News Archive

(3405) Week of Aug. 24, 2005

Week of Aug 24, 2005

Spring Water Festival promises fun
Ross named Fork Shoals principal
Greivance hearing raises questions
Thieves strike homes businesses
Boy Scout Hut in need of repairs
West Pelzer to decide on new councilman
Town officials discuss alternative sewer plan

 

Spring Water Festival promises fun

Gospel and Bluegrass music will highlight the 24th annual Spring Water Festival this Saturday, August 27 in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park.

Doug McSwain, president of the South Carolina Traditional Bluegrass Music Association, will be appearing at the Spring Water Festival to welcome the fans and stage perfomers to the bluegrass stage at the historic train depot, according to bluegrass stage organizer Jack Ellenburg.

Festival visitors are invited to stop by the depot to hear old and new bluegrass music played by a variety of local performers including Ellenburg’s own Southern Grass Review Band.

The 2005 Spring Water Festival T-shirt design depicts the Southern Grass Review Band, and recognizes bluegrass for the first time in the 24 years that the festival has been in existence.

Musicians are invited to bring an instrument and a lawn chair and jam outside the depot or come by to listen.

The gospel stage is being organized by Catlin Tierce, who will also perform. Tierce has several CD releases and has won awards and recognition for his work. Other performers appearing throughout the day will include John Helmuth, Alias Praise, Vessels of Clay, Alex Bain, The Centurions, Day Star, the Epps Family, Revelation, Living Truth, Vessels of Praise, Anointed Witness, Heart Sound, Crystal River, and Kings Way.

Sound for the amphitheater and gospel stage is being provided by Sound Systems and More, of Greenwood.

The amphitheater will feature the musical performances by the Palmetto High School Band, Trilogy and Ancient Grease and exhibition by Dance Warehouse, Southern Junction Cloggers, Christian Kick Karate, Elite Gymnastics and Dancer’s Edge.

The Williamston Police Department and EMS will be located next to the restrooms at the park entrance for persons needing assistance.

Additional crafters are still being added to the lineup of more than 45 crafters.

The latest additions include Cathy White of Greer, with bamboo arrangements; Kathy Bick of Lincolnton N. C. with handmade hammocks and hammock chairs; Shannon English of Springfield Ga., with embroidered items such as blankets and purses; Robin Johnson of Belton with handmade Teddy bears and Joseph Addshakin of Grayson Ga., with handmade baskets will be among more than 45 crafters with items on display.

Also Michael Windam of Anderson, with handmade jewelry from precious metal clay specialty earrings with crystals and gemstones; Lee Dillingham of Simpsonville who will offer full face transformations and theatrical face painting; Rick Dunlap of Greenville with sand art; and Brenda Allen of High Shoals, N. C. with yard crows, sewed kitchen items, and Kool-Aid bags.

Several local authors will have books available including the Beech Spring Tabernacle Women’s Ministry Cookbook, which includes 350 recipes from church members.

Recipes include Orange Breamsicle Cake, Hummingbird Cake, Homemade Salsa, Mexican Cornbread and much more.

Local Author Lesia Glick will offer signed copies of her self esteem bible study for women, Free to be a Princess, available at the festival. The book focuses on a life changing study for women of all ages and celebrates a self esteem recovery that Lesia herself went through.

Jodi Bowman Scully, of Belton, will offer her book, Tried by Fire, in which she candidly narrates her journey through the heart-wrenching illness of her teenaged daughter.

Skateboard demonstrations will be held at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the tennis court area of the park. Team members of Imperial Skate shop of Anderson will show their skills for approximately 30 to 45 minutes per session.

New souvenir ball caps and tote bags with wording Williamston, SC and the state emblem, a Palmetto Tree and Crescent moon, will be available at the the festival.

The Greater Williamston Business Association will have tickets available at the Spring Water Festival for a prize drawing give-away allowing a 1 in 4000 opportunity to win a 2006 Ford Mustang or F-150 pickup truck.

Only 4000 tickets will be sold locally for the promotion. The vehicles will be on display at the festival, officials said. The drawing for the vehicle will be held following the Williamston Christmas Parade in December.

