News Archive

(1407) Week of April 4, 2007

Newer mobile homes may be allowed if ordinance is revised
Water, sewer, infrastructure top discussions for Williamston
Town to reinstate commercial trash pickup

Downtown plan being revived
Community Son-Up Service Sunday in Spring Park
Benefit show April 7

Impact fees being discussed, studied
County explores additional fees as they ready for budget discussions
Iva officials not happy with County sewer
Deputies investigate thefts, other incidents

Winthrop relay team wins at Clemson
Seems to Me . . . Old Tricks (The cost of free information)

Newer mobile homes may be allowed if ordinance is revised

A moratorium on allowing mobile homes to be brought into the Town of Williamston may be lifted to allow a dilapidated mobile home to be replaced with a newer model.

Williamston Town Council, at the request of the town’s planning commission, will consider changes to ordinances that will allow the replacement of older mobile homes. Also at the request of the commission, Council hired a codes enforcement official to deal with other problem areas facing the town. Council took the actions Monday night at the request of Planning Commission Chairman Jim Simpson.

Under Simpson’s leadership, the Planning Commissoin has been working with ACOG advisor Chip Bentley on evaluating and revising code ordinances. Simspson stated that the lack of a codes enforcement person has been the greatest obstacle to long term growth for the town. He asked Council to consider hiring Williamston resident Tim Cole as the town’s zoning , planning, and building codes enforcement officer at an annual salary of $3000 per year.

He said that Cole had the certifications and qualifications to  perform the duties and that it would not be a conflict with his current full time position as a codes enforcement inspector with Greenville County.

Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. stated that the town has codes that are enforceable and that Cole can take immediate action on issues involving the zoning ordinance, land use ordinance, sign ordinance and other problems including junk and dilapidated buildings.

Cole said that codes enforcement officials have to be licensed through the state. He said the county should continue building permitting and that codes enforcement would include identifying routine problems such as grass, junk cars, dilapidated structures and some zoning and sign ordinance issues.

Cole said his will be a joint effort with the town police department providing enforcement. He also said that the license he holds does give him the authority to condemn a building.

Simpson stated that additional revenues should be brought in by the efforts of the new codes enforcement officer and will help offset the cost.

Simpson also brought an issue before council concerning replacement of an abandoned mobile home located on West 1st  St. within the town limits. Simpson said that current ordinance does not allow mobile homes to be brought in. He said that allowing a newer mobile home would improve the property.

The current ordinance allows mobile homes to be replaced with stick built homes but it has not been effective in forcing people to remove aging structures according to Simpson.

Simpson requested Council consider allowing the property owner to replace the older home with a  newer mobile home which will have  underpinning and other improvements. He said the planning commission was asking for direction on the issue.

ACOG advisor Joe Newton stated that the town can do anything it wants about the situation, but improvements are currently prohibited by the town ordinance.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said that the town had a moratorium on mobile homes which had been in place for a number of years. Newton said moratoriums were generally temporary while an issue is pending.

The agenda was amended to allow Council to take action on both issues. Council unanimously approved hiring Coles as the town’s codes enforcement officer requiring quarterly reports be made to council.

Council then unanimously agreed to amend the 2007 budget to reflect the increase for the position of $3000.

Council unanimously agreed to have the planning commmission present a model ordinance on mobile homes within the next 30 to 45 days.

Water, sewer, infrastructure top discussions for Williamston

A representative of the sewer consulting firm that is working with the Town of Williamston on their facility upgrade and treatment options said Monday that they are still proposing a regional treatment option to include Pelzer, West Pelzer and residents of Forest Hills subdivision.

Sonya Harrision, of Goldie and Associates, stated that her firm is offering a package to Pelzer and West Pelzer as an alternative to their current plan to hook onto Western Carolina Sewer Authority.

She said that the option would be cost beneficial to the towns. Because Williamston has preeligibility by RDA to upgrade the plant and go with a proposed land application plan, RDA is supportive of expanding the town’s customer base to help pay for the upgrades.

Pelzer and West Pelzer are  working under an RDA grant and DHEC mandate to construct lines and pump their sewer to Western Carolina for treatment.

Harrision asked Williamston officials to approve a feasibility study of the plan and the benefit to all three towns.

Harrisonn aske for Williamston to support one third of the total cost of $8750, or $2917.

Harrison said that DHEC was not supportive of the option before because there was already a plan for Pelzer and West Pelzer to go to Western Carolina, but she said DHEC officials are now more supportive.

