News Archive

(4606) Week of Nov. 15, 2006

District One schools get State report cards
Runoff to decide Williamston Town Council Ward 1 seat
Council discussions returning to normal
Christmas Park work day Saturday
West Pelzer approves first reading on 2006-07 budget
WPFD to elect new board
State grants allow park improvements
Wren FD receives grant
Deputies recover stolen 18 wheeler
Palmetto High hosts AA State qualifier
Marcy sentenced
No new developments in Preston stalking investigation
Seems to Me . . .Firemen and fish frys

District One schools get State report cards

\welve out of fourteen schools in Anderson School District One remain rated as Excellent or Good, with the remaining two schools scoring Average according to the Annual School Report Card just released by the State.

The School Report Card is a product of the Accountability Act of 1998 and the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Eight of the district’s 14 schools received an absolute rating of good. Four including concrete Primary, Cedar Grove Elementary, Wren Elementary and Wren High School received excellent ratings. Palmetto Middle and Palmetto High schools received an average rating.

Dr. Wayne Fowler, Superintendent for Anderson One, stated, “The Education Oversight Committee has established an annual rating system for the report card that requires all districts and schools to move 10% of the students from below basic and basic to proficient or advanced. Anderson District One has been able to meet this goal for four consecutive years and maintained an Excellent rating.”

According to Dr. Fowler, the 2006 report card ratings showed no district in the state was able to maintain an excellent rating. “Anderson District was one of only seven of the 85 districts in the state to receive a rating of good. All other scores in the state were average, below average, or unsatisfactory,” he said. “While Anderson One students once again performed at the top of the state on all academic measures of accountability, the system established by the state of South Carolina rated us as good on our report card.”

“We can take pride in the standing of schools and districts as compared with all other districts in our state. Though we have a rating that is not at the top of the system, we are rated as high as or higher than anyone in the state,”stated Dr. John Pruitt, Director of Middle and High Schools. “We continue to set high expectations though the system does not appear to reward those achievements. Our communities can rest assured their schools and students are far exceeding the standards set forth by the state.”

Director of Elementary Education, Jane Harrison, stated “Anderson One is in the forefront of providing a high quality education for all students. We, the district and the schools, are disaggregating data to get a better snapshot of each individual student. We are monitoring the students’ understanding and constantly looking for ways to improve instruction. Our students are making gains and their scores continue to rank us at the top. Regardless of what the state rates our schools, we know excellent instruction is being provided and students are learning.”

According to Harrison,  a number of initiatives have been implemented for the 2006-2007 school year that will ensure more students will meet proficiency standards set by the state.

Among them are: 

· Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) An assessment tool used to improve outcomes for children and support school success for all Kindergarten, first and second grade students

· Early Intervening Services –An assistance program to ensure success for our youngest learners

· Four year kindergarten in every primary/elementary school

· Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) A state-aligned computerized adaptive assessment that provides accurate, useful information about student achievement and growth. It is administered two times a year. Results are used to monitor instruction

· Compass Odyssey Computer Software- A standards-based curriculum to help students develop a foundation for literacy while strengthening reading, language arts, math, social studies, science skills and knowledge across content areas.

· After school programs in every school that provide academic assistance and/or acceleration in content areas

· State of the art technology for interactive lessons

· Credit recovery program that encourages timely graduation

· Great Beginnings Induction Program – A program offering structure, guidance and support for first year teachers

Runoff to decide Williamston Town Council Ward 1 seat

Carthel Crout and Willie Wright will both have their names on the ballot when Williamston voters return to the polls Tuesday, November 21, to decide the race for Williamston Town Council Ward 1.

Town precinct voters will vote in the auditorium of the Palmetto Middle School and Williamston Mill precinct and Cedar Grove voters will vote in the foyer of Calvary Baptist Church, town clerk Michelle Starnes said. Polls will be open from 7 a.m to 7 p.m.

Any registered voter can vote in the run-off election, regardless if they voted in the general election, Starnes said.

