News Archive

(2407) Week of June 13, 2007

Salkehatchie volunteers perform extreme makeover times five
Williamston changing fiscal year with first approval on 2008 budget
WP clerk  - Elgin now in Williamston
Freedom Celebration to offer fun, fireworks
Will Pelzer get a fleet of taxis?
West Pelzer Council looking at vacant lot and debris ordinance
Candidates eager to serve on Council
Several thefts investigated
Tax increase vs. fees - either way citizens will foot the bill for budget
Walgreens to show dist. center
District 6 Councilman drumming up support for road fee
Fire Station Road bridge to be replaced
Ware Place plans July 4th parade
Break ground for new water tank
Live music offered
Seems to Me . . . Political ponderings

Salkehatchie volunteers perform extreme makeover times five

Some gave up a week of their summer, others a week of vacation, but they all came willingly with a desire to help some one else.

Sixty youth and adults, through the Piedmont Salkehatchi Summer Service program, are working this week on five homes in Williamston and Pelzer that are in much need of repair.

There are 20 adults and 40 youth from all over the state attending the Piedmont camp, according to camp director Jo Hood.

The campers, whose ages range from 14 to 64, each paid $200 to attend the camp. During the week of June 10-17 they will work to improve sub-standard housing in the area, making the homes warmer, safer and drier, Hood said.

Salkehatchie Summer Service is a pioneering ministry held at selected sites across South Carolina. Shiloh Church in Piedmont has hosted the local program, which is 1 of 44 statewide, for the last five years.

Salkehatchie campers include high school and college students, adult community leaders and persons of different cultures who come together to upgrade housing and in the process, motivating community cooperative efforts by helping people help themselves.

“It is amazing that these young people give up a week of their lives and adults a week of their vacation to do this,” Hood said. “Many look forward to the camp each year and it is the highlight of their summer.”

The program was started 30 years ago to help local people in need.

“The camp also provides participants the opportunity for personal growth and service,” Hood said.

The weeklong camp will take place June 10 - 17. Work began at the sites early Monday morning and should be completed by Friday, Hood said.

Renovations will take place on two houses in Pelzer on Depot Road and Courtney St. and three in Williamston, on West Third Street, West Fourth Street and Market Street.

Work will include roofing on four of the houses, siding on two, a new bathroom on one, repair on porches and some inside work, Hood said.

Site leaders include Ralph Callaham, Bennie Deese, Ashley Harris, Will Edmiston and Mark Hyndman.

The skilled site leaders provide direction for the campers, who learn as they go, according to Hood.

In one home, they will completely tear out and replace a bathroom, giving the participants the opportunity to learn plumbing, wiring, and sheetrock skills. The camp includes boys and girls, Hood said.

“We receive more of a blessing than the people whose homes we work on,” Hood said. “Though they do appreciate what we do.”

During the week a devotion is held at each site each morning and devotion and praise each evening.

Campers eat lunch each day in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park.

Meals are provided by area churches and organizations in the community, Hood said.

Churches helping out include Grace United Methodist Church, Church of God, Shiloh Methodist, Lattimer, and Bethesda.

School District One provides a place for the campers to stay during the week.

Last year the Piedmont camp worked on four area homes. Campers provided $7300 in registration fees and $5738 was donated, for a total of $11,449 used to upgrade the local homes.

Hood said work locations are selected based on need and are found through calls, recomendations from Meal on Wheels and one after a note was left asking if there was a need.

There is no shortage of need, Hood said. “We could work another 10 or 15 years on houses in Williamston and Pelzer.”

Salkehatchie summer Service program is a program of the South Carolina United Methodist Conference.

 

Williamston changing fiscal year with first approval on 2008 budget

Williamston Town Council approved first reading on a $2.5 million 2008 budget Monday, taking the first steps toward changing their budget year from a calandar year to a fiscal year beginning July 1 of this year.

The $2,587,100 budget is based on the 2007 calendar year budget already approved and the millage rate remains at 106 mills.

Council unanimously approved first reading even though Councilmen Carthel Crout and Marion Middleton, Jr.  both expressed concerns about not having exact numbers on the proposed budget.

Mayor Phillip Clardy disputed that the numbers are inaccurate and said the town is “right on track,” approving the 2008 budget on first reading based on the 2006 audit figures which were presented to them.

Clardy said the first half of the 2008 budget is based on the audited figures for 2006 and the 2008 budget will be amended with adjusted figures for the second half of the new fiscal year.

The adjusted figures will be based on the results of a current audit being done on the first half of 2007 by the rehired auditing firm of Greene, Finney and Horton.

“We are right on track,” Clardy said, “for the first half of this year and a forecast for the first six months of next year.”

Clardy said the budget figures “will probably change” later in the year, depending on the audit that is currently underway for the first half of this year.

Councilman Middleton also said he would like to see the sanitation fees cut. He said if it is not being used for salaries, he would like to see it used for equipment only.

