News Archive

(4805) Week of Nov. 30, 2005

Local businesses find staying open not easy
Christmas parades, holiday events usher in the season
West Pelzer parade to include Pelzer
Court hearings open to public

Review of ledger reports cited as reason for delays
Wilson speaks out on recent Preston deposition
Anderson District One rated excellent on State Report Card
Greenville County teachers nationally certified

Crossroads Family Practice opens in Powdersville
Survey shows officials not conducting business openly

Piedmont park to get swings, shelter
Wren sewer transfer could bring grocery store to area
PERC to offer flu shots
Piedmont deaths being investigated
Piedmont resident charged in Conestee murder
Meth lab busted
Deputies investigate thefts, missing person

Local businesses find staying open not easy

The business climate locally has been especially harsh on new businesses and some old businesses during recent years, resulting in fewer shopping and service choices for area residents.

As many as 36 or more businesses have come and gone in the Williamston area in the last five years, with the closing of the Winn Dixie grocery store being the most recent and most noticeable.

The announcement that Regions Bank will be closing their Williamston branch later this year continues a trend.

Some local businesses which have been in Williamston for many years have closed or sold out due to the owner retiring or for other reasons. Others have left, reopening in other locations. Several have been replaced by new businesses.

During recent years, for one reason or another, the following changes have taken place: 

Three furniture stores have closed including Badcock Furniture, G. F. Tolly & Son Furniture and a store that operated in the Tolly location for about one year, The Furniture Store. There have been no new furniture stores open locally to serve the needs of the area.

A number of restaurants have come and gone including Petree’s, Partners, Scoops, K’s Cafeteria, Pizza Construction, Roddy’s (Pelzer), Walkin’ Da Dawg, Spinx-House of Pizza, Sandy’s Springwater Cafe,  The Bake Shop, and Five Oaks Lounge.

Convenience stores and other retail stores  have closed including Super 10, Little General (Hwy. 20), Celebration’s, Spewell’s Golf Center, Pro Weave, The Gift Shop, The Wedding Chapel, The Crack Pot, Williamston Ceramics, Maverick Music,  The Depot, The Fabric Center,  Modern Hardware, M&S Outdoors/Carolina Fishing, True Value Closeout Store, Lindley’s Trading Post, and Gayle’s Consignment.

Several businesses have closed for other reasons including Marie’s Beauty Salon, Brady’s Barber Shop (sold to another owner), Ann’s Styling, Knot’s Landing, and Lyn’s Floral, Special Touch and Bobbie’s Kiddie Korner.

Professional services and lenders that were located in the area include Arflin Insurance, Blue Ridge Computer, Albright & Associates, Kentucky Finance, Sunset Mortgage, Mortgage Connection, Blake Holliday Insurance, and Duke Power payment center.

Other services that are no longer in the area include Teal Photography (relocated to Piedmont), Trevares Printing, and Nick’s Car Wash (replaced with Williamston Lube).

The most recent store to close was Cole’s Family Healthcare, which has been a Main Street store front for many years. Others include a wedding supply store, game room and hair salon located on East Main St. next to PC’s On Main.

PC’s On Main, Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy’s restaurant, opened last year and has been closed since June of 2005.  Clardy recently told The Journal he intends to reopen and expand into the building next door.

A small retail type strip center located on Hamilton St. at the town limits was to house several new businesses. Constructed with the promise of sewer and water services from the town, it has remained vacant for a number of years because the town’s former and present leaders have not solved the problem.

Not all is bad news though, several replacement businesses have opened and appear to be doing well.

Businesses that have opened include Fiesta Mexican Restaurant, The Water Wheel, China One, Curves, I Don’t Know, The Bargain Corner Store, Freds, EnMark (new upgrade), Our Place (new owner), and Gus’s Mustang Grille. More recently Domino’s Pizza, a new spa, Ragsdales Home and Garden, and a skate board store have opened in Williamston. Survivors Gym relocated from Hwy. 29 to Town Square Center in Williamston.

Spinx recently announced they plan to open a new gas station with a convenience store and restaurant at the corner of Hamilton St. and Greenville Dr. in Williamston.

Pelzer and West Pelzer have seen several new businesses open including a Mexican restaurant at the old Roddy’s location, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Aaron’s. Two other stores in the Tri-City Plaza, Family Dollar and The Blue Jean place, continue to operate.  Advance Auto relocated from the center to a stand alone location beside KFC.

The Bargain Grocery store that was located in the center relocated to a new building across the river in south Greenville County and appears to be doing well.

The relocations have left large commercial buildings empty in Pelzer and Williamston. 

A shopping center located on Beaverdam Road remains empty after many years, leaving plenty of retail opportunity for the stores with the right product mix.

Several longtime business owners say they are struggling but that they plan to continue to serve the area.

Town officials and business leaders are awaiting word on a SCDOT transportation enhancement grant which will help fund a project to improve Williamston’s downtown and Main Street area.

Members of The Greater Williamston Business Association are hoping the grant will be the start of a revitalization effort for the town.

Statistically, advisors say the first year of business is the toughest for startups to survive.

