News Archive


(3608) Week of September 3, 2008

Looper announces for Ward 4 seat
Contracts nearing on land for application
New chipper returns mulch to residents
Concerned Cheddar residents turn out for railroad meeting
Clarification made on BP Oil, Cheddar Fire Department grant
Property rezoning for District 5 middle school shot down by tie vote
Thieves working hard to get copper
Seems to Me . . . Blowing smoke

Looper announces for Ward 4 seat

J. Michael Loope of 23 Spring St. announced this week that he is seeking the Ward 4 Council seat in Williamston.

“I believe that I will be a benefit to my ward and the town as a whole,” Looper said.

Looper said if elected he will do everything possible to try to get the unnecessary fees removed from town water bills. “We should be able to eliminate the additional charges if we prepare proper budgeting and watch our spending,” he said. “Our residents cannont afford this cost.”

He said he wants to see his ward and other wards cleaned up. “There are too many residential and commercial junk yards in this town and they need to be eliminated for both safety and health reasons.”

Looper said it will take some changes in ordinances and time to get the rules and regulations in place.

He said he wants to work with grant writers to get monies to beautify both ends of the town.

He also wants to see details accounting for all monies spent by the town and wants the information to be accessible to citizens.

Looper is married to the former Diane Alexander and they have two children, Jimmy and Le Anne and two grandchildren, Cullen, 7 and Jackson, 5.

He has resided in Ward 4 for more than 40 years and has served the town in several volunteer capacities.

He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he serves in several positions including the Angel Food Ministries currently being sponsored by the church.

He is a past member of the Williamston Jaycees, the Williamston Sertoma Club, the Christmas Park Committee and a charter member of the Spring Water Festival Committee. He has also been a member of several other professional organizations in the construction and industrial field.

Looper is a 1967 graduate of Palmetto High. He completed  Mechanical Drafting studies at Greenville Tech in 1969 and Certified Purchasing Management at Greenville Tech in 1990. He is also a licensed general contractor.

Looper is running unopposed for the seat that is currently held by Otis Scott, who is giving it up to run for mayor.

“Thank you in advance for your vote in the upcoming election,” Looper said. “I also appreciate your prayers and I will do my best to represent the people in my ward as well as everyone else in town regardless of which ward you may live in.”

Contracts nearing on land for application

By Stan Welch

Efforts to locate and procure a site for the proposed land application of wastewater for The Town of Williamston are gradually coming to a conclusion.

Mayor Phillip Clardy reports that the town’s engineers, Goldie & Associates, have “locked in on some properties. The Council and I don’t know who the owners of those properties are. But our engineers are in final negotiations.”

Sonya Harrison, representative of those engineers, confirmed that they hope to present at least two contracts to the full council for approval within the month. “We have had crews out surveying to define various properties and to survey rights of way for the lines to be run.”

Those crews are working along Big Creek Road, and are not working on one large tract of land. “There are several tracts, and they are not all adjacent to each other,” said Harrison.

The town is looking for land to be used in dispersing its treated sewage, using a land application method that would take the town out of the wastewater discharge stream. That means the town’s wastewater would no longer be discharged into the Saluda River, freeing the town from a maze of state and federal regulations that continue to tighten and become more restrictive. That in turn continues to increase treatment and disposal costs, leaving many towns the size of Williamston unable to meet those costs without staggering rate increases.

“This technique will basically take us off the regulatory radar once we have it approved and in place,” said Mayor Clardy. “It will make a great difference in our ability to grow as a town. The town, along with West Pelzer and Pelzer, is currently under a consent order with DHEC which all but bans any development.

Harrison also reported that one of the transactions being negotiated is a lease agreement for the land, while the other pending arrangements are purchases. “We really need to get this resolved so that we can begin the detailed planning phase of the project.”

New chipper returns mulch to residents

The Town of Williamston recently purchased a Bandit Model 255XP 15 inch capacity hand fed tree chipper which will be used to grind limbs and other debris.

The chipper features a Caterpillar 115 hp engine, clean out and inspection door, hand crank height adjustable discharge, hand crank swivel discharge, lockable 40 gallon steel fuel tank, lockable steel hydraulic tank, hydraulic flow control for feed wheel and other features.