Harrison said that the package will be presented to RDA and DHEC officials to consider the alternative plan.

According to Harrison,  Williamston will proceed with the land application plan regardless of whether the other two towns join because the preengineering and environmental permits are already approved.

Harrison said that West Pelzer officials are concerned with DHEC and that she is meeting with Pelzer officials on April 13 to discuss the alternative plan.

According to Harrison, DHEC officials said that they “would consider any alternatives to get Pelzer and West Pelzer out of the sewer business.”

Harrison said that the plan would also need the approval of the Saluda River Basin Planning Authority.

“It would be a significant cost savings to all three towns,” she said.

Responding to a question by Councilman Carthel Crout, Harrison said that a feasibility study approved last year was not done because DHEC intervened and said they would not support an alternative.

Harrison said that the towns will need to upgrade their lines and deal with infiltration problems.

Acting on a motion by Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr., council approved appropriating their share of the study if the other towns do so.

Harrison also answered questions raised at a previous Council meeting concerning the Forest Hills subdivision sewer proposal.

She said that the town doesn’t have any capacity left in the facility and that any additions to the town’s treatment would be allowed through reserved capacity belonging to Anderson County.

According to Harrison, the County has 270,000 gallons available.

She stated that her company has a vebal approval with Anderson County to allow Jacob Utility a portion of their unused capacity.

She also stated that there would be some incidental costs of treatment and to pump additional flow through the screw pumps at the treatment facility.

Under the agreement, the town will bill Anderson County, the county will bill the utility company, which will continue to bill their customers.

As far as effects on RDA funding promised to the town, Harrison said that adding the Forest Hills residents would spread the sewer customer base and RDA officials encourage spreading costs.

According to Harrison, the utility company will pay for a pump station and provide a force main to the town’s system. The town would own the force main line but the utility company could require the utility to maintain it.

She said the  town’s facility would have no trouble treating the additional capacity once the upgrades are done.

Acting on a motion by Councilman Middleton, Council unanimously agreed to accept the waste from Forest Hills with a contract to be drawn up and approved. A public hearing will also be scheduled on the proposal.

In other action, Council unanimously agreed to honor a maintenance contract with Utility Service Company for the town’s water tank on Virginia Drive.

According to information presented at the meeting, the town signed a seven year contract with the company in 2003. The contract can be canceled 90 days prior to the Nov. 3 renewal date each year, according to Town Attorney Richard Thompson.

Although it was not clear how much had been paid and what work had been done, town officials agreed that the contract had been dormant for about three years.

The town has been receiving invoices but has not made payments, according to Mayor Phillip Clardy.

Clardy said that work was halted because there was a question of the ability of the town to take the tank out of service without a back up. There were also concerns with water pressure on the older pipes in the system and the posiblity of not being able to provide water to the town’s residents and mills during the maintenance.

Water and Sewer Department Head Tim Hood said that a new valve could be used to control pressure from the McAlister Road storage tank of Big Creek Water.

There was also discussion on a request by Joel Hammond to allow properties he would like to develop to be linked with the town’s sewer treatment system.

A feasibilty study is still underway by Goldie and Associates which will include a request to Anderson County to allow a  lease or purchase of County capacity on a short term basis until the town’s facility upgrades are complete.

Harrison said that she had spoken with the county and that the details of the capacity issue had to be worked out until the RDA plan is completed.

Harrison said that she would make the request in writing and obtain additional information concerning flow and size from Hammond.

Town to reinstate commercial trash pickup

Williamston Town Council unanimously agreed Monday to reinstate commercial garbage pickup for Williamston businesses.

Under the proposal, the town will pick up two times per week at a monthly cost of $75. The motion made by Councilman Otis Scott included having the dumpsters remain the property of the town with future replacement being the responsibility of the businesses.

The town discontinued the service last year as the result of financial problems and a local commercial hauler stepped in to provide the service.

The local hauler has indicated that he will not be able to continue to provide the service, Mayor Phillip Clardy said.

The town’s Street Department Head John Owen will provide a list of businesses interested in having the town return the service and will determine if additional personnel will be needed.

Owen indicated that the town may not need to hire additional persons to provide the service.

After amending the agenda to allow discussion of a bookkeeper, Council unanimously approved hiring Anita Owens as the town’s Bookkeeper/CPA. Owens’ firm will  work with the town’s treasurer in preparing the town’s accounts for auditing and will be paid $1200 per month for her services. The agreement was for up to one year.

