News Archive

(2306) Week of June 7, 2006

Wilson, Barnes face off in primary 

Dees facing challengers
Gilstrap seeking reelection to Greenville County District 26
Robbery suspect in custody in Alabama
Mayor to request SLED look at audit
Budget nearing completion
Town debt still substantial
Downtown project receives grant funding
Pelzer receives grant for mill gym
Salkehatchie Camp returns to area
Economic study shows area's needs
Powdersville Water District completes project
Angel Food Ministries, PERC offer food box
Wren Sidewalk Project receives funding

Campaign filing disclosures released
Seems to Me . . .Journalism ethics

 

Wilson, Barnes face off in primary 

By Stan Welch

The lines between District Seven incumbent Cindy Wilson and her challenger, Julia Barnes, have blurred slightly in recent weeks, as Barnes has expressed both admiration for Wilson’s ability to withstand the pressures of office, as well as her distaste for some of the things Wilson has had to experience. Still, Barnes thinks that the impasse between Wilson and county administrator Joey Preston hurts the district. She thinks she can help break that logjam if she wins the Republican primary on June 13.

She has expressed her “woman’s instinct” that Preston might be amenable to relocating to another county if he didn’t think it would look as if he were being driven out by a hostile council.

She has also said that she has never seen Wilson act rudely or be mean to anyone, and that she admires Wilson’s ability to respond to sometimes impolite treatment in a calm manner. Still, she feels that the district suffers in terms of access to resources because of the acrimonious relationship with Preston.

On more practical matters, she says she is unsure about the need for a forensic audit, something Wilson calls for persistently, claiming that Preston’s alleged financial misconduct cannot be uncovered any other way. Barnes, while saying she doesn’t really see the need for such an audit, doesn’t rule out supporting one. “If it would help stop all the squabbling in the county and let us move ahead, it would be money well spent.”

Wilson, for her part, points to her ability to access resources for the district through other avenues than the administrator’s office. “We have brought water lines and other infrastructure to the District through teamwork with our county delegation and our Representatives and Senators in Washington,” said Wilson. “They do their jobs, and that is why I don’t agree with hiring lobbyists.”

Wilson’s problems with Preston are well known, and it is generally assumed that any major shift in the balance of the County Council could result in Preston’s firing. When asked at a public forum if she would vote to fire Preston, Wilson showed no hesitation in affirming that she would.

“I have made only one campaign promise during all my time on council. I will continue to pursue open and honest government. If I can fulfill that promise, many of these other issues will take care of themselves.”

Editor’s note: This article is a compilation of separate interviews conducted with the candidates, which appeared in a recent issue of The Journal. The purpose is to provide highlights of the various candidates’ positions prior to Tuesday’s primary.

Dees facing challengers

By Stan Welch

The three candidates for the District Six seat on County Council offer an intriguing variety of choices.

Incumbent Bill Dees touts the growth and progressive nature of the District, particularly the Powdersville area. “I am proud to have been a part of the progressive growth here, and I hope to continue to be a part of it,” said Dees. He cites the need for continued improvements in infrastructure for the area, as well as pointing to plans for the construction of a new library and government center, as well as a recycling center and park on the banks of the Saluda River. He has expressed his approval of and support for county administrator Joey Preston.

Rick Freemantle, a political newcomer , says he would immediately demand a forensic audit, and would “tell Mr. Preston where to go and to look for work while he was there, because he wouldn’t be working for Anderson County anymore.”

Freemantle says Preston has entirely too much power and too much sway over the Council. “He is hired help, and the current Council has ceded their power over to him. That is wrong and it would stop if I were on that Council.” Freemantle also decries what he sees as the use of discretionary funds by individual Council members to curry favor. “Those funds should be done away with. They are no different than letting Joey Preston putting three thousand dollars for meals on credit cards.”

Freemantle says he believes government should provide only the basic services, such as police and fire protection and infrastructure.

Ron Wilson offers perhaps the strongest contrast to Dees. “I will work to roll back taxes. It’s time to get government back to its proper role, which is the protection of life and property.”

Wilson points to his seventeen months’ service on the State Board of Education, as evidence of his ability both to work with others and to reduce spending. “We reduced our operating budget both years that I was there. It was common sense decisions.”

Wilson also opposes a recently proposed sales tax to fund infrastructure. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t value infrastructure. “The County loves District Six for its tax base. But we should be getting more back in terms of infrastructure.”

