Week of Sept.
During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved a request to allow a fall festival event in the park, discussed problems arising from recently implemented checks and balances and voted 3-2 to look into having a forensic audit done on the town.
Council unanimously approved a request by Dianne Lollis to allow Mineral Spring Park to be used for a fall Halloween festival on Saturday, October 28. Lollis said that members of the Springwater Committee are coordinating the event which will include several organizations and churches. Lollis also said the group plans to work on the Christmas Park.
Council amended the agenda to hear a request from Ralph Partain and Mike Knight, water customers of the town who would like to receive their water from Big Creek/Hammond instead of the town.
The men reside out of the town limits and have received water from the town since 1971. A total of 25 residences, including theirs, are served by a 2 inch mile long line, Partain said.
The line was installed by Partain and Bill Creamer from their homes to the towns water lines near the BP station on Hwy. 77. The request was accepted as information.
Council unanimously agreed to amend the agenda to allow what was expected to be a lengthy executive session to be moved to the end of the meeting.
There was then some discussion about signature cards required for all the councilmen to sign checks. Additional discussions were held about allowing employees a $250 spending limit and whether it should only be for emergencies.
Middleton said he would amend the original resolution to allow department heads to make a purchase in an emergency.
Mayor Phillip Clardy said that the checks and balances recently put into place were causing some concerns among town employees. He said some are paranoid to do anything.
Middleton then made an amendment to allow an open purchase order for recurring expenses. There was additional discussion after which council unanimously approved the motion.
ACOG advisor Joe Newton handed out another draft on the 2006 budget with amendments and the 2007 budget, both of which are still being adjusted.
There was then discussion about problems with the towns fuel pump giving accurate readings. Middleton made a motion to go to a new system which will cost the town $45 per month and $2 per card per vehicle to get accurate fuel use information.
The original motion to go to the system was then withdrawn and the council voted unanimously to have department heads look at the system and get additional information.
Councilman Greg Cole asked about the Durango and the towns car which is parked in front of the municipal center.
Mayor Clardy said any town employee can use the car, which previously was designated as the mayors car, when needed.
When Cole asked which department the Durango payment was coming from, no one was sure. Cole said he would like to do more investigating on it.
Middleton then brought up rules and procedures for discussion. There needs to be some way to keep up with minutes and the agenda, he said. A complaint has been made that we do things and never revisit it.
Middleton suggested that old business be brought up and that the clerk place items on the agenda.
Newton said that Councilmembers can bring up any old business or items from old agendas. It is a good way to work it, he said.
During the good of the order, Councilman Cole asked about bills being behind or paid late.
The discussion then centered around the checks and balances recently implemented by the town which are apparently causing some delays.
Town staff member Bruce Peterson said it is taking a lot to get through the system.
Clardy said, We need to make sure we have time in checks and balances to allow things to get paid.
Councilman Middleton then referenced what he called a secret meeting between the mayor and himself.
Middleton read a statement about the meeting he had with Mayor Clardy and accountant Bob Daniel, which was mentioned in a column in last weeks Journal. (See separate story) Middleton statement
Middleton ended the presentation with the statement, Until we recognize that we have a problem, we cannot fix it. He then called for a forensic audit.
His motion was seconded by Mayor Clardy.
Councilman Otis Scott questioned where the money would come from for the audit.
Clardy then withdrew his second of the motion after Middleton said the proposed initial funding of $10,000 could come from removing grant writer and town consultant Rusty Burns.
Middletons motion received a second from Councilman Cole and was approved 3-1 with Councilmen Middleton, Cole and David Harvell in favor.
After the meeting Clardy said he welcomed the audit.
He said there were preexisting issues and he will ask for previous years to also be looked at, going as far back as the last tax increase for the town, which was 1996.
Council then went into a lengthy executive session to discuss a contract issue with Goldie and Associates, and two other lawsuit settlements.
Upon returning to regular session, Councilman Scott made a motion to settle a pending case, which was seconded by Middleton and unanimous approved.
The case was brought by Robert Williams concerning a sewer outfall line right of way. No additional details were made public and would not be until the settlement was executed, according to town attorney Richard Thompson.
Council also unanimously approved a settlement in an FOI case brought on behalf of local citizens by attorney Jay Bender. The case was briefly discusssed earlier in the meeting. (See separate story)
A draft copy of a potential contract concerning upgrades required by DHEC was also unanimously approved. The contract involves meeting discharge standards but the details are being kept confidential until the contract is executed according to the town attorney and Mayor Clardy.
The Journal has requested a copy of the draft under Freedom of Information (FOI) guidelines.
Council unanimously accepted as information a statement from the towns insurer concerning liabilities associated with a skate board park.
Unless another meeting is announced, the next meeting of council is tentatively set for Monday October 2.
During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council, in a 3-2 vote, decided to look into having a forensic audit on the towns financials.
Councilmembers Greg Cole, Marion Middleton, Jr., and David Harvell voted to approve a motion made by Middleton to provide up to $10,000 to look into having a forensic audit. During discussions on the motion, it was also mentioned that councilmembers would look at potential auditors and costs.
When Councilman Otis Scott questioned how the town would pay for it, Councilman Middleton responded by saying the town could cut out the services of town consultant and grant writer Rusty Burns. Councilman Otis Scott and Mayor Phillip Clardy voted against the proposal.
Middletons motion came at the end of a lengthy statement which he read concerning a recent meeting he had with Mayor Clardy and the towns financial advisor Bob Daniel.
Middleton explained his side of the meeting mentioned in the Seems to Me column in last weeks Journal, which stated he stormed out.