Council then went into an executive session to discuss contract and security issues concerning security camera installation in Mineral Spring Park.

Council had previously discussed a billing discrepancy in which costs associated with installing a security system had additional costs not reflected in the original proposal.

After returning to open session, Mayor Clardy stated that no action was taken, however when a councilman attempted to bring the issue up, Clardy said that a check would be cut.

No additional discussion or action was taken in open session.

The action appeared to be in violation of the state’s FOI as council apparently decided to handle the discrepancy in some form during their executive session discussions.

When asked after the meeting, Mayor Phillip Clardy said that the issue arose because of a misunderstanding between a town employee and the company which the town thought would result in additional installation costs.

He said the issue was discussed in executive session because the council needed to hear it from a company representative.

Though the FOI does allow contract negotiations and specific discussion regarding the development of security devices, the nature of this discussion does not appear to be covered under the provision which states no informal polling about a course of action may be taken in executive session.

Clardy said the only additional cost to the town for the security camera system, other than stated in the contract, would be to provide a trencher.

Council approved a request by the Pelzer Wesleyan Church for use of the park amphitheater and big shelter on Sunday July 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 pm.

Council temporarily turned down a request by Police Chief David Baker to rehire an additional police officer.

Chief Baker asked Council to allow him to hire a much needed officer by shifting present funding in his budget.

He said he could adjust the current budget items of office supplies and uniforms to cover the additional salary.

Citing pending figures which should be available in two to three weeks, Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr., said that the figures Baker based his estimates on were incorrect.

Chief Baker said the force is down to 13 officers and investigations are backing up.

Baker said his department is the only one that has not been allowed to add employees since the cuts made last year.

The 22 officer department was initially cut five positions and then two more.

Council will revisit the issue when the figures are corrected.

Council also approved placing two tractors, a 345D Ford and a 555D Ford up for bid. The town is requiring a minimum bid of $2500 on the smaller tractor and $4500 on the larger one. The tractors are being sold as is.

Council also authorized the new bookkeeper to  formulate a policy on donations and current account standings.

Council approved a request by The Williams Family Cemetery Committee to use the amphitheater and Scout Hut for a fundraiser on April 21.

Council will hold a work session on job descriptions and the budget on Saturday May 5 at 8 a.m.

Council will also meet Monday May 7 and May 21.

The next meeting of  Council will be on Monday, April 16.

Community Son-Up Service Sunday in Spring Park

A community-wide Son-Up Service is planned for Easter Sunday at the amphitheater in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park.

The worship service will begin at 8 a.m. and will last approximately 45 minutes. Rev. John L. Hallman, pastor of the Williamston and Pelzer Presbyterian churches, will deliver the message.

Also participating in the special service will be pastors of the Pelzer and Williamston Methodist Churches.

Everyone in the area is invited to attend this Easter service.

In the event of rain, the service will be at Grace United Methodist Church, Main Street, Williamston.

Last Easter, the Son-Up Service was held outdoors at Pelzer United Methodist Church. The service is an outreach effort of that church, Bethel and Grace United Methodist and the two Presbyterian churches.Easter worship

Benefit show April 7

The ninth annual concert to benefit The Children’s Miracle Network and The Children’s Hospital will be held at the Pelzer Auditorium at 6 p.m. April 7. Organized by local gospel recording artist Catlin Tierce, the event will feature gospel music by the Providence Quartet, The Centurions, DayStar, Vessels of Praise, John Helmuth and Tierce. Hotdog plates will also be available beginning at 11 a.m. All proceeds will go to the Children’s Hospital.

There will also be a Kids Fest with free games and rides for kids at the Pelzer Auditorium that day. An Easter Egg hunt will be held for different age groups beginning at 1 p.m. Under 3 will be a 1 p.m., ages 4-6 at 1:30 p.m., children with special needs at 2 p.m., ages 7 to 9 at 3 p.m. and ages 10 to 12 at 3:30 p.m.

Both events are free. A love offering will be taken at the concert.

Impact fees being discussed, studied

By Stan Welch

Anderson County Council members Bill McAbee (D4) and Larry Greer (D3) launched a preemptive strike against impact fees Tuesday night, sponsoring a forty five minute presentation on the negative aspects of implementing such fees.

Nick Kremydas, CEO of the S.C. Association of Realtors, a lobbying organization, spoke to Council about the various effects of such fees, as his organization sees it.

