News Archive

(4107) Week of Oct. 10, 2007

Hospitality tax could fund county recreation program
Ribbon cutting held for sidewalk project
Safe Routes grant to promote walking, cycling, saftety at Wren
Board updated on grant programs
District One awarded Smaller Learning Communities grant
No charges filed in discipline incident involving police officer
Deputies tazed during arrest
Shoplifters turn themselves in after drinking stolen beer
WP Water tank to be monitored
DHEC to offer flu vaccines
Discussions continue on one cent sales tax to fund road projects, others
DHEC issues update on mosquito-borne diseases
PERC offers job bank for local area
Seems to Me . . .Jerry Lee

Hospitality tax could fund county recreation program

By Stan Welch

A study group in Anderson County is considering the County’s lack of an organized countywide recreation system, and looking for ways to address the problem.

Recreational facilities and opportunities are currently provided by municipalities, or independent youth organizations, such  as the Wren Youth Association. Imagine Anderson, a research and survey project which was conducted throughout the county last year, targeted recreation as one of the priority quality of life issues in the county. As a result, Imagine Anderson created a recreation committee, which will make a presentation to the Anderson Municipal Association tomorrow night.

The committee, chaired by Joe Drennon, of the Anderson YMCA, is expected to recommend a two per cent hospitality tax to be instituted in the unincorporated areas of the county. Another option might be the dedication of a millage to recreation.

A hospitality tax is currently in effect in every municipality in the County except for Pelzer, West Pelzer and Starr. The towns that do apply that tax to all prepared foods served within the town, have experienced steady and significant revenues. Honea Path, for example, generates approximately $70,000 per year in taxes for its recreation programs.

All revenues generated by the tax are earmarked for recreational uses or other events that attract visitors to an area. Rusty Burns, one of the committee members, says the committee would like to see at least 70% of the revenues committed to recreation.

Earlier this year, Mayor Earl Meyers of Honea Path  told County Council that eighty per cent of the children utilizing Honea Path’s recreation programs are in fact residents of unincorporated areas of the county around the town. “We get very little help from the county on this, yet we carry the majority of the burden for recreation.”

Two areas which would contribute heavily to a revenue stream generated by the hospitality tax would be the interchange at Clemson Boulevard and I-85, as well as the Hwy. 153/I-85 interchange in Powdersville. Estimates of the revenues generated by such a tax indicate that two million dollars annually is a conservative number.

Burns says that the Town of Clemson, which has such a hospitality tax, has one of the finest parks in the Upstate. “These funds can make wonderful things possible,” said Burns. “And the best part is that our visitors to the area help pay for things too.”

Glenn Brill, director of the Anderson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said that the committee has met with every mayor in the county, as well as with every recreation provider. “We hope to get the support of the Municipal Association, and then we want to present our recommendations to the county Council. We believe they will see that recreation affects quality of life, and that in turn effects economic development. So there are several returns on the recreation investment, beyond just the value of the recreation itself.”

Ribbon cutting held for sidewalk project

By Stan Welch

Dignitaries from all over attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at Wren Middle School last Wednesday. The ceremony was to open a network of sidewalks in the area of the school, a network which, by all accounts, has had a real impact on the community.

Holt Hopkins, Anderson County Transportation Director, is a convert. “I used to think that sidewalks were a real pain to mess with. With all the road needs we have in this county, I hated to see money put into the sidewalks. But the effect on this neighborhood has been amazing. To see how it has brought people together, to see them walking around in the evening, speaking to each other, is a revelation.”

The project was funded with $360,000 obtained from several entities, including the SCDOT ($200,000), Anderson County School District One ($75,000), state gas tax funds ($35,000), and a $50,000 paving fund allocation from the District Six County Councilman at the time, Bill Dees.

Included in the project was almost 4500 feet of sidewalks along three secondary roads in the area, as well as four new cross walks and re-striping of two existing crosswalks, as well as the addition of some safety signage. Pedestrian connections were also installed in key locations, linking the system.

On hand, among many other dignitaries and county and school board officials, were Sen. Billy O’Dell, Rep. Daniel Cooper, SCDOT Commissioner Marion Carnell, Dr. Wayne Fowler, from Anderson School District One, former Councilman Bill Dees, District Six Councilman Ron Wilson, and Patti Dalis-Sistrunk.

Ms. Dalis-Sistrunk represented the Safe Routes to School program for the SCDOT. She announced that Wednesday was Walk to School day, an international event designed to promote safe routes to schools. The Wren project was one of twelve programs in the state that was chosen for the inclusion in the federally funded SRTS program.

Sen. O’Dell lauded the cooperative nature of the project, saying, “The biggest aspect of this project is the cooperation between all the levels of government. It simply shows what we can accomplish when we find ways to work together.

Rep. Cooper, a 1979 Wren High School graduate, also applauded the cooperative effort, saying, “It would have been great to have these sidewalks when I was a student here. But we have them now, and everyone involved can be proud of that.”

