News Archive

(2606) Week of June 27, 2006

Fireworks, fun this Saturday in Williamston
Council approves 2006 budget, will consider hiring administrator
Budget hearing draws two comments
District One approves budget with no millage increase
Five from area are in Miss SC pageant
Wilson continues to press for information
NewSpring Band, fireworks to highlight AIM benefit
246th Army Band to perform Thursday
Piedmont budget hearing leads to other discussions
AIM, PERC join efforts to offer services to area
Blue Star Mothers of America offer support
Bloom stores open
Seems to Me . . .Hunting RINOs

 

Fireworks, fun this Saturday in Williamston

Downtown Williamston will be the place to be this Saturday, as the town celebrates Independence Day with a amusement rides, live music, hot air balloon rides, a cruise-in, old time July 4th food items and a fireworks celebration.

The day long event will be sponsored this year by the Greater Williamston Business Association and The Williamston Fire Department. 

“This will be the first time amusement rides have been brought in for an event in Williamston other that the Spring Water Festival,” GWBA president, Dave Maddox said.

The event will feature a  variety of food items available from local vendors including barbecue, hot dogs, cotton candy, homemade ice cream and cobbler, watermelon and other items. 

The Anderson County hot air balloon will be available for tethered balloon rides and Palmetto Amusements will offer a variety of rides and bounce activities for kids of all ages.

Possible rides include a rocket ride for older children and adults, a train, a pirate ship, an obstacle course, a mechanical bull, a jousting ring and a thirty-foot slide.

The midway will be in operation by 10 a.m. and will remain open until the fireworks display at approximately 9:30 p.m.

The event will be centered at Town Square Center parking lot and the ballfield area.

The Williamston Fire Department is sponsoring the classic car cruise-in which will be held in the parking lot adjacent to McDonald’s, who is also helping sponsor the event.

Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison said he expects as many as 150 entries.  Awards will be presented at the event.

Ellison said the fire department will also offer rides on the 1936 antique fire truck during the Fireworks Spectacular, the first time rides have been offered other than during the Spring Water Festival.

Catlin Tierce, a nationally known gospel singer, songwriter and producer, will head entertainment for the event. Tierce has had two Top Ten hits, “That’s Why We’re Here” and “Bud Ain’t Wiser Than God.”

Families are also invited to picnic in the historic Mineral Spring Park, Maddox said.

Rain date for the event will be Monday, July 3. 

For more information contact  David Maddox at 847-5788, Steve Ellison at 847-4950 or Catlin Tierce at 847-9448.

Council approves 2006 budget, will consider hiring administrator

By Stan Welch

Marion Middleton, Jr., with just a little more than a month’s experience on the Williamston Town Council, dominated Tuesday’s night’s special meeting, which was supposedly called to give final reading to the 2006 budget.

Middleton produced an agenda including ten items. Some of the questions presented could have significant impact on the Town and the way it operates. Hiring an administrator, redefining various policies and procedures, reestablishing salaries for the Council and Mayor, and addressing the Council’s access to everyday information about the Town were among the items on the agenda. Additionally, the agenda was amended three times to bring other issues to the floor.

Special meetings have traditionally been called to address a specific issue, such as providing approval of a budget before the end of a fiscal or budget year. Williamston has worked through a total of 24 drafts of the budget that was finally adopted Tuesday night.

The special meeting began with an executive session for legal and contractual matters, an unusual arrangement of an agenda. Following that session with a Goldie & Associates representative, the Mayor and Council were questioned by a reporter for The Journal about the lengthy agenda being allowed at a special meeting.

Middleton stated that a meeting is a meeting, no matter what, and he conceded that he had prepared the agenda. Middleton would later distribute several pages of the Town Code during a discussion of how the Town should define a meeting. That code describes a special meeting as being designed “to handle business that arises and cannot be postponed until a regular meeting.”

Newton would explain the difference in the various meetings, saying that special meetings are called “to deal with situations that come up.” He also mentioned emergency meetings, which he says should involve things like terrorist attacks and blood running in the streets. “The point is that your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency,” he said.

During that discussion of meetings and procedures, Council voted to require that all agenda items be presented to the clerk forty-eight business hours before the meeting.

Also during the two and a half hour meeting, Council gave final approval to the budget, which is a balanced one, at least on paper. Among the key numbers in that budget: $3,392,300 in general fund revenues, with the precise same figure listed for general fund expenses; in the water and sewer fund, the revenues are listed as $1,815,100, again with expenses matching revenues exactly. ACOG representative Joe Newton has repeatedly warned Council that the budget is a fluid document, and that the Town’s precarious finances might well spur further amendments, but he praised the Council for the tough decisions they have made.

Newton said that the work of the Council and Mayor, and the actions they have taken, and committed to take, have greatly improved the Town’s condition. Asked by Councilman Greg Cole if the inclusion of a $250,000 tax anticipation note in the budget meant that the Town would definitely be borrowing that amount, Newton said that it meant only that the Council was authorized to borrow it if necessary.