Among the points he made was the position that such fees encourage sprawl, forcing developers to move to areas where the fees don’t exist. He argued that the fees increase the cost of housing, and that they affect everyone in the district, and not just the newcomers. He also claimed that the fees discourage economic development. He also stated that impact fees can not correct poor planning.

The presentation took place despite the fact that there is currently no formal proposal to implement such fees. Councilman Ron Wilson raised the issue at an earlier Council meeting, and was successful in passing a motion authorizing a study. That is the required first step in the process of creating an ordinance to implement such a fee. Should the proposal become an ordinance, that would require three readings by Council, as well as at least one public hearing.

As Kremydas acknowledged, such fees are very focused in scope and application, and must be used for the specific purpose for which they are implemented.  

In other matters, Council gave third reading approval to a rezoning request for a four acre tract near the intersection of Hwy. 81 and Concord Rd. They also approved a delay in the implementation of reassessment until next year.

An ordinance to change the Council’s Parliamentary procedures concerning the reconsideration of any given issue was defeated by a 3-3-1 vote on second reading, with Councilwoman Gracie Floyd abstaining, and thereby insuring the tie vote.

Council approved several resolutions, including one declaring May as Confederate History Month. Council members Ron Wilson, Bill McAbee, Larry Greer, and Michael Thompson all sponsored that resolution, which passed unanimously.

A resolution encouraging the support of organic farming and sustainable agriculture was introduced by Ron Wilson. “Sustainable agriculture is a fast growing segment of the agriculture industry. In a County such as hours, we need to support this as a part of our economic development effort.” Councilman Greer agreed, saying, “Our number one occupation is agriculture.”

Wilson also introduced a resolution to be sent to the county delegation declaring the Council’s displeasure with unfunded mandates and other legislation that reduces revenues at the local level. The discussion of the resolution, which had the clear approval of the Council, was lively, nevertheless.

Wilson said that tax reform in Columbia means that the County’s revenue streak is being reformed, but not the General Assembly’s. “We need to put them on notice that we are tired of this.”

Larry Greer was even more vehement. “I have talked about this for years. Now, we have a cap of 4.74 % on any increase in millage or operating costs for the County. The General Assembly is taking actions to make themselves look good at the local folks’ expense. I think they intend to destroy local government and destroy home rule.”

There was a somewhat confused discussion of just who to send the resolution to. The final decision was to send a copy to each member of the delegation, of the General Assembly, the Governor, and to each County in the state. A separate resolution to be sent to the U.S. Congress may be considered later.

Chairman Waldrep kept up a quiet pressure on County Administrator Joey Preston to schedule budget workshops and work sessions. 

“We are about to embark upon the great sea of budget. I, for one, like to be fully apprised of developments, and where my fellow Council members are coming from in relation to the budget issues. I am asking that we be creative and innovative in scheduling these sessions.”

During last year’s budget process, which resulted in a last minute compromise that provided the Sheriff with half of his requested increase, the issue of when  Council should be provided with the budget proposal became a point of contention, with several Council members stating their preference for a more considered review of the budget.

County explores additional fees as they ready for budget discussions

By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Council held a called meeting Tuesday to explore options for creating additional revenues. 

Among the items discussed were the manner in which the County shares fees in lieu of  tax revenues with the school districts, a possible road fee to be used to finance infrastructure projects, and an increase in the solid waste fee of almost forty per cent.

County financial analyst Gina Humphreys reported on the results of a survey conducted by the financial staff concerning the manner in which other counties in the state handle their FILOT revenues. According to the survey’s results all but one county in the state uses FILOTs. Thirty six of them share the revenues based directly on the tax levy

Humphreys said that there is a trend in the state towards alternative formulas for distributing the funds. “Seven counties, including Anderson, are moving in that direction,” said Humphreys. “We share more with our schools than all but two other counties,” she added. “After taking fifteen per cent off the top for infrastructure, we share an average of 69% of the remaining revenues with the schools.”

Councilman Ron Wilson was puzzled by that statement, pointing out several counties listed in the report which apparently pay much more than Anderson County, including Greenwood County which shares 80% of their FILOT revenues. Humphreys attempted to reconcile the different figures in the report before conceding that the numbers presented didn’t add up. “I’ll have to look into that, Councilman,” she said. “Those numbers should match. If they don’t, there is an error.”