According to Middletons statement, the reason he stormed out of the meeting after a brief exchange between him, Clardy and Daniel, was he believed he was being set up and that the mayor (Clardy) will never admit that the town lost $1.7 million.
Following Monday nights Council meeting, The Journal contacted Daniel about the issue.
Daniel said the meeting was an effort to bring the two town representatives together to help the town move forward with the progress already made on finances.
Daniel, who has spent the last eight months working with the Town to resolve its financial crisis only to see his advice to raise taxes repudiated by the Council, said that he has basically accomplished what he set out to do.
I have helped get the Town back on the road to recovery. I had hoped to remain until the audit for 2005 was delivered, but I will be writing a letter to the Mayor shortly. My services are at an end, Daniel said.
Daniel, who has successfully helped a number of small towns in the Upstate address similar financial problems, said that he was sorry that Mr. Middleton felt that he had been set up by Daniel in his efforts to work out a compromise.
The meeting followed a Council meeting (Aug. 30) at which Middleton derailed efforts to increase the tax millage in Williamston for the first time since 1993. Middleton said at the time that without a long list of financial controls in place to restrict Mayor Clardys ability to spend or transfer funds, he would not support a proposed twenty per cent increase. True to his word, Middleton, along with Councilman Greg Cole and Councilman David Harvell, abstained from voting. The abstentions left the tax millage at 106 mills, and left the Town with minimal time for setting the tax levy before the September 5 deadline.
Daniel responded to that situation by arranging the meeting between Clardy and Middleton to discuss the problem. It was not my intent to set Mr. Middleton up as he put it. It was my intent to find a way to meet the deadline and the towns need for more revenue. I am personally satisfied with the job I have done.
Middleton prepared his statement in an apparent
response to a column which appeared in The Journal last week. In that
column, it was stated that Middleton stormed out of the meeting in
question. Middletons statement offers a recounting of that
meeting leading to his storming out. Middleton
Williamston Town Council unanimously approved a request by Dianne Lollis to allow Mineral Spring Park to be used for a fall Halloween festival on Saturday, October 28. Lollis said that members of the Springwater Committee are planning an event which will include several organizations and churches. Lollis also said the group plans to work on the Christmas Park later this year.
Council approved a request by Glenn Purvine to allow questions and answers during the citizens comments portion of the meeting.
Purvine referenced recent comments he said were made by Councilman Otis Scott, an article in a local daily newspaper and another in The Journal.
Carthel Crout said he takes responsibility for his part of the problems. I am a part. But we are in a mess and weve got to get out of it, he said.
Crout asked about minutes from meetings and whether the bills were current.
Treasurer Michelle Starnes replied, stating minutes were current since May though minutes from some meetings before that are still being worked on. The meetings are available on tape, Mayor Phillip Clardy said.
The treasurer also said that payments to the towns sewer treatment consultants, Goldie and Associates, was 30 to 60 days behind, but not any further.
Councilman Middleton stated that it looks like Administration is overbudget, but until we get the account straightened up it is hard to tell. He also said He didnt see any way as long as we have the leadership we have.
Sarah Dacus asked about the $100,000 rollback tax, when it was deposited and why the $30,000 franchise fee had not been implemented when the town so desperately needed the money.
Mayor Clardy responded, It is simple to prepare on the spot questions which need some time to research. He said that he couldnt provide the answers.
He asked that the questions be submitted in written form. I will be glad to provide answers to you, Clardy said.
ACOG advisor Joe Newton responded that the town had voted for a 1 percent increase which he said was not implemented for various reasons. Mayor Clardy said it will be on the next quarter power bills.
Dacus also questioned town officials about a letter dated June 9th concerning a settlement from an FOI lawsuit she is involved in with the town.
Town attorney Richard Thompson said he wouldnt comment on something that may be discussed later in executive session. He did say that much of the FOI material was provided by the town since the date.
Clardy said that citizens should consider looking at materials at the Municipal Center rather that asking the town to pull the records and make copies.
Dacus said there should be full disclosure of what has put the town into $1.7 million loss, and there should be no more tax increases until some good explanation given.
Judy Ellison presented and read a letter from Jan Dawkins who could not be at the meeting.
Dawkins letter thanked the citizens from different wards who spoke up at the meetings. It also stated that she had requested invoices for Bob Daniels and a copy of the contract. She stated there was not a contract and that Daniels was being paid $100 an hour, and through July approximately $40,000 to $45,000. She also called for a forensic audit to determine where our $1.7 million went.
Barbara Levy said the town should consider annexation to help the town grow.
Williamston Town Council heard comments from several residents before taking a vote Tuesday, Sept. 5, not to increase taxes funding the 2007 budget.
Gary Bannister asked Council not to pass a tax increase and to keep the fees as they are. He said that even with limits on spending, it doesnt stop the mayor from spending as he sees fit. Bannister cited the current form of Government the town operates under, strong mayor/weak council, determines what the mayor can do.
Jan Dawkins asked Council to open the session for questions and answers, which they did. There were then discussions about the strength of a resolution as compared to an ordinance and what happens if not followed though.
Town Attorney Richard Thompson said that the council and mayors number one job is complying with the budget ordinance as written, which he said makes the mayor and council do what they should be doing.
Thompson and ACOG advisor Joe Newton both basically said that an elected official will not go to jail if not in compliance with the budget ordinance.
John Brannon asked Council to appropriate a portion of a recent grant from Sen. ODell to be used for wiring for the Depot which is being renovated. Brannon said the project needs about $6000 for necessary wiring.
Tim Cox asked, Whats to protect us to make sure everything gets paid?
