News Archive

Week of Aug. 4, 2004

Turner case set for trial August 26
Committee to make plan recommendations for downtown project
Few citizens accept invite to inspect town records
Town approves new trash, nuisance property ordinance
Williamston officials to reconsider borrowing
Upstate team advances
Demolition, salvaging of Pelzer Mill well underway
Farm Expo features family entertainment

Turner case set for trial August 26

The assault and battery case against former Williamston police chief Richard Turner will be tried in the town of Saluda before Judge W. Frank Partridge on Thursday, August 26, officials said this week.

Bill Mayer, of the Mayer Law Firm in Laurens, will represent the Town of Williamston.

Mayer agreed earlier this year to prosecute the case for a fee of $2,000.

He is a graduate of the South Carolina School of Law and has served as Assistant Solicitor for the 8th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

The  Thompson and King Law Firm, which normally represents the town, recused themselves from the prosecution and trial of Turner citing a working relationship with him in the past.

The firm agreed to give up fees to help with the expenses resulting from  hiring another attorney, according to Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy.

The case is being tried within according to the terms of a speedy trial motion signed on February 17, which was approved by Williamston Municipal Judge James M. Cox.

Turner’s attorney Bruce Byrholdt had asked for a change of venue motion over concerns that pre-trial publicity surrounding the case would make it impossible to pick an impartial jury.

Judge Cox stated in his order that he is recusing himself due to long standing relationships with the defendant and others involved in the case.

The order states the local court will retain administrative jurisdiction over the case until its resolution.

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

The alleged incident occurred June 23, 2003 after Turner’s son Steven was told by Williamston’s new Police Chief Troy Martin that his employment with the town had been terminated.

Committee to make plan recommendations for downtown project

The Greater Williamston Business Association has appointed a five member committee to make recommendations for a downtown redevelopment project the organization is spearheading.

The committee comprised of Jim Simpson, David Meade, David Maddox, Larry Holcombe and Phillip Clardy, will meet next week with a landscape architect to look at the downtown area and to present ideas.

The architect will then draw up plans and estimate costs.

From there the preliminary plan will be presented to GWBA members and Williamston officials for approval before it is presented as part of a grant request in March of next year, officials said.

GWBA members met with Mayor Phillip Clardy and others in May to discuss the next steps for the project which has been a topic of discussion for several years.

At that meeting,  the group decided to concentrate efforts on the core of the downtown area, from the Mill St. at Main St. traffic light, through downtown to the bridge over Big Creek.

The plan will then be extended into other areas of the town, officials said.

Municipal consultant Rusty Burns told GWBA members that the plan should initially focus on a small area. He also said chances of grant funding for the project are good, considering the project includes museum landscaping and other design work along Main St., which is a State Highway.

Burns also stated that projects which include partners, in this case the GWBA and the Town of Williamston, are also more likely to be funded.  “They like partners,” Burns said.

The organization hopefully will be far enough along with planning for the project to apply for grant funding, according to GWBA president, Dave Maddox.

GWBA members have had several downtown redevelopment experts look at the town and present ideas for the group.

These plans and ideas will be incorporated and used as a basis for the preliminary design the group hopes to come up with, officials said.

Traffic calming devices such as pavers and bumpouts may be incorporated into the downtown plan.

Williamston Town Council passed a resolution indicating their support for a downtown revitalization project at their July 12 meeting.

Williamston Mayor Philip Clardy met with SCDOT officials Wednesday to look at options to improve safety along Williamston’s East Main St.

The meeting was in response to a  pedestrian being struck by a vehicle in the area last Tuesday, the second accident in Williamston’s downtown area in recent months.

Department of Transportation officials have installed new pedestrian crossing signage at the East Main crossing and installed new signs warning approaching motorists of pedestrians before they reach the congested area.

Clardy said ideas being presented for the downtown area will include safety as a priority.

Few citizens accept invite to inspect town records

Boxes of town records dating back to 1992 were brought into the municipal center auditorium Monday and town employees and supervisors were on hand to answer questions.

And even though citizens were invited by the mayor to come find out the status of Williamston, only a few actually showed up.

Those who did found approximately 40 boxes containing a mixture of checking statements, invoices and receipts, paid checks and even credit card statements and other documents that were made available to the public over a two day period.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said that most of the citizens were not looking for anything in particular.

“Most would look through at random and if they found something of interest, they made copies,” the mayor said.

According to town officials, 11 inquiring people took the opportunity to look over the items on display, which were boxed and grouped by year.

Clardy said the presentation offered an opportunity to dispel half truths and rumours.