Councilman Ron Wilson, who sent two daughters to the Wren schools, said he hopes to see the project duplicated around the county. “Government is supposed to work together.”

SCDOT Commissioner Marion Carnell quoted Helen Keller, saying, “Alone, we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Safe Routes grant to promote walking, cycling, safety at Wren

The first phase of a sidewalk project linking nearby subdivisions with three Wren schools has just been completed and additional improvements and programs will be included as part of Safe Routes to School grant program.

Anderson School District One has been awarded a $220,000 grant to complete the project. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Friday, Oct. 3 for Phase 1 of the sidewalk project and the day included a walk at Wren Elementary and Wren Middle.

The funds will be used to finish the sidewalk project including road markings and signage.

The grant was awarded as part of the Safe Routes to School program.

The Wren Middle/Wren Elementary project was one of 12 schools across the state approved for the Federal funding awarded through the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT).

 According to Dr. Pruitt, the Safe Routes program is designed to make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative and encourage a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.

According to Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler, a survey of the Wren Middle and Wren Elementary schools found that only 3 students walked to school from nearby homes.

The program is also designed to facilitate the planning, development and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of primary and middle schools.

It is based on five points, according to Dr. Pruitt. They are Enginering Educaton, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaulation.

Engineering involves traffic calming measures to reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior and improve conditions for non motorized street users.

Education involves children, parents, school staff and all drivers near the school and neighbors.

Encouragement strategies are about having fun, generating excitement and interest in walking and bicycling. This could nclude special events  like mileage clubs, contests and other activities to provide ways for parents and children to discover, or rediscover, that walking and bicycling are doable and fun.

Enforcement is a main goal for Safe Routes To School. This step is to deter unsafe behavior of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists and to enourage all road users to obey traffic laws and share the road.

Evaluation involves strategies to determine progress made in creating safer pedestrian amd cycling traffic and to determine what to do next.

Board updated on grant programs

During their regular monthly meeting Sept. 25, Anderson School District One Board members heard a report on two programs being funded by grants.

The programs are Safe Routes to School and Smaller Learning Communities and both programs are being conducted in the Wren  school area.

According to a presentation by District One Staff Development Director Dr. John Pruitt, the Safe Routes program is designed to enable and encourage children to walk and bicycle to school.

Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said that a survey of the Wren Middle and Wren Elementary schools found that only three students walked to school from nearby homes.

The first phase of a sidewalk project linking nearby subdivisions and the three Wren schools has just been completed and additional improvements and programs will be included as part of Safe Routes to School.

The School District has been awarded a $220,000 grant to complete the project including road markings and signage.

District One has also been awarded a Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) grant of $249,867 per year for five years, according to Dr. Pruitt. Over a five year period the grant will total $3.75 million in conjunction with Anderson District 5.

The SLC program awards discretionary grants to support the Smaller Learning Communities to improve student academic achievement. The program is designed for large public high schools with enrollments of 1000 or more students.

According to Dr. Pruitt, the grant should improve academic achievement, provide better home school and teacher/student relations and increase graduation rates.

During their meeting, Board members elected delegates for the 2007 Delegate Assembly in December.

Board members Fred Alexander, and Nancy Upton will return along with Joe Pack and Dr. Doug Atkins

The board also approved one home school application.

Following an executive session, the board returned to open session and approved a leave of absence for Karen Binge, Hunt Meadows Elementary School, Grade One and Becky Owens, Cedar Grove Elementary School, Grade Three.

Recommendations included Joanna Stegall, Wren High School, Math.

Following the meeting, the board heard a report on enrollment figures for the district reflecting a need for a building program. (See story online at www.thejournalonline.com in School news for week of Sept. 26)

District One awarded Smaller Learning Communities grant

Anderson School District One has been awarded a Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) grant of $249,867 per year for five years, according to District One Staff Development Director Dr. John Pruitt.

The SLC program awards discretionary grants to support the Smaller Learning Communities to improve student academic achievement. The program is designed for large public high schools with enrollments of 1000 or more students.

It includes structures such as freshman academies and multi-grade academies to personalize the education process to improve achievement and increase graduation percentages.

Under the SLC program, the District will add two new key positions, an academic coach to work with teachers and a graduation coach to work with students, Dr. Pruitt said.

It provides funding for teacher advisors, mentors and tutors and for summer teacher/student work and professional development for teachers.

Anderson District One will use the funding for programs where advanced students will serve as peer tutors, educational trips for teachers and students, instructional supplies, technical assistance with smaller learning community’s concepts, and professional development providers, and to assist with student transportation from after school tutoring and credit recovery.

Over a five year period the grant will amount to $1,249,278.

According to Dr. Pruitt, the grant should improve academic achievement, provide better home school and teacher/student relations and increase graduation rates.