He suggested the town should look at raising other fees including rental fees for weddings and other events at the municipal center and park shelter rental fees. Every little bit helps, he said.
Willie Wright proposed not more that a 10 percent increase in the tax rate with a one year limit and suggested the budget have more cuts.
Doris Cole praised the volunteers who organized the Spring Water Festival and said It had the flavor of the whole community. She said it was a difference of opinion that a person was hired to coordinate the festival and other events by the town in the past.
We have a history of a mayor who doesnt make wise decisions, she said. I dont see how we cannot raise taxes. I dont think we have any more control now than over the last five years, she added.
Glenn Purvine stated that a proposed $1 salary for the mayor is way too much. There should be no pay, no benefits till they get this mess straightened out, he said.
Purvine also blamed the state laws for not having penalties on elected officials who create a financial mess similar to Williamstons. State legislators allow this to happen, he said. If you want that fixed, talk to your state legislators, Purvine told the audience.
B. C. Moore and Sons retail department store has served the Williamston and surrounding community for more than 57 years will see their last days this week. The store will close its doors this Saturday at 7 p.m.
The store has been conducting a going out of business/store closing sale with up to 70 percent off for the last weeks.
Store Manager Keith Saylors said the store will close for approximately 2-3 weeks, undergoing a remodeling process before opening as Peebles around the first of October.
The B. C. Moores company was purchased earlier this year by Stage Stores, a Houston, Texas based family apparel company. Stage Stores, Inc. offers nationally recognized brand name apparel, accessories, cosmetics and footwear for the entire family to customers in small and mid-size towns and communities. They have 540 stores located in in 30 states.
The company has annual sales of more than $1.3 billion and operates under the Stage, Bealls and Palais Royal names throughout the South Central states, and under the Peebles name throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern and Midwestern states.
According to the companys website, the average size store is approximately 18,850 selling square feet located principally in strip shopping centers.
Our corporate mission is to provide our customers with exceptional service, merchandise selections and value in conveniently located, easy-to-shop locations, the web site says.
Hilco Merchant Resources, LLC was selected by Stage Stores, Inc. to act as their management agent for B. C. Moore & Sons, Inc. during the acquisition.
The B. C. Moore chain consisted of 78 small retail department stores throughout Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, including the Williamston store. Stage plans to convert 69 of the acquired locations into Peebles stores and to close the remaining 9 locations.
Many of the acquired Moores store locations have been converted and re-opened, with the Williamston store being one of the last, Saylors said.
The company already operates stores in Barnwell, Georgetown, and Conway, S. C. and in Monroe and Charlotte in N. C.
The Company currently operates 194 Bealls, 48 Palais Royal and 134 Stage stores throughout the South Central states, and operates 174 Peebles stores throughout the Midwestern, Southeastern, Mid-Atlantic and New England states. For more information about Stage Stores,visit the Companys web site at www.stagestores.com
By Stan Welch
The Town of West Pelzer continued to inch towards adopting a budget Monday night, by scheduling a public hearing to discuss two possible rate structures for water and sewer. The budget cannot be completed until one of the structures is adopted.
Mayor Peggy Paxton told Council that the lack of a decision on the rates makes determining the revenue figures for the budget very difficult. She offered to produce figures based on both options at a public hearing, which is slated for next Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m.
Both proposals represent rate increases. Paxton explained that the Town had absorbed the last two rate increases but could no longer do so.
Former Mayor Bill Alexander, who was in the audience Monday night, questioned the need for the higher sewer rates being imposed before the new arrangement to send the towns wastewater to Western Carolina for treatment. The town is attempting to build a reserve fund for repair and maintenance on its lines, which Paxton explained would be their responsibility under the new arrangement.
Alexander insisted that each person is responsible for paying his own water and sewer bill.
Finally, Chip Bentley, an ACOG representative who was in attendance, explained that there would be several fees required of the town up front. One such fee will be a capacity fee of at least $5 per gallon. Since the Town currently treats approximately 250,000 gallons per day, that fee will amount to $1.25 million dollars.
He added that the Town faces problems with its outdated billing system, and its I & I (inflow and infiltration) problem, which occurs when leaking lines allow ground water to enter and be sent to the treatment plant. That means the Town pays to treat ground water for which no one is paying the bill.
If you have excess money, it would be good to spend it on the new billing system and the I & I problems. Western Carolina would accept the towns wastewater much more quickly then, Bentley said.
Paxton also explained that the Town has to pay Western Carolina and then collect individual bills to reimburse itself.
Alexander complained that the Town had used $40,000 to pay engineering fees due to the town sewer consultant, Bill Dunn.
Weve been paying him since I was mayor. He just keeps coming back saying they need to make new plans. That could go on forever, said Alexander. The town currently pays Dunn $2100 a month in engineering fees.
Town Attorney Carey Murphy explained that the town at one time owed Dunn $90,000 in back fees.
We were told two years ago that we would have an answer in two weeks. The grant money is still sitting there, but now its insufficient. The town cant do this alone. If he isnt paid, he will quit, and who will you get then?
Murphy also told the Council that property taxes have been used to subsidize the water bills. The problem is that the Town is paying more than it is collecting, taxes have been subsidizing the water rates. If you dont raise the rates, youre going to get in real trouble.
In other business, Council heard a presentation form ACOG representative Chip Bentley on planning and zoning. (See related story elsewhere in this issue of The Journal.)
Councilwoman Maida Kelly raised the issue of executive sessions and how their contents are to be kept secret. She explained that minutes of executive sessions are not kept sessions, because the discussions and conversations that occur are protected by the Freedom of Information act.
