News Archive

(3407) Week of August 22, 2007

Collins named Teacher of the Year
Increasing enrollment leading toward new building program
SCDPS urges safety as students return
Man drowns in Saluda River
Accident results in worker’s death
Expanded hours, activities and food to highlight festival
Questionable meeting lacks quorum to convene
Attorney General asked to look into time capsule incident
Piedmont residents address law enforcement
Grove Station Masons hold ground breaking
Break ground
Greer apologizes, Wilson asks for FBI investigation
ACTA calls for termination of Preston contract
Seems to Me  . . .It must be the heat

Collins named Teacher of the Year

Powdersville Middle School teacher Tammie Collins has been selected as the Anderson School District One Teacher of the Year for the  2007-2008 school year.  She will represent Anderson District One in the competition for South Carolina Teacher of the Year, will serve on a state-wide advisory panel to the State Department of Education, and will receive $1,000 in recognition of her outstanding achievements. 

“Miss Tammie Collins has a true love for teaching,” states Dr. Wayne Fowler, superintendent for Anderson District One. “She provides a caring atmosphere in her classroom and instills her passion for reading in each of her students.”

Collins, who is also a National Board Certified Teacher, is a strong advocate for public education.

“I make sure my students learn academic skills but I am also certain that the students learn about good character,” said Collins. “When you’re tempted to make a negative comment about public education, try reflecting on your day by asking yourself the question, “What did I do today to make a difference?”

Collins was honored as the Teacher of the Year at a district-wide meeting at Wren High School on August 17.

Teacher of the Year finalists, Missy Cooper, Wren Middle School, and April Hays, at Palmetto High School, along with all the Teacher of the Year candidates were honored at a luncheon catered by the Nutrition Services Staff, which followed the awards presentation.

Other candidates from the district’s schools were: Cedar Grove Elementary, Lesli Porter; Concrete Primary, Vivian Anders; Hunt Meadows Elementary, Rachel Foster; Palmetto Elementary, Lisa Stokes; Pelzer Elementary, Coral Aran; Powdersville Elementary, Teresa Garrett; Spearman Elementary, Elizabeth Wittebort; West Pelzer Elementary, Teresa Caplinger and Wren Elementary, Susan Gurley

Palmetto Middle School, Kristen Gunter; Missy Cooper and Diane Teal from Wren High School.

Increasing enrollment leading toward new building program

Anderson School District One is taking the first steps toward a building program that will possibly include a new elementary school, a new high school and additions to overcrowded schools, according to Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler.

During their monthly meeting Tuesday, Board members heard a presentation by Dr. Fowler and M. B. Kahn Sr. Executive Vice President Rick Ott, that was “to begin discussion” about a District building plan.

Ott and M. B. Kahn have been involved with providing cost estimates for the District’s building programs and in construction over the last 20 years.

With student enrollment in the district increasing 3 to 4 percent each year, resulting in decreasing class room space and the use of portables this year,  Dr. Fowler said the district is outgrowing their last building program.  “We thought it would be ok for more years down the road,” Dr. Fowler said, “but it is not.”

This year the District is up 227 students on the first day over last year and is projected to be 275 to 300, according to Dr. Fowler. Currently the district wide enrollment is at 8962 and is expected to be up to 9000 by the 10th day, he said.

Ott said that the impact of increasing enrollment is not just having new bodies in the classroom, but there are the effects of overcrowding, discipline and pupil to student ratios which need to be considered when looking at building program needs.

Ott said the District is known as being one of the most frugal, not impacting education but “in taking a dollar and stretching it a little more.”

He also said the district has been wise not to invest in portables over the years, but investing in permanent facilities to deal with overcrowding.

District One has 10 portable classrooms in use. Dr. Fowler said the District is in a similar situation to  six to seven years ago when they had 10 to 12 portables in use.

Ott also pointed out the overcrowding leads to having floating teachers who move from room to room to teach. The result is inadequate planning because they have no homeroom for planning time because all the rooms remain in use.

In addition to education, Ott said the board will need to  consider all the needs of the District including safety, security, renovations, upgrades, additions and sizes of schools.

“In some cases it is more economical to build new rather than renovate,” Ott said.

Although not currently being considered for replacement, the District has two middle schools that are 55 years old, according to Assistant Superintendent David Havird.

Ott said the cost of energy is a major factor in today’s building costs which have seen a 275 percent increase from 2002 to 2007.

Ott explained that building costs today are affected not by local costs  or even national costs, but now are global.

Since the District’s last building program was initiated, the cost of elementary school construction has gone fom $80-90 per sq. ft. to $150, according to Ott.

“There has been a 40 percent increase in the last three years,” he said, “and I don’t see that changing.”

He said that construction money could be borrowed at 4 to 4.5 percent but construction costs are estimated to increase at 10 percent. He suggested the Distict consider building now and getting use out of a new school. “It is cheaper to move forward rather than wait,” Ott said.