Wright said he is anxious to get elected, and get to work. “I want to start working towards improving the issues facing the town,” said Wright.

Wright wants to be involved in attracting a “much needed grocery store” to town, preferably at an existing site. “I would like to negotiate with the individuals or corporations involved to make this possible,” said Wright, in a recent interview.

Wright is retired from Roadway Express, where he worked in administration for twenty-seven years. He also taught in mainstream public schools for fourteen years and is currently employed in the field of special education.

That education background leads to his concerns about the safety around the area’s schools. “We need more traffic control, more crossing guards. We may need more traffic signals at our schools. We have many more students and much more traffic than we used to, and it’s becoming dangerous.”

He also would like to see more activities available for youth, such as bowling and skateboarding. Additional sidewalks, where needed, would require that the town obtain the services of a grant writer to pursue such funding, said Wright. Earlier this year, the Town Council voted to fire its grant writer and use the funds to pay for an audit of the Town’s books.

Wright will explore ways to reduce the citizens’ water bills, which were increased earlier this year in response to the Town’s financial crisis. He would also begin a phased rehiring of the street and sanitation workers laid off earlier this year, also as a cost cutting measure. “We couldn’t do it all at once, but we need to start and restore the services the people want to see in town.”

Wright promises accessibility to the citizens. “I will listen to their concerns and act on those concerns. I will be a great asset to the Council and to the citizens because I have lived here most of my life. I feel that I know what the citizens need and expect from their government,” said Wright. “I will work along with the other Council members and you will see an improvement in the Town’s situation. I ask for your vote on November 21.”

Crout said he has no agenda in running for Williamston Town Council, “other than what is best for the town of Williamston from one end to the other and top to bottom.”

He said his main reason for running is his love for Williamston and that he wants to help bring the town “back to what it used to be.”

If elected, he said he will work to represent all of the town. “I feel a responsibility to all citizens, even if they are not in Ward 1.”

Crout is a former Palmetto High School head football coach and a retired Sgt. Major of the U. S. Army Reserve. 

If elected, he said he will use the experiences he has had in budgeting, management and working with people, both superiors and subordinates, to help move the town forward.

Crout said he will see that proper procedures are followed and will implement a requisition and purchase order system as well as a new check writing policy.

He said his main issues are working to get a grocery store in the town and seeking State and Federal grant monies for improving the infrastructure of Williamston.

“I feel very fortunate to have received as many votes as I did to be in a runoff election,” Crout said. “I would be honored to represent all citizens of Williamston.”

As a write-in candidate Crout received 382 votes.  Wright, whose name appeared on the ballot had 275 and write-in candidate Tommy Walker had 176.

Council discussions returning to normal

After almost a year of budget cuts, adjustments and other drastic changes, discussions of the Williamston Town Council are  returning to what could be described as almost normal.

During a special called meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council unanimously approved a bond issue ordinance for the Anderson Jointe Regional Water System (AJRWS), discussed a proposed hospitality tax, approved a sewer capacity payment to Anderson County and set a date for a time capsule ceremony.

Council unanimously approved second reading on an ordinance allowing changes in a master bond resolution with the Anderson Joint Regional Water Association. The agreement also authorizes a swap policy and an amendment to the water sale purchase agreement.

The ordinance will have to be approved by all 11 members and positions the association to take advantage of lower interest rates and possible principal reductions according to AJRWS spokesperson Scott Willett.

In other action, Mayor Phillip Clardy said that the town is doing an impact study of a proposed 2 percent hospitality tax, to determine revenue sources and what the revenues could be used for.

The town is considering instating the tax which would be used primarily for development of new capital improvements that could lead to tourism according to town attorney Richard Thompson. The tax wiould be on prepared food items within the town.

Public comment will be accepted on the proposal at the next meeting of Council.

Council decided to accept information provided by Appalachian Council of Governments advisor Joe Newton in determining job description for a grant writer.

In new business, council unanimously approved a sewer capacity compensation settlement with Anderson County. Under the arrangement, the town will pay Anderson County approximately $75,000 owed for county capacity being used in the town’s sewer treatment plant.

