News Archive

Front Page week of Oct. 29, 2008

 

News
(4408) Week of October 29, 2008

Election Day just days away
Debate offers forum for mayor
Harvell, Smith face off for Ward 3 seat
Five candidates running for Piedmont Board
Rudy Rhodes hopes to continue as commissioner
Ida Tucker extension Goods Cents project
O’Dell presents check
W Pelser reduces millage
Ride to benefit family

Waldrep, Greer exchange words prior to personnel meeting
Lewis Road closing remains a safety issue
Anderson County Sheriffs Report

Canes Corner robbed
Seems to Me . . .Let them eat cake

Election Day just days away

Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, is less than a  week away and no matter which side you’re on, it will be historic. When the votes are counted, there will be either the first African American US president or the first female US Vice President.

At the top of everyone’s interest is the Presidential Race. Voters will decide between the Republican ticket of presidential candidate John McCain and vice president Sarah Palin and the Democratic ticket of presidential candidate Barack Obama and vice president Joe Biden.

On a more local level, there is an extensive slate of candidates for voters to consider. 

Senator Lindsey Graham faces a challenge from Democrat Bob Conley. Graham is counting on a solid Republican base that may be less solid than in the past. His opposition to aggressive interrogation techniques, his position on illegal immigration, and his support of moderate Republican Presidential candidate John McCain are positions that haven’t set well with some Upstate conservatives. Whether South Carolina is ready to elect a Democratic Senator remains to be seen.

U. S. Representative Gresham Barrett faces Democratic challenger Jane Ballard Dyer, a businesswoman and mother of five who is also a retired military pilot.

Conservative favorite Sen. Kevin Bryant, in Senate District Three, faces a well financed challenge from Democrat Marshall Meadors.

In Senate District Four, perennial candidate Leonardo Ortiz, Democrat, who reportedly holds forty five different degrees from various institutions, faces incumbent Republican Senator Billy O’Dell. Ortiz claims he can bring another interstate to South Carolina, create 75,000 new jobs, and avoid raising taxes. Senator O’Dell, recently chosen Small Business Legislator of the Year in South Carolina, continues to favor economic development aimed at small businesses as a means of job creation in the Upstate.

Representative Brian White is unopposed in District Six, while Republican Mike Gambrell seeks a second term, and faces Democrat Richard Kelly in the District Seven House race.

Republican incumbent Don Bowen faces a challenge from Democrat Tom Dobbins as he seeks reelection to his second term in District Eight.

The Republican incumbents in District Nine, Rep. Michael D. Thompson, District Ten, Rep. Dan Cooper, and District Eleven, Rep. Paul Agnew are all unopposed.

A little closer to home, Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams is unopposed, while Republican John Skipper and Independent Dennis Gough will vie for the Office of Sheriff. Skipper won a hard fought victory over incumbent David Crenshaw in the Republican primary. Skipper was part of the Gene Taylor administration, while Gough is a disciple of Arizona Sheriff Joe Apayo.

Democrat Cathy Phillips is unopposed for the office of Clerk of Court, which is fortunate for her in light of her recent arrest on charges of failure to pay taxes.

Jason Phillips, Republican, and Jacky Hunter, Republican, are both unopposed for the offices of County Treasurer and County Auditor, respectively. Coroner Greg Shore is also unopposed.

Most of the races for County Council were settled during the Republican primary in June, with Eddie Moore, District Three, Tom Allen, District Four, and Tommy Dunn, District Five, defeating incumbent Councilmen. Republican incumbents Bob Waldrep, Ron Wilson and Cindy Wilson retained their seats, while Republican Bill Holder challenges Democrat incumbent Gracie Floyd for the District Two seat.

Five candidates, including one incumbent, are seeking two seats on the Piedmont Public Service commission. Frankie Garrett is seeking his third consecutive term, while former Commissioner Rudy Rhodes is hoping to regain his seat. Ken Brown, Lib Pack and Gary Alexander round out the field.

In the District One races for school board trustees, Tom Merritt and Moochie Merritt are unopposed in Areas Two and Three respectively, while long time veteran Joe Pack faces a Democratic challenger, Rick Bell.

The Williamston mayoral race has incumbent Phillip Clardy, Councilman Carthel Crout, and Councilman Otis Scott facing off, while incumbent David Harvell faces Walter Smith, Sr. for the Ward three seat.

Mike Looper is running unopposed for the Ward 4 seat.

There are three statewide constitutional amendments for voters to decide on and a one cents capital project sales tax referendum for Anderson County voters. (See stories inside)

Debate offers forum for mayor

Approximately 150 people attended a debate sponsored by The Journal last Thursday where they heard responses from the three candidates running for mayor of Williamston.

Incumbent Phillip Clardy and challengers Carthel Crout and Otis Scott answered questions posed by moderator Stan Welch and each other.

The debate included seven questions for each candidate: Question 1 - What progress, if any, has been made towards clarifying and modifying the Town Code of Ordinances in the last two years?

