Looking Back at 2019 . . .

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Looking Back 2019 . . . Part 1
These are the headline makers for the area during 2019. We hope you enjoy looking back:
JANUARY
Jan. 2 – Area residents celebrated the start of a new year!
Jan 9 – Williamston Town Council members Tony Hagood and Rockey Burgess were sworn in with the oath of office at the start of the meeting. Former Williamston Town Council member Dr. Harold Mackey and daughter Harriette assisted with the swearing in of Hagood.
Williamston Town Council heard several reports and approved only one agenda item, which was to provide $1200 donation requested by the Mill Town Players to help with the purchase of a new sign.
Brandon Parham, a resident of Gatewood subdivision, asked the town to help make the old entrance to the subdivision more presentable and safe. Mayor Mack Durham said the town has looked at the situation and is taking several action steps.
West Pelzer Town Council discussed a drainage problem and decided to change the time of council meetings during their first meeting of the new year. Mayor Blake Sanders announced that council chambers in Town Hall will host an art gallery beginning with the February meeting.
Jan 16 – Members of the Palmetto Business Association met at the Williamston Municipal Center where they discussed plans for the upcoming year. The organization is kicking off the year with the annual membership drive and renewals.
The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of man whose body was found in a culvert on the side of Old Piedmont Road. Deputies found a once-missing woman dead in a culvert in the same area two weeks earlier.
A group of people from Williamston, representing the Williamston Area Historic Commission and the Town of Williamston made a presentation at The Citadel which included a framed replica of a painting by Thomas Addison, of the last skirmish of the Civil War east of the Mississippi, which took place in the Williamston Township.
Various development projects located on former mill sites in Pelzer, Williamston and Piedmont slowed somewhat but continued according to Richard Greer, representative of State Investors, the company which is developing the tri-city project known as Saluda Falls.
Medical issues experienced by Pelzer Mayor Roger Scott caused a change in the scheduling of the January meeting of the town council so the mayor could attend.
Bosch announced that it is expanding its existing Anderson County operations to accommodate the company’s continued growth. Bosch is investing an additional $45 million.
Jan 23 – The Town of Williamston, raised a new flag in front of town hall which recognized the Clemson Tigers’ National Football Championship.
Unusually heavy rains  in the area led to issues concerning the arrangement between Pelzer and West Pelzer for their jointly operated sewer system. West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders sent a letter to Pelzer Mayor Roger Scott raising concerns over the increased amount of sewer influent into the system.
The repair and reopening of Minor Street in Williamston continued to be delayed by the problem of obtaining the needed rights of way.
Pelzer Town Council traveled to Columbia to show their support for Senator Mike Gambrell’s bill to correct the situation that currently prevents Pelzer, and fifty nine other municipalities around the state, from establishing a tax base.   Pelzer Town Council met in the absence of Mayor Roger Scott who suffered a series of medical events that made it advisable that he not attend.  Mike Matthews was elected mayor protem.
Jan. 30 – The Anderson School District One Board of Trustees approved a resolution authorizing a $109 million bond referendum to fund a new building program that will include construction of two new middle schools, classroom additions, critical renovations and improve safety at all fourteen District schools. Total cost for the building program is estimated at $132 million.
After a decade of discussion and empty promises, SCDOT had scheduled the Cherokee Road bridge over Hwy. 29 for redesign and renovation last year, however SCDOT announced that the project had been moved back two years, till 2021.
Envision Williamston began accepting applications for the Main Street Challenge Grant Program, an entrepreneurial start-up competition for the purpose of generating additional retail occupancy in Williamston.
Critical legislation to allow Pelzer to establish a tax base gained significant traction and momentum, when a bill sponsored and introduced by Senator Mike Gambrell was forwarded out of committee to the floor of the Senate for consideration and a vote by the full body.
Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office are investigation an incident in which an adult male’s body was found near the end of Lakeside Road and Stables Road in Piedmont.  The body was found in the road by utilities workers.
Williamston Council, meeting in a work session, revisited the Minor Street road repairs and efforts to obtain easements.  The county had declined to put the project out for bids until that legal step was taken.
FEBRUARY
Feb. 6 – Dr. Andy Aldrin, President, Buzz Aldrin ShareSpace Foundation  and David Atchley, Director, Buzz Aldrin ShareSpace Foundation presented a “Mission to Mars Map” to Palmetto Elementary School. Dr. Aldrin and team unveiled the interactive Giant Mars Map, placing it on the floor where students could “walk on Mars” while being introduced to the program and discuss Aldrin’s father’s vision of sending the first humans to Mars.
