News Archive

(1607) Week of April 18, 2007

Town moving forward on commercial trash pickup
Williamston officials working on accountability for fine payments
Tri-city officials looking at alternative sewer treatment
Some reimbursements not elilgible on Pelzer gym renovation
Motorcycle ride to raise funds Sat.
Historic Pelzer gym and textile sports on special program
Textile Historical Society to meet in Piedmont
Campaign disclosures show regular contributors
Transportation Department looking for more funding
Budget proposal submitted earlier; County residents to pay more
Thieves strike homes, businesses
Seems to Me . . .Virginia Tech tragedy

Town moving forward on commercial trash pickup

Williamston Town Council unanimously approved a motion to reimplement commercial trash pickup, giving businesses the option of two or three pickups per week.

Council approved two pickups per week at $75, and agreed to allow three pickups for $125 after several restaurants requested the additional service.

The fees are still lower than most businesses were being charged by a local hauler who took over much of the service when the town discontinued it last year. The hauler has recently pulled their service resulting in the town reconsidering providing the service.

Williamston will join Honea Path as the only two municipalities in the County providing commercial trash service.

Street Department Head John Owen asked council to allow him to replace a street department employee that had left and to add one new employee to help with the reinstated trash pickup.

The issue was discussed in executive session, but was not brought back up for a decision by council.

Council unanimously agreed to appropriate funding for a website to post town documents online.

Cyber Solutions quoted a basic fee of $800 for website design and $400 for the site. Hosting will cost $36.70 per month. The cost will be split between the town and the police department.

Several agenda items including a billing dispute with Big Creek Water, and another with Mount Vernon Mill were discussed in executive session.There was also an issue concerning one of the McPhail Properties discussed in the executive session.

Agenda discussion on the building and codes officer was tabled.

Council unanimously approved a request to use a portion of mineral Spring Park for an Independence Day celebration.

Representatives of the Spring Water Committee and Greater Williamston Business Association asked council to support the July 4th Fireworks Celebration to be held on June 30.

David Meade representing the Spring Water Committee and John Thomason, representing the GWBA, requested use of the park amphitheater, big shelter and portion of the park for rides, entertainment, games and other activities.

Thomason said that the GWBA had paid the $3000 cost of the fireworks last year, and the purpose of expanding the event was to make it self supporting.

Meade said that the event will be similar to the Spring Water Festival, with food and other vendors, but on a smaller scale.

The Williamston Fire Department will also sponsor their annual cruise-in and offer fire truck rides.

Council will look at fees charged for rooms at the Municipal Center in an effort to make it more affordable and to increase revenues.

The Gray Drive bridge was closed by Anderson County because of concerns with safety, according to Mayor Clardy.

Councilman Otis Scott raised concerns of trucks using certain town streets. Scott said residents of F St., L St., G St. and Gray Drive asked for rigs not to be allowed on those streets.

Mayor Clardy said the council could pass an ordinance restricting commercial vehicles from the area, but said there should be a specific proposal and a hearing to allow residents to speak on the issue.

Council unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing at the May 7 meeting.

Council unanimously agreed to allow residents to speak at the second meeting each month, with a time limit of five minutes.

“We need to give people the opportunity to make comments,” Councilman Carthel Crout said.

The Council had limited public comment to their regular meeting on the first Monday of each month after issues were being repeated resulting in long meetings.

Discussion of changes to the town wrecker ordinance was accepted as information.

Councilman David Harvell stated the fees needed to be looked at because of rising costs of gas and insurance. The ordinance limits fees that can be charged by wrecker companies doing business with the town.

Following a motion by Councilman Harvell to change hours park shelters are lighted, Council decided to have the new park committee make a recomendation.

There was some discussion of doing work on the creek in Mineral Spring Park.

The county volunteered to help in the past, but has declined to in recent years, according to Mayor Clardy.

Councilman Scott said that a request he made to the county to help with some bushhog work was also turned down.

Three bids were opened Monday on tractors being sold by the town.

All of the bids were on one tractor, the 1993 345D.

Council approved a motion by Councilman Otis Scott to sell the tractor to the highest bidder, Bonnard Roache, at $6255.06.

Williamston officials working on accountability for fine payments

An effort to provide more oversight on Williamston finances has turned into a review of how police fine payments are collected, accounted for and paid to the state.

Fines collected by the Municipal Court have as many as six categories that have to be calculated from each fine before the portions are remitted to the state.

The tedious calculations on numerous payments result in additional time and paperwork for everyone involved in the process and could be done on a computer with additional training, town officials said.

Fifty percent or more of a fine, which includes a number of added on assessments, is not retained by the municipality, Town Attorney Richard Thompson said.

Thompson said the court collects the fines and determines whether a full payment or a payment plan, or STP, is to be made. At the judges discretion, some STP payments take longer than others.

