News Archive

(5107) Week of Dec. 19, 2007

$1 million in funding remains unused eight years later
Williamston Council holds last meeting of 2007
Williamston officers investigate incidents
Use of informant not unusual situation
Seems to Me . . .The big question(s)

$1 million in funding remains unused eight years later

By Stan Welch

A recent meeting between town, state and federal officials resulted in a change in focus for West Pelzer’s efforts to address its wastewater problems. At last week’s Town Council meeting, Mayor Peggy Paxton reported that she had met with officials of the Appalachian Region Council and the Rural Development Administration, both funding agencies for the Town’s current proposal.

In fact, according to the Mayor, it was the Town’s extraordinary delay in using the funds they were awarded that brought the officials to town, “We have had this money for eight years now, and quite frankly, they wanted to know when we were going to use it. The impression I got was that they had lots of other places where it could be used.” She added that the Town currently has in excess of $1 million in funds on hand.

The Town’s efforts to upgrade its wastewater treatment facilities have been repeatedly delayed by problems and by indecision about which options for disposal should be used. In recent years, the town has entertained such possibilities as connecting its lagoons to the new treatment plant being built by Western Carolina, joining Pelzer, Williamston and Honea Path in pursuing a common line to the treatment plant in Abbeville, or sending their wastewater to Williamston to be treated. Currently, Williamston is studying a proposal involving land dispersion of the wastewater effluent.

Paxton said that both state and federal officials were very receptive to her position that the town’s severe problems with ingress and infiltration (I&I) have to be solved no matter which option they decide on. Ingress and infiltration is the term for the invasion of storm water into the town’s old and leaky sewer lines. That results in far more water going into the treatment lagoons than DHEC permits. It also results in high costs for the town, since the water, which is not sewerage, is treated anyway. Under the Western Carolina proposal, those costs would cause the town’s sewer rates to skyrocket, perhaps increasing four fold.

“I told them that no matter what we did, we had to get the I&I problem solved or we would be charging our citizens rates they couldn’t possibly afford. They understood that and were very helpful and supportive. So I think we are going to turn our attention to that problem and see what we can accomplish. Certainly, we don’t intend to forget what DHEC has told us in the consent order we are under. But this could solve more than just one problem.”

Councilman Mike Moran, speaking at last Monday’s meeting, went so far as to say that the reduction in the amount of water entering the town’s treatment lagoons might even bring the town back into compliance with DHEC standards. “This could possibly solve our entire problem by making our current system adequate again.”

Williamston Council holds last meeting of 2007

Williamston Town Council was expected to hold second reading on an ordinance setting guideline for charges for use of the facilities at the Williamston Municipal Center and hold a work session with the labor attorney to work on policy and procedures during their meeting Monday.

The Council also discussed replacement pumps for the town’s waste water treatment plant, and projects to be funded from recently obtained C-Funds.

The Anderson County Transportation Committee recently pledged more than $143,000 for the resurfacing of Academy Street in Williamston.

The pledge came after Rusty Burns, accompanied mayor pro tem Otis Scott to speak in support of the request.

A contract for a land purchase for property associated with the land application treatment the town is considering was to be discussed in executive session. Complete details of the meeting will be in the Dec. 26 issue.

Williamston officers investigate incidents

The first two weeks of December were busy for Williamston Police officers as they investigated a shoplifting incident in which the shoplifter left on a bicycle, theft of copper from the railroad and other incidents. Among incidents investigated were the following:

Dec. 1 – D.E. Whaley and Sgt. A. Digirolamo Jr. were dispatched to 103 W. First St. where they found two dogs in a small pen. The pen was filled with feces. No fresh water was available. The owner, David Ausburn, was not present, so the dogs were seized by the Williamston animal control unit. The officers discovered that Ausburn had moved to 4 Prince Street where he was located and arrested for cruelty to animals the next day.

Dec. 2 – Ptl. J.  Digirolamo conducted a traffic stop and found that the passenger in the vehicle, Chon Paul Maness, WM, 32, 5’10", 160 pounds, brn/brn was wanted on a bench warrant issued by Anderson County. Maness was taken into custody.

Dec.4 – Cpl. D.W. Bryant stopped a vehicle for speeding and found that the driver, Michael Hendrix, WM, 34, 6’, 175 pounds, brn/brn, was driving under suspension. He was arrested and booked at the WPD.

Dec. 5 – D.E. Whaley and Sgt. Digirolamo responded to the railroad crossing at Williams St. where Steven  Hawkins, owner of the Greenville& Western Railroad company, reported that two copper wires that control the crossing circuit at that station had been cut and the crossing circuit was inoperable as a result. Damage was estimated at $150.