Councilman Crout also expressed concerns about the budget figures being presented to Council just prior to the meeting and about the figures not being actual.

“We have been waiting on the audit to give us actual numbers,” Clardy said.

Council also approved first reading on an ordinance dissolving the two front office positions and reestablishing two positions titles of Billing Clerk and Assistant Billing Clerk. The ordinance set the starting salary for the positions at $10.50 and $9.50 per hour.

Council unanimously agreed to authorize Goldie and Associates to proceed with a feasibility study on upgrading or replacing the Cherokee Road lift station.

The aging facility has been down four times in recent days and will be costly to repair, according to Mayor Clardy.

Clardy said the facility is designed to have a 20 year life span and is operating at capacity.

Clardy said to increase capacity the facility will have to be repermitted. He also said the facility will need to be upgraded or additional pump stations added if a new subdivision is ever built in the area.

Discussion on the lift station led to discussions on comp time.

Town employees have had overtime in response to the problems with the lift station, according to Clardy. The station is having to be manually operated four times per day to keep it in service.

Clardy said approximately 110 hours have already been accumulated dealing with the situation.

Councilman Middleton said that having the payroll  paid every two weeks would allow a longer pay period for comp time to be taken and asked for the topic to be placed on the agenda for the next meeting.

Councilman Crout suggested paying overtime immediately rather than allowing the comp time to accumulate.

The next meeting of Council will be Monday, June 18 at 6 p.m.

A public hearing on the 2008 budget is set for 6 p.m. on thursday, June 28. Final reading is also set for that date.

WP clerk  - Elgin now in Williamston

West Pelzer Town Clerk Beth Elgin has left her job, town officials said this week. Elgin has taken an administrative job as head billing clerk with the Town of Williamston.

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said Elgin began her duties this week and will have an assistant billing clerk working with her.

The Williamston Council took action Monday to reflect the new positions.

Council eliminated the former office positions and officially established the positions of head billing clerk and assistant billing clerk with base salary set for both.

Mayor Clardy said the move was to establish job descriptions for positions with the town and to address audit concerns with division of duties and cross training.

West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton said the town is currently advertising the open Clerk position.

Freedom Celebration to offer fun, fireworks

You can start off your Independence Day Celebration with a bang this year in downtown Williamston.

Organizers of Williamston’s Freedom Celebration, scheduled for Saturday, June 30, say the event will feature a fun packed day with something for everyone as the nation readies to celebrate the Fourth of July.

The event will include a bluegrass music festival with pickin in the park, special kids entertainment, kids amusement rides, a cruise-in, plenty of food and of course, fireworks.

The all day event will begin around 11 a.m. with food and other activities in Mineral Spring Park. “Bring the kids for a pic-nic and then let them enjoy the free entertainment or play in the park,” organizers said.

Seven food vendors will be set up in Mineral Spring Park offering a variety of food items for persons enjoying the festivities during the day.

Food vendors will offer July 4th favorites such as barbecue, hotdogs, ice cream, and more.

A variety of entertainment will begin at 2 p.m. on the Amphitheater stage in the park including Buttons the Clown, patriotic skits by the Anderson Senior Follies To Go and more.

Bluegrass music will be the featured music on the banks of Big Creek in the park all day, Southern Grass Review and Cane Creek, both well known groups, will entertain with traditional bluegrass music.

Admission to the music festival area along the creek bank is free with pickin’ during the afternoon and featured performers from 4 p.m until the fireworks begin, according to organizer Jack Ellenburg.

Area pickers and music makers are invited to join in the fun by bringing an instrument, finding a spot in the park and picking on their own or with others and on the stage during special jam sessions.

On the amphitheater stage, The Praise Dancers from New Prospect Baptist Church will entertain; members of Guthrie Grove will dress in patriotic/historic costumes and tell stories and the 418 Dance Club will show off their talents.

During the day, kids amusement rides will be offered by Palmetto Amusements in the park into the evening.

And what would the “4th” be without the all-American hot rod.

A classic car cruise-in will officially get underway at 4 p.m. with many local and out of town car enthusiasts bringing their custom vehicles to show off during the day.

Vehicles will be in the Town Square Center parking lot adjacent to McDonalds. There is no registration fee and anyone interested in displaying a vehicle is invited to participate, said Steve Ellison, organizer.

The cruise-in is sponsored by the Williamston Fire Department and McDonalds of Williamston.

McDonalds will offer specials on Dollar Menu Items, including 25 Cent Coke Floats from 7 - 9 p.m.. There will be a cash give-a-way for cruisers with $50 given away at three different drawings to be held on the hour at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Persons attending may want to register to win a 42" LG Plasma High Definition Television to be given away by the Williamston Fire Department at the Spring Water Festival Auto Show in August. Tickets will be available.

The firemen will also offer rides on Williamston’s restored 1936 Chevrolet fire engine.