Chairman Bob Waldrep reported that all the Council members have met with various school districts and their officials. “There has been a good bit of discussion. I think one goal we all agree on is to avoid disrupting their budgets, which are pretty much in place already.”

Waldrep then asked about the proposed increase in the household fee for solid waste. Humphreys explained that the fee was established in 1992, at ten dollars per household, increasing to $25 in 1995, and then to the current rate of $40 in 1996. That amount is per year, and not per month, as Waldrep took pains to point out.

“Bottom line, we need $55 per household to break even on operating costs,” said Humphreys. 

County administrator Joey Preston informed Council that the solid waste department is running a $700,000 deficit. Councilwoman Cindy Wilson asked how much money the host fees from the landfill generate. The figure is in the $600,000 range, according to Humphreys.

“Why don’t we apply that money to the solid waste department?” asked Wilson. Preston replied, “We do apply it to that.”

Wilson then referred to the Keep America (KAB) program, which the County funds to the tune of approximately $254,000. “Why are we using the host fee to support a volunteer organization? If we took that money and the $154,000 we budget to environmental enforcement every year, that would reduce the deficit by more than half.”

Wilson suggested placing litter and animal control under the Sheriff’s Office. 

Preston argued that “We would have to do away with the litter program or raise taxes. Council voted several years ago to make host fees available to KAB.”

Wilson retorted that KAB “even has a vehicle funded at $6000 a year.” She added that “The solid waste fund has been in a deficit mode since 1999.”

Council members Floyd, Greer, and McAbee entered the meeting together at that point, approximately twenty five minutes late. Preston informed Council that 228 tons of materials had been recycled last year. “If you didn’t have the KAB program, you wouldn’t have the volunteers. Shifting this to the Sheriff would be the same as raising taxes a mil.” He added that KAB also funds recycling education.

Wilson would not yield, saying, “The litter program has failed miserably. I don’t see how throwing $250,000 at it is going to help.” She also pointed out that KAB funds recycling to the tune of $3700 a year.

Waldrep pointed out that sometimes the underlying reason for the necessity of such an increase can lie in who is and isn’t paying for the service. “Do charitable organizations pay this fee? What is the fee for commercial businesses?”

Waldrep was informed that if a charitable entity, such as a church, had a parsonage or manse that produced household waste, it would pay the fee for that household, but not for the church. Preston also said that the commercial customers would also experience an increase. They currently pay $50 a year.

The discussion then moved to road fees as a possible source of revenue. County attorney Tom Martin reported that such fees have been ruled legal by the S.C. Supreme Court, adding that the funds generated must be used for roads. The fees can be used in two ways. They can be used to pay for projects as the funds are available, or they can be used to pay off bonds issued in anticipation of the revenues.

Preston reported to the Council that based on department funding requests which have been received from department heads as part of the budget process, the County budget is $8.3 million out of balance as it stands now. Among those requests was a total of new positions at a proposed cost of $1.2 million. There is also a total of $6.1 million in capital requests.

Waldrep reminded the Council that “We have a job to do trying to winnow these requests down, and produce a budget as lean as possible, while maintaining services. I assume it will be a difficult job at best.”

 According to Humphreys, and Preston, as well as several Council members, the restrictions set on the amount that the counties can increase operating expenses or millage ( both are restricted by law at 4.74% of the previous year’s level) makes the job even more difficult.”

For example, the Sheriff’s levy of 30.8 mils can only increase to 32.2 mils, well below the level needed to produce the amounts needed to address the budget of that department. A discussion of the Sheriff’s budget woes ensued, with the major point made being that, while the Sheriff is a Constitutional officer in control of his own budget, the Sheriff will always be linked to the County Council because the Council has to advance him operating funds during the period between the start of the fiscal year in July and the start of tax collections in January.

Councilman Ron Wilson said, “I’m not concerned about the budget. I’m concerned about the part he spent beyond his budget. I’m still trying to understand how the system broke down so badly. We may not be able to tell him how he can spend his budget, but when he comes back for more because he went over, we do have an opportunity to do something then. We had that opportunity when he came to us last time, and we did nothing.”

Preston told Council, “Take this as your notification of fund transfers to the Sheriff. I guarantee you that from June till January this Council will have to advance the Sheriff one twelfth of his budget each month, or he will have no funds to operate.”

The meeting was adjourned in order for Council to prepare for the regular Council meeting which followed.

Downtown plan being revived

By Stan Welch

Efforts to restart a downtown beautification  project in Williamston are now in the hands of the Mayor and the Town Council. 

