(2508) Week of June 18, 2008
debates how high grass, weeds can grow before violators fined
Williamston Town Council discussed how high to let grass and weeds in the town grow, installing a fuel tank and approved a zoning change during their meeting Monday,.
Council had considerable discussion on dealing with tall grass and weeds under the international property development code and ordinance being adopted by the town.
The towns current ordinance allows grass and weeds to grow to 12 inches before the town can address the situation. Violators are sent a notice and have 20 days to remedy before facing a fine.
Mayor Phillip Clardy wanted the maximum measurement reduced to 9 inches, but failed to receive a second on his motion.
Councilman Marion Middleton Jr., said that if there was rain or someone was on vacation their yard could easily be out of compliance if the guidelines were changed.
There was also considerable discussion on whether one notice is enough or if there should be additional notices for separate violations.
Police Chief David Baker expressed frustration that his department is faced with serving multiple notices on the same residences and that the grass is often cut just before the deadline for a fine.
Town Attorney Richard Thompson advised that the town should err on the side of doing more than the law requires and continue with multiple notices.
First reading on the code with a height of 12 inches was approved 4-1 with Clardy opposed.
Council unanimously approved first reading on a request to change zoning on a lot at 228 Longview to allow a mobile home. The lot is at the edge of the town limit and is in an area with other mobile homes which are outside the town limits. The change was approved by the towns zoning committee, Mayor Clardy said. A public hearing will be held at the July 7 meeting of council.
Council approved an election ordinance setting the municipal election for mayor and council wards three and four for Nov. 4, 2008. There is a $100 entrance fee for mayor and $50 for council. The ordinance also requires a petition signed by five percent (or about 115) of the registered voters in the town. The petition must be filed within 75 days of the election.
Council approved a request by Pelzer Wesleyan Church to use the park amphitheater from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a morning service on July 13.
Council also approved $200 to obtain bids on installing a 12,000 gallon fuel tank. Cost of installation is expected to be $70,000 to $80,000 for a tank which will include the tank, pump, electrical and keypad. The tank will allow the town to save money by purchasing fuel at wholesale prices.
Council discussed purchasing a hand held meter reading system for the water dept. and smoking sewer lines to check for leaks during a worksession held Tuesday prior to a special council meeting.
The meter reading includes two handheld readers, software and 15 meters and two days of onsite training. Cost is approximately $15,500.
Figures stated in the 2008-2009 budget which had first reading approval last week will have some adjustments including less revenues than originally stated.
As of this week, revenues are expected to be $4, 523,117 and expenses are expected to be $3,923,406, resulting in a contingency fund of $599,710.
Final reading is set for Monday June 30.
A Freedom Celebration will be held Saturday, June 28 at the ball fields and Town Square Center Parking lot in downtown Williamston. The event will begin around 5 p.m. and feature music, inflatables for kids, a cruise-in, food and fireworks. McDonalds of Williamston, a sponsor of the event, will also have specials. There will be a drawing for $50 for cruise in participants at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Holly Whatley, Miss Williamston, will sing the Star Spangled Banner and other songs that she will perform in the Miss South Carolina Pageant in July. Food items including barbecue, hotdogs and sno-cones will be available from vendors on the ballfield next to Peebles.
The Williamston Fire Department will offer rides on the antique fire truck. Williamstons historic civil war cannon will be on display and will be fired to begin the fireworks display around 9:30 p.m.
The event is sponsored by the Greater Williamston Business Association (GWBA), Williamston Fire Department, Town of Williamston and members of the Springwater Committee.
By Stan Welch
Representatives of both Pelzer and West Pelzer recently signed revised consent orders with DHEC concerning the towns efforts to address their ongoing wastewater treatment problems.
West Pelzers Council has already accepted the new consent order, voting unanimously at their meeting earlier last week.
The Pelzer Town Council met last Wednesday to approve the consent order, then adjourned and asked the spectators to leave the meeting place while they met in private with DHEC officials, a move considered illegal under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.
The towns were already under long standing consent orders which essentially prohibit any growth or further development due to the towns inability to meet current DHEC water quality standards.
