News Archive

(3705) Week of Sept. 14, 2005

Big Creek Landfill - From county dump to corporate asset
Strong Community forum Thursday
Clemson celebrates Strong Communities
Williamston reaches out to small Louisiana town
Council updated on various projects
Anderson District One at top on PACT scores
Greenville County schools improve scores on PACT
Piedmont veteran son honored by monument
Parent asks help in finding missing girl
Governor Sanford vists upstate Republicans
Local firefighters help with hurricane rescues

Big Creek Landfill - From county dump to corporate asset

By Stan Welch

In 1991, tougher federal regulations governing clean water and solid waste disposal trickled down to the states, leading to South Carolina’s adoption of the Solid Waste and Resource Recovery Act. That Act would transform the solid waste industry in South Carolina, leading to the formation ofhuge conglomerates which quickly gobbled up the small waste companies as fast as they could.

The way in which local governments handled solid waste would be materially changed as well. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) would promote a regional approach to landfill construction, seeking to consolidate the problem into fewer sites, while also seeking to reduce the waste stream by recovering and recycling resources, rather than simply bury them.

It was that eagerness to regionalize that led to the attempted construction of the TriCounty Regional Landfill just outside the City of Clemson. That project had its roots in an offer from Clemson University to provide both site and technical expertise in establishing the landfill and the research and resource recovery facility.

Anderson, Pickens and Oconee Counties, each struggling with the more regulated and complex issues of solid waste management, agreed to cooperate in a regional project. In June of 1994, they entered into Consent Order 94-21-SW with DHEC and signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with one another, outlining the project and the rules for its construction and operation.

That IGA required each county to provide funding and resources for the project in percentages equivalent to the proportion of the waste that each would generate. Anderson County’s share would be almost 50%, due to her population and the size of her waste stream.

Clemson University, in1994, reneged on its offer of a site, leading to the eventual purchase in 1995 of 535 acres from the Isaqueena Corporation, which inserted some covenants in the deed, requiring that the research and resource recovery aspects of the project be honored. The issue of the sequence of construction of the various phases would give several lawyers something to keep them occupied during 1996 and 1997.

In fact threatened litigation by several lawyers over that issue was instrumental in causing the collapse of the TriCounty project.

Lawyers weren’t the only ones opposing the regional landfill. NIMBYs, which stands for Not In My Back Yard, began attending Pickens County council meetings. As the permitting process for the landfill progressed, many of those opponents found their way to the citizens’ committee for the Facilities Issues Negotiation (FIN) process. That process is required by the state and is designed to help the public have greater input into such permits and issues.

January of 1996 found Anderson County once again faced with serious violations of state law resulting from their operations at the Big Creek Landfill. Big Creek had been troubled for years, with frequent violations and a least one prior DHEC consent order being issued for such violations.

Early 1996 also saw Anderson County involved in a search for a new county administrator, since Gary Smoak’s contract renewal had been denied. By mid-summer, they would hire Joey Preston, who would become a key player in the sale of Big creek Landfill, as well as the eventual death of the TriCounty project.

Later in the year, Isaqueena would begin turning up the legal heat on both the three counties and DHEC, insisting that the covenants in the deed were being broken, because the research and recovery phases were not being built.

Also in September 1996, Preston would assume his duties, though he had been preparing the ground for some time. In November of 1996, out spoken critic of the regional landfill, Clint Wright, was elected to the County Council. So was Mike Holden, who would prove to be a staunch supporter of Wright and Preston.

In 1997, the two landfill issues would come to a boil, almost simultaneously. Preston would implement a reorganization plan that greatly consolidated his power; while Wright, despite his very public opposition to the landfill project to which Anderson County was contractually obligated, would be appointed the chairman of the solid waste committee of the County Council.

In late March of that year, a company called NationsWaste would seek to purchase Big Creek and privatize its operations. The initial offer of approximately $2 million would eventually be accepted, despite an offer by another company of $1.2 million more. By June, Wright and Preston, working without any recorded authorization by Council, had conducted financial and legal reviews of the Intergovernmental agreement and the Tricounty project, with an eye towards escaping and selling Big Creek. Also by June, the proposed buyer of the landfill was identified as Allied Waste industries, and not NationsWaste, after all.