Wilson also calls for a forensic audit, saying it is essential. “The current Anderson county budget is a shell game, with money being moved by the administrator from here to there to cover something, then being moved somewhere else.”

Wilson has publicly graded Preston’s performance as an ‘F’ and indicated he would vote to fire him.

 Editor’s note: This article is a compilation of separate interviews with the candidates which appeared in a recent issue of The Journal. The purpose is to provide highlights of the various candidates’ positions prior to Tuesday’s primary.

Gilstrap seeking reelection to Greenville County District 26

By Stan Welch

 Judy Gilstrap is seeking reelection from District 26 to the Greenville County Council, and she’s not shy about saying why she thinks she deserves the job.

“I have worked very hard the last three and a half years, and have been granted the honor of serving as Vice Chairman for the Council. That position also makes me the chairman of the finance committee, and places me on the board of directors of the Greenville Area  Development Corporation, as well as the Matrix industrial park. I have sought to clean up the West Side and to bring jobs to the area, including the Piedmont area. Since I’ve been on Council, 2400 code violations have been processed in the West Side.”

Gilstrap points to her work on the finance committee, saying that the Council had produced a two year budget, added twenty-four new employees to the Sheriff’s Department and the detention center, as well as giving raises to every county employee. “We are also building a $12 million addition to the detention center that we are paying for as we go. We have done all of that without a tax increase. I think that’s leadership.”

The County Council has adopted a “worst first” policy as part of their prescription for progress plan for bringing the county’s roads up to standards they should be at. “Some of the districts will see less paving money for a while as we bring the worst areas up, but we agree that this is the way to approach the problem.”

“It is one of Greenville County’s strengths that we have learned to create coalitions on various issues, instead of voting strict party lines, which was keeping us from accomplishing so many things I think I’ve helped in that process, as have many of the other members of council. Now we vote based on the issue we feel strongly about, instead of just the party affiliation.”

Gilstrap says economic development is the number one priority. “I have sought jobs for the West Side and the Piedmont area since day one on the Council. We have to have jobs, and more jobs.” She said that Gordon Food Services is currently preparing their new building in the Matrix industrial park. “I worked very hard with all those involved in getting the incentives in place to attract this fine company to the Matrix.”

Land use and planning are important issues for the County says Gilstrap. “There are areas in District 26 that aren’t zoned at this time, and if they are in the future, we want to be sure they are zoned properly, so it helps the area, and not hurt it.”

Still, if you work hard, you should have a place to play hard, so Gilstrap is trying to have a 200 acre site that contains a closed landfill brought into the recreation district’s park system. She is seeking an intergovernmental agreement with the Greenville Recreation District that would make that a reality. “There are several options for using that land. Studies show that former landfills are excellent for green spaces or soccer fields or other recreational uses. I would really like to see that site put to such a use,” said Gilstrap.

The site is near the old Woodmont High School, not far off of Highway 25.

Robbery suspect in custody in Alabama

The suspect wanted in connection with the armed robber of the Sun Trust Bank in Williamston is currently being held by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mobile, Alabama. Jeffrey Dean Gragg is wanted for the alleged bank robbery of the Williamston branch of SunTrust Bank located at 1 N. Hamilton Street on April 7.

According to Williamston Police Chief David Baker, police officials in Mobile, Alabama advised the Williamston Police Department and the FBI Greenville regional office that Gragg entered a Mobile police substation and said that he was wanted for a bank robbery in Williamston, South Carolina and desired to turn himself in. Gragg is awaiting extradition by the United States Marshals Service, Baker said.

Mayor to request SLED look at audit

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy stated Monday that he has requested the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to thoroughly review the findings of recent investigations by accountant Bob Daniel who has been working on the town finances since the first of the year, and auditor Francis M. Branyon of Anderson.

Clardy said the request is in response to Daniel suggesting a SLED investigation of the finances and “because of concerns of some residents.”

Daniel has done preliminary work on the town’s financials in preparation of having an auditor come in to do a formal audit on the books.

Daniel has done much of the preliminary work that resulted in the town releasing information about the poor status of the town’s finances earlier this year.

Figures released by Daniel in January stated the town was $1,613,000 in debt, of which $1,138,753 was delinquent. The announcement led to cutbacks in personnel and services for the town during the months between January and June.

“I do this with the hope and full anticipation that this will dispel any rumors or concerns that our citizens may have on our town and its financial condition,” Clardy stated in a letter sent to Francis M. Branyon, the auditor recently hired to finalize the town’s required audit. A letter was also sent to Daniel, Thompson and King attorney and SLED.

