Anderson County Year in Review . . .

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By Stan Welch

The following Year in Review covers Anderson County events reported by Stan Welch:

JANUARY

Auditor Larry Finney gave a presentation to Anderosn County Council on zero based budgeting (ZBB); an approach that begins each budget process with a blank slate and works through various scenarios to create a budget based on needs and priorities.

Several members of Council, including District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson requested that the Council instruct the county planning department to undertake a study on the creation of an overlay district to be imposed on the stretch of Highway 81, from Reed Road to Scott’s Bridge Road.

As the result of a decision by Duke Energy to change the Lee Steam Plant from coal to gas fired turbines in order to generate electricity, Williamston is on the threshold of a major economic boom.

More than five hundred construction workers will be involved in the modifications, which are expected to cost approximately a half billion dollars. Upstate and global construction giant Fluor has been awarded the construction contract and will be in charge of awarding subcontracts as needed.

A separate but concurrent coal ash disposal project will add another hundred million dollars to the total cost of the projects.

The Anderson County Transportation Committee (ACTC) contracted with CoTransco, a consulting and program management firm. The committee invited the mayors and public works directors from the county’s various municipalities to meet officers of the company; and to hear some fresh ideas about funding and other issues related to roads and paving.

The program would encourage municipalities to begin building paving funds into their annual budgets, something none of Anderson County’s towns currently do.

Anderson County Council District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson held a public meeting to discuss a variety of issues including efforts to create a crime watch organization; the rebuilding of a portion of Big Creek Road; the possible choice of routes for trucks hauling coal ash away from the Lee Steam Plant, and issues related to the tank farm expansion and railroads.

Piedmont firefighters worked at the scene of a two vehicle accident on Monday night on Iller  Street. A pickup truck and car collided at the intersection of Haynes Street. The truck overturned and struck a wall before coming to rest. The driver of the truck was transported by Pelzer EMS to Greenville Memorial Hospital

FEBRUARY

Anderson County Council, at a special called meeting and following a presentation by County Administrator Rusty Burns and Finance Director Rita Davis, voted to transfer $1.5 million from the county’s contingency fund to be used for paving and other road and bridge projects.

More than 1000 people and firefighters from around the county attended the funeral for Sandy Springs fire fighter Kenneth Stanton. Stanton, 52, was hit by a car as he directed traffic around a wreck on Hwy. 76 on the night of Feb. 15.

Winter weather dominated the news for the last two weeks of the month. Wave after wave of snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain rolled across the Upstate causing power outages, terrible road and traffic conditions and serious hardship for thousands of area residents.

MARCH

After much speculation and anticipation, ‘Project Upstate’ will soon become a reality. Coca-Cola Consolidated officially announced that it plans to invest $13.5 million to construct a new Regional Sales and Distribution Center in Anderson County.

The warehouse and storage facility will be more than a million and a half square feet. The proposed facility will located near the existing Budweiser distribution center at the intersection of Highways 86 and 17, Piedmont.

Greenville attorney Jim Bannister filed a response to the U.S. District Court, on behalf of Joey Preston, indicating Preston’s intentions to comply with the Court appointed receivers demands that Preston either repay the $1.2 million dollars in “ill gotten monies” gleaned from Ron Wilson’s Ponzi scheme, or show cause why he can not.

APRIL

Ground was broken for the new Powdersville YMCA in the Piedmont and Easley area. The building is scheduled to open during the spring of 2016 and will feature an expansive fitness center, group exercise studios, outdoor functional fitness area, large basketball gym with flex use, community meeting room, childcare spaces, large multipurpose room, and athletic fields.Approximately one hundred stakeholders, or people with an interest in the health and future of the Saluda River basin, gathered at the ICAR campus in Greenville Tuesday. They included wildlife officials, scientists, utility providers,consumers, industry representatives, golf course operators, and anyone else connected to the Saluda.

EuWe Eugen Wexler US Plastics, Inc., a subsidiary of the Germany-based EuWe Group, announced plans for establishing manufacturing operations at Alliance Park in Anderson County. The automotive supplier is investing $11.1 million to open its first U.S. facility in the Upstate of South Carolina. The investment is expected to create 49 new jobs in the area.

The Anderson County Timmerman Access Project in Pelzer as included among fifteen organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia receiving a portion of $1 million in grants from the Water Resources Fund to improve local water quality.

The Timmerman Access Project on the Saluda River received $99,509 to provide a handicapped-accessible kayak launch and shoreline access route at the Timmerman Access along the Saluda River Blue Trail.

The Pinnacle Bank on Anderson Road in Powdersville was robbed at gunpoint just after 4:15 p.m. A masked man walked into the bank with a handgun and demanded money according to Lt. Sheila Cole of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

MAY

Duke Energy hosted an open house at the Williamston Municipal Center to explain the removal of approximately 3.4 million tons of coal ash from the W. S. Lee Steam station.