The Williamston Fire Department is also sponsoring a chance to win a new ride, an ATV four wheeler. $1 tickets are available from firefighters or at ERS Video & Appliance, where the ATV, supplied by Cityscooterz, can be seen prior to the festival. Tickets will also be sold at the festival.

The United Men of New Prospect Baptist Church and the Williamston Church of God will be located on the left side of the food vendor row entering the park.

A variety of businesses and other organizations are also expected to have displays at the festival.

Also on tap are food, an antique auto show, children’s rides, a new jump houses and pony rides. The popular National Guard rock climbing wall will also return.

The festival begins at 10 a.m and runs through 6 p.m. this Saturday.

For more information, see the special section this week in The Journal.

Ross named Fork Shoals principal

Christopher Ross has been named principal at Fork Shoals 

Elementary School. Ross Replaces David Johnstone, who was named Principal of the Greenville County Gifted Center. Ross previously served as Assistant Principal at Buena Vista Elementary. Johnstone replaces Interim Principal Gloria Richards.

For the 2005-2006 school year, the Greenville County School District has hired  850 new employees, of which 678 are teachers.

Beginning this year, teachers in elementary and middle schools will utilize an on-line student formative assessment, MAP (Measuring Academic Progress) that will provide feedback on how each student is progressing. Teachers will know what subject areas and concepts need more emphasis for their class and for individual students.

The new school year has brought several changes for Greenville County Schools including the construction of  12 new schools and centers, 12 new principals, five new administrators, and approximately 850 new teachers and other employees.

There will be several new high school and Career Center course offerings this year. The following new courses, also known as Innovative Courses, have been approved for high schools: Beginning Band, Instrumental Chamber Ensemble (Four Levels), JROTC Raider Challenge (Four Levels), Technical Theatre, Musicianship, Music Engineering, Digital Media For the Artist.

New Schools and Centers, include Blue Ridge High, Buena Vista Elementary, Donaldson Career Center, Enoree Career Center, Grove Elementary, Hillcrest High, Pelham Road Elementary, Sevier Middle, Tanglewood Middle, Washington Center, West Greenville School, Woodmont High. 

The District has 317 school buses which run about 525 routes per day.  School buses travel approximately five million miles each year.  There are 312 bus drivers and 18 substitute drivers and bus transportation is provided to 26,000 students each year.

Other special activities for Greenville County Schools are planned. 

Thursday and Friday, September 1-2, will be the first day for 4K, which will operate on a staggered schedule, officla said..

Monday, September 5 is Labor Day Holiday with all schools and offices closed.  All students will return Tuesday, September 6 for a full day of classes.

Ellen Woodside Elementary will hold an open house on Monday, September 12 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Sue Cleveland Elementary School dedication will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 12. The school is located at 375 Woodmont School Road Ext. Piedmont. Phone 355-4200 for more information.

Saturday, September 17  will be recognized as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, commemorating the September 17, 1787, signing of the Constitution.

The Roper Mountain Science Center is owned and operated by Greenville County Schools and offers an educational resource for teachers, students, and families. Roper Mountain Science Center is located at 402 Roper Mountain Road, Greenville. Check out the Center’s website at www.ropermountain.org for directions to the Center and information about special events and other programs. For further information, please call the Center at (864) 355-8900.

Interested persons can watch The Schools Channel on Charter Cable 14 and 99.

Have a happy and safe school year.

Grievance hearing raises questions

By Stan Welch

Just less than five months after being summarily fired by the Town of Williamston, Ronnie Rowe finally got his grievance hearing Monday night. By the time it was over, he had asked that either he be reinstated, or that Mayor Phillip Clardy resign.

Rowe, a worker with the town’s water department was fired on March 24, ostensibly for falsifying town documents. Since then, he has raised charges of discrimination, as well as arguing that he falsified no town documents.

The trouble began more than a decade ago, when Rowe and his ex-wife lived hundreds of miles from Williamston. Rowe’s ex-wife was arrested on drug charges, and so was he. Years later Rowe, now divorced, moved to Williamston, and eventually applied for a job with the town.