“It offered an opportunity to address questions and answers for those who had them and resolved issues and dispelled rumours,” the mayor said.

Clardy said his expectations for the number of people to come were low because he “only expected critics.”

Clardy said he saw the display as an opportunity to “Prove we have nothing to hide and to show the critics that we have nothing to hide.”

He said he didn’t expect the average person to show up and the few that did commented that they thought it was a good thing to do.

 “A couple of residents came simply to see,” Clardy said.

Some of the citizens who took advantage of the opportunity asked for specific files and made copies on a copier made available by the town.

Some of those looking over the information found the display to be helpful, others did not.

Robert Vaughn, who resides on Hamilton St., said that the documents in the boxes weren’ t really going to answer any questions about the town’s financial situation. To find out about the town’s finances, he said you need to look at the auditors reports.

“All those boxes are worthless. They don’t mean nothing to me,” Vaughn said Tuesday. Vaughn said that to  be able to  find out anything about the town’s finances, “You  need the year end audit information for the year.”

Vaughn and others said that the effort appeared to be more of a waste  of time and money than an opportunity to find answers.

“It took a lot of work,” Vaughn said. “It was a waste of taxpayers money to assemble all of that.”

Williamston resident Carl Rogers was one of the town’s citizens who asked for specific information.

“It would take six years to go through the 15 or so boxes,” Rogers said. “They don’t know what’s in those boxes.”

Rogers asked for a copy of the town’s latest regional water authority bills, police fine reports and a copy of the victims’ advocate fund balance.

Rogers said the information he received didn’t come out of the boxes, but came out of the administrative offices.

He was also told that the victims’ advocate information would have to be requested from the solicitor’s office.

A written report promised by Clardy which would disclose the past, present and future status of Williamston, was not made available Monday.

Mayor Clardy did have the 527 page report, entitled, “Williamston’s Status: Past, Present and Future at the council meeting Monday evening.

The report was made available to councilmen Tuesday and to  The Journal Wednesday. Clardy said the report will be available to the public upon request.

Clardy said the presentation was like an open house for the public to see the records of the town which he said are available for the public to inspect daily.

Though he did not intend to  put the town records on display every year, Clardy said he would do so if there was enough interest.

Town approves new trash, nuisance property ordinance

Williamston Town Council dealt with a personnel matter, approved first reading on a new trash ordinance and scheduled a special meeting to discuss borrowing more money during their regular monthly meeting Aug. 2.

At the start of the meeting, Phyllis Lollis formally requested an executive session with council to discuss a situation regarding a public official.

 No details of the matter, described by Lollis as urgent, were made public by Lollis or the town.

Council went into executive session for approximately 90 minutes to discuss the personnel matter.

Upon returning to regular session,  Mayor Phillip Clardy stated that the matter of discussion had been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.

Clardy then reported to Council that real estate appraisals were being conducted on Cherokee Road property owned by the town. Clardy said the appraisal process is a challenge because of the infrastructure on the property. 

The 21 acre tract includes sewer improvements which were supposedly designated for a lower income development which never materialized. It was deeded to the town by the late councilman David Roberts during the 1980s.

The existing sewer improvements have been valued at approximately $161,177 if the work were done today.

According to the mayor, once the appraisels are complete, the town is planning to offer the property for sale.

Town Attorney Richard Thompson also told Council that a quit claim is being prepared in response to a recent request made by Dr. Dwight Smith

Smith asked the town to relinquish any claim it may have on property located on Williams St. which was once used for a library and is now being used as a senior center.

Smith said he intends for the property to continue to be used as a senior center.

Council unanimously approved a request by Glen Grove Church of God of Prophecy to use the park amphitheater on Sept. 4.

Mayor Clardy announced that the next regular meeting of Town Council will be held on September 13 due to the Labor Day holiday.

Clardy also announced a special called meeting of Council to be held next Monday, August 9. Clardy said the meeting is being held to discuss a GO Bond and/or TAN borrowing ordinance.

Council also approved a street department ordinance revision which will allow the town to act on nuisance properties by providing for a fine, recouping work costs and the sale of property if necessary.

The ordinance also addresses cleaning of vacant lots, discarding building project debris, household garbage containers, disposal of leaves and grass clippings, yard trimmings and construction/demolition materials.

Under the new ordinance, if a property has been identified by the town as a nuisance, steps will be taken to identify the property owner, contact the owner and allow a certain amount of time for the property owner to respond, the mayor said.

If there is no response, there will be a fine of up to $1,063 and the property owner will be billed for any costs associated with cleanup work done on the property by the town, the mayor said.

