Anderson County Year in Review . . .

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By Stan Welch

The following were highlights and headlines in Anderson County during 2013 . . .

JANUARY

Authorities were investigating an incident in which a son doused his mother with a flammable liquid and then set her on fire. Shawn Davis lit his mother Debra Davis, 61, on fire at her home in the Wren community then went to his brothers house in Piedmont where his brother shot him. The mom was taken by Pelzer EMS to Greenville Memorial Hospital suffering from third degree burns and was later transported to the Augusta Burn Unit. Shawn Davis was taken by Greenville EMS to Greenville Memorial hospital and treated for a non-fatal gun shot.

In response to the recent mass shooting and murder of twenty students and teachers at a Connecticut grammar school, several mothers from Anderson appeared before the Council, seeking their support of their efforts to place at least one armed police officer or security guard in every school in the county.

Holly Carithers, whose children attend school in District Five, spoke for the small group, and said that they wanted to start a conversation about overall school security, as well as mandating armed personnel on each campus.

Councilwoman Gracie Floyd suggested that the funds received by the school board from fees-in-lieu-of-taxes be diverted to pay for the costs of additional security, while Councilman Tommy Dunn stated that the county school board was already investigating alternatives, and additional measures.

As is customary, the Council’s first official action was to elect a new chairman and vice chairman. In a shift of leadership, finance committee chairman Francis Crowder was the sole nominee for the chairman’s position, and was elected by a vote of six to one, with Councilwoman Gracie Floyd opposed.

District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was the sole nominee as vice chairman, and was elected by a vote of six to nothing, with Councilwoman Floyd abstaining

Lindsey Howell, age 61, of Mauldin, a co-conspirator of Ron Wilson pled quilty to wire fraud conspiracy in connection with a ponzi scheme Wilson is currently serving time for.

The fifth anniversary of the founding of the White Plains Crime Watch group turned into a testimonial for the group’s founder, Ada Martin. Approximately forty residents, Crime Stopper board members and law enforcement officials attended the celebration. Sheriff John Skipper noted that the White Plains group, which was one of the first formed in the county, remains a model for others to follow.

FEBRUARY

The Anderson County Council approved a lease for the use of land at the airport by Tri-County Tech, as well as approving first reading of an ordinance creating a special tax district in District Five. A zoning

request was also tabled.

A Williamston man was shot and killed Monday night by two Anderson County Sheriff’s deputies who had responded to his home due to reports that he was suicidal. Charles Eugene Porter, II suffered multiple gunshot wounds, after reportedly threatening the deputies with a handgun he was holding.

Approximately forty people, including educators, law enforcement officials, and parents jammed into the offices of the Anderson legislative delegation Monday for a meeting on school safety, hosted by District 8 Rep. Don Bowen.

The meeting was a response to efforts by parents with children in the county’s elementary schools, which are currently unprotected by trained security or law enforcement personnel

Bowen suggested that if funding for the increased police presence – estimated at an additional $1.15 million per year – couldn’t be found any other way, the county school board could be dissolved and their funds used instead.

MARCH

After enduring a County Council meeting that lasted over five hours, Williamston Mayor Mack Durham and other town officials were disappointed in efforts to place the Williamston Police Department under the authority of the County’s Central Dispatch system.

Delayed by a cumbersome agenda of almost three pages in length, and virtually paralyzed by a public hearing at which dozens of citizens spoke, the Council failed to complete the agenda; and never got to two big issues concerning Williamston residents, including the Gray Drive bridge and the question of Central Dispatch.

Interest appears to be growing in a potential county wide implementation of a two per cent hospitality tax for Anderson County. Several members of the County council have included a discussion of such a tax on the agendas of the town hall meetings they are holding across the county.

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson hosted such a meeting last week and the hospitality tax, which applies to prepared foods and beverages, was a topic of lively debate. Several representatives of the Imagine Anderson recreational committee were on hand to explain and to push the tax, extolling the results that the various municipalities in the county have seen from their individual hospitality taxes.