The letter also authorized Branyon and Daniel to cooperate with SLED in any questioning that may arise, Clardy said.

Daniel urged an investigation by SLED when he completed his preliminary work in preparation of turning the town’s books over to an auditor for the required yearly audit.

Budget nearing completion

Williamston Town Council approved paying off some debt, readied to pass a budget and accepted as information a suggestion for resetting mayor and council salaries.

 During citizen comments, Pamela Owens on behalf of the Williamston Area Historic Commission (WAHC), asked Mayor Phillip Clardy the status on a flag pole for the cemetery and lighting for the cemetery.

Clardy said the flag pole had arrived but would not be installed until a decision was made about the road into the cemetery and placement of wiring for the lights.

Owens also asked about the status of the Gray Drive Bridge. She said a tractor trailer was using the location for a parking lot.

Ken Hill requested use of the park amphitheater for an event to include singing groups and to “bless people with the Lord” on Saturday, June 24. Council unanimously approved the request.

Council then went into executive session to discuss contractural matters with a resident and with the town attorney.

Upon returning to public session approximately 50 minutes later, Clardy announced that no action was taken in executive session.

Appalachian Council of Governments advisor Joe Newton then presented the 24th draft of the 2006 budget. “You are at the point to pass a budget,” he told Council.

Council unanimously approved a motion to allow the town to advertise for the public hearing on the budget. Council will hold a public hearing on the budget on June 22nd at 6 p.m.

Newton told Council that the town has about $281,000 available to make payments on debt owed by the town.  Council then unanimously approved allowing the clerk to make the payment proposals presented by Newton to the SC Retirement, SC Treasurer, SCDOR, and repayment of the BAN.

“You still have some very large bills,” Newton said.

Newton said that even after paying $281,000 on the outstanding debt, the town still owes $235,500, plus and additional $125,000 in past due payables. The town also owes two delinquent payments totaling $50,000 to BB&T and $68,000 to Goldie and Associates.

Total debt still facing town officials amounts to $573,000.

Newton also warned council that even though the town is showing a contingency fund of $324,796 on the 2006 budget, that amount includes borrowing $250,000 on a tax anticipation note (TAN).

The borrowed funds will be used to make payments on the current BAN ($373,000 P&I) which is due by the end of the year, and to get the town through the last half of the year.

Newton also asked council to consider what they intend to do concerning mayor and council salaries for the 2007 year.

In order to bring the salaries more in line with other towns across the state, the mean salaries of council would be approximately $2400 and the mayor salary would be $4600, Newton noted.

Before the financial status of the town resulted in the mayor and council salaries being cut by Council, council members were being paid $7200 per year and the mayor was being paid $24,000 per year.

With other benefits including paid health care coverage, the mayor and council were costing the town approximately $70,000, according to Newton. The salary information was accepted as information only.

There was brief discussion about the 911 police dispatch. The town is still waiting for information requested from the county on which to base a decision.

The town’s audit will be presented soon, according to Mayor Clardy. Clardy said that he was requesting SLED look at the audit findings.

Clardy said Accountant Bob Daniel said there was no need for a forensic audit and the findings will be presented to Council two members at a time.

He said SLED was being asked to look at the findings per the request of Daniel and concerns by some citizens.

Clardy also mentioned a grant presentation made to the town and the GWBA for a downtown revitalization project.

 A ceremonial check for $105,861 representing the grant was presented by Sen. Billy O’Dell, SCDOT Commissioner Marion P. Carnell last Friday.

The grant was secured with help from other members of the legislative delegation including Rep. Dan Cooper, Rep. Michael Thompson. Anderson County Council through District 7 representative Cindy Wilson will also provide some matching funds to help with the grant.

Clardy announced that the Greater Williamston Business Association will sponsor a Freedom Celebration including fireworks on July 1.

The event is being organized by the GWBA and Williamston Fire Department and will include a cruise in, amusement rides, town-wide yard sale, food vendors, and entertainment prior to fireworks around 9 p.m.

Council also amended the agenda to allow a resolution extending closing on certain real estate properties.

Council then unanimously approved allowing an additional 30 days on remaining properties.

Under the good of the order, Councilman Marion Middleton Jr., brought up several items for discussion including pick up of limbs and garbage, moving the old town hall, ownership of the building, and selling the town’s large generator.

Middleton suggested the town consider keeping the generator located at the old water plant and using it as a back up for the sewer treatment plant and town hall.