According to Rowe, and his current wife Angela Whitmore, water department supervisor Tim Hood came to Rowe and asked him if there was anything on his record that Hood should know about. Rowe and Hood agree that Rowe told him about his police record and Hood said it wasn’t a problem. Hood later stated under oath that he thought the drug charge was one of simple possession, and therefore less troublesome.

The problem arose more than two years later when Rowe applied to the state Labor, Licensing and Regulations Board (LLR) for a water distribution technician’s license.

According to sworn testimony given at the grievance hearing, the Town’s application for employment asked nothing about a criminal record, while the LLR application did. Rowe says he answered the application both yes and no, then when the application was returned, he left both answers unmarked. This lead to the LLR Department telling Rowe he needed to obtain a SLED report to clarify his status.

During the hearing, Rowe conceded that he did not seek such a report in a timely manner, but did ask Police Chief Baker to conduct such a search a week before he was fired. Baker was also sworn at the hearing, and testified that he was asked to conduct such a search, but added, “Those searches are expensive and take up a lot of time, so I showed him the web site where he could do it.”

The case seems to center around two key issues. First is whether Rowe falsified town documents. He says the LLR application is not a town document because the license, if granted, is issued to the individual and not to the employer. “I could take that license anywhere in South Carolina and work under it, just like a CDL driver’s license. That application wasn’t a town document, so it couldn’t be a falsified town document,” said Rowe.

Mayor Phillip Clardy, who presented the Town’s case, disagreed, saying, “That application would have become a town document. We would have paid for the license if it had been granted. The issue here is one of trust.” Clardy pushed the trust issue to the point of invoking homeland security as one of the responsibilities the town has for protecting its citizens.

The Town’s position was that Rowe erred in delaying the need for a SLED report for so long after learning that he would have to obtain one as part of the licensing process. Clardy also stressed several times that the town consistently tries to help its employees, as it had Rowe. He referred to the license as an example of the town trying to open a door for Mr. Rowe. He elicited testimony from several witnesses as to the Town’s excellent treatment of its employees.

Clardy also pointed out, as he had in previous correspondence to Rowe, that the Town is an at will employer, meaning that it can hire or fire employees for any reason, or for no reason at all. “But we value our employees, and the investment that they represent in terms of training and experience,” Clardy stated.

Rowe agreed that the town had gone beyond the call of duty in at least one case, but added a twist of his own to the scenario. With Clardy on the stand, Rowe referred to a medical procedure which became necessary after he had been with the Town for just a few months. The triple bypass surgery kept Rowe out of work for a month. At the time, according to his testimony, he had accumulated only 6 days sick leave. Yet, according to Rowe, and confirmed by Clardy, he received a full paycheck every week until he returned to work.

“Now, Mayor, I really do appreciate that, and I asked Tim Hood what was going on when he kept bringing me those checks. He said you told him to take care of it. I do thank you, but those time cards were falsified, and the person who did it is still with the town. But I’m not.”

Mayor Clardy objected to the accusation, saying it was aimed at him personally. He challenged Rowe to produce such falsified time cards, apparently forgetting that Rowe had already challenged him to do the same.

As early as April 5, Rowe began asking for copies of his job performance reviews and his time cards. On April 26, he specifically requested the time cards again. As of Monday night’s hearing he had not received them, although the week before the hearing he did receive some of his work records and other documents.

While the Town’s grievance procedures gives the Committee the authority to call for any records it deems pertinent, the grievant is not specifically granted that access. However, under the Freedom of Information Act, an  employee can get any or all of his employment records, and should receive such records in a timely manner; certainly less than five months.

Rowe also tried to establish a claim of discrimination by saying that he knew of Town employees who had taken and failed drug tests, yet remain employed by the Town.

He questioned Hood pointedly on the issue, but Hood said that it had nothing to do with the case, and was a personnel issue.

Larry Strom, chairman of the grievance committee, repeatedly upheld the Mayor’s objections to Rowe’s efforts to raise the issue of drug tests, as well as his claims that some of his witnesses had refused to testify for fear of losing their jobs.

Mayor Clardy called Rowe to the stand and asked him why he was unaware of a felony on his record, pointing out that judges are usually pretty picky about making sure that defendants understand the charges against them, and the consequences of any verdicts rendered. Clardy also told Rowe that it was his responsibility to obtain a SLED report once he knew that LLR wanted one.