The new proposal is to extend the two per cent tax on all prepared foods purchased to the unincorporated areas of the county. Currently, many of the restaurants along the interstate are exempt from the tax. Estimates are that the countywide tax could generate as much as $3 million a year.

Anderson County Council met in a special called meeting to complete the agenda items they failed to complete at the previous week’s regular Council meeting.

The Council voted to bring the Williamston Police Department under the county central dispatch umbrella. Currently, the fire department and EMS are already dispatched through the 911 system, while the police received a relay of the 911 calls from central dispatch, and then dispatched town police officers themselves.

The Council also unanimously approved a resolution which declined to accept the Greenville & Western Railroad’s proposal that the county assume responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the Gray Drive Bridge in Williamston. The resolution also requests that the repairs designated in an earlier court order be effected within 90 days of the resolution’s adoption.

Lack of official confirmation about plans for a large tract of land in Powdersville did nothing to reduce the public’s interest at a meeting hosted by Dist. 6 Councilman Ken Waters. There were rumored plans for a low income housing development at a site located between the Ingle’s supermarket and Concrete School, dominated the discussion.

Efforts to forge a cooperative effort between the three towns in this corner of the county continued Monday night, as Williamston Mayor Mack Durham appeared before the West Pelzer Town Council and explained the benefits of involvement in the Main Street SC revitalization program. “We have lots of great people making efforts to improve our communities, but those efforts are fragmented. If we speak with one voice, we will speak much more loudly:, said Durham. “Combined, our towns represent the second greatest concentration of population in the county.”

Two brothers from Arizona Gordon and Benton Hall, were indicted and arrested on charges related to a Ponzi scheme run by former Anderson County Council member Ron Wilson.

APRIL

Economic development dominated the agenda of the Anderson County Council. The Council gave first reading approval to an ordinance authorizing a fee in lieu of taxes (FILOT) agreement with an entity known at this time as Project EMB.

Economic Development Director Burriss Nelson told the Council that the company involved is a forty year old family owned business. The original capital investment will be $2.5 million, with an eventual investment of nearly $6 million.

The company will create 146 jobs, paying an hourly wage of sixteen dollars and hour. The annual payroll will be approximately $4.6 million. The first year, the company will pay approximately $16,500 in property taxes.

Governor Nikki Haley led a parade of local, state and federal officials in welcoming Anderson County’s latest corporate cousin. McLaughlin Body Company, which is a parts supplier for the Caterpillar manufacturing facility being built in Georgia, will renovate and occupy an existing building. The capital investment will total $22 million and will create 250 jobs over the next five years.

District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd pleaded with and challenged her fellow Council members to find the funds necessary to give the county’s approximately 900 employees a raise in the upcoming budget. During a block of time set aside especially for her on the agenda, Floyd raised the issue of employee raises, saying that it has been three years since they had gotten one.

Councilman Tommy Dunn reminded Floyd that over that three year period, the county had absorbed more than an additional $600,000 in benefits and insurance costs.

Councilman Eddie Moore introduced an ordinance that would prohibit smoking on certain county properties. Moore explained that the ordinance would allow the administrator to establish designated smoking areas in the county’s parks, to protect smokers’ rights and the rights of those who don’t smoke. Following considerable discussion, the motion was tabled without action.

The Anderson County Republican Party held its annual election of delegates and officers, in a storm of controversy and confusion. At the center of the controversy was the fact that fifteen more ballots were cast by delegates than there were delegates. A supposed total of one hundred sixty one delegates cast a total of one hundred seventy six ballots.

Various witnesses who attended described the meeting as a “real mess”, “a fiasco” “completely disorganized” and “obviously fraudulent.” Several added that they would never attend another such meeting as long as the party’s current leadership is still in place.

MAY

The Anderson County Council gave first reading approval to the proposed budget for FY 2012-2013 Monday night, amid promises of amendments and changes before final approval. The meeting was marked by a growing friction between District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd and the rest of Council, particularly District One Councilman Francis Crowder.

