(2908) Week of July 16, 2008
Spring Water Festival
features live entertainment
The Spring Water Festival, scheduled for August 23 in Williamstons Mineral Spring Park, will feature an expanded variety of stage entertainment throughout the day and a nationally known female country music singer appearing later in the evening. organizers said.
The Spring Water Festival has always been a festival which has a crowd throughout the morning and into the afternoon, Festival Chairman David Meade said. A goal of The Spring Water Committee this year is to expand and grow the festival into an all day and evening event. To do this, in addition to the attractions it has come to be known for, the committee is planning to bring in a nationally known professional entertainer to perform in the park at the end of day.
The artist is still being confirmed and details will be announced soon.
Williamston Town Council recently approved a request by the Spring Water Committee to help with funding to bring in a well known artist. The funding is coming from the hospitality tax installed by the town last year.
The Town Council and the Spring Water Committee see this as a way to give back to the community, Meade said. By providing quality entertainment and not having to charge people to attend, the festival offers residents of the area an inexpensive day of family fun and entertainment.
If you enjoy music, plan to bring a lawn chair and stay all day. There will be bluegrass, country, rock, beach, gospel, and Christian music performed at the festival which will feature the return of Southern Crescent, one of the upstates favorite party and festival bands.
Southern Crescent was the main musical attraction for the first seven years of the festival, Meade said. Original members of the group, after taking 20 years off, are again playing at events and festivals across the upstate and we are proud to welcome them back to perform at our festival in Williamston.
Also appearing on the Amphitheater stage will be singer songwriter and storyteller Daniell Howle. A beach blast with beach music provided by The Royal Scotsmen Band will start at noon.
If gospel music is more to your liking, the parks center stage will feature one of the upstates largest showcases of gospel music featuring and coordinated by local artist Catlin Tierce.
The stage will feature a variety of styles of gospel music performed by many well known groups, Tierce said.
Special entertainment will be held on a stage just for children and there will be new games with prizes for children, Meade said. There will also be amusement rides, crafts and special artisans displays.
Local businesses and non profits are invited to have a display at the festival to promote their goods and services. For more information contact Dianne Lollis at 847-5743.
The festival will feature a 5K Spring Water Run, organized by Chris Bradberry. Persons interested in participating in the event can pick up an entry form at The Journal in Williamston, Nationwide Insurance in Belton or call Bradberry at 864-420-3282.
Local crafters who would like to display handmade items for sale at the festival are also invited to participate. Contact Ellen Harvell at 847-5588.
The festival will again feature one of the upstates largest antique and classic auto shows, being sponsored by the Williamston Fire Department. To register contact Steve Ellison at 864-847-4950.
Additional infomation will be published in The Journal and is available online, along with application forms at www.springwaterfestival.com.
By Stan Welch
The West Pelzer Town Council was full of surprises Monday night, giving first reading approval to the budget as well as approving the purchase of a new police car for the Town.
The budget vote came after some extensive cajoling by the Mayor, who repeatedly explained that the first reading approval simply started the process, and left ample opportunity to amend the budget, even after final passage.
Two of the Council members were concerned that the budget was not presented to them until the time of the meeting. Councilman Marshall King said that he would like to accept the budget as information and then hold a workshop before the next meeting to study it. I just got this a few minutes ago. We should have a workshop instead of having to sit here and listen to all this. I dont see how I can vote on something I havent had time to look at.
Mayor Peggy Paxton explained that by town ordinance, the department heads prepare the budget and present it.
A lot of work went into this. I just dont see what good a budget workshop will do. We need to give first reading approval and then we can make changes before final approval, or even after. But last year, we didnt adopt a budget until January of this year. Six months after we are supposed to have a budget, we didnt. We really need to get this process started.
Councilman Jimmy Jeanes said that he and other Council members would like a chance to speak about the police car purchase that was included in the budget.
You said if you saw it in the budget you would vote on it. Well, there it is, said Paxton.
Jeanes pointed out that other towns have budget workshops, saying, I just think it would be a good idea to get everybody together and fine tune this, thats all.
Councilman Mike Moran said that the Council went through the same thing last year. Weve had this conversation before. He then seconded Mayor Paxtons motion for a first reading approval, and the vote was unanimous.
