News Archive

(2107) Week of May 23, 2007

Replacement of mobile homes,truck restrictions being discussed
Town awarded paving C funds

Beach party in park a success 
Special event to recognize local bluegrass musicians

New accounting system now running in West Pelzer
Moran has ideas about running West Pelzer
Former Mayor Alexander would like to serve again
Familiarity will help with town issues Jeanes says
Pelzer Post Office next topic
Stalking investigation may be nearing conclusion
Waldrep suggests hiring auditor to report to Council
FOI request to County results in arranged meeting with subject
911 call in Anderson County fails to prevent accident in Greenville
Local students graduate Lander
Deputies investigate racing, gas drive offs
Freedom Weekend Aloft starts Friday
Register now for farm day camp
Seems to Me . . .“When you call 911, you expect help”

 
Replacement of mobile homes, truck restrictions being discussed

During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved first reading of a mobile home ordinance that will allow older homes to be replaced, discussed restricting trucks on Gray Drive and adjoining streets and approved additional cameras for the park.

Before getting down to business, Council heard from three citizens.

Ann McClellion thanked the mayor, council and town people for their support of the beach party organized by the WAWM. “Everybody helped us,” she said.

Willie Wright asked about a grocery store and other items.

Jan Dawkins thanked Council for their hard work over past months and for their time and energy without any pay while working to make things better.

She urged the Council to keep their eyes and ears open and “to keep him  (the mayor) from putting us back where we were.” Dawkins reminded them that the mayor’s actions resulted in the town  “selling off our heritage” and that seeing the old city hall building being torn down brought her to tears.

“Mr. Clardy didn’t pay any of the penalties,” she said. “We, the citizens, had to pay those penalties.”

She said that Councilmen Otis Scott and David Harvell were personally misled by the mayor. “Don’t let Mr. Clardy take the credit,” she said for getting the town’s finances back in order. “You deserve the thanks. Don’t forget everything he did to destroy our town.”

In old business, Council agreed to have the town attorney draft language for an ordinance to restrict or ban certain trucks from certain streets in the town.

Citing safety concerns of having large truck (tractors) on certain streets, Councilman Scott first recommended banning thru and local trucks from Gray Drive.

Additional discussion centered around the vehicles driving over the rebuilt Gray Drive bridge which is not designed for larger vehicles.

Police Chief David Baker said there are five individuals that drive their trucks to their homes in the Gray Drive area of town.

Baker said two of the individuals live outside the town limits but must travel on town streets to get to their homes. One driver lives midway on Gray Drive, he said.

He said L Street is a concern because it is not straight and not very wide. F Street is short and not easy to turn on and off of, he said. Longview is a wide street and turning radius is sufficient, according to Chief Baker. He recommeded eliminating traffic on L Street and Gray Drive. He recommended access for trucks in the area to be from Harper St. to Longview St.

Council instructed the attorney to draft language for an ordinance  closing Gray Drive to thru trucks with the exemption of someone who lives there.

Council voted to move the agenda item on capacity issues and an agreement with Anderson County to the end of the meeting to be discussed behind closed doors.

Council then approved second reading on an ordinance that will allow Anderson County to collect real and personal property taxes for the town in 2008.

The town is planning to advertise for a building and codes officer that will have to meet certain qualifications and certifications according to Planning Commission Chairman Jim Simpson. Discussion on the topic was accepted as information.

Council unanimously decided to table discussion on what to do with the Civil War cannon until the investiagation involving a member of the National Guard Unit is concluded.

The decision came after a request was made at the last meeting to allow a historic reanactment group to be  responsible for the cannon and to display it and have it at reinactments.

The Anderson County  Museum and the State Museum have also made requests to display the Civil War gun, Mayor Phillip Clardy said.

Clardy suggested proposals be colleted in writing from interested parties for consideration by the town.

Council unanimously approved (after the fact) adding two additional security cameras to the system being installed in Mineral Spring Park.

Councilman Otis Scott said that he had obtained verbal approval from each of the councilman before authorizing the company to add the cameras at an additional cost of $40 per month. The surveillance system will now cost the town $340 per month.

Police Chief David Baker said the system has already been used to solve a recent arson in the park which was caught on camera.

“We are getting our money’s worth already,” he said.

Baker said concerns about the camera images were alleviated by adding cameras and he said there is software available which could help increase detail. He recommended against an option of upgrading to a better camera because of the additional cost.

At the request of Mayor Clardy, Council will decide at a later date what they will charge for 300 commemorative bricks taken from the old City Hall building.

Three planning commission issues were briefly discussed but required no action by Council.

A sign change request was recently approved by the planning commission and a ordinance violation by an storage building company on Minor St. will be addressed by sending a letter to the owner in California, town officials said.

The business can either seek a variance or correct the situation that is in violation, according to Planning Commission Chairman Jim Simpson.

There was also discussion concerning  a home based internet business which was recently approved by the planning commission, to the dismay of Councilman Otis Scott.

Scott, whose ward the business is located in, objected to having the issue brought up and addressed by another councilmember.

Simpson said that the issue was totally within the authority of the planning commission and did not require action by Council.

Simpson said the business was allowed under existing ordinances and there would be no exterior appearances or other obstruction of the neighborhood.

The business is required to have a city issued business license, he said.

During the discussion, Councilman Scott made a motion that business that pertains to a particular ward should be handled by the councilman for that ward.

After additional discussion, no action was taken.

Acting upon a motion by Mayor Clardy, Council unanimously approved first reading on a mobile home ordinance.

The planning commission has been working on an ordinance  to establish policy for replacement of existing older mobile homes in the town.

Simpson said the ordinance goes into details to be met for that to take place and recommended first reading on the new ordinance.

The town will advertise a public hearing on the ordinance prior to the second reading expected to be held at the June 18 meeting of Council.

Council unanimously approved appointing Bruce Peterson as the LUCA census staff member representative for the town.

Council then voted to go into executive session.

At the request of The Journal to be more specific, Mayor Clardy said they were going to discuss a personel issue related to comp time for an individual and a contract issue pertaining to capacity at the waste water treatment facility.

Upon returning to open session, Mayor Clardy said no action was taken in executive session.

Clardy said that the capacity issue is related to arrears payments to the County for their capacity at the plant.

Town awarded paving C funds

By Stan Welch

Williamston Mayor pro tem Otis Scott, along with Rusty Burns, the Town’s grant writer, appeared before the Anderson County Transportation Committee Monday. By the time they left, two projects had been funded.

The committee appropriated $50,000 to pave Spring Street, and an additional $6800 was earmarked for installing emergency lights at the fire station on Main Street to allow emergency vehicles to get in and out safely during fire responses.

The funds come from C funds, which are generated by a state tax on gasoline sales.