Wren High Principal Robbie Binnicker oversees the smaller learning communities at Wren High, which includes the Wren Freshman Academy.

Through the grant program, the school district will receive $1,249,278 over a five year period for a total of $3.75 million in conjunction with Anderson District 5.

District One Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said Palmetto High is not directly included and does not qualify because of its size, however  some of the same strategies will be used there.

No charges filed in discipline incident involving police officer

By Stan Welch

Though a Williamston Police officer was not charged in an alleged assault incident that occurred Oct. 3, he may be facing disciplinary actions by the Department.

Williamston police officer Michael Semones admitted hitting his sixteen year old daughter at a Williamston convenience store, according to an Anderson County Sheriff’s Office incident report which was filed several hours after the incident, and after the Williamston Police Department began its own investigation.

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies initially responded to the incident after a witness who was purchasing gas at the time called 911 to report the alleged assault.

The alleged incident occurred at the BP station across from Hardee’s at approximately 7:30 Wednesday morning. That location is just outside the town limits. 

The Anderson County Solicitor’s Office determined that a complaint of assault and battery by the officer on his own daughter was “unfounded”.

Susann Griffin, spokesperson for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, told The Journal that the Sheriff’s Office had conducted an investigation and provided their findings to Solicitor Chrissy Adams. Adams’ office determined the complaint to be unfounded, or unworthy of further action, according to Griffin.

Repeated efforts to reach Adams by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful.

Williamston Police Chief David Baker planned to meet with Semones Tuesday to discuss the incident.

The incident occurred after Semones had gotten off duty and had gone home and changed from his uniform. He was driving a car with his daughter, his son and one other teenage girl in the vehicle, according to Amy McAlister, of Williamston, who was at the store purchasing gas when the incident took place.

McAlister spoke with The Journal Tuesday, almost a week after the incident, and was still very troubled at what she said took place. “I was taking my twelve year old daughter to school and we had stopped to get gas. This car pulled over, and this really big man got out and went around to the passenger’s side. He opened the back door and pulled this young girl out by the neck. He pulled her hair and then threw her back into the car by the neck. He sat on her and I saw his hand rise and fall at least ten times. He was obviously hitting her. I could hear the girl screaming, “Stop him! Stop him! Somebody help me.”

According to a sketchy incident report filed by Deputy J.J. Jacobs later in the day, Semones said ‘he had to stop at the Saluda Quick Stop and discipline her on the way to school.” The report goes on to say that Semones “popped her in the mouth after she scratched  him . .”.

McAlister says what she saw doesn’t agree with that. “She may have scratched him trying to get away, but the assault was by him. In fact, when the county officer first arrived he said he didn’t even hit her. That’s when I walked over and said that I had seen it all, and that he had hit her several times. That’s when I learned that Mr. Semones is a police officer for the town.”

Deputy J.J. Jacobs responded and did not make an arrest or even file a report, according to sources within the WPD, who declined to be identified. According to this source, no report was filed until after Williamston police officers began to investigate the incident.

McAlister says it was clear to her that Semones, who once worked for Anderson County as a compliance officer, knew Jacobs. 

“When that man saw who the deputy was, he had a grin like he had won the lottery. The deputy yelled at the daughter almost as much as her dad had. He told her to watch her mouth and be careful how she talked to him. The girl was very upset. The other girl in the car got out and went into the store.”

An employee of the store, who asked not to be identified by name, is related to the second girl. “She was terrified when she came in here. She has been upset about it ever since.” The employee said she didn’t see the incident but reported that the deputy “talked to that little girl like she was a dog. He told her to get her a** in that car and behave. I heard him say that.”

McAlister says the deputy took her information and told her she could go. “But I stayed around to see what happened. After a total time of about 30 minutes on the scene, he shook hands with Semones and they both drove off.”

McAlister says she called Sheriff Crenshaw later and told him what happened. “He tried to explain to me that parents have a right to discipline their children. I told him I had two children and not to try and explain things to me. If I had done to my child what that man did to that girl, I would have gone to jail. And I should have if I did that. And so should he. I know assault when I see it and he committed assault. But the Sheriff didn’t seem too concerned about it.”

Detective Andrew Tribble, one of the two ACSO investigators assigned to the case later told McAlister that the girl and her mother had decided not to go forward with any action, and the case would be closed.

McAlister says she is a lifelong resident of Williamston. “I’ve lived here all my life, and this is not the way police should behave. What do I tell my daughter about respecting the law when she sees something like this happen? For that matter, how am I supposed to have any respect for this officer?”

Williamston Police Chief David Baker placed Semones on paid leave immediately following the incident. Tuesday he confirmed that Semones remains on that status.

“It is my information that the solicitor has decided not to press criminal charges. Our department is currently conducting an internal investigation into whether or not Officer Semones conducted himself in a manner unbefitting to the department. When that investigation is complete, which I expect it to be within a short time, I will announce the results and any actions to be taken.”