Christmas parades, holiday events usher in the season

If you are looking for special holiday events that bring back memories of an old fashioned Christmas, look no further than Piedmont, Pelzer, West Pelzer and Williamston. All three area towns are gearing up for the holidays with Christmas parades and other special events to enlighten this holiday season.

One of the first special events is a Holiday Fair hosted by the Town of Pelzer on Friday, December 2 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Pelzer Gym. There will be vendors offering a variety of Chistmas items, door prizes, and refreshments. Anyone planning to attend can bring a non-perishable food item to benefit a local food pantry. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Pelzer Youth Recreation. For more information, contact Pelzer Mayor Kenneth Davis at 947-1485 or Heather Holcombe at 947-2814.

Saturday, Dec. 3, at 3 p.m., the Town of West Pelzer will hold their Fourth Annual Christmas Parade which will be extended this year to include Pelzer.

There is no fee for entries in the parade, which West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton said she expects to be the town’s largest yet. 

The parade will begin at the West Pelzer Fire Department and end at Courtney St. in Pelzer. Call West Pelzer Town Hall at 947-6297 for information and to sign up entries in advance. Trophies will be awarded in 10 different categories.

The annual Piedmont Christmas Parade, presented by the Bonnes Amies Club, will honor area veterans on Saturday, December 10 at 11 a.m..  It will have the theme “Christmas Treasures.”

All area veterans are invited to ride in the parade and will be honored by a luncheon at the First Baptist Church Social Hall.  

Veterans should plan to meet at 10:00 a.m. in the parking lot of SunTrust Bank in Piedmont. For additional information call Betty White at 845-5543.

Winter Fest will be held in downtown Piedmont on December 10, following the Christmas Parade. Holiday related activities will be held from 11a.m. till 4 p.m. in the Piedmont Community Building.

Included will be photos with Santa from 2 to 4 p.m. and holiday music provided by the Wren Elementary chorus and Sue Cleveland Elementary chorus. The Woodmont High School Dance team will also perform.

Crafters from across the upstate will offer items such as handmade jewelry, baked goodies, personalized poetry, hand painted wood crafts, paintings, crocheted items, and much more.  Winter Fest is sponsored by Pride In Piedmont.

Also on December 10, the Town of Williamston will host their annual Christmas parade at 3 p.m.

 The theme will be “Keep Christ in Christmas.” There is no fee to enter, “Just bring plenty of candy,” organizer Walt Smith said. The parade will start at the traffic light at Hamilton St. and Greenville Drive and will end at Calvary Baptist Church. For more information or to sign up, call 847-7473.

“Deck the Halls” at the Williamston Municipal Center will feature themed decorated Christmas trees. The event is part of a holiday Open House held at the Municipal Center during the month of December and can be seen during regular business hours.

The Town of Williamston will also host the Christmas Park during December.  Santa will be in the scout hut in Mineral Spring Park from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly through December 23. Photos with Santa will be offered by Laurie Phillips of Belton.

Organizer Bennie Hyder said she is planning to schedule live holiday entertainment in the park during the month of December and will welcome any church, school or other group to perform their Christmas play or musical.

Area schools and churches are invited to join the festivities by having their choir or choral group perform this holiday season at the Christmas Park.

Performances will be presented on the Amphitheatre stage which will be decorated for Christmas. The events are being organized this year under the theme “Keep Christmas Alive,” Hyder said.

For more information on any of the Williamston events call Hyder at the Williamston Municipal Center at (864) 847-7473.

West Pelzer parade to include Pelzer

The Town of West Pelzer will hold their Fourth Annual Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 3, at 3 p.m. This year the parade will begin in West Pelzer at the West Pelzer Fire Department and continue through Pelzer ending at Courtney St., organizers said.

There is no fee for entries in the parade, which West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton said she hopes will be the town’s largest yet. Entries should gather at the West Pelzer Fire Department for lineup prior to the parade. Trophies will be awarded for first place in 10 different categories.  Call West Pelzer Town Hall at 947-6297 for information.

Court hearings open to public

By Stan Welch

 Anderson County Chief Magistrate Nancy Devine has confirmed that it is the policy of the court system to hold open hearings, despite the barring of a reporter from The Journal from a hearing involving Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy several weeks ago.

The hearing, held in summary court to determine the facts of a complaint brought by Joey Griffin Jr. against the mayor, should have been open to both the press and the public. Instead, a reporter for The Journal was denied entry after a court officer asked Judge Jim Busby whether the reporter could enter. The mayor, according to Griffin, objected to the reporter’s presence and entry was denied.

Judge Devine conceded that the ruling was in error, adding that the summary court rooms are unusually small, and the judge had no notice of the reporter’s attendance. “If he had known you wanted to be there, he could have made accommodations,” said Devine in a telephone conversation several days after the hearing.  “Nevertheless, that doesn’t change our policy, which is that trials and hearings are open, as prescribed by law.”

The hearing came as a result of a civil complaint by Griffin about what he claimed was a loan of approximately $4300 to the mayor to be used in efforts to keep the mayor’s restaurant open. Griffin claimed the money was loaned to the mayor; Mayor Clardy claimed it was a gift from Griffin, who was working for the town as a reserve police officer at the time.