Ott’s presentation included the estimated time from the beginning of the process to finishing a school including planning, design, construction bid, financing and finishing.

In building an elementary school, the time line is  29 months; for a middle school, 37 months; a high school, 4 years; and a classroom addition, 26 months

Ott recommended the board begin to take steps toward a building program which includes seeking public input, developing a feasibility plan, obtaining school board consensus and initiation of a bond referendum.

When asked by Board member David Merritt about the cost of building a high school, Ott had varying responses.

He first said that he would estimate a high school for 2500 students would cost approximately $102 million to build. Next year the cost will be $110 million, he said.

Smaller schools, say with 1700 students could be lower, at $40 million, and he said he is working on one in Georgia which is about $22 million.

Dr. Fowler said a new school building for 800 students in 1986 cost about $12.9 million.

A number of factors can affect the building price. Cost savings trends include having smaller auditoriums and less “circulation space” which Ott said could affect the cost.

Some districts are going to smaller auditoriums such as a school with 1600 students may have four assemby programs with 400 students each, Ott said.

Building a larger school is not cheaper the larger you get, Ott said.

Following the meeting, Dr. Fowler said that the district is looking at a new elementary school, a new high school and additions to overcrowded schools as part of the building program they will consider.

At some point the district may have to look at the two aging middle school buildings.

Dr. Fowler said that the district will need to look at expanding Wren schools or building another school.

He said he hopes to go through the process of obtaining community input and having a cost analysis by December and be able to make a recommendation to the board  and seek a referendum in Spring of 2008.

District One Board Chairman Fred Alexander said the board will need to get the community, teachers, parents and school employees involved in the process and present the needs of the District.

He said it is key that the commuity understands the needs facing the district and the goal the board is working toward to meet the needs of the growing area.

He said the District will possibly be looking at a new elementary school which will draw students from Cedar Grove, Palmetto Elementary and Spearman, all of which are at or near capacity. Though no specific area has been selected for a new school, it will have to be in the right location, Alexander said.

SCDPS urges safety as students return

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) is encouraging the motoring public to be ready for school by watching out for young pedestrians, bicycle riders and increased traffic in and around school zones this week. School start dates vary among South Carolina’s 85 school districts, but many districts began classes this week.

To heighten awareness, SCDPS’ Office of Highway Safety (OHS) is promoting School Zone Safety Week to help remind the public that students will again start sharing the roads with motorists grown accustomed to school zones that have been inactive during the summer. School Zone Safety Week events are scheduled to be held during the first full week of school in each district or county.

James K. Schweitzer, Director of SCDPS, said traffic safety strategies near schools are a vital part of the agency’s highway safety outreach efforts.

“The safety of children walking, biking or traveling in motor vehicles is of the utmost importance,” Schweitzer said. “We think every week during the school year is ‘School Zone Safety Week’ and urge motorists to drive accordingly.”

Schools and law enforcement agencies throughout South Carolina have been encouraged to participate in school zone safety activities. Additionally, many law enforcement agencies will increase vigilance over school zones in their areas. The SCDPS’ Highway Patrol also will be involved in various activities in the coming weeks.

Among them are Troopers and Families of Highway fatalities volunteers will distribute safety information at designated schools to parents and guardians as they are waiting in line to pick up their children in the afternoons.

Troopers will attend PTA/PTO meetings to talk to parents about bicycle and pedestrian safety concerns and educate about booster seat use.

Troopers will visit elementary and middle schools to conduct formal safety presentations.  Schools, students and parents statewide can engage in a variety of School Zone Safety activities, including holding safety presentations, creating bulletin board displays and distributing safety literature

Other ideas to mark School Zone Safety Week are posted on the SCDPS website at www.scdps.org/szs/activities.htm.

Man drowns in Saluda River

By Stan Welch

A forty three year old Pelzer man drowned Sunday, apparently while fishing in the Saluda River near his home on Fuller Street. Michael Davis, 43, brother of Pelzer mayor Kenneth Davis, was left alone for a few minutes by a friend and fishing partner. When the friend, who has not been identified, returned to the spot a few minutes later, he found Davis gone. He then went to Davis’ father and asked where Davis was.

 Both men began to search the river bank and found Davis submerged, except for his lower legs and feet. They pulled him from the water and attempted to resuscitate him, according to Anderson County Coroner Greg Shore. But Davis was pronounced dead at 8:58 p.m. on Sunday night at the Greenville Memorial Hospital.

Shore said that the preliminary and primary cause of death was freshwater drowning. “We have ruled out any foul play. There was simply no evidence of traumatic injury.” Shore added that Davis had a medical history of seizures, and that the results of lab tests to determine whether he may have suffered a seizure were being awaited before a final conclusion was announced. “We are also performing toxicology tests to determine what, if any, drugs were in the blood stream. This is a standard test in such a case. It is most likely that a medical event caused Mr. Davis to fall into the river.”

Pelzer Rescue Squad responded and transported Davis to the hospital.