Deputies tazed during arrest

By Stan Welch

Father son togetherness may have gone a little too far for two Williamston men this weekend.

What began as a simple call from the mother of Nicholas John Biggs, 18, concerning some drugs found in his room, turned into what could have been a lethal struggle for control.

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies C. Whitfield and J.A. Frazier responded to the call at 613 Foster Road, and found John Biggs, WM, 52, and his wife, Jill Biggs, Nicholas Biggs, in the yard. Mrs. Biggs told Deputy Whitfield that she had found Xanax in her son’s room.

While the deputies were speaking with the parents, Nicholas approached and when his mother bent over to pick up the phone her husband had dropped, he stepped on her hand, crushing it into the gravel.

At that point, according to the incident report, Deputy Frazier informed Nicholas Biggs he was under arrest for assault on his mother. Biggs was holding his young son at the time, but when he put the child down, Deputy Whitfield grabbed an arm to place him in cuffs. At that time, Biggs pulled away and bent Frazier backwards over the hood of a vehicle, placing an arm bar across his throat and pushing down.

Whitfield grabbed Biggs by the head to pull him off Frazier. Biggs unbuckled Frazier’s holster and was trying to get his firearm. Whitfield then used his tazer to stun Biggs. He was so close that Biggs jerked from the shock and knocked the tazer from the deputy’s hands. Biggs was unaffected by the tazer.

At this time, John Biggs came over and allegedly punched Whitfield in the neck, telling him to get off his son. Whitfield punched the elder Biggs in the throat, sending him to the ground. Returning to the struggle with Nicholas Biggs, Whitfield grabbed him by the neck and slammed him to the gravel. All three men were in a tangle. Both deputies were hit with the tazer during the struggle, but could not say whose tazer it was. They finally managed to subdue Biggs and placed him in the patrol car. He was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill a police officer.

John Biggs was also arrested for assault and battery and interfering with a police investigation. He posted $25,000 bond and was released on Sunday. Nicholas Biggs posted $120,000 bond and was also released Sunday.

Both deputies were forced to use their safety kits to decontaminate themselves at the scene, due to coming into contact with blood from the suspect. The suspect also allegedly spit in the face of one of the deputies, also a biological contamination. All four men’s injuries were photographed at the detention center and the officers were tested further at the hospital. Nicholas Biggs was also given a blood test.

Shoplifters turn themselves in after drinking stolen beer

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated a reported shop lifting incident in which the parties involved had second thoughts and an incident in which a purse was taken from a vehicle at Cracker Barrel. Among incidents investigated were the following:

BELTON

Oct. 2 – C.L. Nimmons responded to 2225 Cannon Bottom Road where Belinda Hildebrant reported the theft of her Craftsman riding mower and a silent generator, with a total value of $4800.

PELZER

Oct. 3 – K.W. Pearson observed a vehicle stopped in the middle of Lyman Road and approached the driver, Angela Lowe, WF, 29, 5’6", 160 pounds, red/grn. Low appeared to be very nervous. She allowed Pearson to search her vehicle during which he allegedly found a container with methamphetamine in it. Lowe was arrested for possession and transported to the ACDC.

Oct. 6 – K.D. Pigman responded to 3 Hindman St. where Peggy Paxton lodged a complaint concerning a number of phone calls received from Maida Kelly. Paxton is mayor of Pelzer and Kelly is a former Councilwoman. Paxton said she felt threatened by the calls, during which Kelly said she had to talk with Paxton but refused to say why. Pigman spoke with Kelly who said she meant no harm by the calls and agreed to not contact Paxton anymore.

PIEDMONT

Oct. 2 – T.B. Dugan responded to 101 Oliver Park Dr. where neighbors Jodi Henderson and John Branthom were squabbling. Henderson accused Branthom of threatening to beat her up while he denied that, and accused her husband of revving his truck and spinning his tires in the gravel just to start an argument. Dugan advised the parties to stay away from each other. He was going to speak to a magistrate concerning warrants.

Oct. 3 – B.G. Hill received a telephone report from a Sheila Riggins, of Chester, who reported that while visiting her at the Super 8 Motel on Hwy. 153, an Easley man had taken $110 in cash which she left on the dresser. She said the man was a friend who had come to visit her at the motel. When she came out of the shower, he and her money were gone, according to the incident report. She has been unable to contact him since that time, and Hill’s repeated efforts to reach the man have been unsuccessful as well.

Oct. 5 – T.B. Dugan responded to the Advance Auto Parts store at 3200 Highway 153 where Joseph Gonzalez reported an unknown suspect had pointed a gun at him. He had locked the store for the night and had stepped into the foyer area to set a box outside when a black male between 18 and 25, 5’8", 160 pounds, wearing camouflage pants and a gray sweatshirt pointed a gun at him and yelled something. Gonzalez ran back into the store and called 911 while the suspect fled.

