Handling of tax
situation draws attention from center developer
By Stan Welch
One of Williamstons most prominent businessmen and a member of the Town Council squared off Monday night, as Jim Simpson, owner of the Ace Hardware Store and the currently vacant Town Square Center grocery store, and Councilman Carthel Crout had a spirited exchange of words during the Council meeting.
Simpson started the meeting by reading a prepared statement in which he spoke about a situation which arose recently concerning the taxes owed on the old Town Hall site, which Simpson bought during the Towns 2006 land sale.
Simpson referred to a meeting of the Council held on July 7, a meeting at which Council was to consider relocating Pelzer Avenue, which currently winds through Simpsons shopping center parking lot.
At your meeting three weeks ago, you abruptly went into executive session at the request of Councilman Carthel Crout just before dealing with a critical issue to the revitalization of our town.
According to Simpson, as Crout also acknowledged, the issue that made the executive session necessary was the property taxes due on the town hall site. Crout apparently had received a complaint from concerned citizens and had contacted the County Clerk of Court where he confirmed that the taxes had in fact not been paid.
Simpson informed the audience that he paid over $90,000 in taxes to the Town and Anderson County on his shopping center alone last year. That was an increase of $4,168.04 over last year. I assumed that difference was at least partially due to the addition of the town hall site. I never received a separate tax bill on that particular parcel of land.
As it turned out, the assessors office had failed to send Simpson a separate bill. Upon being informed of the past due taxes, Simpson said he wrote the check and hand delivered it to the county treasurers office himself.
Simpson said that just an hour before the meeting at which the impromptu executive session was called, he had spoken to Crout about the importance of relocating Pelzer Avenue in order to help attract a major grocery store to the location.
Mr. Crout, why didnt you say anything about this then? Why didnt you just pick up the telephone and call me about this when these so called concerned citizens first approached you? We could have gotten all this straightened out.
Crout responded that he didnt want to accuse Simpson of anything until he knew the facts of the matter. I was trying to do the right thing, Jim, he replied.
Simpson said in his statement that the manner in which the matter was handled was an insult to him, and added that This type of underhanded approach to resolving issues must stop. I challenge all of you to get past this type of petty politics and get on with the business of helping make this town one in which we can all be proud.
Crout denied that his actions were political in nature, saying that he had simply been trying to get to the bottom of things. Crout had earlier insisted that Simpson be allowed to finish his written statement, despite a recently enacted three minute limit on public comments. We should let Mr. Simpson complete his remarks, said Crout.
The issue of the relocation of Pelzer Avenue, and the manner in which the funds were sought was also the topic of considerable discussion during the meeting. A related story elsewhere in this issue addresses those matters.
By Stan Welch
During the Monday night meeting of Williamston Town Council there was considerable discussion centered aroung the issue of the Towns efforts to obtain funding for two major road projects.
One project, the paving of Academy Street, received a commitment from the Anderson County Transportation Committee, known as ATAC, for $143,000 in C funds, which are generated by taxes on the sale of gasoline.
Councilman Otis Scott, with the assistance of the Towns grant writer, Rusty Burns, had appeared before the Committee last October seeking the funds.
The Committee asked for a copy of the resolution seeking the funds and no such document was available since no such vote had been taken by Williamston Town Council.
At its December meeting, the Council passed such a resolution, and the request for funds was formalized.
Several weeks ago, a contingent from Williamston, consisting of Mayor Phillip Clardy, Burns, David Meade, managing editor of The Journal, and member of the Greater Williamston Business Association, as well as local businessmen Jim Simpson and John Thomason appeared before the Committee.
They were seeking funds to relocate Pelzer Avenue in such a way as to create a true four way intersection at the current three way traffic signal at Minor St. and Main St.
Simpson, who owns the shopping center that formerly contained the Winn Dixie supermarket, has repeatedly expressed the necessity of such a realignment in order to attract a major supermarket to the town, which has been without one for well over two years.
Appearing before the ATAC, the Williamston contingent, which did not include Councilman Scott, although he was there independently to press his earlier request, asked to be placed on the agenda for the next meeting and offered some information about the proposed project for the Committee to consider in the meantime.
Included was an expression of willingness by the Town to apply the previously committed funds to the Pelzer Avenue project, thereby delaying, but not abandoning, the Academy Street project.