Councilman Scott said he had been trying to get funds for the Spring Street project for some time. “That road has been in need of repair for more than two years. Senator Billy O’Dell and Rusty Burns helped us get these funds. I’m just proud to know the road is going to get fixed.”

The emergency flashing caution lights will warn traffic that fire trucks are entering the street, and will allow the trucks to safely return to the firehouse when the fire is over. “We’ve needed that for a long time. These fellows are in enough danger doing what they do for us. They should at least be safe trying to leave the station on a run. And it’s safer for the people in town, too,” said Scott.

Beach party in park a success

The West Allen Williams Committee under the auspices of the Williamston Area Historical Commission held a beach party in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park on Saturday May 12.

“The rains moved out and the party was a great success,” organizers said. The stage was decorated with ferns, palm trees, low country moss, lights and colorful beach items as a back drop for the Joy Riders Band. Citizens enjoyed the beach music, songs by request and some local talent sang on stage as others danced. Special guests at the event were Mayor Phillip Clardy, Councilman David Harvell, Councilman Otis Scott and Rep. Michael Thompson.

Hotdogs were prepared on site along with chips and drinks. Hillcrest Baptist Church youth offered snow cones. Tickets were sold and drawings for prizes were held throughout the evening. Beach balls, leis, T-shirts and other items were also sold. Boy Scout Troop #41 of Greer helped with setting up, taking down and cleaning up of the park.

This event was such a success that plans are in the making for it to be a spring event each year, organizers said. Organizers include Anne Earnest, Ann McClellion, Connie Barnwell, Wanda Evatt, Josh Barnes, Lori Cooley and Donna Owens, who want to thank all that participated by donating drawing gifts, making donations or giving time. The committee has had several yard sales and raffles over the last few months to help raise funds for their improvement project. “We thank all that have contributed to our goals through these fund raiser events,” they said.

The WAWMC was commissioned in January of 2007. The mission of the committee is perpetual care of West Allen Williams Memorial, to carry the legacy of his kindness throughout the community, uniting the people to goals of love, kindness, and good deeds to your neighbor by working with our churches, our educational and business communities.

“Mrs. Kathleen Powell, Williamston’s first female town clerk, made this statement last week, “If you do not know where you came from you probably won’t know where you are going. As I stood with her watching our old town hall being demolished, I thought to myself, those words should be written in stone. We can learn from our past history and our present day to work together for a better tomorrow,” committee member Connie Barnwell said.

Supporters of the event included Bi-Lo of Pelzer, Jesse Adkins of Millbrook Landscape & Design, ERS Video, Dr. Pat Patterson, Peebles’, Gus’, Ellison’s Garage, I Don’t Know, Hobby Lobby of Anderson, Lisa & Co of Powdersville, Boy Scout Troop #41 of Greer, Hillcrest Baptist Church, The Journal, National Guard Armory, American Legion of Williamston, Willie Tee’s, Jack’s Pickin’ Parlor, Mayor Phillip Clardy, Councilmen Marion Middleton, Jr., Otis Scott, David Harvell, Sylvia Corbin, Dale Martin, Lewis Ellison, Sammy Ellison, Ken Hill, Sara Dacus, Gail Chapman, John Owens, Wanda Randle and Elsie Stokes of Taylors, SC, Randy, Tyler, and Marie Earnest, and Crystal, Taylor, and Bailey Wham.

 

Special event to recognize local bluegrass musicians

Three area Bluegrass musicians that have made a great contribution over the years to the Bluegrass music culture will be honored during a special reconginition event Thursday, May 31 at 6 p.m. at the historic Williamston depot.

Organizer Jack Ellenburg invites everyone in the community and surrounding area to attend the special music event. “It would be nice to fill the depot and the depot grounds with all of our local musicians and people in the community for this special recognition,” Ellenburg said.

One of the people to be included for recognition, will be the late, great Ansel Guthrie, from Pelzer, who passed away earlier this year. “Ansel was one of the people that kept this type of music alive for over 50 years. He will be remembered at the celebration in many ways to bring to life the many things he did as a teacher and player of bluegrass music. He had taught many students that are now playing in groups and even professionally,” Ellenburg said.

Ellenburg asks all of Guthrie’s former students to contact him so that their input about Ansel can be included in a tribute.

Another great contributor is Larry E. Jefferson, who now lives in Townville. Larry has been playing music for over 50 years and has played on the stage with bluegrass greats Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe, and was the opening act for Jerry E. Lewis. He also has played in Nashville and is on many recordings dating back to the 50’s. “Expect Larry to be on stage at the depot to render us a song with his high tenor voice and sounds coming from his Gibson Mandolin. You will not want to miss meeting one of the great legends of our time,” Ellenburg said.

Another local musician to be recognized who has made a great contribution to bluegrass is Thomas Williams.

Williams, 83, is a Whitefield Community resident who began making bluegrass music at an early age. He started playing bluegrass music in 1947 with Ansel Guthrie and various other groups since then.

He formed his own group called the Tri-County Bluegrass Boys, that included as members, Jake Kelly, bass; Wayne Whitfield, guitar; Jeff Rosenthal, banjo and Vernon Rowland on mandolin.

“They did many shows and played for churches doing a lot bluegrass gospel. Thomas has been involved for over 50 years making the music he loves so well. So, drop by and let Thomas know that you too, appreciate his contribution,” Ellenburg said.

“Next Thursday will be a great time for all those that love the music and would like to show their appreciation for these fine gentlemen during this event,” Ellenburg said.

Local musicians are invited to bring their own instrument to perform on the stage or just to jam if they want, he said.

“We would love to have all the jammers bring their instruments and chairs, along with their families to help us make this a great time playing and listening to bluegrass music along the creek bank at the old train depot,” he added

For additional information: contact organizer Jack Ellenburg at email: jackbgmusic@charter.net or by phone at 864 483 0706. 

Additional information on this event will be published in next week’s Journal.

New accounting system now running in West Pelzer

By Stan Welch

The West Pelzer Council met Monday night for the last time before the Town’s elections on June 5th. Anyone in the large audience who were  expecting  pre-election fireworks were disappointed as the meeting passed uneventfully.

 A brief update on the  sewer feasibility study was given by Mayor Peggy Paxton. She reported that DHEC was asking for written assurances that the Williamston wastewater treatment plant, which is going to be upgraded, will have the capacity to accept wastewater from West Pelzer and Pelzer.

The three towns, which are all under DHEC consent orders,  are considering a regional plan that would involve Williamston treating the wastewater for all three towns, then employing a land application method of disposing of the wastewater. If approved by DHEC, the option could prove to be much less expensive than the proposed connection to the Western Carolina treatment plant in Piedmont.

Paxton said that once the assurances are received by DHEC, that agency is expected to provide the Town with a written statement of support for such a plan. At that time, the West Pelzer Town Council, which has insisted on such written assurances, will meet to consider whether to fund its share of the cost of the feasibility study.

