Academy St. paving
takes precedence over Pelzer Avenue relocation
By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Transportation Committee voted Monday to fully fund the four segment Academy Street paving project in Williamston.
Williamston Councilman Otis Scott, designated by the Town Council to represent the Towns interests before the committee, and accompanied by town grant writer and ombudsman Rusty Burns, was on hand and quickly accepted the committees offer to fund part of the $250,000 project from funds on hand, and the remainder from the next C fund allocation the committee receives from the state. C funds are generated by the states gasoline tax, and are periodically distributed among the various counties to be used in road projects.
Anderson County Transportation Director Holt Hopkins then suggested that the committee go ahead and approve full funding of the project so that contracts could be let. We can go ahead and start, and the committee could authorize us to take the balance from the next C fund installment we receive. We would have that money in hand before the work was complete.
The committee approved Hopkins recommendation, and the project, which will see the entire length of Academy Street, including a portion belonging to the County, repaved in the coming weeks, was approved.
The vote followed Scotts announcement that the Williamston Town Council had designated the Academy Street project as their first priority, including the proposed Pelzer Avenue relocation which has been sought in order to create a four way intersection in the middle of town.
That project was also listed on the Committees agenda Monday, but once the Academy Street project was funded, the Pelzer Avenue request was never mentioned again. That project, which has been touted as being essential to the Towns and developer Jim Simpsons efforts to attract a major grocer to town, would cost an estimated $315,000.
A contingent from the town appeared at the last ACTC meeting to ask that the project be placed on this meetings agenda. At that meeting, Councilman Scott indicated his willingness to give priority to the Pelzer Street request, even agreeing to allocate $143,000 from the Academy St. project to the other request. A controversy later arose concerning the manner in which Scott had originally obtained the commitment to fund the Academy Street, as well as a challenge being raised to use public funds for what some Council members called a private project.
As a result, Williamston Town Council voted to make Scott the towns designated representative to the ACTC, and to make Academy Street the first priority.
The Committee also approved a $340,000 request to repave Rice Cemetery Road, in the Honea Path area.
At the motion of former Anderson County Transportation Director and ACTC member James McClure, the committee voted to separate their funds from the countys general fund and maintain their own accounting and disbursements. McClure said he was making the motion due to reported accounting issues and concerns within the county administration. The vote of the committee was unanimous.
In a special called meeting Friday, Williamston Town Council voted 3-2 to hire local applicant Phyllis Lollis for the position of town administrator.
Lollis was one of three final applicants who were being considered for the position.
Lollis, who has extensive banking experience, was chosen over two candidates with considerable town administration and other governmental experience.
Applicant Carey Elliott recently retired from the city of Fountain Inn with 20 years experience as city administrator. He also has corporate business experience and a bachelor of arts degree from Erskine College.
Applicant David Hanks, from Asheville, has experience as manager of the water resources department for the Regional Water Authority in Asheville and as solid waste manager for the city of Asheville. He also has experience as a public works manager and business experience as a distribution manager for Revco.
He has a masters degree in Public Administration from Troy State University and other Municipal Administration education.
Councilman Carthel Crout, who voted along with Councilmen Marion Middleton, Jr. and David Harvell, in favor of Lollis, said he felt she was the best choice for what the town needs now.
Crout said he felt the town was in need of management skills that have been neglected for 7 years.
In my opinion, we have not had any management of town personnel and policies, Crout said. Ms. Lollis can bring to the town these leadership skills that have been neglected.
Crout said the applications received were narrowed down to five very good applicants, two of which dropped out. One was over qualified and would be good five years from now, he said.
I felt she would fit the bill. We needed someone to bring our town operations together.
Councilman Harvell also said he felt Lollis was the best choice for the town at this time.
Mayor Phillip Clardy and the towns labor attorney will meet with Lollis this week to work out details of the hiring contract.
Though Clardy and Councilman Otis Scott were hoping for a different outcome in the vote to hire a town administrator, Clardy said he respected the 3-2 vote of council and would work with Lollis.