At their July 7 meeting, Council was poised to consider a resolution formally seeking the funding for the relocation. Just before that item was taken up, Councilman Carthel Crout asked that Council go into executive session, which they did. During that session, Crout leveled charges that Simpson was in arrears on the property taxes due on the old town hall site, which Simpson had purchased during the Towns 2006 real estate rummage sale.
Crout said that concerned citizens had raised the question of the taxes and he had confirmed that the taxes were indeed still unpaid. Simpson offered his side of the story (see related story elsewhere in this issue).
In the course of a lengthy discussion, during which members of the audience were allowed to speak, Simpson raised several issues, including the fact that a future developer who bought the shopping center could simply close Pelzer Avenue, since it is not currently a town street where it passes through the shopping center parking lot.
He also reminded the audience that no money would be spent on private property. I am going to give the land needed for this project to the town. It wont be private property.
Simpson also reiterated that there were three supermarkets currently discussing the possibility of locating at the site. He declined requests by the audience to name those stores, citing the importance of confidentiality to the integrity of the negotiations. He also answered a charge by Ann McCllellan that he is asking so much for the lease on the store that no one will take it.
When Winn Dixie was renting the store, my rates were very competitive. I have lowered them since then in an effort to attract a lessee. Who do you know that wants a store in that location more than I do?
Simpson, who read a written statement earlier in the meeting, added, I have bent over backwards to work with interested corporations and I have worked with the Town. But if you do not work to give me the ammunition I need to attract a store, then please quit fussing that we dont have one.
He went on to tell Council, I cannot guarantee you gentlemen anything. I cannot guarantee that a grocery will locate there if we move Pelzer Avenue. But I can guarantee that they will not come here if we dont move Pelzer Avenue.
Mayor Clardy proposed a resolution seeking to apply the Academy Street funds to the Pelzer Avenue project if needed. He did not get a second for his motion, and it died from lack of support.
Council did approve a resolution asking that ATAC fund the complete project, while also funding the Academy Street project. That vote was 3-2 with Councilmen Crout and Middleton voting against.
Council also agreed to appropriate $20,000 from the contingency fund of the general fund to order a caisson, or gun carriage to be custom built for the towns brass cannon. The contingency fund would then be reimbursed by either the hospitality tax fund or the museum fund. That vote was 4-1 with Councilman Scott opposed.
Council then went into executive session for an update on the sewer plant upgrades and contracts. The session lasted for 55 minutes.
By Stan Welch
Months after approving the hiring of a town administrator, the Williamston Town Council began interviewing candidates this week.
The list of candidates has been cut to three, thereby making the information about the applicants available to the public. The three candidates still under consideration are Carey Elliott, of Fountain Inn; David Hanks, currently employed by the City of Asheville, NC, and local banker, Phyllis Lollis, currently employed by BB&T Bank.
The requirements for the job, which will pay approximately $50,000 a year plus an additional $10-15,000 in benefits, include a Bachelors degree in public administration, business or a related field, although a Masters Degree is preferred. The educational qualification must be supplemented by a minimum of ten years of executive level experience in local government administration. Five years experience at the administrator/manager level in a jurisdiction comparable to Williamston in size, or as deputy administrator in a larger jurisdiction, or a combination of those factors will also be required.
The issue of a town administrator came up during the Towns efforts to resolve its financial crisis in 2006. As more and more evidence of mismanagement came to light, the impetus for a professional manager grew. The funding for the office was included in this years budget.
Tuesday night, Council members began the process of interviewing those candidates. Two of the five finalists requested that their names be removed from consideration, leaving a short list of three.
According to the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, that number is the point at which the applicants job histories, qualifications and identities become public information. In accordance with that law, the candidates identities were provided by the town administration.
Interviewing is expected to continue next week.
The Town of Williamston will be testing sewer lines in Council Wards 3 and 4 the week of August 4th 8th. The tests will be conducted using smoke.
According to town officials, the smoke should not enter a premises unless a leak is present. The presence of smoke in a home should be reported to the personnel conducting the testing or by calling Town Hall at 864-847-7473.
Town officials urge residents to avoid any unnecessary exposure to the smoke. While it is relatively harmless, it may cause irritation to nasal passages. Any irritation will be temporary and should quickly disappear after exposure has ceased, officials said. Other guidelines include the following; persons with heart and/or respiratory ailments should leave the home during the test. Be sure any house pets are provided proper ventilation or are removed from the home. To minimize the chance of smoke entering your home, please pour water into all drains, including floor drains, prior to the date of the test.
