News Archive

(3506) Week of Aug 30, 2006

SAT scores among best in the state
District One begins year with largest enrollment
District One continues to lead
Options for towns finances laid on the table
Resignation not an option, mayor says
Tax increase on hold
Museum committee disbands
Local teen featured on Jerry Lewis telethon
Rai$ing Race results

CSX abandonment of rail line denied
SC Supreme Court to hear case appeal
Seems to Me . . .Common sense

SAT scores among best in the state

SAT scores among  Anderson School District One’s seniors continued to rise in 2006 placing District One students 21 points above the national composite and 57 points beyond South Carolina’s student average.

A 13 point increase on the Math portion of the test coupled with the Critical Reading score for a composite of 1042,  ranked District One 4th in the state among 86 school districts according to results released this week by The College Board, the organization which administers the tests.

  The state’s overall SAT scores decreased by 8 points from last year’s, but there has been steady progress in previous recent years.  South Carolina’s scores have shown an overall growth over the past five years putting the state among the nation’s leaders in SAT improvement.   

Additionally, Anderson One’s participation has continued to rise (52% of seniors). The steady rise in the participation not only reflects the growth of the district but that an increasingly larger number of Anderson One students intend to continue their education. 

According to The College Board, “scores tend to decline with a rise in the percentage of test-takers.”  That has not been the case in Anderson One.

“It is always pleasing to see increases in our high school seniors taking the SAT.  It has to be viewed as a clear indication of their aspiration for college and their personal high expectations for achievement,” said Dr. Wayne Fowler, Superintendent  of Anderson School District One. “Though the state scores have still not met those of the nation, we know South Carolina students as a group and our students in particular have made impressive progress.  We have placed  great emphasis on students taking  higher level courses with increased academic rigor which has been shown to have a  direct impact on improving scores on tests such as the SAT,” concluded Fowler.

 “Credit for the continued improvement in Anderson One’s scores should be shared by the students with the hard working, dedicated efforts of our schools’ teachers,   administration, and supportive communities,” said Fred Alexander, Chairman of the Anderson School District One Board of Trustees.  “Achievements of this kind underscore the quality of education provided by the citizens of our communities.  We   expect to remain among the very best,” said Alexander.

Dr. John Pruitt, Director of Secondary Education for Anderson One cautioned, “One should always take great care when using SAT and ACT scores to rank schools and  school districts, however, we take great pride in the work being done by our students  and staff in this area.  These scores fluctuate with the overall academic bearing of each senior class.  An initiative that works well for this year may not work as well in    the next.  What does not fluctuate is the determination of our faculties from  kindergarten through high school to make certain Anderson One students receive the  best education we can possibly deliver.”  

“Improvement of SAT scores has to be a focus of any school system with high expectations for their students.  Because of the competitive nature of college entrance and scholarship money, districts must provide workshops, seminars, and entire courses dedicated to the improvement of standardized testing results.  The scores really improve as a result of many initiatives within each school and individual classrooms.   When we see improvements such as this year for our students, every aspect of a school system has contributed,” Pruitt concluded.

District One begins year with largest enrollment  9045 students

Anderson School District One began the 2006-2007 school year with the largest enrollment ever, a total of 9045 students in all grades including 3 and 4 year old kindergarten and K-12.

District One Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said it was the first time the District has surpassed the 9,000 barrier.

“We are off to a good start with the most students we have ever had,” he reported Tuesday during the District One School Board meeting.

According to Dr. Fowler, Palmetto High School had their largest enrollment with 943 students, while Wren High School had a total of 1655.

Fowler told Board members the District may need to begin discussion on a building program if the growing trend continues for the area.

According to Dr. Fowler, District One schools “are beginning to fill up.”

One of the District’s schools already feeling the crunch for space is Wren Elementary which had 689 students enrolled this year.

According to Dr. Fowler, it is the only school in the District currently having to use portables. Two portable buildings are being used for art and music classes.

He said that if more students continue to come into the District, art and music classes may eventually have to float.

According to Dr. Fowler, Powdersville Elementary has some space left to accommodate growth on that end of the District.

 With 394 students, the school still has capacity for another 200 to 250 students, Dr. Fowler said. West Pelzer Elementary also has room for another 100 to 125 students.

The rest of the District’s schools are at capacity.