Organizers will also be offering tickets for other prize drawings to be held each half hour at the bluegrass stage. More than $500 in prizes will be given away. Tickets will be available at 5 tables set up at various locations, organizers said. There will also be a special souvenir T-shirt commemorating the Freedom Celebration.

The evening will culminate with the largest fireworks show yet to be seen at the town’s annual event.

The event is being presented this year by The Greater Williamston Business Association, The Spring Water Committee, and The Town of Williamston with help from Strong Communities, New Prospect Baptist Church, and others.

Will Pelzer get a fleet of taxis?

Pelzer officials deny knowing anything about it. No citizens have claimed responsibility, at least not publicly, but Pelzer is in the running for a grand prize fleet of hybrid taxis.

Internet powerhouse Yahoo! recently ran a promotion billed as “a mission to find and reward America’s most eco-friendly city.” The promotion involved earning green credits for cities across the globe and when the promotion ended last week, the Town of Pelzer was posted at the top of the list. The winning city is to receive a fleet of hybrid taxis.

According to the Yahoo website for the promotion, the winner will be announced on June 19. Pelzer Town Administrator Skip Watkins said he has no knowledge of the promotion and town officials, when asked, said the same.

According to the website, participants first registered for the promotion and then completed one of the designated activities, to earn  “green” credits for the city. The more actions taken, the more credits earned, up to certain limits. According to the site, the credits for a city - based on the 5-digit zip code registered are compared to the population of the city to determine the greenness of a city.

“To help ensure fairness among big vs. smaller cities, the following weighting criteria will be used,” the site said.

“All cities with four or more registrants who have each completed at least one designated activity will be eligible to win. Total credits will be weighted against each city’s population. City population is based on 2000 census data, as found in the “American FactFinder”.

PopulationWeight for the promotion is 2 million residents or more, 1.0; 100,000 - 1,999,999 residents, 0.856196464, 20,000 - 99,999 residents, 0.782958516; 5,000 - 19,999 residents, 0.431191027; 2,000 - 4,999 residents, 0.176672814; Fewer than 2,000 residents, 0.053420396

In short, [(Total Credits/Population)*1,000]*Weighting = Your City’s “Greenest City” Score. Pelzer, which only has a population of 97 residents, apparently had one or more residents participate, giving them a highly weighted green score. Will they win a fleet of hybrid taxis? We’ll find out next Tuesday.

West Pelzer Council looking at vacant lot and debris ordinance

By Stan Welch

Monday night’s West Pelzer Town Council meeting was largely taken up by the discussion of ordinances of various natures, none of which was brought to a vote. In addition, a new position for an employee was established, and a long standing position was vacated.

Action on an ordinance dealing with the Town’s ability to enforce the removal of debris and the clearing of vacant lots was postponed to allow for the addition of language that would let the town improve or clean up the property and add those costs to the tax bill. The measure is needed to deal with the large number of absentee owners of property in town, according to Town Attorney Carey Murphy.

A recently enacted state law allowing towns to remove, destroy or sell derelict mobile homes was read. That law was signed by Governor Sanford on June 4 of this year. It allows for the town or other parties to petition the local magistrate for the authority to dispose of such derelict properties, and outlines the procedures for exercising that authority.

Under the heading of new business, Councilman Marshall King asked that something be done to assist a citizen whose home is experiencing serious water pressure problems. “Mr. Woodson is using just one bathroom in his home, and if they’re doing laundry, they can’t even take a shower,” said King.

Mayor Paxton agreed that the problem deserves attention, but offered an alternative to King’s suggestion that a line be run under Main Street to a newly installed water main. She said that the engineers on the Town’s ongoing water system improvement project have been consulted about the possibility of running a line to Burkett Street, to connect with that new, larger line.

“That would probably be easier, but we’re waiting on a price from the engineers. There are actually seven or eight homes along that street with the same problem.” The distance the line would have to reach is between fifteen hundred and two thousand feet.

Paxton also informed the Council that Town Clerk Beth Elgin has left her job. “As of today, we no longer have a town clerk, and we will need to advertise that opening.” Elgin has taken a job with the Town of Williamston, working in the administrative department.

The Town also voted to establish a part time position for a municipal employee in the judicial department. The court clerk will be employed in order to assist the judge in the new case management system that the state courts are puting in place. That system will allow all court transactions to be tracked daily by the state court administration.

Also, under the new system, only judges and court clerks will receive or handle monies generated by the courts.

The position will be designed for a maximum of twenty five hours a week, and possibly less once training is completed. The pay was established at ten dollars an hour.

A recent conversation with District Six councilman Ron Wilson was also a topic of discussion. Paxton reported that he had called to make a proposal that the Council pass a resolution supporting a twenty dollar road fee to be charged on every registered vehicle in Anderson County. A twenty five dollar fee has already been purged from the proposed County budget. (See related story elsewhere in this issue.)