Late in the meeting, following several contentious exchanges, Floyd said, “I have been mistreated and beaten on and kicked around and spit upon for the last four years by this Council. My committee has been ignored. So Mr. Crowder, you can either get on board or you, sir, can just leave me alone.”

Sheriff John Skipper and his opponent for that office, Creed Hashe, faced off at a debate hosted by the White Plains Community Crime Watch just weeks before the Republican primary.

Each year, Anderson County invests approximately $75,000 in the Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG), an organization established in 1965, which seeks to leverage local resources into a variety of projects, and to fund those projects through a variety of loans and grants.

This year, the return on that $75,000 was a remarkable 88:1, with more than $6.6 million being obtained for use in Anderson County this year. That ratio of return was by far the highest of any of the six counties served by ACOG.

JUNE

The State of South Carolina’s case against Ron Wilson and Atlantic Bullion and Coin was essentially placed in the hands of federal investigative and prosecutorial agencies, said S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson . Wilson confirmed that the Secret Service and Department of Justice have assumed control of and responsibility for that case.

“We discovered the discrepancies involved, and initiated the investigation; but once the basic structure of the case was established, it became clear they are better suited to proceed.”

The heads of various county departments appeared before the County Council to present and defend their budget requests during a workshop. Deputy administrator Holt Hopkins, who also heads the transportation department, explained that while some consolidation of departments in the area of planning and community development had been accomplished, further consolidation seemed unwise.

The legal troubles that have plagued former Anderson County administrator Joey Preston since his buyout in 2008 continued as he was named in a referral letter from the SC Attorney General’s Office to the state grand jury. The referral letter essentially indicated that the civil investigation may have uncovered evidence of potentially illegal activity and simply passed that information along.

The letter effectively moves Preston’s alleged involvement in the silver securities Ponzi scheme operated by former Councilman Ron Wilson from the civil to the criminal arena; and changed the tone of Preston’s legal entanglements in the five years since he left the employ of Anderson County with a $1.2 million severance package.

The possibility of a countywide two cents hospitality tax dominated the discussion at a public meeting held by District Six Councilman Ken Waters in Powdersville Tuesday night. For his part, Waters announced that he favored putting the issue up to the voters in a non-binding referendum, and declared he would abide by his constituents’ wishes.

The proposed tax would be used to fund capital improvements, such as construction of recreational facilities, or to promote tourism in a given area. The two per cent tax would be applied to all sales of hot food throughout the county. Every municipality in the county already has the tax and all benefit from the generation of significant revenues.

Anderson County Council gave second reading approval to the 2012-2013 budget Tuesday night, with assurances that the sewer debt load and the EMS issues will be addressed at upcoming budget meetings.

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson reiterated her concerns with the enormous debt load placed on the county by having to pay for part of the wastewater system for the city of Anderson. In the last years of the Preston administration , the County agreed to assume a larger and larger share of the cost of upgrading the city’s system, until the burden of debt is almost unmanageable.

Anderson County Sheriff’s deputies arrested two people in connection with a shooting that occurred on River Street in Pelzer. Billy Joe Crane and Jamie Michael Eaton were arrested and charged with attempted murder. Mitchell Ray Carroll was shot multiple times before he crashed a car into a fence on the Pelzer EMS property. Further investigation indicated that the shooting was the result of a drug deal gone bad.

Anderson County residents faced increases to various millages and fees as a result of the narrow passage of the 2013-2014 budget. The total budget, including the enterprise funds which are supposed to be self sustaining, is approximately $134 million. Of that amount, $60 million is allocated to the general fund for day to day operations.

JULY

Randy James Kennedy, 24, of Old Pelzer Road, Piedmont, was arrested and charged with attempted murder and robbery in connection with an incident at 11 River Street, Pelzer, on June 16. Two others, Billy Joe Crane and Jamie Michael Eaton, were also arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

Anderson County residents got a new set of rules regulating how they can restrain their dogs. The Anderson County Council gave third and final reading approval to a tethering ordinance that puts a number of restrictions on how a dog owner can keep that dog on his or her property.