The revised orders maintain that prohibition, but allow the towns to redirect their efforts from pursuing compliance with DHEC standards for the quality of the wastewater discharged to efforts to address the towns serious issues of leaking sewer lines.
The issues of ingress and infiltration, or I&I, are vital because until those problems are solved, the towns will continue to incur exorbitant costs in treating their wastewater. I&I results in storm water entering the system and then being processed as wastewater. Those thousands of additional gallons of unnecessarily treated water drive the costs skyward.
They will continue to do so until the problems are resolved, regardless of which option for final disposal of their wastewater the towns choose. Currently both are considering whether to connect to Western Carolina, which would eventually discharge their wastewater into the Saluda; or to go to Williamston, which is currently pursuing a land application solution, which would remove their plant from the discharge stream eventually.
When that happens, the Town and its customers will no longer have to continue to upgrade to meet increasingly tighter water quality standards.
The one option neither town has is to continue to indefinitely operate its own treatment plant. Lee Proctor, DHEC enforcement supervisor, made that clear to all concerned at the last two meetings he has held with town officials.
DHEC will not allow that. These various systems will be regionalized. DHEC has modified the consent orders to enable your towns to continue to operate those systems so long as you are actively pursuing a solution to the I&I problems you have. Should that stop, the conditions imposed by DHEC would change considerably.
Proctor was unable to say if a time would come during the I&I process when DHEC would be willing to allow any growth or development. The consent order prohibiting that now is based on multi-unit tap requests. That prohibition will probably stay in place until you have made a decision about where to send your wastewater.
By Stan Welch
The Piedmont Public Service commission gave third reading approval to a budget Monday night.
A last ditch amendment offered in an effort to restore a proposed two per cent cost of living increase to the firefighters was defeated when it failed to receive a second. The amendment was proposed following an unscheduled executive session to discuss salaries and personnel.
The two percent raise was proposed in the original budget but was cut to one per cent at the second reading of the budget.
Commissioner Marsha Rogers, who has chosen not to seek reelection this fall, opposed that cut and proposed the amendment restoring the full raise Monday night. She did support the budget however, which passed on a vote of 4-0. Commissioner Al McAbee was not present. Commissioner Bobby Stover, who suffered a severe heart attack several weeks ago, was present, however.
Commissioner Rogers and Commissioner Frankie Garrett continued to clash over the issue of how many bids must be received in order to proceed with the transaction in question. The issue originally arose when Garrett and Stover challenged the awarding of the lawn care contracts to Commissioner Rogers husband.
The Commission adopted a policy requiring three bids for the awarding of contracts, or the sale or purchase of equipment or vehicles. The commission has frequently had difficulty in obtaining three bids on various transactions.
In recent months, a contract awarded for work done at the Piedmont ballpark was disputed because of the failure to obtain three bids. That contract was awarded to a relative of Garretts fiancee, with Garrett participating in the vote.
Monday night, Rogers sought to use the remainder of PARD funds used in recent renovations to the ball fields and the community building to purchase another large trash can for the ball fields. Garrett said that was fine as long as three bids were obtained. Rogers said that three bids were obtained to buy the first trash can and they were buying the same can at the same price from the same vendor.
Minutes after denying Rogers effort to purchase the trash can, bids were presented for the purchase of a Crown Victoria that had been used as a Chiefs car. Only two bids were received, a fact which was quickly pointed out by Rogers. If we need three bids for a trash can, we sure need three bids to sell a car, said Rogers. Commissioner Stover offered to make a quick bid if it would resolve the issue, but the deadline had passed.
Garrett protested saying that the Council had voted at the last meeting to sell the car to the highest bid over $500. Garrett made the motion on the sale of the car at the May meeting, and voted with the rest of Council to unanimously approve the sales terms.
Rogers said that both the car, which she called a piece of junk, and the trash can should be handled without re-bidding.
Upon reading the minutes of the May meeting, Chairman Ed Poore decided to open the two bids received. Commissioner Garretts bid of $658 was the high bid and was accepted by Council.
Rogers immediately made a motion to purchase the trash can based on the previous bids received. Garrett again opposed her saying that the policy required three bids. The commission approved Rogers motion by a vote of 3-1 with Garrett opposed.