Rowe’s wife Angela Whitmore asked Rowe several questions after Clardy had examined him.

She elicited the information that Rowe had been issued a voter registration, a fact that he said lead him to believe he did not have a felony.

“I always heard if you were a felon, you couldn’t vote. But I was voting. I honestly didn’t know what the situation was. It had never come up before.”

Rowe, in his closing statement, asked the committee to restore his job, or for Mayor Clardy to resign; another apparent reference to the alleged falsification of the time cards.

Findings of the Town’s Grievance Committee will be presented to the Town at a future date, chairman Strom said.

The Rowe hearing wasn’t the only labor issue to occupy Mayor Clardy’s time in recent days. Former Police Chief Richard Turner is currently suing the Town for wrongful termination, and is seeking $3 million.

Last week, Turner was deposed in the case. Speaking before the hearing, Clardy reported that “Our attorney hosted this deposition. I’m sure they’ll schedule one for me next.”

Thieves strike homes businesses

Anderson County deputies investigated several incidents throughout the area recently including burglary, lynching and vehicle thefts. Among incidents investigated were:

EASLEY

August 11 – J.D. Shelton responded to 230 Colonial Drive in Easley, where Albert Lucas III reported being assaulted by Pauline Miller, 1728 Elrod St. Piedmont. Lucas reported that he had repossessed a car from Miller on August 10, and that she tried to run over him. He said he did get in front of her as she tried to drive away.

August 11 – J.L. Bergholm responded to 3000 Pelzer Hwy. to a complaint of burglary. The front glass of the store was broken and more than $1000 worth of cigarettes were stolen. The suspect, identified from a security camera, was a white male between 30-40 years old. He wore a hooded sweat shirt with the hood pulled up.

August 12 – R.D. Gray received a complaint of grand larceny from James Cryer, who works for F&R Asphalt. The complaint was in reference to the theft of a 2004 Rosco street sweeper, valued at $34,000, which  was stolen from a work site at the intersection of Highways 8 and 81.

August 13 – T.B. Dugan stopped Stephanie Wansley, of 112 Wigeon Way in Easley. She was found to be driving under suspension and was arrested and transported to ACDC.

PELZER

August 10 – D.B. Anderson responded to a complaint of burglary at 25 Hindman Street in West Pelzer. Brenda Strader stated that someone had broken into her home and stolen several items including a bicycle, several DVDs and two Dale Earnhardt jackets.

August 11 – R.S. Turner received a complaint of a stolen truck from Kathy Nelms, of 146 Pine Circle. The vehicle, which belonged to her son, was a 1989 Toyota Extra cab truck, black with sport writing down the side and minor damage to the front end.

August 12 – T.A. Caron responded to Stone Drive, where he met Jerry Riddle who reported that he had recovered several items stolen from his house previously.

The items were recovered after James David Chapman, 810 Welcome Road, was caught breaking into a residence on Stone Drive. Someone later found a cloth bag with several items of jewelry in it, and brought it to Riddle. Several items were his; others were not. They were eventually identified by another victim whom Detective Wooten said was also a suspected victim of Chapman’s.

PIEDMONT

August 10 – W.T. Cunningham was dispatched to Anderson Street where he found Jack Ballew of 12 Piedmont Avenue to be extremely intoxicated and wandering out into traffic. Ballew was arrested for disorderly conduct and transported to ACDC

August12 – T.B. Dugan investigated a compliant of lynching and assault and battery. Randy Manley, Sr. reported that he and his son Randy Jr’s girlfriend had gone to a location on McNeeely Road to pick Randy Jr. up because he had been drinking and taking Xanex. Upon arriving, he began trying to get his son in the car. Jimmy Hollingsworth was at the scene and Jr. asked him where his money was. Hollingsworth allegedly punched Manley and his father when the father tried to break it up. Another person, Jason Davis, got involved. A general melee followed, and Manley said he heard someone say “Get the gun”. The Manleys all left quickly. According to the report, they all showed signs of having been assaulted.

