News Archive

(2608) Week of June 25, 2008

Freedom Celebration this Saturday
One charged after vehicle run off road
Hammer incident under investigation
Salkehatchie volunteers making home improvements
County Legislative Delegation postpones CTC budget increase
Waldrep retains seat on County Council
Deputies investigate assault incidents
Seems to Me - The audit

Freedom Celebration this Saturday

A Freedom Celebration will be held this 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. McDonald’s 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.

At 7 p.m. Holly Whatley, Miss Williamston 2008,  will sing the Star Spangled Banner and other songs that she will perform in the Miss South Carolina Pageant in July. Mayor Phillip Clardy will welcome everyone.

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. Williamston’s 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.

One charged after vehicle run off road

By Stan Welch

 An argument between a Pelzer youth and his girlfriend resulted in a high speed car chase and a subsequent crash that sent Morgan Collen, 17, of 1014 Brick Mill Rd. in Honea Path, to the hospital with serious injuries.

Chance Durham, WM, 17, of 1 Wardlaw Street in Pelzer, was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill, after witnesses reported that he had run Collen off the road and into a tree at a high rate of speed. Collen’s vehicle also flipped.

According to the report filed by ACSO Deputy M.J. McClatchy, he was dispatched to the scene on Mill Street Extension in Williamston. There he met with SCHP Trooper Stewart, who was beginning his investigation of the accident. Stewart reported that witnesses had told him the crash was intentionally caused by a black Honda Accord. Collen was driving a green Honda Accord. Stewart advised that Collen had already been transported to AAMC.

Hazel Brock, one of the witnesses, told Deputy McClatchy that she had been on Mill St. Extension when she saw the two cars racing along the road at approximately 80-90 miles an hour. The black Honda then attempted to pass the green one, forcing Brock to slam on brakes to avoid a head on collision.

Brock added that the black car then pulled alongside the green one and began swerving towards it as if trying to force it from the road. She went on to her destination, and returned just minutes later. At that time, she saw the wreck, and also saw the black Honda stopped in the road approximately fifty yards past the scene of the crash.

Brock, in her written statement, also stated that the driver of the black car offered no help but left the scene and returned later on foot.

McClatchy took Durham into custody while the investigation continued. Another witness, and friend of the victim, Kiersten Huff, 17, was on the phone with Collen during the chase prior to the crash. She told McClatchy that she knew both parties and that they had argued recently and Colleen was trying to avoid Durham. She said Collen called her earlier and said Durham had seen her in town and began chasing her down the road. According to Huff, Collen was upset during the conversation. Huff said she had contact with Collen up until the crash. She also gave a written statement.

Durham’s vehicle was subsequently found abandoned on Big Creek Road and processed by forensic technicians from the ACSO.

According to ACSO spokesperson Susann Griffin, Durham was arrested and charged with one count of assault and battery with intent to kill, and one count of malicious damage to property, which was later dropped. He has been denied bail and remains in the Anderson County Detention Center.

Hammer incident under investigation

By Stan Welch 

Gwendolyn Myrtle Rice, whose husband Paul Norman Rice, was killed by several blows to the head on Monday June 16, remains under doctor’s care at Greenville Memorial Hospital. She was transported and admitted following the discovery of her injured husband in the front yard of their house at 134 Pleasant Woods Road, following a call to 911 by a neighbor. According to Anderson County Coroner Greg Shore, she had slashed her arms and wrists and had taken an overdose of medications.

Rice is considered the key suspect in her husband’s death. 

The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office has obtained and served a court order that requires the hospital to notify them when Rice’s condition allows her to be released from the hospital or to be transferred to another facility. It is likely, under the circumstances, that Rice will undergo psychiatric evaluation to determine whether she is fit to stand trial.

She is in her late seventies, as was her husband, who was apparently attacked while at his computer. He managed to flee the home and get outside before collapsing. He was struck more than once with a gardening implement and died en route to the hospital.

Shooting incident will be presented to Grand Jury

In an unrelated case, Kimako Mundrell Evans, who allegedly fired a number of shots into Williamston area homes and businesses, and two pedestrians, on June 3, remains in custody at the Anderson County Detention Center.

Williamston Police Chief David Baker confirmed that the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Division of the U.S. Treasury Department is adopting the case, which means they will become the lead investigative agency. “Due to Evans prior criminal history, his possession of a firearm is a federal offense, and the ATF has agreed to take the case. Our department will continue to assist in any way we can but they will take the lead. Whether other federal charges, such as those concerning racial hate crimes, will be filed has not been determined yet,” Baker said.