“If we grow at that pace later on this year we will need to start discussion on a building program.”

Fowler said that when the district begins considering a referendum, they will include the community.

“We would like to get input before we begin a referendum,” Fowler said. He said he would like to form groups all over the District “to see how they think we should grow.”

Dr. Fowler commended the board and the community for supporting building programs for the District One classroom needs through the years.

“The Board and the community have supported providing classroom space for our students,” Fowler said. “This board and others have provided classrooms for our students, not portables, over the years.”

Dr. Fowler said the District has only two portables, both at Wren Elementary.

Fowler said the District is in good shape but over the next  two to three years will need to look at providing more classroom space and possibly two new schools.

The District may need to look at a new elementary school and possibly a new high school to meet the growing community needs.

He suggested the Board should begin looking at a building program later this year or the first of next year to see where new schools may be needed.

“Ultimately it will come down to whether the taxpayers are willing to pay for it,” he said. “Over the years our people have been bery supportive,” Dr. Fowler said in allowing the District to provide “a nice, safe learning environment.”

Assistant Superintendent David Havird said the opening of the school year went “very smooth.”

Havird said the District’s teachers, principals and students were academically focused from the very first day.

Enrollment in the District’s 14 schools on the tenth day of classes were as follows:

Palmetto High had 943 students with 195 Seniors, 184 Juniors, 241 Sophomores and 267 Freshmen.

Palmetto Middle had a total enrollment of 744; Cedar Grove Elementary 571; Palmetto Elementary 674; Pelzer Elementary 142; and West Pelzer Elementary 398.

In the upper end of the District, Wren High School had 1655 students with 353 Seniors. There were 361 Juniors, 473 Sophomores, and 468 Freshmen.

Enrollment at the other Wren area schools included Wren Middle 778; Powdersville Middle 516; Concrete Elementary 407; Hunt Meadows Elementary 649; Powdersville Elementary 394; Spearman Elementary 485; and Wren Elementary 689.

District One continues to lead

During the Anderson District One School Board meeting Tuesday, History Teacher Iris Achenbrand was presented the Preserve America Award by book publisher representative James Bryan

According to Bryan, one teacher in each State and one nationally are recogized for their teaching of history and heritage of the United States.

Bryan said Achenbrand is the “Best example of a history teacher in South Carolina and the judges said,  “She makes history come alive.”

She was named the 2006-2007 SC Preserve American History Teacher of the Year for her work at Hunt Meadows where she is an outatanding instructor and leader in the field of history, Bryan said.

She was presented a series of books and a check for $1000 to be used in her classroom.

“Mrs. Achenbrand makes a difference with her students and also is a district leader in efforts to help other teachers bring history alive,” Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said. “This is so well deserved.”

Dr. Fowler introduced Dr. Mason Gary, who is a professor of a program called “The Principleship,” which is being taught to District One and other teachers under a cohort group with Clemson University.

The District already has a similar program through Furman University., Dr. Fowler said. The courses cost participating teachers about one third the cost of a course offered at the university.

Other benefits include the professors come to the school and  teachers from other districts can participate.

Dr. Fowler also reported to Board members that the District had placed fourth in the state on SAT scores with District One’s 2006 seniors scoring a total of 1042, 21 points about the national average and 57 points above the state.

According to Fowler, District One was the only District in the Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee region that saw a gain in the SAT scores.

We were the only one that made a gain this year. You’ve got to be proud of our teachers who’ve made this happen.”

Dr. Fowler said that the Districts which scored above District One spend from $1500 to $3000 more per student and are very affluent Districts in the center of the state.

“Anderson District One is a very frugal district in what we spend on students,” Dr. Fowler said. The district is 85th out of 86 districts in the amount of money spent per student and continues to have consistent results that place the District as one of the top in the State.

Fowler commended parents and teachers for working together and said that it is a K through 12 effort.

Fowler also reported that the District received $97,570 in grant money last year that went directly into the classroom and to students.

Cedar Grove Elementary was the top grant getter in the District, with nine grants totaling $25,000.

“Year after year we outperform the state,” Dr. Fowler said. “We get more than we should get.”

David Havird also reported that the district will  have to spend 15 percent, or approximately $300,000 of funding provided through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on early intervention services to avoid placing children in special education classes if possible.