The Commission also instructed Chief Tracy Wallace to have the Commissions attorney research the possibility of the fire department billing patients for medical first responses. Rogers raised the question, and Chairman Poore led the discussion. We are required by law to respond, especially since we have no EMS unit in the area. But we receive absolutely no revenue from this. We need to look into this.
The fire department has already answered 104 medical calls this year, out of a total of 227 calls.
Anderson County Sheriffs Deputies investigated an incident in which an elderly man died after he was hit in the head with a hammer.
At approximately 11:15 on Monday, June 16, Anderson County Sheriffs Deputy K.J. Winn responded to 134 Pleasant Woods Road in the Piedmont area. At the scene he found an elderly white male lying on the side of the road.
According to the incident report Winn filed later, the man, Paul Norman Rice, between the ages of 70 and 80 years, had obvious injuries to his person.
Those injuries would prove to be caused by blows from a hammer, allegedly inflicted by his wife, Gwendolyn Myrtle Rice, 78 years of age, who was found in the couples residence with several self-inflicted wounds to her arms and wrists, in an apparent suicide attempt. Coroner Greg Shore released a statement saying that she had also ingested a large amount of drugs in an obvious overdose.
She remains hospitalized at this time and no charges have been filed. Anderson County Chief Deputy Creed Hashe stated that the Sheriffs Office continues to investigate.
It appears to be a murder(attempted) suicide at this time. We are continuing to develop evidence at the scene. Currently, the subjects condition is still very unpredictable, and we will not move forward with any charges until a significant change in that condition occurs. Should Mrs. Rices condition improve, we would then present whatever evidence we have developed to the Solicitor for her decision as to how to proceed.
Hashe also commented on two other cases, which may be related to each other, but not to the apparent murder suicide. On Saturday, June 14, according to the store clerk, a white male in his mid-thirties, wearing a light blue short sleeve shirt and jeans, of medium height and build, entered the Lil cricket Convenience Store at the intersection of Hwy. 8 and Hwy. 29 North at approximately 7:00 a.m. He got a pack of gum and approached the counter but then returned to the candy aisle until several other customers left the store.
He then came to the cash register with his hand over his pocket. And said I dont want to hurt you but give me all your twenties and tens and fives.
She complied and he left the store and entered a gold four door Toyota Corolla, which went south on Hwy. 29.
Another robbery took place at the Sav-Way, 80 Main St. West Pelzer on June 10. Reports state a white male wearing a gray ball cap, gray shirt and blue jeans came into the store and asked for a cigarette lighter. The clerk gave him a pack of matches at which point he stated, I need you to do me a favor. He reached into his pants and said, I need you to give me the twenties and tens. He then said, Please, please, I dont want to hurt anybody.
The clerk then gave him the money and he left the building. Approximately $150 was taken.
Chief Hashe said that ACSO investigators were meeting with Lt. Rainey of the West Pelzer Police Department to review security video footage from both stores. We are fairly confident that the subjects are one and the same, but we need to view the tapes to be sure. Were working with the WPPD to develop and pursue leads. If anyone has any information on these cases, they should contact the ACSO or the West Pelzer Police, said Hashe.
By Stan Welch
Nearly two dozen citizens met with the Pelzer Town Council last Friday to express their concerns and their anger over the use that Judge Roger Scott is putting some of his property to.
Scott is using the land behind his barber shop at the corner of Hwy. 8 and Courtney Street to store freight containers and freight trailers. In doing so he has effectively closed a short access road that connects Murray Street and Courtney Street. That closure is the main source of resentment although not the only one.
Linda Ford of McCaughrin Street is spearheading a growing movement against Scotts actions. Pelzer attorney Jimmy King was on hand to explain that the Town has no role to play in the dispute. We do not maintain any streets, so the street in question is clearly not ours. Nor is the responsibility for how Mr. Scott uses the property. It is his. There are no town ordinances in place that would allow us to become involved, and no law enforcement agency to enforce anything, as far as that goes.