According to Thompson, the state expects a partial payment to be processed through the system  when is is paid, though there are no specific guidelines.

According to Thompson, Magistrate Court fines are supposed to be turned in by the end of the month or the first Wednesday or 10 days thereafter.

Guidelines for Municipal Courts are different. There is no specific wording, other than stating “forthwith,” according to Thompson.

Thompson said there is no case in South Carolina which defines how soon a payment is to be made to the state other than the stated definition of forthwith, which he said is “immediate, without delay.”

According to Thompson, state officials encourage using the  magistrates guidelines. Thompson said the town could set guidelines by ordinance or resolution.

He also said the municipal court should have two accounts, an operating account and a judicial account.

The operating account would be used to pay jurors and other expenses and the judicial account would be an escrow account for fine payments.

Thompson said that fine money that is taken in should be reported to the state as soon as possible and not necessarily when a ticket is signed off by the court.

Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. said the reason for wanting more oversight was because Council was unaware that payments were not being sent in to the state.

Councilman Carthel Crout said there should be “a set consistent policy or procedure to be sure it is sent in at a set time.”

Attorney Thompson stated that the town’s newly hired bookkeeper could monitor the police fines, the docket and other associated paperwork to make sure it is sent to Columbia.

Jurors are currently paid out of the town’s general fund, Mayor Phillip Clardy said. A line item on the town’s budget reflects the expense, but the municipal court does not have a separate budget.

In 2001, $37,000 in accumulated STP fine money was placed into a separate bank account at the recommendation of the town’s new auditors, Greene, Finney and Horton. The accounting firm was hired by the town shortly after Clardy took office.

The Williamston Police Department had been taking partial fine payments, with the collected payments being kept in the police chief’s desk until signed off by the court.

Councilman Middleton pointed out that the money was in a locked box, in a locked file in a locked office. Former Williamston Police Chief Richard Turner was chief at the time.

The $37,000, which included cash, checks and money orders payments on fines as far back as the 1980s, was placed into the account which was opened in 2001, Clardy said.

According to Clardy, there were no records available to show exactly what the funds applied to.

The town attorney indicated that the town should first see if any of the payments can be matched up.

“First, I would see if you can account for some of it,” he said, and have the auditors and a set procedure in place for the present.”

Clardy said the town has a short and long term plan and that the current auditors feel the town is in compliance with the way the payments are now being handled.

Thompson suggested the judge, police chief, auditor and treasurer get together to come up with procedures to handle the accounting and payments.

The attorney suggested setting up another judicial escrow account, from this day forward, to keep a current record of the STP payments.

Municipal Judge James Cox said that until the town gets training on the computer system, the STP payments cannot be made until they are paid in full because the miniscule calculations are too time consuming.

He also said that the STP money that was placed into the town’s general fund in 2005, will need to be taken out and accounted for by the court.

“There is approximately $40,000 in the general fund that should not be there,” Judge Cox said. “The STPs could not be turned in until they are paid out.”

(Editor’s note: This is the $37,000 mentioned earlier) 

Cox said that the town has two computer systems, CYSCO and Law Tracks, used in the police department and for court fines. When fines are paid, they have to use both systems to sign off on any fine.

The problem on STPs, according to Judge Cox, is the number of assessments that come out of a fine. Percentages of the six categories are impossible to do in long hand, he said. With the whole fine, they can be pulled out and sent to the clerk. The clerk in turn sends in a payment and paperwork to the state.

For partial payments, a computer is needed, Cox said. Cox said he can’t lawfully sign off on the payments without the proper paperwork.

“The docket has all the amounts listed, and the receipts and add on amounts have to jibe,” he said.

Williamston Police Chief David Baker said that the law tracks software has upgrades available and will do the calculations,but someone will have to be trained.

According to Judge Cox, the supreme court encourages STPs , usually over a couple of months.  He said he bases payments on income and number of children, to figure a payment that the person can live with.

“If they don’t pay it, I will sign a bench warrant,” he said. “As far as I know, they have never been abused.”

Tri-city officials looking at alternative sewer treatment

By Stan Welch

Efforts by Williamston officials to find partners in their new approach to wastewater treatment met efforts by Pelzer and West Pelzer to find an affordable alternative to sending their wastewater to Western Carolina during a joint meeting Monday.

From all appearances, the meeting was a happy one. The meeting consisted of members of three Town Councils, as well as all Mayors Davis, Clardy and Paxton.

Sonya Harrison and Paul Lewis represented Goldie & Associates, the engineering firm which is working with Williamston to address its problems. Also on hand were Rural Development Authority (RDA) representative Lara Ashy, and Pelzer town clerk, Skip Watkins.

Pelzer Council members Tony Riddle and Donna Ide, along with West Pelzer Council members Maida Kelly and Marshall King attended. Pelzer and West Pelzer actually had quorums of their Councils present, but never convened nor took any actions.