To protect operators, the chipper has safety control bars and two last chance safety pull cables. It has a weather resistant manual container.

Total purchase price from Ditch Witch of the Carolinas, Simpsonville location was $35,636.67.

Street Department head John Owen said mulch resulting from use of the chipper will be available to town residents on a first come, first serve basis. Persons with limbs on their property can have the chipped materials placed back into their yard and will have to let the town crew know as they are making their way down the street.

Items to be chipped must be placed beside the road within easy access and not contain dirt, trash or other materials.

Owen said the new chipper is being used regularly resulting in less trips to the Starr C&D landfill. It is being pulled behind the town’s new dump truck. Both pieces of equipment were purchased with funds obtained from the town’s sanitation fee.

With fall approaching, Owen reminds residents that leaves must be placed in bags to be picked up by the town.

Concerned Cheddar residents turn out for railroad meeting

By Stan Welch

A crowd of more than seventy five residents crammed into the Cheddar Fire Department Monday night to hear more about the proposed closing of the Lewis Drive railroad crossing.

Steve Chapman, one of the organizers of the opposition to the closing, opened the meeting by introducing Senator Billy O’Dell and Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, who both spoke briefly before turning the meeting back over to Chapman.

Senator O’Dell expressed his concerns over the issues of fire safety, both as relates to the closing, and the proposed construction of a ethanol handling facility at the Belton tank farm. “That is something that certainly needs to be addressed, but I am here to listen to what you folks have to say.”

Chapman explained that the community has a twofold problem. “First of all, we don’t want to see the crossing closed, but we also have a problem with the ethanol facility because I don’t think we’re prepared or equipped to deal with a problem if one happens.”

Chapman equated having the ethanol facility located in such proximity to homes to Russian roulette. “You can pull that trigger five times and be fine. But that next time, and BOOM!”

Several members of the audience , including one man who said he worked for BP Oil for thirty years, expressed concerns about the safety of the ethanol. Several others pointed out that the area had insufficient water pressure to even mix the special fire retardant foam needed to fight an ethanol fire.

Others worried that once the railroad was given the right to close one crossing, they would have a precedent to close several others in the area, if they wished. Many of those present said they were never made aware of the rezoning process, or of the move to close the road until just recently.

Debra Chapman, who has for years been on the citizens advisory board, which is the first level of approval for a rezoning request, said that she knew when the request first came before the board that something was wrong.

“They told us they had no plans for the property or any idea what it would be used for. The owner actually told us he had no intentions of selling it. Later, we found out the railroad paid the fee to request the rezoning. I just think we were lied to and misled about this whole process.”

Councilwoman Wilson pointed out that Amy Plummer and Councilman Bill McAbee were involved in the sale of the ethanol site. “The attorney for the other party told me that Amy Plummer and Mr. McAbee made the commission on that sale. Perhaps that’s why information was so difficult to come by.”

Plummer, who was involved in the sale of the site to B & B Properties, and who claims to represent the railroad in matters of economic development, was on hand. She explained that the crossing meets all the criteria for closing, including a low traffic count and close proximity of other crossings. She also said that when the railroad sought rezoning of the 39 acre site, there were no plans to put an ethanol site there. “It took us a year and a half to find Lincoln Energy to locate there.”

She also told the crowd that if the crossing wasn’t closed, it would soon contain three tracks, headed into the ethanol facility’s rail yard. “Then, if you cross one track and don’t see the train coming the other way, you’re going to get hit.”

She stated that the tank cars would not be stored at the site but would be run in and unloaded over a twelve hour stretch, then would leave the site. The Greenville & Western Railway Company, LLC website, however, contains an April 2, 2008 press release which seems to contradict Plummer.

It says in part, “A consortium of regional firms is working to create a 96 car unit train ethanol distribution, storage and blending facility.” The release goes on to say that 5000 tank cars of ethanol are expected to come into the facility in the first year. The consortium has already begun transporting ethanol to several sites in the Cheddar/Williamston area.