Should you have any questions please contact Town Hall at 864-847-7473.
The Anderson County Voter Registration and Elections Office will begin taking filing August 1 at noon for the following nonpartisan offices to be elected in the November 4 General Election:
Anderson County Board of Education, Anderson School Trustees, Homeland Park Water District Commissioners, Piedmont Public Service District Commissioners, and Watershed Conservation Districts Commissioners.
There are no filing fees for these offices. Each candidate at the time of filing must fill out a Statement of Candidacy and Economic Interest Form. The deadline for filing is August 15 at 12:00 noon.
Filing for the County Board Of Education: Seats to fill Districts 2, 7, 8, 9.
Filing for Anderson County School Trustees: Seats to fill Anderson County School District 1-Areas 2, 3, 6.
School District 2-Area 2 (2 seats to fill).
School District 3-Areas 2, 3.
School District 4 -Areas 1, 3
School District 5-Areas 1, 3, 4, 7, and At-large.
Filing for Homeland Park Water & Sewer District Commissioner: 2 Seats to fill.
Piedmont Public Service District Commissioner: 2 Seats to fill.
Watershed Conservation District Commissioners: for watershed districts located solely within Anderson County candidates will file in the Anderson County Registration & Elections office.
Big Creek, 2 seats; Broadmouth Creek, 3 seats.
Multi-County Watershed Conservation District Commissioners will file with the State Election Commission in Columbia. Multi County Districts include Brushy Creek, 1 seat and Three & Twenty, 2 seats
By Stan Welch
What do you do with twenty one Viet Nam era veterans? Find four more and start a local chapter of the Viet Nam Veterans of America.
At least thats what Dave Allen, a retired professor and twenty year veteran, is doing.
Allen, who got tired of driving all the way to Greer to attend meetings of the Greenville County chapter of the VVA, decided to start a local chapter. Hes doing so with the Greenville chapters blessings.
That requires a petition with a minimum of twenty five signatures seeking a charter. So far Allen is four names short, but has few concerns about reaching his goal.
The Viet Nam Veterans of America is the only Viet Nam veterans organization chartered by the U. S. Congress, like the VFW or the DAV. There are more than 600 chapters across the country, with a total membership of better than fifty thousand. Theres also a new chapter forming in the Walhalla area, so the interest is there.
Allen says that the VVA is different from some of the fly by night organizations, as he calls them. VVA is a service and a social organization for Viet Nam era vets. We earned our spurs so to speak by taking on the Veterans Administration over the issues caused by Agent Orange. We fought for ourselves and our fellow veterans and we forced the VA to acknowledge the tremendous health issues raised by Agent Orange.
Allen says the organization continues to pursue the interests of Viet Nam era veterans. We have homeless vets who still need our help. VVA also has what we call incarcerated chapters. Those chapters actually exist within some prisons in this country. Viet Nam vets faced a number of social and medical issues when they came home. Some handled those better than others, some had more serious problems. But we do not abandon them.
Allen has been a VVA member since 1982, and only began organizing the Anderson County chapter three months ago. Weve been meeting at the main county library in Anderson, but once we are formally incorporated and receive our 501(c)(3) status, we will relocate our chapter to the Richard Campbell Veterans Home.
For any Viet Nam era veterans interested in joining the VVA, all it takes is a copy of the veterans DD214 form, proving service during the Viet Nam war. You dont have to be an in country vet, so if you didnt actually go over to Nam, you can and should still join. All it takes is to get in touch with me so you can physically sign the petition. Once we are formally organized as a chapter, future members will be able to join by simply mailing in their paperwork.
Allen says the chapter has no website yet but he can be reached by email at VVAandersonsc@hotmail.comor or at 864-222-6679.
Joseph Lane of Pelzer has been selected to participate in the 2008-2009 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, a year-long, federally-funded program for study and work in Germany.
Lane is affiliated with Clemson University and is a constituent of US Congressional Representative J. Gresham Barrett.
CDS International, the administering organization, selected Lane as one of 75 participants (among nearly 500 applicants) for this scholarship program.
Through this exchange program, Lane will be part of a group of seventy-five Americans who will participate in two months of intensive German language training, four months of study at a German university or professional school, and a five-month internship with a German company (internships vary according to professional field and previous work experience).
Placed throughout all of Germany, participants have the opportunity to live with a German host and learn about daily life in another culture. Lane will be abroad from late July 2008 through July 2009.