The town will pay $3000 per month to settle the disputed capacity issue.

There was also mention of charging Mount Vernon Mills an unused capacity charge.

Minutes from previous meetings were presented to Council for review.

Council unanimously approved Saturday, January 13 as a tentative date for unearthing and reburial of a time capsule. The ceremony will include digging up  a time capsule buried July 4th 1976, from the old city hall property and placing it, along with a new sesquicentennial time capsule in the ground at the Municipal Center.

The original time capsule is to be opened in 2076. The new capsule is to be opened in 2052.

Mayor Clardy asked Council to be prepared to make a decision at the next meeting on what to do with the old town hall building.

If it is to be moved, he said council will need to decide details including deciding how it is to be moved, the cost, where to move it and the purpose of the building. If not moved, he said they will need to decide what to do with it.

Clardy said there is the possibililty of some grant funding to help with the costs.

Councilman Middleton advised that moving the structure will only be about 1/3 of the cost with right of ways, foundation and other costs.

He said bricks could be sold and the tin ceiling and vault door saved. 

“It’s going to be expensive. It depends on how passionately you feel,” he said.

Council heard a report from Newton on changes to the draft 2007 budget which will be voted on in December. The budget is based on $2.86 million in revenues and expenses.

Newton said the revised draft budget shows water and sewer revenues and expenses separately, a requirement of the RDA.

It also shows a $75,000 transfer from the water to the sewer department to cover salaries and audit costs.

Newton said the budget shows a general fund contingency reserve which will depend on borrowing a TAN.

He said restricted sanitation funds of $300,000 may be taken out.

It also reflects the $3000 sewer capacity  payment to the county.

Newton said it reflects a $100,000 reserve sewer fund which is “very short.” The budget does not show expected leachate payments because of uncertainty of future payments.

It does reflect $10,000 for a “special audit” and $15,000 for a grant writing position, he said..

The budget also reflects a $5 increase in little league fees.

Though not mentioned, the 2007 budget shows Administrative Staff salaries budgeted at $248,231 just two years ago, now budgeted at only $86,800. It also shows council salaries of $60,000 in 2005, now budgeted at only $14,200. Street, parks and police salaries have also been cut.

First reading on the 2007 budget is expected to be held in December. The next meeting of council will be on Monday, Dec. 4.

Christmas Park work day Saturday

Saturday has been designated as a work day for persons placing displays in Mineral Spring Park for the holidays, according to display organizer Dianne Lollis.

More than 65 applications have been received so far from businesses, churches and other organizations planning to place unique displays in the park this year.  Many of the displays will be new and some quite large, including one being specially made for the Springwater Committee.

Members of the Springwater Committee, which coordinated the 2006 Spring Water Festival, are coordinating special events and displays for the 2006 Christmas Park.

Committee members are very appreciative of the support from area businesses, churches and other organizations in making it a community effort to “Celebrate the Season.”

Although they are still taking applications, space is becoming limited.

Anyone interested in placing a lighted display in the park is urged to contact Lollis this week. Anyone planning to place a display in the park are reminded that it must be in place and ready prior to opening night, which will be Saturday, November 25 at 6 p.m..

The committee is also accepting applications from individuals, choral groups or other entertainers interested in providing holiday related entertainment on the amphitheater stage and/or providing complimentary hot chocolate and/or coffee, cider, etc., to visitors, organizers said.

“We plan to offer live events each Saturday evening during December and at other times during the week if a group or organization would like to be involved,” Lollis said. Times and dates are still being finalized.

If your organization would like to participate in the Christmas Park, call Lollis at 864-847-5743.

Anyone interested in placing a decorated tree in the Hall of Lights at the Williamston Muncipal Center is also asked to contact Lollis.

West Pelzer approves first reading on 2006-07 budget

By Stan Welch

The West Pelzer Town Council moved one step closer to obtaining a combination of grant funds and a loan from the Rural Development Administration Monday night, when they gave first reading approval to a budget for 2006-2007. The budget was approved by a vote of 4-1, with Joe Turner opposed.

