News Archive

Front Page week of Sept. 24, 2008

News
(3908) Week of September 24, 2008

Gator caught in Saluda River
AnMed Wellspring leaving Williamston
Students learn about politics at Boys State
Deadline nearing for voter registration
Dedication service held for Ralph Chandler Middle School
Playing cards new approach to reviving cold case files
Preston seeks to prevent Council members from direct contact with staff
Capital Projects Sales Tax issue to be on Nov. 4 election ballot
Thieves strike homes
Seems to Me . . . Sinking ships

Gator caught in Saluda River

You probably have heard the rumor, that an alligator was seen in the Saluda River near Pelzer. The rumor has circulated throughout the years, but this time it is apparently true. And Faye Wilson of Easley has proof. She caught one. In a fishing net.

Wilson and fiance Allen Hinkle were fishing near the lower boat ramp when Wilson said she threw her lure near some bushes across what she thought was a log. As she reeled the lure across the log, it moved. Well actually, “it took off,” she said.

Wilson said she thought it was an alligator but could hardly believe it until it surfaced right next to the boat, leaving no doubt. She grabbed a fish net and  scooped the 15 pound gator into it. She said it twisted the net but she was able to eventually get to land and get it out of the boat. The gator measured about 2 1/2 feet long.

As word of the gator catch spread throughout the Pelzer Mill village, a number of area residents came to see for themselves. “Everybody showed up,” Wilson said. “It was a really exciting day.”

She said she followed the law and contacted the Department of Natural Resources, who sent an officer out. She was disappointed to find out that DNR confiscated the gator. “I would like to have mounted it.” What better way to prove her gator tale.

Wilson said she often takes her grandchildren Kaleb and Chloe fishing on the river near where the gator was caught.

AnMed Wellspring leaving Williamston

By Stan Welch

After eighteen years in Williamston, the Wellspring treatment facility for adults who have chemical dependency problems will be closing and its service relocated to the AnMed Health Campus in Anderson.

Wellspring director Joe Feleppa, who has served at the facility for twelve of its eighteen years, confirmed the relocation in a telephone interview with The Journal earlier this week. AnMed spokesperson Kari Lutz explained that the AnMed hospital system had been monitoring the facility’s performance for several years. “It had been operating at a loss for the last two or three years and it was decided to make this change as a cost effective measure.”

Lutz was unable to speak to The Journal’s questions about rumored losses by the AnMed system of up to $5 million a month. “That would be a part of a much more involved conversation. I would have to do some research into those reports. I’m not familiar with any numbers coming close to that,” said Lutz.

The relocation of the Wellspring facility, which is dedicated to treating chemical dependency problems in adults, will result in approximately twenty five jobs being relocated. Some of those will be reassigned within the AnMed system, said Feleppa.

The facility treated approximately one thousand patients a year, on average, said Feleppa. “It might fluctuate a bit from year to year, but that would be a good average. The facility serves the entire Upstate, so it certainly wasn’t focused on this area. But treatment of these issues has changed in recent years. When WellSpring was opened, the philosophy was that it was helpful to remove the patients to a more secluded and isolated site. Now, treatment for chemical dependency is more effective in conjunction with a complete medical facility.”

Feleppa said there are no plans to provide transportation for patients to the new location. “We have never had such a program in place, because the majority of our patients are ambulatory, so we just never had the need. I wouldn’t anticipate that we would do that now.”

The move is slated for the first part of November.

 Students learn about politics at Boys State

By Stan Welch

In an election year, most people have at least some interest in politics. In off years, some people have some interest in politics and government. But there are some people who are caught up in politics all the time.

Such a person is Chase Heatherly, one of Palmetto High School’s two representatives to Boys State this past summer. Boys State is a week long exercise during which mock political parties form governments and elections are held. The exercise is to expose young leaders to the workings of their government and the processes by which it functions.