The budget proposed reflected the transfer of some funds from one area to another, but overall, the budget is smaller than it was last year. This budget shows no tax increases, and no fee or rate increases. Were just spending the money a little differently this year, Paxton said.
Council then continued in its somewhat unusual spirit of cooperation, as it voted to purchase one police car for the town, a vote that clearly surprised both Mayor Paxton and the audience, which burst into applause. Councilman King abstained, while the other members approved the purchase.
The vote followed a considerable discussion and review of the latest pricing. Chief Bernard Wilson had continued to hone the offers he had received and reported to Council that the final cost of a completely outfitted police car would be $24,865. That included receiving a radio from the county, a VHS dashboard camera from the state and radar from the state law enforcement network, all at no cost to the town.
Councilman Joe Turner, responding to Mayor Paxtons surprised expression of gratitude, said, This is a significant savings, which was what we were looking for. The motion to obtain the car, made by Councilman Moran, was to purchase it outright, instead of leasing, a move which will save approximately $5000 in interest payments.
Council also re-appointed municipal judge Roger Scott, by a vote of 4-0-1, with Mayor Paxton abstaining. Mayor Paxton administered the oath of office to Scott.
Councilman King raised the issue of the town obtaining a recording system to record the meetings. Several times during recent meetings, things have been said and then they were challenged later as to what was said. I think we should get a recording system that we can use to record and store these meetings. Then if there is a dispute later, we can all listen to what was really said.
Following further discussion, King made a motion to authorize town clerk Paula Payton to purchase a suitable system. The vote was unanimous.
Councilman Moran addressed the Council, reminding them that former Councilman Pete Davis had started a fund while on Council that offered emergency assistance to those struggling with their water and sewer bills. The fund was started at a time when speculation was that the bills would soon skyrocket.
Moran said that he had been blessed in his life and he and his wife would like to commit a certain amount a month for one year to assist someone else who was struggling to pay their water and sewer bills. He pointed out that his commitment, or anyone else who chose to make such a commitment, would be to a specific person, even though the donor would not know who they were helping.
We have to understand that the person receiving the help needs to be able to count on it, so they can plan their budgets. This isnt for somebody who had a bad month or has been unemployed for a couple weeks. This is for people like our older folks whose incomes simply arent sufficient.
Councilman Turner quickly agreed to do the same. If I can help someone Im glad to do it.
Details for setting the system up remain to be settled.
By Stan Welch
Representatives of the Anderson Regional Landfill (ARL), Allied Waste and the Cheddar and Big Creek communities met last Thursday. Several topics came up, including the effects on the landfills operations of a proposed merger between Republic Services and Allied Waste.
The two companies, currently second and third largest of their type in the country, will merge later this year, barring problems with the proposed deal. That merger will still not topple garbage Goliath Waste Management from its number one position, but it will solidify the new companys position as number two.
While Allied Waste, Inc. is currently the larger of the two companies in the merger proposal, its heavily leveraged debt load, rated as junk by financial experts, made the company vulnerable. Its management weaknesses can be seen in the fact that Republic Services generated a profit of more than $290 million on total revenues of $3.2 billion dollars in 2007, while Allied Waste generated only $273 million on total revenues of more than $6 billion.
The merger will produce a company that will own a total of 228 landfills and 86 recycling centers. The company will be named Republic but will move its corporate headquarters to Allieds hometown, Phoenix, AZ.
The future of that merger came under a large shadow Monday, July 14, as Waste Management, headquartered in Houston, TX, upped the ante and offered $6.19 billion for Republic Services, or $34 per share. Republics bid for Allied was worth $6.07 billion, an offer based on stocks, not cash.
Miami Dolphins co-owner Wayne Huizenga founded both Waste Management and Republic Services early in his business career, before selling out and moving to other ventures.
While the high finance aspects of the merger were of some interest to the fifty or so residents at the Cheddar Fire Department last week, most of their questions concerned continued violations of a settlement agreement between the residents who sued to prevent the expansion of Anderson Regional Landfill several years ago, and the landfills operators.