Approximately three hundred people gathered in the renovated Williamston Municipal Center Auditorium for a breakfast to commemorate the life of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office arrested Niklaus Anthony Bennett, 20 and Stephon Rasheid Sherman, 20, in connection with the murder of Jamel Wingfield, who was shot and killed on at an apartment on Fleetwood Drive.  Both were also facing charges in connection with the shooting death of William Ramirez the next day on Lakeside Road, Piedmont.
West Pelzer Town Council heard an audit report where they received an “unmodified opinion” or the best they can get. Auditor Jason White said that the town is in good financial shape.
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders painted 202 “Tiger Paws” for area residents following his offer after the Clemson Tigers won the National Football Championship.
Wesley Dallas Ayers, 27, of Anderson, was sentenced in connection with a road side bombing incident in Anderson County. Ayers had previously admitted that he constructed, and then placed, three explosive devices in various parts of Anderson County between January 24, 2018, and February 24, 2018.
 Pelzer Town Council made short work of a three item agenda, discussing a leaf bagger and vacuum,  repair and filling of potholes and  complaints about changes in the town’s trash pickup.
 Two people were arrested in connection with a drive by shooting involving two vehicles on Carolina Street in Williamston.  An investigative stop was made by officers of two different vehicles on Hamilton Street subsequent to the call.  Two individuals were detained and taken into custody after a discovery of guns and drugs in one of the vehicles. Thomas Dantez Hunt, 27 of Pelzer, was charged with Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Alprazolam schedule 4, Possession of Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine Schedule 2, Possession of Vyvanse Schedule 2, and Violation of South Carolina Gun Law.  A second individual Quinton Dewante Spurgeon, 25,  of Williamston, was charged with open container of alcoholic beverage.  A third individual fled the vehicle stop and investigators are working toward a positive identification.
Feb. 13 – Williamston Town Council approved a property purchase, a zoning change and funding for a special event that will highlight where the town is and where it is going. Council also approved a resolution recognizing February as African American History Month and a request by Shady Grove Baptist to hold a gospel singing in Mineral Spring Park.
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said he has met with several developers recently and the town is gaining more interest in residential development.
Feb. 20 – Anderson School District One began holding information meetings for voters to approve a $109 million bond referendum in April to help fund a proposed building program that is estimated to cost $132 million.
Angela Walker, a hometown girl from Williamston, attended the 61st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony held in Los Angeles as part of Hilton hotel chain’s “Rock Star Contest”.
Members of the Palmetto Business Association discussed upcoming events and wording for a new vision and mission statement. The organization is under the leadership of President Roxanne Hall.
Ortec, a leading biomaterial and polymer technology company, announced an expansion in which the company intends to invest $20 million and create approximately 18 new jobs. The company had previously invested $20 million with creation of 60 jobs in December 2016.
Feb. 27 – Anderson School District One announced three community meetings scheduled for the public to find out more about the proposed building program and bond referendum vote.
MARCH
Mar. 6 – Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office investigated two separate cases of church vandalism, one at Waycross Church and the second at Augusta Road United Methodist Church.
The Town of Pelzer’s efforts to provide police protection gained momentum with a presentation by Lt. David Baker, Anderson County Director of Emergency Management. The Council had asked Baker to put together a proposal that would place a full time dedicated off duty deputy in Pelzer, working strictly inside the town limits.
Palmetto High School’s production of “Matt & Ben” directed by Jonathon Long, earned first place in the state of South Carolina at the Palmetto Dramatic Association High School One Act Play Festival at Winthrop University.
The production will advance to the national competition in Nebraska in June. It was the first state championship for the Mustang Stage Company.
United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced that eleven individuals were charged in a multi-count federal indictment for their roles in a wide-ranging conspiracy to import and possess with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl and other related offenses.  Detric Lee McGowan, aka “Fat”, 46, of Piedmont was among them.
Anderson School District One, the Powdersville YMCA and the United Way of Anderson County announced that they are partnering on an innovative summer camp called Camp iRock, helping 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders improve their reading skills while having fun at summer camp.  The Town of Williamston hosted a United Way Kickoff Breakfast for the program.