Heatherly, along with fellow Mustang, Jared Fricks, attended the event this past June at the University of South Carolina, and called it a “great experience, one I will never forget.”

He ran for state superintendent of education as a member of the Federalist Party. “Unfortunately, I didn’t win. But I learned a lot about how campaigns work,” said Heatherly.

Fricks, also a senior, ran for town council in the town of Santee. He was also unsuccessful, but enjoyed the experience tremendously. “It was an incredible time, to spend in the State Capital, and to meet so many new people.”

 Heatherly, who is also student body President at Palmetto this year, his senior year, said that one of the greatest benefits of the program was meeting other young men from across the state. “There are a lot of really smart and talented people out there, and we are already starting to build friendships with each other. I was very impressed to meet so many of those guys.”

Heatherly, like many political junkies, also has a deep interest in history, and hopes to teach it someday. “I want to go to college fairly close to home, like Anderson University or Furman. I want to get a degree in secondary education and teach history. It is a fascinating field, to see how events are shaped and in turn shape others.”

Fricks has a great love of music and hopes to teach it some day. He is a member of the Honors Acappella Choir, and the Dance Team. He is President of the Beta Club, as well as President of the Tri-M Club. He also is a member of the National Honor Society and the Music Honor Society.

Heatherly is seventeen, and is also a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Council and the Beta Club. His parents are Tim and Wendy Heatherly.

Fricks is also seventeen, and his parents are Wanda Fricks, and Tony and Sonja Fricks.

Deadline nearing for voter registration

Saturday, October 4, is the final day to register to vote in the Nov. 4 General Election. In the state of South Carolina residents do not register by party.

The Voter Registration office will be open additional hours on Sat., Sept. 27, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and Sat., Oct. 4, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. Persons wishing to register should bring a current photo ID and documentation that has name and current address.  Documents can be a S.C. Driver’s license, current utility bill, or bank statement. 

Citizens may also register to vote by mail. Applications must be postmarked by Oct. 4 for processing to be eligible to participate in the General Election. When registering by mail, identification must also be attached. Acceptable forms of identification are current and valid photo identification or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck stub, government document. If identification other than photo ID is presented, it must show current and correct name and address.

Voters who have moved out of Anderson County or out-of-State but have returned to reside in Anderson County must re-register by October 4 to be eligible to vote in the General Election.

The  Voter Registration and Elections Office Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. It is located in the old Bailes Building, directly behind the old Historic Courthouse at 107 South Main Street, Room 101, or by mailing a change of address form to P.O. Box 8002 Anderson, SC  29622. This form is available for download at www.andersoncountysc.org/vote.

State Law requires that voters be registered at least 30 days prior to an election to participate in that election. Voters are allowed to cast their vote in only one of the Political Parties’ Primary election.

Registered voters, who qualify, and intend to cast absentee ballot by mail in one of the above Elections, may call 864-260-4035 to request an absentee ballot application.

Dedication service held for new Ralph Chandler middle school

A dedication service was recently held for the Ralph Chandler Middle School located in the Fork Shoals area of South Greenville County.

The school is named for Ralph Chandler, who served as a District 28 board member for 18 years. Chandler also served as a minister for 15 years and worked as a counselor with the SC Dept. of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Chandler twice served as chairman, vice chairman and secretary for the Greenville County school board. He is known for caring about the educational needs in the community and for tireless efforts to hold people accountable for their work.

In 1998 he was awarded the Order of the Palmetto for his service to the state.

The Greenville County School Board voted unanimously in 2005 to name the new school in his honor.

According to the program, when he was informed of the decision, even in his weakened physical condition, he made it clear he expected the school to be nothing less than the best.

The mission of the school is to provide an environment that is conducive to learning and focuses on academic excellence.

The new school has a classroom capacity of 750 students in grades six through eight. It features large windows and open areas.