August 13 – P.D. Marter responded to a complaint of auto theft at 132 Powder Keg Road. David Puelo reported that his 1999 Plymouth Van was stolen from that residence. The vehicle was dark green with some damage to the right side.

WILLIAMSTON

August 12 – M.D. Creamer received a report from Martin Cox, of Cox Septic Tank, 229 Cherokee Road. Cox said someone had entered three trucks parked at the business location. Nothing appeared to be taken.

Boy Scout Hut in need of repairs

It has served as a place for generations of local residents to meet Santa face to face, a place for the local boy scouts to meet and is a local landmark. Now it is in need of repair and members of the Williamston Area Historic Commission have taken on restoration of the Boy Scout Hut in the Mineral Spring Park as a project.

 When preparing to set up in the Historic Scout Hut for the SpringWater Festival, Dianne Lollis and other members of the Williamston Area Historic Commission discovered the hut in a dire state of repair as well as the home for termites and other insects.

Lollis immediately went to work trying to see what could be done to save the Hut. She talked with a local contractor, Gary Cothran, who said the floor needs replacing. The building is a safety hazard. He offered to tear up the floor if she could get volunteers to help. She said Lance Gray is checking to see if flooring can be obtained from the old Pelzer mills, and Joe Sullens is checking on logs for the hut.

“I feel business people and others in the town will be willing to donate materials, money and time to restore the Hut,” Lollis said. Donnie Bunton has offered to donate the exterminating work, she said. And Larry’s Used Cars has already agreed to make a donation to the project.

“I also have David Johnson to volunteer any electrical work needed,” she added.

The log cabin was built for the Boy Scouts with funds raised by the Williamston Lions Club. The club was organized in February, 1940 and this was one of the first projects of the local Lions. The cabin was dedicated in 1941 and used as a meeting place for the Boy Scouts.

Through the years, the Lions Club sponsored a Boy Scout troop, providing money for dues, transportation, camporees, etc.

In more recent years, the Boy Scouts were sponsored by a local church.

For a number of years, the cabin has continued to be used for children. Santa Claus sets up headquarters there for visits with children during the evenings when the Christmas Park is open.

Any business, club or individual who is willing to help save the Scout cabin may call Lollis at 847-5743 or email pelzerfur@aol.com or Johnnie Bell, WAHC vice-chairman, 847-9157 or Pamela Owens, secretary, 847-8767. These three form the WAHC committee for the Scout Hut project.

Williamston Area Historic Commission members will be on hand at the Scout Hut during the Springwater Festival with information about the commission, with refreshments for sale and a drawing at the end of the day for prizes.

For a $1 donation (or six tickets for $5), you may win a collectible replica of a Civil War era gun (non-working model), a $50 gift certificate to Wal-Mart or a signed print of the State flag with crescent.

Proceeds will be used toward ongoing projects of the Commission. One project is to place a lighted flagpole at the Williamston Cemetery. The pole will be placed at the site when power is available. A future project is to have the former Gossett School Building, and possibly other property in the area, placed on the National Register of Historic places.

In October, 2003, a ceremony was held in Williamston Cemetery honoring 59 Confederate veterans buried there. The project to locate and mark the graves was spearheaded by WAHC.

WAHC is also working with a computer program to record cemetery records. Volunteers are recording information from grave sites in the cemetery. Members of the WAHC Cemetery Committee are Carolyn Duncan, chairman; Barbara Davis, Lia Clardy-Ragsdale, Julia Mize, Johnnie Bell and Kenneth Bearden. Duncan and Bell, along with Willie Joe Wright and Lib Ford were appointed to the town’s Cemetery Committee which includes Mize, Martha Jo Harvell, Olive Wilson, and councilmen Cecil Cothran and Otis Scott. Mayor Phillip Clardy also meets with the committee.

Tony Cooley, WAHC chairman, invites you to come to the Scout Hut on Festival Day and support the WAHC in its efforts to preserve history in our town and surrounding areas.

Anyone interested in preserving history of the area is invited to attend meetings of WAHC which are held the last Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Williamston Municipal Center. Johnnie Bell is vice chairman of the WAHC and Pamela Owens is secretary. Lia Clardy-Ragsdale is treasurer.