The program will focus on K-3rd grade, Havird said, but funding can be used through grade 12.

Havird said the District received $1.7 million from the Federal grant program, of which 95 percent goes to teacher or assistant salaries.

In other action, board members unanimoulsy approved personnel recommendations made by Dr. Fowler.

Among those were:

Leave of Absence - Karen Dean, 4K Pelzer Elementary.

Resignations - Vickie Russell, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Speech Therapist.

Transfers - Gaia Phillips, District School Psychologist/Early Interventionist from .6 FTE to 1FTE.

Recommendations - Danielle Bartal, Powdersville Elementary Academic Assistance .6 FTE; Susan Bennett, Powdersville Elementary, Speech .2 FTE; Debbie Cox, Wren Elementary, LD Resource .5FTE.

Options for town's finances laid on the table

By Stan Welch

Tuesday, Aug. 29 - For the third time in a week, the Williamston Town Council met, and again failed to approve a tax increase. Instead, council voted 3-2 to maintain the current millage level of 106, though the possibility of an increase still exists. Accountability by Mayor Phillip Clardy’s administration continues to be the fly in the ointment, according to comments by various residents and at least one Councilman.

Mayor Clardy attempted to defuse that issue by making a motion during the meeting  to adopt a 21 mill tax increase, and also to hire a part time town administrator.

This meeting differed in that it included a financial report by the Town’s financial advisor, Bob Daniel. That report reflected a greatly improved picture of the Town’s finances, but also recommended a twenty per cent increase in the tax millage as part of the preferred option of three presented to continue the Town’s recovery.

Daniel spoke for more than thirty minutes as he reported on the results of a number of efforts by the Mayor and Council to address the Town’s financial crisis earlier this year. The cumulative effect of the actions taken by Council, which included the reduction of twenty-five staff positions, the imposition of a $14 a month sanitation fee, an increase in water and sewer rates, as well as various other fees, amounted to a significant step towards recovery. “I see daylight” said Daniel. “I see it for the remainder of this year and I see it in the future. But this option gives you a chance to solidify the Town’s financial position.”

One thing that the first option would accomplish would be to improve the Town’s financial status, as reflected in a “going concern opinion”, which it currently suffers from. “That is the worst report you can have. With that status, you have to find a bank officer who is insane to give you a loan,” said Daniel. Changing that status is one of the goals set by Daniel.

The first option, which was recommended by both Daniel and ACOG representative Joe Newton, would raise taxes by 21 mills; lower the recent sanitation fee from fourteen dollars a month to ten; gradually increase staffing from the current level of twenty-five to thirty-eight; provide the Mayor and Council with limited salary and benefits; leave all other revenue increasing measures in place; and pay off the bond anticipation note in December.

The reduction of the sanitation fee, which was so vehemently opposed by Council members and citizens alike when it was first introduced, came under fire by people on both sides of the Council table. Tim Cox called the proposed shifting of the burden from a fee to property tax “socialism”, saying it punished the wealthy. Councilman Greg Cole, citing how effective the fee has been in generating revenue, asked why it couldn’t be maintained for another year, until the Town’s recovery is well underway. “Isn’t there some way we can do some creative accounting on the garbage fee?” asked Cole.

Daniel and Newton answered both concerns by explaining that the revenues generated by the fee are restricted in what they can be used for. Newton explained that Title Six of the state code of laws places very specific restrictions on enterprise funds.

“Right now, with the debts we are faced with, I can stand before any judge in the land and tell him that these funds have absolutely been used legally and appropriately. Perhaps we could split some payroll expenditures up between various departments, but we’re getting to a point where I’m not comfortable with that.”

He went on to explain that the money generated by property taxes is unrestricted, as it goes into the general fund. “We can do virtually anything we like with that money, use it wherever it is needed. But the sanitation fee can only be used by the street department.”

Town residents continued to beat the drum of accountability, expressing their concerns that Mayor Clardy would continue to act irresponsibly, as several of them put it. Daniel was bombarded with questions about how controls could be put in place to assure that the Council oversees the Town’s spending. He responded by saying that such controls have been enacted, but he conceded that two incidents in recent weeks were discouraging.

The incidents involved the expenditure of $1600 to have the Town Hall pressure washed, while almost $1000 worth of flowers were purchased and planted before the Spring Water Festival. The Mayor defends both expenditures saying that the funds provided by Sen. Billy O’Dell were PARD funds  which are earmarked for tourism and similar uses.