Editors note: The FOIA does allow executive sessions for certain issues, including contractual details, legal issues, and personnel issues. Kellys presentation, however, was in response to an article in a recent issue of The Journal. That article reported that the Town Council had signed a letter during an executive session, reprimanding Town Clerk Beth Elgin for comments she made to Councilman Marshall King. Such an act constitutes a vote of the Council, a clear violation of the FOIA.
Kelly and other Council members accused Mayor Paxton of providing The Journal with the information. She denied those charges, saying that the reporter was aware of the vote when he contacted her for clarification. I was astounded to see it in The Journal. We all signed that letter in that room together. So how did it get out, asked Kelly?
Town Attorney Carey Murphy told Council that the vote was illegal. Assuming you have the authority to do what you did, signing the letter was equivalent to a vote, and clearly illegal. It was an unfortunate mistake, but what is done cannot be undone. Had I been present, I would have told you not to do it.
In other business, Council scheduled a public hearing on a request for a zoning change for a house at 81 Main Street. The applicants intend to have crafts at the location, as well as craft classes for children, by appointment. The change would be from residential to neighborhood commercial. The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. next Monday, Sept. 18.
Council also voted to move the Towns account to the SavWay gas station, instead of the Hickory Point station, where it is now.
Councilman Joe Turner made the motion, which also limited the use of the charge account to oil and gasoline for the Towns police cars and trucks. Councilman Marshall King remarked that the Town would probably have to continue purchasing diesel at Hickory Point. I dont know if they have that at Sav-Way, he said.
Council also asked for a quarterly report on all employees vacation status, such as time taken and time left. Mayor Paxton agreed, but stated that it was in her purview and asked that the information be requested in writing.
Councilman King asked when financial statements would be available, and was told that the information is available at the town hall, although the new software is still being broken in. He also asked that an agenda be provided to the Council members 24 hours prior to the meeting, as required by law. He asked that they be delivered to the Council members homes, and was told that would be done when convenient. But its not going to be a requirement, said the Mayor.
By Stan Welch
West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton announced to The Journal that a grant in the amount of $19,335 had been obtained by State Representative Dan Cooper, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Billy ODell.
The funds will be used to address a shortfall in a CDBG grant that is slated for use in the Towns water line improvement project. That project was in danger of being delayed because the original grant had become insufficient due to delays in the projects start, as well as increases in the cost of materials following Hurricane Katrina a year ago.
We are very excited to receive this grant. It will let us get out much needed improvement project underway We are very grateful to Rep. Cooper and Senator ODell for their help. They always seem to come through for us when we need them. Rusty Burns, who helps us find sources of funding, wrote this grant and was very helpful in addressing this problem. As a small town, it would have been very difficult for us top just lay out that kind of money. So we thank everyone involved, and look forward to starting our project very soon.
By Stan Welch
The Town of West Pelzers efforts to reestablish a planning and zoning process were addressed Monday night, when Chip Bentley, a representative of Appalachian Council of Governments gave a presentation on the different roles that the various boards and commissions play.
Bentley made it clear that the Town Council is the real authority in all such decisions, with the power to both appoint the various boards, as well as either follow or ignore the suggestions of their appointees.
The planning commission, said Bentley, is an advisory board that develops the towns comprehensive plan, and provides recommendations to the Council on ordinance amendments.
The Town is currently reestablishing that Commission and has appointed four of the five members dictated by law. Mayor Paxton holds the final appointment to the board, an appointment she hasnt made yet. Bentley stressed that the planning commissioners are advocates of the general public interest, and not of any specific political group or subdivision, such as a ward or precinct.
Said Bentley, You must consider the Councils goals for the Town, but also the planning objectives and community needs. You must also consider whether a decision follows a precedent, or might establish one.
The Board of Zoning Appeals, comprised of three members, handles special appeals, based on the simple issue of whether or not the decision of the enforcement officer is consistent with the ordinance enforced. In the area of variances, the BZA can provide relief from strict application of the code based on an unreasonable hardship, a physical feature of the land, such as a gully that prevents compliance with a setback. BZA rulings are not appealable except through the courts. Town Council does not review the BZA/s decisions.
Bentley said that the Town staff and attorney also play important roles, including zoning administrator Charles Ellenburg.
Anderson County Sheriffs Deputies investigated a number of incident including a theft of $3000 from a local business. Among incidents investigated were:
Sept. 5 R. S.Turner investigated a complaint of burglary at 318 Campbell Rod., where Kyle Hadden reported that someone had entered his residence throguh a window and had stolen several items.
Sept. 5 R. D. McElrath and E.F. Kelley responded to 420 Big Creek Road where Gwndolyn Woods reported the theft of building materials from her home, which was being re-roofed. She reported she saw the man who was doing the roof work load up 20 bundles of shingles and other materials with a total value of approximately $1250 in his truck and leave the site. She was later told that he had sold the shingles to a business on Hwy. 29.
Sept. 5 E. F. Kelley investigated a complaint of grand theft auto at 3500 Hwy. 29 N where Rodney Jones reported that his 1992 Acura had been stolen from Anderson Used Auto Parts during the Labor Day weekend.
Sept. 6 J. J. Jacobs responded to Big Creek Rd. and Hwy. 20 where he found Anthony Black standing beside a white 1996 Ford Escort which was in a ditch. The car was found to be reported stolen through the Belton City Police. Black was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct, and held for the Belton Police in connection with the stolen vehicle.
Sept. 5 C. Whitfield responded to 126 Century Oaks Dr. where Linda Cawthorn reported that her yard had been papered and her house egged overnight. Whitfield received an identical report from Phil Landreth, a nearby neighbor of Cawthorn.