Clardy said tremendous progress has been made on the ordinances and that bound books in his office were evidence that work continues on them. He said that the current ordinances of the town were adopted in 1976 but never voted on.

Scott said that the town has been working on the ordinances. He said the town needs a codes enforcement officer to deal with dilapidated buildings and they all need to be updated and some are not being enforced.

Crout said the town had made progress by recently approving the International Code of Ordinances and that very few were being executed and enforced. He said that dilapidated buildings are not being dealt with and that he  will hire a codes enforcement officer if elected. “It will take a little time,” he said. He said if elected he will start cleaning up the town.

What plans or preparations would you make to prepare the local economy in the event that Williamston should lose either or both of its remaining mills?

“Either will be catastrophic,” said Crout. “I don’t think we can replace them.”

He said he would encourage and recruit new business and prepare for hard times  by having a good contingency fund. He also said that placing excess general funds into a CD to draw interest was an example of what could be done to prepare.

Scott said the town was very fortunate to have two mills. He said that the current sewer capacity restriction was a problem but when upgraded the town will be able to recruit other businesses.

Clardy said the town’s tax base would suffer and that the mills are the largest customers of the water department. He  said he would be concerned for the residents that they employ. He said the town needs a contingency fund and to recruit businesses to prepare if anything should happen.

The Town has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to its sewer engineering consultants, Goldie &Associates, yet the town still remains under a DHEC consent order that prevents the growth of the town. Are you satisfied with the results the Town has gotten in regards to solving its wastewater issues?

Scott said, “No I’m not satisfied.” He said the town is still under  DHEC consent orders and that the town should continue to do what it can to get out from under the sanctions of DHEC.

Clardy said there are costs associated with running the sewer plant and that the consultants perform a necessary service. He said that the restricted capacity has been a problem. “That’s put us in a bind. We’ve got to upgrade that facility,” he said. Clardy said the plant has not reached the capacity limit but was over in permitted capacity.

Crout said he was not very happy with Goldie and Associates and had yet to see a contract. “I think they are charging a lot of things as a cost of doing business such as charging the town for time answering questions by the press.” He said that they are working with RDA on the town’s upgrades and that a lot of upfront costs will be reimbursed when the loan/grant comes through.

Clardy responded, “Their service could be used now more than ever.”

Are you prepared to periodically impose a tax increase based on the consumer price index to avoid painfully large intermittent tax increases, such as the one imposed to help resolve the Town’s recent financial crisis?

Clardy said the town was $3,851,152 over budget before he was elected into office in 2000.

“During that perion of time taxes were raised once. You cannot live with a pay check from 20 years ago. Taxes are levied according to the burden you have.”

Clardy said that over 20 years $2 million was borrowed by the town because taxes were not raised.

Crout said the towns mission  is to provide essential services including fire department, water, recreation, garbage collection “at most economical means possible.”

“We’ve gone from a $1.7 million deficit to $1.1 million in the contingency fund,” Crout said.

“If we pay attention to detail, we ought to be able to stay in budget. I will do everything I can.”

Scott said it takes money to operate a town. He said that when he ran in 2002 he would not be for raising taxes. “There are other ways to raise money without raising taxes,” he said. He said they can cut out unnecessary spending. “I can’t promise council won’t, but I won’t have anything to do with it.”

Clardy again took an opportunity to respond saying deficit was a financial term and the town did not have a surplus. “You have to monitor and adjust.”

Given a number of ordinances and resolutions passed by the Council in the last two years, aimed at increasing Council’s control and oversight, do you still consider the Town of Williamston to have a strong mayor form of government?

Scott said he did because the council should be included and that a majority should always rule regardless.”

Clardy said, “By law we do.” He said the form of government depends on the Council being informed of what is being spent, not what is on the current financial statement. “They approve things but they don’t know if it is in the budget. Town people had the opportunity to vote for it ( a change in the form of government). They chose to stay the same.”

Clardy said he would “take the reins and continue what I’ve already done.”

Crout said yes. “Changes were made so council can know what is going on. The previous council didn’t know.” Crout said they were given a “sheet of paper that was fictitious.” “When we sign checks we’re accountable. We’re liable.”

Scott responded that the town has put limitation on giving the administrator up to $2500.

Clardy responded that the town has always followed that policy and stated that the audits and budgets were made public. “Do you want to see where the money went, I can show you the canceled checks.”

The Town and the GWBA have been working on a joint streetscape project to improve downtown. Please explain your vote on the recent request to seek funding to realign Pelzer Avenue in order to create a four way intersection in an effort to establish a distinct      downtown area?

Crout said his vision was to continue improvements in both directions from Calvary to ERS. He said he was in total agreement with the streetscape project and led the way  to bring the grant writer back to get the project restarted. He said he initially opposed the Pelzer Ave. relocation because  a private developer is responsible for  building roads. He said that since the ACTC voted to fund the project, he will follow through. He said he plans to clean up dilapidated buildings and work on infrasturcture and waterlines.

Scott said he was 100 percent for revitalization and had spearheaded efforts to request funding from C funds for the downtown.