Anderson County Sheriff’s Office investigators continued to search for the unidentified black male who apparently shot and killed Mradulaben Patel last Thursday night, during an armed robbery at the BP gas station and convenience store at the interstate exit for Highway 153 in Powdersville.

Anderson County Sheriffs Department Investigators responded to the scene of a shooting Memorial Day afternoon in Piedmont. According to reports, a man called 911 and said he had shot his nephew. Anderson County Deputy Coroner Charlie Boseman pronounced the man, Timothy Lee Owens, dead at the scene. Owens, 40, died from a gunshot wound to the upper body, according to Anderson County Deputy Coroner Charlie Boseman. Owen’s uncle, who has not been identified, was taken into custody for questioning.

A West Pelzer officer attempted to stop a moped for a traffic violation according to West Pelzer police chief Mike Clardy. The moped driver failed to stop. After a pursuit the driver pulled into a driveway and fled on foot. The officer chased him on foot, caught him, and placed him under arrest. After going back to the scene of the moped it was discovered that an meth lab was on the moped.

County officials confirmed that the Williamston EMS squad was under investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), although they were quick to stress that there are only allegations at this stage.

Those allegations surfaced in a letter sent by several Williamston EMS employees to county director of emergency services Scott Stoller. From there, the allegations were presented to the Sheriff’s office, which then contacted SLED.

The first truckload of coal ash to be excavated from the W. S. Lee Steam Station site and relocated to an off-site landfill took place as specially designed trucks began moving the first tons of the material – left from burning the coal that’s powered the the plant for more than 60 years.

JUNE

No charges were filed in a recent Piedmont shooting. According to Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, as a result of the investigation into the Crawford Street shooting, the case has been ruled as self-defense. About 2 p.m. Memorial Day, Charles Edward Teal called Anderson County’s Central Dispatch (911) and stated that he had just shot his nephew, 40 year old Timothy Lee Owens. Owens, unfortunately, died at the scene.

A crowd of well over a hundred people were on hand last Thursday, for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Techtronic Industries facility near the intersection of Highway 81 and I-85. Company officials announced that the capital investment for the project would be approximately $85 million, and that 200 jobs would be added to the 1400 jobs the company currently provides in the county.

U. S. Senator Lindsey Graham launched his Republican Presidential campaign Monday in his hometown of Central. Graham, 59 has never lost an election and is joining an already crowded GOP field vying for the 2016 Republican nomination. He has served in the U. S. Senate since 2003. Graham served in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995-2003.

Anderson County has been selected as one of twenty governmental entities in South Carolina to be awarded funding from S.C. Housing under the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP). The NIP is designed to help stabilize property values and prevent future foreclosures for existing property owners in strategically targeted areas through the removal of blighted structures.  The Pelzer Heritage Commission will be working with Anderson County on the NIP as a non-profit partner.

JULY

A capacity crowd of more than six hundred fifty people turned out to see and hear Dr. Ben Carson, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Dr. Carson, a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, is something of a rock star in Republican circles, and his reception did nothing to dispel that perception.

Members and supporters of the Pelzer Heritage Commission gathered at the Pelzer Community Building to share a meal and celebrate the awarding of $400,000 in federal grant monies to the Commission, for use in cleaning up two mill dump sites in Pelzer.

County and state officials were on hand, as well as representatives from Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Jeff Duncan’s offices. Representing the Environmental Protection Administration, and presenting the check, was Barbara Alfano, the Region Four Brownfields Coordinator for the EPA.

A history of the Pelzer Rescue Squad appeared in the July 13 issue of the Journal.

The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Pelzer man on an outstanding felony warrant from Michigan. Brandon Dale Campbell, age 35 of Pelzer has been taken into custody by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

The Anderson County Council adopted a resolution condemning the killings in Charleston several weeks earlier. The resolution was sponsored by District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, in response to the nine murders committed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, murders which shocked the state and nation and directly led to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia.

A zoning change which received second reading approval allows for major changes to a project known as the Midway Ridge planned development, which is being constructed on 12.8 acres of land on Midway Road.

Anderson County issued a request for proposals (RFP) , a preliminary step in selecting and hiring a consultant to study the emergency services system in the county and make recommendations to the Council.

County Administrator Rusty Burns said that once the RFPs are returned, which could take up to thirty days, several candidates would be interviewed. The Council will then vote to see who is awarded the contract. The length of time involved in that study is not yet known.

Burns made it clear that the process will not be circumvented in any way by Shore’s activities.

AUGUST

The West Pelzer Fire Department, along with other rescue units, responded to a car accident on the Highway 20 bridge across the Saluda in Pelzer.