“You have made hard decisions and good ones in the last few months,” said Newton. “The good news is that because of that, we won’t have to borrow a half million. You shouldn’t have to lay off anyone else. You may not have to borrow any money, but this allows you to do so if it becomes necessary without having to go into a separate process of hearings and meetings.” Council did amend the budget ordinance to require a separate single vote to borrow the money if it became needed.

One item on the budget was essentially scratched by the Town’s accountant, Bob Daniel. The town had been wrestling with the choice of whether to hire an additional employee to work as a police dispatcher, or to yield those duties to Anderson County’s Central Dispatch. Police Chief David Baker reported to Council that Daniel had informed him that neither option was possible, due to his recommendation of no new hires in the coming budget year.

Council, after amending the agenda to allow for the issue to be voted on, accepted Baker’s recommendation as information, and voted unanimously to revisit the issue at the July 10th meeting.

Council also voted unanimously to explore the possibility of hiring a town administrator, and to revisit that issue at the next meeting. Middleton, who brought the question up, as he did virtually every other issue discussed Monday night, said that he was not proposing a change in the form of government the Town uses. “I know we’ve never had an administrator before and it would be a big change, but we need to explore how much this could save us, and not just how much it might cost.”

The issue of minutes of meetings being prepared “in a timely manner”, as the law states, also came up. 

Mayor Clardy defended town clerk/treasurer Michelle Starnes efforts in that regard. 

“We have had perhaps as many as fifty to seventy-five meetings of one sort or another this year, due to the financial situation. We’ve had at least 24 budget work sessions. On top of that, the staff has been reduced, and Michelle is trying to do the day to day operations as well, plus meet public demand for records and minutes. I think she’s done a tremendous job.”

Clardy pointed out that all the meetings have been recorded. “Our problem has been to get hard copies of everything ready. But we have everyone in Town Hall, including Michelle working on that every spare minute.”

Middleton acknowledged an increase in sheer volume of “400 to 500%”, but added that “These minutes make up the public record of the Town, and they need to be prepared and approved by Council before they can become the official record.”

It was decided to let the Mayor reevaluate the effort required and if the minutes cannot be completed by the end of July, he will report that to Council at the next meeting and see what might be done to expedite the process.

Middleton and Clardy clashed on the question of a dispute with the County over reserved capacity at the wastewater treatment plant, and how best to address the problem.

Middleton reported that he had recently met with County Administrator Joey Preston “as a courtesy call”, and that he felt the problem could be resolved by meeting with him as a Council.

He stated that he felt the dispute has resulted from “a whole lot of miscommunication”. The dispute is over a claim by the County that 300,000 gallons per day of capacity reserved by them in 1987, has been used or sold by the Town to other consumers, without the County being informed or compensated. Preston recently sent a letter to Clardy informing him that the County’s position is that they are owed $191,000 in back fees.

The Town has questioned the county’s claims, including the original agreement by which the County reportedly invested $550,000 in the system, thereby reserving the claimed capacity.

 Clardy thanked Middleton for his initiative in visiting Preston, and expressed his willingness to meet with the administrator. 

“I don’t object to meeting with him, but I do object to meeting with him prematurely. Goldie & Associates are compiling figures for us now, and when we have those figures, that would be the time to meet with them.”

Following several minutes of discussion, the motion to meet with Preston was tabled until the next meeting and it was decided to have Goldie & Assoc. present a date for the receipt of the information they are compiling.

The agenda was amended at the request of Councilman Otis Scott to discuss a situation with a landowner who is asking the town to cede him a small strip of land adjacent to his, which he has been maintaining for many years. The Council decided to instruct the town attorney, who is already reviewing the matter to provide a final answer to the Council.

Scott then amended the agenda again to allow Fire Chief Steve Ellison to speak. Ellison announced that the fire department had raised approximately $7200 to purchase a thermal imaging camera, which can be used to locate the source of a fire within a building, or to locate people within a building.

Ellison asked that the Town provide assurance that such a method of acquiring equipment would not become routine. “We need this equipment and we raised the money, but we don’t want to set a precedent where every time we come to the Town for help, we’re told to get out and raise some money.”

By the end of the meeting, all or parts of more than half the items on the agenda had been tabled or delayed until future meetings. 

Budget hearing draws two comments

Two people spoke before the Williamston Town Council at a public hearing on the 2006 budget Thursday (June 22).

Carthel Crout praised accountant Bob Daniel and Appalachian Council of Governments advisor Joe Newton for their work in “putting together a real budget.”

He also thanked council for following the suggestions of the two professional advisors.

“We still have a long way to go. Council, it is your show. You have to work to get things better and working in the right direction.”