Sept. 10 J.C. Moore located Kenneth Keeler and transported him to the Anderson County Detention Center, where he was served with a family court warrant that was outstanding. Keeler asked that his truck be left at the location.
Sept. 11 D.W. Davis contacted Sharon Keeler who reported that while retrieving her husbands truck from a house, the resident threatened her with a baseball bat, and told her to leave. While Davis was at the scene, Kenneth Keeler called his wife and told her he wanted the truck left at the house, according to the incident reports.
Sept. 4 J.M. Roberts responded to the Bi-Lo at 303 Lebby St., where Angela Gathers reported that Patricia Reid, BF, 56, 53", 155 pounds, of Piedmont, had threatened her in a dispute over a lottery ticket. A Bi-Lo employee confirmed that report and Reid was arrested and transported to the Detention Center. She was also placed on trespass notice at the supermarket, as well.
Sept. 6 - C. Whitfield responded to the Sip-Its Night Life bar at Hwy 29 and Hwy 8. A vendor who provides the bar with towels and linens found a side door open when he arrived. He entered the bar and found no one inside. He called the emergency number and Renae Dean and Julia Stephens responded. A bag containing almost $3000 was reported missing from a cooler inside.
Sept. 5 J. F. Parker responded to 19 Crestview Ct. where Travis Smith reported that his wife, Holly Smith, had forged and cashed a check from his business account for $2000.
Sept. 5 M. D. Looney responded to 2908 Hwy. 86,where Daniel Riddle reported that his ex-wife and son were at her boyfriends place of business when he assaulted her, and her son called his Dad wanting to leave. Upon investigation, Casey Riddle was found to have a number of bruises and marks on her and a 6-8 inch cut on her lower back. Joe Burnett was arrested and transported to the detention center.
Sept 9 P. D. Marter responded to an alarm activation at Powdersville Community Church, where he found a door open and a rear window broken. Several items which had been removed from the building, were found in the parking lot.
Sept. 11 J.C. Moore responded to a call from the Executive Inn at 546 McNeely Rd., where he was informed that a Thomas Matthews had been in the lobby screaming and cursing and claiming to be a federal agent. He then reportedly ran into a room he had not purchased. When Moore went to the room, Matthews continued to claim to be a federal agent. He was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct and transported to the county detention center.
Sept. 6 R. S. Turner investigated a complaint of petit larceny at 104 Old Field Circle, where Robert Westbrook reported that he had returned home after a weeks absence and found several coins missing form his closet. Reports stated his son had had several people in the house while he was gone.
Sept. 8 A. Digirolamo responded to a report of an argument on Joe Black Rd. While at the scene he arrested Larry Briggs for drunk and disorderly conduct after warning him several times to be quiet. Briggs, WM, 44, 510", 165 pounds, brn/green, was transported to the county detention center.
A permanent memorial marker now stands at the corner of Minor St. and Main on the Williamston Municipal Center property The bronze and granite memorial reminds us all of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. The Country recognized the five year anniversary of the attack on United States homeland on Monday. Members of the Williamston Sesquicentennial Committee, who helped raise funds for the project, include (l-r) Martha Jo Harvell, David Ford, Lib Ford, Velma Pressley, James Pressley, Lt. Colonel Mike Creamer, Thomasina Anderson, Bobbie Mackey, Lillian Sims, Elmo Sims and Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy. The memorial was purchased with help from a local businessman and the final permanent display made possible by additional fund raising by the committee. Sesquicentennial items are still available including a limited supply of souvenir plates recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Town, $5 and souvenir programs recognizing the event for $3, For more information or to purchase either souvenir item, contact Williamston Town Hall during regular business hours or call Sesquicentennial Committee member David Ford at 847-7801.
By Stan Welch
Tempus fugit. Time flies. It is a saying we all have heard, one of lifes few absolute truths. We have a child, and soon they are grown and mysteriously gone from our homes. One day, we are teaching them to walk, the next they are borrowing the car keys. From kindergarten to college in the blink of an eye.
One day we are thirty, the next we are getting mail from AARP. Children beget grandchildren who beget children of their own. These are some of the thoughts I had Monday, as I made my way through the fifth anniversary of the attack on America; an attack that brought down the twin towers; saw the Pentagon damaged; and resulted in one of the greatest American acts of courage in our history, as the passengers of Flight 93 bestowed on themselves, and the nation, the dignity of choosing their fate, instead of simply suffering it.
Five years have passed since that awful day. Is it possible? The horror of that day still lies very near the surface for me, at least. I watched some of the reminiscences that were all over the television Monday, and the sight of that second plane hitting the tower still sucks the breath from me. Seeing those towers collapse, and knowing that thousands plunged to their deaths in a matter of seconds still stuns me, and brings me to stinging tears.
My son was ten years old when it happened. Jerry Lee was a pup, and the warranty on my car was still good. America, despite a series of attacks that should have told us otherwise, considered terrorism something that happened in Tel Aviv or Beirut. I pray we never become that complacent again.
Tempus fugit. Semper Fi. For more than three years we have been fighting in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, spilling American blood on foreign sands. Thousands of our soldiers have died, and tens of thousands of civilians, both innocent and otherwise. The future of our effort to install democracy as an antidote to theocracy and religious hatred seems uncertain at best. Sometimes, I think civil war over there might be the best protection for us over here.
Five years. Five years ago, hybrid vehicles were still considered unnecessary and impractical. Today, they are making significant, if not yet serious, inroads into new car sales. I worry that we are sending our best young men and women to die not because of freedom at all, but because we are too lazy or too stubborn to change our ways and reduce our dependency on oil, whether foreign or otherwise. But perhaps an old dog can learn new tricks, if the incentive is great enough.