According to Paxton, Wilson indicated that the Town would receive $17,000 annually if the fee were to be passed. Based on the five dollars per car formula reported by Paxton and several other area mayors, that would have to be 3400 registered vehicles in West Pelzer to produce those revenues.

The council expressed no support for the fee, and did not even introduce a resolution.

A swearing in ceremony for reelected Mayor Paxton and newly elected council members Jimmy Jeanes and Michael Moran will be held on June 28 at 7 p.m.

Candidates eager to serve on Council

By Stan Welch

Gratitude and harmony are the key words for the three successful candidates in last week’s West Pelzer municipal elections.

Mayor Peggy Paxton, who won re-election in a close contest with Councilwoman Maida Kelly, said, “I really appreciate the confidence that the people showed me. That meant a lot to me. And I heard a lot of concerns while campaigning that I intend to address. We need to communicate more with our citizens and understand what they are concerned about.”

Jimmy Jeanes agreed. “I want to thank everyone who voted for me. It was a long hard race, but I really feel I can do a lot to help this town. There is a lot of controversy in this little town. We need to get past that and start working together. There is a lot we can do to help the town, and a lot of good things we need to build on.”

Mike Moran, a political newcomer who won the second Council seat, said he was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. “I just want to thank all those folks who voted for me. I’m very glad the mayor got reelected. I’m glad to be working with Jimmy Jeanes and the rest of Council. We have a lot of work to do, but the town is moving in the right direction under our current leadership. I just want to see the town do as well as it can.”

The winners will be sworn in at a special ceremony at 7 p.m. on June 28 at the Town Hall.

Several thefts investigated

Anderson County Deputies investigated thefts and assaults during the week. Among incidents investigated were:

PELZER

June 5 – W. E. Gregory responded to 929 Campbell Road, where Jill Cromer Hayes reported that James Melvin Cromer, WM, 49, 5’9", 170 pounds, bald with brown eyes, had called and said he was coming to the residence. He had been placed on trespass notice for that address just an hour before. Gregory was at the scene when Cromer arrived. He was placed under arrest for trespass after notice, and a subsequent search of his clothing found a pill bottle full of marijuana. He was transported to ACDC.

June 6 –T. B. Dugan was dispatched to 3 Allen Street where Benjamin Cawthon reported that someone had kicked in the door of his home and had taken a 52" TV, 120 DVDs, a DVD player and a jewelry box containing two diamond rings. Total value of the items was approximately $6000.

June 6 – R. K. Holliday responded to 8 Fennell Street, where Ellis Whitmore reported the theft of two of his dogs, a full blooded female wolf, gray with blue eyes, and a brown male wolf/husky cross. The thief entered the pen with other dogs to steal the animals. They were valued at approximately $900.

June 7 – D.W. Davis was dispatched to 128 Pine Circle where Randy Watts reported that three of his vehicles were broken into and a CD player taken from each. The three CD players were valued at a total of $400.

June 8 – T. L. Chapman responded to 929 Campbell Road, where he found that Jill Cromer Hayes and her husband, Michael Hayes, had been assaulted and robbed. The assault took place along the road at their mailbox. A red four door car, possibly a Grand Am, and a black and gray motorcycle pulled up. Two suspects got out of the car, one with a ball bat. According to the report, they beat Michael Hayes and also struck his wife when she tried to intervene. They stole his wallet before fleeing. He was transported to AnMed.

June 10 – J.A. Frazier responded to 1237 Cherokee Road where Benjamin Spearman stated that an unknown person had forced entry into his storage shed and had stolen his 2007 burgundy Yamaha motorcycle, SC tag # ZXO913, valued at $11,000.

PIEDMONT

June 5 – T.L. Chapman was dispatched to 16 Archie St. where he found Randall McClain, WM, 44, 5’7", 160 pounds, brn/blue involved in a domestic dispute with Christy Ingram. McClain refused to be quiet and was eventually arrested for breach of peace and transported to the ACDC.

June 5 – R.K. Holliday was dispatched to 1007 Old River Rd., where Rose Fusco reported the theft of two Sears push lawnmowers valued at $500.

June 6 – M. J. Giovanni responded to 224 Osteen Hill Rd., where Kenny Pepper reported the theft of a black single axle 6X12 utility trailer valued at $1200.

June 8 – G. E. Williams responded to Hurricane Creek Rd. where he found John Martin lying in a briar patch. Martin, WM, 38, 5’7", 160 pounds, brn/brn, was arrested for public disorderly conduct and transported to the ACDC.

June 8 – M. D. Campbell was dispatched to 260 Old River Rd. where Chuck Cortez stated that someone had stolen copper pipe from an upstairs air conditioning unit in the house he is having built. They also stole a Campbell/Housfield air compressor with T.R. Young Construction Co. written on it in a magic marker.