Daniel also provided two other options for the Town to choose from in determining the direction its recovery will take. Option two, which Councilman Cole supports, would maintain fees at current levels, while either paying off the Town’s BAN note in December or continuing to make the $8500 a month interest payment on the note.

Option three would involve borrowing $300,000 if possible, to pay off the BAN and amortize the loan for 3-5 years. Property taxes would increase five per cent a year for five years, while the number of employees would remain at 36 for the life of the loan. Sanitation fees would drop by a dollar a month each year for four years.

Asked by an audience member to state their personal preference for the various options, both Newton and Daniel said emphatically that they would choose the first option. “The sooner you get out of this mess, the better,” said Daniel.

Daniel also acknowledged a resident’s observation that if either of the two mills in town closed the impact would be immense. “That’s another reason to get back on your feet so that you can begin to plan for the future. Williamston is in a great location for development, with interstate access and a great school system. But it’s time to start planning.”

Newton agreed, saying that if it was his town and his taxes, he would still choose the first option.

Both men also defended their recommendation to use the remainder of the recently retired street department head to hire a worker in that department immediately and another in November.

Said Daniel, “The department had 11 people at one time. It doesn’t take a genius to see that was too many. But now they have three, and that is clearly not enough.” Said Newton, “I would recommend hiring one worker right away. These folks are just overworked.”

Daniel did concede that personnel expenditures had been a large part of the Town’s problems. “The number of employees went from 40 to 57. In a town this size, personnel costs consume about sixty-five per cent of the Town’s budget. Control those costs and you control the budget. I’m recommending an eventual level of 38 employees, but that’s up to you. I really couldn’t care less.”

Both men also repeated their written recommendation that the Town hire a professional administrator. 

Said Daniel, “I work with towns that use the full gamut of choices about that. But if it was me, I would hire an administrator, for two reasons. One, I don’t want to have to do all that myself. And secondly, when something goes wrong, I want somebody to blame it on.” He added that he wasn’t sure the Town could afford a full time administrator. The cost for a fulltime administrator is estimated at $60,000 a year.

Newton conceded the value of a professional administrator, but added that everyone in Town had been asleep at the switch, including the citizens. There were years of bad audits and plenty of blame to go around.” He apologized for his tone, but reiterated that citizen involvement would have been helpful.

Council voted to maintain the current millage, though it can be amended at the meeting next Tuesday night. Second reading has to take place then, since that is the last day on which the county auditor can receive the millage rate from the Town. “We’ll have to fax something to Mr. Hunter after the meeting Tuesday night,” said Mayor Clardy after the meeting.

Resignation not an option, mayor says

By Stan Welch

Monday, Aug. 28 - A public hearing held to allow Williamston residents another  chance to share their feelings on the Town’s financial problems and its efforts to address those problems produced some new information.

The public meeting followed one held last Thursday, which saw three members of Council refuse to vote on a proposed 20 mill tax increase. The Council also refused to even discuss an ordinance to set the new tax levy, as well as refusing to consider a resolution that would have established certain controls on the transfer and uses of the monies raised by the tax increase.

The Council chambers were once again packed; once again, several of those speaking called for the Mayor’s resignation. Mayor Phillip Clardy, during a television interview conducted prior to the meeting in his office, and also attended by a reporter from The Journal, said, “Resignation is not an option. That’s one thing that hurts me the most, is that people call for my resignation because I was doing my best to do what I am supposed to do.”

Clardy repeated that stance, when asked by The Journal if he would reconsider resignation if it were clear that the tax increase would fail otherwise. “No I would not resign under those conditions, because it would show me their true motive.”

Once the public hearing began, several residents addressed the Council and Mayor. Most simply repeated what has been said at meeting after meeting, since the Town’s financial condition became known late last year. Many of them blame Mayor Clardy for the mismanagement that they say has resulted in a $1.7 million debt the Town faces. Several of those who spoke again called on Clardy to resign, while stating that such a decision by the mayor would make a 20 mill tax increase easier to accept.

Thomas Marshall, who also chided the Council members for failing to fulfill their duties in regards to the Town’s finances, told Clardy, “If you’re going to raise the millage, then you should resign. The buck stops with you in a strong mayor form of government. Have you taken any responsibility for that?”