Tim Cox said that even with increased fees, water rates and cuts in service that more can be done. “I don’t think you’ve done enough.”

Newton recommended that council approve the 2006 budget, administer it and adjust it if necessary, and start working on the 2007 budget.

Second reading on the 2006 budget was held at a special meeting on Tuesday, June 27 at 6 p.m. 

Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. briefly commented on the sewer treatment plant and communications he had with Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston concerning capacity issues.

Middleton said he thought there was some miscommunication and his opinion was that Preston was trying to be fair and that the situation could be resolved without a lawsuit.

“We can’t afford to be in a lawsuit with Anderson County,” Middleton said.

District One approves budget with no millage increase

During their regular monthly meeting Tuesday, the Anderson District One School Board gave final approval to a $46,522,210 general fund expenditure budget which is expected to be approved by the County Board at their July meeting.

No one spoke at a public hearing on the budget which was scheduled before the regular meeting.

The budget is based on revenues of $46,394,213, showing a $127,997 shortfall, which Dr. Wayne Fowler said, if approved by the County Board, will probably be made up by increases in property value reassessment and with no need for a millage increase.

He also said the bond indebtedness could drop from 30 to 29 resulting in a wash on any tax increase.

The current property tax rate for District One is 111.1 mills. The difference would amount to less than a mill according to Fowler. A 1 mill increase would raise the property tax bill by about $4 on a home with a $100,000 assessed value. The value of a mill at present in $133,063.

Dr. Fowler said the rate is the lowest in the County with other districts looking at a 6 to 8 mill increase.

“I feel this will be a sound budget to educate our children for the next year,” Dr. Fowler said before recommending the board approve it.

The budget was unanimously approved with a 4-0 vote. Board members Tom Merritt, Sallie Lee were not present.

In other business, Director of Finance, Steve Uldrick reported that approximately 96 percent of the district’s expected revenues, $59,934,276, have been collected and he expects 99.1 to 99.2 percent to be collected.

Dr. John Pruitt reported that the summer school program being offered by the District was “very well attended” and was one of the few programs being offered across the state.

Programs are being offered at Palmetto Elementary and each of the middle schools. Spearman Elementary is also hosting the Create art and music program for the District.

Pruitt said the NOVANET program is being offered at Wren and Palmetto High Schools and has 129 students participating. They are expected to recapture 136 high school credits, he said.

Pruitt said the computer/internet program which allows students to take tests online, is saving the district in teacher’s time and salary.

Superintendent Dr. Fowler said the credit recovery program was very popular with students and allowed credit recovery “at a reduced price.”

Dr. Fowler also commented on the Create music/art program being offered in the elementary schools. “We have some of the finest art and music teachers,” he said. Fowler said a program he attended was very impressive in what the students had accomplished.

The Board then went into executive session to discuss personnel.

Upon returning to regular session, they unanimously approved the 2006-2007 budget.

The Board approved the following personnel recommendations made by Dr. Fowler.

Resignation - Jason Lesley, Spearman Elementary School, Physical Education.

Transfers - Toni Carson, Palmetto Middle Grade 7 Science to Powdersville Middle; JoEarle Roach, Hunt Meadows Elementary School, LD Resource to Palmetto Elementary.

Recommendations - Laura Brown, Palmetto High School, Spanish; Allison Calvert, Palmetto Middle School, Grade 7; Connie Kennedy, Wren High School, Social Studies; Patricia Moody, Powdersville Middle School, EMD Self-Contained; Allison Tomlinson, Spearman Elementary School, EMS Self Contained; Carol Walling, Hunt Meadows Elementary School, LD Resource; Ashley Walters, Palmetto Elementary School, Grade One; Dr. James Whisenhunt, Wren High School, Chemistry/Physics; and Jeffrey Willmott, Palmetto Middle School, LD Resource.

The board decided to hold the July meeting on August 1 due to some of the board members attending a conference during the last week of July.

Five from area are in Miss SC pageant

(By Hayley Meade)

Five young ladies will be representing the area next week as they compete in the 2006 Miss South Carolina and Miss South Carolina Teen pageants being held at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium.

Competing in the Miss South Carolina pageant will be Miss Piedmont Farrah Norris and Miss Powdersville Elizabeth Ridgeway. Representing the area in the Miss South Carolina Teen Pageant will be Miss Greenville Teen Elizabeth Boerger, and Miss Powdersville Teen Kristin Smith and Miss  Greater Carolina Teen Taylor Fitch. Norris and Ridgeway will be profiled next week in the July 5 issue of The Journal.

The competition includes forty young ladies in the Miss division and thirty-five ladies in the Teen division. Before competing in either pageant, a contestant must first win a preliminary title.

The competition is a ten day event that consists of interviews, practices, banquets, and many other activities for pageant contestants. The week will begin on Thursday, June 29 for Teen Contestants and the Miss Contestants will arrive on Friday, June 30.