That number of cars is expected to grow according to the press release, and the physical plant, which currently doesn’t exist, is slated for upgrading to Federal Rail Administration (FRA) II standards in 2008 and 2009. Plans also call for the “facility to expand to include other fuels and bio-fuels in the future.”

The railroad plans to upgrade its lines, by installing 13,600 crossties, re-deck two bridges, close one crossing, construct two miles of new mainline track, rebuild 23 crossings, and continue to seek funding for improved warning devices at four crossings.

The release also contains this information.  “The consortium’s facility itself will become home to nearly 2.5 miles of new track.”

Chapman stated early in the meeting that he did not speak for the Cheddar Fire Department.

CFD Chief Robbie Land spoke late in the meeting and told Plummer that she had accused him of things he had not done. “My only concern in this matter is to see to the safety of this community. You have disputed my run times, and say I have inflated them. But the measured difference between the other of those tracks from here right now to the distance involved in having to go around the way we will have to go is 1.8 miles. You can dispute times if you want, but I know what they said. But distance cannot be disputed.”

Plummer had challenged Land’s runtimes, saying she had paid to have a study done and the maximum increase was one minute forty two seconds. Land said increases over three minutes were certain, and they could be higher depending on circumstances.

Councilwoman Wilson suggested that the residents contact DHEC and SCDOT and begin a letter writing campaign to oppose the proposed closing and to demand that safety measures be in place before permits are issued for the construction and operation of the ethanol facility.

Clarification made on BP Oil, Cheddar Fire Department grant

By Stan Welch

 A column which appeared in last week’s issue of The Journal gave the impression that a $10,000 donation to the Cheddar Fire Department from BP Oil was earmarked for use in purchasing a foam buggy to assist in fighting fires at the Belton tank farm.

After being contacted by a representative of the Greenville & Western Railway Company and accused of misusing the funds, Cheddar Fire Chief Robbie Land asked that a clarification be made.

“The ten thousand dollars received from BP Oil was a community grant made to the department a while back. That money was hopefully to be used in conjunction with a $30,000 Be Safe grant that we planned to apply for. In the meantime, it was placed in a certificate of deposit to draw interest,” said Land.

Coincidentally, an equipment packager the department needed became available through an internet service for buying and selling items. The package, valued at almost $35,000, was available for a fraction of that amount. “Apparently, the department that ordered the package backed out on the purchase, and this company, that builds fire trucks, was letting it go for about a fourth of its value. We took five thousand from our firefighters” fund and got the board to match it. We ended up getting it for $8500. Anyone who wants to investigate that can do so. The CD for $10,000 is still in the bank.”

Chief Land says his only concern is the road being closed. “I have also been accused of providing bogus run times over this new route. I have no reason and no need to inflate those times. We’re a volunteer department. We don’t need any help in producing slower response times. I just want the community to be as safe as possible, and closing the road hurts that.”

The impression that the BP Oil donation was earmarked for the foam buggy resulted from a misunderstanding between the author of the weekly Seems to Me column, and a member of the Cheddar Fire Department Board of Directors. Any misinformation concerning that donation and its use was inadvertent, and in no way intended to raise questions about the integrity of either Chief Land or the manner in which the department conducts its business.

We appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of all our volunteer firefighters and apologize for any inconvenience.

Property rezoning for District 5 middle school shot down by tie vote

By Stan Welch

The absence of Councilman Bob Waldrep, who is attending the National Republican Convention as a delegate, was clearly felt at Tuesday night’s County Council meeting. 

Perhaps nowhere was it more deeply felt than in the tie vote that defeated a rezoning request by the District Five school district, a request that was essential to their efforts to secure land for a middle school.

Voting against the rezoning were the two retired educators on the Council, Councilwoman Gracie Floyd and Councilman Larry Greer The vote effectively halts the District’s plan to build a middle school on a 120 acre site on Old Williamston Road in the Cobb’s Glen area.  

Both Council members mentioned what they see as a trend by District Five to move new facilities into the northern and western part of the district, leaving students in other areas to be bussed to the new schools. Councilman Waldrep has expressed strong support for the request and had voted for its approval at the last meeting.