Several members of the audience complained that the trucks enter and leave the landfill at all hours, in violation of an agreement that prohibits operations between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Allied representative Rob Wall said that the agreement is being observed because those trucks arent involved in actually dumping garbage in the landfill during the restricted hours.
We own that landfill, said Wall. We can bring trucks in at any hour so long as we dont dump before the allowed hours.
The company uses the landfill to stage a satellite operation of trucks that collect garbage locally. We have about fifty five trucks. Ten collect in Anderson County, ten in Greenwood County, and the rest are scattered about on routes.
District Seven Councilwoman, Cindy Wilson, who attended along with District One Councilman Bob Waldrep, and newly elected Council members Tom Allen, of District Four and Eddie Moore, of District Three, said that the use of the satellite company was an attempt to subvert the contractual agreement.
She added that she had yet to receive the results of an audit of the host fees paid by the company to the county. She also referred to road conditions on the access roads to the landfill, saying that efforts were needed to rebuild those roads.
Wall said that those audit results had been made available to Gina Humphreys, county financial analyst, some time ago. He was asked who owned the road into the landfill and stated that the county owned and maintained that road.
We couldnt afford to repair that road, said Wall. The road is approximately 300 yards long. When asked why Allied couldnt pave the road, with its nearly $300 millions in profits last year, Wall declined to answer.
Wall said that there would be no increase in the annual disposable tonnage at the landfill, a number currently set at approximately 335,000 tons. That amounts to approximately 1300 tons a day, and according to Wall, includes no solid waste from outside South Carolina.
We are under contract to Anderson County not to accept out of state waste, said Wall.
Federal law defines solid waste as interstate commerce and it cannot be regulated by the states. The law also says that garbage which comes from out of state and passes through a transfer station is no longer out of state garbage. Allied owns and operates a transfer station in Duncan SC.
By Stan Welch
Anderson County Council addressed a varied agenda Tuesday night, considering issues that ranged from animal cruelty, zoning and sewer, to former members of Council being prohibited from employment by the County. They also approved a $10 million GO bond issue for projects throughout the County.
The votes cast on those issues reflected significant shifts in the customary and predictable five vote majority bloc which has dominated Council business in recent years. They may also indicate an awareness that the recent elections cracked that bloc, with three of its members losing their seats to challengers.
Council heard from Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG) planning director Chip Bentley, who reported on the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, or CEDS, which ACOG maintains for the Upstate area.
He reported that thirteen of the projects listed in the strategy were completed this year, including six water projects, six community projects and a sewer project.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson succeeded in having several projects located in her district replaced on the list of projects eligible for federal funding through the EDA, or Economic Development Authority.
Those projects included the replacement of two pumps in the Belton/Honea Path water authoritys system. The pumps are several decades old and can no longer be repaired. The Watkins School restoration project was also put back on the list. The Council voted unanimously to restore those projects.
County Sewer Plan
Council then heard an update on the Countys ten year sewer plan. They also learned that the countys longtime sewer consultant, BP Barber, no longer operates in this area. A group of its employees recently purchased the Upstate office and all the projects that were in the pipeline already, according to Jim Longshore, former BP Barber representative and president of the newly formed Summit Engineering, Inc.
He and county sewer consultant Dewey Pearson faced persistent questioning from District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, who said that the Broadway Creek sewer project had been delayed several times. I understand the Hurricane Creek project had some private backing and had to be moved up. I just want to know that the next money that becomes available will come to us.
Longshore reported that the lift station being constructed at the intersection of Highways 81 and 86 in the Wren area will be completed later this fall. That improvement is expected to serve a fast growing area.
Three and Twenty Zoning
Council also gave second reading approval to a request for zoning in the Three and Twenty voting precinct of District Six. That request is the latest step in that areas efforts to stop a construction and debris landfill proposed for Hamlin Road.
The request ran into some opposition due to a recent request by AnMed that 273 acres of land they own in the area be rezoned from RA, or residential agricultural to R-20. The land, in the area of the intersection of Firetower Road and Mountain View Road, would be rezoned from RA to R-20, which would allow for much greater density of development.
District Six Councilman Ron Wilson moved to amend the ordinance to reflect AnMeds request. District One Councilman Bob Waldrep expressed concerns that the area citizens who sought the zoning were not privy to AnMeds actions.