In a series of three closely spaced meetings, Council, with virtually no discussion or debate, gave three different approvals to an ordinance authorizing Preston to negotiate with Allied. That same scenario would later be repeated when three approvals were given, one illegally, to the final decision to sell Big Creek to Allied.

Also during 1997, the permit application for the Tricounty project continued to languish in the bowels of the DHEC bureaucracy. Approval was repeatedly delayed, while officials of both Oconee and Pickens counties wondered why.

Eventually, in November of 1997, after the sale of Big Creek, Anderson County finally put its cards on the table, officially expressing its opinion that delaying the permit would be the best choice. That admission effectively ended the regional approach to solid waste in the northwest corner of the state.

It would take almost a year before DHEC, in a rather convoluted application of their own regulations, would rule that the TriCounty landfill could not be permitted because of a regulation prohibiting the presence of two landfills within 75 miles of each other. This ruling came after a delay of more than a year in permitting the Tricounty project, which preceded the sale of Big Creek by three years.

Oconee County, the only County to honor all aspects of the IGA, would file suit to obtain all the funds placed in escrow for the Tricounty landfill, as well as clear title to the land, all in accordance with the terms of the IGA.

Anderson County would fight the case until September of 2004, when a settlement would be reached which called for an equal three way split of all the assets of the defunct project.

A special in-depth look at the Big Creek Landfill sale and how it affected Anderson County and surrounding counties is included in this edition of The Journal.

Strong Community forum Thursday

A community forum for citizens of Pelzer, West Pelzer and Williamston will be held September 15 at 6 p.m.  at the Williamston Municipal Center to discuss ways to help make the communities safer for children.

The forum is being sponsored by Strong Communities and organizers hope to identify problems in the communities such as drugs, crime, lack of services for new parents, health care, emergency child care, lack of communication, lack of jobs and even safe activities for teens and seniors.

“By working together with our government, our faith community, our education system, our community organizations and our businesses we can address these problems and make our communities strong for children and ourselves,” outreach worker Doris Cole said.

There will be free hotdogs and free child care during the meeting and prospective volunteers are invited to attend.

Strong Communities for Children in the Golden Strip (Strong Communities) is a comprehensive, community-wide initiative to prevent child abuse and neglect in southern Greenville County and adjoining communities in Anderson and Laurens counties.

Williamston Police Chief David Baker said he plans to involve his department in the initiative by matching young families with small children with volunteers to help them. He also said they hope to provide baskets with baby items and other things to parents with new babies.

West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton said she will go over the results of a recent survey of West Pelzer residents. “There are several issues I have gotten feedback on in our town,” she said.

West Pelzer Police Chief Bernard Wilson will also discuss crime and drug prevention.

Other officials will also speak at the forum, which is being held to get feedback from residents of the surrounding communities.

Strong Communities seeks to build systems of care for families of young children including through the development of centers of community in all of the participating communities. Strong Communities is a public service activity of the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life at Clemson University, based at The Golden Strip Center and supported by a multi-year grant from The Duke Endowment. For more information, visit www.clemson.edu/strongcommunities or call 864-688-2214.

For more information contact Cole at dcole@clemson.edu.

Clemson celebrates Strong Communities

At a luncheon held today (Wednesday) at Westside Community Center in Anderson, Clemson University leaders joined more than 100 Anderson area civic, political, business and religious leaders to celebrate community efforts to protect children and support families. Sponsored by Strong Communities for Children, the event highlighted organizations and activities in Anderson County that strengthen communities’ support for families of young children.

The event celebrated the efforts of individuals and organizations who have joined Strong Communities in eastern Anderson County and also honored service by people in other towns and neighborhoods across the county that support goals consistent with those of Strong Communities.

Since the 2002 launch of Strong Communities for Children in the Golden Strip, thousands of individuals and scores of diverse community organizations and public safety agencies in southern Greenville County have joined in the initiative. The Strong Communities service area also encompasses adjoining areas in Anderson County including the towns of Pelzer, Piedmont, West Pelzer, and Williamston.