“You know I don’t favor raising the rates. We’ll have to do it, but down the road a ways we’ll have a better idea what we’re faced with,” said Turner.

Failure to approve a budget had become a sticking point, because the RDA, which offers funding for infrastructure to small towns and rural communities, needed the data provided by the budget to calculate the water rates the Town will have to set to assure repayment of any future loans.

The budget, tentatively approved Monday night, reflects a compromise measure to raise water rates by one dollar per month on minimum use, instead of a two dollar increase. The current rate is twelve dollars; it will go to thirteen dollars instead of fourteen.  The cost for each additional thousand gallons used will rise to $2.90.

That compromise was reached after a motion by Mayor Peggy Paxton to impose the full increase died from the lack of a second. Paxton presented data to show that the Town’s wholesale cost for water had increased steadily since December 2004 till August of this year, while the amount the Town has charged the citizens has remained flat, resulting in an increasing deficit in the water department. “The general fund is being used to make up these differences”, said Mayor Paxton.

In December of 2004, the Town paid $16,346.02 for the quarterly water bill ending that month. By December a year later, that same quarterly bill was $21,271.89. The latest quarterly bill, ending in August of this year, was $26,358. Paxton stated that the Town normally collects approximately $7-$8000 per month on water bills. While that amount, multiplied by three months, totals or exceeds the wholesale water costs of the Town, it allows for no margin for operational costs for the water department.

She also pointed out that any increase in the amount of water being purchased by the town is minimal. “We have added five homes to the system in that time,” said zoning administrator Charles Ellenburg. “So it can’t be much of an increase.”

Said Town Attorney Carey Murphy, “It’s not that the Town can’t pay its water bill. You have money in the water account, but it’s quickly dwindling. The costs of operating the department are coming from the general fund, which means that sooner or later property taxes may come into play.” Murphy and Paxton both stressed the importance of a rate increase in order to set aside money for emergency repairs or other unforeseen costs.

A major break in a six inch water main on Monday provided an example for Murphy. “Today’s emergency is the classic example. If you have no reserves built up, and this sort of thing happens, how do you pay for repairs? You have to pass these costs on to the town’s citizens.”

The Town has absorbed two wholesale rate increases since 2004, without passing them on to its customers. A recent similar example occurred in Williamston, where water rates were increased by approximately thirty per cent, and a first time sanitation fee of $14 a month was implemented. The town had been on the brink of financial ruin before the measures were put in place as part of an emergency response.

The RDA will essentially determine the Town’s final water rate, setting it at a level that will insure sufficient revenues to repay the loans, which is currently estimated at 55% of the grant/loan package the Town has applied for. Paxton, however stressed that those percentages could change. Murphy pointed out that amount currently applied for is likely to increase. “The cost of pipe alone has gone up 50% since this process started. The amount on the table will be quite a bit short of getting the job done.”

Everyone on the Council agrees that a rate increase is inevitable, especially when the Town connects to the Western Carolina treatment plant. Some estimates of the amount of that increase surpass three hundred per cent. Says Mayor Paxton, “That really scares me. When we hook on to Western Carolina, I don’t know what will happen. That’s why we should do this full increase now. It will be a slower process that way, instead of all at once, like it was in Iva. When they went on the new sewer lines, their first month’s sewer bill from the County was $123 a household.”

Councilman Pete Davis added that approximately 37% of the water purchased by the town is lost to leaks, and is never billed at all to customers. “Forty per cent of $26,000 is $10,400. That’s just not even being billed,” said Davis.

 Paxton agreed, but stated that the large leaks in the town system have been addressed.  “We’ve fixed the large leaks. Our problem is when it rains, we pay for every drop that runs through the treatment plant.”

Davis made a motion to raise the sanitation fee by a dollar as well. That motion passed 4-1, with Turner opposed.

West Pelzer Fire to elect new board

The West Pelzer Fire Department Board of Directors will be holding its annual election for members of the Board of Directors on December 17, at 2 p.m. at the fire station on Main St. in West Pelzer.