Clardy responded that he took full responsibility for that which he was responsible for.

Judy Ellison, a frequent and vocal critic of the Mayor, challenged him to explain why there are tax liens against his business holdings in town. “Do you think citizens should pay their taxes? Why are there tax liens on your business?” asked Ellison. Clardy, while offering no explanation, indirectly confirmed the presence of the liens, saying, “That is between me and the South Carolina Department of Revenue.” He offered to discuss it with Ellison in private, but she declined, saying, “I want to talk about it now. Your failure to pay taxes shows poor character.”

Clardy said he was sorry she felt that way.

Crout told the Council that it didn’t matter how good a plan or program they came up with. “If you don’t figure out some way to control the Mayor’s spending, nothing else matters. You’ve been trying lately, which is better than the uncontrolled spending in the past. But your efforts have been ineffective. He not only spends without your advice and consent, he does it without your knowledge. I don’t know how you force a duly elected official to play by the rules, or include other duly elected officials in the decision making process, but you have to figure out a way. Until that happens, it is irresponsible of you to seek any further revenue.”

Other issues included the failure of the Town to collect a $30,000 franchise fee from Duke Power because the ordinance establishing the fee didn’t get acted on. Said Tim Cox, “That sounds a little irresponsible to me, doesn’t it? And the half of the increase that they want to put in a savings account is just to give the banks a reason to help them out later when they need to borrow money.”

The reference was to a provision in a proposed resolution establishing certain restrictions on the revenues raised by the tax increase. The equivalent of ten mills would be placed in a certificate of deposit to be used to build a reserve fund for the Town’s emergency needs.

The question of whether to hire a town administrator, at a cost of approximately $60,000 a year, also arose. Sean Lister called it the most important decision the Council could make. To make his point, he asked whether the Town had recently bought flowers and trees for planting. Mayor Clardy said they had, adding that State Senator Billy O’Dell had presented the Town with an $8000 grant to be used in preparing and beautifying the Town for the Spring Water Festival.

Clardy also stated that he had sent each Councilman a letter, informing them of the purchase and his plan to use volunteers to do the planting. “I asked for their input and any opposition to the idea. I heard nothing from them.”

Councilman Greg Cole said the plants were bought with a Town employee’s personal credit card. “I’m not signing that invoice,” said Cole. The employee was not identified.

Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. took issue with the Mayor, saying, “The letter said ‘if we have no objections.’ But we have a resolution in place that says we all sign the invoices, not ‘if we don’t object’. This was just a semantic trick to get around that resolution. That money was squandered. I’m not playing these games.”

Clardy countered with a motion “that we sell $28,000 worth of gilt edged books. What does Town Hall need with Huck Finns?”  His reference was to books purchased by former Mayor Marion Middleton, Sr., who was convicted on embezzlement charges shortly after being defeated for the Mayor’s office by Clardy in 2000. Middleton was in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

Lister then asked the Council whether they thought the Mayor could manage the Town’s money. Middleton, Jr. answered by saying that various controls had been in place since February. “We passed all this stuff in February, but it’s not getting done.”

Councilman David Harvell said that he thought that was a matter best discussed at a regular Council meeting, and councilman Otis Scott said, “I’m not God. I don’t judge people.” Pressed by Lister to answer, and amid jeering from the crowd, Scott said he did think the mayor could do the job.

Lister concluded by urging the Council to establish the administrator’s job. “You guys have to do this. Nothing else matters if you don’t.”

Middleton stated that he was putting several items on the agenda for consideration at the next meeting, including dissolving the street department head’s position, the hiring of two laborers in that department, and the establishment of a foreman/

Tax increase on hold, for now

By Stan Welch

Thursday, Aug. 24 - A public hearing that was widely expected to produce fireworks fizzled Thrusday night, leaving the Town of Williamston without an established tax millage, at least for a few days more.

More than sixty citizens packed into the Council chambers to hear discussion and debate of a proposed twenty per cent tax increase. They heard surprisingly little of either. What they heard was an odd series of motions which died for lack of a second; in effect, a series of non-votes that led to the failure of the Council to give first reading approval to an ordinance that, if approved as desired by those who have led the Town’s efforts to rebound from near financial disaster, would have raised the millage from 106 mills to 127 mills.