Oct. 6 – K.D. Pigman was dispatched to the intersection of Firetower Rd. and High Point Rd. A person named Justin Smith had called to report a larceny he had committed in Easley. Upon arrival, Pigman found Smith, WM, 18, 5’9", 140 pounds, brn/hazel, and Christopher Crouchman, WM, 18, 6’3",185 pounds, brn/brn sitting on the side of the road with several beer cans scattered around. Both were “grossly intoxicated” according to the report. Smith said they had shoplifted the beer and wanted to turn themselves in. Both were too drunk to stand. They were arrested and transported to ACDC. No additional information was available.

Oct. 6 – T.B. Dugan responded to the area of HI Taylor Rd. due to a complaint of a loud person in the neighborhood. Dugan located Harry Bolt, WM, 57, 5’10", 210 pounds, gray/blue lying in a ditch along the roadside. He was unable to stand and had a great deal of trouble speaking clearly. He was arrested for public disorderly conduct and transported to ACDC.

Oct. 7 – B.K. Baxter was dispatched to the Cracker Barrel on Hwy. 153 where he spoke with Melissa Jefferson who reported someone had broken into her vehicle while she was inside dining and had stolen two purses from her car. She had just transferred all her stuff from the old one to the new one, and both had been stolen. Total loss was estimated at $1000.

WP Water tank to be monitored

By Stan Welch

The West Pelzer Town Council conducted a quiet, businesslike meeting Monday night. 

Among the items of business covered was the appropriation of approximately $17-$18,000 per year for the next five years to insure testing of the town’s elevated water storage tank.

 A recent sanitary survey of the Town’s water system by DHEC found the overall operation to be satisfactory, but also raised several concerns about the inspection and records keeping concerning the tank. A follow-up inspection is scheduled for January 28 to insure compliance. After the five year period, the maintenance contract will be paid for altogether.

 On a smaller matter, Council voted to begin renting uniforms for the Town’s employees, at a cost of between $1100 and $1300 dollars per year. Council also voted to place the town’s credit card under the supervision of the Town Clerk, and to adopt a system of purchase orders for items paid for by the card.

 Mayor Paxton reported that the various cuts made across roads during construction of the new water lines will be paved in the coming weeks. “That will be done professionally and should help the roads.” She also pointed out that there are many other needs to have entire streets paved, but pointed out that the Town cannot possibly afford such costs on their own.

 Judge Scott announced that the town will be holding court on two days per month from now on, as part of the new court management system. “The new system is working well,” said Scott, “but it takes some time to get the new system running smoothly.

Mayor Paxton announced that the Town’s Annual Fall Festival will be held on Halloween Night at the Pelzer ball field. Festivities will start at 5:30. The Christmas Parade is scheduled for Saturday December 1st at 3 p.m. The annual leaf and limb pickup is scheduled for Saturday, December 8.

DHEC to offer flu vaccines

With influenza season approaching, South Carolinians and especially those with a higher risk for flu-related complications along with those who live with or care for people at high risk are encouraged to get their flu vaccinations.

“The best way to reduce the effects of the flu virus is to take the flu vaccine,” said Jerry Gibson, M.D., director of DHEC’s Bureau of Disease Control. “The vaccine provides immunity not only to the person who receives it, but also to the community at large when more people are protected. We particularly want to urge people who are at the greatest risk from flu, or those who care for them, to make vaccination a priority.”

Dr. Gibson said the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that a significant amount of influenza vaccine should be available in physician’s offices and communities to allow vaccinations to begin in most counties.

DHEC’s public health regions across the state are offering flu shot clinics during October. 

Region 1 serves, Abbeville, Anderson, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Oconee and Saluda counties.

Schedules are Monday, Oct 15 - Anderson Recreation Center, 1107 Murray Avenue, 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.; Greenwood Civic Center, 1610 Hwy 72/221 East, 9 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 17 - First Baptist Church, 205 North Church Street, Ninety Six, 9 p.m. - 1 p.m.Thursday, Oct. 18 - First Baptist Church, Main Street, Williamston, 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.; Shaver Recreation Complex, 698 West South 4th Street, Seneca, 9 a.m.- 4 p.m; Edgefield Town Gym, Church Street, Edgefield,  9 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 19 - Honea Path Community Center (Old Watkins Elementary), South Main Street, 9 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 22 - First Baptist Church, 403 East Main Street, Walhalla,  9 a.m.- 4 p.m.; Pendleton “Dog House,” East Queen Street, Pendleton, 1 p.m.- 4 p.m.; Town Hall, 8 Mill Street, Ware Shoals,  9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Information about DHEC clinics near you will be regularly updated on the DHEC Web site at http://www.scdhec.gov/flu. 

DHEC is only one of many flu shot providers. Check to see if your medical practitioner is offering flu shots as well.