A request was made by Councilman Otis Scott to allow Walt Smith to be in charge of the Christmas parade.

Williamston Town Council will meet Thursday June 15 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss a pre-existing case involving a potential settlement. No additional details were made public.

The next meeting of Council will be on June 20.

Town debt still substantial

Even with the recent land auction sale and considerable cutbacks in personnel and services, the Town of Williamston is still facing substantial debt payments and a tight buget for the remainder of the year. The Town still owes $516,500 of $736,000 in debt that was outstanding to state and federal agencies in January of this year and is facing a balloon payment on the $350,000 BAN note that was taken out at the end of 2005. 

Information presented by Appalachian Council of Governments advisor Joe Newton during the Williamston Town Council meeting Monday, proposed paying off an additional $281,000, primarily from the land sale proceeds.

According to Newton’s information, though proceeds from the property auction sale are listed at $498,964, after a commission of $9,979 and advertising fees of $7,500, the town is expected to net $481,484 before closing. The land sale proceeds were earmarked for IRS and other outstanding debt.

However, of the $200,000 already paid to satisfy the IRS, $130,000 was borrowed from the general fund and will be paid back. Only $70,000 was from the actual land auction proceeds available at the time. This leaves $281,000 from the total land proceeds to pay on debts, according to Newton.

Outstanding debt facing the town in January, before any payments amounted to:  IRS $200,000; SC Retirement $116,000; SC Treasurer for court fines $85,000; SCDOR (payroll) $37,000.

The amounts due as of June are SC Retirement $91,000; SC Treasurer $68,500; SCDOR $33,000 and BAN repayment $324,000.

Of the $281,000 available from the land sale to pay on the debt, Newton proposed payments of $70,500 to SC retirement; $68,500 to SC Treasurer; $33,000 to the SCDOR; and $109,000 on the BAN. Outstanding past due payables of $125,000 have been paid. Council unanimously approved the payments during their meeting Monday.

Newton said even with these payments from the General Fund, the town also has delinquent payments from the Water and Sewer Fund.

The town is currently two payments behind to BB&T totaling $50,000 and owes Goldie and Associates $68,000 for their expertise in running the town’s sewer treatment plant.

Newton said borrowing $250,000 on a proposed TAN note will allow the town to build a reserve contingency fund which is presently budgeted at $324,000. The fund will be used to operate the town over the next six months and to make payments on the BAN note which is due in December. A final balloon payment on the BAN will also be due in December.

Newton said he is “projecting the town will run short.” It depends on revenues expected and other expenses, he said.

Downtown project receives grant funding

A downtown revitalization plan being proposed by the Town of Williamston and The Greater Williamston Business Association has been approved for grant funding for Phase One of the project.

A check for $105,861 was presented to The Town of Williamston and The Greater Williamston Business Association on Friday. The funds will be used for the first phase of a downtown revitalization project being cosponsored by the town and the GWBA.

Senator Billy O’Dell and SCDOT Commissioner Marion P. Carnell presented the check. Members of the legislative delegation also instrumental in the grant approval include Rep. Dan Cooper and Rep. Michael Thompson.

Sen. O’Dell said he was glad to be a part of helping with downtown revitalization for the town.

“It is improtant to realize this area has lost a lot of industry,” he said. “We need to make it more attractive for small businesses to locate in the area.”

O’Dell said that even though some would consider this type of grant as pork, “It is valuable to this small community.”

Carnell said that the funding for the SCDOT transportation enhancement grant was all Federal money approved by the Senate. Since the Senate can’t name the actual projects for it to be used on, that responsibility fell to SCDOT, Carnell said.

$3.5 million was awarded for projects in the Third Congressional District represented by Carnell. One third of that amount was awarded to O’Dell’s senate district.

Other awards included projects in Iva, Honea Path, Pelzer and Wren School area sidewalk project.

Funding obtained from Anderson County by District 7 representative Cindy Wilson was also instrumental in providing matching funds for the grant project.

GWBA president Dave Maddox said the association was “Looking forward to the opportunity to work with this grant money to see what we can accomplish.”

A preliminary plan was approved by members of the Greater Williamston Business Association last April however exact details of phase one of the plan remain unclear due to the recent sale of the old town hall property.

Due to the property auction sale, the original idea for a clock tower or a fountain will likely be changed.

Town and GWBA officials are currently looking at relocating power lines along Main St., either underground or just off Main St.

The proposed plan originally called for adding a turning lane into Town Square Center, eliminating some parking along Main St., while adding a redesigned parking area in the area between McDonald’s and the old town hall.

