News Archive

Week of July 30, 2003

Balloon competition flying high in Anderson County
Law Firm will not try Turner case
County offers Community Emergency Response Training
Anderson School District One racks up $112K in EIA grant funding
District One teachers are back Monday

Balloon competition flying high in Anderson County

Twenty-seven hot air balloon pilots from around the country are vying for the national championship title this week right here in Anderson  County.

The highly competitive event is being held July 26-Aug. 1 and is based at the Funderburke balloon field at the Anderson Sports and Entertainment Center in Anderson.

It is sanctioned and sponsored by the Balloon Federation of America (BFA) Board of Directors and the Competition Committee.

The competitors will fly across areas of Anderson County as they compete for $10,000 in prize money and the opportunity to represent the United States in Australia at the 2004 World Hot Air Balloon Championship.

Competitors attempt to maneuver their balloons, which can be as tall as 7 stories, dealing with the unknown variables of wind and terrain, to reach pre-determined targets and/or complete assigned tasks.

Each of the tasks and targets are assigned points and the goal of each event is to earn the highest number of points, with hopes of becoming the U. S. National Champion.

The colorful balloons can be seen in the sky for approximately two hours each day weather permitting with launch times around 7-8 am in the morning and 6:30-7:30 pm in the evenings.

The balloons can also be seen launching and landing approximately one hour before or after, almost anywhere in the county depending on wind speed and direction, event organizers said.

Residents North and East of Anderson along Broadway School Road, the Whitefield Community, Beaverdam Road, Midway Road and the Hopewell Community have already gotten close up views of the balloons as they have floated across the county with their pilots in search of targets and then landing areas.

Some of the best hot air balloon pilots in the country are participating in the event including seven former National Champions and three World Championship title holders.

The field also includes full time commercial balloonists, a farmer, a fireman, a recent high school graduate and interesting individuals from a variety of occupations who make ballooning a full time sport.

The BFA has sanctioned and administered competitions throughout America for over 40 years, with Anderson being the host for the third year.

Top scorers in the competitions are invited to compete in the national championship event.

The event is judged by officials, observers and scoring teams in accordance with a defined point system.

Tasks are assigned during a pilot briefing just prior to a launch each morning and evening during the week.

The briefing includes a weather forecast by a special event meterologist, who highlights wind speed and direction and other factors the pilots need to know.

Most people see the balloons gently floating across the sky at a leisurely pace. But there is a lot more to the competition than meets the casual eye.

There are things to consider before a launch, such as where to launch to get the best wind direction to get to the target and choosing additional targets if the competition requires it.

A pi-bal, or pilot balloon, is usually released to judge wind speed and direction and to help choose a final launch site.

The balloon pilot then has to find a suitable launch area, get permission from the landowner and inflate the balloon, all  in a set amount of time.

Several pilots often collaborate on choosing their launch site and targets.

The balloons can be launched from yards, fields, grassy areas, parking lots, roadways, almost anywhere the crew has space to spread out the balloon and inflate it.

Once a launch site is chosen, the balloon is pulled from a large canvas bag, spread on the ground, and attached to the basket. The basket usually contains two or more propane tanks and a burner which heats the air inside the balloon to actually make it lighter than air.

The mouth of the balloon is then held open by two crew members and a large fan is started to blow air into the balloon. A third crew member holds a stabilization rope attached to the top of the balloon. Once the balloon begins to inflate, the burners are fired, and with a powerful (and loud) rush of flames, the heated air inside the balloon causes it to stand upright.

Once the balloon stands upright, the pilot hits the burner a few more times and it is ready to fly.  Crew members sometimes struggle to hold the basket on the ground as the pilot makes final preparations to launch. Often the basket is anchored to the chase vehicle by a rope.

When ready, the rope is disconnected, and with a quick burst of flame, the balloon leaves the ground and rises skyward.

For those on the ground, it is back into the chase vehicle to follow the balloon. 