Tipton Pitts, who originally designed the project, and grant writer and ombudsman Rusty Burns, were in town last week reviewing the project in an effort to revive it. Pitts said that the next and essential step is for the Town Council to approve a survey by Dunn and Associates to precisely define the area to be affected. The cost of the survey would be approximately $5000.

“We obtained the original grant based on GIS data, but to actually proceed, we need a survey on the ground to locate everything,” said Pitts. The grant, known as an ISTEA grant, is to be used for beautification of the downtown area.

The project has lain dormant since last summer because of the serious financial issues the Town faced. Now, as recovery from those financial problems continues, Pitts and Burns hope to see the Town return its attentions, at least partly, to the beautification program.

The project, named Williamston Streetscape, will require some modifications, as a result of the sale of land by the Town last year. The parcel where the historic Town Hall is located was purchased, making plans to build a park there impossible.

Still, Pitts thinks that the majority of concepts included in the original grant application are still viable. “We had suggested street lights, some significant landscaping, and decorative crosswalks, in addition to the park. That is still a workable plan, for the most part. We are hoping to possibly get into rerouting some power lines, but that can be very expensive. We’re just thinking about that at this stage. We need to get approval for the survey before we think too far down the road.”

The Greater Williamston Business Association has been involved in the pursuit of the grant and in supporting the project. 

Burns also mentioned grants that are currently being sought to address some needs in the areas of recreation and law enforcement. “We are pursuing some funding for those departments, and I’m hopeful that we will be getting some good news on that fairly soon,” said Burns.

Burns was recently reinstated as the Town’s grant writer to revive the downtown revitalization project which is seen by many as key to the town’s future.

Iva officials not happy with County sewer

By Stan Welch

The Mayor of Iva, less than a year after his town connected to the sewer line built by Anderson County, has some advice for other small towns and municipalities in similar situations.

“I suggest doing upgrades to your lagoons if it’s at all possible. Keep control of your systems as much as you can”, says Mayor Bobby Gentry. The mayor is clearly disillusioned with several aspects of the Town’s dealings with the County and its contractors, B.P. Barber.

Foremost among the causes of his displeasure is the cost of the services from the County. “They spent $4 million dollars building the sewer line. The idea was that large industrial customers would come to the Iva area, and they would pay most of the costs by using large amounts of water. That hasn’t happened. The County has done nothing for our area in terms of economic development. The Town has managed to attract some smaller businesses, but that was through our own efforts,” said Gentry.

Gentry says the Town is currently using approximately 120,000 gallons per day of the two million gallons a day capacity. The Town, with approximately 700 customers, currently pays $11,000 a month. That figure doesn’t include the rainwater that enters the town’s system and has to be treated as well. “We are paying them $5.31 a thousand gallons. That went up by three cents a thousand before we ever connected, and they didn’t even bother to tell us until we got the bill.”

The Town had already spent more than $2 million dollars trying to upgrade their wastewater lagoons to meet DHEC standards. “This all started before I was elected in 2002. DHEC pressured the Town to close their lagoons. The Town was under a consent order. Some former mayors agreed to things just to get DHEC off their backs.” The sewer line built by the County flows to the Rocky River Wastewater Treatment Plant, which operates well below its permitted capacity.

The first bill received by the Town was for forty six days service. According to Gentry, it was for $40,000. Under the terms of the consent order, the Town still had some time to operate under the lagoon system. Gentry and the Town Council told the County they’d reopen the lagoons rather than pay such high costs. The County, according to Gentry, recalibrated their meters and recalculated the bill.

The Town charges its customer inside the town limits $49.25 a month for water, sewer and sanitation fees. Of that amount, a flat rate of $27.50 is charged for sewer. “We are just about paying the bills at that rate. But we are not putting away contingency funds for emergencies like we should be,” says Gentry. He added that the Town is trying not to increase rates. “But we really need to put something away for an emergency. That’s a real danger.”

In addition to county charges, the Town is still paying off loans they made to upgrade their lagoons. “We pay $3000 a month to Rural Development Association (RDA) for loans we took starting back in 1968. We still owe about $260,000 on four loans we have out.”

Work on closing those lagoons ground to a halt just a month or so after it started. B.P. Barber, which is the County’s sewer line engineering consultant, agreed to close the Town’s lagoons for approximately $190,000.The Town agreed, and work began. The contractor, Belk’s Company, subcontracted the work out to  Miller’s Construction.