Each grade level area includes a teacher planning room, science supply and storage rooms and a special education classroom. Supporting the tthree grade level communities is a computer lab, reading lab, vocational education classroom and lab, state of the art media center, band, strings and choral rooms and art studio with kiln room and outdoor patio.

The Ralph Chandler Middle School gymnasium boasts the school colors and seating for 500.

The school’s athletic facilities include a six lane track, practice field, softball field, baseball field and  tennis/basketball courts.

Dr. Keith Ray II, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, presided over the dedication service.

After the pledge of Allegiance, Choral Director Scott Riley led the National Anthem. Dr. Ray gave the invocation  and welcomed guests.

Comments were made by Greenville School District Superintendent Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher, Dale Chandler and Principal Rita Mantooth.

Board member Dan Moravec led the dedication service.

Following unveiling of the plaque by Dr. Ray, a tour of the new school facility was offered.

The mascot for the new school is the Panthers.

Playing cards new approach to reviving cold case files

By Stan Welch

A new and innovative effort to revive a number of cold cases in South Carolina has recently been introduced by the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) as well as the South Carolina Crime Stoppers organization.

Also instrumental in creating this new approach were Tom  and Lorraine Lucas, whose son Brian, was one of four murder victims at the Superbike Motorsports store in Spartanburg almost five years ago. That crime remains unsolved.

The Lucases, along with Crimestoppers and the SCDC, have produced a deck of playing cards, each imprinted with the photo of a victim of homicide or a missing person in one of nine South Carolina counties, including several in the upstate.

Each card also includes a brief description of the person or of their death. These decks, while available to the public, are intended to be placed in jails and prisons across the state, in hopes that those incarcerated might be able to provide information about the various cases. A toll free number is on the cards, so that inmates can report anything they know anonymously. They will be sold to the inmates, as well as to the public, in order to fund the printing of a second deck of cards, with more cases included.

Three victims from Anderson County are included on the first deck of cards. Two of the cases are cold cases, having occurred more than ten years ago. The third case is that of a woman whose decomposed body was found in a field in the Honea Path area last year.

Two of the victims were from the Williamston area. Ada Martin, whose son Richard was found unconscious on Welcome Road in 1995, is deeply involved in the new effort. “There is someone out there who knows what happened to my son. Maybe they are in prison and heard something there. These cards are a good idea because so many prisoners play cards to kill time,” said Martin. “I just want to know what happened to my son, Richard.”

Martin says her son had been at a bar known then as Nancy’s Lounge, at the intersection of Highway 81 N and I-85.  He was walking home and was seen by witnesses at various points along the way. A little after one o’clock in the morning, he was found alongside the road near the reservoir, with serious head injuries. He never regained consciousness and died the next day.

Martin says that Sheriff’s department investigators abandoned the case after just a few weeks, saying that since he had been drinking during the evening, he had probably tripped and hurt himself. “I believe that he had more than a dozen blows inflicted on him.  Recently, Detective Tribble, of the Anderson Sheriff’s Office, has revived the case and in fact, he is the one who told me about the deck of cards idea. The Sheriff and Chief Creed Hashe have been very helpful in recent months and are working hard on this case. I know it was a long time ago, but it would mean so much to know what actually happened to Richard.”

Richard is represented by the four of hearts in the deck.

The other victims were women. Christi Hanks was abducted from a convenience store where she worked twenty five years ago this June. Her body was found the next day near Piedmont. She had been shot to death. Last year, Tina Milford, whom authorities described as a prostitute, was found in a field near Honea Path by a caretaker who was bush hogging the field. Milford was bound and her body badly decomposed.

The cards can be purchased for five dollars and the proceeds go to the creation of the second deck of cards. “There are at least nineteen unsolved homicides in Anderson County that I know of,” said Martin. “That’s nineteen families that have been torn apart by these crimes. I hope we can help some of these people find some sense of peace about what happened to their loved ones.”