Council also voted unanimously to update and strengthen its ordinance dealing with the appearance of the Town’s vacant lots. Paxton presented an excerpt from the county ordinance and recommended that the language contained in it be added to the Town’s ordinance, which she says is so vague as to be unenforceable. “We have a situation in town that we’ve had for years. We asked the county to come out and look at it, and they said it is clearly a violation of our ordinance. But they said our ordinance is so vague and weak that it can’t be enforced.”

 Councilman Joe Turner agreed that the ordinance was inadequate. “We definitely need to update our ordinance. We need something that we can use to make these people clean these places up.”

 Some provisions included in the proposed language involve distances from occupied dwellings. For example, any property, whether occupied or not, within two hundred feet of a developed platted subdivision or residence is subject to restrictions concerning the presence of weeds or rank growth, as well as infestations of vermin, such as rats and snakes. The amended ordinance would also give the Town the authority to set time limits for compliance with the ordinance, and to go onto the property and correct the violation after those deadlines had passed.

 Town attorney Carey Murphy, who had not had a chance to review the proposed amendment prior to the meeting, nevertheless advised that Council adopt language making the property owner responsible and not tenants. “Then, if you need to go in and clear a problem up, you can simply add the cost to the property taxes and force payment that way,” he said.

 Paxton also presented Council with the first financial reports generated by the Town’s new accounting software. The program has been installed for several months, but training and data entry requirements had delayed its actual use, said Mayor Paxton.

 The reports are far more complete and detailed than the bank statements that Council members had been receiving. Several of the Council members had complained of the lack of detail in those reports and the delays in getting the new system up and operating.

 Moran has ideas about running West Pelzer

By Stan Welch

Michael Moran is running for the West Pelzer Town Council. He is an outspoken man who has some very specific ideas about the issues facing the Town.

Moran, who lived in Williamston for fifteen years before moving to West Pelzer two years ago, says he has never run for office before.

 “I’ve never even considered it before. But I attended a town council meeting one night, and watched as the Council voted against everything on the agenda. They wouldn’t vote to do one single thing. I came to realize that if this town is going to recover from the downward spiral it has been in as far as infrastructure goes, something had to change.”

Moran, whose wife Patty often attends Council meetings with him, makes it plain that he approves of much of what Mayor Paxton has accomplished.

“The infrastructure in a town doesn’t get this bad overnight. Mr. Alexander said at the last Council meeting that for years they couldn’t get any funding or grants. But Mayor Paxton got grants to fix water lines. Council passed up a chance for a large grant because they wouldn’t spend less than $4000 in matching funds. I can’t understand that.”

Moran says the inflow and infiltration problems involving the town’s sewer lines are still a real issue. “We need to find a solution for that because we are paying for water we don’t even use.” He also thinks that the proposed regional sewer plan involving Williamston and Pelzer is a great opportunity. “The Western Carolina plan promises to increase our sewer rates by as much as three times. We need to find another way. “

Asked his opinion on annexation, Moran says he would certainly consider the idea, but would prefer to see existing properties in the town developed first. “We have close to a hundred lots or properties in the town limits that could be developed. I’d prefer to pursue that before taking on any more potential problems that might come with annexing.”

He also supports recent efforts to strengthen the town’s ability to address rundown and vacant properties. 

“I’m a firm supporter of property rights, but we have too much property in town that’s owned by people who don’t live here. They don’t care what Main Street looks like, but the tens of thousands of people who drive through West Pelzer each year see those properties. Do you think they’re thinking this would be a good place to live or raise a family? I doubt it. The town has a right to establish certain standards and require that they be met. I think people want that to protect their own property and its value.”

He also thinks that government should stick to doing the things that people can’t do for themselves. “Miss Kelly made a statement recently that she would like to see the town involved in visiting the ill and the elderly citizens. I happen to think that’s what neighbors and churches and civic organizations are for, not government. If the town wants to do something for the ill and the elderly, let them put in a crosswalk on Main Street near the Sav-Way. We need a cross walk there to make it safe for people to cross the street.”

Moran sees petty politics as the reason for many of the problems facing the town. “There has been a vendetta against Mayor Paxton for as long as I’ve been here. The same goes for Chief Wilson. How many people know that the Council voted to do away with the fourth police position for absolutely no reason? The position was budgeted and planned for. But Council decided to deprive the town of twenty four hour police protection just because they could. That’s just stupid, petty politics. And it affects employee morale. (Town Clerk) Beth Elgin works very hard at her job. In addition to that job, she has been inputting all the necessary data into the Town’s new accounting program. But there are two Council members who are retired. They are in the Town Hall every day, looking over her shoulder and interfering in her work. The same goes for the Chief. Let these people do their jobs. The mayor is supposed to oversee the Town’s operations. Yes, Council has some oversight authority, but they don’t have the right to circumvent the mayor.”

He says he doesn’t understand why the mayor is constantly blamed by Council members for various things. “The Council always votes together, all four of them. If they want something changed, why hasn’t it been changed? They have the votes to propose and pass just about anything they want.”

Moran, whose eighteen year old son, Michael Jr., is starting Greenville Tech this year, says he knows that West Pelzer can have a bright future. “We need to make people realize that we are committed to improving our town. If we work to make those improvements, and work together in our government, putting aside these petty differences, we can make this a great place to live, a place where young families will want to make their start. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. I hope folks will give me a chance to prove it.”

Former Mayor Alexander would like to serve again

By Stan Welch

Former Mayor Bill Alexander says he is running for West Pelzer Town Council because he wants to see communication between the Mayor and Council improve.

“I think the Mayor has done a lot of good things, but she needs to communicate more with the Council. If I win, I’d like to work with whoever gets elected as Mayor to help improve our town and to work better together,” said Alexander. “I just would like to see more harmony on the Council and with the Mayor.”

Alexander says that the Town has had water and sewer needs for many years. “Myself and other mayors have met with DHEC and met with this group and that group. We were promised just about every grant you can imagine, but we never got one dime.”

 That lack of funding tied into another complaint that Alexander heard frequently during his tenure as Mayor. “Everybody talks about growth but where are you going to put it? You can’t build a building on a building.” Alexander, who has also served several terms on the Town Council, says that he would cooperate in any efforts to obtain money for the Town to use. “I’ll work with whoever is in office to try and get any money we can. I think the Mayor has done some good things, but I don’t agree with everything she’s done. But whether she or Maida Kelly wins, I’ll do my best to help them and the Town.”

Alexander also said that he would certainly support annexation efforts once the situation allows for the growth, and if the people wanted it. “Sure, if folks are interested in being annexed, I’d be for it.”