Accident results in worker’s death

By Stan Welch

An industrial accident at the Cushman Plant Division of Milliken & Co. cost the life of a 39 year old man Monday afternoon. Williamston EMS personnel, as well as Williamston Police Department officers responded to the scene.

Jerry Lee Reid, of 213 Mauldin St., was killed when a scissor lift he was working on while painting a support column in the plant was knocked over. Reid fell approximately fifteen feet to the plant floor and was pronounced dead at the scene. Several family members also work at the plant and were on site at the time of the accident.

Anderson County Coroner Greg Shore stated that a monorail system, which is used to relocate heavy equipment on the plant floor, and which was being operated by another employee at the time, was involved in toppling the scissor lift. Human Resources Director Hugh Carroll, however, was reported as saying plant officials were still trying to determine what caused the lift to topple.

Shore stated that a significant head injury was obvious, and is the tentative cause of death, pending the autopsy results.

Reid was employed by Top Level Management Services, a subcontractor employed by Milliken & Co. to perform certain maintenance and repairs at the plant. Reid worked primarily at the plant over the last several years, according to Shore.

Carroll said it is the first major accident he can recall in his ten years at the plant, which is located on Gossett Street.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (OSHA) was immediately notified and has begun an investigation into the causes of the accident. Milliken and Top Level Management are both cooperating fully, according to a press release issued by the company.

An autopsy scheduled for Tuesday was delayed in order to accommodate the family of Jerry Reid, according to Coroner Shore. The results of the autopsy were expected late Tuesday evening.

Expanded hours, activities and food to highlight festival

The 26th Annual Spring Water Festival will feature several new activities that are sure to delight those attending.

The Palmetto High School Mustang Regiment under the direction of Kevin Larkin will perform musical selections from their fall program “Celtic Celebrations” in the park at 9 a.m.

The Springwater Committee will hold an opening ceremony for the 2007 Spring Water Festival on the amphitheater stage at 9:30 a.m.

The program will include welcome by the Spring Water Committee, presentation of colors by SC State Guard, Catlin Tierce will sing the Star Spangled Banner and lead the Pledge of Allegiance, Kempie Shepard will lead prayer and Mayor Phillip Clardy will welcome guests.

A new addition to the festival event lineup will be The Springwater Festival Junior Miss Pageant. The pageant will be held at 11 am on the amphitheater stage. Girls ages 12 weeks up to 8 years old will be competing in their coolest summer time fashions for the titles and prizes. Emcee for the event will be Hannah Rogers, Miss Palmetto 2007. Judges will be Ashley Timms, Miss Freshman 2007, Sydney Starnes, Miss Sophomore 2007, and Haley Tribble, Miss Junior 2007. 

The Williamston Time Capsule which was recently removed from the old city hall property will be re-buried as part of the festivities associated with the Spring Water Festival this Saturday.

The public is invited to observe the historic event at  3 p.m. in front of The Willliamston Municipal Center. The program from when it was first buried in 1976 will be followed, according to Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy.

Local historian and author Gene Welborn, author of the hardback book A Town Springs Forth, the Story of Williamston, South Carolina, will appear at the festival, offering signed copies of his book and a chance to meet and talk with the author.

The Greater Williamston Business Association will offer their Collectors Christmas Ornaments and Williamston Prints. The 2007 ornament features the old city hall.

The Williamston Fire Department is  giving away a 42” large screen Plasma TV at the Spring Water Festival.  Tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5. The fire department will also be offering $1 rides on the restored 1936 Chevrolet fire engine.

The West Allen Williams Memorial Committee will offer a very special limited edition paper weight during the festival and the opportunity for the community to sponsor a brick in memory or honor of a loved one, to be placed at the West Allen Williams Memorial site.

The bricks were made by hand from mud along the Saluda River in the early 1800s for Samuel Williams, father of Williamston’s founder, West Allen  Williams.

More than 45 crafters and artisans are expected.

John and Jeanne Fry of the Long Hair Clan of the Cherokee will be there. Fry is a Native Flute Performer and Cedar Flute Artisan and will display his handcrafted Cedar Eastern Woodland Style Flutes. He will also demonstrate flute playing  techniques for those interested in learning to play.

He has three Native Flute CD’s that will be available, one of which is featured in the Cherokee Museum of History in North Carolina.

His wife Jeanne, will be exhibiting as well, offering her line of “Wisdom Keeper Art Dolls” which are clay sculpted and embellished with mixed media, along with her painted stone and tile work that predominantly focuses on animal totems.

She will be demonstrating Touch Drawing while at the show, which is a form of oil painting in which special papers are placed on a glass board that has been sprayed with oil paint, and the painting is created with your hands and fingertips, while not being able to see what you are painting until it is completed and turned over. Matted prints will be available of her paintings.

The festival will also feature an expanded selection of food items with 19 food vendors, some local and some not local, including one from Charleston,  offering a variety of food items.