Any charges will be made payable to the town when the owners pay their property taxes, according to Clardy. If not paid, the property will be sold in a tax auction.

Clardy said the town does have a compliance officer who checks properties when a complaint is made.

The ordinance also addresses situations where a contractor charges a property owner to haul off solid waste and then leaves the waste for the town to dispose of, according to the mayor.

Street Department Supervisor David Roberts told council  that other items addressed by the ordinance are beoming necessary because of increased landfill restrictions.

Many items being picked up by the town must now be separated, according to Roberts, before it is hauled to the Starr landfill.

Limbs, leaves, commercial demolition, and other green waste must be sorted, he said.

Roberts said town residents will be required to be more selective in how they place material to be picked up.

Currently, items are being hand sorted before being placed on the truck and certain items may have to be picked up at a latter time.

The ordinance also requires citizens to place houshold garbage and trash in 32 gallon containers which should have a drain hole in the bottom. 55 gallon drums will no longer be allowed.

Council unanimously approved first reading on the ordinance.

Council unanimously approved a request by councilman Cecil Cothran to have a budget work session to discuss problems the town is facing. The work session will be held at 5 p.m. prior to the regular meeting.

Council then went into executive session to discuss a legal matter concerning the upcoming trial of former police chief Richard Turner.

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

Williamston officials to reconsider borrowing

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy has scheduled a special called meeting Monday, August 9 for Town Council to reconsider allowing the town to borrow money to cover operating expenditures through the end of the year.

Clardy said he will ask the council to consider a general obligation bond (GO Bond) of no more than $300,000 to be paid back over a period of five years.

According to Clardy, if approved, the revenue will also help end an ongoing practice of borrowing money at the end of the year to finish out the year until tax collections begin coming in or having to use incoming tax payments for next year to cover operating expenses for the remaining months of this year, Clardy said.

A general obligation bond (loan) can be used for any expenditures the town may have or can be designated for specific items. It allows extended terms and payments, Clardy said.

A tax anticipation note allows borrowing of funds to meet current expenditures with the promise of being repaid when the tax payments to the town are made or within a short amount of time.

Clardy said he will recommend to council that a bond be issued in an amount not to exceed $300,000. The amount is the most the town has borrowed at one time in the past, according to the mayor. The payment would be approximately $50,000 to $60,000 per year for the five year period, Clardy said.

According to Clardy, making the payments will be easier than making $300,000 in cuts all at one time.

Clardy said the council will look at where to cut, where to increase revenues and how to deal with increases in expenses and a decrease in revenues, especially in State revenues.

“The last resort in increasing revenues is  raising property taxes,” the mayor said. “And the last resort in cutting expenditures is reducing your help.”

Clardy said the town is looking to cut back in some areas and looking at options for a gain in revenues in other areas.

Options for revenues, according to Clardy, include looking at a 1 cent  sales tax and increasing franchise fees.

Clardy said he will suggest the bond option, so it will not have to be paid back as soon as a TAN note would.

“We want to find a constructive way to cut expenditures but not at one time,” the mayor said.

“The bond will extend the terms and payments as opposed to chopping $300,000,” Clardy said.

“We want to continue operating the remainder of this year without using money collected for next year until next year,” Clardy said.

Clardy said all of the revenues available to the town have been collected. “There are no more revenues coming in,” he said.

The town is currently able to make payroll and meet other obligations according to Clardy. However the town will need money to meet obligations through the end of the year and to stop the practice of relying on tax payments which begin coming in October.

The mayor and council discussed (behind closed doors) borrowing $565,000 in a special called meeting held on June 28.

At that time, Council members accepted the request as information and put off approval of any additional borrowing.

Councilmembers Greg Cole and Cecil Cothran both said the town should consider possible cuts in expenditures before approving additional borrowing. Both said the town may have to borrow funds, but thought the amount should be less than the $565,000 Clardy originally proposed.

Under the original request, Clardy said he planned to pay off a 2001 police vehicle lease of $45,298.82 and the outstanding balance of $68,000 on a 2001 GO bond note which was used primarily for municipal building repairs. Clardy said Wednesday the town will make the final payment on both notes next year as scheduled.

Clardy said the borrowing he is requesting is at the advice of financial consultant Boyd Greene, who was hired to help with town  finances.

“He said what we need to do is to draw the line and stop the practice,” Clardy said. “The town is beginning every year with a debt.”

Upstate team advances

The Upstate Team advanced to the semifinals of the Big League World Series with a stunning 25-3 rout of previously unbeaten Michigan in Tuesday’s third-round action at the J. B. “Red” Owens Recreation Complex in Easley.