Relatively few citizens spoke to the large and supportive crowd. Several of those who did speak called for the resignation of Mayor Phillip Clardy, whom many in town blame for the troubles the Town faces. Several of them stated that the main objection they had to the proposed increase centered around their belief that Clardy would continue what they consider shady or inept management techniques.

So pervasive is that attitude in certain political circles that Joe Newton, ACOG director of government operations, who has supervised the Town’s recovery efforts for the last several months, addressed the issue with a special resolution. That resolution, which also died from a lack of a second, would have required that half of the 20 mill increase be used to reduce the current sanitation fees. Current residential fees of fourteen dollars a month would drop to ten dollars, while commercial customers would pay twenty five dollars a month instead of thirty.

The resolution further directed that the remaining ten mills of the increase would be invested in a twelvemonth certificate of deposit. Further, any use whatsoever of those funds would require a unanimous vote of the Council and Mayor. The final restriction set by the resolution would force the Mayor and Council to meet in December of this year and receive public input on the proposed tax millage for the 2007 budget. Council would also be required to reduce the millage to as near as possible to the previous level of 106 mills.

Upon the motion dying from a lack of a second, the Mayor stated that “This means there will be no controls over the use of the tax monies, if the increase is approved.”

It became increasingly apparent that there was small chance of the increase being approved, at least not on that night.

Following the public hearing, Newton stated that an ordinance setting the tax levy would be the best method of addressing the issue. The town attorney, Richard Thompson, presented an ordinance for the Council’s review. A motion was made by the Mayor to bring the ordinance before council for consideration after no one else would make such a motion. He asked twice for a second. The entire Council sat stoically silent, until the Mayor had to concede that the motion had died for a lack of a second. Clardy referred back to the town’s request for help from Newton and financial consultant Bob Daniels. “We asked them, as a patient asks a doctor, for a diagnosis and a plan for treatment. This tax increase is a necessary step int that treatment. There will be no further recovery without it.”

Newton told the Council that they really needed to set some millage, “or start laying people off tomorrow.” 

Mayor Clardy made a motion to set the levy at the previous level of 106 mills. A mill in Williamston generates approximately $8000 in tax revenues. Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. seconded that motion for purposes of discussion. It was the first motion to receive a second in the entire evening. Whatever momentum  that may have represented, it was short lived. A vote to set the levy at that rate, which Mayor Clardy conducted twice, received two votes against the earlier lower level, while no one voted for it. Councilmen Middleton, Jr., Cole and Harvell all abstained.

Subsequently, Council, led by Middleton Jr., who had vowed not to support the tax increase without significant controls on the management of the Town’s funds, voted to hold another meeting Monday, prior to a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, at which Daniels will give the Town a financial forecast.

Middleton said he wanted to give the people more information and get ideas from them about what they wanted, and what they would support.

Council decided to meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of next week to discuss financial information before making a decision on the proposed tax increase.

 

Museum committee disbands

The Williamston Museum Committee has officially disbanded citing a lack of support as the reason.

Museum Committee Chairman Charles Blakely said that the committee has worked over the years with the goal of creating a museum including renovation of the Old City Hall, gutting the building, (with help of town employees), installing new windows in the building and having the ceiling sandblasted.

Blakely said committee members also went through boxes of records stored in the Williamston Municipal Center looking and finding some material that could be displayed in the museum.

“Unfortunately, we have not received sufficient support to enable us to continue our efforts,” Blakely said this week. “We are uncertain about the future of the Old City Hall and have not been successful in obtaining definitive information about the future of the building.”

Blakely said he hopes other individuals will step forward to continue the museum project.

Local teen featured on Jerry Lewis telethon

Luke Christie of Due West has been named the National Goodwill Ambasador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association for the year.

Luke and his family will be featured in a videotaped profile with live interviews to be aired nationwide on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, Sept. 3-4

The Telethon will be broadcast from the South Coast Hotel in Las Vegas. The show can be seen on WLOS-TV, Channel 13. In the profile, 13-year-old Luke and his parents, Brad and Gloria  Christie, discuss the daily challenges of living with his spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Luke, who uses a power wheelchair for mobility, and the Christie family talk about their involvement with MDA’s programs.