Said he went (to the ACTC) under the direction of council and mayor to request funding for Pelzer Ave. relocation and “they saw fit to approve it.” He said the developer is going to donate the property to the town. He also said  that dilapidated buidings need to be addressed. and that West Main was as important as downtown.

Clardy said the downtown project was about four steps ahead of Crout. “Everyone of us wants a grocery store. You can’t  force a grocery store here but can create the atmosphere,” he said.

He attacked Crout for signing the resolution to request funds but stating on it that he dissented.

Clardy commended Scott for a tremendous job in getting the money. He also pointed out that the Council would not allow him to go as mayor to request the funding.

Would you support a forensic audit of the last seven and a half years of the current administration?

Clardy said he would and that he not only supports it but voted for it. “Nothing would benefit me more than to show the townspeople ther’s nothing there,” he said.

Crout said there is still money in the budget but he didn’t think the town could afford it.

Scott said the town has $10,000 appropriated for an audit but that it was not enough for an audit that may be as much as $100,000. “I Don’t think the town needs to spend that kind of money.”

Clardy responded that there was an outcry by residents for it. “That’s why I support it. Is it a waste of money? Yes. He said there is already an audit. “You can look, there’s nothing there.”

Second round questions were asked specifically to each candidate by the moderator.

To SCOTT – What led you to act unilaterally earlier this year in approaching the Anderson County Transportation committee for funding to resurface Academy Street?

“I was told by our town grant writer to apply for one street per month. I got $143,000 to pave Academy St. “I didn’t know I needed a resolution passed by council.” Scott said the resolution was later approved by Council and “We received the grant.”

To CLARDY -  You have presided over one of the most difficult periods in Williamston’s history in terms of its financial and political circumstances. Why should the public return you to office?

“I am not a quitter,” Clardy said after a brief pause. He said that being paid $200 month to endure what he did if his principles were not sound. “This is my town. It is better than I found it.”  He said he never intended to enter into  investigations and prosecutions.

He said he ran for mayor to provide somethng for people to do, to make the town more beautiful, but had to set his agenda aside to take care of what he needed to do.

“I tried to prove myself. The town was divided before I was here,” he said.

Clardy said if elected to a third term, what he would do differently would be to involve staff more, put more emphasis on drug trafficking.

To CROUT - You ran for Council on a promise to do whatever was needed to bring a supermarket to Williamston. Yet the one vote you could have cast to make that more likely, you voted against. Do you feel you have kept your promise to pursue a supermarket no matter what?

Crout responded that the Council vote was 3-2. He said he voted against it because the developer is responsible to build water and sewer lines. “We can’t get a grocery store without a developer doing his part. The developer told us it was essential to have the street relocation but said “I cannot guarantee you a grocery store.” I don’t believe it is the town’s responsibility to build roads.” He said he asked for something showing a grocery store was interested and was requesting the relocation but, “I have not seen it yet.”

In the third round, candidates were allowed to ask the other two candidates a question.

Crout question for Scott - You were on council when the town went into financial failure, at what point did you become aware to stop it? 

Scott said in Jan. 2005 town council was informed that the IRS was owed $200,000. Scott said they called in Bob Daniel and Joe Newton. “We had to sell everything the town owned to pay it off. If I had known I would have definitely seen it was paid.”

Crout question for Clardy -When Bob Daniel reported the town was bankrupt and behind on State withholdings, SC retirement, late penalties and unpaid bills, who made the decision not to pay the bills?

Clardy said, “There was no one that made the decision to not  pay the bills.” He said that in 2001, the auditor stated that on a scale of 1-10, the town was an 11.

“That’s what I inherited. The town had to borrow to pay the bills every year to make ends meet. There was no vote of council. They had to borrow money to make payroll.”

He said that his administration took the brunt. “I couldn’t and wouldn’t continue to follow the previous administration.”

“We paid what we felt was the most important as we had money,” he said. “The employees were paid first.”

Scott question for Clardy - What will be different in the next four years from the last eight years?

Clardy said he would improve on infrastructure pointing out problems such as crumbling lines, dilapidated buildings and the storage tank on Virginia Drive. He said a codes enforcement officer is an officer of the state. “We have code enforcment and will continue to work on hopefully without the distractions.” He said the town has had some hard hits but he wants the very best for Williamston.

Clardy question for Scott - In finances there is a basic term, fund balance. What is that?

Scott replied that it is how much money you have in the bank. including all accounts.

Clardy responded that it is not just cash on hand but the assets of what you own.

Clardy question for Crout - You have said you want to create an environment that provides the best quality of service possible yet didn’t second the motion to give town employees a 3 percent cost of living raise. How can citizens expect leadership?

 Crout said there will be some controversy time to  time but they can work together. He said he asked in June for figures on how a raise would affect the town budget and didn’t receive them until four months into the budget.

“There is a process of providing information, to make a decision,” he said. Crout said he was ready to approve a 4.5 percent raise in June, but could not get the information of what it would cost the town. “If I am elected, the town emloyees will get a pay raise,” he said.