West Pelzer Town Council approved a resolution in support of a project to improve pedestrian safety along Main Street. The project will include replacement of overhead lighting fixtures along Main Street with LED lighting, a speed limit reduction to 25 mph from Burkett Street in West Pelzer to the Greenville County line, installation of high visibility ladder crosswalks and push button activated flashers.
Williamston Town Council approved second reading on a property purchase and rezoned town property as part of an effort to help with economic development.
Council approved $20,000 from the town’s Hospitality Tax Fund to be used for “seed money” for ticketed events to be held in the Municipal Center Auditorium. Mayor Mack Durham said the funds were requested by Roger Dickson, an individual who is helping with town events.
A 19-year-old Wren High School student Chloe Callahan, of Pelzer, died from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident in January. Callahan was a senior at Wren High School.
Mar. 13 – A 6th grade student at Woodmont Middle School was detained after a pistol was found in his backpack.
Pelzer Town Council continued to meet in the absence of Mayor Roger Scott who remained in the hospital recovering from a series of heart problems. Mayor pro tem Mike Matthews presided over their meeting, where they discussed cleanup of the old hospital site and a Spring festival  “It’s a Spring Thing on Lebby”.
A small number of people attended a presentation in Williamston by Anderson School District One to explain the need for a $109 million bond issue to address the district’s serious infrastructure problems.
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders announced that the Town of West Pelzer will host a contemporary art venue in the Municipal Center on Main Street.
Mar. 20 – The Town of West Pelzer celebrated its Centennial birthday, even though the milepost was reached last December, on Christmas Eve. The celebration was held in Chapman Park.
An Anderson County Deputy responded to a report of a child walking in the roadway near the intersection of Welcome Road and Highway 29 North  where the deputy found a four year old, with blonde hair and blue eyes, wearing pajamas and barefooted. The child was remanded to the custody of DSS.
The Palmetto High School softball field is officially named “Mike Gowan Memorial Field”.
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders presented the town’s first State of the Town address during the Palmetto Business Association (PBA) Toast and Topics meeting. The event was held at the West Pelzer Municipal Center.
Former Williamston Police Chief Richard Inman allegedly robbed another Bank of America branch office, this time in Pawleys Island. Inman apparently used the same MO at the coastal bank as he did in Simpsonville in 2017.
Legislation addressing the authority and opportunity for small towns in South Carolina to establish and administer a tax structure continued to move through committees in Columbia.  If approved, the new law will allow Pelzer, as well as more than sixty other municipalities in the state, to establish an operating millage.
The Anderson School District One Board recognized Wren High Librarian Tamara Cox, a finalist for State Teacher of the Year and Wren Middle Coach Jimmy Brown, who was named the State Middle School Coach of the Year. They also heard a budget update and a building program update during their meeting
The Town of Pelzer issued a statement regarding the condition of Mayor Roger Scott, who was recovering from a series of mini strokes at St. Francis Hospital in Greenville:
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders announced that police chief Chris Brewer will leave the department at the end of June.
Clayton Lydel Hawkins, 28, of Williamston is wanted for six counts of attempted murder after shooting into an occupied car in Anderson  The car contained two adults and four children ranging in age from two months to four years.
APRIL
Apr. 3 – The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office is investigating another incident in the Lakeside Road area of Piedmont in which a human skull was found. According to reports, a resident called 911 when his dog dragged in the human remains. There had been three incidents in recent months in which bodies were found in the surrounding area.
Efforts to advance the redevelopment of the Pelzer Mill sites gained traction when members of the Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC) hosted EPA and DHEC officials on a walk through of various cleanup sites.
It was announced that Lt. Alexis Eliopoulos will be the new police chief in West Pelzer. She will be Anderson County’s first female police chief.
Williamston Town Council held a short meeting in which they heard an update on Envision Williamston marketing and business assistance projects, approved funding for improvements at the old Gatewood entrance and revisions to the property maintenance code. EW Director Sonya Crandall reported twelve businesses were participating in the facade grant program, which has already helped improve seventeen business properties in the town since it began.
Mayor Mack Durham announced that easement issues delaying the Minor Street repair project have been resolved and work should begin in the next several weeks.
Residents of West Pelzer discussed paintings by upstate artist Glen Miller, which were on display in the first GRAND Gallery in the West Pelzer Municipal Center.