Judge Busby ruled in Griffin’s favor and ordered Clardy to repay the money within the next year. 

Review of ledger reports cited as reason for delay County Administrator says

By Stan Welch

For years, District Seven County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson has argued that the County’s weekly general ledger reports are withheld from her as the result of a purposeful act by County Administrator Joey Preston.

Preston recently confirmed Wilson’s charges under oath. In a deposition taken last month, Preston conceded that the GLR 110 reports are sent to him for review before being released to Wilson. Wilson has long claimed that her efforts to obtain the reports, which even Preston concedes under oath are public record, have been deliberately thwarted by Preston.

It is that inability to obtain public records that led Wilson to file the writ of mandamus suit earlier this year. Wilson, prior to her election in 2001, was involved in an adversarial legal action against the county. That action was intended to challenge and stop the construction of the Beaverdam Sewer Project, which impacted land belonging to several members of Wilson’s family, as well as a number of other property owners. Wilson ran for the County Council as a direct result of the events surrounding the Beaverdam project.

Upon election, Wilson sought access to the legal vendor files, or records of the fees paid by the county to various law firms, including the one representing the county in the Beaverdam matter. Preston claimed that providing such information, especially the narratives describing strategies and so forth would breach the attorney/client privilege. Wilson eventually conceded the point and agreed not to seek that specific information.

She did however continue to ask for the other legal vendor files, repeatedly stating her opinion that the County should hire its own in house attorney and retain other law firms only when their specific services were needed. Preston, with the support of the majority of Council, continued to refuse access, claiming that the attorney/client privilege justified his actions.

Wilson has also repeatedly sought access to the routine financial records of the County, such as the GLR110 reports, which record the county’s weekly expenditures, as well as the GLR153 reports, which reflect the broader picture of the county’s overall financial activities. Preston denied those reports as well, leading Wilson to add them to the writ of mandamus suit filed late last year.

It was during the long delayed deposition in preparation for that suit that Preston conceded that he has knowingly delayed Wilson’s access to the reports. Said Preston, when asked if there was any inherent problem within the County’s system that would delay Wilson’s access, “Ms. Wilson has been adversary  to the county since she was elected. And when we produce these reports and hand them over to her, she will and continues to use anything in there that may be to – to use it to hurt the county in some way. And what we – what I like to do is review them with my staff occasionally and to see if they’re – to try and anticipate what she may try to do to us.”

Preston later testified that he reviewed the GLR110s “as quick as I can and I present them to her.” When asked if it was solely up to him as to when information would be released, Preston referred to an ordinance passed by county council which outlines his duties and responsibilities.

When asked if he drew up that ordinance, Preston denied that, saying that the county attorney had done so. “The guy you hired?” asked Wilson’s attorney, Jay Bender.  “Yes, sir,” said Preston.

 In a separate deposition taken in preparation for the same writ of mandamus hearing, County Finance Director Rita Davis stated that no other member of the current County Council, except for Wilson, had ever asked for the GLR110 or 153 reports. In fact, according to Davis, even Preston didn’t begin reviewing the reports until Wilson began asking for them.

 Davis’s testimony also shed some light on the County’s Freedom of Information policy. According to her, Council members would have to go through Preston to obtain information, unless they made the request under the FOIA, in which case they would have to be charged. The SC Freedom of Information act allows for reasonable charges to be made, but they are not required. The charging of an elected official for such information would be unusual, though Wilson has at times been charged substantial amounts to receive information.

Davis also testified that the finance department has provided Wilson with thousands of pages of information over the years, and that Wilson’s requests can be burdensome for her department to comply with. She did, however, concede that the GLR110 reports can be produced simply and efficiently, and are normally generated on Tuesdays.

The writ of mandamus hearing is expected to proceed relatively quickly now that depositions have been achieved.

Wilson speaks out on recent Preston deposition

By Stan Welch

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was asked recently to respond to statements made by county administrator Joey Preston in his recent deposition given in preparation for a writ of mandamus hearing (See related story elsewhere in this issue).

One of the statements, remarkable for its content, drew a particularly strong response from Wilson, who shares a long history of prickly relations with Preston. Preston stated that “Wilson has been adversary to the county since she was elected.”

Asked to respond to that charge, Wilson did so at length. “Is it adversarial to perform the duties of your office, according to state code? If it’s adversarial to be the only council member on this Council to ask to see the weekly general ledger reports, then I guess that’s what I am.”

Wilson defended her persistence in seeking information about the County’s regular operations. “If the Council had been looking into these things all along, the recent acquisitions of two tracts of land at a cost of well over a million dollars wouldn’t have come as such a surprise. There was no vote to buy those properties, or to name the park after Dolly Copper. Those are decisions Mr. Preston took on himself, and I believe he did so improperly. So he considers me adversary.”

Preston stated in his deposition, and Wilson confirmed it, that an actual resolution was passed by County Council which stated that Wilson is adversarial to the County. The Journal has so far been unable to locate that document, but has filed an FOIA request with the Clerk to County Council.