Special activities include an antique auto show, informative displays, live local entertainment, expanded children’s activities, entertainment and rides, historic displays, craft demonstrations, handmade crafts and souvenirs.

The 2007 festival will feature a variety of entertainment including gospel, country,  rock and beach music performed by local entertainers on two stages. There will be entertainment on both stages and food available from 10 a. m. to 8 p.m.

The first official activity will be the Spring Water Run. The 5K open race will begin at 7:45 a.m. and the one mile fun run will be held at 8:30 a.m. Entry fee is $15 in advance or $20 on the day of the race. Persons interested in participating in the run can call Chris Bradberry at 864-420-3282 or go to the festival website for additional information.

A new activity this year will be a ride and bike show for motorcyclists. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. behind the Williamston Municipal Center with first bikes out at 10 a.m. Register to ride and show off your bike. Registration fee is $25 for single and $30 for double and will include a free T-shirt. Trophies will be awarded for best in show, most unique, most original and 2nd and 3rd place. Motorcycles will be on display on Main St. in front of The Journal beginning approximately 2 p.m. For information call Todd Creamer at 314-6687 or Catlin Tierce at 608-0257.

Questionable meeting lacks quorum to convene

By Stan Welch

Williamston Ward Two Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Otis Scott was stricken by coronary problems Monday afternoon, and was rushed to the hospital in Greenville.

Mayor Phillip Clardy, who accompanied Scott, reported later that he had undergone an angioplasty, a procedure during which a small balloon is inserted into the blocked artery and inflated to open the artery up.

Scott, who has had a history of cardiac trouble, already had a stent in the artery to support its walls. According to Clardy’s report, blood clots had formed and were endangering Scott’s health. Scott will likely be held for observation for several days. He is currently in stable condition. Mayor Clardy said it was a very close thing. “We’re very grateful that he sought help when he did. A little later could well have been too late.”

Scott has been very active in recent months in pursuing grants and other sources of revenue for the town. He was instrumental in spearheading the two cent hospitality tax which was recently established in the town, and which is expected to generate approximately $70,000 a year for use in promoting tourism related activities in the town.

His medical emergency came just hours before a controversial Town Council meeting was scheduled, or not scheduled, depending on who you asked.

Scott, along with Councilmen Marion Middleton, Jr. and Carthel Crout, had agreed to call a meeting of the Town Council for Monday night, despite the Mayor’s stated opinion that such a meeting would be illegal.

The mayor argued that Council had voted to meet twice a month during the budget crisis the town experienced in recent months, but added that the terms of that agreement were that the twice monthly meetings would end after June, when a budget was approved. A review of the tape of the meeting at which that vote was taken indicates that Clardy’s remembrance of those terms is correct.

Mayor Clardy issued a statement on Monday, August 20, in which he expressed his opinion that the Council’s authority to meet twice monthly had expired, making the meeting called by three members of Council for later that day technically legal, but unethical.

He cited his review of the agenda items listed by the three council members, and stated his opinion that they did not meet the criteria for a “special”, which the Handbook for Municipal Officials in South Carolina defines as being called to “handle business that arises and cannot be postponed to a regular meeting.” He went on to say that the agenda items listed were not items of emergency status, or even of urgent necessity.

It appears, however, that the vote recorded in January to meet twice a month in no way limits the Council’s ability to convene a meeting. A review of state code, as well as the town’s operating procedures clearly empowers a majority of council to convene in order to conduct the Town’s business. Joe Newton, operations director for ACOG (Appalachian Council of Government), explained the situation about the meeting schedule thusly, “It’s a matter of communication, and not Constitution. These Council members and the Mayor should be able to work this out without it becoming an issue of contention. Basically, both state codes and the town’s own procedures allow a majority of Council to convene a meeting, so long as they comply with the requirements for notifying the media and the public. The only irony of the situation is that it is virtually impossible for a majority of members to agree to meet without illegally taking a vote to meet. I guess you could say there was a consensus to meet, but not a vote.”

 The three Council members who announced the meeting, before Scott’s emergency, did meet the media and public notification requirements. The fact that they signed a form announcing their intention to call a meeting indicates a more formal action than a consensus.

Clardy’s statement goes on to say “This meeting or any other meeting of town council, which is not scheduled by vote of this council in public session should not be held unless the said purpose of that meeting constitutes an emergency or matter of business that cannot otherwise wait until the next regularly scheduled monthly meeting with proper public notice.”

Even before Scott’s medical emergency, Clardy had informed The Journal that he considered the meeting to be illegal and would not attend. Councilmen Crout and Middleton, Jr. met with citizens at town hall anyway. A reporter for The Journal was on hand in the event that a quorum attended, but Councilman David Harvell did not attend, while Clardy and Scott were clearly otherwise occupied. Upon confirming that no quorum was present to constitute a legal meeting, the Journal reporter left the gathering, although the two Councilmen stayed for awhile airing their opinions and concerns with the handful in attendance.