Familiarity will help with town issues Jeanes says

By Stan Welch

James “Jimmy” Jeanes has lived and worked in the Pelzer/West Pelzer area for his entire life. For the last thirty three years, he has lived in West Pelzer. He established Jimmy’s Sign Service forty one years ago.

He says that experience and familiarity with the town will allow him to be an effective member of the Town Council. “I know most everybody in town, and I know a good bit about the problems the town faces. I’d like to help make this an even better place to live and bring your business to.”

Jeanes says he has seen some significant progress in the town in the last few years, but adds that there is still a lot that needs to be done. “The new water lines that are going in will make a big difference in water pressure and such. But we need to keep working to get lines to as many people on these side streets as we can.”

He mentioned the town’s sewer problems too. “DHEC has us under a consent right now that won’t even let us grow. Not a new business or a new subdivision can come in.That has to be dealt with, so the town can grow. We have some possibilities we can look at, like this idea with Williamston and Pelzer.”

“We certainly need to investigate every single idea. We have been trying to solve this problem for more than ten years, We need to do what is best for the people in town. A lot of them are older and on fixed incomes and they are really worried about this.”

Jeanes also sees traffic as a real problem. “We have eighteen wheelers coming through town almost 24 hours a day. Highway 8  (Main Street)is so busy you can hardly get across it. I think we need a new stop light at Main  and the intersection of Holiday and Stewart Streets. That will sort of slow down some of the traffic coming from the Interstate.”

Jeanes says some people in town think such a light is unnecessary, but he disagrees. 

“Maybe we need a study but you know DOT. They won’t be in any hurry. So I think we need to get moving on this. Somebody will end up getting hurt, and then everyone will want to know why nothing was done before.”

Jeanes also spoke about the often contentious way in which the Town conducts its business. “I have attended a lot of town meetings in the last two years. I’ve seen how they act up there, and it bothers me. I know there can be honest disagreements, but we need to handle these things like adults. There’s no need for all the shouting and fussing that goes on at those meetings.”

Jeanes has been married for thirty three years and has two adult children. He is a Baptist, and a graduate of Tri-County Technical College. He served on the WPFD for ten years and has served on the West Pelzer Planning and Zoning Commission.

Pelzer Post Office next topic

Memories by the Fireside will present “The Pelzer Post Office and Communications” as their next presentation on the history of the Pelzer area.

The Community of Pelzer Historical Society invites you to celebrate the history of Pelzer on June 1 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pelzer Gym. 

The presentation will be “In Commemoration of Alfred Baxter Carpenter” and will feature information on the unique historical connections with the Carpenter Bros., Bellacinos, the Carpenter’s Cellar, and The Pickwick Pharmacy of Greenville, SC.

Information will also be presented on the oldest female postmaster in the United States. The public is invited to come view photographs of Ms. Verna Naylor, 91, donated by the family and hear Ms. Rostron’s  account of her conversation Naylor .

For information or directions, call or email Cynthia Welborn at 864-634-7700 or cynthiawelborn@gmail.com.

Stalking investigation may be nearing conclusion

By Stan Welch

The investigation into allegations of stalking and harassment of county officials, both elected and employees, which began approximately eighteen months ago, may be coming to a conclusion.

The investigation, which came to light just days after County Administrator Joey Preston was found with a female county employee at Cater’s Lake in March of 2006, actually began in November of 2005, according to former Chief deputy Tim Busha. Witnesses surfaced who said that Preston and the female county employee were engaged in inappropriate behavior, charges which Preston has consistently denied.

Highly placed sources familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told The Journal that some action in the case is expected within a couple of weeks.

Busha and Sheriff David Crenshaw appeared before County Council last March, where Busha outlined what he said was an ongoing investigation into charges of harassment and stalking involving Preston, as well as some Council members. Busha also announced at that time that the investigation had been passed on to SLED.

SLED has consistently declined comment on the case, other than to characterize it as an ongoing investigation. SLED Chief Robert Stewart, responding last week to a Freedom of Information request by The Journal, said, “We don’t think of a specific investigation as a matter of cost. To us, it is a matter of an investment. In other words, our agents were at work anyway. They were going to be investigating one case or the other. So to ask what this investigation cost is a little awkward. You always hear people saying what a false fire alarm costs, but it really only cost the gas and oil to travel to the scene. The firemen were already at work.”

Apparently, the actual incident at Cater’s Lake was not a focus of the SLED investigation. That incident, which has become known as Catergate, was explained by Busha as one of several sting operations in which Preston and the county employee took part to assist the investigation into alleged stalking of Preston. “We told Mr. Preston where to go and when to go there,” said Busha at the time.”

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to SLED by The Journal seeking the costs of the year long investigation revealed that four case numbers were assigned to various aspects of the investigation. Chief Stewart, citing FOIA restrictions against revealing the salaries of employees making less than fifty thousand dollars a year, declined to provide a dollar figure for the investigations. “If I were to place a dollar value per hour on the time spent, it would put me in a position of possibly violating the Freedom of Information Act,” said Chief Stewart.

SLED did, however, provide the number of hours spent on each of the four cases. Case number 34060056, for example, had consumed 199 hours as of March 30 of this year, the latest figures  which SLED had compiled. That case is listed as alleged threats against an Anderson County official, apparently Preston.

Case number 34060058 involved alleged threats against various Council members and it has required 120 hours of investigation. 

The other two cases are unclear as to their nature, or even who they refer to. Case number 34060069 involved allegations of official misconduct by an Anderson County official, and required only 7 hours of investigation. Whether this case referred to the original incident at Cater’s Lake is unknown.

Even less is known at this time about the final case, number 34060077, breach of trust, requiring 107 hours of investigation. 

SLED Chief Robert Stewart, when asked to clarify that characterization of case number 77 was unable to do so. “I can only use that description at this time, without revealing the nature of the investigation. However, it should be noted that any case investigated by SLED becomes a matter of public information at some point. If the cases are closed, the case files become public information. If  charges are filed, the case files don’t become public information, of course, but the charges and subsequent actions are public.”

Chief Stewart made it clear that the information needed to proceed or to end the investigation was now in Solicitor Chrissy Adams’hands.

Waldrep suggests hiring auditor to report to Council

By Stan Welch

Potentially significant shifts in the perceived political landscape of Anderson County continued to appear at a called meeting of the County Council Friday, May 11. The meeting was called to allow for more review and discussion of the County’s proposed budget ordinance. Council was scheduled to consider first reading approval of the budget at the May 15 meeting.

A number of issues were raised by  members of the Council. The question of fund transfers between departments and how they should be reported was raised. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson stated that the budget ordinance should be more in line with state law in terms of reporting fund transfers and  general financial reporting.

District Three Councilman Greer said that the issue seemed to center around exactly when a transfer had been performed. “Is it when the administrator has received the transfer, or when he approves it? It’s neither. It’s when the transfer is completed.”