“The best news that Strong Communities has generated is that ideas are powerful!  Everyone wants to be a part of a community in which they themselves, their children, their grandchildren – and their neighbors – can depend on being cared for and noticed,” said  Dr. Gary B. Melton, director of the Strong Communities initiative and the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life at Clemson. “We’ve learned that this wish transcends the usual divisions of ethnicity, religion, politics, class, gender, and age.”

Strong Communities is supported by a long-term, multi-million dollar grant. Since 2002, The Duke Endowment has awarded more than $5 million for Strong Communities, of which approximately $1.5 million has been directed to community organizations.

Clemson President James Barker and his wife Marcia led the assembled university and community leaders in signing pledges to do their best to watch out for children, to learn the names of the children in the 10 homes closest to their own and to take time regularly to help a family with young children.

“The Strong Communities initiative is based on the premise that, to be effective, child protection must be part of everyday life. Therefore, Strong Communities involves efforts throughout the participating communities to ensure that all children and all parents know that whenever they have reason to rejoice, worry, or grieve, someone will notice and someone will care,” Dr. Melton noted. Recognizing organizations that made exceptional contributions to building safer communities for children, Clemson honored Anderson County groups including Piedmont Public Service Commission/Piedmont Fire Dept.; ShareWear/FACT in Piedmont; Bonnes Amies in Piedmont; Pelzer, West Pelzer, and Williamston town governments and police departments; School District 1 Family Services Program; Williamston Action Community Club; Belton Interfaith Ministerial Association; Partners for a Healthier Honea Path; REVIVA in Iva; United Way Women’s Leadership Initiative Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in Starr; New Holly Light Missionary Baptist Church in Pendleton; Barrett’s Place Playground Project in Pendleton; Manhood Academy Partnership in Anderson; Men at Work in Anderson; Foothills Alliance parent support groups throughout Anderson County.

Also recognized were organizations formerly named Strong Communities  Champions for Children including Sue Cleveland Elementary School in Piedmont; Shady Grove Baptist Church in Pelzer; and Pelzer Elementary School.

Strong Communities for Children in the Golden Strip (Strong Communities) is a comprehensive, community-wide initiative to prevent child abuse and neglect in southern Greenville County and adjoining communities in Anderson and Laurens counties.

Strong Communities seeks to build systems of care for families of young children including through the development of centers of community in all of the participating communities. Strong Communities is a public service activity of the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life at Clemson University, based at the Golden Strip Center and supported by a multi-year grant from The Duke Endowment. For more information on Strong Communities, please visit www.clemson.edu/strongcommunities or call 864-688-2214.                 

Williamston reaches out to small Louisiana town

A hurricane relief team from the Town of Williamston will travel to Grand Isle, Louisiana this Thursday to offer their help to the small town in the southernmost part of the state which was hard hit by hurricane Katrina.

The Town of Williamston began accepting donations soon after the hurricane hit. Wanting to be more involved in the relief effort and to know where the donations from the local community were going, town employees  developed a project to find a small town that needed help.

After making numerous phone calls, they were able to locate a small town that accepted the offer of help from Williamston, Mayor Phillip Clardy said.

Grand Isle, has a population of 1500-2000, and lost about 80 percent of the structures, homes and businesses, in the town. Initially, all but 5 people evacuated. There are several hundred there now.

According to Clardy, the town has moved everyone and everything left to the center of town ia a structure that survived the storm and has power. From that starting point they will rebuild the small town.

Clardy said Tuesday the town only began receiving relief supplies in the last couple of days and the people there are currently being provided one meal per day from the Red Cross.

A food bank has also been established at the location, however the town is in desparate need of supplies and help, he said.

Policemen, firemen and other Williamston staff members have volunteered their time to go to the small town. They will carry items donated by local citizens, churches and businesses.

Already one trailer has been almost filled with donated items and another is being loaded.

Three members of the town’s water and street department will make the trip and will help in repairing the town’s damaged water system.

Williamston Water and Sewer Department Supervisor Tim Hood said the town’s water system has many leaks as a result of the storm and will have to be tested one section at a time to get it back in working condition.

Pipe has been supplied and Pipeline Supply has contributed  fittings and other materials necessary to help with the job, Hood said.

Street supervisor David Roberts will also travel along with Randy Woodson.

Four Williamston Firemen will offer their services to the small town’s fire department which needs some relief. The Grand Isle firemen have been on duty since the Hurricane hit, according to Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison.