Persons in the district interested in having their name placed on the ballot must complete an application and turn it in to one of the current board members no later than two weeks prior to the election date. In accordance with the newly established by-laws, write in candidates will not be accepted on the day of the election. Board members must be at least 21 years of age as well as meet all other requirements set forth by the newly revised Rules & Regulations of Board of Directors which can be reviewed at the station.

For additional information please contact one of the current Board Members or the Board Chairperson at 847-2007. Current Board members are Danny Sutherland - Chairperson; J.C. Cox - Vice Chairperson; Gene Roberts – Secretary and Treasurer; Dale Mahaffey – Chief; Robert Alexander – Firemen Representative.

State grants allow park improvements

By Stan Welch

Senator Billy O’Dell, of District Four, and Senator Danny Verdin III, of District Nine, delivered the latest in a series of grants, this one from  South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism ( PRT ), that have helped rehabilitate the Thomas C. Pack Jr. Park in Piedmont.

The Senators, along with the Piedmont Fire Commissioners and newly elected District Six Anderson County Councilman Ron Wilson were on hand for the presentation. Fire Commission Chairperson Marsha Rogers accepted the $7500 grant on behalf of the Commission, which also oversees the special service district’s water and sewer operations, as well as its recreational facilities and programs.

Also on hand were current commissioners Frankie Garrett, Fred Glenn, and Al McAbee. McAbee was returned to the commission during November’s election. Newly elected Commissioners Bobby Stover and Ed Poore, who will be seated in January, were also on hand.

Before the presentation, Rogers gave some background on the park, dating back to the 1930’s, when the WPA built the first park, later known as Buchanan Park. The park was maintained by the town’s various mills until finally J.P. Stevens left Piedmont. According to Rogers, the park became dilapidated, and the grandstands were torn down.

Tom Pack was a fire commissioner who was instrumental in getting lights installed at the park a number of years ago. Rogers, in her second term, began to promote the park, and managed to have a survey performed to define the park’s boundaries. She credits Senator O’Dell and the district’s grant writer and consultant Rusty Burns with obtaining the funds needed to rehabilitate the facility, which now has a small picnic shelter, several outbuildings, ball fields, and a walking track.

Said Burns, “Senator O’Dell has been a great help in funding the improvements that have been made. The Commissioners have worked hard to create this facility, which at one time, quite frankly, was a mud hole.” Senator O’Dell agreed, saying, “It’s a pleasure to see these PARD funds used so well for the purpose for which  they were intended. This is my first actual visit to the park, and I’m very impressed with what has been accomplished. Piedmont can be proud of this park.”

“Senator O’Dell has always been ready to help, and Rusty Burns has been a tremendous asset to us in locating and obtaining grants. We’re also pleased to see Senator Verdin here today, and appreciate his interest in the Piedmont area,” said Rogers, who hopes to stretch the latest grant far enough to purchase additional playground equipment, and to build a larger shelter nearer the playground. Future plans also include rebuilding the existing picnic shelter, installing some horseshoe venues, and building a blacktop basketball court. She also credits the Bonnes Amies service club for its fund-raising help at the park.

Rogers says that the park is well used by the area’s residents, even when baseball is out of season. “We have tournaments here from time to time, as well as a number of local teams which practice here. But we also have parents who bring their children here to play, and we have dozens of people who use the walking track each day. The park is a great resource for our people, and they use it frequently.”

Wren FD receives grant

 The Wren Fire Department Station 24 recently received a grant of $85,600 to be used in obtaining needed equipment. The grant, issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is part of $650 million that will be distributed to various fire departments across the country. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is designed to assist local fire departments to purchase fire fighting equipment, fund firefighter health and safety programs, enhance emergency medical services programs, and conduct education and fire prevention programs. The Homeland Security Department’s United States Fire Administration administers the grants.