Preston seeks to prevent Council members from direct contact with staff

By Stan Welch

County Administrator Joey Preston continued his legal battle with elected officials of the County this week, with a hearing scheduled on Wednesday to hear several motions.

In court documents filed on August 14 in the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court, Preston is seeking a declaratory judgment against Council members Cindy Wilson and Bob Waldrep. The injunction, if granted, would prevent the Council members from having direct contact with members of county staff.

The documents refer to a December 12, 2007 visit by Waldrep and Wilson, who were accompanied by the media, to the county finance offices. The documents accuse Wilson and Waldrep of yelling at county employees and being rude to them. The documents claim that several employees expressed fear for their jobs and stated that one employee has filed a formal complaint of harassment.

A subsequent filing by Preston’s attorneys on August 29, seeks to seal that complaint, saying that the personnel files of that employee are protected. Councilman Waldrep, in an interview this week, said that was one of the more peculiar legal claims he has ever encountered.

“It seems they want their cake and eat it too. They say a formal complaint has been filed against Ms. Wilson and me, but they don’t want to produce the claim. It would seem that denies Ms. Wilson and me the chance to cross examine, which we are guaranteed by law. I suppose we are expected to take their word for the fact that a formal complaint was made at all.”

Wilson and Waldrep have filed a motion in opposition to Preston’s filings, calling the plea for an injunction an unnecessary remedy.

The documents filed by Preston mention several other incidents and alleged incidents which he claims amount to an unlawful interference by the elected officials with the operations of the county. Wilson and Waldrep have persistently claimed that elected officials have the right to information about the county’s daily operations; in fact they claim that they have a duty to exercise such overview authority.

Preston has already fought and won a court decision concerning Wilson’s rights to legal and financial information involving the county. Waldrep has persistently pursued similar access to information, and has turned up the pressure since three seats on the Council changed hands during the June primaries.

For their part, Wilson and Waldrep are considering seeking a change of venue, hoping to place the issue before a court in another county.

Capital Projects Sales Tax issue to be on Nov. 4 election ballot

In addition to voting for candidates in the Nov. 4 general election, Anderson County residents will vote on the Capital Projects Sales Tax (CPST) referendum. If approved, the tax will go into effect May 1, 2009. Anderson County will collect one percent of taxable sales in Anderson County over the next seven years, or until $163 million has been collected for the 124 projects. Of the revenues generated, it has been estimated that 38% will be collected from sources other than Anderson County residents.

Projects throughout the county will include paving and/or reconstruction of approximately 112 miles of roads, eight water and sewer projects, two sidewalk projects, one park project, three municipal improvement projects, and eight building projects. The eight building projects include one public safety building, one police station, two fire stations, one town hall, one community center, and two recreation centers.

Anderson County first investigated the issue of a Capital Projects Sales Tax (CPST) approximately six years ago after learning of the successful completion of such a project by York County. On September 4, 2007, Anderson County Council approved Resolution R2007-046 that provided for the appointment of a six-member commission to collect and prioritize a list of projects that would benefit all areas of Anderson County. Anderson County Council appointed three commission members and municipalities within the county appointed the remaining three members.

Between January and April of 2008 the commission held 11 public input meetings, six commission meetings, and commission members had numerous other meetings with the news media and civic organizations. Requests totaling $800 million were received from individuals, municipalities, water districts, and state and local transportation agencies. On April 11, 2008, the commission reached an agreement on a prioritized list of 124 projects - which were fairly and equitably distributed among the seven council districts.

The finalized CPST list was formatted into an ordinance, listing each project, the project’s cost, and the project’s priority. The projects on the list must be done in order of priority and may cost no more than the dollar amount listed for the project. A project’s priority cannot be changed, nor can the intended work be added to or taken away from. Revenues collected for this ordinance may only be used for projects on the list contained within the ordinance. The finalized CPST list was outlined in Anderson County Ordinance 2008-025 and was unanimously approved by County Council on May 20, 2008.