Attorney General asked to look into time capsule incident

By Stan Welch

The actions by Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. in unearthing the Town’s time capsule, originally buried in 1976, have become the subject of an inquiry by the Mayor to the South Carolina Attorney General.

In a letter dated August 7, Mayor Phillip Clardy asked Attorney General Henry McMaster to render an opinion on the legality of Middleton’s actions in exhuming the time capsule, as well as in unilaterally commandeering a crew of town employees to do so.

The events in question took place in late June of this year. Earlier in the year, Council had voted to relocate the time capsule to the Town Hall grounds, and simultaneously bury a new time capsule that was still being prepared at the time. Middleton, Jr. said that the capsule was supposed to be moved within 180 days of the sale of the old town hall. Clardy said the new owner of the property had indicated that there was no particular rush. “If a sale of that property had become imminent, we would have had plenty of notice to move the capsule,” said Clardy.

Clardy says that, under the strong mayor form of government, which Williamston uses, no member of Council can instruct municipal workers in their duties. “He had no right to go in and get workers and equipment to move that capsule,” said Clardy.

In an earlier interview about the time capsule’s removal, Clardy said, “Some members of council are assuming more and more authority, but the fact remains that we have a strong mayor form of government, and I am the Mayor.” He also decried the fact that the time capsule was dug up with no public notice or participation. “This is a part of our Town’s history and it should have been handled with respect and decorum, not like it was.”

He also questioned the propriety of individual Council members instructing town workers in their duties, or ordering them to do things. “A councilman goes to them and tells them to do something, and they can hardly say no, but that Councilman has no right to put those employees I that position. They have no legal authority to do so, as far as I am concerned.”

In his letter to the Attorney General, Clardy asks specifically whether, under the mayor-council form of government a Council member should “act independent of the other members of council in determining an action of this caliber that has required in every respect, an action of town council in public forum otherwise?”

Clardy also asks in the letter, “Can or should a member of town council act independent from the other member(sic) of council in instructing any employee to perform this action without proper consent of a majority of council, or at least, notification to the Mayor of this action.”

In a brief response to the Mayor’s request, dated August 10, Attorney General McMaster confirmed that the request had been forwarded to the opinions division of his office. He promised a report once the research on the issue was completed.

The capsule will be placed back into the ground during a special activity associated with the Spring Water Festival Saturday.

The public is invited to observe the historic event at  3 p.m. in front of The Willliamston Municipal Center. A program from when it was first buried in 1976 will be followed, according to Mayor Clardy.

Piedmont residents address law enforcement

By Stan Welch

Citizens, law enforcement officials and politicians alike gathered at the Piedmont Community Building last Thursday night to discuss crime rates and response times.

State Rep. Eric Bedingfield served as moderator for the meeting, which included  Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis and Anderson County Sheriff David Crenshaw, as well as Greenville County Councilwoman Judy Gilstrap and Anderson County Councilman Ron Wilson. Piedmont Public Service Commission members Ed Poore, Marsha Rogers, Bobby Stover and Frankie Garrett, who spearheaded the meeting, were in attendance. Also on hand were approximately sixty citizens and business owners, many with questions concerning response times and even failures to respond.

According to a show of hands requested by Councilman Wilson, less than a dozen of those on hand were from the Anderson County side of the Saluda River, while the great majority was from Greenville County. All shared the same concerns, however. One businessman said that there have been a lot of break-ins, but when he called the GCSO he was told there weren’t enough reports to justify stationing a deputy in the area. The owners of a local restaurant complained that their windows had been broken out three different times, twice while the building was on an ACSO keep watch list.

Sheriff Loftis assured the audience that Piedmont has police protection twenty four hours a day and seven days a week.

Both sheriffs referred to their manpower needs in explaining their departments’ respective performances. “I have 375 deputies,” said Sheriff Loftis. “People hear that number and it sounds huge, but when you know what the breakdown is, those people are performing a lot of different roles. For example, we have a backlog of 36,000 warrants we haven’t served yet. We get 3500-4000 new warrants each month, and serve between 2000-2500 of those. So each month we get behind by another thousand or so warrants.”

He added that the Greenville County Council had recently approved twenty eight new deputies over the next year, out of sixty one he had requested. “But it costs three times their salary to actually train them and put them on the street, and it will be well after the first of the year when those deputies approved for hiring in October actually are assigned to duty.”

Sheriff David Crenshaw said he has 200 deputies adding, “I could use thirty more officers today. We answer 65,000 calls a year. There’s no way we can have enough officers. We’re trying to cover 770 square miles of land, in a county that is growing in population by leaps and bounds. It’s a matter of money. We don’t pay our deputies enough to keep them.”

Explaining why property crimes aren’t always responded to as quickly as the victims might wish, Crenshaw said, “We have to go where the blood is flowing first.” He pointed out that he had some items stolen from his house last year too. “I know it’s aggravating. We just have to do the best we can.”