The Towns all face serious challenges in dealing with their wastewater treatment issues. All three are currently under consent orders by DHEC, to meet state and federal standards for the waters they discharge into the Saluda River after treatment.

Williamston decided not long ago to pursue a different approach. The land use application technique  which the town is pursuing will allow the treated wastewater to be either sprayed onto land owned by the Town, or to be discharged through a subsurface irrigation system. Either method ends the discharge of wastewater into the Saluda River. This achieves several things, said Harrison.

 “First and foremost, this approach removes Williamston from the discharge stream. They will no longer put wastewater into the river, and will therefore not be subject to the higher standards imposed by DHEC, Those standards tighten every five or ten years because more and more people enter the discharge stream. This will let Williamston off that regulatory merry go round,” said Harrison.

That escape from regulation also allows the town to stabilize its costs, since the standards stabilize as well. Plus it frees capacity for other users along the river; a fact which pleases DHEC, according to Harrison.

The two towns invited to join Williamston in this regional approach by sending their wastewater to Williamston for treatment both seemed very interested. Both face the expensive alternative of sending their waste to Western Carolina’s new Saluda River plant for treatment. That alternative promises to be very expensive. It was that expense which led Williamston to seek another way.

Williamston Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. told the assembled group that the town had faced a startup expense of eight dollars a gallon to connect to the Western Carolina lines. “That was eight million dollars just to hook on,” said Middleton. “We have many citizens in this town who simply cannot pay the kind of sewer bill that would impose.” He estimated that the monthly bill would have been between $60-$70 per customer.

Officials of the other two towns anticipate rates at least that high when and if they connect to Western Carolina.

Mayor Clardy told the group that Williamston is committed to the project. “We have to upgrade our lagoons no matter what. But this new approach gives us an opportunity to get a handle on our wastewater problems. We think it offers y our towns the same opportunity, but we will go forward no matter what. We have no choice.”

Pelzer and West Pelzer have had their hopes raised in the past, only to be told by DHEC that the Western Carolina option was their only choice. It was that experience that led West Pelzer Town Council to express interest in, but not support for the plan when Paul Lewis of Goldie & Assoc. presented it to them last month. “We’re willing to listen,” said Mayor Peggy Paxton at that time. “But every time we go to DHEC, we get shot down. They don’t even want to listen to another idea.”

Since then, G&A has obtained a promise of support and cooperation from RDA, as expressed Monday by Ashy.

“We would think that this is a much better approach for the towns involved than the continued discharge into the Saluda.” 

More importantly, Ashy reported that monies previously approved for both towns by various loan/ grant providers would still be applicable to the land use approach. Those funds, some obtained as long ago as 1999, and others as recently as 2005, would total $2,253,527 for Pelzer, and $1,189,328 for West Pelzer.

Currently, Williamston is seeking participation from the other two towns in funding a feasibility study on the regional plan. That study would cost $8750, with the costs to be split evenly at $2916.66 per town. Harrison says the study, once underway, could be done in twelve weeks. “There is a lot of work to be done, and many unanswered questions about the nature of the regional plan. But I really think this is the best way for the three towns to get off this roller coaster.”

Pelzer and West Pelzer continued to press for a written commitment to the plan by DHEC. Tony Riddle, Councilman from Pelzer, echoes sentiments heard at West Pelzer Council meetings, when he said, “I think we need something in writing. We might get six months down the road on this and DHEC says no. Then we’re out that money.”

As of press time, a request by Paul Lewis to DHEC regional enforcement director Lee Proctor for such a commitment had been countered by a DHEC request for “something in writing” from Williamston.

The nature of that written assurance was not clarified. “We will draft whatever DHEC needs from us and get it to them as soon as possible,” said Mayor Phillip Clardy in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. “We don’t know exactly what they are asking for at this point, but it will essentially just be a written assurance that we are moving ahead.”

Pelzer has scheduled a called meeting for next Friday to provide the necessary vote, once the assurance they seek is given. 

West Pelzer Mayor Paxton said the Town is prepared to call such a meeting as well.

Some reimbursements not eligible on Pelzer gym renovation

By Stan Welch

The Pelzer Town Council met last Friday, and heard from Goldie & Associates representative Sonya Harrison about the possibility of reviving an alternative solution to the Town’s wastewater treatment problems.

They heard from Harrison, whose company is the sewer engineering firm for Williamston, about a land application process that Williamston is pursuing, and the benefits it offers. Those benefits include enabling the town to stop discharging its wastewater into the Saluda River, thereby stabilizing its costs by not having to periodically upgrade to meet new discharge standards set by DHEC.

The Council heard enough to agree to attend a joint meeting between officials of Pelzer, West Pelzer, Williamston, Goldie & Assoc. and the Rural Development Authority Monday morning at Williamston Town Hall. (See related story elsewhere in this issue).