There were also proposed cross walk improvements and additional crosswalks planned for the area.

The plan called for a low planted median to be placed between the traffic lanes allowing pedestrians a safety zone while crossing three lanes of traffic.

A committee assigned by the Greater Williamston Business Association to look at options for a downtown redevelopment plan, has been working on it for about two years.

GWBA members are hoping the plan, once finalized, will be the beginning of an effort to make Williamston more attractive for businesses and their customers.

Committee members decided to concentrate efforts on the core of the downtown area along East Main St. and will then extend the plan into other areas of the town in phases, officials said.

Williamston Town Council passed a resolution indicating their support for a downtown revitalization project in July 2004 and the grant application was submitted in June of 2005.

Pelzer receives grant for mill gym

The Town of Pelzer has been awarded an Inter Service Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA) grant to restore and preserve the old Pelzer Mill gym.

Pelzer  Mayor Kenneth Davis and Councilman Tony Riddle recently accepted a check from the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) in the amount of $199,920 dollars.

The funds will be used in the renovation and upgrading of the Community Center, which also serves as the town’s gym and visitor’s center. Presenting the check were Sen. Billy O’Dell, Anderson County Council District 7 representative Cindy Wilson and SCDOT Commissioner Marion P. Carnell. Wilson also provided an additional $22,000 from Anderson County for paving the parking lot adjacent to the Center.

The grant requires a 20% match of funds.

The mill built the gym sometime between 1910-1920, according to Town Administrator Skip Watkins.

Some of the larger expenditures estimated for the project include HVAC, $19,332; handicap ramp, $13,600; rough carpentry – materials and labor - $12,328; roofing, $12,000; new restrooms, $8,000; replacing windows on the upper level, $15,700 and electrical work, $10,825. The estimate was prepared by Trehel Corporation of Clemson.

The estimated $239,000 price tag includes approximately $44,000 in design and contingency costs. Actual construction is estimated at $198,600.

Municipal Consultant Rusty Burns, who assisted the town in seeking the grant, said the gym would play a part in revitalizing the downtown area, even though it will not be staffed.

Economic study shows area needs

By Stan Welch

In the briefest Council meeting in recent memory, the Anderson County Council gave third reading approval to two zoning changes.

One such approval was for the change in the zoning of a 2.8 acre tract in the Williamston Mill district on Hwy. 20 between Parker Street and Gray Drive from highway commercial to R-20 single family residential. The other allowed the rezoning of approximately 11 acres on Old Williamston Road in the Hammond School District from R-12 single family residential to RM-7 multi-family residential.

Burriss Nelson, of the County Office of Economic Development reported to the Council on the results of a study conducted to determine the best way to increase economic activity in three of the County’s towns.

The study was funded through a community block development grant, through the SC Dept. of Commerce. The Anderson county Development Partnership provided the $5500 matching funds required by the $55,000 grant.

The three towns which met the low to moderate income parameters set by the grant were Iva, Pendleton and Williamston. The grant was used to hire a retail marketing consulting firm, The Buxton Company, from Fort Worth, Texas to produce an analysis of the three town’s potential and needs.

The market analysis used detailed demographic information, traffic counts, population maps and commercial buying potential for a number of commercial products. A retail analysis was also done to match the right retailers with the right town. For example, a town with three dry cleaners would be unlikely to attract or need a fourth dry cleaner.

Using the study’s criteria, thirty five matches were found for Williamston. Iva and Pendleton received fifteen and thirty matches, respectively.

Nelson said that the results of the study, including a list of the matches, with contact information, had been provided to the various towns. Jim Simpson of the Williamston Planning Commission was provided with the list for Williamston, according to Nelson. Nelson said, “We have good reason to be very hopeful that this will be beneficial to these towns. The information shows great promise for fostering development.

Salkehatchie Camp returns to area

Volunteers from across the state will join forces at the Piedmont Salkehatchie Summer Service Camp next week to work on much needed improvements to six area homes.

The weeklong camp will take place June 10-17. Approximately 50 youth and adults will be working in the Williamston and Easley communities, rebuilding sub-standard housing, making the homes warmer, safer, and drier.

The project will consist of work on six homes in the Williamston area and four in the Easley area.

Salkehatchie Summer Service is a pioneering ministry held at selected sites in South Carolina. All around the state high school and college students, adult community leaders, and persons of different cultures are engaged in upgrading housing and motivating community cooperative efforts by helping people help themselves.