SMA is one of more than 40 neuromuscular diseases that MDA fights through its worldwide research and nationwide service programs. The profile of Luke will educate Telethon viewers about the help MDA gives families,  and why the public’s support of the Association is vital.

Rai$ing Race results

Over a three day period that took participants to three upstate counties and two states, The Rai$ing Race 2 ended at the Anderson County Fair Grounds with Aaron Kincaid and Larry Elrod winning the event for the second year in a row.

The Raising Race 2 gave 12 two person teams the opportunity to experience what is is like to compete in the CBS reality show, The Amazing Race and to raise money for Calvary Home for Children, an Anderson home for abused and neglected children.

The winners took home a $2,000 cash prize, but winning was not easy.

Participants covered more than 700 miles competing in dozens of tasks each day, including taking an elementary school test, cleaning the Abbeville opera house, finding a misspelled word on the Wofford College campus, and riding a swing ride at the Spring Water Festival to find their next clue.

Hopewell Fire Department Chief Andrew Ginna and Assistant Chief Eric Retzlaff came in second. Another local team, Shake and Bake with Travis Rankin of Williamston and teammate Randall Johnson of Belton, finished 4th.

The Electric City Sisters, Jill Wolf and Shannon Chase came into the final stop at the fairground in second place, but found wrestling a tough task and finished seventh.

Proceeds from the event will go toward a cottage at Calvary Home for Children. The Raising Race was organized by Kelly (McCorkle) Parkison, Miss SC 2002 and a participant in the Amazing Race Season 7 on CBS.  Parkison organized the first event as a fundraiser for a cottage which will honor Leslie Ann Mazzara, a former Miss Williamston who was murdered along with her roommate in October, 2004 in Napa California.

Mazzara was a Miss Williamston and spokesperson and supporter for Calvary Home.

For more information or to make a donation, see the web site at www.lesliemazzarafund .com.

CSX abandonment of rail line denied

After a lengthy struggle to protect a critical portion of the CSX Railroad from abandonment, Anderson County’s efforts proved successful. In the August 11 decision by the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the proposed abandonment of 12.74 miles of railroad owned and operated by CSX Transportation, Inc. was denied.

Since CSX publicly declared its intention to abandon the section of rail between Pelzer and Belton on January 13, 2006, County officials have worked with CSX representatives, local manufacturers and other railway companies to formulate a solution that would benefit all stakeholders.

The Surface Transportation Board ruling leaves CSX with a few options including appeal of the decision; selling the line to another railroad for continued operation; or continue to operate and maintain the line.

“The County was very concerned about maintaining the current service to existing industries, preserving the rail line for future use, and in maintaining the dual rail access Anderson County currently enjoys, said Anderson County Administrator Joey R. Preston. “The CSX Transportation’s line is critical to the industries it serves, and is an important component of the County’s economic development success and continued marketing efforts.”

“This portion of the CSX line forms a critical connection between the Norfolk Southern Railway and Pickens Railway lines,” Shae Rozakos, Anderson County existing industries manager said.  “It also provides dual access for Anderson County which keeps rail rates competitive for rail customers. Companies served by the CSX Transportation line indicated that finding alternative transportation for their product and supplies would be a great hardship for them.  Many said abandonment of the railroad would severely limit their ability to expand in the future. A few indicated that it might threaten their ability to remain in business, affecting their employees, the communities through which the line passes, and Anderson County as a whole.”

The STB is an economic regulatory agency that Congress created to resolve railroad rate and service disputes and reviewing proposed railroad mergers. The STB is decisionally independent, although it is administratively affiliated with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The agency has jurisdiction over Railroad rate and service issues; rail restructuring transactions (mergers, line sales, new line construction, and old line abandonments); certain trucking company, moving van, and non-contiguous ocean shipping company rate matters; certain intercity passenger bus company structure, financial, and operational matters and rates and services of certain pipelines not regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

SC Supreme Court to hear case appeal

By Stan Welch

The South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a ruling by Judge Alex Macaulay in the writ of mandamus action brought by County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson against Anderson County administrator Joey Preston.

The Court’s decision will have far reaching effects on issues of public information and access to it, whether by the general public or elected officials themselves. Wilson’s attorneys, Jay Bender and Holly Beeson, submitted an appeal on July 31, asking that the Court address the case because of its import across the state.