In other business, the Council approved a $1250 expenditure to cooperate with West Pelzer on the annual Fourth of July celebration. 

Town Clerk Skip Watkins also reported that some of the aspects of the rehabilitation of the gym had been declared ineligible for reimbursement under the grant being used to pay for the project. Those aspects, which were determined not directly related to increasing tourism, included the ball courts themselves, the basement, facilities and the downstairs areas. Watkins said that grant writer Rusty Burns, who helped obtain the original grant, would be contacted for information and assistance.

Council also agreed to a lease deal with Eddie Shirley to allow his use of town land that runs along the back of his property line. Shirley had proposed a lease purchase arrangement that Council rejected, saying that they traditionally lease property for private use. “He can use it for a picnic table or clear it off for private use. But there’s no commercial use allowed, and nothing to harm the property. He can use it for what we call “quiet enjoyment”, said Watkins. The lease is for three months at a time, and is renewable.

Mike Mathews, who was attending the meeting as a private citizen, asked several questions. He was told by Mayor Kenneth Davis that the Town continues to consider the issue of annexation, but has no plans to proceed at this time. Mathews also asked whether there were plans to renovate and use the train depot, saying that the Greenville and western Railroad had expressed some interest. Watkins stated that he did not think the depot was far enough from active railroad tracks to be safely used. It is constructed of brick, which Watkins says makes relocation impossible.

Mathews also raised the issue of police protection saying that there was a great deal of vandalism and theft around the Turkey Ring area. “Can we get the County to beef up patrols in that area?” asked Mathews.

Watkins said the town would be happy to support the residents’ efforts, but pointed out, “That’s outside the town’s limits. You really should contact County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson.”

The Town Council voted last year to discontinue an arrangement with West Pelzer for police service. The arrangement cost the Town $1500 a month.

Motorcycle ride to raise funds Sat.

The second annual spring ride for Pelzer’s kids will take place on Saturday, April 21at the Pelzer Ball fields on Highway 20. 

The event will include a motorcycle ride with barbecue plates and t-shirts and a variety of vendors. Registration will be between 10 a.m. and 12 noon. Cost is $20 per person or $30 per couple and includes a barbecue plate and T-shirt.

Non-riders can enjoy a barbecue plate for $6 and get a T-shirt for $9, organizers said.

There will be door prizes and a 50/50 drawing.

Proceeds will go towards providing activities for Pelzer youth.

For more information, contact Pelzer Mayor Kenneth Davis at 864-314-2112 or B. J. Mullinax at 864-245-0925.

Historic Pelzer gym and textile sports on special program

The Pelzer Historic Society will present “Memories by the Fireside: The Historic Pelzer Gym and Textile Sports” May 4, from 6-8 p.m. at the Historic Pelzer Gym.

Special guest speaker will be Bradley S. Sauls, Supervisor of Survey, State Historic Preservation in Columbia speaking on “Highlighting Your Community’s Historic Buildings and Sites” 6:30-7:00 p.m.

Also appearing will be guest speakers Thomas K. Perry, author of “Textile League Baseball” and Mac Kirkpatrick, author of “The Southern Textile Basketball    Tournament” (co-written with Perry) will present “Linthead Sports: A Legacy Remembered” from 7:30-8 p.m.

The Community of Pelzer Historical Society is sponsoring this event, and invites long-time residents as well as newcomers to attend the program.

Organizer Cynthia Welborn said the group is hoping to raise awareness about the history of Pelzer and provide the community with a way to talk about the past and how to preserve and celebrate it.

“This will be a monthly, recurring event that focuses on themes in Pelzer history, as well as Pelzer’s relationship to nearby towns and communities,” Welborn said.

Everyone is invited to bring photographs and other memorabilia to share. “Join us for reminiscing, fellowship, and refreshments at the Pelzer Gym on May 4, from 6 to 8 p.m.”, she added.

For more informaitn contact Cynthia Welborn at 864-634-7700 or the Pelzer Historical Society 864-561-1058.

Textile Historical Society to meet in Piedmont

Textile Historical Society to meet in Piedmont

The newly organized Greenville County Textile Historical Society will hold their monthly meeting on Tuesday April 24th at the Piedmont Community Building.

Natives of the Greenville County Textile communities have recently organized to preserve the history of our lost industry. There have already been several meetings around Greenville and they are coming to the original site of the textile industry’s beginnings for their next meeting: Garrison Shoals — Piedmont, the site of Henry P. Hammett’s successful cotton factory built in the 1870’s which proved the southern folks could manufacture quality cloth, leading to the building of many more textile villages around the South.