District Five Superintendent Betty Bagley was allowed to speak to the issue during a latter portion of the agenda, but despite her impassioned plea, the two Council members repeated their concerns. Mr. Greer lamented the destruction of the McDuffie St. school years and years ago, while Ms. Floyd defended her vote, saying that the people in her district were very unhappy about the school’s proposed location. “This is not a mistake. It’s time for District Two to say ‘What about us?’”

 The other major issue of the evening was the third reading approval of the $10 million general obligation bond. A sizable majority of those speaking at the public hearing supported the bond’s issue.

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson again tried to amend the bond ordinance to include in the $3.2 million a holding/quarantine facility for large animals, as well as reallocating $915,000 slated for the Broadway Lake community center to a matching fund for grants to be used in rebuilding the dam. She also sought to change language related to the distribution of funds to the various projects. Her amendments died for lack of a second, which they almost surely would have received had Councilman Waldrep been in attendance.

Councilman Greer answered Wilson’s charges that the estimates for the various projects were vague and nebulous by saying that he knew for a fact that the Parker Bowie recreation complex has fully engineered drawings and a budget, and is ready for the letting of contracts.

He also moved to amend the bond ordinance to allocate $250,000 each to the towns of Belton and Iva. His amendment was approved.

Wilson continued to question the details of the bond ordinance, including the proposed cost of the Broadway Lake community center building. Ms. Floyd revealed during the discussion that the facility in question is actually not at Broadway Lake but is actually in the Jebco area. That would appear to be the building that has received considerable funding for renovations in the last few years.

“How many more roofs can we put on that building,” asked Ms. Wilson. “I don’t think anyone in the county knew that was the building we were talking about.”

Councilman McAbee moved to delete a project from the bond ordinance. That project was the Watkins School renovation project, funded at $250,000, in Honea Path. His motion died from lack of a second, a motion Councilman Ron Wilson later called childish and immature.

“Luckily, Mr. McAbee didn’t get a second, but it was the same kind of stunt the Council pulled when they hijacked Ms. Wilson’s recreation money last year. It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Wilson after the meeting.

Two presentations were made to Council concerning the proposed closure of Lewis Road in the Cheddar area and the proposed ethanol facility which is the cause of that proposal. (Two other stories concerning this issue appear in this edition of The Journal.)

Stephen Chapman, a resident of the area who has been organizing opposition to the proposal, raised questions concerning safety, access of emergency vehicles to the area, and the effects of the project on surrounding property values. He also questioned whether proper notification was given to people concerning a rezoning of the property last year, at the request of the Greenville & Western Railway.

Amy Plummer, who represents the railroad in matters of economic development, countered with a presentation on how safe ethanol is as well as how much safer the neighborhood would be with the road closed.

Her most stunning comment was her claim that the company’s import of ethanol so far has helped keep local gas prices at the pump 25 to 27 cents a gallon lower than the national average. This claim would seem to contradict a claim made at a meeting Monday night at which Plummer denied that any ethanol was being brought into the area yet.

Still, she said that once the facility is up and fully functional, local gas prices will be fifty cents to a dollar a gallon lower than the national average.

Thieves working hard to get copper

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated a stabbing, theft of a dog, camera and several incidents involving theft of copper. Among incidents investigated were:

BELTON 

Aug. 25 – D. McQueen was dispatched to 1513 Shady Grove Rd. where Yvonne Nickoles reported the theft of an air conditioning unit from her rental property at that address. The loss was estimated at $1200.

Aug. 25 – D. McQueen responded to 1103 Mill St. Extension where Brenda Copeland reported the theft of her laptop computer, valued at $1500.

Aug. 25 – J.T. Bowers responded to 227 Youth Center Rd. to the PCA facility where James Clarkson reported that someone had stolen 2000 feet of copper wire that was in conduit suspended from the ceiling. Apparently the thieves used a forklift at the site to reach the wire and to load it into a small blue truck seen at the building on Saturday. The forklift also was damaged. The loss was valued at $10,000.

EASLEY

Aug. 21 – D.L. Barton was dispatched to1504 Three & Twenty Rd. in response to a call of a stabbing. Joseph Freeman, WM, 43, 6’4", 230 pounds, red/brn, had been stabbed in the neck The incident occurred at 325 E. Church St. He was transported to Greenville Memorial Hospital for treatment. ACSO spokesperson Susann Griffin reported that Freeman later refused to press charges or cooperate with the investigation.