June 8 – G.. J. Turner and N. M. Mitchell responded to a call from Williamston Police Chief David Baker, concerning a shot fired and a vehicle fire. They went  to the area of Mill and Mahaffey Streets, where they found a burned out 1996 Jeep Cherokee. An accelerant appeared to have been used.

June 10 – E.S. Russell responded to 2616 Hwy. 86 where Steven McGahey reported the theft of his Taurus PT1911 .45 caliber pistol from his truck.

June 11 – W. E. Gregory was dispatched to 110 Frontage Rd. where he found Marcus Robinson, BM, 23, 6’1", 160 pounds, passed out on the front seat of his car. Gregory managed to wake Robinson after several minutes, and he was arrested and transported to ACDC on a charge of public disorderly conduct.

June 11 – T. L. Chapman was dispatched to 3803 River Rd. James Farr reported that someone had stolen the rims and tires off his 1999 Honda Civic and left it sitting on blocks. The rims and tires are valued at $1500.

BELTON

June 5 -  S. M. Ambridge spoke with Donald Cape at 1002 Camelot Forest. Cape reported that someone had stolen a black Husky bicycle valued at $50.

June 5 - M. Voigt responded to 227 Locke Rd. where Walter Baldwin reported the theft of a Craftsman toolbox and tools, valued at $500.

Tax increase vs. fees - either way citizens will foot the bill for budget

By Stan Welch

Anderson County’s busiest budget process in years took on a new tone at a called meeting Tuesday morning. Tension, drama, and political posturing abounded.    

Despite Council having voted at the first reading of the budget to remove a twenty five dollar road fee from consideration, when six budgeting alternatives were presented by the finance department, three of them included a revised version of just such a fee.

The first alternative presented by financial analyst Gina Humphreys was to simply leave the budget unbalanced, with the $4.1 million revenue shortfall that would result from the defeat of the road fee. She conceded that such an approach was “not a sound plan.”

Chairman Bob Waldrep asked Humphreys if this plan incorporated the estimated two million dollars produced by the County’s growth rate, Humphreys responded that the increased general fund budget consumed the entire two million dollars.

The second alternative combined two elements from a presentation Humphreys made at the last meeting. One aspect was to increase the tax millage for the general fund by 3.4 mils, the maximum allowed under Act 388, a state law that sets a cap for millage increases. For Anderson County, that cap is 4.74 %, or 3.4 mils. That increase would generate $1.7 million.

Part two of the plan would involve a onetime exemption to the cap to allow for a 4.5 - 5 mil increase dedicated to the Sheriff’s department.

That amount, according to Humphreys, would allow the Sheriff to pay back the $2.3 million deficit he incurred during the current budget year. With both elements of the plan implemented, the total millage increase would be approximately 8.4 mils.

Plan three would involve the 3.4 mil increase, as well as introducing a revised road fee, reduced to twenty dollars per car, with five dollars of that amount reserved for distribution to the various municipalities in the County. That revised fee originated with District Six Councilman Ron Wilson, who, as Chairman Waldrep put it, “trouped around the county” last week, presenting the proposal to the County’s mayors, and asking their support. (See related story elsewhere in this issue.)

Under the plan, that fee would generate $3,280,000 in revenue, with $820,000 being set aside for distribution to the towns. An additional $1.78 million would be used to fund the county’s bridge program. A fifty per cent discount of the fee for seniors would amount to $323,000, and individual district paving funds would be partly funded with the remaining $354,000.

Under that plan, the 3.4 mil increase would again generate $1.7 million. District paving funds would be enhanced by $1.3 million, and the remaining $400,000 would go to employee raises, along with an additional $300,000 from the fund balance.

Alternative number four would use the onetime levy to increase the Sheriff’s revenues so he could reimburse the general fund, while also utilizing the road fee as described above, including the fifty per cent discount for senior citizens. Despite neither providing for employee raises, nor full funding of district paving funds, the plan would negatively impact the fund balance by $2 million.

Plan five can best be described as an all out assault, combining both the 3.4 mil increase, the one time Sheriff’s levy, and the twenty dollar road fee. This approach would generate $3.8 million in revenue from the road fee and the 3.4 mil increase. In order to make up the difference between those sources and the $4.1 million the original road fee was projected to provide, $.3 million would be taken from the fund balance to balance the budget.

The fifth alternative would involve a total millage increase of 7.9 to 8.4 mils. According to Humphreys, it would clear the Sheriff’s deficit, fund district paving fully, fund employee raises fully, and give the municipalities a new source of paving funds.

During the discussion, Waldrep raised the question of employee raises, saying that his study of the raises over the last few weeks shows a  serious lack of fairness and equity in how raises were implemented. “It’s almost like we have two different classes of citizens. Those tied to the administration are highly paid. The others don’t do so well.” He also repeated his request for a list of the County’s 900+ employees, saying, “Is that so hard to produce Mr. Preston? I just want a list of employees.” Preston responded that staff was working on it, but that the employees privacy had to be protected.