The ordinance was sent to the county election commission, which is conducting a referendum on the general election ballot November 4, where the decision of imposing the sales and use tax will be decided by Anderson County voters.

Revenues will be collected by the Department of Revenue and remitted to the State Treasurer who deposits the revenue into the Local Sales and Use Tax Fund. The Department of Revenue furnishes revenue information to the State Treasurer and to governing bodies of the counties and municipalities receiving revenues.

Hearing the concerns of citizens about accountability, County Council unanimously approved Anderson County Ordinance 2008-015 on April 1, 2008 to establish a seven-member CPST Oversight Committee, appointed by County Council and consisting of one member from each council district. The ordinance also stipulates that the County Administrator will provide for a quarterly expenditures audit by an auditor who is independent of Anderson County staff.

Information about the Capital Projects Sales Tax can be accessed on the Anderson County website at www.andersoncountysc.org <http://www.andersoncountysc.org> . Click next to the penny on the right side of the web page, directly under Search Our Site. There you can access project lists, minutes from commission meetings, a list of commission members and County staff involved in the project, letters, project maps, and other information.

There will be future updates on specific projects and groups of projects.

Thieves strike homes

Anderson County Sheriff’s deputies investigated several break ins in the area. Among incidents investigated were the following:

EASLEY

Sept. 20 – T.B. Dugan responded to 503 Hamlin Rd. to the McCollum Auto Recycling Center, where Robert McCollum reported that he had purchased a vehicle from a white male known only as Jason. He later found the vehicle was stolen and notified the authorities.

Sept. 21 – B. Simpson was dispatched to 23 D Street in Greenville, where Leslie Johnson reported that William Johnson, BM, 36, 6’1", 300 pounds, of 517 Riley Drive, had sold her a stolen 2004 Kawasaki motorcycle. After several attempts to get a bill of sale and clear title, she went to Greenville authorities who told her the bike was listed as stolen from Oconee County.

PELZER

Sept. 21 – M.D. Campbell responded to 220 Smith Dr. where Phyllis Williams reported that she had come by to check on her daughter’s house while she is out of town. She found a window broken and the back door open. A search revealed that a large flat screen television valued at $1000 was missing.

Sept. 21 – K.D. Pigman was dispatched to 12 Brock St. where James Bell reported that someone had shot his motor home with a pellet gun, breaking the windshield and putting two dents in the body. Damage was estimated at $200.

PIEDMONT

Sept. 19 – M.J. McClatchy responded to 2312 Easley Hwy. to the Hickory Point convenience store where manager Laura Richard asked that Justin Lollis, WM, 18, 5’10", 135 pounds, brn/blue,  be placed on trespass notice. McClatchy escorted Lollis outside and explained to him that he was not to return to the store. Lollis asked to be allowed to go back in and buy a cigar. He was told he could not. He asked to go back in to use the phone. He was told he could not. He then became loud and profane and yelled at customers at the gas pumps. He was placed under arrest and transported to ACDC.

Sept. 20 – M.D. Campbell received  a report that Edward Lanford, WM, 34, 5’11", 160 pounds, brn/blue, of 305 Saluda Dr., was in the parking lot at 2100 Hwy.86. Campbell, having an active warrant on Lanford, responded and placed him under arrest on an active bench warrant from the family court.

Sept. 21 – M.J. McClatchy was on routine patrol when he observed a green Mitsubishi driving without its headlights on. He stopped the vehicle and the driver stated he didn’t have his license with him. He twice gave false information to the officer, who finally got his real name and found that his license was suspended. Norman Coleman, BM, 52, 5’6", 160 pounds, blk.brn, of Fountain Inn, was arrested for DUS and giving false information, and transported to ACDC.

WILLIAMSTON

Sept. 17 – J.J. Jacobs responded to 228 Chestnut Springs Way, where Keith Anderson reported that someone had broken into his residence at that location and stolen stereo equipment worth $1000.