County Attorney Tom Martin reminded Council that the question of the zoning would be the subject of an advisory referendum to be held on August 19. This referendum will not establish zoning. Only the county council can do that. But it will let the voters of that area express their wishes in the matter.
Councilwoman Wilson recommended that the amendment be withdrawn, saying, Most of the homes in that area, like in Chestnut Springs, are 3-5 acres in size. When folks in that area get wind of this, theres going to be a major flap.
Council voted 5-2 to approve the amendment, with Wilson and Waldrep opposed. The ordinance itself received second reading approval by a vote of 5-1-1, with Waldrep opposed and Wilson abstaining.
A burn ordinance proposed by Chairman Michael Thompson received first reading approval by a vote of 4-2-1 with Councilman Ron Wilson abstaining, while Councilman Greer and Ms. Wilson voted in opposition. Both Thompson and County Attorney Martin conceded that the ordinance, which offers several exemptions, would do little if anything to help Anderson County attain compliance with federal air quality standards.
The EPA is going to tighten the standards and frankly, we will not be able to meet them. But the reasons for that are beyond our control, and the EPA and DHEC will give us a chance to prove that. But first, we have to do everything we can so they will see weve made an effort, said Martin.
Councilman Larry Greer said that the ordinance amounted to the County paying to enforce state standards. The State should step up and provide this funding if they want tougher enforcement of the laws.
Greer then joined Councilwoman Wilson in voting against the ordinance.
Hiring ordinance defeated
Ms. Wilsons ordinance to prohibit former Council members from being hired or contracted by the County for one year after leaving office was defeated by the absence of a deciding vote. Mr. Greer stated that he felt the ordinance was directed at him and two other members of Council (Messrs. McAbee and Thompson were also unseated in the June primary) and he recused himself, leaving the chamber until the discussion and vote was taken.
Attorney Martin opined that while Council has the authority to set broad policy, the authority to hire and fire resides in the administrator, under the Council/administrator form of government, which the County uses. Whether the group affected is numerically large enough to qualify this decision as broad policy is an issue that would eventually have to be settled by the SC Supreme Court.
The ordinance was defeated by a vote of 3-3, with Greer recused from voting.
Ms. Floyd was obviously disappointed when her animal control ordinance was defeated by a 3-3-1 vote with Mr. Wilson abstaining, and Ms. Wilson, Greer and Waldrep voting in opposition.
An ordinance proposed by Waldrep to prohibit members of the Countys many boards and commissions from using their membership on those boards to profit personally. After some amending, which among other things, allows Council members to go outside their districts to seek appointees, both the amendments and the ordinance itself were passed by unanimous votes.
$10 million GO Bond
Waldrep and Wilson also challenged the ordinance seeking to issue $10 million in general obligation bonds.
Waldrep asked that several of the projects proposed for funding be deleted from the ordinance. I would ask that the Broadway Lake community building, the Parker Bowie Park, the Dolly Cooper Park, the Warner Road facility all be deleted. In addition, I would ask that the $3.2 million animal shelter, the renovation of the old DSS building for $1.5 million, and the proposed Ronnie Townsend building at $1.2 million be reviewed before voting on this. I dont know if any of you have been in the proposed Townsend building, but there is no way you could spend $1.2 million in that building unless you just do it in gold and marble.
Ms. Wilson agreed and offered an amendment that would appoint a citizen committee to offer input into the projects. The amendment was defeated by a 5-2 vote, the same vote that also gave first reading approval to the proposed bond issue.
On the lighter side
In the evenings funniest moment, local businessman Jim Kappler was honored for his idea to use electronic business signs to expand the amber alert warning system. The idea, adopted and developed by Kappler and county staff, chiefly Anita Donley of the Public Safety Division, has spread to other states and drawn national attention.
Following the reading by Councilwoman Floyd of the resolution honoring him and his efforts, Kappler made a point of thanking the county council for having nothing to do with the idea or its adoption. This was done completely on the operational level, with no input from Council. They kept their hands off of it, and for that we should thank them.
Ms. Floyd, who had spent several minutes telling the audience that the Council listens when people have good ideas, was obviously surprised by the comments. She recovered nicely however, looking at Kappler and saying, Well, that was a big finish.