Five years. The argument can be made that the attacks and the response to it gave President Bush a second term that his performance might otherwise have not merited. The case for that is certainly not ironclad, but it is defensible. The same events and the response to them may cost the Republicans control of the Congress this fall.
Five years, and our borders are clearly not secure. The question is whether they can be made secure. The answer is, probably not. Mohammad Atta, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was allowed into this country despite having an expired visa, which should have prevented him from entering the United States. Five years later, it seems to me that we value cheap labor and cheap goods more than we do our own security.
Five years, since more than three thousand of us died in one day of horror. Where will we be in five more years? Dont blink.
Monday night, the Williamston Town Council apparently voted to fund a forensic audit of the Towns financial dealings. They apparently approved spending up to $10,000 to find and retain an accounting firm to perform this audit. They apparently voted to fund this expenditure by terminating the Towns arrangement with grant writer and government ombudsman Rusty Burns, whom the Town pays approximately fifteen thousand dollars annually.
We say apparently because the motion to achieve all these ends was so fuzzy and vague, and so altered and modified before approval, that it is difficult to be sure exactly what the Town Council decided. First of all, there is no clear indication in the motion as to how far back this forensic audit should go. Should it be for a year, or for five years? Should it be for Mayor Clardys term of office, or extend back into the Middleton administration?
Should the Town spend thirty thousand dollars to answer the questions about its financial history, or one hundred thousand dollars?
If the higher figure, which is certainly not out of the question, depending on the breadth and depth of the audit, is chosen, who else will the Town fire in order to come up with the money? Perhaps another tier of fees could be established to generate the revenue, since the monies currently being amassed by the sanitation fees is tied up in a reserve fund.
At any rate, it is difficult to imagine a poorer choice for a source of funds than the dismissal of Burns, whose track record of more than paying his way is well established, and verified by the wide variety of municipalities and other political and government entities he represents. He has obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Town in the last few years, offering a return on the investment by the Town in his fee that would make Bill Gates smile.
At least one member of the Town Council has been heard to say that if the Town hired an administrator, that person could write the Towns grant applications. That statement says more about the Councilmans knowledge of grant writing than that of Burns. Aside from the fact that writing grant applications is a very specific niche in the realm of modern government, Burns brings a long list of personal and political associations to the table which cannot be quickly acquired. Such associations and relationships are built over time. It is one thing to be able to write a grant application. It is another to be able to walk in and hand deliver it, then spend a few minutes chatting with those who will deny or approve the application.
The manner in which the motion was stated would make one think that Burns dismissal was almost an afterthought. Much of the business conducted by the Mayor and Council has that same feel to it, as if its being made up as they go along. One faction suggests, and the other reacts. That faction responds, and the other counters with a different idea. Motions are amended and rescinded and amended once more. The impression is that little if any thought is going into these issues before they are raised. Such was the case Monday night.
Forensic audits are long, expensive time consuming events. While it may be the only approach that will finally satisfy the questions of responsibility and accountability that continue to exist, linking it to the ending of so beneficial a relationship as the Town has enjoyed with Burns seems shortsighted.
In an effort to involve the community in Spirit Week, the Palmetto High School Student Government has planned special events and festivities in preparation for Homecoming. These events begin with a Midnight Movie this Friday at the football stadium. Refreshments will be sold. On Saturday, there will be a car wash competition between the four different grades. From 9 AM to 1 PM, each grade will attempt to out wash each other. Cost is $4.00 per car and donations will be accepted. Celebrate Sunday will consist of games, food & fun from 3 PM to 7 PM at PHS. Around 6 PM, there will be a worship service in the auditorium. Scheduled to speak are Joel Lopez of Williamston First Baptist and Stan Bray of Whitefield Baptist Church. The Whitefield Baptist Church Youth Praise Band will provide the music. Monday will be Mexi-Monday. The students and staff will adorn Mexican-style attire. Tuesday is Tropical Tuesday. All of the students and staff will be decked out in tropical costumes. There will be a luau from 6 PM to 9 PM outside the Freshman Academy. Hamburger plates will be for sale for $4.00. Wacky Wednesday will allow students to dress up as wacky or crazy as possible. From 4 PM to 10 PM, Water Wheel Ice Cream Parlor in Williamston will graciously donate 20% of all sales to PHS. On Thursday, students will pay $5.00 to toilet paper and decorate their favorite teachers classroom. Also, they will dress in togas to honor Ancient Greece. At 7 PM, there will be a bonfire and pep rally in preparation for the big game on Friday night. On Friday, everyone is invited to come out and cheer on the Mustangs to a victory over the Chapman Panthers. Prior to the 7:30 PM kickoff, fans are encouraged to bring their food and tailgate with their friends and fellow students. Come out and support the Stangs!
This effort of the students and staff of Palmetto High School to involve the community will not only benefit the Student Government, but will financially help support the Helping Hands of Clemson. A portion of all money raised during Spirit Week will go towards this effort to help children from neglected and abused homes.
If you are unable to attend any of these events and would still like to donate, please call the Palmetto High School office.