The existing Slabtown convenience center on Three and Twenty Road is slated to be closed and torn down sometime next year. But a new, larger and updated center will replace it in a new location, said Greg Smith, the Anderson County director of environmental services.

AUGUST

A change in the distribution of revenues produced by fee in lieu of taxes arrangements between the county and the county’s five school districts has been withdrawn by District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson. The decision to withdraw the proposed change in the ordinance governing those funds means that the current arrangement, in which the schools receive more than seventy per cent of those funds will continue.

A cooperative effort between elected officials, state and county staff and private citizens resulted in the recent opening of expanded bathroom facilities at the heavily used Hurricane Springs Park recreational facility. The second phase of a two phase expansion resulted in eight additional fixtures.

A Pelzer man was charged with criminal domestic violence and kidnapping following an incident at the toll booth on the Southern Connector. Steven Dale White, 37, 108 Eastview Rd. Pelzer was arrested after deputies responded to a 911 call.

West Pelzer Town Council approved an arrangement designed to assure the town funding to complete the rehabilitation of its water lines. The community development block grant (CDBG) funding that the town obtained more than a year ago is slated to become void in the coming weeks, if not claimed and used by the town. The problem is that the $450,000 has to be matched by the town to the tune of $48,000.

The Williamston National Guard Armory was officially turned over to the town. State House Dist. 9 Rep. Anne Thayer, who sponsored a resolution in the House of Representatives which allowed the return of the property, spoke during a ceremony that included a contingent of Guard, state, county and town representatives, as well as the public.

Sen. Billy O’Dell, who shepherded the Senate version of Thayer’s resolution through the Senate, was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict. Durham thanked Lt. Col Andrew Batten, who represented the SCNG, and assured him that Williamston would always remember and honor the place that the Guard and the armory have in the Williamston community.

SEPTEMBER

Anderson County Council approved a resolution asking the SCDOT to investigate the possibility of increasing the speed limit on Highway 153 in the Powdersville area, from the intersection with I-85 to the Anderson / Greenville county line. The speed limit is currently thirty five miles an hour. The resolution seeks an increase to forty five miles an hour.

Council also approved a resolution presented by Councilwoman Cindy Wilson recognizing the Palmetto High School Junior Air Force ROTC unit for outstanding achievement.

Councilmembers delayed action on a proposed ordinance designed to address the issue of puppy farms being operated in the county.

Fraenkische Industrial Pipes, an industrial presence in the Piercetown area for ten years, recently announced a $5 million expansion of its facility that will result in an additional fifty jobs over the next few years.

Powdersville businessman and candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Richard Cash spoke to a full room at the meeting of the First Monday Group. Cash, who is seeking to oust incumbent Lindsey Graham, said his platform can be summarized by the three Cs: the Constitution, Capitalism, and Christianity.

The contentious and often prickly relationship between County Council Chair Francis Crowder and District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd was showcased once more, as Floyd took advantage of a special segment of the agenda to rail against a recent decision not to seek funding for a bus to serve a route that Floyd favors.

It was the finance committee’s decision not to recommend the purchase of an additional mass transit bus at a cost of $125,000 that Floyd was upset about. She went on and on about it, reminding the Council that there was a $540,000 grant available to be used in purchasing the bus, and intimating that there was some ulterior motive behind the decision.

OCTOBER

The Town of Pelzer became the latest municipality in Anderson County to receive recreational funds from the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) last week.

The funds, presented on behalf of Senator Billy O’Dell by county administrator Rusty Burns, are intended for any recreational use the Town deems necessary. Mayor Steve McGregor pointed out that Pelzer provides recreational facilities and programs for areas well outside the Town’s corporate limits.

As one Anderson County property begins the process of site certification for economic development, another site is about to be decertified.

Duke Energy Carolinas has chosen a 48-acre site near Anderson to participate in the utility’s 2013 Site Readiness Program to prepare the location for potential industrial development. The Coleman site has direct access to Interstate 85 at Exit 21 and is fairly close to the Georgia state line. However, the Betsy Tucker site, consisting of more than five hundred acres at the junction of I-85 and Highway 81 North, is in the final year of a five year certification and may not be certified.