Contestants in both pageants will then rehearse at the Spartanburg Marriott for the remainder of the day. The following day the contestants will rehearse and begin the interview portion of competition for Teen Contestants.

The Miss Contestants and their Palmetto Princesses will eat lunch at the Beacon Restaurant in Spartanburg, followed by a visit to Krispy Kreme and then later, will visit Hollywild Animal Park.

On Sunday, the Miss Contestants begin the interview process while the Teen Contestants go to Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch and then a visit to Hollywild Animal Park. The Miss Contestants will dine out latter that night at Capri’s.

On Monday, July 3, a full dress rehearsal for the Miss South Carolina Teen and Miss South Carolina Competitions will be held at 7 p.m. at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium.

The rehearsal is open to the public with $5 admission at the door and all proceeds will benefit the Hollywild Animal Park. 

The first preliminary competition will begin at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4 at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium for the Teen Competition and then at 8 p.m. for the Miss Competition. The preliminary competition will continue on Wednesday July 5 and Thursday July 6.

The final Miss South Carolina Teen Competition will be held at 2 p.m. at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium on Friday, July 7. The final Miss South Carolina Competition including the announcement of the new Miss South Carolina Teen, will begin at 8 pm and will be aired on a live statewide telecast on WSPA-TV.

Wilson continues to press for information

By Stan Welch

County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson is continuing to press county administrator Joey Preston for information she feels she is entitled to, despite a recent court ruling against her.

Wilson has filed a notice of appeal of a recent ruling issued by Judge MaCaulay, in which he denied Wilson access not only to legal vendor files, but to routine financial information which an earlier ruling in the case had declared her to be entitled to.

Wilson has sought access to legal vendor files of the county for several years and has been pressing the writ of mandamus lawsuit for more than a year and a half. Preston insists that the legal vendor files are privileged, and that the privilege belongs to the entire Council as a body, and not as individuals, and can therefore not be waived by any one member.

Wilson has called MaCaulay’s  ruling “unbelievable” and having “ a real chilling effect on the public’s ability to seek public information.” Jay Bender, Wilson’s attorney and an acknowledged expert on the Freedom of Information Act, called the ruling “astonishing”, and has expressed his confidence that the ruling will be reversed at the next judicial level.

In the meantime, Wilson continues to press for information concerning a recent automobile accident involving Preston and the Denali which is provided for him by the county as part of his compensation. Wilson, in a letter dated June 21, asked for the time and location of the accident, as well as the names of the parties involved. She also asked for any reports filed with law enforcement agencies, warranty holders on the vehicle or insurance companies.

Preston stated at the last County Council meeting that he was struck from behind, and that all expenses, including more than $1800 spent to rent a Suburban SUV for three weeks, incurred as a result of the accident were paid for by the other party. Preston also said that he changed the vehicle’s license plate at his own expense due to his being stalked and harassed. Wilson, who challenged Preston’s claim that he was hit from behind, questioned Preston as to how he could do that since the ownership of the vehicle remains with the County. He did not respond.

Wilson is also seeking copies of all invoices for repairs, parts, and the rental of the vehicle. She also asked for proof of any expenses which were reimbursed.

NewSpring Band, fireworks to highlight AIM benefit

The skies around the William A. Floyd Amphitheater in Anderson will light up with fireworks Friday following a concert by the NewSpring Band. The concert, which begins at 7 p.m., will benefit Anderson Interfaith Ministry and the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Anderson. A suggested donation of $10 per person or $20 per family will be taken at the gates. Organizers said the public is welcome to come out and watch the fireworks display at no cost.

The fireworks display will begin immediately after the concert, on the front lawn of the Civic Center of Anderson. Those looking to attend the concert and/or watch the fireworks should enter the Civic Center parking lot from either end of Freedom Way as the main drive into the Civic Center will be closed.

“Every year we get phone calls asking us if we are doing fireworks for the fourth of July,” said Charles Wyatt, Director of the Anderson Sports & Entertainment Center. “We’re delighted to be working with NewSpring to provide those fireworks this year, while also helping two local charities. Plus, there will be some fantastic music being performed that night as well.”

Those attending the concert are encouraged to bring with them lawn chairs or blankets to sit on. Picnic baskets are also welcome. Coolers and glass containers are not permitted. Concessions will also be available for purchase.

For more information, contact the Anderson Sports & Entertainment Center at (864) 260-4800.

 

The William A. Floyd Amphitheater will come alive with the sounds of patriotic music just before the Independence Day weekend.

The 246th Army Band from the South Carolina Army National Guard will perform at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 29, at the outdoor concert venue located at the Anderson Sports & Entertainment Center. The performance will be free to the public. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome, and concessions will be available for purchase.

The show will be held rain or shine. In case of severe weather, the concert will be postponed.

The performance is being sponsored by the Anderson Independent-Mail, Anderson County, and the Anderson Sports & Entertainment Center.