Deputies recover stolen 18 wheeler

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies recovered a stolen truck and trailer valued at $120,000 and investigated several instances of copper wiring and pipes being stolen from residences. Among incidents investigated:

Nov. 11 – T. B. Dugan discovered an 18 wheeler parked in the middle of the southbound off ramp of I-85 at Hwy. 81. He found no one inside and the passenger window broken out. He entered the cab and found ignition wiring exposed from the steering column. After dispatch contacted the truck’s owner in Charlotte, the owner reported the truck must have been stolen that morning, but had not been reported yet. Dugan opened the trailer and subsequently found a full cargo of socks. The trailer had been stolen from another company,  which shared the freight yard with the truck company. The total value of the rig and cargo was approximately $120,000.

EASLEY

Nov.  9 – J.L. Harris was dispatched to 101 Turner Trail, where Roger Crooks reported that someone had disassembled and stolen the copper condenser unit from the vacant residence. The copper unit was valued at $800.

Nov. 12 – T. B. Dugan responded to 203 Golden Willow Court, where Bart Rogers, owner of Delux Construction, reported that someone had thrown a metal sign into the window of a home he had under construction. Damage was estimated at $500.

PELZER

Nov.11 – M.J. Giovanni was dispatched to 330 Lebby Street where James Garrett of Greer reported that several checks had been counterfeited and forged against his business account. The checks were forged, but his account and routing numbers were used on the counterfeits. Three of four checks so produced were cashed in Anderson County; the fourth in Easley.

PIEDMONT

Nov. 11 – R.M. Cooper was checking businesses when he observed a suspicious truck at the L’il General on Hwy. 86. Kenneth Ray Sellars, WM, 45, 6’1", 25 pounds, brn/blue, of 243 S. Circle Dr. in Piedmont, was observed near the store’s dumpster. He tried to get in his car and leave upon seeing the patrol car, but was stopped and questioned. He was found to be wanted on several bad check charges, and was detained. A check book was found in his car, and was determined to have been stolen. He admitted cashing several checks at the Sav-Way in Pelzer. Deputy R. S. Turner arrived on the scene and informed Cooper that the vehicle might have been involved in a burglary that resulted in the loss of a transmission from Main Street Motors in Piedmont. When questioned, Sellars admitted that he had stolen the transmission and told officers where it was. The transmission was subsequently identified and recovered. Sellars was arrested and transported to ACDC.

 Nov. 12 – D.W. Davis was dispatched to 514 McNeely Rd. where Charles Sanford reported the theft of the copper plumbing under his house and copper wiring from his hot water heater. Sanford reported that he and his wife went to church, and returned home, where his wife complained that there was no water. He looked under the house and his lines were gone.

WILLIAMSTON

Nov. 9 – M.D. Campbell responded to 429 Highview Rd. where he was told by Mike Sexton that someone had stolen the copper condensing tubs and copper tubing from three air conditioning units outside the building.

Marcy sentenced

Johnathan Craig Marcy, pled guilty but mentally ill in general sessions court Tuesday to charges he kidnapped Hunter Thompson, who was 7 at the time, from an Anderson K Mart. Marcy was arrested in Williamston in March of 2004. He was sentenced to 10 years suspended to 5 years and placed on probation for 5 years. He will undergo mental health counseling and will be required to register as a sex offender, authorities said. With him at the bench is mother Carol, brother Josh, father Craig and attorney Billy Epps.

 

Palmetto High hosts AA State qualifier

The Palmetto High School Competition Cheerleaders placed third in the upperstate qualifier hosted by Palmetto High last Wednesday. They will  compete this Saturday in the State Competition in the Colonial Center in Columbia.

The Mustangs have had seven first place finishes in their competitions leading up to the State qualifier held at Palmetto High School last Wednesday.

The top eight qualifying positions will compete with the top eight from the lower state in the AA State Meet on Saturday.

The Mustangs will be defending their State AA championship title. They are coached by Sheri Alexander.

Results of the Upperstate qualifier were Mid Carolina, Pendleton and Palmetto rounding out the top three spots. Also qualifying for State were Gilbert, Crescent, Woodruff, Landrum and Liberty.