As glaring as the reappearance of the road fee was throughout the meeting, the apparent refusal of the administration to present even a single spending cut also managed to catch the attention of several Council members, including Chairman Waldrep.

“I had hoped for a scenario including some spending cuts, Mr. Preston. But you’re saying that’s not possible, is that right?”

 Preston confirmed that, saying that the staff had gone through the budget “line by line by line and the cuts just aren’t there.”

He amplified that response later when Councilman Greer reminded him that he had asked for a budget scenario that included no road fee, no tax increase, fully funded both employee raises and district paving funds. “Then we can study the impact of that on the county and decide what we need to do.” Preston stated that there simply weren’t $4.1 million in cuts in the budget.

Greer repeated his request for such a scenario. He also expressed his concern that three of six alternatives presented still included a road fee, “something which this Council has already voted down.

“What I see are six alternatives that are looking for more revenue. This is a year when we need to tighten our belts. I want to see a budget that meets those four conditions so we can look at it,” Greer said. He also labeled all alternatives which include a road fee as “totally unacceptable.”

Councilman Ron Wilson, who arrived thirty five minutes into the session, repeated his unequivocal support for the road fee.

“The same Councilman who pledges to fight the road fee to the end recently told me we were putting bandaids on our budget problems. We need to stop that. This County is in a growth mode. I proposed cuts at the last meeting and we couldn’t agree on anything, so I started looking at the revenues. I’m not voting to increase our take from FILOTs  when the schools are in just as bad a mess as we are. We need to look at the broader view and do what needs to be done.”

Even more emphatic was District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, who arrived forty five minutes late, complaining that someone had called and strongly recommended that she get up and attend the meeting.

“I wasn’t coming. You people know me. I don’t do anything before ten in the morning, and here I am sitting here without my coffee, listening to this same old budget talk. We’re beating this same old dead horse. I’m tired of it. It’s a beautiful day. Half of us should be at work and the other half should be cleaning up our yards. But here we are, still fussing over this budget. You all know what we’re going to have to do. Are there things we can cut? Yes. But why nitpick this to death? You’re not touching the Park Police. Nobody’s touching my sheriff. I’ll holler like a hit dog. We have to raise taxes and that’s all there is to it.”

Waldrep, maintaining the sterner approach he had used all morning,  said he had hoped that there might be an attitude of economy from the administrator.

“I am trying to avoid reaching a final reading on this budget with a lack of specificity on some of these items. Without spending cuts incorporated into the process, you may have a hard time. It becomes like a game of chicken. Who will blink first?

Speaking after the meeting, Waldrep said, “I had really hoped and expected that the administration would have done a better job of addressing these issues. I am convinced that there are a number of areas where cuts can be made. Apparently, Mr. Preston has decided to stick to the budget he first presented. I suspect the Council will have something to say about that.”

Walgreens to show dist. center

Walgreen Co. will hold an official unveiling this Thursday of what they say is retail’s most inclusive and technologically advanced distribution center, located at 101 Alliance Prkwy, just off Highview Rd.., Williamston. Walgreens CEO Jeff Rein and senior vice president of distribution and logistics Randy Lewis will share information about the company’s commitment to creating a unique workplace and why  Anderson County is the perfect fit in more ways than one.

Currently 42 percent of the Anderson DC’s employees have a disclosed physical or cognitive disability including autism and mental retardation. Through specialized training and the use of flexible workstations, the center has developed an environment where  employees can engage in productive work.

The Anderson distribution center contains some of the most advanced and proven logistics systems in the distribution industry. The facility will play a vital role in supporting the company’s expansion throughout the southeast over the next few years, officials said.

The enhancements make all employees, with or without disabilities, more efficient and ultimately saves money, a spokesperson said. The Anderson distribution center is 20 percent more productive than the previous Walgreens distribution centers.

District 6 Councilman drumming up support for road fee

By Stan Welch

The mayors of every municipality in Anderson County had an unexpected visitor last week. District Six Councilman Ron Wilson, in an unusual move, visited the towns to seek help from the Mayors in convincing their Council representatives to revive a road fee proposal that was defeated earlier this year during a vote on the proposed County budget.

Among those receiving visits were mayors in Districts Three and Seven, represented by Council members Larry Greer and Cindy Wilson, respectively.

 Councilman Wilson assured them that their towns would receive additional funds for road work and paving, in addition to the individual paving funds each council member receives. Those individual paving funds are based on a split of fifty per cent of the state C fund revenues received by Anderson County.

The county delegation receives half those revenues, leaving the County Council to divide the remaining half. Half of that half is divided evenly seven ways. The formula for the division of the remainder of those funds is reportedly based on the number of road miles in each district. The road miles within the town limits of the municipalities in each district are subtracted from the total, according to County transportation director Holt Hopkins.