Council also voted to cancel the August 5 meeting, so they can attend the annual SCAC gathering in Hilton Head.
By Stan Welch
Despite the budgeting of a $3.2 million animal shelter and a spay/neuter clinic, as well as the proposal of an amended animal ordinance for the County, many of those in the animal rescue community continue to question the Countys commitment to protection of animals.
Nicole Walukewicz, chair and founder of Palmetto Equine Animal Rescue League (PEARL ) says that her groups extensive efforts to define and clarify the roles of the Countys various agencies as regards large animal rescue and protection have essentially been undone by recent or pending actions by the County.
Walukewicz cites the budgeting of the animal shelter as a main issue. While were glad to see a suitable facility being budgeted, the ordinance does not establish a facility for accepting, treating or holding large animals. There is no provision for corrals or stalls or any facilities for taking in and managing livestock or horses. In light of the fact that the land for the shelter was actually donated, it makes it even more difficult to understand why no money was set aside for large animal management. How much money did that save?
The issues involved are major, says Walukewicz. These animals need to be quarantined, evaluated, checked, and if necessary, treated for infectious diseases before being rehabilitated and hopefully placed in foster or permanent homes. It is unfair to ask for private individuals, many of whom own healthy, valuable animals, to expose their horses to such dangers. The dogs and cats taken in are treated and evaluated before being adopted out. Surely it makes sense to do the same for horses?
In tandem with the budget ordinances failure to address large animals, Walukewicz sees an animal ordinance proposed and supported by Councilwoman Gracie Floyd as also negating efforts to address large animal issues. This ordinance, as it is currently written, essentially reduces the realm of animal control in Anderson County to that of protecting and managing peoples pets. Large animals are excluded from that ordinance. In a county with the second largest equine population in the state, that is nothing short of ludicrous and negligent.
Walukewicz, a horse owner herself, says that since actively beginning its rescue and training efforts in 2006, PEARL has rescued and housed thirty horses, as well as initiating a number of cruelty investigations. They have provided training in cruelty investigation methods, as well as training in the rescue of large animals to several groups of first responders. We recently had a training session on that which drew representatives from five different counties. We do this because it is a needed service to both the animals and those charged with their safety, said Walukewicz.
We have housed and treated and fed those horses through donations and help from the community. But those animals come under state law and are entitled to the same attention as a pit bull or a fighting cock. But Anderson County has chosen to ignore state law in this case, in an effort to put that burden on the private sector. Sheriff David Crenshaw and his department worked very hard to meet their responsibilities, but they had nothing budgeted for animal control. Neither does incoming Sheriff John Skipper. Why is it so difficult for this county to see that animal control should be the responsibility of the animal control department?
The 78-year-old Piedmont woman charged with the death of her husband was released last week from the hospital where her attempted suicide landed her. Anderson County authorities wasted little time in arraigning Gwen Rice, of 132 Pleasant Woods Road, for the murder of her 77-year-old husband, Paul Norman Rice.
Rice was arraigned Friday morning, July 11, for the June 16 incident in which she allegedly struck her husband several times with a hammer and a three prong gardening tool. Paul Rice staggered out of the home before collapsing in the yard of the couples home. He expired from cardiac arrest en route to the hospital.
According to police records, Gwen Rice ingested a quantity of medication and cut her wrists after her alleged attack on her husband. She was transported to the hospital and was kept there until she recovered, at which time she was released to the custody of the Anderson County Sheriffs Department.
She was arraigned but has not appeared before a circuit court judge for the setting of bond. She remains in Anderson County Detention Center.
Anderson County Sheriffs Deputies investigated the following incidentsin Williamston, Pelzer, Piedmont and Belton area:
July 11 W.T. Cunningham responded to 101 Longshore Dr., Apr. 21, where Ricky Mattison reported that a Toyota pickup he was repairing for someone had been damaged, with windows being broken out and body damage done as well. Witnesses described a short blond woman with long hair. Mattison said that sounded like his neighbor. No arrest was made but the case was to be presented to the magistrate for a warrant. Damage was estimated at $2800.