Wilson added that the money spent on those properties represents two mills in taxes, and would have gone a long way towards helping Sheriff Crenshaw obtain his budget requests. Crenshaw had sought a six mill increase to fund his department for this year; he received three in a budget compromise. A mill was valued at approximately $513,000 under this year’s budget figures.

Preston also stated that, aside from Wilson, no other Council members have ever questioned the County’s expenditures on legal, engineering or consultant services. He also conceded that he does delay providing Wilson with the types of records that are at the heart of the current legal dispute “So that we can be prepared for what she’s going to throw at us next.”

Wilson responded in turn by saying that the council should take a greater interest. “Since we have no audit, and the council refuses to ask any real questions about the County’s finances, Mr. Preston can rely on his staff’s figures being accepted. It is tragic to watch old folks in this county being taxed out of their homes. It’s time in this country to start at the bottom of government and go right up the ladder to bring common sense and honesty back to government finance. If our citizens have to exercise financial restraint and common sense in their own homes, they certainly have a right to expect it of us.”

She also questioned Preston’s focus on opposing her efforts. “ Instead of ridiculing and demagoging elected officials who ask proper questions, he should be concentrating on doing his job instead of protecting it.”

She again chided the other council members for their willingness to accept Preston’s answers without question. “When the day finally comes that we ask for and get a complete forensic audit, they’ll wish they had asked these questions all along. They consider it a negative, but to me, you ask questions, get situations straightened out, and then you have made a positive.”

Anderson District One rated excellent on State Report Card

Anderson School District One was one of three districts in the state to receive both an excellent absolute rating and an excellent improvement rating on state report cards issued recently.

District One has maintained an excellent report card rating for the past four consecutive years during a time of increasingly rigorous state and federal mandates.

“We were very pleased with our report card rating,” Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said. “This excellent rating was achieved at a time when the  Education Oversight Committee has raised the criteria for excellence and added PACT science and social studies. We monitor our progress and realize there are challenges ahead. We continue to set higher expectations and raise the bar for our students and they continue to perform.  The level of commitment by the administrators, teachers, students and parents to academic growth should be celebrated,” he said.

“The teamwork displayed at all levels within the district has provided the foundation for excellence.”

“Any success evidenced through the score comes from a joint effort between the district and schools working together. Professional development offers opportunities for teachers to learn new strategies to keep students engaged in learning,” said Jane Harrison, Director of Elementary Education. “Given that PACT provides no diagnostic feedback, Edutest, a computer based assessment is utilized to provide each school with valuable feedback to better assist teachers in making instructional decisions for the students. We continue to monitor our progress and realize there are challenges ahead as the criteria continues to rise one-tenth each year until 2014. Anderson District One is committed to meet the challenges ahead.”

“In addition to the great work being done by the teachers in the classrooms, it must be noted that the building-level administrators are the instructional leaders of our schools.  The days of principals and assistants being thought of as managers in their settings are gone.  Our district and school report cards readily reflect the dedication to curriculum and instructional issues demonstrated by our schools’ administrative teams,” added John Pruitt, Director of Secondary Education.

“Obviously for a school district to maintain a report card rating of excellent for four years in a row, school faculty and parents must dedicate themselves to instructional improvement year in and year out. Anderson One’s ability to retain and recruit highly qualified teachers is a critical factor in the district’s success. Anderson District One’s teachers want to make a difference each day by providing meaningful experiences and activities that challenge our students to meet their academic goals,” states David Havird, Associate Superintendent.

The report card gives only a snapshot of the district and each individual school. Ratings are based on PACT scores for grades 3-8. High school ratings are based on HSAP scores, graduation rates and the percentage of students qualifying for LIFE scholarships.

Greenville County teachers nationally certified

Forty-nine teachers in Greenville County Schools have been notified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that they earned National Board Certification, one of the profession’s most respected achievements. With the addition of the new recipients, Greenville County now boasts 322 National Board Certified teachers, more than 33 states.

“It’s exciting to see increasing numbers of Greenville County teachers setting these high professional and personal standards,” said District Superintendent Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher. “The National Board Certification process allows teachers to evaluate and improve their teaching abilities, resulting in enhanced teaching and learning in our classrooms.”

Teachers seeking National Board Certification undertake a two-part process that takes from one to three years to complete. The process requires candidates to reflect on their classroom practices, their understanding of subject material and their preparation techniques. In addition to preparing a portfolio with videotapes of classroom teaching, lesson plans, student work samples and reflective essays, teachers must complete assessment center exercises based on content knowledge that proves they have mastered the subjects they teach and must also know how to teach them.

Successful NBC candidates in South Carolina receive a $7,500 pay increase for every year up to 10 years that they teach after receiving National Board Certification.

Crossroads Family Practice opens in Powdersville

Dr. William M. Scott, MD is now accepting new patients at Crossroads Family Practice located at Hwy. 153 in Powdersville.

The specialty practice provides medical and health care to all ages. Dr. Scott is trained in all aspects of adult and pediatric medicine. They focus on the prevention, diagnoses and treatment of illness.

Other services offered at the facility include EKG, Holter heart monitor, colon screening, joint injections, minor surgery, cryotherapy, treatment of skin lacerations, immunizations/flu shots, aerosol treatments for bronchospasm and ear wax removal.