246th Army Band to perform Thursday

The 246th Army Band will have several different ensembles performing, demonstrating a variety of groups and musical genres, from pop to rock, and from country to jazz. There will also be ceremonial march music, and, of course, patriotic music. The entire program is scheduled to last about 90 minutes.

“We are excited that we were able to re-schedule the South Carolina Army Band to return to Anderson,” said Charles Wyatt, director of the Anderson Sports & Entertainment Center. “We are very fortunate because they are in high demand, and to get them this close to the July 4th holiday makes it that much more special. We encourage everyone in the community to bring a lawn chair or blanket, and come out and have a great time.”

The members of the Army Band meet one weekend per month and two weeks every year training for their wartime mission. That mission is to provide music throughout the full spectrum of military operations. The goal of the band is to instill in soldiers Esprit de Corp, the will to fight, foster support of the citizens, and promote the national interests both at home and abroad.

The 246th Army Band is commanded by Warrant Officer Jessie W. Morlan. Stationed in Columbia. The band consists of a concert band, popular music ensemble, jazz ensemble, stage band, Dixieland band, and various smaller performing groups. The unit performs in military ceremonies, community parades, and various public concerts. The unit has been awarded the South Carolina Governor’s Unit Citation for exceptional meritorious service.

Piedmont budget hearing leads to other discussions

By Stan Welch

The June 26 meeting of the Piedmont Public Service Commission turned contentious Monday night, during a discussion of the proposed budget.

Oddly, the dispute developed around the commission’s procurement and hiring policies. The roots of the dispute were sown early, as Commissioner Frankie Garrett challenged the minutes of the last meeting. Specifically, he wanted to “take it back”, in regards to his vote concerning the staffing or contracting of the custodial work at the ballpark and the community building.

The problem arose when Commission Chairperson Marsha Rogers brought it up at the May 15 meeting. At that time, her husband Tommy Rogers was performing those duties, having assumed them on a volunteer basis when the previous contractor surrendered the contract, and later having bid on them when they were put out for bids.

After receiving the bids, the Commission added the requirement that the successful bidder have a license to spray agrichemicals, as part of the maintenance at the ballparks.

Of the bidders only one had such a license, according to Chief Administrator Butch Nichols and several commissioners. Garrett added that the contractor would need liability insurance and workman’s compensation.

At the May 15 meeting, various motions were made and withdrawn. Eventually, Commissioner Al McAbee moved to hire the ballpark custodian and the community building manager (the two are separate positions) as part time salaried employees, without benefits, but with coverage under the District’s general liability and workmen’s compensation coverage.

Garrett voted along with the three other commissioners to approve that motion, with Chairperson Rogers abstaining due to a possible conflict of interest. Following a brief but spirited discussion of the minutes, they were approved 3-1, with Garrett voting in the negative. Commissioner Fred Glenn was absent from Monday night’s meeting.

The issue came up again during the budget discussion, when Bobby Stover, who had unsuccessfully bid on the ballpark contract three years ago, questioned what he deemed  the Commission’s failure to follow the state’s ethics code in seeking bids and awarding contracts. He also questioned the commission’s position when it comes to hiring women and minorities.

“Do ya’ll have a problem with blacks, or Hispanics? How many women work here. Do you advertise these positions or just let your buddies know when something comes open?” said Stover, who serves on the Anderson County C Funds Committee.

Rogers pointed out that she recused herself from all votes related to her husband and the ballpark maintenance contract, and later on the decision to make it a part time position. She also defended the fire department’s policy of hiring from their volunteer ranks, whenever a paid position comes open.

“That way we have trained people who we know are capable of doing the job,” she said. Commissioner McAbee agreed, saying that the policy had been in place for some time. He added that the department tried to accommodate any person who volunteered. “If they come in to volunteer, we try to accommodate them. It doesn’t matter who they are, black, white, female, whatever.”

Said Stover, “I don’t think that policy’s ethical. I think it’s just the good old buddy system.” 

Rogers then reminded Stover that he was supposed to be asking questions about the budget, and Stover replied, “Have you cut any taxes since you’ve been on this commission? “

Rogers said she had not and would not at this time if she could help it. “We can’t afford to cut taxes right now. We barely got this budget out of the red. We were able to raise the firemen’s pay this year.”

The budget received third reading approval by a vote of 3-1, with Garrett opposed.

Following the meeting, both Stover and Rogers clarified their positions. 

“I’m just tired of the same old good old buddy system around here,” said Stover. “Last year they took the low bid on that contract and this year they took the third highest, which was Bobby Rogers. Bobby didn’t have a license to spray chemicals, so they found a way to make him a part time employee. I also don’t think it’s right that there aren’t any minorities or women working here. That’s public money they’re using, but no minorities get a chance to bid because they don’t advertise these things where people will hear about it. They should be held accountable just like everyone else.”