The issue of fund transfers has been a contentious one, especially between county administrator Joey Preston and Councilwoman Wilson. She has frequently complained that Preston fails to comply with the county budget ordinance, which requires that Council be notified of any transfers in excess of $2500, and that the notice should be given within thirty days. Some transfers, totaling large amounts of money, have gone unreported for several months at a time.

Said Wilson, “We had more than a million dollars worth of transfers made during the 2005-’06 fiscal year that weren’t reported until February of this year. That’s just unacceptable. We have a fiduciary responsibility to be better informed than that.”

Preston says the process of submitting, approving and performing a fund transfer takes a total of five signatures by various county officials. “The request originates with a department head, who sends it to his supervisor, for example Holt Hopkins in transportation. Then it goes to Jana Pressley, then to Rita Davis, then to Gina Humphreys. Finally it comes to me, and if approved, it has to go back through the financial department again,” said Preston. “I then provide notice of it to the Clerk to Council within thirty days. We are doing everything we are required to do.”

Wilson says that the Council should be notified when the administrator approves the transfer. Language included in the proposed budget ordinance at Councilman Greer’s request would address that issue, requiring prior notice when funds are transferred between departments, if the department receiving the funds has exceeded its total budget.

Two fees, one in existence, and one that has been proposed, were topics of considerable discussion. The solid waste fee is recommended for a fifty per cent increase from an annual $40 a year fee to $60 a year. The funds would be used to address a $2.2 million deficit in the solid waste department, as well as begin to refurbish and replace a number of antiquated convenience centers, according to Environmental Services Director Vic Carpenter.

The fee has been stagnant since 1996, just before the Big Creek Landfill was sold to Allied Waste, Inc. District Six Councilman Ron Wilson stated flatly that he wholeheartedly supports the fee. “There is no reason to argue against this. It hasn’t gone up in eleven years. My area needs a new convenience center. I intend to vote for it.” The County recently broke ground on a site in Wilson’s District, which will include a recycling education center.

District Five Councilman Michael G.Thompson also announced his intention to vote for the fee, saying he had experienced an epiphany. “I had opposed the fee and suddenly I remembered economics 101. If a service costs more than it generates, raise the fee. It’s that simple.”

Greer asked whether a lower increase would suffice until a general obligation bond could be enacted to finance the construction of the convenience centers.

Thompson and Wilson have also expressed support for a second fee, which has yet to be enacted, but plays a key role in the budget discussions. A road fee of twenty-five dollars for each vehicle registered in Anderson County, is projected to generate approximately $4.1 million annually. Of that amount, $1.7 million is earmarked for the County’s recently established bridge crew.

The remaining $2.4 million will go into the general fund, a circumstance which concerns several members of Council. Councilman Greer pointed out that the $4.1 million revenue stream would only increase the transportation department’’ budget by approximately $327,000. “I understand that the $1.7 million goes to the bridge fund, but this money  ( Editor’s Note: $2.1 million)going into the general fund is just replacing other money that’s going somewhere else,” said Greer. “Legally, it may be considered as being used for transportation, but it is not getting to the road. All I know is that $2.1 million is not going to transportation. Because of that I cannot support that fee.”

Under questioning from Councilman Wilson, Greer further acknowledged that he would probably oppose the fee on philosophical grounds, “even if it were budgeted appropriately.” Councilman Thompson said that the funds were going to some function of the roads, but Chairman Waldrep agreed with Greer, calling the proposal a funds swap.

County Administrator Joey Preston, who has conceded that the fee will be used in large part for employee salaries, told Council that recent reductions in the property tax rates on vehicles in South Carolina had cost the County approximately $4.1 million annually. “You have told me to find alternative sources of revenue, without raising taxes. There are only so many options.”

In perhaps the session’s biggest surprise, Chairman Waldrep, during a discussion concerning filling a vacant position in the Clerk to Council’s office, asked Council to give serious consideration to hiring an auditor who would answer only to the Council, to verify information provided by the county’s routine financial reports.

”It’s my understanding that Gina Humphreys was originally hired to serve in that role. She works for the administrator now, however. I would propose that Council employ an auditor to help us interpret the financial information we receive. They would answer only to the Council. I would be willing to use any discretionary funds I have towards meeting that cost. That would remove virtually all questions concerning the County’s finances, and would give us an alternative to a forensic audit.”

Speaking directly to Preston, Waldrep said, “It would also put Council back on an equal footing with the administrator. I know this is a flash point of difficulty, but it should be a welcome suggestion to the other side. The ultimate responsibility for this government is the Council’s. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

Councilwoman Wilson quickly volunteered her six thousand dollar annual reimbursable account towards the hiring of an auditor. Councilman Greer moved to adjourn, a motion that was successful.

FOI request to County results in arranged meeting with subject

By Stan Welch

In the latest of what appears to be an effort to manage media access to public information, Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston has refused to provide requested documents to The Journal, unless and until a meeting is held with a division head for an explanation of the documents.

The Journal requested, under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, the financial documentation related to an alleged trip to Las Vegas made by two county employees and their families.

The request was made on April 9, 2007 after The Journal received an anonymous report that Allied Waste, Inc. had paid for the two top solid waste officials in Anderson County and their families to travel to Las Vegas for a week.

According to the information sent to The Journal, Environmental Services director Vic Carpenter and solid waste manager Greg Smith, along with their families, attended a solid waste exposition in Las Vegas at no expense to themselves or the county. The trip took place in May of 2005.

On April 16, The Journal received a letter from County Attorney Tom Martin, of the McNair Law Firm. The letter stated that the costs of retrieving and copying the estimated twenty two pages of documents would be $23.35, which The Journal paid in advance, as required by the County.

The letter went on to say that The Journal should contact Ms. Rita Davis, the finance director to make arrangements to review the materials. Last Thursday, May 17, having been informed that the information was ready, a reporter for The Journal contacted Ms. Davis, and asked to retrieve the documents on the following morning.

Ms. Davis told the reporter to call Vic Carpenter. 

“He has those records at his office. That way, he can explain them to you when you pick them up.” The reporter called Carpenter’s office, and was informed by Carpenter’s secretary, following a telephone call to Carpenter in the field, that he had no knowledge of such an arrangement. The reporter was again told to call Ms. Davis, which he did.

He told her that Carpenter didn’t know about the arrangements, and she called Carpenter immediately. After a few minutes, she told the reporter that “Mr. Carpenter will meet with you at three o’clock Thursday afternoon. That way he can explain the documents and answer any questions you might have.”

 The reporter explained that he did not wish to meet with Mr. Carpenter. He further explained that he would not have any questions until he had reviewed the documents. Indeed, he might not have any questions even after reviewing them. “I would simply like to come and pick up the documents, which the county attorney said were ready for me, and for which the newspaper has already paid. Can we arrange that?” he asked.