“We consider ourselves primary care providers,” Dr. Scott said.

 The goal at Crossroads Family Practice is to serve patients in a caring and professional manner while in a comfortable and efficient setting.

The building is specifically designed for a comprehensive medical practice. “We felt it suited our needs ideally,” Dr. Scott said.

The practice features an  electronic medical record system, ensuring health information is readily accessible. The system also tracks necessary healthcare screenings based on a personal profile.

Prescriptions can be electronically transmitted to a pharmacy.

The facililty has an on site laboratory which can perform most all tests. More complex tests can be performed with a 24-hour turnaround. Lab results are automatically transmitted into personal electronic medical records.

Patients who need to be seen urgently without an appointment are encouraged to call the office for a  walk-in time.

Phone calls about medical problems are accepted during regular office hours. 

Insurance is accepted however they do require payment of deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays at the time of service. 

Staff members include nurse practitioner Merrylee Mulinax, RN Katherine Scott, CMA Susan Winter, CMA Pam Summey and officer manager Beverly Merry.

Dr. Scott is well known in the Easley area, where he practiced for 25 years before opening his own family practice in Powdersville. “It was a great opportunity to come into a growing area,” Dr. Scott said.

He performed his family practice residency at the Greenville Hospital System from 1977 to 1980. He is a 1977 graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston and a graduate of The Citadel, with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, 1969.

He is board certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Family Practice.

He will be joined by Dr. Daniel Lee, who will operate a satellite orthopedics office at the facility.

Dr. Scott is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day by calling the switchboard at Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Easley at 864-552-7200.

Crossroads Family Practice sees patients by appointment and walk-in. The office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a. m to 5 p. m. and Wednesdays from 3 p. m to 5 p. m.

The office is open extended hours Monday - Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a. m. to 2 p. m. for appointments and urgent care visits.

Crossroads Family Practice is located on Hwy. 153, Powdersville. For more information call 295-1294.

Piedmont park to get swings, shelter

The Tom C. Pack memorial ballfield in Piedmont will be getting new equipment including a new two bay swing set, a picnic shelter and a storage container. The improvements totaling $16,834, were approved by the Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners during their regular meeting Monday, November 21. The improvements for are being funded by a $17,000 PART grant the District was awarded.

After some discussion on whether they needed a 20 ft. storage unit or a 40 ft. unit, Commissioners decided to purchase a 20 ft. container to be used for storage from Mobile Storage Group, Hwy. 184, Piedmont, for $1,800. They also decided to purchase a two bay swing set from Cunningham Associates, Charlotte, N. C. for $7,734.95. The set will include a totler and a handicapped swing and two regular swings. Construction of a16x32 picnic shelter with shingles was awarded to PeeWee Williams for $7,300.

The projects were unanimously approved  with Commissioners Rudy Rhodes, Frankie Garrett, Fred Glenn and chairman Marsha Rogers present.

The monthly call report for October showed the Fire Department responded to 9 structure fires, 3 grass fires, 1 vehicle fire, 9 vehicle accidents, 39 medical calls, 2 electrical, 12 mutual aid, 5 sewer calls and 1 service call for a total of 70 calls.

Commissioner Glenn asked for the report to begin showing the number of medical calls that come through the EMS system compared to local calls. Most of the calls are from EMS district secretary Craig Lawless said. There was some discussion about purchasing gas at a location with lower prices.

The Board then went into executive session to discuss a personnel matter. The Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners will not meet in December.

Wren sewer transfer could bring grocery store to area

The transfer of a sewer system serving Wren area schools to Anderson County may allow developers to bring a new grocery store to the area sometime in the future.

At the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler, Anderson School District One Board of Trustees unanimously approved the transfer of the system to the county during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday.

The 9-year-old sewer system owned and operated by Anderson School District One includes two pump stations and collection lines located along Hwy. 17 in the Wren area.

The lines connect with the Western Carolina Sewer System for treatment.

The system serves Wren Elementary and Wren Middle schools, according to Dr. Fowler, who has been in negotiations on the project with the developer and  Anderson County for about a year.

Fowler said the system was constructed to serve the two rural schools because there wasn’t a system in place at the time, a problem the area still faces. “We didn’t have a suitable sewer system for the population,” he said.

Dr. Fowler said he was approached by a developer interested in building a strip mall or grocery at the corner of Wren School Road and that he had turned down several proposals.

“I told them if they could  come up with a way to get us (the school district) out of the sewer business, I would be interested,” Dr. Fowler said. “They offered to upgrade the pump stations, but I told them no because we would still have the system.”

The deal is contingent upon Anderson County accepting the system.

Fowler said that Vic Carpenter, Director of the County’s Environmental Services Division, said that Anderson County is willing to accept the school’s system into the county system provided it is upgraded to meet their specs.

Carpenter says the ball is in the developer’s court. “ The time frame is up to them to decide. We have no deadline for accepting the pump stations and the lines into the county system. Whenever they bring them up to county standards, we will verify that and accept the transfer. There’s two pump stations and approximately 10,000 feet of line, all of which has been fairly well maintained. I wouldn’t anticipate any problem with this getting done.”