The camp also provides all participants the opportunity for personal growth and service. Salkehatchie Summer Service is a program of the South Carolina United Methodist Conference. A Steering Committee composed of youth and adults gives guidance to the program.

Volunteers pay $180 to attend the camp and many come away with a different perspective on life and how others live.

Last year was the third year the camp was held in the area in which four homes were improved.

Powdersville Water District completes project

Anderson County officials joined representatives of the Powdersville Water District to conduct a valve turning ceremony on May 26 to celebrate the completion of the Dove Lane, Merritt Road and Wilderness Trail water line grant projects.  Total cost for the three projects was $403,489.

The 80% State Budget and Control Board grant required the Powdersville Water District to match the balance of the project costs. After bidding the projects, the District’s Board agreed to fund a balance of $153,000 to complete the projects.

The three projects will ultimately serve more than 125 existing home sites, 62 of which have already signed up. The Water District provided an initial reduced tap fee as an incentive for residents to immediately connect to the system.

 The three projects will include nearly seven miles of new piping that will bring safe drinking water to many families for the first time.

 “We are thrilled to see these projects completed and to see the smiles on the faces of the residents,” PWD Board Chairman Norbert Steeber said.

 “These are the type of projects that really make us feel good,” District Manager Dyke Spencer said. “We are bringing a quality source of water to numerous families that are in need. From a grant standpoint, I can’t think of a better use of government funds. We are talking about providing a product that most of us take for granted, but you can’t live without it. Many people that I talk with can’t believe that we still have many families in this county that do not have a good source of drinking water. We are very grateful for the support that we have received from Joey Preston and Bill Dees at Anderson County for this project and many thanks to Representative Dan Cooper who was instrumental in obtaining the grant funds for these projects.” 

In 2002, Powdersville Water District officials submitted grant requests to help fund water main extensions to serve the three neighborhoods. In March 2005, the District received a $250,000 grant from the State Budget and Control Board to help fund these projects.  In January 2006, permits were received and construction began at all three sites.The projects were completed in April.

Angel Food Ministries, PERC offer food box

The Piedmont Emergency Relief Center (PERC) is now a host site for Angel Food Ministries. Orders for the next distribution date for the program, which is Friday, June 23, are now being taken.

There is no qualification to order from Angel Food Ministry other than prepayment with $25 cash or EBT Food Stamp card. Orders for the next distribution date must be placed by this Saturday, June 10.

A food box contains pork spare ribs, thighs or drumsticks, hamburger patties, breaded frying chicken, fully cooked meat balls, chicken breast, chichen pot pie soup, roasted potatoes with garlic and onion, pasta, rice, baked beans, corn, barbecue sauce, pancake mix, peanut butter, dozen eggs, and a dessert item. The cost is only $25.

Persons purchasing a basic box can also  purchase one of three June specials. 

Options are:

Special #1 -  grill box including 6 chicken breasts, 4 sirloin strip steaks, 4 hamburger patties, 4 boneless pork chops and an Italian sausage for $18.

Special #2 -  a pizza party special; including 6 Pepperoni Pizzas for $10.

Special #3 - 10 lbs of popcorn chicken for $15.

For more information please see the PERC website: www.piedmonterc.org There is also a link on the page to the Angel Food website. PERC became a host site to help area residents stretch the food dollar, a PERC spokesperson said. Deadline to place an order is noon, Saturday, June 10. The PERC office is located in the Piedmont Community Building in Downtown Piedmont. For more information call 906-7351.

Wren Sidewalk Project receives funding

On Friday, June 9 at 11 a.m., the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) will present Anderson County with  a check for $200,000 for the Wren School Sidewalk Project.  SCDOT allocated the funds from its Transportation Enhancement Program. The total estimated cost of the project is $250,000.  Anderson County Council has allocated the remaining $50,000 to come from District 6 paving funds ($50,000).

The project will provide: 4,455 feet of ADA compliant sidewalk along three SCDOT secondary roads, Wren School Road, Wigington Road, and Roper Road; Pedestrian connectivity between Wren Middle School and Wren High School, Wren High School Football Stadium/Baseball Fields and Hurricane Spring Park, The subdivisions of Morgan Wood Estates and Planters Walk ; A small commercial area at the SC 81 and S-4-953 (Wren School Road) intersection. Four new cross walks and two existing crosswalks re-striped; Appropriate pedestrian crossing warning signs installed on each road

“This is one of the best things that has happened regarding safety for students and community residents,” said County Council member Bill Dees. “The recent explosion of the Powdersville area’s population makes this project critical.  Compliments to the SCDOT, Anderson School District One, and county transportation staff for recognizing this need. This is another example of efforts coming to fruition.”