Closing Comments

In closing Crout said it was his vision to provide professional leadership and experience. which he said is something the town hasn’t had.

“I will provide that leadership. Not only for one section but the whole town. I want people to be proud to be from Williamston.” Crout said he will be available and will return calls. He wants to form a committee of residents “to see what we can do to bring unity to the town of Williamston.”

Scott said he had been a resident for 69 years.”We have a beautiful town that used to be in harmony.” He said he wants to see stores back in the town. “I think I would be a good mayor.” He said he has a lot of good ideas.  “I love my town. I want to be your mayor. Will treat people equal and fair. We are all the same in God’s eyes.”

Clardy said, “I am not only running for mayor, I am mayor and have been for eight years.”

He said he had graduated from the school of hard knocks, with honors. “I am proud of where I live and our citizens.”

He said he watched (the former mayor) Middleton as a boy and idolized him. He said he told him that he would be mayor one day. “I was discouraged to come to know some facts.”

He said he could do what was right or popular and that people will hate you

“We have something to be proud of, our town.”

He said he hopes to see a change in attitudes and plans for his vision to continue.

Several citizens commented after the debate that they thought it was good and that there were good answers were given by the candidates.

Harvell, Smith face off for Ward 3 seat

David Harvell and Walter Smith, Sr. are running for the Williamston Town Council Ward 3 seat.

Harvell is seeking his third full term on Williamston Town Council.

He is a graduate of Palmetto High Schol and Tri County Technical College, a member of Calvary Baptist Church, a Navy-Vioetnam Veteran, Retired Army Nation Guard, Williamston Volunteer Fireman. He is a graduate of the Municipal Institute of Government, President of the Anderson County Municipal Association, 2006-07, retire insurance appraiser and educator and a local business owner.

Harvell said he has a realistic approach to town government and operations and while he understnad the s need for economic restraint, he also understnads that town srcies are improtant to tazpayers and their needs shold be considered.

Over his last term, Harvell has worked with other council members to begin the healing process fo rthe Town of Wiliamston. He is dedicated to his commuity and pledges to work to benefit all the people of Williamston. Harvell said he is looking forware to service the town of Williamston for another term.

Smith is a newcomer to the council race but not to service of the town.

He said his priorities include honesty, saving tax payers money, lowering the water bill and getting garbage rates lowerd.

He will work toward getting a grocery store, no extra spending on unnecessary items without approval and said that no public matters will be hidden.

He said he is for all employees and brings his experience as a builder to helping solve the town sewer problems.

He will work toward getting grants to improve the town and wants to see more building industry within the town.

Five candidates running for Piedmont Board

Five candidates running for two available seats on the Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners. They are Gary Alexander, Lib Pack, Ken Brown and incumbents Frankie Garrett and Rudy Rhodes.

Gary Alexander has a long time connection with the Piedmont Fire Department. He served as a fireman from 1968 to 1988 and was also a member of the Fire commission from 1983-1986.

Alexander has no sweeping changes in mind, or any personal agenda for running. “I’m retired now and I just thought I would run if there was some way to help the community,  to improve it some,” he said. “I don’t have any ideas of making a lot of changes. I want to see that the firemen get taken care of, with benefits and such. It seems like all across the state, firemen and police officers and the military are taken for granted. These folks lay their lives on the line for us all the time.”

“I’m not the kind of fellow who promises a bunch of stuff. I need to get on there and see what’s going on. I count on the Lord to help me make decisions, and I expect that’s what I’ll do if I get elected.”

Frankie Garrett, has four years experience on the Piedmont Public Service Commission and reminds voters that he has never voted for a tax increase and will not if elected.

Garrett has lived in Piedmont for sixty five of his seventy one years, He points to the Commission’s success at obtaining more than $435,000 in grants since he was elected as the main reason for being able to hold taxes down. The Commission has also applied for a $200,000 grant to beautify downtown Piedmont, and has been promised funding for a veterans memorial.

He opposes any increase in water or sewer rates despite the fact no such increase has occurred in more than ten years. “The sewer system is still a continuing problem,” said Garrett, “ But we’re using the resources available to us. I know it doesn’t pay for itself, but that’s no reason to raise rates. Western Carolina is a privately owned company. We should be getting more from them.”

Garrett is a member of the International Order of Oddfellows and Rebekahs and has served as Grandmaster of the organization. Semi-retired, he has owned Garrett’s Heating & Air Conditioning for 38 years. He has three grown children living in the Upstate area, and is a member of Oak Grove Baptist Church.

Lib Pack, owner of Downtown Cafe, says she first became interested in the workings of local politics while her late husband, Tom Pack, served as a commissioner and recently felt the urge to get involved herself. She has definite ideas about the way the commission operates, but doesn’t plan to just start making changes for the sake of change.

She says there is a lot of work to be done on the sewer problems of the District. She supports the fire department and the firefighters, and pledges to work for the continued safety of the district’s people. Maintaining the department’s ISO rating, which influence the homeowners’ insurance rates residents pay, should be a key goal of the Commission, says Pack. Professional planning for the future is something she would like to see take place, as well as the continued development of the district’s recreational facilities.