Councilwoman Wilson informed The Journal last week that the Court had agreed to hear the case, adding, “The quick response is indicative of the importance of this case.  It will determine to a large extent the manner in which elected officials are provided or denied the information they need to perform their elected duties.”

The case has been in the court system for many months, as Wilson has sought access first  to legal vendor files, reflecting the county’s use of various attorneys and the expenses involved, and later to receive routine financial information about the County’s operations,

Judge Macaulay ruled in May that not only did attorney privilege apply in the case of legal vendor files, with  the entire County Council retaining that privilege as a body, but also that it was within Preston’s discretion as to when he would provide the financial information Wilson has sought.

Seems to Me . . .Common sense

By Stan Welch

It is an axiom of American political lore that our system of laws is somehow rooted in common sense and a reasonable view of what is just and right. In fact, our law was based on what was then known as common law.  The purpose of our forefathers in writing the Constitution was to guarantee to the individual, to the single, otherwise insignificant citizen certain rights and protections that were “endowed by the Creator”, and not codified by any effort of man. 

Perhaps, at one point when life was simple and the courts actually had to travel around to the people, such a close link between law and logic existed. Four hundred years of what passes for civilization has taken care of that, wouldn’t you say?

Today, we live in a state where you have to wear your seat belt in your own car, but you can ride your own motorcycle without a helmet. Does anybody see a link between the law and common sense anywhere? A barber has to be better trained than a coroner in this state. Any common sense there, folks?

A nursing home signs a contract with a private, for profit ambulance service that is thirty minutes away under emergency conditions; meanwhile nearby EMS units go wanting for the business and the revenues it can generate for these volunteers, and patients are put at risk for the sake of a business deal. Common sense anyone?

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the South Carolina Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case from Anderson County that has dragged on for years; and which common sense says should never have gone to court at all. The case involves the seemingly interminable pursuit of access to public records by County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, and the intransigent insistence by county administrator Joey Preston that some important and noble legal principle is at stake, thereby justifying his refusal to make the information available.

That noble legal principle is supposedly the client attorney privilege. Wilson had sought access to legal vendor files because she thinks the County squanders hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers each year; Preston declined to provide the information, saying it was privileged, and that only the Council could release him from the solemn defense of such a principle. Okay, those weren’t his exact words, but the transparent self- righteousness of his position is clear.

Council, which could easily have resolved the issue,  acted like the tar baby in the Uncle Remus story. Council ain’t said nuttin’, they just lays low. The whole time that simple vote of 4-3 was all that was needed to release the privilege, and Council didn’t say nuttin’. So after months and months of hearings and motions and depositions and more hearings, Wilson filed a writ of mandamus to force the issue, which is what a writ of mandamus is supposed to do. In this case, and in this County, it forced the issue by allowing the case to drag on for well over another year, and led it to the State Supreme Court.

Along the way, Judge Buddy Nicholson, Jr. made one half hearted effort to inject some common sense into the issue. Over the years that the case dragged on, more than access to legal vendor files had become involved.  Access to routine financial records and information reflecting the normal day to day operations of the County also became a focus of the case, as Preston repeatedly failed to provide those records in accordance with county regulations. 

At the first writ of mandamus hearing in 2005, Judge Nicholson addressed the defense position that Wilson had in the past disseminated such information to the public. Aside from the fact that disseminating public information to the public seems to be a reasonable activity, the judge ruled that there were perfectly good legal remedies in place to deal with any breach of attorney privilege by Wilson. “It’s called contempt of court,” he said.

He further ruled that the financial information should be provided immediately and in a timely manner.  That effort at marrying common sense and legal decision was short lived. The judge had to withdraw from the case due to health concerns, and Judge Macaulay came on to the scene. After dragging the case out for several more months, the judge issued a ruling that not only acknowledged Preston’s position that the legal vendor information should be privileged, but also ruled that it was Preston’s job to decide when and how the financial records should be provided.                

 So now we have a case that Council could have settled in thirty seconds, and which has cost both sides tens of thousands of dollars to bring this far. It is going before the State’s highest court, because, due to a complete absence of common sense, it has become an important case. It is now a matter of whether a hired bureaucrat can determine what information an elected official should receive, and when. And folks, it seems to me that’s about as far from common sense as the law can get. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

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