Joining Chief Ellison will be firemen Van  Ellison, Tim Farmer, and Mike Henderson, who will offer their firefighting skills. They will also be taking extra fire gear, helmets and breathing apparatus which are not being used. Williamston recently replaced the items with newer equipment with a FEMA grant, Chief Ellison said.

Police Chief David Baker said police uniforms no longer being used by his department will be donated to the Grand Isle Police Department. Members of the department will be sworn in as soon as they reach the town so they will be able to assist in law enforcement.

Two members of the Williamston EMS, Joe Barr and Mike Powell, will travel with the local team, offering their services if needed.

All in the group stated they will do whatever is asked of them when they reach the town of Grand Isle and all said they wanted to help make a difference for the town.

In all, 15 town employees and two volunteers are going on the relief trip.

The effort began with donations being taken at the Municipal Center. The relief project developed after  some local residents who have relatives in the Gulf area asked, “What can we do to help?” Mayor Clardy said.

Clardy said the idea of “Heart to Hand” came out of a meeting with members of his staff, who indicated that they wanted to help, but had limited resources.

“We wanted to help in a way to see where that help goes,” Clardy said.

Calvary Baptist Church and First Baptist Chirch in Williamston have donated many supplies. A large amount of items collected by students at Wren High School have also been brought to help with the local effort.

Palmetto High, Palmetto Middle, Palmetto Elementary and Cedar Grove Elementary have also contributed items collected at their schools for the effort. A number of businesses are also pitching in to help Clardy said.

Monetary donations are being accepted as part of a green ribbon campaign.

Members of the Williamston Fire Department, Police Department and the Palmetto High NJROTC are accepting donations at the five-point intersection of Academy and Hwy. 20/West Main in front of Calvary Baptist Church.

Items requested by the residents of Grand Isle, include non-perishable foods, bottled water, containers to hold water, “Gatorade” and “Power Aid” mix, personal hygiene items, new clothing, undergarments and socks in packaging, baby items, rakes, shovels, mops, brooms, hammers, nails, tarps, pet food, rope, can openers, flash lights, batteries and small personal radios.

Items are being accepted at the Williamston Municipal Center and will continue to be collected over the coming weeks, and months, Clardy said.

“This is not a one time thing,” he said. “We plan to help on a long term basis.”

Clardy said he hopes to establish a long term relationship between the Town of Williamston and the community of Grand Isle.

Already $3,500 has been raised to help with the effort. Green ribbons  are being handed out with each $1 donation and collection bins have been placed in businesses and schools throughout the area.

A trailer will also be at the Muncipal Center for donations, officials said.

The effort is drawing national media attention.

Mayor Clardy said that he was contacted by officials of the “Good Morning America” television program which will televise live in Williamston this Thursday at 7 a.m. They will linterview the mayor and Police Chief Baker.

Clardy said another TV crew from the network will meet with the local relief team when they arrive in Grand Isle to report on efforts there.

Council updated on various projects

“Heart to Hand”, Williamston’s project to help Grand Isle, the southernmost town in Louisiana and the first hit by Hurricane Katrina, will gain national recognition on Thursday morning.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said he had been contacted by officials of the “Good Morning America” television program. They will televise live at 7 a.m. Thursday an interview with the mayor and Police Chief David Baker.

Policemen, firemen and town staff members have volunteered their time and skills to go to the small town to carry goods being collected by churches and individuals. They will leave Thursday evening and return next Tuesday. More than $3500 has been collected in donations for costs the trip. Mayor Clardy said this project will be at no cost to the town.

Grand Isle, with a population of 1500-2000, lost some 80 percent of the homes there. That small town’s mayor said everybody had been moved to the center of town where they are receiving one meal per day from the Red Cross. A food bank has been set up and one building has power.

Some National guardsmen and army personnel are there to provide security and help with large things.

Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison said four firemen will go to relieve firemen who have been on duty since the hurricane. They will take fire gear, helmets and breathing apparatus which Williamston replaced with newer items with a FEMA grant.

Chief Baker said police uniforms and other items no longer used by the local department will be donated to the Grand Isle Police Department. Mayor Clardy said the local policemen will be sworn in as soon as they reach Grand Isle so they will be able to enforce the law there.