Pack is a member of Piedmont Methodist Church and is the mother of one daughter, her son-in-law, and a granddaughter. She also serves on the advisory board of the Carolina First Bank in Piedmont.

Rudy Rhodes hopes to continue as commissioner

By Stan Welch

Rudy Rhodes served as a public commissioner for four years, from 2002 to 2006. 

“I enjoyed working for the people in the District and I would work just as hard for them this time. I don’t want to make a lot of promises until I get in and see who else is going to be there. You have to have at least two other votes to get anything done,” said Rhodes in a recent interview.

The sewer system is an issue he recognizes the importance of. “We have a lot of work to do on that but we don’t have the money, so I guess we’ll have to see what we can do to solve that.”

“I’d also like to see the fire department move forward instead of moving it back like at least one of those already up there wants to do,” said Rhodes. He declined to identify the Commissioner he was referring to.

Ida Tucker extension Goods Cents project

The Ida Tucker Extension project is one of the proposed “Good Cents” road projects. This $8 million project involves construction of a new 1.5-mile roadway that would create a partial by-pass around the west side of the Town of Williamston. The new road will extend from the end of Ida Tucker Road at Cherokee Road to SC 20 Connector (Anderson Drive) and will intersect with Beaverdam Road. The new extension road will facilitate traffic flow immediately to and fron the school area west of Williamston. Additionally, the project will require a new bridge over Camp Creek and a new traffic signal where the new extension intersects SC 20 Connector.

“This sales tax referendum is extremely important to the future and economic vitality of Anderson County and the cities of Anderson and Williamston, “said Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy.

If approved by the voters, the “Good Cents” referendum is anticipated to generate $163 million during its seven-year lifespan. More than 100 infrastructure projects throughout the county have been identified and prioritized for implementation.

These projects include road upgrades, bridge replacements, paving, water and sewer facilities, upgrades to public facilities (fire stations, police stations) and beautification projects throughout the county.

The County will initiate a comprehensive engineering study prior to each project and will conduct several public outreach sessions prior to construction.

For more information about the CPST and a comprehensive list of projects to be included, visit www.andersoncountysc.org/goodcents. 

O’Dell presents check

West Pelzer officials were joined by Senator Billy O’Dell presented West Pelzer officials with a check for $5000 to be used to purchase radio read water meters. The competitive grant funds will be used to purchase thirty additional meters which will be installed along Main St., Hwy. 8, according to Dept. Head Michael Mahaffey.  The town already had 28 of the radio read meters installed. Mahaffey said the meters cut down on mistakes and can be read much quicker. West Pelzer also recently was notified that they will received a SCDOT grant to be used for the West Pelzer Streetscape Enhancement project.

W Pelzer reduces millage

The West Pelzer Town Council met briefly Monday night to approve a minor reduction in the Town’s millage. 

“We are doing this to help counteract the increases brought on by the county reassessment,” said Mayor Peggy Paxton. She and councilman Marshall King acknowledged that the reduction from.95 mils to .93 mils wouldn’t actually lower the taxes paid by Town citizens, because of the reassessment. “We’re just doing what we can,” said King, “but it won’t really lower anybody’s taxes.”

The second reading approval was unanimous, with Councilman Joe Turner absent.

Ride to benefit family

Motorcycle riders in the area are encouraged to participate in a benefit ride to help the family of Haley Taylor who was killed in a golf cart accident in January.

The Haley Taylor Benefit Ride will take place November 1 at the Pelzer ballfields with the first bike out at 9 a.m. and the last bike out at 11 a.m. organizers said.

Cost is $20 single and $30 double per bike. Food and drinks will be served on the route and the first 50 bikers to register will receive a free T-shirt.

Each rider will draw a letter at all five stops and Haley’s name will be spelled in each box. The rider that comes closest to spelling Haley’s name will win $500 in cash.

All proceeds will benefit the Haley Taylor family to help with medical bills.

For more information call 947-6532 or go to the website at wwwlourangelhaley.com

The event will include a sponsored bike (motorcycle)  ride, entertainment, auction of donated items and raffle, barbecue plates and a children’s entertainment area.

Waldrep, Greer exchange words prior to personnel meeting

By Stan Welch

Like two prize fighters who exchange punches at the weigh in, Councilmen Larry Greer and Bob Waldrep took verbal shots at each other even before a personnel committee meeting was convened Monday afternoon.

The meeting of the County Council’s personnel committee was held at the Powdersville Library in chairman Ron Wilson’s District 6. Before the committee convened at 4 p.m., at which time they immediately voted to go into executive session, Greer and Waldrep had a spirited exchange of words.

Waldrep was talking with the Council’s attorney who was present and made a quip about not confusing him with facts. Both men laughed but Greer took offense and told Waldrep he didn’t care for his efforts at humor while dealing with such a serious matter.