Since 1984, approximately 9,000 Americans have been given this unique opportunity to gain cultural, theoretical, and practical work experience in Germany, and Lane will be participating in the historic 25th Anniversary year of the CBYX program.
Conceived and supported by members of the United States Congress and the German Parliament, the program is financially supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State under the authority of the Fulbright-Hays act of 1961, as amended, as well as the German Parliament. Program funding provides for international airfare, orientation, mid-year and final seminars in the US and Germany, insurance, partial local transportation, and limited monthly stipends for housing costs. Interested potential applicants can visit www.cdsintl.org/cbyx for more information; applications for the 2009-2010 program year will be downloadable as of July 2008.
The program is designed primarily for young adults in business, technical, engineering, vocational, and agricultural fields, though candidates in all career fields are encouarged to apply.
Participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents between the ages of 18-24 and have clear career goals and experience in their professional fields. German language ability is not required, but is strongly recommended.
CBYX is a reciprocal scholarship program. While American participants like Lane will experience life in Germany, young German professionals will be experiencing life here in the United States.
German CBYX participants study at community and technical colleges in the fall then work at local businesses in the spring, all while living with an American host throughout the year. CDS International is currently looking for interested host families, host companies and host colleges who would like to take part in this exciting cultural exchange.
Anyone intereted in applying for the program or in hosting a German participant can contact CDS via emial at email@example.com.
During their monthly meeting Tuesday, Anderson School District One Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to purchase 12 acres of land and a building located behind Wren Middle School.
The purchase included a 1,830 square foot office building.
Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler recommended the purchase because Wren High, Wren Middle and Wren Elementary are landlocked by surrounding subdivisions and said that the schools need somewhere to expand.
He said the two middle schools will need to be replaced in coming years and the property will be needed for the future of the Wren school area.
Purchase price for the property is $24,500 per acre and the building for $50,000, for a total of $344,000. Funds for the purchase will come from the District One general fund balance.
Dr. Fowler reported that pine trees around the Palmetto High Football field were recently cut down because limbs were breaking off when storms came through causing damage to the fence and the field house.
The trees were ground into mulch to be used in the district, officials said.
By Hayley Meade
When Jason Vaughn of Williamston started The Christian Talk Show he had never worked in ad sales and was scared to talk on the radio. That was over two years ago. Now his late night radio talk show reaches listeners nationwide.
Vaughn, along with 103.1 FM WRIX, teamed up in 2006 to broadcast The Christian Talk Show, a weekly live, on air talk show that is based around young people. The show caters to teens and pre teens but listeners of all ages call in to share testimonies, experiences, memories, prayer requests, and personal thoughts on the issues addressed during the show.
Vaughn created the show so teens could talk freely about religion and ask questions about their faith.
When we started the show, kids had youth and church groups where they could meet and talk about God and their faith but there wasnt really a place where they could ask questions outside of those groups, which is why we started The Christian Talk Show. We really just wanted to create a show where young people could come to get their voices heard and ask questions or get help with any problems that they may be having.
When Vaughn first started the show he was nervous about the late time slot and worried that he lacked the experience for radio.
When this all started I was so scared to talk on the air. I was worried that I would run out of things to say. I also wasnt sure if we would have enough listeners because we air at 10 oclock at night, but God prevails. Now we have listeners as far away as Virginia and frequently get calls from people in Lexington, Greenwood, and even Georgia. We have listeners call in to tell us that they get special permission from their parents to stay up to listen to the show. God took nothing and turned it into something.
Vaughn receives 20 to 30 calls every show and takes both on air and off air questions. He usually begins the show with a topic concerning religion and invites listeners to call in and share their opinions or ask questions.
The show also gives prizes that listeners can call in to try to win. Along with helping teens on their personal questions of faith,
Vaughn also uses the show to make dreams come true. 2 years ago the show sent lifelong South Carolina Gamecock fan, Tyler Strout, a local 12 year old suffering from a life threatening illness, to a USC football game.
Strout was able to stand on the sidelines as the Gamecocks ran onto the field at Williams Brice Stadium.
Along with the radio show, Vaughn created a learning center in Anderson. Gods Little Children Learning Center is a program that focuses on helping underprivileged children catch-up on school work.
The program is held three days a week from 3:30 to 6:15 for children from 3 years old to 5th grade. The program is volunteer based and free for children.
The learning center currently has 10 children enrolled and has about 20 children on a wait list. The center offers arts and crafts, one-on-one tutoring time, and chapel time.