Ford read a statement that challenged the closing of the road on the basis of its prior use, as well as the fact that it has stop signs at each end and has been maintained. The statement also said that the road had been given to the Pelzer Rescue Squad by Kendall Mill and later transferred it to Scott by the squad in exchange for garbage service.
The town did recently sell a narrow strip of land adjacent to the road with the stipulation that nothing could be built on it. King reported that the road doesnt appear in either the state or county inventory of roads. This is one of those situations that is unique to mill towns. The mill owned that road, just as it did everything around it at one time.
King also declined to entertain the crowds request that the town file suit to force the opening of the road. You, as a group of private citizens, could do that and probably have more standing. This is not the Towns fight, and I would advise that the Town stay out of it.
Ford and others said they would continue to contact state and county officials in order to get something done about the situation.
By Stan Welch
For those anxious to see what impact last weeks primary elections would have on the county administration, the wait was a short one.
One week to the day after three incumbent Council members were defeated, gutting what was perceived by some as a solid five vote block, Anderson County Council voted to fund a full and thorough audit of fiscal year 2007-2008.
Following the decision to fund the audit, although the source of that funding, as well as a final cost, remains undetermined, the Council voted to approve third reading of the budget.
That budget includes a $3.2 million animal shelter, which will also include a low cost spay and neuter clinic. Even those who voted against the budget itself expressed support for the shelter, given that the current shelter struggles to maintain sanitary and humane conditions, and euthanizes approximately 8000 animals annually.
The meeting began with a motion by District One councilman Bob Waldrep to amend the agenda, which oddly placed the discussion of the budget on the agenda after the third reading of the budget. Waldrep wondered Wouldnt it be prudent to discuss this before the vote and not after? The motion to amend the agenda failed by a 3-3-1 vote, with Mr. Greer abstaining, and Councilwoman Cindy Wilson and Councilman Ron Wilson joining Waldrep in voting to amend.
Ms. Wilson was undeterred by the motions failure, and took the unusual step of going to the microphone and speaking as a citizen during the public hearing on the budget which followed. She had sought to be placed on the agenda to discuss the budget several times, but was always given time on the agenda of a series of special called meetings which were held at three oclock in the afternoon in the weeks leading up to the budget vote.
She spoke of more than twenty five million dollars in new debt which the budget authorizes, and offered several areas where she said services could be combined and duplication of costs could be consolidated. There are areas in this budget where we can make cuts and save money. We cant just continue to rubber stamp these projects like we do. That is not doing our jobs, said Wilson.
She also asked that the Council vote to continue the current budget until the new council takes its place in January, but that suggestion was never made formally in a motion.
Chairman Michael Thompson unveiled a surprise move to abolish the individual paving accounts which each council member currently maintains, and instead putting those funds under transportation director Holt Hopkins supervision to be used in developing a three year paving plan for the county.
Ms. Wilson immediately opposed the idea, saying that it would make it impossible to honor existing commitments to the various municipalities in her district. This is a last minute ploy by a lame duck Council to go after those who have prevailed, said Wilson.
She later added that such a plan could easily result in some districts receiving nothing in the way of paving. I oppose this plan because of the way that my district and I have been treated in the past. Councilman Waldrep supported that view, saying that it would be unfortunate if a member of Council were to become isolated or fall out of favor. To address that concern, he made a motion to allow each member to retain a minimum of $50,000 in discretionary funds, and let the rest be used to fund a prioritized list of projects.
Councilman Larry Greer, who lost his bid for re-election, also opposed the change. I may be a lame duck but my legs still work. The people of District Three sent me here because they felt that they didnt get their fair share, Ms. Wilsons people feel the same way in her district. Why is it that the burden so often falls on the rural areas? This is an attempt to deprive the people of my district of the services that they pay taxes for.
The amendment offered by Waldrep was defeated, and so was the original amendment offered by Thompson to abolish the funds.
Ms. Wilson then offered an amendment to combine two accounts in the finance department, with a total budget of $126,000 and to use that money to fund a full audit. Chairman Thompson asked her to define a full audit. Councilman Waldrep seconded the motion. During discussion of the amendment to the budget proposed by Wilson, Councilwoman Gracie Floyd asked finance director Gina Humphreys if the county had an audit every year.