Prices for the shots vary, however at DHEC clinics, there is a $25 charge for the vaccination, which Medicare and Medicaid will cover for those who are eligible. Medicare Advantage enrollees should contact their plans to learn whether a certain provider needs to provide the flu shot.

Information about who should get a flu vaccination is on the Web, and available from your doctor or any of DHEC’s 46 county public health departments. Flu vaccination information, clinic times and locations are at http://www.scdhec.gov/flu or call DHEC’s Immunization Division at (803) 898-0460 (toll free 1-800-277-4687).

For a comprehensive listing of clinics across the Carolinas including DHEC and non-DHEC clinics check the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence’s “Flu Clinic Finder” at www.thecarolinascenter.org/fcf or the American Lung Association at www.lungusa.org.

Discussions continue on one cent sales tax to fund road projects, others

By Stan Welch

Even before the appointments to the current version of the capital sales tax have been completed, it’s obvious that there will be distinct differences, as well as some similarities, with the sales tax efforts of 2006.

A one cent sales tax would be imposed if a referendum to authorize such a tax should be approved during the 2008 general election. According to preliminary figures, that one cent sales tax would generate approximately $135 million in revenues over the seven year life of the tax.

At question is what those funds would be used for. The 2006 sales tax proposal, which was rejected by County Council, was intended solely for road projects. So far this year, construction of a new jail, additional road projects, and the construction of water lines in the Starr/Iva area have all been mentioned as possible uses for the funds.

That lack of focus could spell trouble for the proposal, which already faces the severe challenges always faced by tax increases. Holt Hopkins, Anderson County Transportation Director, and one of those who spearheaded the 2006 efforts, says that such a tax can be unpopular and difficult to sell under the best of circumstances.

 “It will be the job of the commission, once they are all named, to find the right purpose or purposes for this tax, if it is approved. In my experience, it’s a difficult task to get public support, but if the public doesn’t have a clear understanding of how the money will be spent, it’s much more difficult.”

The sales tax was originally proposed by District Five Councilman Michael Thompson as a way of funding construction of a new detention center. Recent mentions of the tax and its role have also mentioned road projects. In addition, District Three councilman Larry Greer has said that he would not support such a proposal unless it also provided funding to construct water lines in district, which has experienced well failures during the recent drought.

Other differences also exist between this proposal and the one two years ago. The main difference is that the 2006 effort was designed around pursuing grants from the State Infrastructure Bank, (SIB) and using part of the tax revenues to leverage those additional funds from the state. That is not an option this time around said Hopkins.

 “There is no money available from the SIB this time. But that may actually help us in some ways. Last time, we had to accept three major and very expensive projects as a condition of receiving SIB grants. Those projects did not receive much public support. This time, we would be in complete charge of the projects we choose to fund. I would hope that having control would result in greater public trust and support for the tax,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins says that as soon as the three commission members who remain to be appointed have been, he will raise every project defined by the 2006 commission, except for the three major projects, which involved widening portions of Highways 24, 76, and 247 at a cost that consumed close to two thirds of the available funds.

“Everything else will be on the table, at least until the commission begins to whittle the possibilities down. I hope that a more micro level approach might arise. I think each Council district needs a significant project proposed, in order to get the strong Council support this will need to pass.”

Hopkins plans to propose as many public meetings around the county as there is time for. “We need to go to the people and explain the benefits of this approach, and the need for it. Without something like this, Anderson County will continue to struggle to bring its road system up to par. A sales tax would allow visitors and travelers to contribute approximately half the funds generated. Otherwise, residents will have to bear the burden.”

Hopkins has a pet project in mind as well. “The corridor from Pendleton to Honea Path, running along the Brown/Hopewell/Breazeale/Cheddar Roads axis would offer a tremendous bypass for that part of the county. The purchase of rights of way is the greatest impediment, but with substantial funding, such problems tend to go away. That would be a great project, in terms of benefits across the county. I think the East West Connector is another good project, but I’m not sure if the community agrees.”

Under law, the City of Anderson is the only municipality in the County  which qualifies to appoint its own member. That member in turn will appoint two other members from other municipalities. The City of Anderson has requested more time to make its appointments.

The clock is ticking, however. The referendum question itself must be framed and sent to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval no later than June of 2008, for inclusion on the general election ballot. “That is one thing that is the same this time. We were up against the clock last time, too. We really need two years for this process. We need a year to plan and a year to build public support. But we will do our best with the time we have,” said Hopkins.

DHEC issues update on mosquito-borne diseases

Thus far in 2007’s active mosquito season, there have been 53 lab confirmations of West Nile virus and two of eastern equine encephalitis virus in the state, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported.

“Four humans so far were positive for West Nile virus in South Carolina in 2007, but no West Nile deaths occurred so far this year,” said Chris Evans, a Ph.D. entomologist in DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories.

“Other West Nile virus confirmations in the state include 42 mosquito pools, four birds and one horse. Eastern equine encephalitis, or Triple-E, virus was detected in two horses.”