Rogers, along with Commissioner Rudy Rhodes, said that the decisions were made in public and that the votes were properly taken. 

“I did not vote on or discuss anything having to do with my husband and this position,” said Rogers. “Frankie Garrett is fussing about this, but the truth is he would sell the ballpark if he could. He just doesn’t think it’s important for our kids to have a place to go.”

Said Rhodes, “The building maintenance and custodial position will be handled exactly the same way, because it makes the most sense. This was done right.”

In other business, the Commission voted to authorize their attorney to begin legal proceedings against Greenville County to recoup lost revenues due to the failure of a local industry to pay its taxes.

According to discussions, The Southwark Company, which had changed its name to Metal Craft, is more than three years in arrears on their tax payments to Greenville County. The company has recently changed its name back to that of Southwark.

According to Dan Rawls, a local businessman who has been working on the problem with Chief Administrator Nichols, the estimates of the amount due run from approximately $600,000 to as high as $1 million.

The percentage due to the Piedmont Public Service District based on their agreement with the County, would conservatively be in the $170,000 range. The District receives twenty per cent of the taxes collected.

“Clearly, the District can use that money,” said Rawls. “I would suggest that the commission go after that money. The County owes it to you, not the company. That’s who I recommend going after.”

AIM, PERC join efforts to offer services to area

By Stan Welch

The Piedmont Emergency Relief Center continues to expand the range of services it offers to those who need such help.

At a meeting Monday night, PERC Director Jed Daughtry hosted Anderson Interfaith Ministry Director Kristi King and Linda Loparo, who provided information on the various services that AIM offers.

Afterwards, Daughtry explained that one of   PERC’s main purposes is to provide services that will help people begin to regain control of their circumstances. “One of the ways we do that is to host a public forum meeting once a month. We have different agencies and organizations come in and make a presentation and answer questions about what they offer. It also provides a great opportunity to us to explore partnerships with these various folks.”

Daughtry says that AIM has agreed to co-locate their emergency assistance operation at PERC by having someone on hand once a week who can facilitate that emergency service. Daughtry said that PERC hasn’t built that kind of infrastructure locally yet, but AIM can be a partner who provides that help.

 “We have never wanted to reinvent the wheel. We just want to get the wheels to roll a little closer to Piedmont. We aren’t interested in duplicating services, just making them available to the people in our service area,” Daughtry said.

Kristi King agreed, saying “Transportation can really be a problem for some of these folks. If we can bring our services to the PERC facility, it makes it easier for those who need us. Collaboration is the best way to extend PERC’s reach beyond their food ministry, and to allow them and us to help more people. That has always been the purpose behind AIM, to bring solutions to people.”

That area includes four zip codes: 29673, 29669, 29697, and 29611. Between April and December of last year, the Center served approximately 90 families, providing food and other services to those in need.

“We have two rules here. Keep It Simple Stupid, which means we don’t get into qualifying people for the various services that are available. We refer the people and let the professionals who work in DSS or Food Stamps or job services do their jobs. They’re professionals, we are not. Secondly, we err on the side of compassion, which means we’d rather give a box of food to someone who doesn’t really need it than deny it to someone who does,” Daughtry said.

To make that distinction a little easier, the Center follows one practice. “We will provide food once to anyone referred to us by a business or church within our service area, or by the Piedmont Fire Department, since they donated this space and pay our utility bills. There are no questions asked that first time. Then, all we ask is that they go through the process of applying for EBT, or food stamps. We will provide them with food five more times that year, but they have to either show us the EBT card or their letter of denial. We have to have some evidence that they are making an effort to help themselves,” said Daughtry.

The Emergency Relief Center also participates in the nationally based Angel Food program. Under this program, anyone, whether in particular need or not, can pay twenty-five dollars in advance to receive a box of food worth at least twice that much. The menu changes weekly but includes such things as pasta, canned goods, meat and chicken, eggs, peanut butter, and at least one dessert item. With that twenty five-dollar purchase, the buyer can also buy one or more of the three special packages available each week. The current menu includes a package of 10 seventeen inch pepperoni pizzas for ten dollars, or ten pounds of popcorn chicken for fifteen dollars.

“The Angel Food plan lets people really stretch their food dollars, so they can pay other bills, like utilities and car payments and such. It helps these folks get stabilized and begin getting back on their feet. That’s what we want to do, just help them get back on their feet. We see the pride and the courage these folks have. They just need a little help to get back up,” said Daughtry.

The PERC office is located in the community building in Piedmont, and is open three days a week: Tues. and Thurs. from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. till noon.

Blue Star Mothers of America offer support

The Blue Star Mothers of the Upstate offers support and other programs for mothers who now have, or have had, children serving in the military.