See photos by John Bolton photography at boltonphoto.com

No new developments in Preston stalking investigation

By Stan Welch

A year after an investigation into the alleged harassment of Anderson county administrator Joey Preston began, there have been no arrests made, and the investigation seems to have ground to a halt.

Although described as recently as this week as “open and ongoing” by the Public Relations Office of the State Law Enforcement Division in Columbia, no public progress has been made in the investigation since March.

It was at a March 21 meeting of the Anderson County Council that then Chief Deputy Tim Busha, of the ACSO, told Council about the investigation. According to Busha, that investigation into the stalking of Preston, as well as the occurrences of harassing letters and telephone calls to Preston and his family, had been underway since November of 2005.

The revelation of the investigation came less than two weeks after an incident at Cater’s Lake in Anderson. At that time, Anderson City Police responded to a complaint of noise at the lake and found, among others, Preston and an unnamed female, who was later identified as an employee of the County , together.

Witnesses who were verified by police radio logs to have been present at the time of the incident, later stated on a local morning talk radio show that they had witnessed Preston and the woman involved in intimate behavior. There were no official incident reports filed as a result of the response to the lake by Anderson police.

Appearing on the Rick Driver Show on WAIM-AM radio soon after the incident, Amanda Felton and her husband said that they saw Preston and the woman engaged in  “something we sure wouldn’t do in the park.”

Interestingly, Felton and her father, Jerry Welch, were both picked up and questioned by SLED agents on the day that Busha and Crenshaw made their appearance before the Council. Both were released later the same day.

Those detentions and interviews are as close as the case has come to seeing arrests made. No further public actions have been taken by SLED, to whom Busha and Crenshaw turned the investigation over. The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office refers all inquiries to SLED, which confirms only that the investigation is ongoing.

In his presentation to the Council, Busha said that Preston had first complained about the harassment and stalking the previous fall.

As Sheriff David Crenshaw stood alongside Busha, the Chief said that the Sheriff’s department had begun an investigation and had gathered a great deal of evidence, including videotapes of suspects and dozens of “vulgar and salacious letters”, which Preston had received.

He added that Preston had been sent to several different locations, in order to draw the stalkers out. He told Council Chairman Larry Greer that Preston’s presence at Cater’s Lake was part of that undercover operation.

The following morning, Busha unexpectedly visited Driver on the air in the studio and was vehement in insisting that he and Crenshaw were telling the truth about the  investigation. 

According to persistent, though unsubstantiated, reports from those close to the situation, that visit, along with revelations that Busha’s driver’s license had repeatedly been suspended for not insuring his personal and family vehicles, was instrumental in Busha leaving the Sheriff’s Department several weeks ago to take a position in the private sector.

Preston, at the March 21 Council meeting, read a two page statement, which likened those writing the letters to terrorists. He became tearful as he spoke of the trauma his family had suffered. He swore to continue to work for the future of Anderson County, and expressed his hope that the explanation offered made it clear why he had been unable to respond to questions about the events at Cater’s Lake.

The incident has become something of a local joke, with references to Cater’s Gate and Al Cater terrorists.

He also referred to a memo he had sent Council in November informing them of the pending investigation and asking them to report any such letters they had received.

Following an FOIA request, The Journal received a memo that was related to several anonymous letters sent to Council members by people who claimed to be current and recently discharged employees of the Central Dispatch unit.

Those letters made charges of sexual harassment and ongoing illicit affairs between several supervisors and their subordinates. The letters also claimed that unqualified personnel were benefiting from relationships with their supervisors, while more qualified workers were being systematically removed.

According to at least two memos from Preston to Council members, the complaints were investigated by the county’s personnel lawyer, Linda Bloodgood.

Seems to Me . . .Firemen and fish frys

By Stan Welch

Twice in recent weeks, I have been asked to attend and photograph check presentations to the Piedmont Fire Commission for various grants. Twice I have gone, because it is my job; and because the first time at least, they included an invitation to a fish fry at the fire house.