According to the 120th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, no charges against Evans, whose alleged shooting spree covered from Williamston to Pelzer and back along Big Creek Road towards Belton, where he was arrested later the same day on unrelated charges, have been presented to the grand jury. The next grand jury will convene on July 22, and depending on the status of the investigation, charges may be presented then.

No bond hearing for Evans has been requested at this time.

Building and cell phones top discussions for school board

During their monthly meeting Tuesday, Anderson County School District One Board of Trustees approved a $55,134,026 budget for 2008-2009, heard an update on the building program and approved new personnel.

No one spoke during a public hearing on the budget held prior to the start of the board meeting.

Before the vote on the budget, Board member Wendy Tucker made a motion to postpone approving the budget until board members discussed it in further detail and looked to see if there were any ways possible to trim it to prevent a tax increase.

Receiving no second, the motion died and the budget was approved 6-1with Tucker opposed.

Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said the board has looked at the budget presented by the District One financial staff in four different processes and that the County Board had recently reviewed it and gave it a favorable response.

According to Dr. Fowler, the budget includes 15 new teachers, which he said are necessary for an expected 279 new students.

It also includes a state mandated 3.85 percent raise for employees. The budget also includes additional allowances for increases in utility expenses, he said.

Board members were updated on the status of the building program. 

According to Dr Fowler, schematics have been completed for improvements and additions at the three middle schools and the two high schools.

Survey and project reviews are also underway on the athletic facility improvements for both Palmetto and Wren. Classroom and cafeteria addition at Palmetto is set to kick off in November.

Status of work at both middle schools includes review of the project scope and budget completed and survey of the property completed. Conceptual design review of the addition has been held with the district. Schematic estimates are now being performed.

Work at Spearman, which Dr. Fowler described as, “one of the more challenging sites,” includes a project kick off meeting held June 9 to review the scope and budget. Architects will begin preparing schematic plans for review and property is being surveyed.

Concrete Elementary is at the same status as Spearman.

Work on the new high school in Powdersville includes a kick off meeting held in April, property survey completed and conceptual design and site adaptation on the proposed site in progress.

Dr. Fowler said that District officials had recently visited several newer schools in the Rock Hill, Lake Norman area for design and other ideas for the new school.

He said officials are reviewing the square footage, number of classrooms, size of the auditorium and special education rooms. They are also getting feedback from the District’s two high school principals.

In other business, board members approved changes on four policies involving staff concerns, grievances; possession and use of phones and paging devices; advertising in the schools and release time.

The JICJ policy addressing cell phones in the schools received the most attention. According to Dr. Fowler, the policy revises the current district policy of confiscating and holding phones until the end of the year, making it a part of the District discipline code.

Dr. Fowler said that the original policy worked for a while but now almost every student has a cell phone and just keeping up with phones that have been taken from students has become a problem.

The new policy allows phones to be brought to school but not be used during school hours.

“They must be turned off and out of sight,” Dr. Fowler said.

Offenses call for a warning and a parent/teacher conference with the device being returned.

Second offense results in a one day in school suspension, parent/teacher conference and device returned.

Third offense calls for one day out of school suspension, parent/teacher conference, device returned and prohibited at school or on district property.

A fourth offense calls for 3 days of out of school suspension and retention of the device until the end of school.

Board member David Merritt said that parents who need to get in touch with their child can call the school and if there is an emergency involving a student, the District will call. Also if a student is not in school, District officials will call parents, he said.

Dr. John Pruitt reported that Spearman and Pelzer Elementary schools were to receive a $1999,750 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. The grant was obtained through a partnership with Dr. Dave Fleming and Clemson University.

The District also received a Federal grant for abstinance education and a Safe and Drug Free Schools grant.

The board also approved the following personnel recommendations made by Dr. Fowler:

Resignations Lynne Balentine, Wren High English; Kurt Blocher, Powdersville Elementary, Grade 5; Stephen Deyo, Wren Middle, Grade 8 Science; Andy Ford, Palmetto Middle, Grade 7 Math, Social Studies; Sandra Staley, Powdersville Middle, Grade 8 Language Arts; Deonne Whaley, Wren Middle, Career Specialist.

Retirements - Lynn Kershner, Cedar Grove Elementary, Art.