Humphreys repeated the usual refrain that the county receives a clean audit opinion each year from its auditors, and that she doesnt even know what the audit requested by Ms. Wilson would entail.
Following several minutes of discussion, Councilman Ron Wilson stunned the room by offering an amendment to Ms. Wilsons amendment. I offer an amendment that we do this audit right now no matter what the cost, and get it over with. Ms. Wilson immediately offered to withdraw her amendment in support of Mr. Wilsons.
When Thompson tried to ask Humphreys her opinion on the matter, Wilson cut him off, saying, Lets look at everything, until we can either say there has been something wrong done or there hasnt. We dont need her opinion on this.
Mr. Waldrep sought assurances that the administrator would be distanced from the audit process. The administrator has so much authority at this point that we need some insulation between him and the auditors. Its like a bank examiner in business. When they come in, the bank president is usually asked to stay away.
The amendment passed by a vote of 4-2-1. The cost of the audit and the source of the funds was not determined. The full budget was approved by a vote of 4-2-1 as well, with Ms. Wilson and Mr. Waldrep opposed and with Ms. Floyd abstaining.
Speaking to The Journal later, Ms. Wilson said, I am pleased that the audit has been accepted. I am concerned that no criteria have been set. I hope we will be able to accomplish it in a reasonable manner. I would like to see it done right after we seat the new Council.
The National Association of County Information Officials recently recognized Anderson County Emergency Services/Public Safety Division as the recipient of the Meritorious Award of Excellence for the Billboard Emergency Alert System.
In July 2007, Anderson County Emergency Services / Public Safety Division formally launched the BEAS project, the first known program of its kind in the nation, after a citizen, Jim Kappler, approached public safety agencies in Anderson County asking if business owners could assist in public notifications in times of emergencies. .
We knew that the project was essential for helping keep our citizens and visitors safe in times of emergencies, said Anita Allison Donley, Grants and Accreditation Manager with Anderson County Emergency Services / Public Safety and facilitator of the BEAS project.
We are honored to have received this national award and recognition. The biggest reward, however, is knowing that the BEAS project will be and has been instrumental in saving the lives of Anderson County citizens and visitors.
The BEAS project is made up of local businesses that donate their electronic signs, marquees and billboards in order to post public safety notices in the event of approaching tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, evacuation routes, shelter notifications and local flooding. It is also used for local missing persons and Amber Alert notices.
In April 2008, a three year old boy was abducted by his non-custodial mother in Anderson County. The child was found safely in Abbeville County 30 minutes after the signs were activated. Abbeville County Emergency Management was the first agency in South Carolina to request information on starting their own BEAS Project. When Abbeville County Emergency Manager Steve McDade heard that Anderson County had activated their signs, Abbeville activated their signs at the same time.
Due to the overwhelming success of the BEAS Project, Anderson County has offered numerous agencies throughout various states and territories the information needed to start their very own project. The project is another means of emergency notification utilizing the resources already available in the community to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of citizens in times of emergencies and disasters.
The BEAS project is available to the community citizens at no cost to the agency or the government and requires no extra funding from citizens. Through utilization of the BEAS project, those persons traveling through Anderson County will be notified immediately of impending danger or in cases of a missing person or child. Since October 2007, BEAS has been activated three times for missing persons, all of which resulted in safe recoveries
Anderson County Libertarians will hold their annual Carolina Day Picnic on Saturday, June 28, in Williamstons Mineral Spring Park.
The public is invited to come out for fun, food and political discussions.
A covered dish picnic is scheduled to begin at noon. There will be snacks, drinks and ice. There will be no forum and no guest speakers, and is billed as a home coming event. All inactive libertarians are invited to join us for a day of fellowship, organizers said. The event will also kick off a campaign to make Carolina Day June 28, 1776 a state holiday.
The South Carolina Libertarian Party Executive Committee recently passed a resolution asking the governor and the State legislature to declare June 28 as a state holiday known as Carolina Day. The day will honor acts of bravery in defense of personal liberty including the date June 28, 1776 when South Carolina military forces triumphed over both the Royal Navy and the British Army at the Battle of Sullivans Island, an event noted in the state seal and state flag. The resolution also states, The celebration of this historic victory for personal liberty and freedom from tyranny should be celebrated by all citizens of the Palmetto State.