According to Gentry, Barber came to the Town shortly after work started and said that there was more sludge in the lagoons than they had realized. They told the Town that an additional $300,000 would be needed. “That seems like some pretty poor engineering on their part”, says Gentry. “Seems like they would have stuck a stick in to measure it or something.”

The Town declined to pay the extra money, and work stopped last September.

Gentry says the Town is trying to arrange a meeting with DHEC to address the issue. “We still have time left on our permits for those lagoons. Right now we’re at a standstill on this.”

 “It just seems like DHEC puts a lot of pressure on small towns to choose certain methods of dealing with their wastewater. I’d just say, if you can keep control of your situation, you’re better off.”

Deputies investigate thefts, other incidents

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated several thefts from individuals and businesses. Among incidents investigated:

PELZER

March 28 – T.B. Dugan was dispatched to 297 Highway 20 S. where Dorothy Kerns reported that a WM, 55065 had called her over to his green or gray extended cab pickup truck and exposed himself to her. He fled when she began calling 911.

April 1 – K. Taylor was dispatched to 441 Looper Rd. where he received a complaint from Pete Regina that someone had broken the back driver’s side window out of his BMW. Damage was estimated at $300.

April 2 – W.E. Gregory was dispatched to 7 Fennell St. where Debbie White reported that someone had broken into her home and stolen a variety of items.

PIEDMONT

March 30 – T. L. Chapman responded to the Ingle’s supermarket at 10903 Anderson Rd., where Sonia Thompson told him that a young white male wearing a brownish black T shirt had run by and snatched her purse, and then ran around the CVS drug store. She was not injured.

March 31 – T.L. Chapman responded to 1136 Williams Rd., where Tom Thompson stated that a Red Buffalo generator had been stolen from his carport. The item was valued at $260.

March 31 – K. Taylor was dispatched to Sweet Canaan Baptist Church, 316 Mountain Springs Rd., where deacon Benjamin Owens reported that someone had broken in and stolen a sound board worth approximately $1800.

March 31 – T.L. Chapman attempted a traffic stop of a Chevy S-10 pickup pulling a utility trailer with an air conditioner unit on it. The subject eventually stopped, then fled on foot. The truck’s tag was stolen, and the a/c unit had been cut at the pipe connections. The suspect, a WM, 35-45, with a full beard, was wearing jeans and a ball cap.

April 1 – N.J. Peluso responded to 920 Old River Rd. after receiving a report of trespass at that address in violation of a court order. Kimberly Spearman and Jason Luker stated that Amy Jeane had come to the house in violation of the court order. Jeane, WF, 22, 5’6", 140 pounds, of 422 Willow Dr., was found  by Peluso in her vehicle, parked across the street. Jeane was found to have violated an earlier ‘no trespass’ order for Spearman’s address. She was eventually arrested and transported to ACDC.

WILLIAMSTON

March 30 – J.A. Frazier was sent to 256 Breazeale Rd.  in response to a complaint of burglary from Anthony Garrett. Garrett reported that an abandoned residence on his property had been entered and several guns, as well as electronic equipment had been stolen. The items were valued at $1350.

April 1 – M.D. Campbell was dispatched to 641 HI Taylor Rd., where Andrew Henderson reported that a subject, whose name and description the ACSO chose to redact from the incident report, had come to his house and began an argument. The unidentified suspect, who also has three bad check warrants out on him, allegedly struck Henderson twice in the face.

BELTON

March   30 – N.M. Mitchell was dispatched to 220 West Union Rd., where Jacqueline Geer reported that someone had stolen a 1984 blue Hondo Prelude, valued at $1100, from her yard. The vehicle had no tag at the time.

March 31 – W.B. Simpson responded to 1205 Blake Dairy Rd., where Robert Barrs reported that someone had broken into the house, which he was preparing for sale, and stolen an air conditioner.

Winthrop relay team wins at Clemson

The Winthrop Eagle relay team of  Brad Orr, Justin Meade, Trevor Beasley and Brandon Hudgins won both the 4x800 meter relay and the 4x1500 meter relay at the Clemson Relays held at the Clemson University outdoor track facility March 24. Their 4x1500 time of 16:08.31 set a new Winthrop school record and edged national power Clemson by more than three seconds to win the event. Their 4x800 time was 7:51.48. Orr and Meade are former District One track standouts. Orr ran track at Wren and Meade at Palmetto.