By Stan Welch
A news article in The Journal last week on rising utility costs for residents of the Forest Hills subdivision included the information that Jacabb Utility, LLC is a sister company to Goldie & Associates, the towns wastewater consultants.
In that article, which reported on recent and future increases in the sewer rates paid by the residents, Mayor Clardy was quoted as saying that he had no knowledge of that unusual business situation.
Documents provided by Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. to The Journal clearly contradict the Mayors claims that he and Council were unaware of the arrangement.
Among the documents provided, there is a letter dated February 28, 2007 in which Goldie & Associates engineer Paul Lewis refers to Jacabb Utilities as our sister company. That letter confirms the acquisition of the Forest Hills treatment facility within the last year. The letter also asked the town to consider accepting 32,000 gpd in capacity for treatment in the Williamston wastewater treatment plant (WWTP.) As related in last weeks article, the town had previously refused to accept the subdivisions wastewater because the proposition would have involved the actual takeover and maintenance of the outdated system. The request was approved by the Town Council on April 2, 2007.
Another letter, dated March 21, 2007, was written to Anderson County sewer consultant Dewey Pearson, asking that 32,000 gallons per day (gpd) of the countys 300,000 gpd reserve in the Williamston wastewater treatment plant be made available to Jacabb Utilities for use in serving the Forest Hills area.
That letter was also sent to Mayor Clardy. In that letter, Steve Goldie clearly identifies himself as the managing owner of Jacabb Utilities. Councilman Middleton claims that the Council members did not receive copies of that letter, despite the letter being addressed to the attention of the individual Council members.
In a letter to Pearson from Mayor Clardy, dated April 20,2007, the Towns acceptance of the 32,000 gpd was acknowledged by the Mayor. The letter details the arrangement and the means of reporting on the rate of flow. That letter was copied to both Steve Goldie, of Jacabb utilities and Sonya Harrison, of Goldie & Associates.
Mayor Clardy, when asked to clarify his earlier claims of ignorance of the situation surrounding the two companies, repeated that he had been unaware of that circumstance. There may have been correspondence that was sent to be put to file, but Sonya Harrison was the Goldie representative to the Town. She and I had personal communications, and she would sometimes send a letter confirming such details, but she never told me personally that this situation existed. This may be an oversight on my account, by not reading every word of the correspondence, but I would swear under oath that I did not know of this arrangement until I learned of it last week, he told The Journal.
Councilman Middleton said that he hoped that the hiring of a town administrator would help resolve these issues. An administrator should be able to help expedite and manage things like this.
When the first Spring Water Festival was organized in 1981, Southern Crescent was invited to be the main entertainment for Williamstons new festival.
At the time, the group was a contemporary country band playing the club circuit and the few local festivals that were in the upstate.
They were a hit at the Spring Water Festival and were invited back to headline the music for the event for the next six years.
During the 80s,the band traveled hroughout the country performing both as headliners and as the opening act for some of the biggest national acts at the time including Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Daniels Band, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Tams and many others.
As their reputation grew, the band traveled full time for five of those years and many people still remember the band playing anywhere and everywhere in the upstate during that time.
Southern Crescent evolved into a variety band in the mid 80s and released two albums,Train Time in 1985 and Peaches in 1987.
Their single release of Peaches was recommended in the October 87 edition of Billboard magazine.
Manager and drummer Jim Ball recalls the group was being booked out of Nashville and was once sent as far away as Fargo, North Dakota for a show.
Never again did I go further than that, he said.
Eventually the group tired of being on the road and in late 1988, took a break.
During that time members continued to play together for weddings, private parties and other special events but not travelling on the road and not overnight, Ball said.
With numerous requests for the band to perform, Southern Crescent began booking select public events in 2007, performing their high energy show for the general public.
Ball said when they began playing some of the upstate festivals, the Spring Water Festival was one event they hoped to again perform at.
We really had a big following from the Williamston area, Ball said of the early years. The people at the Spring Water Festival always welcomed us and treated us like stars.