Hopkins also says that the towns provide the number of miles within their limits to the County. A check with several towns in District Seven, however, indicated that none of them know the number of miles in their town limits. Town clerks from West Pelzer, Pelzer, and Williamston could not provide the number of miles in their respective town limits, and do not provide them to the County.

Mayor Phillip Clardy, of Williamston, said that Wilson had some numbers that the county administrator had run for him. “I think he just had a list of amounts. He didn’t mention any formula that was used to determine the amounts, but he did say Williamston would benefit to the tune of about $80,000 if the road fee was approved. I actually didn’t let him get too far into his presentation. I told him we certainly appreciated him coming, but pointed out that we have a Council representative. I also asked if he would appear before our full Council to provide his information, and he agreed.”

Honea Path Mayor Earl Meyers said that Wilson said the original proposed fee of twenty five dollars per car would be reduced to twenty dollars, with the towns receiving sizable amounts of additional funds.. The amounts mentioned by Wilson to Meyers, however, didn’t add up to the mayor. “I told him the towns should get at least fifty per cent, and I really don’t like that deal. We pay county taxes and don’t get any road work done in town. He told me we’d get about seventy thousand dollars.”

According to Wilson, the formula used is based on  the amount of money that the twenty dollar road fee would generate. The new proposal reduces the road fee from twenty five to twenty dollars, and would then assign five dollars of each fee for distribution to the towns, based on the percentage of the cars registered within the town’s limits.

The revenues projected for the road fee are $3,280,000, with $820,000 assigned for use by the towns. Honea Path, which has approximately 9.25 % of the County’s cars, would receive just under $74,000. Williamston, with 10.6 % of the cars, would receive about $84,000.

Originally, there was apparent confusion on the arithmetic of the proposal. Several mayors understood that the monies they received would be based on five dollars per car, for each car registered within the town limits. Under such an arrangement, Williamston would have to have almost 17,000 vehicles registered within the town limits.

Wilson says none of the towns visited said no to the proposal. “All of them were interested.” Wilson has repeatedly stated his commitment to a road fee, saying that he will fight for it constantly. He says this new proposal is materially different from the one that was defeated, which will allow him to introduce it despite having been on the losing side of the first road fee vote.

Fire Station Road bridge to be replaced

The Anderson County Transportation Division will close a portion of Fire Station Road near S. C. Hwy. 8 from June 25 through Nov. 30 in order to begin replacement of the bridge over a tributary to Pickens Creek.

Only adjacent residents and delivery vehicles will be permitted within the road closure area.

The temporary 3.2 mile detour will follow Hwy. 8 north to Hunt Road, Hunt Road north to California Drive, California Drive west to Three & Twenty, and Three & Twenty south to Fire Station Road.

The existing 34-foot long pony truss is being replaced because of the narrow 17.7 foot width and 25-ton weight posting, which restricts nearby Three & Twenty Fire Station fire trucks.

The old truss, constructed in 1936, will be removed and stored by the County for use at a later date.

The County’s bridge crew and sub-contractors will install a new pre-stressed hollow core slab structure with an asphalt-paved deck measuring 50-feet long and 36-feet wide. The new bridge will have no weight restrictions.

Fire Station Road Bridge is one of three bridges in Anderson County that received federal earmark funding from Congressman Gresham Barrett in 2005.

McClellan Road Bridge was replaced in 2006 and Cox Road Bridge is scheduled for replacement in 2008.

Ware Place plans July 4th parade

The Second annual South Greenville 4th of July Celebration Parade will be held at 11am on the 4th of July on Old Hundred Road at The Ware Place. The Ware Place is on US Hwy. 25 South of Greenville (Augusta Road). Old Hundred Road is approx 1mile east of the Ware Place off Highway 418.

For more information contact: Gordon Vinson, by email at shwraide@mindspring.com or phone 243-3550 or South Greenville Fire Department Chief Ken Taylor at 505-6787

Break ground for new water tank

The Big Creek Water District Board of Directors broke ground in preparation of construction of a 750,000 gallon elevated water storage tank inthe Beaverdam Road, U. S Hwy. 29 area. Construction of the new water tank is to meet the demands of projected growth in the area as well as current demands on the water system, officials said. Construction on the tank will take approximately one year. Big Creek will also be replacing the existing water line on Beaverdam Road from Hwy. 29 to Midway Road.

The water line has been in service for more than 30 years and will be replaced to insure the integrity of the water system. Total cost for construction of the water tank and replacing the water line is $1.6 million.

At the ground breaking were Sam Glenn and Troy Rosier of Beeson-Rosier Group, the project engineers; Big Creek Water District Board of Directors Vernon Boggs, Alton Boggs, Fred Alexander, Mike Boggs, Larry Burgess, Duane Rogers, and Charles Hood, Landmark Tank Representative Clay Robertson and Kent Holborks of Holbrooks Excavating.