The meeting is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start and usually lasts around an hour for the business part. Don Roper (Saluda Sam) will set up a display of Piedmont history in the Rowell Club Room of the Piedmont Community Building which can be viewed starting at 5 p.m. The two previous meetings featured the Mills Mill and Dunean villages in Greenville, just up Allen Street.

GTHS chairman Don Harkins, a mill hill boy originally from Monaghan, invites anyone with a love of the textile industry to attend. Bring any memorabilia and pictures you would like to share. The Group is incorporated and will be a tax exempt group . They are working with big ideas and are cooperating with a preliminery objective of associating with Greenville Tech on a Heritage Center to be located at their new campus in the Berea Community.

The Piedmont Community Building is located in downtown Piedmont, also known as Beattie Hall, where the Piedmont Rangers played basketball. It is now operated by the Piedmont Public Service District.

For more information you may call Chairman Harkins at 864-201-5875 or in Piedmont, Don Roper 864- 845-7260.

Campaign disclosures show regular contributors

By Stan Welch

Former County Councilman Mike Holden, facing allegations that he improperly used campaign contributions, recently accused Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston of acting as his campaign manager, and funneling checks to him for his campaign.

Preston denies the charges but concedes that candidates do approach him seeking funding. In published comments last week, Preston stated that candidates did ask him for a list of potential contributors.

Regardless of the level of Preston’s involvement, a review of several candidates’ campaign disclosure forms does reveal a pattern of contributions by certain donors, many of whom do business regularly with the County.

High on the list of regular contributors is James Swistock, a partner in Nationswaste, the company that served as the cat’s paw for Allied Waste, Inc. in the purchase of Big Creek Landfill in 1997. Following Nationswaste’s demise, Swistock also was revealed as an officer in Allied Waste, Inc. which currently owns the Anderson Regional Landfill, LLC.

Holden should certainly know the name. In his 2004 campaign, he received $500 from James Zeiche, an Allied official, as well as $1000 from Awin Management, a company under the Allied corporate umbrella. Awin is the symbol under which Allied Waste, Inc. trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

 Holden also received sizable contributions from both Marshall Meadors ($500) and Marshall Carithers ($500). John Miller contributed $200 to Holden in 2004. Linwa Company, LLC, a firm owned by Design South officer Jim Broyles, and which received special tax status from the county, also contributed to Holden, as did Marilyn Broyles, of the same address as Linwa. Design South frequently receives contracts from the county for various projects.

Jim Longshore, of B.P. Barber Engineers, made a personal contribution to Holden’s campaign, as he has done for several others in recent years, including Gracie Floyd, and Michael G. Thompson. B.P. Barber is a regular contractor for Anderson County, having been involved in the Anderson Regional Landfill, the Beaverdam Sewer project and the construction of Michelin Boulevard, as well as various other projects.

Swistock has also regularly contributed thousands of dollars during recent election cycles in Anderson County, despite the fact that he lives in College Station, PA. In 2002, for example, then District 6 Councilman Bill Dees received a contribution from Swistock. Dees also received sizable contributions during the 2004 and 2006 elections.

During the 2004 election cycle, then Chairperson Gracie Floyd received $1000 from Swistock, an additional $1000 from Allied Waste, and a total of $600 from Longshore and Keith McLeod. Floyd was unopposed in both the primary and the general election that year.

She also received $1000 from Swistock in the 2006 election cycle, and $500 from Marshall Carithers, who has been party to  a number of real estate transactions with the County, including the recent purchase of the Kroger property. Last year, he was listed as a real estate consultant when the County purchased approximately 46 acres of land in the Powdersville area. Carithers’ fee was approximately $60,000 for his consulting services.

District Three Councilman Larry Greer has been the recipient of contributions from Allied and Swistock in recent years. JKR Development also gave $500 in 2006. He also received a total of $1500 from James Gray, owner of Hartwell Lake Properties, during the 2006 campaign.

District Five Councilman Michael G. Thompson received $1200 from Gray during his 2006 campaign, as well as $1000 from Swistock, and $250 from Keith McLeod. He also received $765 from Marshall Carithers and $500 from Marshall Meadors. Dennis and Cynthia Claramunt each contributed $1000 as well. Jim Longshore contributed $250 as well. So did Robert Rainey.

Ed Jean, who ran for the District Seven seat, received contributions from James Swistock,($1000),  Marshall Meadors ($1000), Mike Gray ($500), Jim Broyles,($300), Marshall Carithers ($500), JKR Development, LLC,($500), W.J. and Peggy Durham ($2000), Robert Austin ($1000), and John Miller ($250).

The flow of contributions reached well beyond Anderson County. Campaign disclosure forms filed by District 77 State Representative John Scott, Jr., the County’s mass transit consultant, indicate the following contributions: Joey Preston ($500), Forest Thomas,($500),W.J. Durham ($1000), Carole Dennison ($500), John Miller ($200), Marshall Meadors ($200) Greenville Properties ($500),  and Robert Rainey ($200).