Councilman Wilson asked those from Anderson County how many would support a tax increase in order to increase law enforcement protection. Most said they would, though some said they would want assurances that the increase would result in greater police presence.

Grove Station Masons hold ground breaking

A ground breaking ceremony was held August 9 for a new lodge for Grove Station Lodge #166 A.F.M. in Piedmont.

The building site, approximately one acre, was donated to Grove Station Masonic Lodge by Brother J.T. Vinson and is located 1/2 mile off Hwy. 20 on Bracken Road.

Vinson is a Master Mason and long time member of Grove Station Masonic Lodge which has 65 members.

Lodge members had asked for a donation of property for a new lodge and Vinson “stepped forward and offered that property,” said lodge secretary Troy Bennett. “We would like to say thank you to J. T. and the family.”

Vinson was not able to attend the groundbreaking due to health reason.

Vinson’s daughters, Jane King, and Katie Trueland and granddaughter Cindy Rochester attended the event.

Reid Bagwell, Worshipful Master of the Liberty lodge and Vinson’s grandson also attended.

He told the other Grove Station masons in attendance that the family was proud “to be a part of your future.”

Worshipful Master Tony Parker said “We appreciate him and the family,” and said the donation allows the lodge to “continue to grow within the community.”

John Eute, Grand Master of the 17th Masonic District said he was looking forward to shaking Vinson’s hand and thanking him. “He is a good indication of what being a mason is,” Eute said.

Grove Station Masonic Lodge was chartered Dec. 11, 1872 and will celebrate 135 years this December. The lodge has had several meeting locations through the years, the last being  located on Hwy. 20 in the Grove Station community. It was sold on March, 5, 2005.

Lodge members are currently meeting at the White Plains Masonic Lodge, located on Cherokee Road in the White Plains Community.

For additional information, please contact Bennett at 864-845-7812 or 864-449-2408 or e-mail: troyebennett@bellsouth.net

Break ground for new lodge

Attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Grove Station Masonic lodge in Piedmont were John Thompson; Jack Davis; Reid Bagwell, Worshipful Master of Liberty lodge; Satch Townsend, Past Master of Empire lodge; David Reeves; Tony Parker, Worshipful Master of the Grove Station lodge; Raymond Crone; Jamie Crawford, Pelzer Lodge; John Eute, D. D. GM 17th Masoinc District; Leon Heaton, P. M. P. D. GM and treasurer of Grove Station Lodge; Jamie Merritt and Troy Bennett, Secretary of Grove Station Masonic Lodge.

Greer apologizes, Wilson asks for FBI investigation

By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Council meeting Tuesday night had a far different tone than the last two meetings.

District Three Councilman Larry Greer, who cajoled Chairman Waldrep into recommending that he be added to the agenda, spoke for approximately fifteen minutes, apologizing for his role in the recent tumultuous events, which included a majority of four members denying District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson access to her own discretionary funds one week, and spending those funds against her will two weeks later.

Greer prefaced his remarks by stressing that they should not be taken as a sign of weakness. Speaking to an audience that included several high ranking members of the Anderson County Republican Party, as well as State Senator Kevin Bryant, Greer cited his longtime commitment to avoid mudslinging, and conceded he had failed in that commitment. 

“I do not like to be called a politician. I prefer the term public servant. But in recent weeks, I have behaved as a politician and not a public servant. I regret this and will take steps to correct it.” He cited several passages of Scripture, including Matthew 7:3, which admonishes people to remove the beam from their eyes before noting the mote in another’s eye.”

Greer made it clear that he feels as if he too has been wronged, saying, “I forgive those who have wronged me, and I ask the people of Anderson County, first, and Ms. Wilson second, and this Council to forgive me any actions I have taken that have caused them embarrassment or distress.”

Councilwoman Wilson had a major announcement of her own to make. Later in the meeting, she asked that the Council ,in order to dispel the cloud of suspicion she says the County is under, to ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation to come in and conduct an investigation into several matters. She asked that all real estate transactions involving the County be reviewed and examined. She also asked that the FBI investigate whether a cover-up of the Cater’s Lake incident last March was planned and conducted by county officials.

She called the lack of an investigation into that incident by SLED “a remarkable oversight” and said it needed to be corrected in order to dispel suspicion.

She also called for federal postal inspectors to be brought in to investigate the harassing letters and obscene letters that several members of Council received; “letters of which I have been accused of having knowledge.”

Wilson went on to say “I offer this motion tonight because I was unjustly accused at the last meeting and the meeting before that, with no hint of proof or evidence, except for innuendo and slanderous supposition, of doing many things. I suggest we base future conclusions about guilt or innocence on facts from an unbiased source. In pursuit of that goal, I hereby ask that the FBI be asked to include my actions in this matter within the scope of their investigation. I make this in the form of a motion.”

Council voted 3-3-1, with Greer abstaining, thereby denying the motion. Greer later explained that his abstention was part of his decision to no longer participate in the negative animosity, on either side, among Council members.