When they played at the Spring Water Festival in the early years, they headlined the entertainment at 2 p.m. Following that tradition, Southern Crescent will perform at the 2008 Spring Water Festival at 2 p.m. on the Amphitheater stage.
Ball said he is looking forward to the return of Southern Crescent to the Spring Water Festival.
Band members include Jim Ball - drums, vocals; Nick Nichols - keyboards, vocals; Marvin King - lead guitar, vocals; Tommy Phillips - lead and rhythm guitar, vocals and Steve Wagner - bass guitar, vocals.
Ball and guitarist Marvin King. will playwith the Blues Revival group at 4 p.m. The group includes Kings 13-year-old son Marcus, who shows experience beyond his years when he plays. Marcus attends Powdersville Middle School.
Other entertainment scheduled for the Amphitheater stage includes singer/songwriter and story teller Danielle Howle, a beach blast with the Royal Scotsmen Band, bluegrrass with NewFire, contemporary Christian with Elias, Christian rock/rap with Hands of War, Miss Williamston Holly Whatley and former Miss Palmetto Hannah Rogers.
Anderson School District One ranks fourth in the state on the American College Testing Program (ACT) test, a standardized test with a 36-point scale, designed for students who plan to attend four-year colleges. Results of this test are used by colleges and universities to make decisions about the admission of individual students to their programs and to assess students academic potential for success in college.
The average District One score for the 2008 year on the ACT was a composite 21.7, or 0.6 above the national average and 1.8 points above the state average.
We understand and share the high expectations of parents in our communities to see that their children can attend major colleges and universities, said Dr. Wayne Fowler, Superintendent of Anderson School District One. The five year trend for Anderson One students indicates steady improvement with this past year as the high point.
The ACT measures students abilities in the key course areas of English, Math, Reading, and Science and arrives at the composite average total for all areas combined. The district scores ranked Anderson One students as fourth in the state in English, fourth in Math, eighth in Reading, fifth in Science, placing the students fourth in the composite average. Students at both Anderson One high schools, Palmetto and Wren, demonstrated impressive gains in every area tested over last years scores.
ACT and SAT scores are not designed to measure the quality of a school or school district. However, we know our communities expect continuous improvement. Anderson School District One has historically encouraged all students to aspire to a two or four year college causing an increasing number of students to take either the ACT, SAT, or both, Fowler stated.
Our five year trends not only show us that we have a greater number of students taking the ACT but that the level of achievement has improved with the increase. It is unusual to see this occur in testing. stated John Pruitt, Director of Secondary Education for Anderson One. However, we have a system-wide focus on rigorous academic requirements and constant encouragement for students to strive to participate in the most rigorous courses possible. In addition, the district has provided extensive ACT/SAT preparation courses and school-based initiatives for students and information sessions for parents. As our scores indicate our students continue to improve on this particular test, I feel certain the number of students opting to take the ACT should continue to grow. Pruitt continued.
Since many scholarships require scores on either the ACT or SAT in order to qualify for consideration, some students take the tests before they are truly academically prepared. Our schools are counseling students more carefully each year to make the right decisions in course selection. We will continue to have high expectations and will work with the principals and school staff members to identify short and long term strategies for ACT and SAT improvement, Pruitt concluded.
South Carolinas 2008 high school graduates showed improved performance on the ACT college entrance exam for a fifth straight year and achieved the highest average scores ever recorded for the state, the testing company recently reported.
The 2008 average composite score for Palmetto State seniors was 19.9 on the ACTs 36-point scale, up from 19.6 last year and continuing the improvement trend from 2004. The national average was 21.1, one-tenth of a point below last year. (ACT considers a change of three-tenths of a point to be statistically significant, one-tenth of an ACT point is comparable to four points on the SAT.
State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said South Carolinas high school seniors not only continue to show steady progress, but also are improving their scores at a faster rate.