Recommendations - Kelly Broussard, Palmetto Elementary, Grade 4; Chris Carter, Wren High, Social Studies; Jean Ann Charlesworth, Pelzer Elementary, Grade 2; Kathi Cord, Powdersville Middle, Grade 8 Language Arts; Marsha French, Wren High, English; Judy Friello, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Kindergarten.

Also Brittney Greer, Palmetto Elementary, Grade 1; Julie Maynard, Wren Middle, Science; Sue Means, Pelzer Elementary, Kindergarten; Andrea Moore, Cedar Grove Elementary, Grade 4; LeAnn Sargent, Wren Middle, Career Specialist, Travis Selman, Palmetto High, Art; Kristen Thor, Palmetto Middle, Social Studies and Math; Chris Turner, Palmetto High, Band; Dixie Williams, Spearman Elementary, Kindergarten; Christie Wright, Cedar Grove Elementary, Art.Budget,

Salkehatchie volunteers making home improvements

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

Approximately 90 youth and adults, through the Piedmont Salkehatchie Summer Service program, are working this week on homes in Williamston, Pelzer and Piedmont that are in much need of repair.

There are adults and youth, ages 14 to 64, from all over the state attending the Piedmont camp, according to camp director Jo Hood.

The campers each paid $200 to attend the camp. During the week of June 22-27 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 42 statewide, for the last six 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 31 years ago to help local people in need.

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

Work began at the sites early Monday morning and should be completed by Friday, Hood said. “It is amazing what they have accomplished already.”

Renovations will take place in Williamston on West 3rd Street, West 4th Street and Academy Street. In Pelzer on Goodrich St. and in Piedmont on Piedmont Avenue.

Site leaders include Ralph Callaham, Ashley Harris, Will Edmiston and Mark Hyndman. The skilled site leaders provide direction for the campers, who learn as they go, according to Hood.

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

The Town of Williamston will host the group for a cookout this Friday in Mineral Spring Park. Subway of Williamston has donated subs, JT’s Family Restaurant is providing desserts and Bi-Lo of Pelzer is donating drinks. Ole County Smokehouse provided a meal on the first day.

The Town of Williamston is providing trucks and manpower for pickup of material and debris and Ace Environmental is donating their services for disposal of the materials and debris.

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

Hood said work locations are selected based on need and are found through calls, recommendations from Meals on Wheels and from other sources.

There is no shortage of need, Hood said. 

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

County Legislative Delegation postpones CTC budget increase

By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Legislative Delegation met Tuesday night and determined that it is unable to increase the budgets of any of the political entities for whose budgets it is responsible.

Four different budgets were presented to the delegation for adoption. The first three were approved with little discussion. The Anderson County School Board presented their budget, based on zero growth and using last year’s revenue figures. That budget, like the two that followed, included no millage increase.

The budget for the Anderson County Alternative School, also requiring no millage increase, was adopted as well.

The Anderson County Fire Protection Commission presented their budget, which for the twenty first year in a row, required no millage increase, a fact which Representative Dan Cooper acknowledged.

“This Commission has never once in my eighteen years on the Delegation even asked for an increase. They do a fantastic job of living within their means. And they have been doing it for a long time. However, with diesel fuel approaching five dollars a gallon, this can’t continue forever.”

 Rep. Mike Gambrell, himself a firefighter, said that Anderson County has twenty seven fire departments and funds them on approximately three mils.

“Greenville County  has eight fire departments which use 54 mils, so I think the people of Anderson County should be aware of just what a good job these guys do for us.”

 The $3.27 million budget, which included an increase of $70,000 for diesel fuel while still remaining within its established millage, was approved.

That brought Dr. Jerry Kirkley, director of the Career and Technology Center, to the podium.

He told the delegation that the Career Center has grown from 400 students to its current enrollment of 2100 students. He said that two hundred students had to be turned away for the upcoming year because they could not be accommodated. “If we cannot address these problems, we will have to turn more students away in the future,” he said.

He spoke of the need for new construction and asked that their millage be increased from 15 mils to 15.8 mils to help fund construction and renovation projects.

The delegation appeared to have no particular problem with providing such an increase, which would amount to approximately $93,000.

But Rep. Cooper, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, stated that the State law Act 388, which was intended to control increases in property taxes, in fact may prevent such an increase from being approved without a referendum.

“I have been trying to get a definite answer on whether we can approve an increase without a referendum for a month now, and I still don’t have one. And without one, I don’t see how we can adopt a budget which contains an increase in millage, even if it is this small.”