The project developed after calls from townspeople, who have relatives in Louisiana and the Gulf area, asking “What can we do to help?” Help is getting to the major cities, but what is happening in the small towns?

Clardy said he met with his staff and decided “We want to help, but we have limited resources.”

“We wanted to help in a way to see where that help goes.” So the items collected will be taken to them and personal help offered by the volunteers.

Others who spoke at the Sept. 12 meeting of Williamston Town Council included Doris Cole, Larry Strom and Al Baskin.

Cole told briefly of the Strong Communities for Children project, which is funded by a Duke Endowment through Clemson University. The project emphasizes the importance of community in the prevention of child neglect and child abuse. Family Watch, through the Police Department, will visit families with new babies with a “welcome” basket and offer family friends. Volunteers will contact young families with children to age six. Other concerns including play groups, health care, emergency child care will be addressed. Cole said a training session for volunteers has been set for Sept. 29.

She encouraged everyone to attend the Community Forum on keeping kids safe on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Municipal Center. Williamston, Pelzer and West Pelzer residents are included. Hot dogs will be served at 6 p.m.

Larry Strom, chairman of the town’s Grievance Committee, suggested to Council that the Policy and Procedure of the town’s handbook needs to be revised especially addressing discriminations.

Al Baskin, a member of the committee and a town employee, added to that at the suggestion of Strom. He said the committee felt the Policy and Procedure should be re-written, still have a committee, but in the event an employee is discharged, be placed on a leave of absence. This would benefit the town and the employee, he said.

The mayor noted that the committee is a buffer between employer and employee. Their duty is to decide if policy and procedure was followed, and not to decide the merits of the firing.

Mayor Clardy noted that in 2001, a uniform policy was set in compliance with labor laws. He formed the Grievance Committee at that time. Since then disclaimers have been added as laws changed, he said. He asked the committee to make recommendations for changes which he will refer to a labor attorney.

In other business, the mayor announced that Anderson County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson had appropriated $5000 for the town. Mayor Clardy recommended that $1000 be placed in the trust fund for the town’s Cemetery Trust Committee and $4000 in the Save the Scout Hut project which will be headed by the Williamston Area Historic Commission. On motion of Councilman Greg Cole and second by Councilman Otis Scott, the recommendation was approved unanimously.

Council also approved a resolution to approve an agreement with the Municipal Association for collection of debt owed to the town. Chief Baker said in May he appointed an officer to serve just bench warrants. Between that time and Sept. 11, Baker said $27,757 was collected of $43,731 owed the town. Seventeen offenders ($15,974) chose to serve 30 days at the Anderson County Detention Center rather than pay.

The agreement would also allow collection of delinquent taxes, water bills due by those moving out of town without paying.

Also included in his report to Council on what his department has accomplished, Baker noted that suspects were arrested in a robbery which occurred at Gusto’s. The department is still working on a major case, the murder of Ricky Loskoski. The chief said posters have recently been printed and distributed and that they are still getting leads on the case. “We hope for closure,” he said.

He said his department is in the process of becoming a juvenile facility. The jail has four cells and fulltime personnel, he said. Belton, which has been housing juveniles in the upstate, is planning to close that facility, he said.

An official ceremony will be held some time this month for the beginning of the $230,000 sidewalk project in town. The sidewalks will be made handicap accessible. If funds remain after the initial project, the mayor said Greenville Drive and Williams Street would receive attention. Additional grants will be applied for, he said.

Council heard a brief presentation on the advantages of Advanced Digital Surveillance. Cameras could be placed where vandals have destroyed property, including Mineral Spring Park, the Scout Hut, Brookdale Park, the Veterans Park. The wireless cameras would be monitored in the Police Department. Local businesses could also choose to install the cameras.

Mayor Clardy asked council members to study the material given to them about the system. Not only would the cameras deter property damage but it would help insure the safety of children in the parks, he said.

Mayor Clardy made a motion to go into executive session at the request of the town’s attorney. He said that no action would be taken in the session. After the 30-minute session, the Council went back into open session.

Each councilman was asked if he had any comment. Suggestions included: no overtime except in an extreme emergency; get a time clock for office staff; check on sick days.