The national composite score has fluctuated over the past five years compared to our steady increases, Rex said. Our score is up six-tenths of a point over five years, and we achieved half of that gain this year. I said before that we needed to improve at a faster rate to be competitive. Thats exactly what weve done.
Rex said South Carolinas overall gain in scores since 2004 is triple the national two-tenths of a point increase during the same time.
The State Department of Education has unsuccessfully sought funding to expand ACT participation for high school students. Five states, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Wyoming, are paying ACT costs for all 11th graders as a way to boost college readiness.
Although the SAT is still South Carolinas most popular college-entrance exam, the ACTs student share has been growing. The number of ACT test-takers in the Palmetto State dipped by 200 students last year, but still has increased nearly 25 percent since 2004. Forty-four percent of the states 2008 high school graduates - 16,521 students - took the test at some point in their high school careers. Nationwide ACT results are based on more than 1.4 million participants.
ACT includes four tests: English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning. Scores are reported in each of those as well as the overall composite.
South Carolina seniors improved on all four ACT subtests. Math showed the biggest increase, from 2007s average of 19.8 to 20.1 in 2008. The math gain of 1.1 points over the past five years leads the states parade of subtest improvements. Reading is up six-tenths of a point, while English and science are up one-half point in five years.
Average ACT composite scores for South Carolinas white students increased two-tenths of a point to 21.7 in the 2008 report; African-American students average scores went up one-tenth to 16.4.
All South Carolina colleges and universities accept either ACT or SAT scores for admission. The top five South Carolina universities receiving scores from ACT test-takers were the University of South Carolina (Columbia), Clemson, College of Charleston, Winthrop and Coastal Carolina.
Anderson School District One recently announced their policy for free and reduced price meals for children served in schools under the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast program. Local school officials have adopted the following household size and income criteria for determining eligibility:
Income guidelines for free meals are as follows: Number in household, annual income, monthly income, weekly income:
For each additional family member add $4,680 annually, $390 monthly or $90 weekly.
Income guidelines for reduced price meals are as follows: household size, annual income, monthly income, weekly income:
6$52,540 $4,379 $1,011
7$59,200 $4,934 $1,139
8$65,860 $5,489 $1,267
For each additional family member, add $6,660 annually, $555 monthly or $129 weekly.
Children from families whose income is at or below the levels shown may be eligible for free or reduced price meals.
For school officials to determine eligibility, the household must provide a food stamp or TANF case number certifying the household is currently eligible for either of the assistance programs and an adult household signature or names of all household members, the name and social security number of the adult household member signing the application form, monthly income by source for each household member and a signature of an adult household member certifying the information provided is correct.
Foster children may also be eligible for these benefits regardless of household income. If a household has foster children living with them and wish to apply for such meals for them, they may do so by completing a separate application form.
Under the provisions of the policy Deborah Joye will review applications and determine elgibility. Parents wishing to make a formal appeal may make a request either orally or in writing to Anderson District One Superintendent, Dr. Wayne Fowler, P. O. Box 99, Williamston, S. C. 29697, for a hearing to appeal the decision. The hearing procedures are outlined in the policy.
If a household member becomes unemployed or if household size changes, the household should contact the school to file a new application. Such changes may make the children of the household eligible for free or reduced price meals if the income falls at or below levels.
A complete copy of the policy is on file in the District One Superintendent office where any interested party may review it.
By Stan Welch
It took some fancy footwork and a few thousand dollars in budget cuts, but West Pelzer Town Council gave second and final reading approval to the 2008-2009 budget Monday night. It was the earliest passage of a budget by the town in several years.
Mayor Peggy Paxton was kept on her toes all evening, as she had to first choreograph the simple approval of the last meetings minutes. She waited several minutes for a second to her motion to approve the minutes.
Finally, Councilman Jimmy Jeanes said he had something to say about the vote to buy a police car that was reflected in those minutes. Paxton explained that the minutes simply reflected that such a vote had been taken, and if he wanted to revisit his vote, that would be included in the minutes of the current meeting, which would be presented for approval at the next meeting.