Sen. Billy O’Dell agreed, saying, “We obviously should wait until we have a clear resolution to this issue before moving on this.”

Rep. Cooper then moved to adopt the budget without the requested increase and the vote was unanimous.

Waldrep retains seat on County Council

By Stan Welch

The rumors of revolution that began two weeks ago with three incumbents losing County Council seats grew louder this week as a key incumbent resoundingly retained his seat in a runoff.

District One Councilman Bob Waldrep, who narrowly escaped defeat in the June 10 Republican primary when Raymond Mackay failed by just a half of a percentage point to win the primary outright, mounted a remarkable effort and produced an eighteen point swing, while turning that narrow escape into a fourteen point win.

Waldrep garnered 1889 votes for fifty seven per cent of the votes cast, while Mackay gathered 1439 votes, or forty three per cent. Turnout within District One was just under 27%. Waldrep’s totals represented an eighteen point turnaround in just two weeks.

Waldrep won his second consecutive term on Council and in doing so solidified a remarkable change in the makeup of the Council. After years of being the lone voice of dissension on the Council, District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson clearly gained an ally when Waldrep won election in 2006. As Council seats Three, Four and Five changed hands in recent weeks, the importance of Waldrep retaining his seat became apparent to the conservative Republican power structure that had also worked to defeat the other incumbents.

Recent controversy over the manner in which the county credit cards are used and  accounted for played an important role in Waldrep’s campaign. He melded the issues of fiscal responsibility and public accountability into a position on responsible and open government that focused his campaign.

His re-election is an indication that he was successful in casting county administrator Joey Preston as his real opponent. “It’s not very often that one has to run against an opponent and a county administrator at the same time,” said Waldrep Tuesday night.

Waldrep and Wilson are joined by primary winners Eddie Moore, Tom Allen, and Tommy Dunn in an apparent reversal of what has been a solid 5-2 majority that has consistently supported the county administrator and his decisions. Waldrep has frequently complained that the Council had abdicated the responsibility it has for governing the county.

“It is our job to oversee this county and to make sure the taxpayers’ money is used wisely. That can only happen in an open political environment, and establishing that environment will be one of my priorities.”

Deputies investigate assault incidents

By Stan Welch

Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies made several arrests for violent crimes in The Journal’s readership area last week.

On June 20, ACSO Deputy W.B. Simpson received a complaint from Lamar Jordan that Dennis Doyle Chandler had assaulted Jordan’s 12 year old grandson.

According to the incident report filed by Simpson, Chandler, WM, 48, 5’9", 145 pounds, brn/hazel, of 1002 Sauer Farm Rd. in Honea Path, had pulled a knife and opened it, placing the blade to the boy’s throat after the boy asked him about the meaning of a necklace Chandler was wearing.

Chandler allegedly told the boy it meant Chandler was a dangerous man, and then put the knife to his throat. He reportedly told the boy “You won’t like me when I’m dangerous’, then removed the knife and patted the boy on the head and told him he was just kidding.

The boy’s name was withheld in accordance with state law which protects the identity of juveniles under the age of 17.

According to ACSO spokesperson Susann Griffin, a warrant has been issued for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

On June 21, ACSO Deputy J.J. Jacobs responded to 121 Brookstone Drive near Easley, where he found Bryan Lee Alewine, WM, 30, of Pelzer, suffering from a severe laceration to the top of his head. Also injured was Cindy Griffin Weiser, WF, 30, who had a possible fracture of the right wrist.

Both victims and a witness gave statements that Weiser’s estranged husband had come to her residence and found Alewine sleeping in a bed. He then allegedly struck him in the head with a pipe of some sort, and struck Cindy Weiser in the wrist as well, before fleeing. Both were treated at the scene and declined to be transported by Pelzer EMS.

According to ACSO spokesperson Susann Griffin, warrants were served on Chad Weiser, WM, 28, of Piedmont, for one count of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and one count of criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. He posted a $10,000 surety bond on each offense and was released from the ACDC on Monday, June 23.

On June 22, ACSO Deputy K.W. Pearson, along with Deputy Payne and Sgt. King, responded to 228 Ellison Rd. in Belton, where Kayla Walters, WF, 21, reported that her boyfriend, Haynie  Cox, WM, 24, had assaulted her.