Aug. 21 – J.J. Jacobs responded to 2508 Powdersville Rd. where John Chappell reported the theft of several items from a home he was in the process of vacating. Several neighbors were contacted and it was learned that they had been told by someone that Chappell wouldn’t be returning to the home and they could take anything they wanted.  Several neighbors returned items.

Aug. 21 – J.T. Bowers was dispatched to 105 Cades Dr. in Piedmont where Christy Ingram reported that her 11 year old daughter, who is in the custody of her father, had called Ingram’s mother to say that the father had left her and her brother at home alone and they were scared. Bowers then responded to 104 Jesse Dr. in Easley where he found the father, Keith Moore, WM, 41, 5’8", 220 pounds, brn/blue outside the home. He began cussing the reporting officer and yelling profanity in a loud voice. The officer checked the license plate on the truck Moore was driving and found it to be stolen. Moore was arrested for public disorderly conduct and possession of stolen property. The children were released to the mother.

Aug. 23 – P.D. Marter observed a motor vehicle on Three Bridges Rd. traveling in the wrong direction, and running other vehicles off the road. He stopped the vehicle about a mile away. Reports state the driver, Teresa Hardin, WF, 44, 5’6", 190 pounds, blond/brn, of Three Bridges Rd., was found to have a strong odor of alcohol. The car had several areas of damage. She said she had run off the road and hit something. At that point, the SCHP was summoned and took over the accident investigation. She was arrested for DUI by Trooper Looney.

Aug. 27 – K.D. Pigman responded to a report of a death at 917 Old Pendleton Rd., where he found EMS on the scene. Jason McGee, WM, 23, was found to have succumbed to cardiac arrest. Deputy Coroner Don McCown was summoned to the scene. According to ACSO spokesperson Susann Griffin, McGee had suffered severe injuries in a car crash in recent months and his death was ruled to be a natural one.

PELZER

Aug.22 – W. B. Simpson responded to 8 Front St. where Marie Bailey reported the theft of her brown and white Jack Russell terrier, named Scoota. The loss was estimated at $300.

PIEDMONT

Aug. 21 – J.M. Williams was dispatched to 204 Miranda Lane where Craig Mayer  reported the theft of a digital camera from his car. The loss was estimated at $250.

Aug. 21 – G.J. Turner responded to 910 Anderson St. where Hugh Anderson reported the theft of a large amount of copper valued at $2500 from his store site. Ashton Henderson, WM, 17, 5’7", 130 pounds, of 817 Hamlin Rd., was arrested and gave a signed statement.

Aug. 21 – R.D. Smith was dispatched to 211 Forest Glen Dr. where Kelly Richardson reported  an altercation at her home. Smith was going to consult a magistrate about obtaining a warrant.

Aug.22 – J.T. Bowers was dispatched to Foothills Motorsports at 104 Halter Dr.  in response to an alarm. He observed an open door and entered the building where he found Stephen McCollum, WM, 45, 5’10", 200 pounds, gray/brn, of Easley. He was arrested and transported to ACDC on a burglary charge.

Aug. 25 – J.J. Jacobs responded to 111 Craven Creek Rd. where John Shever reported the theft of copper air conditioning coils from a home under construction at the site. There was also an air conditioning unit stolen from 109 Craven Creek Rd.

Aug. 26 – J.T. Bowers was dispatched to 122 Roys Dr. where Judy Sexton reported the theft of her 1986 Camaro, valued at $2000.

Seems to Me . . . Blowing smoke

By Stan Welch

You know, I learn something every day. Sometimes it’s something I want to learn, sometimes it’s something life decides I need to know and simply teaches me. Sometimes I learn things that make me mad and sometimes I learn things that make me laugh.

I’ve learned a lot since moving to the Anderson area almost three years ago. I’ve learned that my concept of government doesn’t work in Anderson County because I was always taught to believe that the elected official reigned supreme, and that the hired officials answered tot hem, without maneuvering or litigation or subterfuge. That has been a huge lesson for me, and one that I continue to learn.