Community support is a key factor in the SCDOT selection process.  In order to inform residents and solicit support for the venture, Anderson County Transportation Division hosted community discussions in May 2005.

Anderson School District One Board of Trustees voted unanimously to endorse the project, provide any right-of-way needed for the project and has pledged unrestricted public use. The anticipated completion date is prior to the 2006-07 school year.

“Providing for the safety of our children is always our top priority,” said Daniel T. Cooper, SC House of Representatives, District 10. “Our school children have been walking on the grass shoulders and on the edge of the road between their homes and schools.  This community got behind the idea and propelled it to reality. These sidewalks will be a testimonial to the power of cooperation.”

SCDOT’s Transportation Enhancement Program allocates a portion of available funds for non-traditional transportation related activities such as bicycle and pedestrian facilities, streetscaping, scenic and landscaping programs, and historic preservation.  These funds are provided by the “Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century” (TEA 21). The program may reimburse up to 80% of the allowable expenditures for approved projects. The applicant must provide the remaining 20% through direct funds, donated materials, or in-kind services that meet federal and program guidelines.

Campaign filing disclosures released

By Stan Welch

The Journal has obtained the most recent filings of campaign disclosure forms by the candidates for the District Six and Seven County Council seats.

In District Six, incumbent Bill Dees’s forms show that Dees had approximately $2386 on hand when the most recent reporting period began. During this latest period, he received an additional $3325, for a reported total of $5630. Five contributors, John Miller, Jr., James Swistock, Judith Johnson, Thomas Norris, and Jimmy Wilson provided Dees’ funding, with Swistock and Wilson each contributing $1000 while Norris gave $500.

Dees spent all but eighty-one dollars of the money, advertising heavily in The Greenville News, on WMUU Radio, in the Powdersville Post, and on renting a billboard.

Wilson, whose campaign fund was inaccurately reported in a local daily newspaper as being $76,000, in fact raised $14,010, and spent $6740.59 on such items as advertising, billboards, printing costs, signs and postage.

Wilson received several contributions of the maximum one thousand dollars allowed. Among those making such donations were Zink Animal Hospital, Sen. Kevin Bryant, Cassie Wilson, the candidate’s wife, and two of his business interests, Atlantic Bullion and Coin, Inc., and International Commerce Corp.

In District Seven, incumbent Cindy Wilson received a large portion of her total of $2138 in contributions from District Six candidate Ron Wilson, who provided $1000 in funds. County auditor Jacky Hunter also contributed $200 to Ms. Wilson’s campaign.

Ms. Wilson spent $226.45 during the latest reporting period. Her opponent in the Republican primary, Julia Barnes, raised $2675 in contributions with  $1000 of that coming from James Swistock, of College Station, PA. Other contributors included John Miller, Jr., Marshall Carrithers, Robert Ruark, American Services, Inc. and Robert Rainey. She spent $2516 of those funds on the usual items, such as filing fees, postage, signs, and other supplies, as well as voting lists from the South Carolina election commission.

Seems to Me . . . Journalism ethics

By Stan Welch

One thing that every journalist who has been at it for any length of time at all knows is that sooner or later, you’re going to have a bad day. You’re going to step in over your shoe tops, and the only way out is going to be backwards.

It has happened to me, and it happened this week to another area journalist, Nick Charalambous, of the Anderson Independent Mail (AIM). What makes this occurrence unusual is that I was involved, unwillingly, on the other end of what can only be called a fiasco.

This is not a simple tale, but I will do my best to explain it. Nick has a blogsite, supported by AIM, which allows anyone with access to a computer terminal and the internet to speak their piece about virtually any topic. That easy access has been used in recent weeks to allow a number of astonishingly vicious and close minded people, on both sides of the issues, to express their opinions about this year’s County Council elections.

Last week, the topic of campaign finance disclosure came up on the blog and in Nick’s weekly Cocklebur column, which appears each Saturday. Modesty prevents me from mentioning that I ran a news item on the preceding Wednesday about that very issue.

During the same general time period, Nick, for reasons known only to him and the journalism fairy, issued a clarion call for “citizen journalists.” One can only assume that Nick is either overworked, caught up in his new marriage, or has lost all sense of journalistic restraint.