Ms. Davis said she understood and offered to check with Carpenter once again to see what could be done. 

Monday morning, the reporter called Davis to see what had been decided. He was told that he would have to meet with Mr. Carpenter on Thursday at three o’clock at the historic courthouse. The reporter called Mr. Preston’s office to learn why he couldn’t simply retrieve the documents that had been assembled and paid for. Preston was out of the office for the day, so the reporter spoke to assistant administrator Michael Cunningham.

The reporter reminded Mr. Cunningham that a similar situation had occurred  more than a year earlier when State Representative and County Mass Transit consultant John Scott traveled all the way from Columbia to query a Journal reporter when he came to retrieve documents related to Scott’s consulting contract.

Mr. Cunningham listened to the situation and offered to see what could be done. He later called the reporter and told him that he and Ms. Davis were discussing the situation when Mr. Preston called to check in.  “We all talked about it and Mr. Preston said the best way to handle this is for you to come in on Thursday and meet with Mr. Carpenter. I’m obviously going to go along with him on that.”

The reporter agreed to the meeting, but registered a formal protest. 

“It is not in the county administrator’s power to require me or anyone else seeking public information to meet his conditions to obtain that information. Those conditions are established in the law itself. It is his job to provide the information in compliance with state law. I want to go on the record as saying that I believe this is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. I would also like to repeat that I have no desire to meet with Mr. Carpenter at this time. I simply want to review the documents before I decide if the allegations are worth pursuing. I would also like to add that as a member of the South Carolina Press Association, I am perfectly capable of arranging my own interviews, and do not need Mr. Preston to help me.”

In recent months, in addition to summoning Scott to question the reporter, the County has also issued estimates of hundreds of dollars to be paid in advance in order to provide information, such as contracts and specifications on the flawed Michelin Boulevard project.

Media outlets are not the only ones who face delays and refusals to comply. A case is currently before the state Supreme Court over Preston’s refusal to provide public information to District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson.

Managing editor of The Journal David C. Meade said the latest obstruction is hard to understand. 

“Our reporter made the FOIA request properly, and the County has acknowledged that it has the information available. We paid in advance as the County requested, which is in itself ridiculous, and now our reporter has to meet other arbitrary conditions, set by the County Administrator. This seems very curious and unnecessary.”

911 call in Anderson County fails to prevent accident in Greenville

By Stan Welch

Vance Rowland was almost hit by a car, which pulled out in front of him as he traveled northbound on Highway 81 in Anderson County last Tuesday afternoon, May 15.

Forty minutes later and more than thirty miles away, Rowland watched in horror as the car slammed into a stalled eighteen wheeler on White Horse Road in Greenville County.

He was certain he had just witnessed the death of the young woman behind the wheel.

Incredibly, the woman lived, but Rowland wants to know why she was allowed to drive dangerously and erratically across two counties, while he pleaded with authorities to send help.

 “I followed that girl for at least thirty miles, and was on the telephone with various agencies and dispatchers for over forty minutes,” he said. “The manner in which those agencies and dispatchers performed their duties is outrageous and inexcusable. That young woman is responsible for her own actions, but it should never have ended the way it did,” said Rowland.

Rowland says his odyssey began at approximately ten minutes after two in the afternoon, when an older gray Toyota Camry, with North Carolina tags, pulled out in front of him near the CVS pharmacy on Highway 81. The car almost hit him, and as he followed, the driver continued to drive erratically and dangerously. “It was obvious the driver was under the influence of something,” said Rowland. “Whether it was dope, liquor or prescription drugs, I don’t know. But she was driving crazy, weaving in and out of traffic, almost hitting people and constantly switching lanes.”

Corporal Dan Marsceau, of the South Carolina Highway Patrol’s public information office, confirmed the accident on White Horse Road, but was unable to provide any details. “The investigating officer is off duty until later in the week, and won’t be in the office.” Another spokesperson for the SCHP later confirmed that the information was still unavailable from the investigating officer.

At one point, Rowland pulled up beside the car at a red light and tried to talk with the driver. “She was a very pretty young woman, with curly brown hair. I was going to ask her to pull over so I could get her a cab or something, but she just smiled and waved and drove off when the light changed.”

He continued to follow, all the while talking to a dispatcher at Anderson County’s Central Dispatch. Rowland says he was disconnected a couple of times, usually when they tried to transfer him to various other agencies.

“Several times I was put on hold. At one point they gave me the business number of the Sheriff’s Office and told me to call them. I did, and as soon as I told them what I wanted, they kicked me back to 911. Somewhere along the way on Highway 81, I told the woman dispatcher not to transfer me again, that I had a serious situation and wanted help.”

Rowland says the dispatcher also asked him several times if he could get a tag number on the car. “I actually asked her if they wanted me to try and stop this car, since nobody else seemed like they were going to.”

Taylor Jones, the director of the Emergency Services Division, which runs Anderson County’s Central Dispatch, said that it is policy to hand such calls off to the South Carolina Highway Patrol communications unit. That policy was followed in this case as well.

Taylor says that the SCHP dispatcher referred Rowland to the ACSO’s non-emergency number, but Rowland says that happened fairly early in the process.

The SCHP confirmed that the situation was handed off  to them by Anderson County. But they recorded the time of that transfer at 2:42 p.m, or just eight minutes before the crash. That means that Anderson County Central Dispatch was responsible for the first thirty two minutes of the incident, according to the SCHP records.

Jones, when asked for clarification, disputed that statement, saying that the first 911 call received from Rowland was handed off to the SCHP. “That was turned over to them almost immediately,” said Jones.

Rowland concedes that the situation was so confused and he was passed off to so many different people that he cannot confirm who he was finally connected with. “I really didn’t care if it was Anderson County or the Highway Patrol. I just wanted some help.”

In the meantime, the young woman got on Interstate 85 northbound for Greenville. 

Rowland continued to follow. “I just knew this woman was going to hurt someone or herself. I just couldn’t drive away. It was just so frustrating not to be able to do anything.”

According to Rowland, while following the Toyota along the interstate, they passed two SCHP cars on the side of the road. 

“I was on the phone with the 911 operator at the time, and told her they were there. ‘I’m passing two state troopers right now, and blowing my horn at them. Tell them to follow me,” Rowland said he told the dispatcher. “She never missed a beat. She just said if they were pulled over, they were busy. I said I could see them talking to each other, and she replied that they were running an operation of some sort. It must have been a pretty important operation.”

Rowland says that’s the point where he got the feeling that the dispatcher was stalling. “I just had this sense that they really wanted me to cross that county line where they could pass me off to someone else, which is exactly what they did.”