The results of the Spring Water 5-K run held Saturday August 26, 2006 are as follows:
1. Daniel Hughes - 15:44, 2. Larry Brock - 16:48, 3. Elliott Taylor - 17:39, 4. Margaret Schmitt - 18:24, 5. Chance Ellison - 18:31, 6. Chris Bradberry - 18:44, 7. Jonathan Pack - 19:22, 8. Donald Keefe, Jr. - 19:25, 9. Drew Mahaffey - 19:28, 10. Alex Holliday - 19:36, 11. Jeff Dixon - 19:38, 12. Andy Walls - 19:41, 13. Dian Ford - 19:43, 14. Ginnie Freeman - 19:47, 15. Dale Looper - 19:55, 16. Judy Walls - 20:23, 17. Jacob Robins - 20:33, 18. Ashley McClellion - 21:16, 19. Tim Caldwell - 21:27, 20. Jillana Darby - 21:49, 21. Jordan Townsley - 22:08, 22. Wes Clinkscales - 22:17, 23. Tom Barron - 22:36, 24. Beth Grumbles - 22:40, 25. Tom Wilson - 23:02
Also: 26. Richard Bannister - 23:17, 27. Ronnie Brown - 23:21, 28. Cherry Kent - 23:23, 29. Sierra Varga - 23:30, 30. Matthew Ellison - 23:34, 31. DeShonte Thurman - 23:36, 32. David Stein - 23:40, 33. Tyler Martin - 23:45, 34. Brandon Rhodes - 23:55, 35. Scott Freeman - 24:05, 36. Aaron Johns - 24:21, 37. Shannon Burgess - 24:47, 38. Carmen Scales - 25:16, 39. Harold McAlister - 25:16, 40. Alex Dixon - 25:20, 41. Doug Ellison - 25:23, 42. Aline Laing - 25:24. 43. Brenda Blue - 25:30, 44. Lisa Epps - 25:31, 45. Rhonda Lisowe - 25:32, 46. Kimm Cason - 25:37, 47. Jeff Martin - 26:05, 48. Monica Ezell - 26:10, 49. Brentt Hays - 26:13, 50. Jason Martin - 26:17.
Also: 51. Katie Leppert - 26:29, 52. Eljay Estes - 26:31, 53. Larry Ford - 26:35, 54. Avery Gerisch - 26:46, 55. Marlee Rhodes - 26:47, 56. Fred Gallegos - 26:48, 57. Gina Brooks - 26:52, 58. Nicholas Dorton - 26:59, 59. Austin Bradberry - 27:31, 60. Susan Regina - 27:32, 61. Leanne Holcombe - 27:36, 62. Peter Dorton - 27:47, 63. Justin Rhodes - 28:14, 64. Sandy Lesley - 28:41, 65. Aubrey Rivenbark - 28:45. 66. 28:46, 67. Deena Allison - 28:53, 68. Ashlan Ferguson - 29:00, 69. Bre Tompkins - 29:01, 70. Adam Daughtree - 29:15, 71. Kamm Shoaf - 29:18, 72. Eva Epps - 29:25, 73. Duane Christopher - 29:34, 74. Dottie Roberts - 29:37, 75. Donna Landes - 29:42.
Also: 76. Linda Hill - 30.02, 77. Jess Sharpe - 30:23, 78. Chasse Dorton - 30:36, 79. Donna Knight - 30:50, 80. Shirley Cooper - 30:57, 81. Dan Driver - 31:12, 82. Craig Owen - 31:23, 83. David Rainey - 31:32, 84. Ashley Lowe - 31:42, 85. Amy Rhodes - 32:11, 86. Rick Ledford - 32:24, 87. Lee Ann Montoya - 33:01, 88. Bib #116 - 33:02, 89. Matthew Piotnowsky - 33:04, 90. Bib #99 - 33:14, 91. Bib #8 - 33:16, 92. Bib #95 - 33:23, 93. Morgan Chasteen - 33:25, 94. Alexa Murdock - 33:27, 95. Lynn Bradberry - 35:22, 96. Ashley Young - 36:21, 97. Bib #43 - 36:24, 98. Leisa Coy - 36:24, 99. Bruce Larson - 36:35, 100. Beth Opell - 36:42.
Also: 101. Karen McCurry - 37:06, 102. Carey Harms - 37:33, 103. Bib #27 - 37:44, 104. Bib #10 - 39:32 and 105. Glen Franklin Cable - 41:28.
(From meeting Monday, Sept. 11, 2006)
The following statement was read by Williamston Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr. during the regular meeting of Council last week>
It is his account of a meeting between Mayor Phillip Clardy, Financial advisor Bob Daniel and Middleton.
I would like to address an issue that has arisen regarding a meeting between myself and the Mayor. Let me start by saying that, indeed, the meeting did take place, the meeting did last just a few minutes and I did storm out. However, as is usually the case when you are dealing with the Town of Williamston, its not so much the story that you hear that is important, rather its the facts that are left out that may redefine the issue.
When I read about this meeting, I was surprised to find out that its purpose was to work out a compromise between myself and the Mayor that would allow the Town to move forward. I cant tell you how puzzled I was to hear this explanation. I was under the impression that the purpose of the meeting was to talk me into voting for a 21 mill. or higher tax increase so that the Town of Williamston could get back to business as usual and not be bothered with pesky details such as accountability.
Since no one asked me about this meeting before the details were released and thus, only one side of the story was told, I thought that I would take this opportunity to inform the citizens of this town what happened at that meeting and how it came about. Its a story worth telling and it just might shed some light on why we are seemingly unable to get a handle on the problems that we are still facing in Williamston.
On Wednesday, August 23, 2006, I received a voice mail from the Town Treasurer asking me to call Town Hall. I called after my last class and she informed me that Bob Daniel wanted to know if I could meet with him that afternoon about 5:15.
I must say I was somewhat taken aback by Mr. Daniels request. With one exception, meetings scheduled by Mr. Daniel to discuss the Towns finances had always included two councilmen. The fact that another councilman would not be there concerned me. Still, I decided to go because I did not want to miss an opportunity that would benefit the Town. What was that opportunity?