She finally obtained a second to her motion and approval of the minutes. She then mistakenly jumped to the third item on the agenda, the letting of the trash pickup contract for bids. She skipped the discussion of the budget, which was slated second on the agenda.
Council voted to put the trash pickup service out for bids. The service to be provided is the same level of service currently being provided. The vote was 3-0-1 with Mayor Paxton abstaining. Councilman Mike Moran was absent Monday night.
Paxton continued to inadvertently delay the budget discussion, moving instead to a request by Councilman Jeanes for ten minutes to address several issues. He explained that when the vote was taken at the last meeting to purchase the new police car, he did not realize that he was voting to buy it then.
I thought we were voting to buy it through the budget, said Jeanes. I raised my hand to ask a question, not to vote on buying a new police car, said Jeanes. He asked that the minutes be amended to reflect that he had not voted to purchase the new police car.
Mayor Paxton responded that the vote to buy the police car was removed from any budget discussion by several minutes.
Go back and listen to your recording of the meeting, and youll see that we had conducted a couple of items of business between the budget discussion and the car vote, including swearing in Judge Scott. So were not changing those minutes, because they reflect what actually happened. But these minutes of this meeting will contain your comments about this tonight.
Paxton also introduced an ordinance to establish the towns planning commission, which has actually been in existence for several years. I was reviewing some of the ordinances and discovered that we have no ordinance formally establishing a planning commission. After receiving a first reading approval of the ordinance, she raised two issues about the existing commission.
They last met in January, but we have received no minutes of that meeting. I also sent the commission a letter last fall, asking them to update our comprehensive land use plan, which state law requires us to do every ten years. According to the minutes of that meeting, as well as an article in the newspaper, the commission said they were asked to update our ordinances. That is not true. It is not what my letter requested, and it is not within their authority anyway. But they have refused to amend their minutes to reflect that.
She asked Councilman MarshallKing, who serves as the liaison between the Council and the commission to bring those issues to the commissions attention. We need answers to these questions, she said.
Mayor Paxton finally recognized her divergence from the agenda and opened discussion of the budget. She sought to allocate $5000 of the $20,000 overage in the general fund to a line item for the beautification of the town. Her motion died from a lack of a second.
Councilman Jeanes suggested another budget workshop to fine tune the budget, but Paxton, who has seen budgets delayed until the following calendar year, would not be put off. Lets discuss these things now, Jimmy. If you have problems with the budget, you should know what they are.
Jeanes stated that he wouldnt give any raises this year because of the tight economy. He also asked that cuts be made in the budget for fuel for the police cars, limit the court reporter to twenty hours a week, cut fuel costs for the water and sewer department, cut the travel and training budget, and let employees pay for their own uniforms if they want them. (The last item may not be up to the Council, since state and federal law requires that uniforms be provided.)
Paxton asked if making those cuts would result in approval of the budget immediately. Jeanes said if they (Council) could get it in writing, it would. Paxton quickly instructed town clerk Paula Payton to go into the towns new computer system and produce new budgets with the changes made. Those changes totaled more than $10,000.
As Payton was working on the changes, two members of the beautification committee, Rey McClain and Blake Sanders showed the Council a model of a banner to mark the gateway to the town. The four banners would cost almost $1200 but McClain and his wife offered to purchase one as a gift to the town. The remaining cost would be approximately $875.
Councilman Jeanes, who owns a sign company, raised several issues, but eventually suggested funding a line item for the committee for the amount of $2000. Paxton seconded that motion and it was approved.
Councilman King offered to buy a decal for the towns new work truck and donate it himself. After some discussion, it was decided to wait while an effort is made to produce suitable artwork that could be used on town vehicles as well as on the banners and signs that will be put in place as part of the towns beautification program.
By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Planning Commission was busy Tuesday night, and a lot of their business came from Williamston and Powdersville.
The drama for the evening came when dozens of residents from the River Reserve and Ravenwood developments appeared to demand that the commission reconsider its previous approval of a 388 unit apartment complex right across Hwy. 153 and next to the two upscale developments along the Saluda River.