As Rowland continued to follow the woman’s car, she exited onto White Horse Road and again proceeded north. Again, Rowland stayed with her. By now, it was approaching three o’clock in the afternoon. “I just kept thinking about school letting out. In fact, after the crash, one of the very first vehicles to pass the scene was a school bus. It could have been them instead of the eighteen wheeler.”

The woman continued to drive dangerously, according to Rowland. “I was staying back a little bit now, so I wouldn’t be involved in any wreck she caused. I was on the phone with the dispatcher when I saw the truck up ahead, stalled in the center of the road. He had emergency markers out and everything. The truck was clearly disabled. I told the dispatcher that the car would never make it around the truck. That woman driving never touched her brakes. She just drove straight under the truck.”

Suddenly, according to Rowland, there was plenty of police presence. “Literally within four to seven minutes, there were four Greenville County deputies and three state troopers at the scene. I thought that she must be dead, the way she was encased in that car; but I found out later she was transported to a hospital, and she was alive when they left the accident scene. What happened then, I don’t know.”

Rowland says none of the state troopers seemed interested in what he had to say. “Finally, Officer Collier took a statement from me. I checked my watch and it was 3:03 p.m. when I began. About fifteen minutes later, I left the scene of the accident.”

Deputies investigate racing, gas drive offs

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated a racing incident which ended in a crash and a gas drive off which almost resulted in a store manager being run over. They also investigated a number of thefts from homes and businesses recently. Among incidents investigated were:

PELZER 

May 20 – P.D. Marter responded to 103 Old River Rd. where Tommy Locke reported the theft of several chain saws and a selection of fishing equipment from a shed at that location. The loss was estimated at $1300.

May 20 – P.D. Marter was sent to 116 Lebby St. where James Cooper reported seeing two younger white males breaking the glass in the front door of Scott’s Muffler Service at that address. Cooper said he saw a silver or grey Jeep SUV, probably an early 90’s model Cherokee, with two white males in their teens or early twenties drive off towards the upper mill near Smyth St.

 The subjects were described as 1) WM, 5’4" to 5’11", 200 plus pounds, with black curly hair, wearing blue jeans and a dark tee shirt,and a WM, 5’8" to 5’11", 150 pounds with bushy blond curly hair and wearing a pair of blue jeans and a light tee shirt.

PIEDMONT

May 17 – W.E. Gregory responded to 50 Halter Drive, where Diakomihalis Vasoula reported that someone had broken into her car by breaking the window and had stolen her purse, containing credit cards, cash, and her family’s Social security cards.

May 17 – M.B. Bearden was dispatched to the SaveWay gas station on Highway 86 twice in an hour, in reference to gas drive offs. In one case, the driver stole $30.03 worth of gas. Less than an hour later, someone stole $32.24 worth of gas.

 May 17 – J.A. Frazier responded to 911 River Road, where Jane Dyer reported that her son Tony, WM, 43, 5’11", 150 pounds, had come to her house and stayed over night. He left in the middle of the night in her vehicle with no permission to use the car, a 1998 white Ford Explorer, SC handicap tag #67102.

May 18 – T. L. Chapman attempted to stop a gray Buick at the intersection of Hwy. 153 and Hwy. 81. The vehicle was racing a Ford F-150 pickup, which was pulling a trailer. The Buick refused to stop, and fled on Highway 153 at speeds of 100 miles an hour. At the end of Highway 153, the car missed the turn onto Lakeside Drive and crashed. The driver jumped out and ran but was captured by Chapman. Ross Salters, BM, 25, 5’8", 240pounds, was arrested for failure to stop for a blue light, reckless driving, DUS, and improper tag.

May 18 – J.F. Parker was dispatched to 108 Commons Blvd. where Eloise Duffie reported the theft of two air conditioning units from some business locations owned by Dunn-Goodwin Custom Builders. Two of the units had been stolen from the businesses. The theft was discovered by air conditioning repairmen sent to the site in response to a complaint by one of the tenants.

 May 18 – Wanda Stephen called the ACSO to report the theft of a license tag from her son’s car. The SC tag was numbered 646WMG.

 May 19 – T.B. Dugan responded to Elrod Rd. where a burned four door BMW was located. The vehicle identification number plate had been removed. The vehicle was towed.

May 20 – R.M. Cooper responded to the Raceway store on Hwy. 153. The manager stated that a driver had pumped $60 worth of gas and tried to leave. He went outside and stood in front of her car to block her. According to Patel, she accelerated and he had to run to avoid being run over. She then tried to pass between two other cars, hitting both and continuing on. The vehicle was described as a newer model Ford Expedition SUV, with a partial plate of 39VSE. A black female was driving.

WILLIAMSTON

May 17 – M.D. Campbell and J.T. Bowers responded to 980 Beaverdam Rd., where Marlene Kay reported that someone had broken into her storage unit at that location and stolen a variety of power landscaping tools and some wake boards. Total value was $325.

 May 18 – R. M. Cooper was dispatched to 1030 Cannon Bottom Road to the Duke Power Steam Plant. James Liams reported that someone had broken into a storage shed. Nothing was reported stolen.

 May 19 – J.R. Finely received a report of a stolen cell phone from Edward Hall, of Honea Path. Hall stated that he believed the phone was stolen while he was at the Saluda Valley Country Club.

May 19 – P.D. Marter was dispatched to 313 Trail Court where Pamela Allen stated that someone had stolen an electrical box and about twelve feet of copper wire from her shed.

Local students graduate Lander

Former South Carolina Superintendent of Education Inez M. Tenenbaum issued a number of challenges to 278 graduation candidates during her address Saturday, May 12, for Lander University’s spring commencement ceremony.

Tenenbaum, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the event in the university’s Horne Arena, told the group to believe in their goals, take risks and be willing to reject conventional wisdom to do what is right.

Rachel  Ashley Junkins of Easley was among Cum laude graduates, which requires a grade point average of 3.50 – 3.74.

Brittainy Monet Harrison of Pelzer was a recipient of the Golden L Award.

Area students who were awarded degrees during Lander’s May commencement ceremonies included: Emily Ann Johnston, Williamston, Bachelor of Science, Business Administration; Rachel Ashley Junkins, Easley, Bachelor of Science, Elementary Education;  Lena Lestina Means, Pelzer, Bachelor of Science, Psychology; and Sheena Marie Morris, Easley, Bachelor of Science, Elementary Education. Graduates from Greenville County included  Ely Zachary Helms, Piedmont, Bachelor of Science, Mass Communication & Theatre; and Andrea Lane Hopkins, Pelzer, Bachelor of Science, Political Science,  Brittainy Monet Harrison of Pelzer, Bachelor of Science Degree, Special Education. 

Freedom Weekend Aloft starts Friday

The 26th annual Freedom Weekend Aloft event will fill the South Greenville  skyline with multi colored hot air balloons this weekend as the event opens at their new home at Heritage Park in Simpsonville.