According to the incident report filed by Pearson, Walters stated she and Cox, who have a child together, had been out for dinner and drinks and returned to his home at the incident address. While Walters was there, another female called the house and spoke with Cox. An argument ensued and Cox eventually threw her out into the yard in a T-shirt and underwear.

The report states he let her back in but threw her on the bed and began choking her. She reported that he also got out a handgun, which he stuck in her mouth and under her chin, saying he was going to end it all and wanted to see her blood on his bed sheets. He also allegedly struck her with the gun several times and choked her until she nearly lost consciousness. She somehow escaped and called police.

According to the incident report, Walters had a number of visible injuries. Efforts to contact Cox at the house were unsuccessful.

According to ACSO spokesperson Susann Griffin, Cox was later arrested on one count of criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. He is currently being held in the Williamston jail.

Seems to Me - The Audit

By Stan Welch

Well, it took exactly one week for the remarkable results of the June 10 Republican primary to bear fruit in the form of a proposed and approved audit of the County’s finances. What kind of fruit that turns out to be remains to be seen.

During the June 17 County Council meeting, Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, who somehow managed to increase her political stature while actually losing points from her usual two to one margin of victory in contests for her council seat, proposed taking the funding from two accounts in the finance department budget and using the $126,000 involved to fund an audit.

The amount seemed low, the approach awkward, perhaps designed to force certain Council members to go on record as voting against such a measure, and the idea seemed headed nowhere. Suddenly, out of the blue, District Councilman Ron Wilson rode into the fray, and proposed a full and thorough audit, regardless of cost. He wanted to “get this over with.”

Wilson had originally run in 2006 on a promise to pursue just such an audit, a promise he abandoned after his first attempt to amend a Council agenda to allow for discussion of such an audit was defeated. Was his sudden resurgence in interest in the audit fueled by his surprisingly close win in his own primary a week before? Was it because he thought the obvious shift in the power base was sufficient to again propose the idea?  Or was it a strategic move to try and force the audit while a Council that has a solid record of support for county administrator Joey Preston is still seated?

It seems to me that the more likely answer is ‘none of the above’. 

For starters, any such budget would appropriately seek to determine when or if a consulting contract between Anderson County and Wilson’s daughter on agricultural matters had indeed been budgeted, and approved by Council. Likewise, the County’s efforts on behalf of Wilson to secure the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ national convention would also come under scrutiny.

Secondly, an audit of the thoroughness and scope of that proposed would clearly take more than the remaining six months between now and the seating of the new Council. Expediting such an effort would have been helped immensely if the amendment to the budget ordinance which approved the audit had been drawn with any meaningful detail.

For example, will bids be sought, the illusory RFP, or request for proposal, that has flirted with total extinction in recent years? What is the scope of the audit being sought? Is it dollar for dollar? Is it intended to explore certain areas where mismanagement and/or fraud most frequently occur in budgets of this type? Make no mistake, folks, everyone wants to tiptoe around the idea that deliberate fraud and/or bid rigging and/or kickback schemes are suspected. But they are suspected, by a number of people, including several of those who ran against incumbents this year.

The issue of public trust looms as large in Anderson County politics as any other single issue. It colors every proposal and taints every decision. And rightly or wrongly, that issue is firmly anchored to Mr. Preston’s coattail. It rides those coattails much more comfortably than did his slate of candidates this election cycle.

The idea of an audit doesn’t rattle teeth and clench jaws throughout the administration because they are worried about being exposed as paper clip wasters. This county’s budget has increased by approximately 400% in the twelve years since Preston assumed his duties in late 1996.There are real and often legitimate questions as to how that increased budget has been administered and whether the enormous capital generated by the growth in Anderson County during that time has been properly utilized.

The nature of those questions inevitably raises the twin specters of either gross mismanagement or of deliberate fraud. Whether either of those things happened is for the audit to determine. But given Mr. Preston’s penchant for letting people know when they are wrong and he is right, it is difficult to understand why he has fought so hard, at taxpayers’ expense, to withhold the very evidence of his rightness, if evidence of that it be.

But I digress. My feeling about the proposed audit is this. It seems to me that the remarkable lack of detail, the poor definition of both the task at hand and the means by which to accomplish it, including how to fund the audit, offers many opportunities for mischief in the process of pursuing this goal. Is this the method behind the madness?

I suspect there will be many questions asked and challenges raised as a lame duck Council seeks to put the audit structure in place.

I believe that the new Council will get plenty of chance to be involved, because this audit, in my opinion, is a long way off yet.






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