One after another they rose to cite traffic concerns, concerns about crime, the accelerated obsolescence of proposed schools in the area, and the loss of value of their property if apartments are built nearby. They hammered home the size of their investments, and they expressed their anger that the developer, Ryan Philips, who also developed River Reserve, had misinformed them of his plans for the 24 acre tract.
They also complained that the July 8 public hearing, which was held prior to the commissions vote to approve, was not advertised properly. Several speakers complained that no one in the Powdersville area takes or reads the Anderson Independent Mail, which is the newspaper of legal record for Anderson county. You should put this in the Greenville paper, said Lee Carroll. No one reads the Anderson paper.
Another common complaint was that the sign placed by the county announcing the meeting was not seen by most of them. I drive by that site several times a day, and I never saw a sign, said one. That complaint was echoed by several of the speakers.
District Six Councilman Ron Wilson, who represents the Powdersville area, also spoke, saying that while he certainly wasnt there in support of zoning, he did wish that the commission would reconsider their approval of the proposed project. There is no education in the second kick of the mule, said Wilson, who was harshly introduced to the attitude of his constituents to district wide zoning last year. But decisions like this should be made based on accurate information, and this developer has not provided that. He told this commission the night of the public hearing that the school district had been informed of the plans and had no problems with it. Now we learn from school district officials that they were completely unaware. I would hope that this commission would reconsider this decision and give the schools time to review and comment on it.
District Six Commissioner Wes Hulsey moved to reconsider, but his motion was supplanted by a motion to go into executive session to receive legal advice. Following a twenty minute closed door session, the commission returned to open session, where the motion to reconsider died from a lack of a second. Several members of the crowd continued to vent their anger as they left the chambers. This is probably $75 million in investments leaving this chamber, and you refuse to even reconsider this, shouted one person.
Commission Chairman Russell Vickery explained that in the absence of zoning in the area, or county, the commission is legally bound to follow the recommendations of staff. We cannot change or make law from here, said Vickery. Only county council can do that. We must follow the law and the policies as they exist.
Growth in the Powdersville area continued to be the focus of the meeting, as a project designated Powdersville Towne Center was also discussed and approved. The project, proposed by local developer Johnson Small, will include a total of 73,000 square feet of commercial retail space, as well as a residential component to be built on approximately 8.5 of acres of the almost 24 acre tract. The site is on the southwest corner of the intersection of Highways 153 and 81.
The residential component would be a gated community composed of condominiums or townhomes, and would be owned by the residents, not rented. Nine separate and free standing retail sites would comprise the shopping area, and Small, who also developed the Bloom grocery store and shopping center on Highway 81 in Anderson, hopes to bring in a grocery store as the project progresses.
We will progress as the current economy allows. But we hope to begin site preparation at some level by the first of the year. We are already talking with several retailers. We anticipate building out over two to three years, and we expect to see approximately 250 jobs created when all is said and done, said Small.
Art Merritt will be project manager for the development, which will follow Leadership Energy Environment Design, or LEED, standards for green development.
The commission also approved a combustible products landfill to be located at the Lee Steam Plant near Williamston. The landfill will be on the steam plant site and will receive only waste and byproducts, comprised mostly of ash produced by the burning of coal, from the steam plant.
The landfill will be lined with a leachate collection system and a stormwater runoff system as well. It will cover about 18 acres and will produce no traffic, since it is on the steam plant site. The commissions approval was contingent upon Duke energy, which operates the steam plant, obtaining all the required permits for constructing and operating the landfill, which is expected to have an operational life of ten to twenty years.
The commission also voted to approve a request by AnMed that several hundred acres of land which they own in the Three and Twenty voting precinct be exempted from that zoning and left at R-20 status. That vote came despite the fact that the results of the referendum on that zoning was not yet known. The polls on that referendum had closed just minutes before the commissions vote.
The vote on that referendum was 383 to 49 in favor of imposing zoning.