Seems to Me . . . Sinking ships

By Stan Welch

Well, when the primaries were going on back in June, there was a real sense that significant change might be underway. If the movement of various players in the county is any indication, things may just be getting started, even before the general elections.

Some of these players are making moves to help themselves remain employed; others have run afoul of the law, even though they are the law, and others are victims of various circumstances.

Judge Mike Smith, who was suspended several months ago, following his arrest for his role in a barroom brawl at a local night club, has since been involved in two other incidents, including a DUI arrest several weeks ago. Judge Smith has obviously brought his problems on himself, but one has to wonder at the difference in his treatment, when compared to that of another county magistrate, Judge Billy Gilmer, of Honea Path.

Judge Gilmer, who made false reports to the town’s police chief, in order to track down a man he suspected his wife of having an affair with, remains on the bench and will apparently be allowed to enter a pre-trial intervention program. That usually requires an arrest to trigger the process, since an arrest also triggers any subsequent trial. But in Judge Gilmer’s case, no arrest has been made, despite his admission to SLED agents that he lied to them to cover up his actions.

Honea Path Police Chief David King has contacted the attorney general’s office seeking an explanation of how such an accommodation could be made, without an arrest having occurred. So far, he has received no response.

Smith must be scratching his head, wondering how justice could be so unequally applied. Welcome to the club, Judge.

Speaking of movement, King’s stock would seem to be on the rise, following his department’s role in the investigation of a series of armed robberies in the county, and their arrests of four suspects in those robberies. One of the robberies took place in Honea Path and King played a major role in the investigation and arrests.

There’s a lot of movement in the law enforcement community lately. Chief Deputy Creed Hashe has resigned from the ACSO, despite the possibility of being retained under the Skipper administration. I know Dennis Gough is running for sheriff as an independent, but such candidacies seldom fare well, especially in an area so dominated by one of the major political parties.

Hashe has resigned to make his part time job as a security consultant for Michelin a full time job. Hashe did a very credible job under tough conditions, after Sheriff Crenshaw made him chief deputy, following Tim Busha’s resignation from the department. Hashe may well have moved his resignation up due to Crenshaw’s reported persistent absence from the department and his apparent abandonment of much of his workload.

Jacky Jackson, who carried much of the administrative load under Crenshaw, just moved to the Emergency Services department, where he will try to make sense of the situation there. Good luck, Jacky. Tim Jones is reportedly leaving the Sheriff’s Office, and moving to a position in the Solicitor’s Office.

Of course, a number of elected officials will be cleaning out their desks in the coming weeks, and early next year, I suspect a few department heads will be too. The loss of three seats on the Council, so far, indicates that there is a real desire for a change in direction by the voters in the county.

Will that atmosphere carry over to 2009, when the new Council is seated? Will the new Council consider terminating county administrator Joey Preston? Will the proposed audit lead to dismissals or resignations within the administration?  Will the outgoing Council buy out his contract just before leaving office, thereby making Preston even more comfortable financially, and possibly even financing their own opponents in the 2010 elections? Certainly, Preston hasn’t been shy about spending others’ money to support candidates. Would he spend his own?

Would he possibly even throw his own hat into the ring?  Seems to me that is the least likely scenario. As an elected official in the Council/administrator form of government, as practiced in Anderson County, he would suffer a tremendous loss of power, and the pay cut would be pretty deep, too. No, I think he is more likely to try and restructure the Council to suit himself, then try and reclaim his previous (and, let’s not forget, still current) position.

By then, of course, if he does vacate the post, regardless of circumstances, he will have to rebuild his apparatus, since at least two levels of upper management in each department would probably be scrubbed off by the new Council, unless those in positions of responsibility can make a convincing case for the fact that they have met those responsibilities.

Seems to me the movement is just beginning, and will continue to pick up steam in the coming months. It may reach the level of scurrying sometime in November, depending on how badly the ship seems to be sinking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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