The mayor was asked the status of the audit. He said he was told Larry Finney, the auditor, would be out of town for several weeks. Clardy said he would check to see when Finney could come.

Anderson District One at top on PACT scores

Anderson School District One students improved Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT) scores enough to be ranked among the top three school districts in the state in the percentage of students scoring basic and above on the PACT test.

English Language Arts and mathematics scores are among the top in the state for all grades three through eighth. Grade seven was first in the state in ELA, while grade six and grade seven reached first in math. Third and fourth grade Social studies scores ranked first in the state, while science scores were exceptional for grades three, four, five and seven.

PACT is the assessment instrument required by the South Carolina Accountability Act of 1998.  The district is above the state average for all students meeting the standards in all subject areas and in all grades.

“We are continuing to make progress with all grade levels improving and Anderson One ranking among the top in the state on the percentage of students meeting standards in English Language Arts, mathematics, science, and social studies,” said Dr. Wayne Fowler, Superintendent. “Our teachers and principals continue to seek ways to improve instruction in the four core subject areas. We will continue to offer academic assistance, tutoring and after school programs to provide more opportunities outside the regular classroom.”

“We are very pleased with the continued success of our students’ PACT scores. We will continue to analyze data and determine areas we can improve. I am encouraged with the level of teacher commitment for improving instruction and their willingness to implement new strategies. Our schools are targeting areas in all four of the core areas, ELA, math, science and social studies to improve student achievement,” said Jane Harrison, Director of Elementary Education.

“It is a joint effort of the school and parent to help each individual child reach his or her fullest potential. Anderson One has administrators and teachers that work tirelessly to prove their commitment to education and to the students in our district, and their hard work is paying off for our students,” said Harrison.

“At the middle school level, changes in scheduling to equalize time in the core subject areas do not appear to have had adverse effects on the way we address the teaching of the standards. We must remain vigilant in order to not minimize the importance of a well-rounded education that includes the visual and performing arts as well as physical education and technology.  Maintenance of high expectations by our administrative teams, teachers, parents, and students continues to bring about very positive results,” stated John Pruitt, Director of Secondary Education.

Greenville County schools improve scores on PACT

More students in Greenville County Schools scored at the two highest levels (Proficient and Advanced) on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests (PACT) administered this past spring in grades three through eight.

The percentage of students scoring Proficient or Advanced increased from 2004 results in 14 of the 24 test areas. The greatest increases in students scoring at the two highest levels are in third grade Social Studies (10% increase) and eighth grade Science (6% increase).

For all students, 2005 PACT results improved in 9 of 24 test areas, remained the same for one test area, and decreased in 14 test areas. The four test areas for the six tested grades are English/Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies.

“I am proud of our efforts to move more students to the highest levels on PACT,” said Superintendent Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher. “It is important that we continue to progress each year toward the ultimate goal of all students scoring Proficient or above. Our teachers, administrators and staff are to be commended for their focused efforts to continuously improve instruction.”

“It is important that all students continue to progress,” added Dr. Fisher. “To provide additional support to teachers, we are implementing a new diagnostic test, Measures of Academic Progress or MAP, to identify strengths and weaknesses for individual students, classes, grade levels, and schools.”

Six independent national studies have shown that South Carolina’s PACT’s scoring levels are set higher than annual accountability tests in most other states. For example, a student’s score of Basic on PACT may be equivalent to Proficient in other states.

PACT results are a key component in determining elementary and middle schools’ Report Card ratings (Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, or Unsatisfactory) and whether a school meets Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as required by the Federal No Child Left Behind Act.

State Report Card Absolute Ratings’ Index Values annually increase each year, meaning schools must improve student performance on the PACT to maintain their rating. For example, an elementary school with an Excellent rating in 2004 must have more students progress to higher levels of achievement in 2005 to maintain an Excellent rating.

The number of schools achieving AYP is expected to decrease this year as requirements dramatically increase. For example, elementary and middle schools’ AYP targets (goals) more than doubled this year from 15.5% Proficient and Advanced in Math and 17.6% Proficient and Advanced in English/Language Arts to 36.7% in Math and 38.2% in English/Language Arts.

Also, schools with an Excellent or Good rating that fail to meet AYP will have their schools’ absolute rating lowered one level, from Excellent to Good or Good to Average.