According to Fowler, the developer, Nalley Construction Company of Easley, agreed to pay for necessary upgrades required by the County.

“They will upgrade both pumps and install one of their own,” Fowler said.

The developer offered to pay up to $10,000 to upgrade the Wren Middle pump station. Dr. Fowler said the engineer who designed the original system said the work could be done for less than that.

“I saw this as a win-win situation for the District, the developer and the County,” Fowler told Board members Tuesday.

There was some discussion among board members about right of way or easements necessary for access to the pump stations, which are on School District property.

One pump station is located near the Wren football field and access includes 520 ft. of road to the pump station which is located on a 40x50ft. area. The Wren Middle station has 155 ft. of access and is on a 30x35 ft. area.

Developer Wes Nalley of Nalley Construction Company in Easley, said there are no definite plans for a center and that the development is still in the first stages of consideration but the transfer of the sewer system to the county could allow a project.

“Without the agreement by the school district to transfer the lines, and the County to maintain them, there would have been no development”, said Nally. “We have agreed to upgrade one of the pump stations and to do some maintenance work on another, to bring them to county standards. They will then maintain them from there on out.”

Plans for the 19 acre tract are open ended at this time, says Nally. “We have no signed leases, nothing set at this time. We bought the property to develop it, and we hope that a community shopping center with a major supermarket will be the direction we go in. But for me to say that is going to happen for sure would be a lie right now.”

The property being considerd for development is located at the corner of Hwy. 81 and Wren School Road.

PERC to offer flu shots

The Piedmont Emergency Relief Center (PERC) and New Horizons Family Health Services, Inc. have partnered to make flu and pneumonia shots available December 8, from 1p.m. to 5 p.m. at the PERC office in the Piedmont Community Building, 3 Main Street, Piedmont.

Flu Shots will cost $15 and pneumonia shots $20.  New Horizons accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance.

The local relief organization makes available donated food and other items to persons in the Piedmont area who are in need. PERC recently joined with Angel Food Ministries offering a box of food for $25. Other specials are offered each month. Individuals and local businesses are invited to sponsor a box of food that can be given to a needy family, organizers said.

The Piedmont Emergency Relief Center is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 to noon. Organizers are in the process of develping a board of directors and building a volunteer base.

For more information on programs offered or to volunteer with PERC contact Program Director Jed Daughtry at 906-7351. Information on PERC can also be found their new website at www.piedmonterc.org.

Piedmont deaths being investigated

Greenville County Sheriff’s Department investigators continue trying to piece together the events that led one of their deputies to discover a small child alone in a home with the bodies of a man and woman last week. The two, Claudia and Juan Carlos Martinez, were husband and wife.

Claudia Martinez, 21, was killed by multiple gunshot wounds, while Juan Carlos, 27, was killed  by a single gun shot wound and multiple stab wounds, according to Greenville County Deputy Coroner Mike Ellis. Ellis estimated the time of death for both victims as between 1 and 5 p.m. on Monday. Both deaths have been ruled homicides. The bodies were found in separate rooms within the house. Autopsies were performed.

 A deputy responded to the address at 932 Piedmont Highway after an area day care called to say that two children had not been picked up at the end of the day Monday, November 21. The deputy arrived at the address and saw another small child look out the window.

 The deputy opened the unlocked front door, and saw what appeared to be blood. He retrieved the child, whose name and age have not been released, and left the home, at which time he called for backup. The name and age of the child left at the day care has also been withheld.

 The three children, all 5 years old or younger, were placed in the custody of DSS; although a police spokesman indicated that there is a family member in the area who had expressed interest in taking care of the children.

Piedmont resident charged in Conestee murder

A Piedmont man has been charged with murder in the death of a Conestee man. According to the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, Allan Lee Hawkins, 25, 111 Morningwood Lane, Piedmont, was charged in connection with the death of David Earl Gilbert, 66, 17 Fourt Ave, Conestee.

Authorities went to Gilbert’s residence November 22 after receiving reports of gunfire and found the man with a gun shot wound to his chest.

Meth lab busted

The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office Aggressive Criminal Enforcement Team (ACE) discovered a meth lab operating in West Pelzer and made an arrest Tuesday.

William Anthony Alewine, 33, 113A Whippoorwill Lane, West Pelzer, was arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, trafficking methamphetamine, possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime and simple possession of marijuana.

During a search of the premises, authorities discovered  three “bag” or mobile meth labs along with one lab operating within the home.

According to a press release from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, other related items found include seven flammable containers, four containers of corrosive materials, one container of miscellaneous methamphetamine material, one 55-gallon drum and one 32-gallon drum of waste material from manufacturing methamphetamines.

Alewine is being held at the Anderson County Detention Center.

Deputies investigate thefts, missing person

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated several thefts, a fight in which a student was injured and a missing person report during the previous week. Among incidents investigated:

PELZER

Nov. 15 – Deputy D.W. Davis investigated a complaint from Alicia Christina that she had been threatened at a child care location where she was picking up her stepchildren.