WAHC is a non-profit membership organization which meets once a month at the Williamston Municipal Center. The Commission is dedicated to the promotion of preservation, restoration, education, and appreciation of historic Williamston and surrounding areas.

West Pelzer to decide on new councilman

By Stan Welch

West Pelzer voters will go to the polls next Tuesday, August 30 to decide between candidates Pete Davis and Rey McClain, who will face off for the Town Council seat vacated by the untimely death of Councilman Terry Davis.

Pete Davis has lived in West Pelzer for more than twenty years, and he thinks he has ideas to offer as well as his extensive experience in the water and waste water fields.

He said he thinks that every business in town, large or small, should have a voice in town government.

He would like to see business owners be able to speak, just like the citizen’s comments on the agenda. because they pay business fees and sales taxes, and usually higher property taxes because they’re commercial. “But a lot of them live out of  town, so they have no real say. I’d like to see that change,” said Davis.

Davis also has 18 years experience in the areas of water and waste water management. He has worked for the Greer Public Works Commission for that time, and thinks his experience could serve West Pelzer well.

Davis favors the use of grant money to fund improvements and infrastructure projects in the town.

He also said parking problems need to be addressed.

Davis is Chairman of the Deacons at Columbia Baptist Church and has been a member of the Princeton Masonic Lodge for 28 years.

Rey McClain served on West Pelzer Council while Bill Alexander was mayor. 

He has promised to return his Councilman’s salary of $600 per year to the town to help defray the costs of various projects.

McClain, a local pharmacist and a 1986 graduate from the Medical University of South Carolina, says he wants to restore “common decency” to the political process. He and his wife have lived in West Pelzer for 14 years and have spent some of that time restoring the historic Welborn House on Main Street.

McClain says the town needs positive leadership, and has no room for the “silly he said, she said” politics that have been prevalent in recent months. he would like to see the mayor and citizens work together.

McClain sees a more extensive involvement in the town’s workings as being a key and that the town needs to be run like a business.

 He sees the pursuit of grants as a viable source of funding on future projects, but stresses the importance of balancing growth with the small town atmosphere that he enjoys.

McClain also sees the town’s citizens as having a role in improving the town’s appearance such as starting a beautification recognition committee.

McClain was an active Boy Scout as a child, attaining the rank of Eagle scout.

Town officials discuss alternative sewer plan

By Stan Welch

Several political leaders from the Seventh District banded together this week to ask their Congressman for help that they say they should receive from the County, but don’t.

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy, West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton, Honea Path Mayor E.L. Meyers, and West Pelzer Town Councilwoman Maida Kelly were on hand to ask Congressman Gresham Barrett for assistance in funding a sewer line from West Pelzer through Williamston and on to Honea Path.

The ten mile line would tie into the existing Honea Path system and then go on to the Ware Shoals treatment plant.

Honea Path Town Administrator Rusty Burns was also oon hand, and explained to Congressman Barrett that the project would solve major problems for several of the District’s municipalities.

“Each of the three towns all face major expenses in the near future in order to upgrade their systems. Pelzer and West Pelzer are facing $2-3 million each, while Williamston may face as much as $5 million. This plan would cost approximately the same, and would present a much better solution,” said Burns.

Burns also pointed out that the use of the Ware Shoals plant would eliminate four wastewater discharge points on the Saluda River.  “Economically and environmentally, this is a very promising plan,” he said.

Burns said that further study would be needed to give an exact price, but that the cost would be in the $11 million range. “We already have a funding source for bringing the line to Williamston. And we hope that EDA, the Economic Development Administration will help as well. But we need some further assistance.”

All three mayors made it clear that they support the plan, including Meyers, whose town is already using the Ware Shoals treatment plant. His interest is in seeing more capacity used at that plant, which is permitted for 8 million gallons per day (GPD).

“We’re using about 600,000 GPD right now. The increased volume would make for a much more efficient operation and might even reduce our costs,” said the Mayor. “And this new line would sure solve these other folks’ nightmare.”

Of the three towns seeking to tie onto the new line, the nightmare may be worst for West Pelzer, which has been under a DHEC consent order for more than a year, due to their severely limited capacity for wastewater treatment. Years of inaction and indifference by past administrations allowed the town’s treatment plant to become obsolete and virtually inoperable.