Piedmont veteran son honored by monument

More than 35 years after performing extraordinary acts of heroism and valor on Viet Nam battle fields, Captain Joe R. Hooper, one of Piedmont’s sons, was honored by his hometown on Sunday.

Piedmont dedicated Highway 20, the main artery through town, in Hopoper’s name 37 years after Hooper performed feats of battle seldom equaled in American military history. During intense and important action near Hue, Viet Nam, an area whose name still raises memories of heroism and horror, Hooper, who was a staff sergeant at the time, conducted a series of assaults on enemy bunkers in the area.

Despite being wounded several times, he continued to destroy enemy bunkers, killing several enemy officers in the process. Following the destruction of the enemy positions along a river, Hooper established his men in a defensive perimeter before seeking treatment for his serious wounds, and refused medical evacuation until the next day. Hooper was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.

Over the course of his career, Hooper received eight Purple Hearts, six Bronze Stars, three Silver Stars and the CMH, making him the most decorated soldier in the Viet Nam War, and one of the most decorated in U.S. military history.

Former state representative and veteran The Honorable M.J. “Dolly” Cooper was instrumental in organizing the honor for Hooper, who died in 1979, having obtained the rank of captain. Cooper said at Sunday’s ceremony, “It seems like all people did was talk about his accomplishments. It just seemed that something needed to be done in his honor.”

Also on hand were General Hoyt Thompson and Lt. Colonel Tom Devenny. In addition to the dedication of the highway, a granite marker was unveiled in front of the Beattie Community Building in Hooper’s honor.

The Wren High School Jazz Band entertained the crowd of approximately 100 people. The day’s activities included a worship service, a barbecue dinner and the dedication ceremonies.

Parent asks help in finding missing girl

By Stan Welch

Despite some question about her official status as either a runaway or a missing person, Amber Wisham is not following the normal rhythms of a 15 year old’s life. Her family and friends, as well as school officials who know her, are trying to find her and make contact with her.

The young girl, who started Wren High school this year, has been gone since around August 20. The confusion about her legal status arises in part from a note she left saying that she was heading either to Savannah Georgia to see her mother, or to Texas to see her sister. She has not appeared at either destination.

It was her mother, Jennifer Lamons who contacted The Journal asking for help in locating her daughter. Ms. Lamons reported that she is getting little if any assistance from law enforcement agencies, either in Anderson County or in Chatham County, where Savannah is located.

 “The police down here say it’s not their jurisdiction. The Anderson County Sheriff says she’s a runaway, but Chatham County says NCIC (National Criminal Instant Check) shows her as a missing person. I just feel like I’m getting the run around wherever I turn,” says Lamons.

Anderson County Deputy Chief Tim Busha, at the request of The Journal, conducted an NCIC search and confirmed that Wisham is currently listed as a runaway, and not a missing person.

“We have credible evidence that she is in fact a runaway, and not a missing person. She had reasons for leaving, whether they were good ones or not. She made those reasons known at the time she left. We are certainly actively pursuing the case, but her status is as I explained,” Busha said.

A number of elements complicate this story, including recent legal troubles involving Wisham’s father, Tony Wisham. He was arrested on drug charges several months ago, and apparently was hesitant to contact the law when Amber first left. Said Lamons, “Tony has a police record, and  had a parole violation. He didn’t report her missing because he didn’t want anything to do with the police.”

According to Lamons, Amber, her father and a 16 year old boyfriend all visited her in Savannah in June of this year. She believes that Amber may be with the boy, who she identified as Jesse Riffle, a white male with brown hair, although he is believed to have his head shaved currently. He is stocky and weighs about 130 pounds, according to Lamons. The two are believed to be driving a white extended cab S-10 pickup truck.

Amber is 5’3", blond with blue/green eyes, fair skin and a scar on her right knee. She may have recently dyed her hair red.

Terry Wisham says there have been reports of Amber being back in the area briefly but says all the leads have turned up empty. “We’ve had two witnesses that know Amber say that they’ve seen her. We’ve told the police that, but they still haven’t talked to those people. I’ve tried to get a copy of the police report from when she was reported missing, and they say they’ll work on it, but I still haven’t gotten anything from them.”