The chase vehicle, often a van or pickup truck, carries a competition observer, the crew, the balloon, basket, burner and fan to the launch and landing site and targets in between.

Chase crews often include local volunteers with an interest in ballooning. They often become close to the other crew members and the pilot they work with.

Once the balloon is inflated and launched, the chase vehicle attempts to get to the pilot’s target area as soon as possible, hopefully before the balloon does.

During their flight, pilots use their skill in reading wind currents to maneuver their balloon in a desired direction to achieve the goal or task that is designated by the competition committee.

The task usually includes one or more targets that the pilot can choose and targets are often intersections of roadways located throughout the county.

Pilots hope to guide their balloon in the desired direction, coming as close to a target as possible, allowing him to drop a weighted ribbon for a score. The closer he gets, the better the score.

One or several balloon pilots may target a particular intersection.

If near a target area, spectators may see a balloon skimming along tree tops as the pilot attempts to get as close as possible to a target. Other times the balloon may be barely seen as they rise in altitude looking for the right winds to carry them where they desire to go.

Spectators who happen to be near a target are asked not to move a ribbon if one happens to drop nearby, as any movement of the ribbon causes problems for the pilot in scoring.

Spectators on the ground often stop to watch the balloons and sometimes follow along in their vehicle for a better view.

Once a pilot makes his specified  target drops, he must look for a place to land.

Permission from landowners is required for a chase vehicle to come onto property to retrieve a balloon that has landed and pilots often look for landing zones that are easily accessible and where permission can be granted by the landowner.

This is not always an easy task, as owners are not always at home. 

Once permission is obtained and verified by the observer, the chase vehicle is brought to the balloon and the crew begins the process of deflating , re-packing and loading it into the vehicle. The observer is dropped off for scoring and propane tanks are refilled at the balloon field, ending that competition event.

Pilot and crew usually end their day around 10 p.m. They are up around 5 a.m., readying for the morning briefing at 6 a.m.

David Levin, a former World and National Champion, is serving as Championship Director.

“This event is the culmination of many hours of competitive flying during the year. We have invited 29 exceptional pilots to participate. They will be required to perform a number  of rigorous tasks. Several tasks will be combined during each of the nine scheduled flight periods and may include: judged declared goals, pilot declared goals, elbow, maximum distance within a defined area, convergence navigational task, watership down and fly-on tasks,” Levin said.

“Each one has the talent and experience to win. I’m sure it will be a very competitive event.”

Editor’s note: Several Williamston residents are volunteering to help on balloon crews during the competition.

Among local volunteers who are helping on balloon crews are Doris and Keith Cole, Norman Hall, Kelly Hall, Sylvia Corbin, Barry Singleton, David Meade, Justin Meade, Heath Smith, Richard Wagner and others.

Special thanks to pilot Gary Tarter, for allowing me the experience of being a crew member and to pilots  Patrick Newell and Duane Clark who had other local residents on their crews while competing in the BFA National Championship event.

 Gary Tarter of Fishers, IN. has 26 years flying experience. He is retired from UPS and lives in Sarasota Florida. He and wife Linda take their balloon Crystal Blue, to balloon events across the country.

Patrick Newell of Noblesville, IN. has 19 years flying. He is retired and is competing in his balloon, Sunshine Fun Too.

Duane Clark is from Taylors, S. C. and has 23 years flying. He owns his own company and is a full-time commercial balloonist. He won the FWA Championship in 1988. He is one of the senior competitors and the only local South Carolina pilot competing in the event. Clark won the South Carolina championship for a number of years. He placed 13th in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1995 out of 650 competitiors, 2nd in 1993 in Phoenix, Az. and 1st in the 1995 REMAX festival, Midland, MI. His balloon name is Pibal.

Law Firm will not try Turner case

The law firm representing the Town of Williamston, Thompson and King, has indicated that they will not be involved in the pending prosecution and trial of former Williamston Police Chief Richard Turner.