The organization, as part of the Blue Star Mothers of America, are a non-profit (501-C), non-political. national service organization. The group is a place for mothers, dads, and anyone who loves a member of the military to meet,” said coordinator Jane Davis. “We swap stories, advice, concerns, or just get some much needed support. We support our deployed military personnel by sending goodie boxes and items that may make their time deployed a little easier. We want them to know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice for us.”

According to Davis, one of the primary goals is to promote patriotism. “We have a new project to get the “Yellow Ribbons” back on homes and businesses. When the war first started everyone rushed to get a yellow ribbon to show their support. As the war goes on, where have the yellow ribbons gone?”

“The troops need to know that they have our support more now than ever. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the war, what matters is that our sons and daughters get your support. If you live in a subdivision or a rural area make it a priority that every house has a “yellow ribbon”. Once your subdivision, street, or road is covered with ribbons, make a picture, send it to us and we will make sure the troops get the pictures.” Davis said. “Imagine how much that would help their morale to see streets of support!”

If you can’t find a yellow ribbon, Davis invites you to call or email her. The Blue Star Mothers of the Upstate have “yellow ribbons” available for $4 each.

A  “Blue Star” flag in the window of a home identifies it as the home of someone whose son or daughter is serving in the military. “Many of us also burn a candle in the window that will not go out until the last troops come home and the war is over,” she said.

The Blue Star Mothers of the Upstate meet monthly at the VFW Post 9273, 112 Sterling Grove Rd. Piedmont, on the 3rd Sunday at 2:30pm. If you’re a mother, dad, family member or love a military person, you are invited, Davis said. “See what we are all about! We are here to support and care for each other all month not just meeting days. “

Blue Star Mothers of the Upstate is completely dependent on donations. and money from fundraisers. If you would like to make a donation, buy a yellow ribbon, or send items to help the troops, the address is BSM of the Upstate, c/o  Jane Davis, P.O. Box 2552, Greenville, SC 29602. For more information, Davis can be reached at 250-1900 or by email at: bluestarmom.jane@gmail.com.

Bloom stores open

Bloom, being promoted as “a different kind of grocery store”, opened the doors of three new grocery stores in the Upstate Saturday. 

Local shoppers can experience either of two local stores, in Anderson at 3750 Highway 81 or in Greenville at 1332 S. Pleasantburg Dr. at the intersection of  Augusta Rd. (Hwy. 25). A third store is located 1085-D Old Clemson Highway, between Clemson and Seneca.

Bloom grocery stores offer several unique conveniences. One is the option of using hand-held scanners, which are new to the grocery industry, that allow customers to scan and bag their own groceries as they move throughout the store.

“We have had a great response to the personal scanners,” said Karen Peterson, Bloom Media Relations. “Bloom has several unique features that the research showed people have liked,” Peterson said.

Another unique feature is information kiosks throughout the store which allow customers to easily find products, select menus, determine the best kind of wine to serve with a particular meal and if needed, offers electronic games for entertaining children. “Getting information is a breeze,” according to Peterson.

Another unique feature according to Peterson, are lower shelves, which she said are very easy to reach. “Customers responded so well to the lower height,” she said. Other features include uncluttered aisles, an intuitive layout, as well as exceptional product quality and variety.

For shoppers in a hurry, another convenience, the Table Top® area, offers restaurant-quality, ready-to-eat meals along with specially prepared deli sandwiches, handmade pizzas, salads, and more, “allowing shoppers to quickly decide on something for lunch or dinner,” Peterson said.

Bloom also offers a wide variety of fresh-from-the-farm produce; an all-Angus beef; a gourmet bakery; a full-service fresh seafood department; and more.

Trained food experts, known as taste ambassadors, roam the store offering a variety of samples of special food items and menu preparation suggestions.

“We are excited to enter the Upstate community and bring our fresh and novel approach to grocery shopping to local residents,” said James Egan, vice president of Bloom. “Bloom takes the hassle out of shopping and makes it fun and easy. We think Bloom will surprise and delight our guests with exceptional quality on everything from the practical like bread and milk to the exotic, such as Tortilla Crusted Tilapia or Alessi 20-year-old Balsamic Vinegar. The best part is we offer all of this at great prices.”

Bloom was originally introduced in the Charlotte, N.C., area in 2004 following two years of international research into consumer preferences and market studies. A cross-functional team studied customer behaviors, wants and needs. The result was a new concept developed with the grocery shopper in mind.

“Bloom really is a different kind of grocery store,” said Robin Johnson, director of marketing and brand development for Bloom. “Guests can expect to find high quality, fresh products, superior services, surprisingly deep variety and helpful technology that makes shopping a breeze.”

“At Bloom, our knowledgeable associates treat you like a guest. For example, our Taste Ambassadors are ready to assist you in menu and recipe selections. We’re delighted to now serve the Upstate and be a part of its communities.”

The three upstate Bloom stores are the result of other prototype stores which were opened in Charlotte and are prototype stores themselves.