He challenged these note taking national guardsmen to “bring the facts” to the blog site. Apparently, that fairly simple instruction confused his troops. One of them, who posts under the pen name “ahammett”, wasted little time in turning Nick’s noble experiment in egalitarian journalism into a nightmare. He went to the Clerk of Court’s office, just as I had done earlier that week, and checked on the available financial disclosure forms. One of those forms indicated that Ron Wilson, District Six challenger for Bill Dees’ seat on the County Council, had an unbelievable $76,000 in his war chest.

Let me digress briefly here. Nick has offered several explanations for the extraordinary blunder that I’m about to describe, but the bottom line is this. Journalism, while certainly not rocket science, or the intellectual equivalent of the search for the cure for AIDS, is in fact a craft which requires some practice and dedication; and even a certain level of talent which hard work can develop into recognizable skills.

It is not a diversion for amateurs with agendas who get tired of The Days of Our Lives and decide to bebop down to the courthouse and see what’s in the file cabinets, okay? Can we agree on that? Why Nick finds it even possible, much less necessary, to denigrate his profession by inviting every yahoo with Yahoo to join in is beyond me. Perhaps he doesn’t understand the value of his craft, or the time and energy required to pursue it properly.

Certainly, his performance in regards to the campaign financial reports of Ron Wilson raises several questions. Let me return to the tale.

Nick’s citizen journalist provided him with disclosure forms verifying the enormous amount of money in Wilson’s coffers. Nick, perhaps feeling certain that he had finally drawn a bead on Wilson which did not require the use of questionable claims of racism on Wilson’s part, quickly wove the information into a column questioning Wilson’s need for such funds in a simple County Council race.

But, having to feed two bulldogs,  both the column and the blogsite, Nick put a little twist on the information and decided to attack me on the blogsite for my failure to mention the Wilson war chest in my article in the previous week’s issue of The Journal. In fact, he opened a forum on his blogsite, titled  “Welching on Journalistic Ethics.” Clever, huh?  That forum actually preceded the Cocklebur column by several days, coming out right after my article appeared.

Nick’s disciples had a field day blogging back and forth, talking about what a sorry and unethical and biased reporter I am. The bloggers, as well as Nick himself, also attacked me for three other articles I ran, interviews with all three District Six candidates. Those articles, by the way were posted in their entirety; a violation of copyright laws, which Nick is also apparently unfamiliar with.

Nick seemed especially incensed that I hadn’t given Mr. Dees a chance to respond to anything said about him by the other candidates. That failure was apparently just too much for Nick and his high standards to bear.

He blogged, and I quote, “The breakdown of politics in the modern age has at least as much to do with the erosion of serious journalism values as it does the money/power driven political establishment and the uninterested electorate.” Jeez! Now the breakdown in modern politics is my fault. I swear I didn’t do it on purpose.

Now, quite frankly, I am at a loss as to why Nick felt it necessary or enjoyable to attack a fellow journalist. I have always taken the view that we are all trying to do a difficult job to the best of our personal abilities. I have never worried about how or whether Nick or other reporters did their jobs, only how I did mine. I remained curious about Nick’s motivation, even as he continued to post sarcastic and insulting comments about my professional performance and ethics. Could Nick’s well known attitude of agape‘ slipped somehow?

Then, as often happens with untrained troops, friendly fire claimed its first casualty, Nick himself. It is at this point that “ahammett” escapes responsibility for the journalistic train wreck that followed. Seems to me, Nick apparently failed to review the source documents himself, choosing instead to trust his citizen journalist. Bad call, brother.

It turns out the $76,000 figure came from a 2004 disclosure form that dated back to Ron Wilson’s unsuccessful run for the state Senate. It had absolutely no pertinence to the current County Council race; none, nada.

Man, even from here, I can feel the sinking feeling in Nick’s stomach when he realized what a stupid mistake he had made. I’m just glad it wasn’t me that suddenly realized why “the other guy” hadn’t published Wilson’s report. That’s when he went in over his shoe tops.

On Monday, June 5, Nick published an apology on his blogsite to Mr. Wilson and me. It wasn’t the most gracious apology; but it is often hard to formulate one’s thoughts while one’s brain is aflame with the embarrassment of having disrespected everything you profess to believe in.

Nick posted a statement that he had e-mailed an apology to Ron Wilson, as well as placing a phone call to him, which he says Wilson refused to accept.

I’m still waiting for such an apology, Nick. I’m also waiting for you to disband your militia of citizen journalists. Surely, you’ve learned that lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

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