Dec. 5 – Sgt. M.D. Creamer responded to an anonymous telephone report that someone was speeding near Greenville Dr. and Main St. The vehicle was described by the caller as a white Dodge Intrepid, which Sgt. Creamer located in the parking lot at Mitchell’s Laundry. He approached the vehicle and found Chad Bunyon McClain, WM, 34, 5’3", 185 pounds, brn/brn, in the car. Creamer reports that his eyes were glazed and his speech slurred. He was arrested for public disorderly conduct.

Dec. 7 – Cpl. D.W. Bryant located and arrested Thomas Leo Price, BM, 37, 5’4", 135 pounds, black/brn for shoplifting from the AnMed Pharmacy at 310 Main St. Price was seen to take several items and flee the store, escaping on a bicycle. He was later identified by witnesses and booked at the WPD. He was also placed on trespass notice at the pharmacy.

Dec. 8 – Ptl. M.W. Ritter observed a red pickup truck traveling southwest on Greenville Dr. The truck almost hit another vehicle and Ritter turned around to follow it. The vehicle crossed the center line several times and Ritter conducted a traffic stop. A strong odor of alcohol came from the truck. The driver, Patricia Love Weathers, WF, 41, 5’9", 156 pounds, blond/blue, of 1068 Dean Springs Rd., Belton, could not provide the necessary documents and failed several field sobriety tests. She was arrested for DUI. The passenger, Ray Bunyon McClain, WM, 57, 6’, 200 pounds, of the same address, was also  found to be intoxicated and was arrested as well.

Dec. 9 – Ptl. M.W. Ritter was on patrol when he observed a white pickup truck driving left of center without headlights, even though it was after dark. The vehicle stopped at a local tavern and Ritter approached the driver and asked to see his license. The driver, Harry Danton Ruber, WM, 54, 5’9, 145 pounds, of Pelzer, told him that his license was suspended. He was arrested for DUS 3rd offense.

Dec. 10 – Sgt. M.D. Creamer observed a vehicle make a turn without the proper signal. He conducted a traffic stop and found that the driver, Natasha Bowers, WF, 22, 5’2", 118 pounds, blond/blue had a suspended license. She was also unable to provide proof of insurance. She was arrested and transported to the WPD.

Dec. 10 – Sgt. M.D. Creamer met with Kerry King who reported that someone had thrown eggs at his son’s car while his son was traveling with a Palmetto High School athletic team. The eggs had damaged the paint on the vehicle. Damage was estimated at $500.

Dec. 10 – Sgt. M.D. Creamer and Ptl. J. Digirolamo stopped a vehicle traveling on Greenville Dr. with one headlight out. The driver, Constance Moreno-Ortega, BF, 5’6", 135 pounds, of 120 Dwayne Rd. in Belton, was found to have a suspended license. She was placed under arrest and began to resist both officers, striking Sgt. Creamer in the face. She was taken to the ground and handcuffed with the help of Ptl. Digirolamo and State Trooper Cpl. Carter. While being placed in the police car she began to try and kick the window out and was pepper sprayed. She was finally transported to the jail, where she was decontaminated for the pepper spray and charged with assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, improper headlights, presenting a suspended driver’s license, and driving under suspension.

Use of informant not unusual situation

By Stan Welch

 The use of a former Chief Deputy’s daughter as a confidential informant has no political implications, according to current Anderson County Chief Deputy Creed Hashe.

“I understand that some people would have questions about it, but she was offered a chance to do this, just like anyone else in her position would be,” said Hashe, when questioned by The Journal earlier this week about the arrangement.

The Journal became aware of the situation when a reporter for the newspaper was contacted by other law enforcement officials with the information.

That arrangement came about when the 19 year-old was arrested on November 7 for underage drinking at a local club. According to the incident report of her arrest was in possession of an alcoholic beverage. The bartender at the club was also ticketed for selling alcohol to someone underage. Her companion was seventeen.

The woman was offered and accepted the chance to work with the Alcohol Enforcement Team, AET, which sends underage customers into area stores and bars to try and illegally purchase alcohol.

According to Hashe, she has taken part in three of the eight AET operations conducted since her arrest. “She has been in eleven different locations. During these operations, a total of 119 locations have been visited, and 32 charges have been filed as a result. She has made purchases resulting in six charges being filed.”

Hashe stressed that she is not being paid or working off the criminal charge against her. “She will receive a recommendation from the Sheriff’s Office that she be accepted into the pre-trial intervention program if she meets the other requirements for entering that program. That is all she will get as far as the Sheriff’s office is concerned.”