I’ve learned that in such an atmosphere, grown people can put hand painted largemouth bass up on sticks all over the downtown area with a straight face. I’ve learned that some law enforcement officers, and what passes for them, will lie without hesitation when it suits the purposes of themselves or their bosses.

But Monday night, I learned the most remarkable thing. I learned that Mother Teresa is working for the railroad. It’s true. I heard her say so herself.

It happened at a meeting of the residents of Cheddar at the fire department. The meeting, which drew about 75 people, was held to organize opposition to the closing of Lewis Drive by the Greenville & Western Railroad. The GWRR wants to run some tracks into a 39 acre tract that Lincoln Energy owns. You can read the details in the related story elsewhere in this issue of The Journal, but suffice it to say that closing Lewis Drive is not a concept that thrills those who live in the area.

On  hand to defend the railroad and present its side of the issue was Ms. Amy Plummer, who works for Allison Properties of Anderson and who also represents the GWRR in matters of economic development. Ms. Plummer was at one time the appointee of Councilman Bill McAbee to the county economic development board.

Frankly, there have been a lot of allegations made about Ms. Plummer and Mr. McAbee’s efforts on behalf of the county and its pursuit of industry and investment in the county. Those allegations centered in large part around reports of profligate and careless use of county credit cards while traveling about looking for someone to locate along the railroad.

In fact, Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, who attended the Labor Day evening meeting, asked Plummer if she and McAbee had ever paid back the twenty three thousand dollars in credit card charges they had compiled. Plummer denied staying in lavish hotels and eating expensive meals, saying that she had done what she did to benefit the county.

She told a heartwarming story of her determination to save the stretch of tracks which CSX Railroad was going to abandon. Concerned with the economic future of the county, she began seeking a buyer for the railroad. She reportedly found a prospective buyer from the Williamston area who unfortunately died shortly after expressing his interest in the project.

Luckily, CSX found such a buyer, Stephen Hawkins, current owner of the GWRR. Plummer began to work with GWRR to locate a new customer to put along the railroad tracks. Along came Lincoln Energy, which bought approximately 39 acres adjacent to the Lewis Drive crossing. Ms. Plummer and McAbee shared in the commission for that sale, according to the attorney for the other party in the purchase.

Hey, even Mother Teresa’s got to eat.

But then things got a little dicey. Plummer, and the railroad, with the assistance of McAbee, got the thirty nine acres rezoned, although some of those involved in the process feel like they got less than full disclosure of the plans for the property’s future.  A member of the Cheddar citizens advisory board, as well as a member of the Planning Commission, have said in recent weeks that they were misled if not flat out lied to concerning the plans for the property.

Apparently they feel that perhaps the modern day Mother Teresa has a less hands on relationship with facts than the original Mother Teresa had with the lepers of Calcutta. Since fire department officials have expressed concern about longer response times as a result of the proposed crossing closure, Plummer has attacked and attempted to intimidate them, according to those familiar with the situation. Plummer denies this but she has publicly challenged the response times provided by the department, saying that her own paid studies indicate much lesser delays.

Cheddar Fire Chief Robbie Land countered Monday night by informing Plummer that closing the crossing would add 1.8 miles to the distance that would have to be driven to reach the community across the tracks.   Those directly involved have asked not to be quoted in the newspaper, because they don’t want to risk embroiling the department in what is shaping up as a political fight.

Plummer told the crowd Monday night that she and her associates had no knowledge of the ethanol facility being a possibility when they sought the rezoning. She also told them that she made zero commission on the purchase by Lincoln Energy of a small home adjacent to the Lewis Drive crossing.

“The railroad just thought it would be the nice thing to do to buy that house. I didn’t make a penny on it” she said.  Sainthood bestowed, game over!

As the meeting broke down into general conversation, as such meetings often do, I left. But I couldn’t help hearing an old railroad song playing in my head. “Dinah won’t you blow, Dinah won’t you blow, Dinah won’t you blow your hooorn!”

Seems to me there was plenty of horn blowing going on, and a good bit of smoke blowing too. I know my eyes were watering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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