It will be held over the Memorial Day weekend Friday, May 25 through Monday, May 28 featuring colorful and special shaped hot air balloons, music, food,  Frisbee dog competitions, and other activities specifically for families and children.

Activities will begin Friday at 3 p.m. with Amphitheater concerts scheduled for  7 p.m., starting with Gov’t Mule and guitar great Robert Randolph along with the Family Band.

On Saturday, Gary Allan, Josh Gracin and Trent Tomlinson will headline at 7 p.m. Other activities will begin at noon.

On Sunday, the Goo Goo Dolls and Augustana will entertain beginning at 8 p.m.

All concert tickets are General Admission Lawn Seating with a limited number of discounted ticket being available through May 24 at BI-LO locations and on-line at  www.freedomweekend.org.    

Advance discounted adult general admission is $20. Children 12 and under are $10 when accompanied by a paid adult.

Monday concerts are free. Performing will be Half Past Forever with Chris Sligh and special guest Civil Twilight 

beginning at 3:30 p.m. including beach music with General Johnson and Chairmen of the Board and a Fireworks Finale to follow! A special Memorial Day event will preced the concerts!

Other activities and schedules can be found online at the website.

Register now for farm day camp

Camp Calhoun, a day camp for ages 7-13, has extended the registration deadline to June 1. This camp, themed Down on the Farm, will feature four farms in four days to teach kids about farming in South Carolina through interactive and educational experiences.

Educational and fun activities have been planned at entertaining locations throughout the 14 counties of the Heritage Corridor. 

These once in a lifetime experiences will allow children to get down to nature and experience farm life at its finest. Calhoun the Raccoon, mascot of the children’s educational division of the organization, has an itinerary set that will allow campers to milk and feed baby goats, make soap from goats milk, enjoy picnics, visit a petting zoo, and learn of the rich agriculture in their own backyards.

Camp experiences will begin in Anderson County at Callaham Orchards, followed by a day at Emerald Farm in Greenwood County, then on the Region 3 Discovery Center and the Ag Heritage Museum, and rounding out in Colleton County at Bee City.

Campers can participate in all four days ($100) or choose the day that is conveniently located near their home ($40). A shuttle service will leave Edgefield each morning.

Packages include snacks, lunch, activities, souvenirs, official Camp Calhoun 2007 t-shirt, and tours of these farms. 

Space is limited so early registration is encouraged. Call Anna Joyner at (803) 637-1237 to enroll in this unique and exciting summer program. 

For more information, and downloadable registration forms, visit the SC National Heritage Corridor on the web at www.sc-heritagecorridor.org.

Established in 1996, the SC National Heritage Corridor extends 240 miles through 14 counties from the mountains of Oconee County, along the Savannah River, to the port city of Charleston. It is one of 37 such areas in the United States.

Seems to Me . . .“When you call 911, you expect help”

By Stan Welch

There is an extraordinary story in this issue of The Journal. I say that not because I wrote it, or because of any technical aspect of it. It is extraordinary because of the questions it raises about the performance of those we count on to help us in time of emergency.

Quite frankly, in the instance reported in this particular story, the lack of effort to address a dangerous situation, which resulted in a serious automobile accident, is disturbing, and begs for inquiry and explanation. The story involves a dangerous driver who reportedly was allowed to go unstopped as she crossed Anderson County on her way to an eventual car crash in Greenville County.

A local motorist, who was almost hit by the young female driver, followed her as he called 911 to ask for a policeman to respond. According to this man’s account, he followed this young woman at speeds of up to eighty miles an hour as she eventually left Anderson County and continued on to White Horse Road, where she slammed into the rear of an eighteen wheeler which was stalled in the road.

The motorist, who was still following the driver when she crashed into the truck, says he spent forty minutes on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, pleading for some assistance in stopping the young woman before something happened. The fact that he was unsuccessful in getting that assistance is certainly a large part of the story.

But is it the whole story? There are two other factors that deserve at least to be considered, it seems to me. One is the fact that almost two years ago, members of the County Council received anonymous letters allegedly from an employee at Central Dispatch. These letters raised serious allegations of official misconduct and sexual impropriety within the emergency services division which oversees the county’s 911 and dispatch system.

These letters named names and stated clearly that certain people’s willingness to provide sexual favors for supervisors was resulting in poor employee morale, as well as in the placement of unqualified dispatchers and supervisors in positions of authority. These letters named dispatchers and supervisors who were not qualified on the various levels of the system’s operation, and who were unable to dispatch certain types of  response.

Despite one Council member’s efforts to bring these allegations before the full Council, at the time when these letters were first received in late summer of 2005, she was unable to do so. Council declined to pursue the issue, saying that it was the county administrator’s responsibility.

Joey Preston reported that the County’s personnel lawyer, Nancy Bloodgood, had investigated the complaints and taken appropriate action. Under the protection of county policy, as well as state law, concerning the protection of employees’ privacy, the results of that inquiry remain unknown.

There were, however, personnel changes at central dispatch. Since that time, the director of the ESD has retired, and serves as a consultant for the County. In addition, at least one of the supervisors named in the letters alleging misconduct later left the county and took a job in the private sector. 

This latest incident will be difficult to explain in terms of a simple breakdown in communications. It is egregious enough to raise questions about the veracity of those earlier allegations, and to justify another inquiry into the operations of the Central Dispatch department.

Several weeks ago, I asked current ESD director Taylor Jones about those past allegations of wrongdoing. He replied that his goal was to move the department forward and not get caught up in the past. But has the past caught up with the department? Jones needs to find out and find out fast.

Another potential factor in last week’s problem is the disturbing possibility that there simply weren’t any ACSO deputies to dispatch. A source within the county’s law enforcement structure tells me that there were only eight deputies on patrol in Anderson County at the time of the incident in question.

Chief Deputy Creed Hashe has repeatedly denied any such claims, and insists that the Sheriff’s Department is providing adequate coverage of the county.

Still, reports of short shifts and inadequate manpower continue to surface. Sheriff Crenshaw points to his department’s response times as one justification for his budget deficit. But various members from within the law enforcement community insist that there is a shortage of deputies on the roads of Anderson County.

Whether these charges are true or not, whether there are unqualified dispatchers working in the 911 system, having allegedly obtained those positions in less than professional ways, remains unanswered. Are there enough deputies to patrol and protect Anderson County on each shift, or has the continuing turnover of officers at the department taken its toll on public safety? This question too needs an answer.

As the motorist who played such a prominent role in last week’s tragedy said, “When you call 911, you have a minimum expectation that you will get help. But I sure didn’t.”

Seems to me that an examination of whether that minimal expectation is being consistently met might be in order.

 

 

 

 

 

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