Transportation Department looking for more funding

By Stan Welch

Anderson County Transportation Director Holt Hopkins made a strong plea for more money in a meeting with the Anderson County Council Monday.

While asking for an increase in department funding of almost $7 million over the next few years, Hopkins also offered suggestions for generating at least some of that revenue.

Key among those ideas was the levying of a road fee of $25 per vehicle registered in the county. Hopkins says that would generate $4 million annually, and would fund the county’s program to replace and rebuild bridges. Anderson County currently has more than 25% of its bridges in serious need of repair. “The money we currently have for bridge work is one time money. We need to fund a recurring, annual program to get these bridges in shape.”

Hopkins also called for an increase in some existing fees, such as the fee charged to developers to review plans for various neighborhoods and developments.

Engineer Judy Shelato reported that many developers submit incomplete and inadequate plans, forcing her staff to make numerous revisions and review the plans three or four times. “We only charge $600 per subdivision. We spend a tremendous amount of time and money doing this.”

The increased complexity of planned neighborhoods, such as building in flood plains and along streams also adds to the demands on the department, said Shelato, as well as inadequate work by the developers. “The East Reed Road project we did awhile back was nothing more than architectural drawings. We did an awful lot of work on that.”

Hopkins says fees could and should increase significantly. “Some of these developments could cost as much as ten thousand dollars to review all the plans. That’s why I’m asking for one engineer position just to review plans. People fuss about how slow we are, and they say they’re willing to pay more to speed the process up.”

Hopkins also mentioned a continuing adjustment of the amount the county keeps in terms of fees in lieu of taxes, and also expressed some support for impact fees. He would also consider ending the practice of installing free driveways and pipes for homeowners, or at least limit it to one per resident. “If someone has a circular drive, then they should clearly pay for that second one. What we’d like to do is charge them for the first installation too, then maintain them free for the rest of their lives. But it costs us easily twelve hundred dollars per driveway and pipe. We think we could save the county $700,000 a year.”

Hopkins says that four million dollars need to be made available immediately, to address paving problems. “We are on a seventy year cycle right now, which means if we paved your road today, you could look for us again in seventy years, instead of twenty, which is where we should be,” Hopkins told The Journal in a telephone interview Tuesday morning.

Hopkin’s department currently has an operating budget of $5.4 million dollars, which he would like to see raised to $6 million. “That would let us increase our supply of asphalt and gravel and driveway pipes and add some personnel.” The bridge program he seeks would be funded at $2.5 million annually, while improvements would ideally be funded at $2 million a year.

Hopkins’ presentation was not a budget proposal, but an overview of what he thinks the transportation department needs. “This is not what we are asking for in our budget requests this year. I would like to be at these funding levels in three or four years. But by then, we’ll be behind again. We just won’t be as far behind.”

Budget proposal submitted earlier; County residents to pay more

By Stan Welch

Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston, along with several members of his staff, presented the preliminary budget request for fiscal year 2007-’08 Tuesday night.

The request was a reflection of recent efforts to build support for recently introduced revenue options; a road fee on each registered vehicle in the county, and a significant increase in both residential and commercial solid waste fees.

In fact, Preston stated clearly that without those revenue sources, services would be cut, and jobs lost, especially in the area of solid waste. 

Towards the end of the two hour presentation, responding to a question from Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, Preston said, “I don’t know how to make it much clearer. Without these revenues, convenience centers will close. Basic services will be in jeopardy. The county’s bridges will continue to deteriorate. It’s that simple.”

The increases in solid waste fees, including a fifty per cent increase in the residential fee (from $40 to $60 a year), and a forty per cent increase in the commercial fee (from $50 to $70 a year), is projected to generate an additional $1.4 million next year, and each year thereafter. Half that amount would be used to fund the solid waste department, which is currently operating on a $700,000 deficit. Over the years since the fund was established as an enterprise fund, it has accumulated a deficit of $2.2 million. The remaining $700,000 would be used to renovate and construct convenience centers in the county.

The road fees are also being touted as the solution to the county’s woes in relation to infrastructure. The proposed road fee of $25 per vehicle registered in the county would produce an estimated $4.1 million annually. That money would be designated for use in constructing, paving and repairing roads, and in building and repairing bridges. According to the presentation, $1.7 million would be allocated to both the county bridge crew, and to the paving funds provided to each County Council member for use in their respective districts. The remaining $.7 million would be used to offset any further road and bridge expenses in the Transportation Division.

(See the related story elsewhere in this issue for a more complete report on Transportation Director Holt Hopkins requests to Council.)