In a letter sent to the town, Attorney Richard E. Thompson stated that he and his law partner Robert King recommended that they not be involved in the matter because they have worked with Chief Turner during the time they were at the Lowery Firm, which represented the town for a number of years.

The letter also stated that it is their understanding that when police officers or sheriff deputies are charged with criminal offenses, either the County Solicitor’s office or the State Attorney General’s office is in charge of the prosecution.

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said that after receiving the letter from the town’s law firm, he contacted the State Attorney General’s Office in Columbia about the case.

In the letter, Clardy stated that the Anderson County Solicitor had made statements prior to the warrant and arrest of Turner that indicated her office could not offer an impartial opinion in the case.

Clardy also asked for guidance in handling the case.

The Attorney General replied that they do not prosecute municipal or magistrate cases and suggested the town contact an adjacent solicitor’s office.

Clardy said the town had contacted 13th Circuit Court Solicitor  about the case but had not received a reply.

Clardy said the town was also looking at other options and the possibility of contacting another solicitor’s office about prosecuting the case.

Clardy said that since the town’s attorney would not be involved, the town may have to consider hiring another attorney to represent its side of the case.

“We are looking at the options and costs,” Clardy said. “We will let things be finalized before the decision is made.”

Clardy said he would like to see closure to the issue as soon as possible, but declined to offer a time schedule.

The Thompson and King firm represent the town for a set fee. They offer legal advice on ordinances and other situations involving legal matters for the town and prosecute DUI, misdemeanor and traffic cases for the town when necessary.

“The situation involving Turner is more complicated than it would usually be because of who it involves,” Clardy said. “It is a complicated issue.”

Turner was charged with assault and battery after an alleged shoving incident that developed at the police department between the former chief and police Sgt. Zack Gregory.

The alleged incident occurred June 23 after Turner’s son Steven was told by Williamston Police Chief Troy Martin that his employment with the town had been terminated.

Both Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy and Chief Martin said that Turner was treated as any other person would have been in that situation.

Turner maintains that he assaulted no one and is innocent of the charge.

County offers Community Emergency Response Training

The Anderson County Emergency Services Division will be offering Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) for citizens beginning in August.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began promoting nationwide use of the CERT program in 1994. CERT is also an initiative of President George Bush’s Citizen Corps Program and is designed to teach citizens how to prepare for disasters or emergencies and how to handle situations until emergency response personnel can arrive on the scene.

According to Gerald Shealy, Citizens Corp/CERT Coordinator for Anderson County, citizens should be prepared to handle emergencies in a major disaster for extended periods of time without help from government sources.

“A significant earthquake or tornado could overburden or block emergency response crews resulting in help being hours away,” Shealy explains. “Everyone should have some basic knowledge of what to do to help themselves and others and that is what CERT is designed to do,” he adds.

CERT training promotes a partnership effort between emergency service personnel and the people they serve. The goal is for emergency personnel to train members of neighborhoods, community organizations, churches or workplaces in basic response skills. CERT members are then integrated into the emergency response capability for the area.

If a disastrous event overwhelms or delays professional response, CERT members can assist others by applying the basic response and organizational skills they learned during training. These skills can help save and sustain lives following a disaster until help arrives.

CERT training teaches citizens to identify the types of hazards most likely to affect their homes and communities and to take steps to prepare themselves for a disaster or to reduce the potential for a disaster. They will learn to work as a team to apply basic fire suppression strategies, resources, and safety measures.

Participants will learn to apply techniques for opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating shock. They will set up a treatment area, conduct triage under simulated conditions, perform assessments, and employ basic treatments for various wounds.

Participants will also learn to identify and plan requirements for search and rescue situations as well as safe techniques for debris removal and victim extrication.

The seven-class CERT course is offered at 6 p.m. on Monday nights beginning August 18. Students must attend all classes which last about three hours to receive a certificate. An eight-hour class will also begin on September 6 at 8 a.m. and continue for three Saturdays. All classes will be held at the Anderson County Emergency Services Building at 213 S. Towers St. in Anderson and are offered at no charge. For more information or to register for classes, call the Emergency Service Division at (864) 260-4646.