WPFD Chief David Huff said his department responded to a call of a car accident with possible entrapment and automobile fire. Upon arrival, they found the car fully engulfed in flames, but all passengers had escaped the vehicle. The fire was quickly extinguished. All were transported to area hospitals, but witnesses reported seeing someone either jump or fall off the bridge into the water below.

That was found to be untrue.

The Anderson Civic Center welcomed twenty one hundred area residents and three well known candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Suffice it to say, it was no place for moderates. Third District Congressman Jeff Duncan’s fifth annual Faith and Freedom BBQ attracted a distinctly conservative crowd, who came to hear former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, and political neophyte and world renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.

SEPTEMBER

Representatives of Anderson County held a meeting to explain the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP). The program is funded by the U.S. Treasury Department, and is administered by the South Carolina Housing Office.

Its purpose is to identify, purchase, and demolish blighted homes in the targeted area of Pelzer and West Pelzer, in order to stabilize property values and to prevent eventual foreclosures of the property.

Anderson County has been awarded just under $2.5 million to use in the eleven different target areas in the county including Pelzer and West Pelzer.

Almost one year later, and after waiting approximately six months for an analysis report from the state lab, Anderson County Sheriff’s Investigators made an arrest in the homicide of Patricia Freeman, who was reported missing in February.

Perry Thomas Pruitt, 55, of Anderson, was arrested for the murder. Freeman was reported missing by her brother on February 6. At that time, deputies were told that the family had not seen Freeman since Labor Day (2014).

 

A small group of Powdersville residents gathered to hear the latest proposal about the subject closest to their hearts, a reduction of taxes. District Six County Councilman Ken Waters, attended by a handful of county staff, as well as county treasurer Jason Phillips, was on hand to pitch the idea of a one cent sales tax to be dedicated to the reduction of the county’s property tax on vehicles.

Waters began by explaining that he, Phillips, and the county staffers had been working on the proposal for a couple of months. The purpose of the proposed one cent sales tax is to reduce the approximately thirty per cent of county property taxes that doesn’t go to the schools.

OCTOBER

Significant rainfall continued across South Carolina throughout the first days of the month, leading to unprecedented flooding across the state, and causing mass evacuations from low lying areas. County emergency preparedness and law enforcement personnel responded to the more heavily affected parts of the state. The South Carolina Emergency Operations Center was fully activated at Operating Condition 3 by state agencies of the State Emergency Response Team for the duration of the incident.

Anderson County Council District 7 representative Cindy Wilson told Williamston Town Council that the county has $2.5 million available to help demolish structures in areas suffering from blight. “It is another tool in the arsenal for public improvement,” she said.

Mike Foreman of Anderson County Planning and Community Development told council that twenty properties in the Williamston area have been identified for possible acquisition and demolition under the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP).

Representatives from South Carolina Emergency Management Division (EMD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) met with Anderson County municipalities and special districts to discuss the process and plans for reimbursement of expenses associated with damages from the recent heavy rain storms.

Duke Energy has announced the acquisition of Piedmont Natural Gas for a total investment of $6.7 billion. Duke will assume $1.8 million in debts and will provide an additional $4.9 billion in cash.

A search warrant was served on Tuesday, October 6, at 6 Haynes Street in Piedmont which resulted in the arrest of Krista Leann Burgess, 29, and Melissa Lynn Gautier, 39. The Sheriff’s Office had received previous complaints regarding drug activity at this location. Narcotics officers seized 102 grams of methamphetamine, $2100 in cash, four firearms and a large cache of ammunition.

Both Burgess and Gautier were charged with trafficking in methamphetamine and possession of a controlled substance. Burgess was incarcerated on a $175,000 surety bond; Gautier was released on an $80,000 bond.

The Williamston Fire Department, along with a variety of other agencies, churches and charities across the county, collected hygiene and other items for those in need of assistance after the month’s unprecedented flooding.

A car ran off the roadway on Midway Road and struck a power pole supporting three large transformers, sending them to the ground. West Pelzer firefighters detoured traffic and Medshore transported the driver to the hospital. According to the Duke Energy outage board, more than two thousand customers were without power following the accident.

Chad McBride, former public information officer for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office,officially announced that he is a candidate for the Office of Sheriff in Anderson County. McBride is currently the safety director for NewSpring Church.

Members of the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force, which includes Anderson County deputies, located and arrested one of Anderson County’s Most Wanted suspects.

James Marion Davis, 57, was taken into custody without incident from a residence in Greenwood, and transported to the Anderson County Detention Center, where he awaits a bond hearing. Davis is accused of attempting to assault his estranged wife on May 26, 2015 by viciously striking her occupied vehicle with a large blunt object.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke to a record crowd of approximately 7900 people at the Anderson Civic Center Monday evening. County officials said the event was the first for the facility that drew more than 5000 people.

Anderson County Council approved a resolution asserting the Council’s non-participation in the Refugee Resettlement Project, which has the goal of the relocation of some two hundred thousand Syrian refugees across the United States.