Political, business, education and economic development leaders gathered in Anderson at the South Carolina Inland Port (SCIP) summit, where they learned about the impact that the soon to open facility will have on the Upstate. The Anderson County Legislative Delegation, the County Council, the towns of Belton, West Pelzer, Honea Path, Williamston, and other cities were also represented.

South Carolina Public Railways (SCPR) announced a name change to Palmetto Railways, in a move designed to streamline operations and better reflect the state-owned agency’s expanding economic development mission.

Federal and state agents arrested two Anderson County men last Wednesday as part of an investigation into a large-scale gambling and money-laundering operation. Bobby Mosley Sr. of Townville and J. Michael Caldwell, who lives north of Williamston, were arrested in connection with the illegal operation.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses Mosley and Caldwell of running an illegal gambling business that generated at least $242 million since 2005. The indictment also accuses them of laundering more than $144 million as part of the operation

Stanley “Shawn” Davis pled guilty recently in Anderson General Sessions Court to the murder of his mother in January of this year. The Honorable Lawton McIntosh sentenced Davis to 30 years in prison.

The Anderson County Council heard from Belton officials, seeking funds for the reconstruction of the town’s well known tennis courts.

Town Councilman Jay West addressed the County Council, and explained that the courts, which annually host the Palmetto Tennis Championships, are in bad shape and require reconstruction to the tune of $130 – $140,000. He requested an additional fifty thousand in funding towards the project on behalf of the town.

Concerns over the local crime rate drew a crowd of more than seventy five residents and neighbors to Steve Cone’s home, where Sheriff John Skipper and some of his staff explained the importance and value of a neighborhood watch group.

Investigators with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office arrived on the scene after a body was discovered in the Saluda River. The body of Anna J. Mosley, 23, of Piedmont was found in the river  just below the dam and near Prospect St. and Iler St. in Piedmont.

NOVEMBER

State Senator Lee Bright, from Spartanburg’s District 12, and one of three candidates challenging U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in next June’s Republican primary, was in Anderson speaking to the First Monday Club.

Bright, a state Senator for five years, made no bones about his opinion of the current administration and its perceived agenda. Nor did he exonerate his own party’s leadership.

The East West Parkway was officially opened. The road, conceived in 1990 and designed to connect SC Highway 81 with Clemson Boulevard, is now open and is being heavily used.

Judge Roger Crouch in the case of Anderson County vs Joey Preston, denied all three motions filed by the County to reconsider previous rulings in the case. Those rulings were unanimously in Preston’s favor, and were related to his $1.2 million

severance package, awarded him by the 2008 lame duck county council.

 

The early steps of the process of constructing sidewalks along both sides of Highway 153, and south along Highway 81 have been taken. Funds have been secured from a variety of sources, including a $72,000 grant match from the District Six paving funds, as well as an additional $260,000 from the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP).

Anderson County Council decided to pursue its appeals in its case against former county administrator Joey Preston all the way to the state Supreme Court. The vote was 4-3 with Chairman Francis Crowder breaking the tie.

DECEMBER

Anderson County continued to create jobs and put people back to work, according to the latest statistics. As a result of the County’s economic development efforts, the county’s unemployment rate decreased to 6.5% in October, according to a report released by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Legislation was pre-filed in the South Carolina House of Representatives calling for an Article V Convention of States. South Carolina and Virginia became the first two states to call for the Article V Convention for the express and sole purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

The Anderson County Legislative Delegation held its semi-annual meeting and disbursed $20,000 in PARD funds to local municipalities. Williamston received $10,000 for park improvements, while West Pelzer got $5000 for repairs and upgrades to Chapman Park, which has yet to formally open. Hurricane Springs Park received $5000 for facility repairs and upgrades.

Inclement and rainy weather played havoc with local Christmas parades. Pelzer and West Pelzer got their in due to their early dates, but Piedmont had to cancel theirs and Williamston had to reschedule from a Saturday to the following Thursday afternoon.