“Larry, I don’t give a damn what you care for or not. You need to get used to the idea that you aren’t Boss Hogg anymore, because the hog has died. We don’t care how you do things from down there where you’re from, okay?” said Waldrep.

Waldrep then turned to the attorney and said, “Sorry about the problem,” to which Greer replied, “No you aren’t. You’re just sorry.”

After several more minutes, during which Councilwoman Cindy Wilson arrived as well as committee member Bill McAbee,

the committee convened and immediately voted to go into executive session. 

Chairman Wilson informed Waldrep that his claim, supported by ordinance, that any Council members can attend committee meetings was valid and Waldrep and Wilson would be allowed into the private discussion, although they would have no vote.

Waldrep replied, “Thank you, your lordship,” to which Wilson responded by saying, “Why don’t you shut up, Bob?” Waldrep replied, “Why don’t you shut up you *&#^head?” Ms. Wilson also referred to what she called Wilson’s conflict of interest due to his daughter having a consulting contract with the County. Wilson curtly warned Ms. Wilson to drop that subject. The two men continued their badinage for a moment longer but then crossed the hall to Wilson’s office, where the press was excluded.

The tensions arose because Waldrep insisted on being admitted to the meeting despite Council Chairman Michael Thompson’s claim at an earlier Council meeting that Waldrep should not be allowed. Even so, the roots of the problem actually extend back to a statement made by Waldrep earlier this year, in which he stated, at their request, the intentions of three incoming Council members, who defeated incumbents at the June primary, to pursue a full audit of the County administration. They also expressed the possibility that county administrator Joey Preston and finance director Gina Humphreys might be put on paid administrative leave for the duration of that audit.

At the first October Council meeting, an executive session was called to discuss a letter from Preston’s attorney which claimed that those statements constituted an anticipatory repudiation of Preston’s employment contract. During that executive session, which was unannounced prior to the meeting, despite the fact that the majority of the Council received the letter well in advance of the meeting, Council was presented with a list of three lawyers compiled by Chairman Thompson. They then voted in open session to hire Thomas Bright to represent them against the claims of Preston that he had been terminated without cause.

At the following Council meeting, Waldrep placed the issue on the agenda, after the letter had been read aloud on WAIM radio and subsequent articles about it appeared in the local press. As soon as the item came up, Greer moved to remove it from the agenda, which Council quickly did by a vote of five to two. Despite having removed the question from the agenda, Council then voted to approve a motion by Councilwoman Floyd to place the matter in the hands of the personnel committee.

At that time, Waldrep asked when the committee would be meeting, and asked if he could attend. Chairman Thompson said that such meetings had to be announced in compliance with the state Freedom of Information Act, but that, since it dealt with personnel matters, only the committee could attend.

Waldrep and Ms. Wilson have both expressed concerns that the majority of Council seems to be positioning themselves to buy out Preston’s contract before leaving office at the end of the year.

“I cannot speak to the discussion which I was privy to during the executive session, but I will say that I think it is important that I was here today, along with Ms. Wilson. Our constituents expect that of us, I believe,”said Waldrep.

Waldrep also said he had not spoken to anyone like that since the ninth grade, but added, Sometimes, you just wonder if they realize they lost in June. (Editor’s note: Greer was defeated by Eddie Moore in the District Three race but Ron Wilson was reelected in District Six.)

Lewis Road closing remains a safety issue

By Stan Welch 

When the Anderson County Council approved the abandonment of Lewis Drive at their October 21 meeting, they apparently were denied information about the concerns of the County Fire Chief about the effects such a closing would have on response times.

Council voted 4-2 that night to not oppose the proposed closure of the road, which crosses railroad tracks owned by the Greenville and Western Railroad, and which is adjacent to a property being developed by Lincoln Energy Company for an ethanol storage and blending facility.

According to a letter dated October 20, and hand delivered to county administrator Joey Preston, Fire Chief Billy Gibson expressed his concerns that response times could be increased by as much as a minute and a half. Cheddar Fire Chief Robbie Land has estimated that increase at twice that long, but there is no argument that response times would increase significantly.

As Chief Gibson said in the letter, a minute and a half “is a significant amount of time when a fire is burning or someone needs medical attention.”

Chief Gibson also acknowledged some of the benefits of a road closing, such as the obvious one, that car/train collisions would become a thing of the past. But he closed the letter by strongly suggesting that railroad and County officials “thoroughly investigate all aspects before arriving at the decision.” He continued, “Please forward this letter to members of Council and any other officials that you feel appropriate.”

Apparently, the letter was not provided to Council. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, whose district includes the road in question, says she never saw the letter. No reference was made to it during the deliberations prior to the vote.

“It appears that this information was deliberately withheld from Council, although a letter from Ike Brissey, a public safety official, which supported the closing, was made available. Mr. Brissey is not the county fire marshal. Chief Gibson is, and his opinions should have been included in the deliberations about this closing. This whole episode has been poorly handled, from the time that a member of this Council and his business associate became involved in the real estate transaction where the energy company acquired the land for its facility,” said Wilson.