Employee raises were also addressed in the presentation. Stating that there had been no raises since the 2005 budget, Preston explained the importance of retaining experienced and veteran employees. He asked for a 3% cost of living raise for all 906 employees of the County and the Sheriff. He also asked for a 2% merit raise, for a total of  5%. According to the presentation, each percentage point increase costs $350,000. Based on those figures the five per cent mentioned would cost $1.75 million, or approximately 3.5 mils.

In addition, the County has a longevity program that provides additional compensation based on the length of employment. Those amounts range from 3% for five years service to a maximum of 6% for those having been with the county for more than 20-25 years. One hundred twelve county employees will receive longevity pay under the budget proposal presented Tuesday night.

The well-publicized financial woes of the Sheriff’s Department did not deter Sheriff David Crenshaw from asking for an increase of $1.775 million. Personnel increases would account for $1.4 million. The budget as proposed would leave the Sheriff operating at a deficit of $213,000 next year.

Crenshaw became a bit testy when Chairman Bob Waldrep raised questions about forfeiture funds, which the ACSO receives as revenues from the sale of confiscated properties, such as cars and boats and homes, which are seized from drug dealers primarily. 

Waldrep was asking what the funds can be used for, and Crenshaw responded that the funds are restricted as to use. As the exchange continued, Crenshaw told Waldrep that the Council couldn’t have those funds. Waldrep replied that they might not be able to get those funds, but the Council could choose to provide less funding than the Sheriff might ask for.

Repeating a recent refrain concerning his department’s problems, Crenshaw said, “I won’t compromise the safety and security of the citizens of Anderson County for a dollar. I hope that you won’t either.” He went on later to say, “I still need the other three mils I asked for last year. I asked for six mils, and Council saw fit to give me three mils. Now, here we are.”

Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, a staunch supporter of Crenshaw’s requests last year, said, “We did not do what we should have done last year. Yeah, he said what he said during the campaign (the reference was to Crenshaw’s campaign claim that he could do more with less) but then he got in and saw what things were really like. He needed more money just to do what I wanted him to do,” said Floyd, whose district has some of the county’s highest crime rates.

She went on to say that council, “in our smugness” gave him less than he asked for. “Anderson County, you’re going to have to buckle down. We have to pay for it. The Sheriff’s taking a beating and my heart goes out to him.”

Councilman Ron Wilson had a different take on the issue. “My concern is that he asked the Council for six mils last year. They gave him three, but he went ahead and spent six. To give money to any department that handles its money as irresponsibly as the Sheriff has is wrong. I see nothing to indicate that he won’t go off the deep end again if we give him this money.”

A 4.74% cap on millage increases, passed by the General Assembly, makes it almost a certainty that Crenshaw will not receive three mils increase this year. His special revenue levy is set at 30.8 mils; a 4.74 per cent increase would produce approximately $1.46 million in revenues.

The general fund budget request, if approved as presented, would include a $2.64 million dollar increase, but would not involve any use of the fund balance of the county, according to Gina Humphreys, county financial analyst.

This year’s budget process already shows marked differences from past years. 

The budget presentation was not in the form of an ordinance, which would have allowed first reading. Instead, Preston says he is hoping for third reading at the first June Council meeting. “We would need two or three weeks to implement this budget by the end of the fiscal year,” Preston explained. “Well, that can be our goal,” said Chairman Waldrep.

In recent years, the budget ordinance, and often times, the presentation itself took place at the latest meeting that would still allow three readings before the end of the fiscal year. Several members of Council last year made it clear that they wanted more time to study the budget this year. Ron Wilson thanked Preston and the staff for presenting the material in a  timely manner.

This year’s ordinance will also contain two new features. One will be a mechanism to allow better communication and review of the Sheriff’s budget by the fiannce staff and administrator. The other will be a provision in the ordinance requiring that the Council be made aware of fund transfers above a certain amount be approved by Council prior to their being made.

Thieves strike homes, businesses

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

PELZER

April 11 – J.F. Parker was dispatched to 217 Tina Marie Lane, where John Fieler, WM, 43, 6’, 170 pounds, blonde/blue complained of a neighbor riding a go cart up and down the street at a high rate of speed. While talking to Fieler on his porch, Deputy Parker smelled burning marijuana. After entering the house with Fieler’s consent, Parker asked him if he had been smoking marijuana. Fieler admitted he had. A subsequent search revealed more marijuana debris and several items of drug paraphernalia. Fieler was arrested and transported to ACDC.

 April 13 – M.D. Campbell responded to 182 Garrett Road where Joel Hammonds, of Hammonds and Sons Grading, reported the theft of an 18 foot flatbed trailer with a bobcat trenching attachment on it had been stolen. The estimated value was $11,500.

April 14 – B. Hill was dispatched to 11 Stewart St., where Mary Ward stated that someone had stolen her Nikon camera from her home. No signs of forced entry were found.

PIEDMONT

April 11 – R.E. Callahan responded to 131 Leader Dr. at HR Allen, Inc. where George Douglas reported the theft of several spools of wire valued at an estimated $2250.