Live music in Pelzer

The Krawfish band will be performing at the Pelzer Community Building (behind Bi-Lo) on Sat. June 16th from 7:30 -9:30PM. This is a Beach Party where you can listen and shag to your favorite beach music along with 1970s classic music. The band features Tom Smith on Bass guitar, Bonita Hubble on keyboard, Henry Strelecki on Lead guitar, Jerry Pearson on Drums and Rick Sanders on Lead vocals and percussion. There is a $5 cover charge and concessions will be available. For additional information please call 947-1082.

Seems to Me . . . Political ponderings

By Stan Welch

Last week an event took place that was extraordinary, even for Anderson County politics. Ron Wilson, who represents District Six on the County Council, toured all the towns in Districts Three and Seven. He did this without informing the two Council members who represent those Districts, Larry Greer and Cindy Wilson, respectively.

He did inform Council Chair Bob Waldrep, somewhere in the midst of his busy two day tour. Why he felt it proper to inform the Chairman, but not the affected Council members is another question.

A couple of factors made this tour extraordinary. First was the fact that it took place at all. For a Council member to surreptitiously make the rounds of all the towns in another member’s district, meeting with the mayors and assorted other officials of those towns, has to be considered a breach of whatever passes for political etiquette in Anderson County.

While Mr. Greer has yet to return my phone call about this matter at the time this column is being written, he is known to be quite prickly about such incursions into his district. It is unlikely that he was happy to learn of Wilson’s reconnaissance. As to Ms. Wilson’s reaction, that has been confirmed. She stated to me that she had spoken with Mr. Wilson and expressed her displeasure with his conduct.

If her displeasure is seasoned with disbelief as well, it would be understandable. Last June when Ron Wilson won the Republican primary against incumbent Bill Dees, the conventional political wisdom was that he would be a fitting bookend to Cindy Wilson, whose reputation for dogged scrutiny of the county’s finances would serve as the rallying point for both her supporters and her opponents.

When they were both victorious in November, along with Bob Waldrep, many of the County’s conservatives rejoiced. If there were any doubts that the election of those three had changed the balance of power on the Council, they centered around Waldrep’s perceived possible softness on fiscal issues. Ron Wilson was considered rock solid on the issues of taxes and accountability. Fireworks were expected in short order.

Even before last week’s flanking maneuver,  that perception was beginning to change, at least among some of Wilson’s supporters. His support of the fifty per cent increase in the solid waste fee had the “how dare you increase my taxes” crowd already muttering and making veiled threats about the 2008 elections.

But his support of a proposed road fee of twenty five dollars per car registered in the county was both the cause of the greatest disenchantment with Wilson, as well as the reason for his tour of the two districts last week. That’s right. Wilson’s visit was a committed effort to revive that road fee, by promising each mayor that if they could persuade the respective Council members to support such a fee, the towns would be assured of receiving a portion of the revenues.

These funds would apparently be in addition to the funds that Council members each receive as part of their individual paving funds, which are reportedly based on the number of road miles within their districts, excluding those miles within town limits.

Wilson’s efforts on behalf of this fee, which he has supported from the beginning, raise some interesting questions. First is the question of whose decision it was to approach the various mayors, seeking their support? Was it Wilson’s idea? Was it County Administrator Joey Preston’s idea? The road fee was fairly defeated by a four to three vote, with Ron Wilson voting to support it. Now, a month later, and in the absence of any proposed cuts by the administration in order to produce a working budget, we see this effort launched to resuscitate that very same fee.

As in many instances, the answer to the first question would raise as many questions as it answered. For example, while Wilson was meticulously guarded in his comments about county administrator Joey Preston during his campaign, the general perception among conservatives in the county was that Mr. Preston would find his leash shortened considerably by the presence of Wilson on the Council.

Yet, Wilson has recently been both vocal and enthusiastic in his support of Preston and his initiatives. He has stated repeatedly that Preston and his staff have made sure he receives the information he seeks, a clear reference to Councilwoman Cindy Wilson’s long and bitter battle with Preston over access public information.

While he began the first weeks of his term with a somewhat aggressive approach, asking pointed questions and refusing to settle for simple answers, Wilson has recently seemed much less engaged during meetings. His comments on the budget have generally been restricted to expressions of support for the increased and new fees that have been proposed. He did attempt to remove twelve new hires from the proposed budget, but quickly surrendered on that issue, when various members opposed his efforts.

Rumors persist that Wilson’s close friend and political mentor, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper, has vouched for Preston, and suggested that Wilson find ways to work with him. To many in District Six and elsewhere,  those rumors offer a feasible explanation for what they see as Wilson’s rather abrupt change of attitude and philosophy.

If true, that explanation would raise a whole new and fascinating crop of questions, such as why Rep. Cooper would be involved to such an extent in local politics? Or exactly what the basis of his relationship with Preston is?

Seems to me questions always produce more questions than answers in Anderson County.

 

 

 

 

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