Council members Cindy Wilson, Tom Allen, and Francis Crowder sponsored the resolution, which both expresses the county council’s opposition to the acceptance of any refugees; and also calls for all public officials, elected or otherwise, to “neither approve nor proceed with any such resettlement” until the General Assembly can reconvene and conduct a vote that will accurately reflect the will of the people in regards to this issue.

NOVEMBER

The murder of four family members at a home in Pendleton was under investigation, after Anderson County deputies responded to the scene .

Four victims were found during a sweep of the home located at 2217 Refuge Road. Violet Taylor, 82, and Barbara Scott, 80, were the mothers, respectively, of Barbara Scott, 60, and Mike Scott, 58. The four victims all lived in the residence together. According to reports, Amy Vilardi, Cathy Scott’s daughter, discovered the scene when she came to the house and found the back door open. All were the victims of gunshot wounds.

Palmetto Engineering, a firm that specializes in telecommunications engineering, industrial electrical engineering and GIS telecommunications software, announced the expansion of its Upstate operations with the establishment of a new facility in Anderson County. The company is investing $1.2 million in the project, creating 25 new jobs in Piedmont, over the next five years.

Randall Gene Posey, Jr., 26, 106 Lane Dr., Easley was arrested and charged with manslaughter in connection with the Sept. 17 shooting death of Jonathan Murriel Black, 29, of 2 Coker Circle Williamston. The incident occurred at 2910 Hwy. 86, Piedmont.

West Pelzer Police Captain Chris Brewer interrupted a home invasion type situation in which several people were being held at gunpoint by a man believed to be associated with an Atlanta gang .

On the night of November 2, Captain Brewer responded to a residence where he met with a female wearing just shorts and a T shirt. The woman, whose identity has not been released, told Capt. Brewer that there was a man whom she did not know inside her house with a gun, holding two other victims at gunpoint. The female victim escaped through a window in another room and called 911.

County Council voted unanimously to authorize the County Registration and Elections Board to conduct the municipal elections held in odd numbered years for the town of Belton. West Pelzer, and Pelzer also operate under a similar agreement.

Anderson County added almost 700 jobs during October, according to numbers released by the SC Department of Employment and Workforce. The number of employed residents was measured at 84,403, with the unemployment dipping to 5.1% from the 5.3% observed in September. Anderson County has the sixth-lowest unemployment rate in South Carolina. In October of 2014, the unemployment rate was 6.1% and 2,500 fewer people were employed.

More than three years after assaulting his girlfriend and stealing her car, Brandon Maurice Williams, who was on the ACSO most wanted list, was taken into custody. Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Williams, 26, of Belton and served him with three outstanding warrants that were issued in April 2011 and February 2012.

Williams was charged with assault and battery-third degree, use of a vehicle without the owner’s consent, and the manufacture/distribution of methamphetamine. All three offenses stemmed from incidents involving his [then] estranged girlfriend.

DECEMBER

Officials from Anderson County and the City of Belton hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to welcome HomTex, Incorporated’s weaving division to their new 300,000-square-foot home, located at 500 Guthrie Road, Belton, (formerly Loom Craft).

Headquartered in Vinemont, Alabama, HomTex recently acquired textile manufacturer, Loom Craft, Inc. The company is investing $2 million, adding forty-nine new jobs and retaining the existing 45 Loom Craft employees.

Anderson County Council approved several ATACS allocations, including funding for the Mill Town Players in the amount of $3,000. Those funds became available as the result of a vote to reallocate $50,000 that had been slated for repairs to the roof of the county museum. Prior to that vote, the Mill Town Players had been unfunded by the county.

The Council also gave third reading approval to a series of amendments to existing incentive agreements between the County and Watson Engineering, located in the Piedmont industrial area. Watson Engineering has exceeded the thresholds established in their original incentive agreements, and has experienced more rapid growth than anticipated.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was in Anderson, sharing both her remarkable personal story, as well as her vision for America with a crowd of several hundred at the Convention Center. Representatives Anne Thayer and Kevin Bryant combined to introduce her.

The seemingly endless battle by former Anderson County administrator Michael Cunningham to reclaim that job came to an end, as the South Carolina Supreme Court declined to review its own decision earlier this year to deny Cunningham’s original appeal. The decision left Cunningham at the end of his legal rope.

Anderson County Council reviewed and approved a number of bids for equipment, services, and accepted a number of grants at their December meeting.

One of the grants, in the amount of $60,000 will be awarded to the Pelzer Heritage Commission. The grant requires a twenty per cent match, which is being met by the county. Pelzer Heritage Commission will also receive an additional $250,000 from the state’s revolving loan program. Those funds will be used to complete the clean up of the old Pelzer mill sites.

County residents readied for a New Year!