April 13 – J.J. Jacobs was dispatched to the Super 8 motel on Hwy. 153, where Gerald Casteleneto, of Spartanburg, reported the theft of his 1995 Nissan Pathfinder, estimated at $3000 in value.

WILLIAMSTON

April 10 – M. Voigt responded to 227 Harper St. where Ethel Keller reported the theft of two blank check books from her house. She also reported the theft of a John Deere riding mower. The lawn mower was valued at $3500.

April 13 – J.J. Jacobs was dispatched to 304 Trail Court, where Lakisha Fant stated that someone stole her 1993 Toyota Camry, valued at $2100. The vehicle bore tag # 241 WEK.

 April14 – L.E. Brock responded to the Malibu Lounge on Joe Black Rd. where he was told that a patron was inside causing a disturbance. He entered the bar and subsequently arrested Richard Voll, WM, 25, 6’, 168 pounds, brn/hazel for disorderly conduct. Voll was transported to ACDC.

BELTON

April 11 – R.S. Thompson responded to a report of the theft of a bike from Joseph Locklear. The bike was described as an orange and chrome NEXT MAX with chrome wheels, valued at $150.

April 11 – M. Voigt was dispatched to 4422 Hwy. 29N where Shunnon Chillious, of Elmo’s Custom, reported that someone had broken into his business and stolen a variety of speakers and electronic equipment, valued at approximately $3100.

April 13 – J.J. Jacobs responded to a call at 4102 Hwy. 29N where Terry Richardson, of Upstate Power Equipment, reported that someone had stolen a Cub Cadet riding lawnmower valued at $2500.

Seems to Me . . .Virginia Tech tragedy

By Stan Welch

I just walked in the house, and saw the news about the shootings at Virginia Tech today. I am in absolute shock. More than thirty people dead, and almost that many more wounded. Certainly some of those are still at risk from their injuries.

It is a scene that takes the breath and breaks the heart. More than sixty people shot by a lone gunman; sixty people who were almost all young men and women with their entire lives ahead of them.

Incomprehensibly, it appears that there were two major sprees of shooting some two hours apart. It defies belief that the campus wasn’t shut down, and the suspect run to ground after the first shooting. There will be much finger pointing and assignment of blame in the coming weeks, but for now, there is only grief and horror.

Gun control arguments will rage, both pro and con. The Second Amendment will be parsed and dissected and argued ad nauseum. But for now, a college community, a college town, sits stunned, staring into the distance, trying desperately to make sense of events so divorced from reason or logic that they cannot be understood. They can only be endured.

Psychologists and television talking heads will push and pull and try to explain what could make a person so miserable, so detached from all but their own pain that they could shoot more than five dozen human beings before turning the gun on themselves. But for now, there are only parents and brothers and sisters and roommates and friends, clinging to each other and the hope that those killed are truly in a better place.

There is pain beyond measure, and sadness beyond depth. As a parent, with a child approaching high school graduation, I cannot imagine what those scores of parents are going through. But I know that amidst the shock and horror and pain, there must be just a hint of betrayal; a twinge of feeling that the job of raising a child to the relative safety of adulthood had been accomplished.

A child safely past the dangers of childhood; a young adult sent to a center of learning for more education and the tempering, as a person, that will make life so much more enjoyable. A young man or woman ensconced in an institution that was trusted as a place of safety and sanctuary. Nothing to worry about now except that the young might act young, making mistakes of judgement that might alter, but surely wouldn’t take their lives.

And then came the news, the horrible news that a monster, a madman has killed tens of people and injured tens more. In today’s circus of technology, it’s a safe bet that some of those loved ones whose worlds collapsed earlier today learned the news by cell phone or e-mail or cable news. Could anything add to the pain and shock more than suddenly seeing the scenes of death and fear on a television screen or a computer terminal? How awful that this most personal of tragedies so quickly became a public event, viewed by millions.

And I sit and stare at the screen as I haven’t stared since Katrina rolled over the Gulf Coast. I sit and wonder if there is anywhere left in the world where my son can be safe, safe to achieve full manhood and live his life. I stare into a future that fades in and out of focus as I try to imagine what it would be like if I were one of those parents, some of whom are still trying to determine their children’s fate hours after the killings.

Blacksburg Virginia, home of Virginia Tech, is a pretty place, as is the campus. It nestles in the foothills along the border of Virginia and her western sister. It is not the kind of place where such madness would seem likely to take root and grow. The scenes of policemen running through a blowing snow seemed even more surreal than the events they were part of.

I know that we are guaranteed nothing in this life; not the next day, not the next dream, not the next breath. But as I sit and watch this terrible, sorrowful scene, it seems to me these children, and their parents, deserved much more than this.

 

 

 

 

 

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