July 11 B.K. Baxter was dispatched to 2233 Cannon Bottom Rd. where Dawn Riccardi reported the theft of her ATV, valued at $1300.
July 11 J.R. Finley assisted DSS caseworker Ansley Allen in serving a court order at the home of Brandy Whitfield at 714 Todd Rd. where two children were taken into custody by DSS.
July 12 W.T. Cunningham was dispatched to 3 Sturbridge Court where Anthony Trenton reported that his home had been burglarized . He and his wife had been at Myrtle Beach when both were served with Anderson County warrants and returned to the Anderson County Detention Center. Upon making bail, Anthony Trenton returned home and reportedly found the front door of the house open. He reported that cash, in the amount of $19,000, as well as electronics, jewelry, household goods, and other items, including a Shihtzu dog named Snookin, totaling approximately $40,000 had been stolen.
July 12 A. Land received a telephone call while working the desk at ACSO. The caller, Christopher Simmons, of Belton, reported that while his truck was parked at the Cheddar Fire Department for several hours, the SC tag, number 836PWZ, had been stolen.
July 13 P.D. Marter responded to 1046 Brown Rd. where Mary Green reported that someone had stolen her white 1991 Chevy pickup while she was out of town. She said she would press charges no matter who took it. The vehicle has SC tag # 364-3BR.
July 13 W.T. Cunningham was dispatched to 182 Coker Circle, where John Harvill reported that someone had broken into a mobile home he was working on and stolen a variety of tools and equipment valued at $1150, as well as destroying a 3.5 ton air conditioning unit while stealing the copper. Total loss of the unit was estimated at $3800.
July 13 B.K. Baxter responded to 139 Randall Rd. where Stanley Stewart reported that someone had stolen the tires and rims from his 1995 black GMC van. The loss was estimated at $1600.
July 12 B.K. Baxter was on patrol on Shiloh Rd. when he saw a car sitting just off the road. He stopped to see if assistance was needed and the driver, Clyde Whitmire, WM, 17, 6, 170 pounds, brn/blue, told him he had a flat tire but someone was coming to help. The tag on the vehicle came back as stolen when Baxter checked it. He placed Whitmire under arrest and transported him to ACDC.
July 11 P.D. Marter responded to N. O. Trucking Company at 412 Pine Rd. where Nathaniel Owens, company owner, reported that an ex-employee may have been forging several checks. Five checks received all had the same routing and check numbers on them. They were apparently computer generated and the company owners names signed. The total loss was $1800.
July 11 K.D. Pigman responded to 1525 Anderson Dr. in response to a scuffle between Brent Jordan, WM, 28, 59", 180 pounds, brn/hazel and Edward Hall, WM, 40-45, 511", 165 pounds, brn/brn. Witnesses told inconsistent stories and no action was taken.
July 12 P.D. Marter responded to Macedonia Church at 1000 Beaverdam Road where Rick Lee reported that two air conditioning units had been destroyed and robbed of the copper. Total loss is approximately $4500.
July 13 K.D. Pigman was dispatched to 119 Cantrell Rd. where Roger Alewine, 46, WM, reported that he and his stepson, Jason Summerall, WM, 33, of Belton, had been scuffling and Summerall shoved him down. No action was taken.
July 13 K.D. Pigman was dispatched to 304 Anita Court where Robin Hudgens reported that a white male known only as Jonathon had exposed his entire backside to her and her juvenile daughter. Jonathon could not be located and no further action was taken.
July 13 K.D. Pigman responded to the Williamston Police Department where he took custody of Lindsey Damewood, of Martin Ga. Who was wanted on an active warrant.
Stephen Verner Talmage, 49 of Piedmont has been charged in a one-count indictment with attempting to evade payment of taxes, a violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7201. According to United States Attorney W. Walter Wilkins, the maximum penalty Talmage could receive is a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for five years. Wilkins stated that the case was investigated by agents of the Internal Revenue Service, and that he has assigned the case to Assistant United States Attorney David C. Stephens of the Greenville office for prosecution.
By Stan Welch
As many of you know, I have had a few issues with the Anderson County Sheriffs Office since coming to Anderson. For that matter, the history of the Sheriffs Office is at least as steeped in political chicanery as it is in accomplishment and glory.