In July of 2004, DHEC issued consent order 04-146-W, as well as imposing fines on the town in the amount of $6400. Those fines have been satisfied. Efforts by the town and its administration and staff have resulted in significant improvements, but the town continues under the consent order. That order requires the eventual closing of the wastewater treatment facility.

Perhaps as serious as the requirement for closure of the WWTF is the moratorium on sewer taps imposed by DHEC, a restriction which has effectively halted any growth of the town or its tax base. Currently, annexation is the town’s only viable route towards growth. Any construction other than the occasional single family dwelling is essentially prohibited, although the CVS drugstore and the KFC restaurant did receive special exemptions that allowed their construction.

“We’ve had to turn down several opportunities for growth and development,” said Councilwoman Maida Kelly.

Mayor Paxton says that the DHEC order essentially required the town to enter into a contract with Western Carolina Sewer Authority.

“They pretty much told us that’s what we were going to do. I don’t have anything against Western Carolina, but I don’t think that’s the best deal for the people of West Pelzer.”

Currently, Honea Path charges its sewer customers $3.51 per thousand gallons, while West Pelzer is expected to pay twice that, or $7 per thousand before marking it up in order to pay the operating costs for the system.

“On top of that, the town still has to maintain all the lines. It’s going to be very expensive for our people, and a lot of them are elderly and on fixed incomes,” Paxton said.

It is expected that Honea Path’s rates will go up somewhat as a result of the deal.

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy credited the joint effort by the towns with developing what he called a win/win situation.

“It is more important than ever for small towns to work together whenever they can. It allows us to do things we couldn’t do alone,” he said.

Councilwoman Kelly, who voted to approve the Western Carolina deal, now says it was the worst mistake she’s ever made. “We didn’t know about this possibility when we approved that deal, but it is not a good deal for the town.”

Clardy explained that Williamston faces the choice of this new line or expansion of their lagoon system of wastewater treatment. “The choice seems obvious to me.”

Burns also stressed the economic development aspects of the project. 

“This line will follow existing road right of ways for practically its entire length. That not only makes for easier and cheaper construction, but it assures customers along the lines. It will also open up the area for development to a much greater extent than it is now,” Burns said.

Barrett was clearly supportive, saying that the ability to address the wastewater issues for three towns with one project was an unusual opportunity.

“I can’t promise anything right now. I’d like to see the plans and get a firm price estimate, but it looks like a no-brainer to me. It’s a project with the potential to create jobs in an area that needs them, and to bring new development to the area. In addition, it is very nice to see the various towns and their officials in agreement on a project like this. It makes it much easier to do. The timing is also fortunate, since Congress is currently working on the next budget cycle.”

Mayor Clardy and Councilwoman Wilson said they could come to Washington if their personal appeal would help the project get funded.

The need for the direct request to Congressman Barrett arose from what several of the political leaders see as a difficulty in accessing such resources through the County.

Said Mayor Clardy, “We are tired of this part of the County being treated like red headed step children. We pay taxes too, but it seems like it’s pulling eye teeth to get any help from our County.”

Councilwoman Wilson added that the County imposes a three mill sewer levy each year.

“But three different times, I couldn’t even get a second for a motion to appropriate $10,000 to do the feasibility study for this project. These people down here have worked so hard on this project over the last couple of years; and this is just the project they need. It would be so important for this part of the county,” Wilson said.

Mayor Paxton referred to a recent news item that reflected County Administrator Joey Preston’s strong support for the proposed construction of a wastewater treatment facility by Western Carolina Sewer Authority.

“Maybe Mr. Preston doesn’t know the details of our deal with Western, but if he does, I don’t see how he could support that plan over this. This is not only the best plan for us, it’s the only plan.”

Burns, speaking after the meeting, which took place in Mayor Clardy’s office, said “This would let these small towns get out of the water business. They would just be operating the lines. Any time a municipality can get out of the water and sewer business, it’s a plus for them. We really appreciate Congressman Barrett coming by to speak with us. We’ve had a meeting with Senator DeMint, as well, and we’re optimistic that we can pull this off.”

 

 

 

 

 

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