Vaughn wanted to create a loving environment where children could come not only to learn but also be given support and encouragement.
Some of the kids that come through here arent learning what they need to know at home and sometimes the school system moves too fast for them. We offer the learning center as a place where they can learn the tools nessesary to excel in the future. Kids drop out of school today not because they arent capable of the work load but because they are not receiving the support and compassion needed to get through school. What we are trying to do is change the situation so these kids can have a better future.
The learning center opperates on donations and business support.
We get our funds through local businesses or parents of the children who attend the center.
Vaughns vision for the center includes expanding to a Williamston location. He also wants to offer the program to middle and high school students.
I would really like to reach out to older kids through the learning center because its so important that we help these kids out as much as possible. I know that further expanation will happen because when you do something good God takes care of you and I have faith that he will bless this project. God has definately blessed both the talk show and the learning center.
Vaughn is a 2002 Palmetto High School graduate and a graduate of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute.
Vaughns talk show airs every Thursday from 10-11 pm on 103.1 FM WRIX. To learn more about the show or to donate items to Gods Little Angels Learning Center contact Jason Vaughn at 864-221-3333.
By Stan Welch
As many of you readers know, I am in favor of the capital projects sales tax that has been proposed as a means of slowing the rate at which Anderson Countys roads are deteriorating.
Oh, yeah, the penny sales tax people will tell you its to repair and build roads, but its really just to slow the pace at which some of the most abominable roads in the state continue to fall apart. Besides, you know those people. Theyll tell you anything to get you to vote for that tax.
Ive heard a variety of arguments from those who oppose this tax. Ive heard those arguments presented loudly and frequently. To put it simply, this issue is the second hottest hot button in Anderson County.
Which tree to hang Joey Preston from, or whether to hang him at all, is the hottest. But thats a topic for another day.
Still, one of the more frequently heard arguments against the tax is tied tightly to a significant lack of trust in the county administration in general, and in Mr. Preston specifically. A segment of the population in this county is convinced that no matter what safeguards are built into the state law that authorizes such a tax, Preston and those seen as his cronies, will find a way to misuse or outright steal the money generated by this tax. All assurances and all evidence to the contrary, this belief persists.
The fact that the County Council will include those recently elected in part by that same segment of the population by the time the tax goes into effect, seems to offer no comfort whatsoever.
The taxs opponents argue that if the road budget had been funded and managed properly for the last ten years, we wouldnt have a road problem now. Im not so sure that their math stands scrutiny but lets say it does.
So what? The point is we do have a problem. And if it took ten or twelve years of mismanagement to create this situation, wont it take at least that long to even begin to make progress on it, using nothing but the funds that the taxs opponents say should be budgeted for roads each year?
But I see their point to some extent. Im not the kind of guy who thinks more taxes solve every problem. On the other hand, I dont consider any and every tax to be the spawn of Satan or the onset of the New World Order.
No, regardless of what you may have heard lately, Im not a tax and spend liberal, or even a liberal at all. I am what is called a moderate. At least thats what theyre called in some parts of the state and country, just not this part.
A moderate is someone who can see both sides of an issue and consider them before making a decision. As a moderate, I can embrace the conservative view that this tax alone should not be counted on to solve the funding problems for Anderson Countys roads.
As a moderate, I think it is my duty to offer additional means of stretching our road funds, and the following suggestion is made in that spirit.
I dont know exactly how much money is budgeted and spent each year on traffic signs in Anderson County. But based on the rate at which they are ignored, I see no point in putting them up to begin with.
A four way Stop sign in Anderson County doesnt mean that everyone stops and then proceeds in a counterclockwise rotation to cross the intersection. No, in Anderson County, it means the first one to stop waits until the other three have run the stop sign. Then, if no one else wants to run the sign, the chump that actually stopped (you know they arent from around here) can go. At their own risk, of course.
Other signs receive the same level of respect. No left turn means no left turn if there is a police car behind you. Otherwise, hey, government has no right to tell you which way you can turn your own car!
What I cant understand is why the insurance companies dont embrace that independent motoring spirit?
Like I say, Im no expert, but it seems to me the county could save a lot of money by not replacing the signs that get knocked over each weekend by those so strictly obeying those laws on drinking and driving, and never installing them in the first place on all the new subdivision roads that are being built.
Besides, traffic laws are state laws, which makes enforcing them just another dadgum unfunded mandate. Where will it all end?