Nov. 16 – J. M. Roberts investigated a complaint of shoplifting at the Bi-Lo supermarket. Store manager Marshall Creamer reported that he had observed Timothy Michael Worley leave the store with 10 steaks and some batteries he had not paid for. Worley, 39, of Pendleton, was in the store office when Roberts arrived. He was taken into custody and transported to ACDC.

Nov. 25 – D. P. Hodges responded to 10 Lopez St., where Terry Solesbee reported that forced entry had been attempted into the house. The peephole in the back door had been pushed out and the door had been damaged, but entry was not made. A latch on an outbuilding at the address had been pried off, but Solesbee was unsure if anything had been taken.

 Nov. 26 – J.L. Bergholm investigated a complaint of malicious damage to property at 23 Lyman St., where Sylvia Upchurch stated that someone had shot out the passenger side window of her car. Damage was estimated at $200.

Nov. 26 -  J. J. Jacobs investigated a complaint at 214 Old River Road, where Michael Hicks reported that someone had shot his house with orange paintballs, damaging the vinyl siding and marking the house. Damage was estimated at $1000.

Nov. 27 – J. J. Jacobs observed a red 1998 GMC pickup with SC tag #881RVR traveling on Cherokee Rd. He stopped the vehicle as part of an investigation into a larceny committed at another location. The driver, Miguel Miranda, was found to be driving under suspension 2nd offense. He was arrested and transported to ACDC.

PIEDMONT

Nov. 14 –  A student at Wren High School was badly beaten by a classmate in an incident that led to the assailant’s arrest and removal from the school. Both students’ names are withheld because they are minors. According to the report filed by G. M. Hayden, school resource officer at Wren High School, the victim received a cut under the right eye, a contusion that closed his left eye, and lost two teeth. The suspect said that the victim had been “running his mouth” about him. He challenged the victim to a fight, and when the victim refused, he punched him, knocking him to the ground, where he punched him several more times. The victim was eventually taken by his mother for medical treatment. The suspect was treated for an injury to his hand and eventually turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice. He was charged with disturbing school and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Nov. 14 – R. J. Murphy investigated a complaint of breaking into a motor vehicle at 107 Assembly Drive. Jon Nowack reported that he had left his truck at the Waffle House at that location to ride to a job site with a client. Upon returning, he found the window broken, and $200 cash, a company check book, and a bottle of prescription medicine missing.

Nov. 16 – G. J. Turner assisted a Greenville County Sheriff’s Deputy when a call for assistance escalated to an “Officer needs help” call. Turner received authorization to go to the aid of Deputy Szymanski, at an apartment complex at 205 Saluda Dr.. Szymanski had one suspect, Kenneth Williams, 43, in custody and was handcuffing another suspect, a black female. Szymanski had been pursuing the suspects vehicle when they went to the apartment and attempted to enter Unit 11. Reports state a bag  of what proved to be marijuana was under the car, where it had been allegedly thrown by the suspects. Williams eventually allowed the apartment to be searched where more marijuana and other materials were found. The two suspects were taken back to Greenville County where they were charged with several drug offenses.

Nov. 16 – T.B. Dugan arrested Kevin Smith, 18, of 15 King St.  after he threatened his grandmother with a knife.

Nov. 25 – P. N. Turner received a report of a missing person from Donald Gilstrap, of 1910 Elrod Rd. He reported that his wife, Frankie Gilstrap was missing. She is a WF, 58, 4’4", 200 pounds, with waist length red hair and brown eyes. She was last seen at Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, but was confused and could not say why she was there. The pastor called Gilstrap and left a message. She is on medication for manic depression and did not have her medicine with her. She had her small white dog with her, and was driving a 2000 KIA Sophia 4 dr. with SC tag # 630-DRV. She was wearing a dark sweat shirt and sweat pants. Anyone with information should call the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department.

Nov. 23 – T. B. Dugan investigated two incidents involving exploding plastic bottles. The first was at 211 Cotton Gin Rd., where Steven Dover reported hearing two sounds like a car backfiring during the early morning. Dover later found three plastic bottles in his yard. Two had exploded, the other had not. It was shot by Dugan with a .22 rifle to release any pressure inside. An hour and a half later, he responded to a call from 115 Madison Ridge Rd., where William Miller reported that his mailbox had been blown off the post and the back of the mailbox blown out by a plastic bottle that exploded.

WILLIAMSTON

Nov. 26 – J. J. Jacobs received a report of burglary from Chad Hopkins, who reported that his mini warehouse unit located at Hwy. 29 Mini-Storage, had been broken into. The padlock had been cut off.

 Nov. 27 – M. D. Creamer responded to 1035 Welcome Road, where Cheryl Wilkerson reported that her home had been broken into. A number of various items, from CDs to a blood pressure kit, as well as a number of tools, were stolen.

Survey shows officials not conducting business openly

A quarter of elected officials in a statewide survey say they’ve broken state law by letting their closed-door session stray beyond what they promised the public they would discuss while out of sight and earshot.

But public officials were agreeable to a solution that may keep them from breaking that promise in the future: signing sworn statements that they don’t stray when the public isn’t there to hold them accountable.

Those are two key findings of an audit of board and council practices by The Associated Press, South Carolina Press Association and newspapers.