“We are very excited for our team and for our customers,” Peterson said.

Four more stores are set to open in the Upstate later this year, officials said. Bloom continues to hire employees for stores in Greenville, Greer, and the Golden Strip.

Bloom is a banner of Food Lion LLC, a subsidiary of Brussels-based Delhaize Group (NYSE:DEG) and currently operates eight stores.

It is is one of five uniquely positioned brands under the Food Lion unbrella, Director of Communications for Food Lion, Ruth Kinzey said. Bloom offers unique design features and higher end items. She describes the Bloom concept as “customer centric.”

“We did the research nationwide and internationally, and had a lot of  advantages in developing from scratch.”

Seems to Me . . . Hunting RINOs

By Stan Welch

 It seems to me that the Republicans have had a pretty good spring and summer so far. While this is being written prior to the June 27 runoffs, it seems obvious that Republican politics continues to be very strong, both locally and on the state level. How the midterm Congressional elections go in November remains to be seen.

Something else that also remains to be seen is whether or not the local Republican power structure will throw its support behind the sole black Republican candidate for County Council District Two, Marshall Mitchell. Shoot, he may be the sole black Republican candidate in the Upstate.

Mr. Mitchell is no Johnny came lately to the Republican Party. He has been a Republican since he was in college at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte, where he helped organize the first student Republican organization at the historically black school. He favors a bootstrap approach to self improvement and achievement.

In recent years, whenever someone of African descent stands up and claims kinship with the Republican Party, they are welcomed loudly to the all inclusive “tent” that Republicans are so quick to pitch.

Republicans, rightly or wrongly, are generally considered the whiter of the two parties; and at least on the national level, they strive mightily to refute that assumption. Despite their efforts to shed the image of a party of the privileged, the constant clarion call for black Americans to join their ranks has never played well, for a variety of reasons.

Any Poli Sci major knows by the end of first semester that blacks are traditionally the electoral strength of the Democratic Party, and Republican efforts to make inroads into that strength are all but doomed to fail. But that doesn’t mean they don’t keep trying. They just don’t try very hard.

Yes sir, Republicans are big on the idea of inclusion, especially when they are facing what could be a rough midterm exam at the polls. Where they tend to fall down is when it’s time to give those rare black candidates that they like to tout before the public the kind of behind the scenes support that is needed to win races.

The Republican Party structure in the Anderson area calls for philosophical adherence to the party line by elected officials and unblinking support of party dogma by the rank and file at a level seldom heard in other parts of the country. They publicly called out Councilmen Dees and Greer when they dared vote to support Gracie Floyd’s run for Council Chairman in 2005, questioning their party loyalty and integrity in a public resolution passed by the Party’s Executive Committee.  

They are quick to use the Republican in Name Only (RINO) label/slur, and love nothing better than a good old RINO hunting safari. According to their lights, they took down one such RINO in the recent primary, with Bill Dees losing handily in District Six, while fellow RINO Larry Greer suffered near fatal wounds. On top of that, recently identified RINO Michael Thompson appears to be squarely in Mike Holden’s crosshairs, awaiting only the killing shot. All these results have been cited with great glee by Republican leaders across the county.

But with all the emphasis on purging the philosophically impure members of their own party, one would think that the powers that be would save a few rounds to be fired at the only Democrat currently on the Council, Councilwoman Gracie Floyd; who just happens to be Mr. Mitchell’s opponent in November. Yet one sees little sign that the party apparatus is lining up behind Mitchell.

Given Floyd’s entrenched position in a predominantly black district, the appearance of a black, educated, entrepreneurial candidate to run against her would seem like a political and public relations windfall to the Party. Instead, Anderson County Republican Party head Rick Atkins has made his brag that Ed Jean will face the full wrath and power of the Republican machine when he opposes incumbent Cindy Wilson for the District Seven seat in November.

Now, I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Cindy Wilson is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She defeated Julia Ashley Barnes handily, and political newcomer Ed Jean clearly faces an uphill battle.

This is not to say that the Republicans should abandon Wilson to her own devices, or that her victory over Jean is a foregone conclusion; but surely Mitchell faces the more formidable challenge. One could reasonably think that such a challenge would inspire the Republicans to rally to his aid, and perhaps they will as the general election draws nearer. They may even be rallying to his cause at this very moment; but if they are, it is a covert mission, because there is little, if any, visible sign of it.

Is there a great political gain to be achieved by a vigorous support of Mitchell’s candidacy? Probably not, in terms of actual impact on the Council, since Floyd has few prospects of wielding any power with six Republicans for colleagues. There is, however, much to gain in the quest for black support for the Party and its policies, including the ones which calls for support of fellow Republicans and party loyalty.

So, Mr. Mitchell, if you find yourself in November standing alone and feeling like you were caught in a stampede, it seems to me that you might want to look around and see if there are any RINO tracks in the area.

 

 

 

 

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