In other business, former Clemson head football coach Danny Ford was on hand with several business associates, seeking a fee in lieu of taxes agreement for Crescent Biodiesel, LLC, a company that is seeking to build a biodeisel production and distribution facility in Anderson County. The company will employ thirty people at an average wage of better than twenty dollars an hour. Ford explained that the company will give local farmers a chance to enter a new market. We also want to get the Universities and tech schools involved. We think alternative fuels are the coming thing.”

Ford drew the evening’s biggest laugh, when he addressed Council. “I’m pleased to be here. I read about ya’ll all the time in the newspaper.”

Councilman Michael Thompson continued his efforts to build support for a one cent sales tax, importing Myron George from York County to give a presentation on a program used there called Pennies for Progress. George explained that the first sales tax approved in York County passed by less than a one per cent margin. Six years later, when voters had the opportunity, as defined by law, to repeal or renew the sales tax, it was renewed by a vote of seventy three per cent approval.

“Clearly, this is a tax that can work, but it has to be followed carefully and it has to be explained to the people. But these funds can be used to leverage other funds, making it a very productive tax” said George. “Most attractive is the fact that you can apply ninety nine cents of each dollar to the project that the people choose. No other tax makes that kind of efficiency possible.”

The issue of storm water control arose. The county will be required as of September 1 to oversee and operate the storm water permitting program being implemented by the EPA through DHEC. Councilman Greer repeated his position that the program was another unfunded mandate. “This program will create an entire new bureaucracy in Anderson County. I would love to vote against this and simply trash the document, but I’m aware that Big Brother has placed consequences on us so that we have to do something.”

Following considerable discussion, Council gave first reading approval of the ordinance, while promising to review the language in the ordinance to make it “as palatable as possible”, according to Greer’s description.

The issue of placing tarps over trucks hauling trash again came up. Michelle Strange presented statistics indicating the large number of uncovered loads that enter the County’s convenience centers. She stated that almost two thirds of the loads transported in pickup trucks, or other open vehicles are uncovered, or inadequately covered, according to county ordinance.

Chairman Waldrep asked about the issue of tied garbage bags, and asked if they needed to be secured by a tarp. Ms. Strange replied that they do need to be covered with a tarp, according to the county ordinance as it is written.

County financial analyst Gina Humpherys presented Council with two new financial reports, one for appropriations and one for revenues. These reports had been under construction, so to speak, for several months.

At the last meeting Chairman Waldrep scolded Humphreys for her failure to provide the reports in a timely manner, calling it subordination. Finance committee Gracie Floyd asked that any questions the Council might have be channeled through her to Ms. Humphreys, rather than Council contacting her directly. “I won’t read them. I’ll pass them right along to her. Well, maybe I’ll read a couple of them,” said Floyd.

ACTA calls for termination of Preston contract

The Anderson County Taxpayers Association has called for the termination of the contract for Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston.

A resolution unanimously approved by the board, included five specific reasons why they feel the step is necessary.

A statement released by the group said the step was being taken “Due to total disgust concerning actions by the majority of Anderson County Council and the lack of interest by council members Larry Greer, Bill McAbee, Gracie Floyd and Michael G. Thompson in overseeing the actions of the county administrator...”

According to the statement, the board’s decision is based on some specific acts and behavior patterns as well as conduct of Preston.

The release states the following reasons: Creating a litigious environment. Private citizens sued for questioning actions of the administrator.   Having attorneys send threatening letters to citizens who question governmental operation.   Exorbitant legal fees.

A closed, secret government.    Elected officials unable to obtain necessary financial documents to discern proper use of taxpayer funds.

Direct involvement by the administrator in raising campaign funds for select county council members.  Funds solicited and collected from companies that do business with Anderson County and distributed to the administrator’s chosen council candidates/members.

Transfer of county funds and unapproved purchases without council’s knowledge.  The Anderson County Sheriff’s Dept. loan of $2.5 million, the purchase of Kroger building, the purchase of Powdersville Park property, hot air balloon, the Stitchery Building and many more.  These done with knowledge that law requires notification of all transactions over $2,500.

Insubordination, arrogance and disrespect.   Failure to comply with more than one council member’s request for pertinent information.  Conduct and disrespect concerning incidents such as the documented Caters Lake incident where council has failed to address the violation of county personnel code and the subsequent embarrassment and humiliation felt by the citizens of Anderson County. 

The statement also says, “The above opinion of the ACTA Board is based upon the absurd vote of confidence granted the administrator at the August 7, 2007 meeting.  Motion was made by Larry Greer and affirmed by Bill McAbee, Ron Wilson, Gracie Floyd and Michael G. Thompson. “

Seems to Me  . . . It must be the heat

By Stan Welch

Maybe it’s the heat. Anderson County Council, or at least a majority of it, appears to be moving solidly behind administrator Joey Preston and even further away from their sworn responsibilities to oversee the County’s operations.