The Three and Twenty voting precinct will soon be zoned, following a referendum Tuesday to determine whether to implement zoning in the area. The outcome was 383 votes in favor and 49 votes against. The issue came up earlier this year as a result of a hotly contested construction and demolition landfill that was permitted by DHEC to locate at a site on Hamlin Road. Residents opposed to the landfill organized and took several steps to try and stop the facility. One of those steps was to circulate a petition seeking a referendum on whether to implement zoning or not. Anderson county does not have county wide zoning, and an effort in District Six to implement district wide zoning last year was soundly defeated. That left only the precinct by precinct method already in place. Tuesdays turnout was 24.4% of the 1789 registered voters in the precinct.
By Stan Welch
A recent exchange of correspondence between county employees, as well as between county administrator Joey Preston and District One Councilman Bob Waldrep, reflects both the level of concern and the level of interest in a complete review of the Countys finances.
In a letter to Preston dated July 28, Waldrep raised questions about reports he had received that hard drives from some county owned computers were being removed and stored. Waldrep concedes that computer updates are necessary and routine. I wanted you to be aware of the interest that I and others have in assuring the availability and integrity of our county records.
Waldrep has been a critic of Prestons administration and the manner in which Preston manages the flow of information concerning the countys finances. Since winning a runoff election against what many considered a challenger handpicked by Preston, Waldrep has been building alliances with primary winners who will be seated in January, barring some extraordinary occurrence.
At an August 5 Council meeting, the day after Prestons response, to discuss a full audit of the countys finances, Waldrep offered a list of conditions which he said he and some of those primary winners had compiled; conditions to be included in the structure of the proposed audit. Foremost among those conditions was the placing of Preston and county financial director Gina Humphreys on paid leave while the audit is conducted.
In his July 28 letter, Waldrep continued to express his wishes that the records needed to conduct a thorough audit be made available. The preservation of each and every hard drive is of paramount importance and this letter is to let you know that the disposal or loss of any of our county records including but not limited to hard drives could impair councils ability to perform an accurate record review.
Preston responded to Waldreps admonition by providing an interoffice memo between Gina Humphreys and Gail King, director of the management information services (MIS) department. That memo refers to Waldreps letter and concerns, and also concedes that her department had been involved in an upgrade of county computers for several weeks.
She describes the process thusly: MIS installs the new computer with all the files from the old computer, formats and removes the hard drive from those computers and sends the computers and hard drives to Global Investment Recovery for disposal.
The memo goes on to say that the project to upgrade the computers had been scheduled for more than a year. The memo also cites several matters concerning security of the files, including the fact that all county financial and tax records are stored on the AS400 mainframe computer.
The memo concludes by stating, Please advise if we need to make any changes to MIS retention of data backups and the disposal of old computers and their hard drives. I believe MIS procedures are over and above accepted practices in the IT industry for maintaining security of computer records.
Waldrep, in comments to The Journal, said, I would hope that these legitimate concerns about the integrity of our countys financials records would be taken seriously by the administrator. I would anticipate that when an elected official raises such concerns that those concerns would be accommodated by our administrator and his staff.
By Stan Welch
In the three years that I have covered Williamston town government, I have seen things done that left me speechless and bewildered. I have seen actions taken and accusations made that left me wondering what the purpose of this governments existence was. I have watched as petty bickering and political gamesmanship have led to squandered opportunities to help this town progress.
But last Friday, in a special called meeting, three members of this Council cast an incomprehensible vote to abandon this town to its own devices, to virtually ensure that its future will be spent in confusion and petty infighting.
Make no mistake, folks. The vote Friday to hire Phyllis Lollis as town administrator, while ignoring two candidates with much better credentials, will do more to hurt this town than anything since Mayor Clardys unparalleled mismanagement or former Mayor Middleton, Sr.s malfeasance in office.
Let me make myself clear. I know Ms. Lollis. She is a bright, talented and vivacious woman, and I have no doubt that she loves her town. But banking experience is simply not adequate for the job she is seeking, and which was apparently assigned to her before any such vote was taken last week.