“She is one of nine confidential informants working with us. The others were offered the same opportunity as she was. It’s really only fair that she be given the same opportunity. Actually, she’s exactly what we’re looking for. She looks older than she is and she is an attractive young woman.”

Hashe did not reveal how long the woman would work as an informant.

The Former Chief Deputy resigned after reports were published that he had been driving under a suspended license for several months. He now works for a bail/bond and investigative company.

Seems to Me . . .The big question(s)

By Stan Welch

Well, the brouhaha has begun over the County’s credit card records, or lack of records. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson and Council Chairman Bob Waldrep, frustrated with the refusal of county officials to provide answers to their questions about the County’s finances, made a visit last week to the County finance offices.

Wilson has also spent the last several weeks poring over credit card charges made by the County, and she decided to share that information with the media. Well, according to the well oiled Preston propaganda machine, no greater treachery has ever occurred since the Rosenbergs sold America’s nuclear secrets to the Commies.

Preston’s plaintive complaint that he would be only too happy to provide Wilson with specific information if she asked for it is beyond laughable. It is a flat out lie. As someone who has sat in those hard wooden chairs for hours upon hours, watching the County Council function, or malfunction, there have been times when I literally dreaded the next round of questions by Ms. Wilson. But they always come, and they are always specific, and they almost always go unanswered. Time after time she asks for answers and is often not even acknowledged, much less answered.

If Mr. Preston had any intention of providing her within formation, he has had countless opportunities to do so. In fact, I have often wondered why, if he has the means to silence his loudest and most persistent critic, and to do so publicly, what in the world would stop him? Nothing. That’s what. Boy, if is a big word.

The fact that the issue of access to public information in Anderson County is now before the state Supreme Court makes it clear that Preston places himself above elected officials.

His statements in this most recent round of squabbling add to the evidence. “This is politics”, he says of Wilson’s actions, as if he is offended. Mr. Preston, organizing and soliciting campaign contributions for any and all willing to run against Wilson is politics as well, and to most people, highly inappropriate. But it hasn’t stopped you. Good to know someone on the Ethics Committee, I bet.

But since you are so willing to answer specific questions, a few occur to me. Or maybe Mr. McAbee, who says Wilson’s actions hurt economic development efforts, can answer a couple of them. He denied publicly that he has ever traveled on behalf of the county and its economic development efforts. I wonder if there is a mileage limit on that statement?

For example, earlier this year, I got word that an economic development meeting was to be held at the Belton Town Hall. I got a tip about it, since no official notice was provided to the media. State and local officials had been invited.

Some officials had been summoned by McAbee’s campaign manager and personal assistant. Some of those invited said that assistant represented herself to them as being Belton Mayor Rufus Callaham’s assistant, a position she has never held, according to the mayor.

At any rate, I attended the meeting and found Mr. McAbee in a conference room spreading out a large map which included the railway lines that run through Belton. To say he was surprised to see me would be an understatement. In fact, his assistant asked me to leave, explaining that the meeting was not official but in fact, private.

Now, one County Councilman was present, as well as a state representative, and the mayor and administrator of Belton. While not an official meeting under the provisions of the South Carolina Freedom of Act, the meeting clearly was more than just a private gathering. Still, lacking legal status to challenge the request that I leave, I complied.

Late last year, Steven Hawkins purchased the approximate 13 miles of rail lines and began to operate along them. One of the things he has done is park a number of tank cars along the stretch of line between Belton and Honea Path. Several months ago, one of those cars began to leak, and the fire department was summoned. Firefighters who were on the scene have told me that McAbee got there within minutes of their arrival and made such a nuisance of himself by trying to tell them nothing was wrong and he would handle it that he was finally told to leave the scene.

Sorry it took so long to get to this question, folks. But here it is.

Mr. McAbee, exactly what is your business relationship with the Greenville & Western Railway Company, LLC. Did you use your position as an elected county official to achieve a business relationship with G&WRR, or any other concern doing business with Anderson County? And did your representative in fact misrepresent her position as assistant to Mayor Callaham?

You properly abstained from votes earlier this year which affected that railroad, saying that your company leased the railroad some trailers. But you neglected to make any mention of what is apparently a more involved relationship. Perhaps you could do so now?

The policy of offering less than full disclosure while attacking those seeking the information is an old tactic, and a time honored one in Anderson County. Mr. Preston has perfected it. Seems to me Mr. McAbee has a few things still to learn.









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