Two weeks after an unprecedented and remarkably ill advised attack on Councilwoman Cindy Wilson and on the Anderson County Taxpayers Association, an attack that conveniently was not recorded for either the official record or for posterity’s sake, the Council appears to be poised to remove the gavel from the hands of sitting Chairman Bob Waldrep.

Let me make a quick comment here. I am not concerned with the Anderson County Taxpayers Association. They are no better and no worse than any other activist group that might appear before the Council. But for an elected official to link such a group, any such group, with terrorism, under the guise of the Patriot Act, is one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen. Al Qaida = ACTPA. No, that just won’t work.

In fact, the entire performance boiled down to whining and crying about things that were said and letters that were written to members of Council. Those things said and those letters written frankly have no place in a healthy political process. They have been and continue to be denounced for their crudeness and vicious purpose.

But to insist, in the face of legal opinion to the contrary, that certain individuals and organizations bear responsibility for those things also has no place in a healthy political process. Of course, it’s difficult to look at the political process in Anderson County as healthy. It’s poisonous and polarized and often based on nothing but personal hatreds and animosities. And that doesn’t refer just to the County Council.

Chairman Waldrep’s apparent sin, besides the fact that he has dared question the slowness with which financial information is provided, is that he dared to chastise county financial analyst Gina Humphreys, county attorney Tom Martin, and gasp! county administrator Joey Preston for their poor performance. Why, these poor Southern peaches were apparently so bruised and so hurt that Mr. Waldrep must go. Or maybe that second voice crying in the wilderness, Cindy Wilson having been the lone voice for several years, is just too loud for some folks’ ears.

It must be the heat.

In Williamston, three members of the Town Council announced and convened a Council meeting this week despite the Mayor’s statement that the Council’s vote to authorize the twice monthly meetings had expired in June and that the meeting would be illegal if held. The Council says it has the authority to call meetings, despite the fact that the town has a strong mayor form of government. They cite state code related to the issue of calling a meeting. That code is generally interpreted as authorizing Council to convene so long as they advertise the meeting to the public, which Council did. Of course, the code doesn’t explain how a majority of Council can agree to meet without having conducted an illegal meeting in order to agree to meet. Isn’t small town government fun?

It seems to me that the inclusion of an item on the published agenda titled ‘future meeting schedule’ makes it seem as if there is some question about the current schedule.

One of the things on the agenda for that meeting is the time capsule. It isn’t clear whether that is the new time capsule that will be buried during the Spring Water Festival, or the old one, which a member of Council decided had been buried long enough and had dug up and moved. I haven’t seen the state code cited that allows a Council member to commandeer town workers and dig up the town’s time capsule, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

(Editor’s note: Councilman Otis Scott experienced a serious health emergency just hours before the scheduled meeting and a quorum was not available to meet.)

In West Pelzer, the Town Council and Mayor gave lip service last week to trying to repair their fractured government to avoid looking as foolish and dysfunctional as the County Council. They then proceeded to fail to produce a budget or to deal with a debris removal ordinance that has been dragged around and around for months now, without a vote. They did manage to buy a new lawn mower, though. Good to see priorities being imposed. They did manage to reach a budget compromise later  at a special work session on Saturday. First reading of the budget could come on August 28. Or not.

It’s gotta be the heat. 

The point is this. Of all this turmoil and conflict, on all these different councils, little if any of it has to do with the people’s business. It is petty small time politics. One has only to listen to members of the Williamston Council for a few minutes to sense  their personal distrust of and animosity towards Mayor Clardy. Only a blind man would fail to see the results of that animosity. Those results do not favor the people of Williamston.

This is not to say that the members of Council don’t want to do their jobs for their constituents. It is to say that their efforts are misguided in some ways. First and foremost, the town code of ordinances was left in such disarray by the former administration that it is virtually impossible to break a law, or obey one,  in Williamston. If Council really wants to get things in order, that’s where they should start.

In West Pelzer, a number of people need to get used to the idea that they have a female mayor, as well as one who didn’t grow up on their mill hill. But she has done a pretty fair job. It’s hard to argue with the fact that, after years of stagnation, the water system improvements came under her administration, and that the town’s financial records have steadily moved towards credibility and stability each year.

Yet it seems that many in the town, much less on the Council, are more interested in seeing political points scored by their side, whichever side it may be, than to see progress made. And folks, West Pelzer needs a big dose of progress. Whatever it takes to get it.

Both these towns have a strong mayor form of government. Dissatisfaction with the specific mayor does not justify abandoning, or circumventing, the legal form of government. On the other hand, both mayors could certainly do a better job of communicating with their Councils and ease up on the finger pointing. Nobody is wrong all the time; conversely, everybody is wrong some of the time. That includes mayors.

Those elected to public office are owed a vote of thanks by those they serve. They are also owed a presumption of good intentions until they show otherwise.

Those who elected them, however, are owed their best efforts to serve the people and not to advance their own political or personal agendas. Seems to me that’s where things are breaking down right now.

Hot, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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