Ms. Lollis is the wrong person for this job for several reasons, all of which are evident on her resume. According to her resume, she does not have a four year degree; she has no experience in public administration, and her training is in the banking industry.
Two far more qualified candidates were passed over, and one doesnt have to look far to see the reason. Carthel Crout, who is coincidentally running for mayor, was hopping mad last week when The Journal had the nerve to follow sound journalistic principles, not to mention state law, when they published the names of the three finalists for the job.
He and his allies on council were sorely upset, even after someone explained to them that state law does indeed allow for the publication of the names of applicants, once the list is pared down to three.
Why was he so mad?
In my opinion, it was because his scheme to place an ally in that position, instead of the most qualified applicant, had been prematurely exposed. Mr. Crout sees as an asset what I see as his handpicked applicants greatest liability. She is politically involved, one might even say entangled, in the partisan back-biting and divisiveness that defines local politics in Williamston.
That is not through any particular actions of her own; anyone in Williamston would, or should, be disqualified for the very same reason.
Williamston is a town divided. Carthel Crout, David Harvell, and Marion Middleton Jr. had a chance to cast a vote that would have offered at least some hope of objective, professional management being applied to the towns business. They blew it.
They had a chance to hire a professional who could not only do the job, but could help define that job for a Council that clearly cannot. They could have hired someone with no local or personal ties to the situation, who could at least theoretically stand above the political fray and make the right decisions based on sound management principles instead of on personal and political agendas.
Again, they blew it.
Seems to me it would be reasonable to ask these three gentlemen to explain their rationale in making this choice. One of the three Councilmen loves to go around espousing open government, usually when he thinks the mayor may be trying to hide something. Now would be a good time to reinforce that belief by stepping forward and explaining why an applicant with an impressive knowledge of wastewater issues, the greatest challenge facing the town, was passed over for someone whose expertise is in the area of bank loans.
Maybe they could also explain what results or benefits the town has received from their wastewater consultants since April, while they have spent over $180,000 with that firm.
These Councilmen either dont know what a town administrator is, or what they really want is an office manager who will stay out of the way while they usurp authority over the towns day to day operations.
I have covered small town politics and government for twenty five years. I have always said that small town doesnt have to mean small time. Seems to me, I need to rethink that idea.
The Piedmont Emergency Relief Center (PERC) is hosting a Drive for School Supplies to benefit children in the surrounding Piedmont area. PERC representatives will be at the Wal-Mart in Easley from 10am to 4 pm on Saturday August 16 and donation boxes will also be placed through August 15th in Powdersville at Ingles, CVS and Total Fitness, in Pelzer at Bargain Food Store, in Piedmont at Freds Discount, IDEAS Graphics and More. AGFA in Greenville and Ingles in Moonville will also hold donation boxes.
The Drive for School Supplies will accept any of the following donations: crayons, markers, 3-ring binders,colored pencils, folders, spiral notebooks, composition notebooks, filler paper, glue, pencils, pens, colored pencils, erasers, dry-erase markers, scissors, dividers, calculators (scientific, TI-83, TI-84, TI-89), flash drives, hand sanitizer, hand soap, tissues/Kleenex, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, highlighters, index cards, flash cards, cardstock, clipboards, dictionaries, pencil boxes, protractors, rulers, Play Doh, modeling clay, sheet protectors, pencil bags, and pencil sharpeners.
Families are eligible to receive donations if they can demonstrate a government determined need such as food stamps, free/reduced lunch, disability or unemployment.Families who live within the 29673, 29611, 29669, 29697- zip code areas are eligible to receive donations as well as anyone referred by the Piedmont Fire Department, church, or business within the 29673 zip code.
PERC is open Monday 10am-2pm, Tuesday and Thursday 4pm-7pm, Friday 10am-2pm, and Saturday 9am to Noon. For more information on PERC or the Drive for School Supplies please call 864-845-5535 during business hours or visit www.piedmontperc.org.