other members if they wished. Ms. Floyd reminded the Chair again that she had been appointed chair of the finance committee and would like to be at that meeting as well. Waldrep smiled and said, “Ms. Floyd, you will be as welcome as the flowers in May”, to which she retorted, “I don’t find your little attacks on me to be funny. So stop them unless I’m being funny with you.” Waldrep assured her “I will never be funny with you again, Ms. Floyd.” At that point Councilman Greer requested a brief recess.

Seems to Me . . . The (solid waste) game

By Stan Welch 

As many of you know, I moved here from the coast, near Myrtle Beach. At the time I left there, I had a monthly newspaper that dealt with hunting and fishing and environmental issues. We got into county politics a little bit.

Horry County is where I first learned how lucrative and dirty the business of solid waste management can be. I got interested because a woman named Amelia Woods called me one day and said that until the week before, she had worked for the Horry County Solid Waste Authority, and she had some things to tell me. Boy, did she!

Mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, bribery, corruption, there was something for everyone. For the next four years, I dug and I tugged and I read minutes and filed FOIA requests, and I got followed at night and offered everything from money to a good old fashioned butt whupping.

But at the end of that time, the chairman of the Authority’s board, who, among other things, had sold the Authority thirty five acres of family swamp land for a million dollars, resigned after being defeated in an election to replace him. As a measure of his family’s political clout, he remains unindicted at this time. Another board member, who did the chairman’s hatchet work, also resigned at the same time. That’s the guy who invited me to go deer hunting with him. I would have gone but I couldn’t figure out what the cross on the back of my safety orange hunting vest was for. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t religious in nature.

So I wasn’t very surprised to hear from an old friend in Horry County last week, who told me that Waste Management had generously hauled several County Council members to a Carolina Panthers game in a limousine late last season. Wining and dining, and all expenses paid. Did some envelopes change hands, oh say around Rock Hill somewhere? I don’t know, but Waste Management, like the other big boys in solid waste, could easily fill the limo with cash, much less a few envelopes.

That information came to light recently when it was revealed that those same Council members had voted in favor of slacker requirements on solid waste companies wanting to build transfer stations in Horry County.

Now, a transfer station is a nifty little device invented by the solid waste industry to get around any restrictions that a state or county might put on out of state garbage being hauled in. I can’t swear that every state has this cool little loophole, but South Carolina does. What a transfer station does is magically convert every egg shell and rotten head of lettuce that comes here from Charlotte or Atlanta or New Jersey into good old South Carolina garbage.

You see, even South Carolina folks, who never met any waste, solid, liquid or nuclear, that they wouldn’t bury out back for a buck, said that it would cost more than just a buck for that imported garbage. Shoot, even a sandlapper knows imported stuff is more expensive. So the transfer station was created.

That allows garbage to be brought to such a station, like the ones in Duncan or Blacksburg, and transferred, at least theoretically, to another truck before going to the landfill. By passing through that transfer station, the garbage is no longer imported, and no longer subject to the additional fees imposed by the State and the various counties.

Is that cool or what?

Anyway, Horry County was thinking about tightening up some of the regulations and requirements for their transfer stations. But Waste Management, the same waste management company that runs those absolutely bizarre TV commercials which show kids playing on a ball field supposedly built on a closed landfill, didn’t think there was anything wrong with the regulations already in place.

So with part of the several bazillion dollars they made last year, they bought a mess of Panthers tickets and hired one of those limos like Rick Flair rides around in. Then they took those fine Horry County folks, who learn early to stick their hand out whenever someone they don’t know walks up (it is a tourist economy, you know) for a little excursion.

A couple months later, those folks, with a sense of what passes for honor in those circles, returned the favor by voting against those bothersome old regulations. One fellow, with an extremely developed sense of honor, or political survival, actually abstained from the vote, because he had gone on the trip. Wow! And people say there are no heroes anymore.

I was thinking about all this Monday, while I was sitting in the Anderson County Council retreat, listening to the explanation of why the forty dollar annual solid waste fee is probably going to go up to almost sixty dollars. I was also daydreaming about various Council members’ campaign disclosure forms, and all the thousands of dollars they have received and accepted from various Allied Waste bigwigs from Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Some of them even accepted thousand dollar donations from James Swistock and William Zeiche and other aliases and corporate sources, even if they weren’t facing any opposition in those primaries or general elections at the moment. If I was a betting man, I’d bet that those thousand dollar donations that were reported didn’t include any envelopes that might have been, shall we say, hand delivered?

But, hey, seems to me Anderson folks can be proud. Their representatives did a lot better than a couple Panthers tickets. Especially the way the Panthers played last year.

 

 

 

 

 

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