Lamons, as well as school officials, stress that the behavior is unusual for Amber. “She is an honor student, and has never been in any trouble. I am afraid for her safety and I want to find her. I just want to find my little girl.”

Anyone with information about Amber Wisham should contact the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office at 864-260-4400.

Governor Sanford vists upstate Republicans

By Stan Welch

Anderson County Republicans gathered in record numbers to welcome Governor Mark Sanford on Monday night, Sept. 12. Following a barbecue dinner at Just More Barbecue, near Pendleton, Governor Sanford thanked the faithful for their efforts, citing his belief that American society is at a crossroads, and that a continued move towards the conservative end of the political spectrum is essential.

In other remarks, he stressed the impact of the emerging global economy, saying that a kid in Anderson is now competing for jobs with a kid in New Delhi, or Australia or  China. He cited population estimates that indicate a global increase of 700 million people in the next ten years.

“That’s 175 South Carolinas we’ll be competing with in the global economy,” said Sanford. 

In order to compete under those circumstances, it is important to minimize government and maximize the private sector, said the Governor. “It’s not because one is inherently good and one bad, but because the private sector can change and adjust more rapidly, and that’s becoming more and more important.”

He also stressed that the restructuring of the state government that has been such a mainstay of his administration is “at the fifty yard line. We still have a lot of work to do.”

Sanford asked that the three hundred or so gathered there lend their support to the upcoming efforts to place the taxpayer empowerment amendment to the state constitution on the 2006 ballot. That amendment would basically tie the rate of tax increase to the rate of growth of the government. Last year, according to Sanford, the level of state taxes grew at 3 times the increase in income in the state.

Long time area Republican Charles Crowe was surprised to learn he was being presented with the Ronald Reagan Freedom in Faith Award, a beautiful medallion presented by State Senator Kevin Bryant and Rep. Brian White. The honor was bestowed in recognition of Crowe’s more than 40 years of service to the Republican Party.

Dan Hallman, candidate for Superintendent of Education took the opportunity to end his race for that post, citing family reasons, including the demands imposed by the presence of his 92 year old mother in his home.

“That is my responsibility, and I intend to fulfill it. She requires constant care and my wife cannot provide it alone.” Hallman, who in a long educational career which included overseeing adult and vocational education programs for Districts 3,4, and 5 pledged his support to Spartanburg candidate Karen Floyd.

Governor Sanford praised Hallman’s decision, saying “I am very,  very, very impressed with your unselfish actions today.”

Local firefighters help with hurricane rescues

By Stan Welch

A detachment of 22 Greenville County firefighters has returned from its rescue efforts along the Gulf Coast, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Six of those firefighters are from the South Greenville Fire Department.

SGFD Chief Ken Taylor said that the six firefighters left on September 4 and returned one week later. They met with a detachment from the Urban Search and Rescue team of South Carolina. That unit is comprised of firefighters from all over the state. They were attached to the SGFD group, and were sent first to Slidell, Louisiana. Slidell is on the inland shore of Lake Ponchartrain and was virtually destroyed by the storm’s winds and storm surge.

Taylor said the search and rescue efforts in Slidell, which lasted three days, were fruitless. “We found no living in Slidell. We were sent from there to St. Bernard’s Parish near New Orleans.”

Their luck was better there, as they found one woman in a church attic, where she had spent eight days, with nothing but some crackers, a Snickers bar and some water to keep her alive. Other church members and family rode out the storm with her, then kicked their way out onto the church’s roof after the storm passed.

Taylor said, “This lady was pretty overweight, and the helicopter told her they would have to come back for her. They never did. She was there until we found her. She was in pretty bad shape, from being so dehydrated. But she was going to be okay.”

Taylor said the conditions were unbelievable, adding, “What you’ve been seeing on television doesn’t even come close to what it’s really like down there. I wish I could put every one of my people on a bus and just ride them through that area, so they could really understand.”

Taylor and his people slept on Interstate 10 under a bridge while they were in Slidell, and slept in an open field at an oil refinery when they moved later in the week. “Snakes and alligators down there are like flies up here. It was an incredible scene and an unbelievable experience.”

Taylor and his firefighters will share more of their stories in next week’s issue of The Journal.

 

 

 

 

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