Seems to Me

Old tricks (The cost of free information)

By Stan Welch

Can an old dog learn a new trick? That question has been with me for a week now. It arose following a Freedom of Information Act request I made a couple of weeks ago to Holt Hopkins, the Anderson County transportation director. I asked for a chance to review the contracts and plans that the County used in constructing Michelin Boulevard, a road that was so badly designed and built that the SCDOT won’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

I also asked to see a summary of the money spent by the County in repairing that road, which is approximately four miles long and five miles wide and about as deep as a decent mud puddle. There are forty five visibly separate repairs on that road as of two weeks ago, when I drove it. Some may be on top of repairs underneath. I don’t know. Some are the size of a car, and maybe a lane wide. Others are forty or fifty yards long and a lane and a half to two lanes wide.

It seems to me that asking how much has been spent repairing that road in the five years since it opened is a reasonable question. It seems especially reasonable in light of the constant cries from the transportation department that there’s just not enough money to fix the roads in Anderson County. I bet there’d have been a lot more if forty five major repairs, or an average of nine a year, hadn’t been necessary on Michelin Boulevard.

For that matter, somebody I know at SCDOT, who has made a few of these calculations in his time, estimated that the two inches of asphalt that wasn’t applied to the road, if spread over five lanes, for a distance of four miles, and priced at the standard cost of $45 a ton, would cost in excess of $600,000. Doggone, that would fix a few roads, wouldn’t it?

But I digress.

My point is that when the FOIA request was received by Holt Hopkins, it was forwarded to county attorney Tom Martin, of the McNair Law Firm. Mr. Martin, at what I suspect is a very healthy rate of pay, read my request, maybe several times. I know if I was making two hundred bucks an hour, I’d read slow. I’d read everything about four times too. I mean, for that kind of money, a fellow ought to know what he’s talking about.

Anyway, once he understood the nuances and intricacies of my request, which was all of two paragraphs long, he went to calculating what it would cost the County to make this information available. I’m sorry. I did mention that this is public information, right?

So this is what he came up with. To produce these documents and figures would require one hour of labor from someone who makes $52.13 an hour. There would also be an hour spent by someone who makes $26.00 and change. I don’t have the exact number in front of me because I sent the letter on to the South Carolina Press Association. Those folks work hard and they deserve a good laugh from time to time.

In addition, and this seemed a bit insulting to me, especially coming from a lawyer, but the County apparently feels the need to pay an intern three hours at $13.33 an hour to stay with me while I review the documents.

That’s forty bucks, folks, to make sure I don’t steal anything which I can legally have copied for twenty five cents a page. 

Speaking of copying, Martin also included a projected fee of $125.00 for copying up to five hundred pages of documents. Five hundred pages! Seems to me at least a couple of those pages would have told B.P. Barber how thick the road was supposed to be.

But I digress.

By the time the information retrieval team and the security guard and the copying was all figured up, Mr. Martin calculated it would cost just shy of $256 to pull all that together. Sorry, did I mention this is public information?

To add insult to injury, he asked for the money up front. Only a lawyer has that kind of gall. I know of no provision in the SCFOIA, which is a state law,  that requires the payment of such fees in advance. That is clearly against the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. What if I look at the material and choose not to copy any of it?

Now this is where the old dog/new trick comes in. Mr. Martin frequently uses such tactics to fend off FOIA requests. You see, on behalf of his client, which according to Joey Preston is Anderson County, he really doesn’t want those figures to come out. I don’t blame him. If I had let a contract to an engineering company that I had a long relationship with, even though they had never built a road before, and they did such a miserable job of it that I had to patch it constantly for the next five years, I’d want to keep that quiet too.

I made a request for some information a couple months ago, and got an estimate of more than $300, if I remember correctly. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was once billed more than $3000 for information she asked for.

Now, Mr. Martin is a lawyer, and he’s far too slick to just come out and break the law. But he is, perhaps at the instruction of county administrator Joey Preston, apparently seeking ways to avoid  complying with the law. I’ll leave it to better legal minds than mine to determine that. But it seems to me for the kind of money he gets paid to read information requests that the well paid public information officer should be able to handle, he could at least learn a new trick or two.

In Anderson County, open government would sure qualify as one.

As for me, I guess I’ll send an FOIA request asking which employee gets paid $52.13 an hour. I’m hoping they’re not in the engineering department.

 

 

 

 

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