Now any Southern boy knows that firemen and fish frying go together like Fords and tow trucks. And any reporter with more than a year’s experience knows the same thing. I happen to be both; it was a no-brainer.

Besides, I like the folks at Piedmont. They are a pretty intelligent bunch and they seem able to tolerate me pretty well, a trait that is beginning to have its own charm as far as I’m concerned. They argue enough to keep the meetings interesting, but it seems most of the time that they leave the strong feelings on the table when they go home. I may be wrong, but their politics just don’t seem as personal and rancorous as they do in some parts of the area I cover.

Marsha Rogers is the chairperson of the Commission, and she is not lacking in direction, shall we say? She sets sail in a pretty straight line, and it’s up to the other fellow, whoever he may be, to generate enough breeze to get her off track. Piedmont calls its government a fire commission, and its political organization is a public service district.  

All of that is familiar to me, because when I was growing up in Charleston, we lived in the West Ashley Public Service District. The city hadn’t started annexing everything in sight back then, and the county government was too small to take care of everybody. So the West Ashley area was organized as one of several public service districts, with a public service commission elected to run the operations.

Guess whose Dad was chairman of that Commission for a couple of terms? That’s right. Pee Wee Welch, my old man. I was fairly young, and not political at all, and I didn’t realize what all that meant at the time. I wish now I’d been a little more involved, because after years of watching various politicians and leaders interact in the art of government, I would love to be able to go back and really observe the old man at it.

I do remember lots of late night phone calls, when sewer lines would break or the lights at the ball fields were left on, or the firemen’s payroll had to be made. Sometimes, one of them would get hurt fighting a fire, and Dad would be off to the emergency room or the fire house. Dad always had a soft spot for the firemen in the district. Where do you think I learned about firemen and fishfrys?

He felt the same about the police officers too, although they weren’t directly under the PSC. In fact, the first time I got stopped for running a red light, just months after getting my driver’s license, the county cop recognized my last name. “Is Mr. Pee Wee your daddy, son? “ he asked me.

“Yes sir, he is,” I answered proudly, thinking I was just about off the hook on that ticket. Good old Dad was saving me without even knowing it. “Well, son, would you rather I beat the #%&@ out of you and save him the trouble, or should I just follow you home, because I’d hate to miss this,” he said, grinning, and handing me the ticket.

He was right, it was quite a show. Neighbors stood out in their yards several houses away watching as Dad explained the responsibilities of a new driver to me. The officer seemed to enjoy himself.

Dad was a straight up guy, who would always tell you what he thought, and not what he thought you wanted to hear. Usually, he would wait until you asked him, but not always. And he could be pretty forceful with folks. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he did understand everyone’s right to be a fool if that was how it worked out. He was a believer in the process. He was also a believer in his ability to conduct the process efficiently and honestly, and maybe just a bit better than the next fellow.

He decided after several years to leave office and put a little more energy into making a living. The family was growing steadily, and college was looming on the horizon.

If the PSC chairman’s job paid anything, it wasn’t much. But for years after leaving office, and having never been defeated in an election, he was sought after for political advice and honest, if not harsh, opinions. He always had both handy. His political advice was always to say what you mean and mean what you say. He figured even folks who disagreed would appreciate knowing where you stood.

He fought annexation by Charleston at every turn, and died without seeing our old neighborhood taken in. In fact, I think it’s still outside the city limits, although it’s been years since I’ve been back.

Pee Wee met and knew lots of important and influential people in his life. He used to make Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, Jr. quit running in the halls of his Daddy’s insurance office when my dad worked there. He knew both of South Carolina’s U.S. Senators, and could call them at a moment’s notice. He knew Mendel Rivers and Mendel Jr. He and Arthur Ravenel argued for hours about politics.

But I remember more than one occasion where people would approach dad at the ball fields or just on the street, and thank him for his help getting their septic tank permit, or their water bill straightened out.

Most of the time, he knew their names, and they certainly knew his. Seems to me that that’s what public service used to be about. In some places, it still is.

 

 

 

 

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