Nearly 200 county council and school board members responded to the 13-question survey. The survey is not a poll or a scientific sampling that would suggest what the typical public official would do, but it does reflect how participants say they handle the privilege state law grants them to discuss some of the public’s business in private.

Executive sessions are puzzling enough to citizens trying to observe how their elected officials handle taxpayers’ business.

Last month, Cindy and Doug Myers went to their first Abbeville County Council meeting as they tried to prevent rezoning of property across the street from their home. They found themselves waiting in the hall while the council went into executive session to discuss personnel and economic development issues.

“Anything that needs to be said should be said in public,” Doug Myers said. “They’re discussing public things, things that involve the public. I don’t see why they should have a closed-door session at all.”

In Abbeville, just asking the questions about executive sessions produced blank stares and flat refusals.

Two county council members agreed to take the survey. One did but a reporter was later told to destroy the responses. Given a second chance a couple of weeks later, all the members refused after the county’s lawyer warned them to be careful about their answers.

In Newberry County, 20-year county council veteran Henry Summer said the survey’s questions would force him to compromise discussions shielded from the public. “It’s kind of like saying you’re committing adultery on your wife,” Summer told a reporter. “It’s not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.”

The law, however, is straightforward. It allows executive sessions for very limited purposes, such as discussing why a specific employee lost a job or how to lure an economic development project. The law also says public bodies have to vote in open session on the specific reason they’re going behind closed doors. Any other voting they do has to wait until they return to public view.

No matter. Public bodies routinely usher out taxpayers by merely saying they’re going to discuss “personnel issues” or a “legal matter,” offering no details underlying those broad labels.

State Attorney General Henry McMaster said public bodies must be specific. The public needs “to know the issues that are being handled in executive session,” McMaster said. It’s part of building and keeping citizens’ trust, he said. If officials break that trust, “the public loses all confidence in the public body,” McMaster said.

The public may have reason to be less than confident. Survey results show a quarter of the school board and county council members have participated in an executive session where a topic other than the one specified was discussed.

“Often we move to go into executive session for legal matters but, once in, will take up personnel matters or economic development matters,” said George H. “Smokey” Davis, a Lexington County Council member for nine years.

Sandra Engelman, with two years on the Charleston County School Board, said she’s seen her board stray, too.

“The school board has a tendency to start talking about issues and items not listed on the agenda,” she said. “The board doesn’t get time to discuss such issues during a regular meeting, and they come up during executive sessions.”

“Sometimes it is human nature to get off the subject, but we get back on it,” said Jerry Oakley, who has been on Georgetown County Council for more than two years.

Mike Cone, executive director of the South Carolina Association of Counties, says he doesn’t think officials are deliberately breaking the law. It’s sometimes difficult to keep people on topic, he said.

Paul Krohne, executive director of the South Carolina School Boards Association, said he’s been in executive sessions when the conversation strayed and has seen leaders pull the discussion back on track. It’s never a deliberate attempt to talk about areas outside of the announced reason for an executive session, it’s just the “nature of conversation,” he said.

“The law, doesn’t have an exception for the ‘nature of conversation,’” McMaster said. “Compliance with the law requires some precision and discipline and determination.”

In Georgia, legislators have added another element: accountability. Public officials there must sign affidavits swearing they didn’t break the law in closed-door sessions by taking up undisclosed topics. In South Carolina, more than two-thirds of the surveyed board and council members said they would not object to signing that type of statement.

“I don’t see the need to have them sign an affidavit to that effect,” Cone said. Broad support for the notion probably is “indicative of the fact that they are not abusing executive sessions,” he said.

“I don’t know if that’s a really good way to function as a public body,” Krohne said.

School boards and county councils took starkly different views on another accountability concept: Should audio recordings be made of executive sessions so a judge could later deal with challenges that might arise about what was discussed? Among school board members, 71 percent disagreed with that idea. Among county council members, 54 percent disagreed.

That idea is the “greatest thing I have ever heard,” said Clyde Livingston, a 10-year veteran of Orangeburg County Council.

Cheryl Mushrush, in her third year on the Dorchester District Four school board, disagreed.

“People have a tendency not to express themselves as openly or candidly when they know they’re being taped, even if you tell them only a judge will hear it,” she said.

McMaster maintains that the public meeting room is the place for candor. If officials don’t have enough confidence in their positions to talk about them openly in public, “it’s probably a pretty sorry position,” he said.

Cone says there are concerns about how audio recordings would be secured. “Once you tape, it can easily get into other hands and it has,” he said.

Public bodies don’t keep minutes in closed-door sessions because decisions aren’t made there, Krohne said. He wondered what good a tape would do. It is “almost as if you’re assuming things are going on,” he said.

That’s actually what often happens, according to the survey. Forty percent of the school board members and a third of the council members said they thought their counterparts on other panels made decisions in secret.

“Ultimately, the public has to believe their elected officials aren’t breaking the law in executive session,” McMaster said.

But if they are “determined to retreat to some smoke-filled back room, there’s very little we can do short of voting them out of office to protect ourselves,” the attorney general said.

Cone agrees. “If the public feels they’ve been let down,” he said, “the resolution to that is the ballot box at the next election.”

 

 

 

 

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