The defending champions pounded out 28 hits in 41 trips to the plate before the 10-run rule brought the game to a merciful ending after just 4 1/2 innings.

Brad Chalk, out of Riverside High School, led the local onslaught, going 5-5 with four runs scored and three more batted-in.

Mauldin’s Andrew Runion went 4-5, scoring three runs and driving-in three more; Wren’s Jason Place was 3-3 with two runs scored and three batted-in; Riverside’s Kyle Enders also went 3-3, scoring twice and batting-in another pair; and Adam Crisp, also from Riverside, was 2-5 with a homerun, three runs scored, and four batted-in.

The Upstate Team, which outscored its first three opponents, 51-4, faces Asia Pacific (Guam) this (Wednesday) evening at 7:30.

The local favorites are expected to see action at 5:15 in Friday’s semifinals, with the other semifinal match-up set to follow at 8:15.

The 2004 Big League World Series Championship Game will be played Saturday evening at 7p.m.

Demolition, salvaging of Pelzer Mill well underway

A crew of workers with Old Mississippi Brick was busy working in the summer heat this week tearing down a portion of the top stories of the Upper Mill in Pelzer.

Beginning their work on the area landmark in May, the crew removed the first brick from the structure on June 6. Etched with identifying information, the brick sits on a shelf in the construction site office occupied by David Roach, the assistant supervisor for the project.

Although the demolition was originally expected to take eighteen months, Roach says the work is almost two months ahead of schedule since the building is “coming down much easier than expected.”

Viewing a two-story corner of the building fall, Roach admits that he still gets a “heart-pumping rush” when he sees a portion of the century-old structure come down. Property owner Tom Green of Mississippi also visits regularly to inspect the progress on the site, Roach says.

Roach, a Spartanburg resident, works with a 20-man crew who are mostly from the Spartanburg area even though the company is based in Mississippi. The crew consisting of mostly Mexican workers including three interpreters begins work at 7 a.m. and works until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Roach admits that he has learned some Spanish in his three years of working with the company. “I know enough for them to know when I am upset,” he smiles.

Pieces of the historic landmark will be preserved for other uses since virtually all the materials from site are being salvaged for resale.

The heart pine wood from the building will be sold to Mountain Lumber in Ruckersville, Virginia and will be used to make standard 1x4 lumber.

Much of the brick will be sent to Old Mississippi Brick to be refinished or to be used “as is” for an antique look. Some of the brick is being sold on the site for $225 per 500-brick pallet to local buyers.

Some area residents with strong sentimental connections to the mill have retrieved bricks from the site as souvenirs, Roach adds.

In addition, desks, cabinets and shelving from the building are being stored in a warehouse on the site and will be auctioned or sold as a lot to prospective buyers. All metal and aluminum in the building is also being salvaged, Roach says.

Farm Expo features family entertainment

The Field Day and Farm Life Expo scheduled this weekend at the 130-acre Circle M Ranch in Pelzer will be an event the whole family will enjoy, organizers say.

Unusual animals including alpacas and llamas, interesting farm products such as goat meat and goat cheese, antique tractors and engines, and live herding demonstrations and rodeo events will all be a part of the events on Friday August 6 and Saturday August 7.

Events scheduled for Friday night at 7 p.m. include barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying. A horse show is planned for Saturday at 10 a.m. which will include English, western and timed events.

The Expo usually attracts almost 1,500 people and has outgrown its previous location at Riverbend Equestrian Park in Berea, according to Danny Howard, a Clemson Extension agent in Greenville County.

“This is a great opportunity to appreciate our agricultural heritage in Greenville County,” Howard says.

The event is also designed to encourage “niche farming” on small 10- to 20-acre farms and to address the increase in the ethnic market in the Upstate area.

Though the Expo features many farm animals and products, Howard emphasizes that the focus of the event is goats since more goat meat is eaten worldwide than beef.

Jerry Munns of Big Sky Farms and a goat producer is the coordinator for the event and explains that the event seeks to get children interested in animals and agriculture. The event began six years ago as a way to educate people about the different aspects of raising goats.

Munns explains that all proceeds from the event are used to support projects for the 4-H and Future Farmers of America. The only charge is a $5 fee for each car at the gate, and all donations are accepted.

To reach Circle M Ranch, travel Highway 8 through Pelzer and cross the bridge into Greenville County. Travel approximately one and one-half miles and turn left onto Garrison Road. Travel about one-half mile and turn right onto Woodville Road (state road #S-23-450). Travel about one mile on Woodville Road, and the ranch is located on the right.

For more information on the event, call Jerry Munns at 864-369-0988 or email her at jmunns@bellsouth.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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