In response to an e-mail seeking comment, Preston responded that the letter from Chief Gibson was provided to the Council before the meeting, along with the letter from Brissey.

The vote came after weeks of claims and counter claims by both the residents of the area, as well as representatives of both the railroad and the ethanol facility. Residents were concerned about increased response times for the nearby Cheddar Fire Department, as well as the safety of the proposed storage of tanker cars near their homes.

Amy Plummer, representing the railroad, and defending the ethanol facility, argued that safety would improve at the crossing, as well as claiming that ethanol is safe to transport and store by tanker cars. Plummer is a business associate of Councilman Bill McAbee, who recused himself from voting on the closure, as well as on the votes to provide several incentives to the ethanol company.

Jim Farish, president of the Lincoln Energy Company appeared at an earlier meeting before Council to tell them that the decision to force the closure of  Lewis Drive was in the hands of the railroad. “We have invested in an interior switch that meets our needs without closing the road. The railroad I’m sure has its own reasons for closing that crossing, but it is not related to our facility any longer,” he said.

Both Plummer and Steven Chapman , spokesman for the area residents, appeared before Council to present their sides of the issue. Councilwoman Wilson reported that there simply aren’t any real regulations to ensure public safety in regards to the transport and storage of ethanol, including at the federal level. “I have had our elected officials at every level ask the appropriate agencies what regulations are in place, and they simply aren’t in place. We need to delay this until we can study it some more and at least offer these residents some sort of assurances that they are safe.”

Anderson County Sheriffs Report

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated the following incidents:

BELTON 

Oct. 22 – A. Land was dispatched to 630 Big Creek Rd. where Brian Mauldin stated that someone had entered a storage building on the site and attempted to steal a spool of wire, which was recovered nearby. The subject also damaged Mauldin’s vehicle while attempting to steal it. Total damages were estimated at $500.

Oct. 22 – A. Land responded to 5500 Belton Hwy. where Mary Fagg stated someone had broken into her 1990 Chevy S-10 truck. She found documents for the sale of a 2007 Tahoe which did not belong to her. The papers were placed into evidence.

PELZER

Oct. 20 – R.D. Smith responded to the Family Dollar on Hwy. 20 where the manager, Henry Rahn, stated he found the glass beside the door broken by a rock. He said nothing was stolen but the store office had been ransacked.

Oct. 20 –J.T. Bowers was dispatched to 204 Campbell Rd. where Kenneth Baker reported that someone had broken into his shed and stolen several power lawn care tools, valued at $455.

Oct. 21 – D.L. Barton was dispatched to 8 Front St. where Joshua Bailey reported that his wife had assaulted him by pulling his hair. Christine Bailey, WF, 5’3", 140 pounds, brn/brn was taken into custody and transported to ACDC.

Oct. 22 – K.D. Pigman observed a vehicle approaching him with a large amount of scrap metal tied on top and in the trunk. He initiated a traffic stop and subsequently found that the driver, Debbie Ford, WF, 38, 4’11", 165 pounds, of Belton, had no SCDL. He also found that the passengers, Steven Davis, WM, 26, 5’11", 160 pounds, brn/brn and Jesse Clary, WM, 27, 5’7", 210 pounds, brn/brn, both of Belton, were wanted on active warrants. All three were arrested and taken to ACDC.

PIEDMONT

Oct. 27 – K.D. Pigman responded to the SavWay where a store employee reported that a black male, wearing a mask and hooded sweat shirt and jeans, had entered the store and robbed her at gunpoint. He was reportedly driving an early 90s model Honda Accord, white in color.

Oct. 20 – R. Beddingfield investigated a complaint of pointing and presenting a firearm at 348 Shenandoah Dr. No arrest was made at the time.

Oct.22 – P.D. Marter responded to 3150 Highway 153 where Dr. William Scott reported the theft of an Uzi semi-automatic pistol from his desk. The loss was estimated at $500.

Oct. 22 – W. Simpson was dispatched to 273 Langston Rd. where Brittany Knight, WF, 20, reported that someone had stolen her wedding and engagement rings from her locker at work. The rings were valued at $1900.

WILLIAMSTON

Oct. 21 – J.J. Jacobs was dispatched to 6011 Hwy. 29 North where David Dodenhoff, of Laurens, stated that someone had broken into a vacant house he owned at the site and stolen a variety of items valued at $280

Canes Corner robbed

By Stan Welch

 A slick maneuver cost a local business approximately three thousand dollars Sunday afternoon. 

Canes Corner, at the intersection of Highway 8 and Wren School Road, was robbed by a white male who entered the store and gathered up several items which he brought to the counter, as if to pay for them.

“He had a two liter drink and some milk. He said he forgot his money and would put the milk back. Then he left the store. He came back in talking on his cell phone and wandered around until everyone else left. He came up and said there was water on the floor by one of the coolers,” said Wilma Orr, store owner.