That history began long before David Crenshaw became Sheriff, although he was present for much of it, serving under Duck Cooley. The Taylor years, which preceded my arrival in the Upstate, were marked by controversy and allegations of misconduct.
Sheriff Crenshaw, an affable, gregarious politician, certainly made his share of mistakes. His budgetary problems were a sea anchor to his plans to sail to a second term. Another drag on his administration was his original choice of chief deputy. One can only imagine the sight of the Sheriff trying his best to kick himself in the behind, while thinking of the many gaffes and blunders committed by Tim Busha.
Those gaffes included the remarkable and controversial explanation that Busha provided for the events that came to be known as Catergate, Bushas subsequent storming of a local radio station, where he vocally browbeat and threatened the talk show host, who had called Bushas story unbelievable, his suspended drivers license, and the questions concerning his certification as a law enforcement officer.
His presence in the department became a symbol for questionable judgment, and fairly or not, Crenshaw could never get out from under that symbolism.
While his departments comportment and relations with the public clearly improved under chief deputy Creed Hashe, it was too little,too late, when added to other factors. The departments past performance, along with Sheriff Crenshaws admirable but often ill conceived loyalty to friends he placed in the command structure, was simply too much to overcome.
Sheriff elect John Skipper, who was himself carrying a bit of baggage from his role in the Taylor administration, nevertheless eked out a narrow win.
And herein lies my biggest problem with the concept of elected law enforcement. John Skipper, who to my knowledge is an honest and capable man, won election by less than one per cent of the votes cast. That is not the issue. I would feel the same if he won by thirty per cent. And my problem is certainly not with Mr. Skipper.
My problem is this. When those votes were counted, David Crenshaw wasnt the only one out of a job. One of his first actions upon taking office was to fire dozens of Taylors deputies and upper command structure, including John Skipper. When John Skipper takes office in January, and despite his vow to evaluate every employee, there will be a significant turnover in personnel. It is the nature of the beast.
Many of those fired by Crenshaw worked against him in various and countless ways, from the first days of his tenure. Some inside his department worked against him, because his loyalty to his friends damaged morale in the department. Busha followed his agenda in preference to Crenshaws, because Busha wanted the top job.
Hey, thats politics.
And thats the problem. Politics and law enforcement dont pull well in harness together. Law enforcement, like so many functions of government in the twenty first century, has become a complex pursuit. Technology advances so rapidly it is difficult to keep up with. Administration of a department with nearly a thousand employees is a daily challenge, and a long term challenge as well.
Training and professionalism are absolutely essential to maintaining an effective force. Those demands are even heavier in Anderson County, where a major interstate drug corridor, stretched between two of the major drug markets in the Southeast, runs for more than thirty miles.
Yet in the midst of this demanding and complicated situation, a Sheriff loses an election, and a department is gutted and has to be restored. Four years later, it may happen again. And whether it does or not, the political aspects of elected law enforcement draw energies and resources from the real job at hand.
In human terms, dozens of hard working dedicated law enforcement officers, as well as a few weasels, stand to lose their jobs, for no reason except that the man they worked for got less votes than the other guy.
These are law enforcement officers whose training and experience are public assets, public resources, which will be squandered and wasted, just because of a few hundred votes. These are fathers and mothers who have families to care for and bills to pay.
Conversely, the small town departments which have benefited from the turnover in Crenshaws department by having well trained and experienced deputies taking jobs as town policemen may soon see that tide turn, as those former deputies return to the Sheriffs department under Skipper.
It seems to me that it is time to seriously consider the idea of a county police force, based on a meritocracy, and a hired professional police chief. No county can afford to train officers just to replace them every four years. Its time to consider a meritocracy, a truly professional force, where a man or woman dedicated to a law enforcement career could have at least the assurance that their career would be based on their performance; and not the political acumen of the Sheriff they serve under.
The officers who serve us face uncertainty every time they start a shift. Shouldnt they at least have the security of knowing that their job will be there as long as they do it well? Under a county police force, if the command structure fails to perform, it can be replaced, without gutting the department.
If the head man cant remember to get his drivers license renewed, or goes over budget by a couple of million bucks, his head rolls, but only his. Seems to me thats only fair.