For more information contact Doug Taylor, ACLP Vice-Chair at 864-847-9820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Stan Welch
Well, the primary elections are over, and the tremors running through the Upstate in general and Anderson County in particular are still in the aftershock category. There were big changes made by the voters, with more still possible. But I dont want to talk about specifics just yet. I do have some general comments Id like to make, however.
The first comment I would like to offer is a suggestion. Everyone by now has seen literally hundreds, if not thousands, of roadside campaign signs, lining the rights of way along the roads and cluttering intersections in every corner of the county. Theyre red and white and blue and white and yellow and blue and black and yellow and every combination in between. I must say I didnt see a single green sign. I guess thats not a politically popular color. But they sure would have stood out.
I have no real problem with them being there, but I have a big problem with them being there a week after the elections are over, or a month or more. You know, people get fired up about their candidate and they scatter signs like fairies scatter pixie dust. But then the election is over and the heat of battle cools, and those signs just sit there and sit there.
So this is my suggestion; if not for this election cycle, then for the next one and every one to follow. Count the votes and confirm the count in each race. But do not certify the results. Wait one week, then conduct a full inspection of the county. Every candidate who still has signs out would lose 100 votes per sign. Then certify the winners. I bet that gets those signs up pretty darn quick, dont you?
Speaking of signs, I think every single candidate experienced the theft of their signs during this election. I think the theft of campaign signs, while hardly on a par with pedophilia or ethnic cleansing, is nonetheless an important issue. I say that not because of the cost incurred, although it is substantial, but because of what such behavior indicates.
It shows a willingness to do almost anything to see ones candidate or candidates win. It is both theft and cheating in one act. In addition, it is a denial of the other persons freedom of speech, a cheap way of trying to silence a message that you dont want to hear or allow to be heard.
In effect, it shows a lack of confidence in both our fellow citizens and our political system. The idea, after all, is that the best man or woman wins, based on the votes cast. To try and circumvent the process by petty theft, by curbside censorship, is childish and its wrong.
It reflects what I think is an unhealthy overall atmosphere in Anderson county politics. That atmosphere is one of a rabid us against them mentality, and it is carried too far in local politics. It is not an affliction that is limited to left or right, to liberal or conservative. It seems to be the general environment when it comes to local politics.
It is an adversarial approach that sets us against our neighbors, and our fellow Americans and Carolinians. It fosters vicious rumors and slanderous attacks and it leaves wounds and scars that damage the body politic.
It refuses to acknowledge any decent motive by your opponents for pursuing their agenda just as you pursue yours. It dismisses opposition simply because it is opposition; and it assumes the rightness of ones own arguments without even bothering to listen to the other sides arguments, much less conceding that something might be learned by exchanging those arguments in a civil and respectful manner.
This atmosphere is not confined to Anderson County by any means. One has only to listen to some of the unreasoned attacks on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by Republicans, or on John McCain by Democrats; attacks based not on differences of policy or opinion, but on differences of party membership.
Others before me and besides me have said this, but it bears repeating until it bears fruit. If we have not already lost the capacity for civil discourse in this country, we are well on our way. To be able to defend, and defend vigorously, ones position on any given matter or issue, without being branded as something less than American, is the very essence of our political system.
To recognize that we are each entitled to stand for a position or policy, for a candidate or a credo, without facing vicious and hateful retaliation demonstrates our confidence in ourselves, our own beliefs and in our fellow citizens. It is of great importance that such confidence be nurtured, not mocked, for the day is coming when we will need that confidence in one another, and need it badly.
Politics is not for the weak of heart, and those who offer for office are well served to have a clear understanding of that fact. Politics is a full contact sport in this part of the state, and elsewhere as well, Im sure. But surely we can fight the good fight and still find a way to reconnect and work together once that fight is over.
Seems to me that this county, this state, and this nation face enough challenges and enough enemies from without. Must we insist on creating more of the same from within?