“Two human cases of West Nile fever occurred in early to mid-August in Aiken and Newberry Counties,” Evans said. “Two human cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease occurred in late August in Lexington and Pickens counties.”

According to Evans, 44 West Nile virus-positive mosquito pools were detected. He said a mosquito pool is a group of mosquitoes of the same species collected from the same place on the same dates. The following pools in seven counties were confirmed between July 9 and Sept. 12: Aiken (13), Charleston (11), Clarendon (2), Darlington (14), Dorchester (1), Florence (2), and Richland (1).

He added that three West Nile virus-positive birds were collected in Aiken County from mid-August to early September, along with one York County bird in late July. One Richland County horse had to euthanized in early September after suffering from West Nile symptoms since mid-July, and two horses in Richland and Orangeburg counties were euthanized in August because of a Triple-E virus infection.

“Despite the approaching cooler weather of the fall season, citizens still need to protect themselves from mosquito bites,” Evans said. “The risk for West Nile virus transmission to humans is always greater toward the end of mosquito season.

“Mosquitoes can be active in the fall, even after extended periods of cold weather. In fact, 21 percent of human cases and 53 percent of equine cases from 2002-2006 in South Carolina occurred in October and November.”

 Evans also said that people can protect themselves from mosquito bites by: Using a repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Follow the label directions when using any repellent; · Avoiding the outdoors at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active; Wearing long sleeves and pants; and Keeping property clear of standing water in which mosquitoes can breed.

The public can help with West Nile virus surveillance by submitting dead crows or blue jays to their local county environmental health office. For guidelines on safely submitting bird samples, visit: http://www.scdhec.gov/westnile, then link to the “Report Dead Birds for WNV Testing” page.

For more information or assistance with mosquito control efforts, contact your city or county’s local mosquito control program. For more information on mosquito-borne disease, visit: http://www.scdhec.gov/westnile.

PERC offers job bank for local area

The Piedmont Emergency Relief Center (PERC) has recently begun offering a Job Bank to help potential employees and employers find each other.

The Job Bank service is available to job seekers and local business and industry in zip codes 29673, 29611, 29669 and 29697.

Businesses and industries with job openings are encouraged to fax information to PERC’s new fax line at (864) 845-5537.  

PERC volunteers will keep the faxed job openings in a binder and make these available to the unemployed/underemployed coming for assistance.

Employers should include the following information: Company name, address, phone, website; Contact name, phone; Job title with brief description of job; Applicant qualifications; Work hours.

PERC will keep information for one month.  After that, volunteers will call to see if the opening has been filled.

Many of PERC’s clients need local jobs as they may have difficulty getting to jobs far from home.  The JOB BANK will match local jobs with local workers, PERC officials said.

PERC will encourage job applicants to be qualified before they apply but cannot screen applicants. Many PERC clients have been laid off or have been victims of plant closings.  Others are seeking legitimate jobs after losing jobs that “pay under the table.”

PERC also assists the needy in Piedmont, Pelzer, Williamston, and  Greenville (29611) with a food pantry, food stamp outreach, and is an Angel Food Ministries host site.  Additionally, PERC refers client to other agencies and organizations as needed.  For those unable to come to PERC, a PERC volunteer can come to them under its Faith In Action program.  PERC is a tax exempt non profit supported by the Piedmont Fire Department, local schools, the congregations of the Piedmont Ministerial Association, and other local churches.  In addition to food donated by these organizations, Loaves and Fishes contributes rescued food from local grocery stores and other sources. 

PERC offices are located in the Piedmont Community Building, 3 Main Street, Piedmont. They recently added a phone line.  The new number is 845-5535 and will be answered only during office hours.  The fax line, 845-5537, is always on.

Volunteer opportunities are always available and donations are accepted. Food items currently needed include rice and other dried foods like beans, pasta and sauce, peanut butter and jelly and canned meats such as tuna, salmon, stews, etc. Diapers are always welcome.

PERC office hours are: Tuesday and Thursday 4 to  7pm and Saturday 9am to noon.  For additional information, visit their website at www.piedmonterc.org.  or call 845-5537 during office hours.

Seems to Me . . .Jerry Lee

By Stan Welch

Well, I guess I’m ready to share this news now.

Many of you who kindly read this column each week, or who have heard me on the radio with or without Rick Driver, have heard me talk about Jerry Lee, my dog. You’ve heard about what a remarkable combination of intelligence and stubborn stupidity Jerry Lee possessed. You’ve heard about what a scoundrel and a cad he was; and how I loved him for it, having been a bit of a cad and scoundrel myself, in my day.

So many of you became fond of Jerry Lee that he became a celebrity. People would ask me about him when we met. Of course, I never knew anyone who met Jerry Lee who didn’t like him. Jerry Lee was just one of those great dogs that come along every so often, and I was lucky enough to operate the can opener for him for seven or eight years.