Mr. Daniel had recently asked me not to push too hard against the Mayor. That he (Bob Daniel) and Rusty Burns were working on trying to get the Mayor to resign. Mr. Daniel said, and I quote. Phils just not doing anything. Theres a lot of grant money out there that needs to be gone after for this new sewer plant but he just wont do it. I replied that I truly believed that the Mayor has a death wish for this Town.
The apparent sticking point to the Mayors resignation was the fact that he wanted to be left alone and did not want to hear his name mentioned after he left. I informed Mr. Daniel that I could only speak for myself, but I did not see that as an issue. I told him that in fact, I believed that one of the main reasons the Town of Williamston is where it is at this time, is a result of character assassination and personal vindictiveness. That has left a string of ruined careers and financial hardships. Of course, all of these actions are justified by hiding under the skirt of Open Government.
When I arrived at Mr. Daniels office we went to his meeting room and I discovered Mayor Clardy seated at the table. I realized that one of the purposes of this meeting could have been a setup and I decided to say as little as possible. I did not know if there was a tape recorder in the room and I wanted to avoid any statement that could be misrepresented. It also occurred to me that when this meeting eventually came to be public knowledge, HOW it became public knowledge would tell me a great deal about who could and could not be trusted.
I sat at the end of the table. The Mayor sat to my left and Mr. Daniel sat to my right. Mr. Daniel then started in on the 2004 Audit. He pointed out that all the financial problems of the Town were well documented and how everyone knew the town was in trouble then and did not say anything about the situation. He said that Council knew about it and didnt do anything. You remember this one folks. You know the Well Council didnt say I couldnt do it excuse. The accountant blamed everyone but the Mayor. And there ladies and gentlemen, is when this meeting, as weird as it already was, became just plain bizarre. It wasnt the Mayors fault that the town was broke, it was yours. And now that you are doing something, what are you being told by the elite journalists of this county. To sit down and shut up.
I attended several Council meetings where members of Council did ask questions, some of you were there at those meetings. You remember how Councilmen were yelled at and insulted for daring to question the Mayors integrity and authority to do what ever he wanted.
I remember, vividly, in this very room less than a year ago, Cecil Cothran doing his job and fulfilling the sworn obligations of his office, simply asked what the interest rate was on the $350,000 note the town was going to renew. He was insulted and ridiculed and the question went unanswered. But, according to the accountant, its your fault.
I use the word bizarre because I remember another meeting around April or May 2003. The auditor at that time, Mr. Finney, was at that meeting, but the Mayor would not allow him to answer any questions. I remember distinctly the Mayor saying that the Town was recovering from problems that he inherited. The reasons the finances looked so bad, he explained, was because for the first time the Town was getting the true budget numbers, the correct numbers. The Mayor went on to state that the previous audits were, designed to make the finances look better than they really were.
I thought about that meeting as I sat there and talked to our account, Bob Daniel. Remember, this is same Bob Daniel that was accused by the Mayor of cooking the books. The same Bob Daniel that was hired by Phil Clardy three years later without the knowledge of or consultation with Council.
Well, I should back up here, I asked Bob one time why in the world after all that the Mayor said about him, would he go to work for him. Bob said that actually it wasent Phil Clardy who got him into Williamston. Bob said that one night in December he got a call from Rusty Burns. Rusty told Bob that Williamston was in some trouble and would he come look at the books. You know the rest.
So, a consultant for the Town of Williamston (Rusty Burns) who regular draws a check of $1,250 a month for being a consultant, went behind the backs of council and brought in an accountant (Bob Daniel) who last association with the Town ended in the sentencing of two former town officials to jail for financial mismanagement. But dont go anywhere, it gets even better.
Mr. Daniel continued his argument by saying that we had to have a tax increase for several reasons. He went on to say that, he had withheld a large payment to the South Carolina Retirement System, for several weeks, because he was concerned about cash flow. Did we hear any of those concerns on the 24th? No wonder there was a strong push for a tax increase! So where are we headed financially?
But wait, theres more! He went on to say that it would take at least 6 months to work up a purchasing policy and we didnt have that kind of time. Then the situation went from bizarre, to absolutely unbelievable. Bob Daniel, our accountant, looked directly at the Mayor and said,There is no way that you can keep absolute controls on him. If he wants to steal the money, he will. Bob then nodded his head at the Mayor as if to say, and you know it. I turned and looked directly at the Mayor. I was expecting a tirade of protests over the statement of Mr. Daniel. Instead, the Mayor ignored it and never confirmed nor denied the statement. It was at that time that I knew I had to leave.
I dont play poker because Im terrible at bluffing. I do know enough about the game to know that someone had just thrown an Ace down on the table and I was holding absolutely nothing. I had everything to lose and nothing to gain by staying involved with this meeting. If I timed my exit right however, I might walk away with some information I might be able to use at a later date. I turned to Bob and said, Bob the people in Williamston understand that we have to have a tax increase and they are willing to pay. Thats not the issue. Then the Mayor said, Marion, is it the flowers, is that it? I started my reply and said, Phil, you lost 1.7 million dollars... and thats as far as I got. The Mayor jumped in and said, I did not lose 1.7 million dollars. Look, I was willing to hire an adminstrator...Thats when I got up and said, Im out of here. Mr. Daniel asked me several times as I was walking out not to leave, however I could see no good that could possibly come from this meeting.
The Mayor will never admit that the Town lost 1.7 million. If you dont admit that there is a mistake, there is nothing to fix. If you deny it long enough, people will give up and stop trying. It has worked so far.
And now you know the rest of the story.