Anderson School District One racks up $112K in EIA grant funding

By Stephanie Summerlin

Anderson School District One will ease some of its 2003-04 budget woes with more than $112,000 in Education Improvement Act (EIA) grants, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler.

Fowler announced at the district’s Board of Trustees’ July meeting that 14 Anderson One schools landed grants.

“This comes at a good time, when money is in short supply,” Fowler says. “We had extraordinary results. At Pelzer Elementary, there are nine classrooms. Seven out of the nine received grants. That has to be a record. And Wren Middle was our top grant recipient, with $20,000 awarded.”

The district’s total grant dollar amount increased from $82,000 in 2002-03 to $112,804 this year.

Schools receiving grant funding include Cedar Grove ($11,380), Concrete ($4,000), Hunt Meadows ($1,994), Palmetto Elementary ($13,852), Palmetto High ($7,702), Palmetto Middle ($9,973), Pelzer ($13,962), Powdersville ($9,969), Spearman ($7,973), West Pelzer ($4,000), Wren Elementary ($3,999), Wren High ($2,000), Wren Middle ($20,000) and the AC Alternative School ($2,000).

Fowler had more good news on the kindergarten front. 

“During the last budget year, we were concerned about our 4K program,” he says. “We lost about $200,000 in funding. As you know, we really support 3K and 4K. We feel like it’s one of the best things we do to prepare children for the first grade.”

Thanks to a combination of various grant funding sources – including an increase in Title I funding – the district will be able to serve nearly the same number of 4K students as the last school year, according to Fowler.

The district will even add one full-day 4K class at Pelzer Elementary, which will serve 15 students. A total of 255 3K and 4K students will be enrolled at Palmetto Elementary and Preschool, West Pelzer, Wren Elementary, Hunt Meadows, Concrete Primary and Pelzer Elementary.

More news in terms of student funding came from Superintendent Dr. Reggie Christopher, who reported that $1,777 has been set as the base student cost within Anderson County schools.

He also noted that Anderson One  will welcome an estimated 8,000 students to its classrooms next week – up a predicted 303 students from last year.

Already into the 2003-04 budget year, District One has posted revenues of $3,708,618 (6 percent of budget) and expenditures of $1,657,384 (3 percent of budget), according to Director of Finance Steve Uldrick.

Assistant Superintendent David Havird reported the district served close to 1 million meals in its cafeterias last year – giving Anderson One $92,915 in nutrition services revenue.

“This year, all cafeterias in the district will be updated with Horizon software,” Havird says. “We will also continue to emphasize healthy food choices.”

Dr. Christopher also offered a construction update for Wren High, noting that construction is “going well, but behind” due to bad weather in recent weeks. “We still see no problem in getting in the new facility by mid-year,” he says.

District One teachers are back Monday

By Stephanie Summerlin

In less than a week, Anderson School District One teachers will return to their classrooms.

Aug. 4 will mark the beginning of the 2003-04 school year for faculty and staffs throughout the district. Teachers will also gather at Wren High School Aug. 5 for their annual district-wide faculty meeting, during which Anderson One’s Teacher of the Year will be announced. Students  will fill desks Aug. 7.

The early August back-to-school schedule has been in place for several years in District One. Teachers voted to move the start date up from late August and empty classrooms for the year in mid-May.

Officials in District One and other South Carolina school systems thought last fall they would have to relinquish their control over the start date. The State Department of Education planned to establish a centralized statewide school calendar – forcing public schools throughout South Carolina to start and end on the same day and observe the same holidays and teachers workdays.

Thanks to lobbying efforts, which included a resolution to continue local control of the school calendar, the proposal by the State Department was shot down.

Greenville County schools have chosen a later start date, with teachers returning Aug. 18 and students attending Aug. 25.




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