Well, Jerry Lee, as they say about Elvis, has left the building. Jerry Lee died several weeks ago, after contracting a vicious little bacteria that eventually destroyed his kidneys. Jerry Lee became infected by drinking pond water; almost certainly from the pond where he went to cool off during the hot, awful days we had this summer. Now, I can already hear some of you animal fans/pet owners tuning up to tell me that Jerry Lee should have been kept penned up in a safe secure environment with plenty of chlorinated water to drink.

I tell you this, and invite no debate, alright? Number one, Jerry Lee would not be kept penned up. Jerry Lee was the dadgummedest ( I didn’t have the heart to say doggonedest) escape artist I have ever seen, and I’ve had dogs for most of my life. Jerry Lee once dug out from under the barn I had attached his pen to, after I had spent three weeks making the pen itself escape proof. I have squatted in the bushes nearby and watched him climb a six foot chain link fence to get out, and then lay right outside the pen all day long. He didn’t have anyplace to go. He just wanted to keep his options open.

Conversely, Jerry Lee would go to the pen on command, and at night, would even go to and into the pen when I shined a flashlight on the gate. That’s because he knew he would be out in an hour or two.

Anyway, I have never kept a dog penned constantly. I don’t believe in taking freedom from others, so long as they do not endanger anyone or get into the neighbors’ garbage. Jerry Lee was never neutered. I don’t believe in taking that away from others either.

Jerry Lee, like all my dogs, wasn’t a pet. He wasn’t here for my edification. He was here because dogs have a value all their own, not as toys or tools for us; but because they bring their own special gifts to the planet, and because he and I were pals.

If he took off for a few days, I didn’t hunt him. If he took off forever, it was his choice. Of course, all that freedom came with a down side. Never once did I give him a sweater for Christmas.

Jerry Lee never wore a leash and never needed one after the first year of his life. Jerry Lee was a pretty obedient fellow, once the pecking order was established. Don’t get me wrong, he would sometimes ignore commands if a pretty girl dog or a strutting boy dog was in the area. Either one brought out the dog in Jerry Lee, if you get my drift. And sometimes he was just willing to pay the price for certain behavior, even if the price was high.

You may notice that I always call Jerry Lee by his full name. That’s because I named him after my favorite rock and roller, Jerry Lee Lewis. The Killer. That was Jerry Lee. He was The Killer. I know because he told me so. He told me his name and I agreed that it made sense to me. Little did I know!

He was the funniest, goofiest, most aggravating dog I ever knew. Even Elvis, his dad, couldn’t hold a candle to Jerry Lee when it came to shenanigans and mischief. And Elvis was pretty goofy himself.

The only time Jerry Lee ever got aggressive with anyone, it was the day I heard him barking like crazy when we still lived in Conway. I walked to the door, and Jerry Lee had the animal control guy penned to the side of his truck.

“Will he bite?” the guy asked nervously. “I’d rather not speculate,” I answered. The fellow got in his truck and left. I never did find out what brought him to the house in the first place. If Jerry Lee knew, he wasn’t talking.

Jerry Lee loved kids, and absorbed more punishment and mistreatment from my son than any dog should have to put up with. My son loved to blind side Jerry Lee like a linebacker hitting a quarterback. He would absolutely roll that dog across the yard and Jerry Lee would come right back for more, with that great big dog grin on his face. What a knucklehead. He never once growled or bared a tooth at any child I ever saw him around, or adult either.

Jerry Lee loved my Mom and she loved him. She has a soft spot for cads and scoundrels. Jerry Lee loved everybody except Franklin, my nephew’s Shar Pei and whatever mix. Those two fought every time they were within ten yards of each other. I’d say they were like Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. They pretty much broke even over the course of their careers. The only difference is I never heard either say ‘no mas’.

Anyway, it’s been about two months since Jerry Lee left. My other sister has a female Springer spaniel, Maggie, who was a sister of Jerry Lee. She has had a litter of pups and I have decided after some thought to take one.

I’ve been visiting the pups to see which one we’ll end up with. I’m pretty sure I’ll take a male, but there is a beautiful female, mostly white with just a few spots of liver, who has been flirting with me. Hussy.

I have always found that given time, pups will choose you, instead of the other way around. They will also name themselves, as Elvis and Jerry Lee, and many others have done over the years.

So anyway, I was holding each pup one at a time the other day, just getting to know them. I was holding this one rather stout male pup, with a big high domed noggin, like Elvis and Jerry Lee both had. It’s supposedly a sign of intelligence, although there are varying opinions on that. I have two of those opinions myself. Still we were getting along pretty well, when he tinkled all over my shirt.

Seems to me a fellow could take that as a sign. Now, I haven’t made up my mind yet. We’ve got a little time before they are weaned and go on the market.  But if he tells me his name is Little Richard, I’m a goner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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