“I went and looked, and sure enough, there was water on the floor. Looking at the video tapes later, I saw that he waited until I got the bucket and mop and then he looked behind the counter. I had several bank bags back there because it had been a slow morning and I was getting some work done while everyone was in church. He stepped back out and made sure where I was, then he grabbed the bags and put them under his shirt or someplace, and left the store. I didn’t realize the bags were gone for ten or fifteen minutes.”

The man, who was about 5’7" and 140 pounds, was white and was unshaven but didn’t have a beard. “He was just scruffy, but he had on Bermuda shorts and a checked shirt. He must have poured the water on the floor, because I have had no trouble with my coolers before or since.”

Orr is naturally upset by her loss, but says she is just glad he didn’t walk in with a gun. “No one was hurt and I just say ‘Amen’ for that,” she said.

Seems to Me . . .Let them eat cake

By Stan Welch

In twenty five years of observing and reporting on politics and government, I have seldom seen any governmental body with the determination to have one’s cake and eat it too shown by the Anderson County Council.

The latest example is the manner in which the Council, or at least the predictable five vote Preston bloc, has decided to soothe Preston’s ruffled feathers over his employment situation.

Before we go on, just let me say that I have been unable to confirm reports that the three lame duck Councilmen will receive special watches that always say five to two as retirement gifts. I would point out, however, that even such watches would be right twice a day, which would be an improvement on the record established by Huey, Dewey and Louie.

But I digress. 

As you should know by now, Preston has decided that the stated intentions of some Council members, some incumbent and some incoming, to press their quest for a full audit, and the possibility that Preston and the finance director might be out on paid leave for awhile, constitutes an ipso facto termination of his duties. (I think ipso facto is the right phrase, but I mainly just felt like throwing in some legal mumbo jumbo at this point in the column, and anticipatory repudiation is much harder to type.)

Preston, who like us all, can only be who he is, immediately hired *gasp* an attorney to protect his interests. Council, not to be outdone, immediately hired one too. Hopefully, the list of attorneys presented by Chairman Michael Thompson for the Council’s consideration didn’t come from Preston or his attorney, but stranger things have happened in Anderson County.

For example, at the next Council meeting, Councilman Waldrep, who actually is an attorney, placed a discussion of Preston’s letter on the agenda. Seems this attorney felt like the matter was no longer a simple personnel issue since attorneys had been retained.

However, Preston didn’t agree, and to no one’s surprise, he had a well orchestrated campaign in place to prevent any public discussion of his circumstances, which everyone realizes are the preliminary steps in a very expensive buyout of his contract.

Actually, if he had orchestrated a couple of campaigns half as well back during the primaries, all this could have been avoided. But I digress.

Again, to no one’s surprise, Preston clearly would prefer that the Council which has thought so highly of him for so long should be the ones to determine the terms of that buyout. Can you say kitchen sink?

This is where the eating of the cake and having it too comes in. Councilman Huey, er, Greer stated that the issue was one of personnel and should not be discussed in open session. Waldrep seemed agreeable to an executive session, but Greer, with guidance and cooperation from Chairman Dewey, er, Thompson, moved to amend the agenda to remove any discussion of the issue. In a stunning development, the Council voted four to three to do so. Chairman Thompson apparently lost track of the proceedings.

Okay. The issue of Preston’s concerns and Council’s response to it is off the agenda. Not available for discussion or consideration, it simply never happened. The majority ruled and had its cake.

But wait! Council was still hungry, and wanted to eat their cake too. So, despite the fact that the matter in question was no longer on the agenda, Councilwoman Floyd seized the floor, and moved to put the Preston issue in the hands of the personnel committee, comprised of Councilmen Huey, Louie, er, McAbee and wounded, if not lame, duck Councilman Ron Wilson. My, how good that must have made Mr. Preston feel. Who among us isn’t more comfortable in the company of friends?

Despite the presence of at least four lawyers in the room, one of whom is actually paid to help Council follow parliamentary procedure, Council proceeded to vote on Floyd’s motion, which shouldn’t have even been made or seconded, since the matter of Preston, and his situation, had just been removed from the agenda.

Anyone care to guess at the vote? That’s right, five to two.

So Monday, a meeting of the personnel committee was held in Powdersville to address the Preston situation. As is the case in such things, the meeting was held in executive session, in an effort to keep the deliberations secret. In fact, Thompson even told Waldrep that he and Ms. Wilson could not attend.

Waldrep didn’t buy that and he and Ms. Wilson did in fact attend. Waldrep was armed with the ordinance which states that any member of an elected body can attend the meetings of any committees of that body, although they may not vote.

The meeting was very tense, even before it was convened. An account of the conversation appears elsewhere in this issue. One clear result is that the lame ducks have no intention of waddling off quietly; they have eaten Preston’s corn for too long. Now it’s time to feather his nest. Apparently, any additional rewards the flock might have anticipated are off the table as a result of Preston’s anticipatory departure.

Another clear result is that things are going to be very, very different in the coming year. Ms. Floyd and Mr. Wilson should definitely eat all the cake they can between now and January, because it seems to me, they won’t even have any after that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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