Apr. 10 –  Pelzer Town Council received an unmodified opinion from their auditor, Josh Garvin. even though the auditing staff had to spend a lot of time and effort in helping prepare the information so that it met the accounting standards for a clean opinion. Also addressed was debris left in an unsightly pile on some property near the river, which is apparently owned by the Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC).
Envision Williamston and the Town of Williamston hosted a state meeting of the Main Street South Carolina program. Approximately 30 people from across the state attended the Second Quarter Training meeting. The event put the spotlight on Williamston and included a downtown area Williamston Walking Tour.
Pelzer and Williamston had downed trees when strong thunderstorms rolled through the area with heavy rain and strong winds.
The Greenville Textile Heritage Society and the Piedmont Historical Society displayed information and inducted three Piedmont men into the Textile Heritage Sports Hall of Fame in the Piedmont Community Building.
Apr. 17 –   Jakeel Terrance Moore, 26, was taken into custody by Williamston police and charged with the murder of Hunter E. Sizemore, 19 at the Anderson Crossing Apartments.  Moore was taken into custody by Williamston Police on an unrelated warrant when he was spotted walking along a road in the town.
Vandals targeted Midway Presbyterian Church on Midway Rd. Multiple stained-glass windows were broken at the church and graffiti was sprayed on an exterior wall. The stained-glass windows were part of the original church construction and were more than 125 years old.
The Town of Williamston began work on their 2019-2020 budget. Department heads met Mayor Mack Durham and councilmembers to discuss the proposed budget and one time items each would like to have included.
Williamston Fire Chief said the town needed to provide funding for at least one paid firefighter for the all volunteer department.
Mayor Durham said that the Armory lease to a fitness business is bringing in revenue of approximately $30,000.
One time department requests included police vehicles, Economic Development, admin computer, street signs, mowers, security cameras and equipment for Council Chambers. Total one time funding requests amounted to $310,800.
James Douglas Chapman, 32, was taken into custody in south Greenville County following an incident in which a Greenville County Sheriff’s Deputy was dragged by a vehicle. The incident began when deputies responded to a motel, located at 11794 Augusta Road, where deputies were conducting a follow-up investigation involving Chapman, who had active warrants out of Anderson County.
Praise in the Park, sponsored by Shady Grove Baptist Church, is held in Mineral Spring Park.
Anderson School District One voters go to the polls to decide if they want to approve a $109 million bond referendum to help fund a proposed building program.
A Piedmont man wanted in connection with the death of a female whose body was found in February at a vehicle crash scene near the intersection of Old Pelzer Road and Piedmont Highway, turned himself in. Deltravious Daquandra Howard, 20, of 313 Beech Island Drive, Piedmont, was accused of killing Jayla Thomas-Smith.
Wayne Rogers was among area veterans honored by the Christian Men United Prayer Group. He was presented a “Quilt of Valor” and recognized for his 99th birthday.
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said after discussions with Police Chief Tony Taylor and Fire Chief Steve Ellison, the town may be able to move approximately $50,000 out of the police department budget, where they are one person short, to the fire department budget as a recurring line item to provide some manpower coverage for the fire department.
AD1 Superintendent Robbie Binnicker updated the Board on the building program. Binnicker reported that the district had received a guaranteed maximum price on site work for the two new middle school projects that are a big part of the proposed building program.
Voters in Anderson School District One showed their support for a proposed building program by approving a $109 million bond referendum.
Second year students in the Clemson University Landscaping and Architect Program, presented their visions for a residential development on old Milliken property and for old water plant property in Williamston. Mayor Mack Durham is pitching the idea of a mixed residential development on the property to developers.
Pelzer Town Council held a workshop where Mayor pro tem Mike Matthews opened three sealed bids for tree work to be done in the monkey park. Upon further review, it became obvious that there was confusion among the bidders as to precisely what they were expected to do for their money. Also discussed was rent on the gym, installing a drive through window at town hall and purchasing banners to promote the weekly farmers market.
MAY
May 1 – Williamston Town Councilman Rockey Burgess, who maintains an active presence on social media, took to that platform to inform residents of the poor condition of the town’s infrastructure.
Approximatley 100 people, attended the “Our Town Matters” event held in Williamston. The event included networking and seven speakers on a variety of topics related to the area.
May 8 – Leadership from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) visited the Town of Williamston to view firsthand some of the ARC-sponsored streetscaping improvements accomplished through the Envision Williamston program.
The process of repairing Minor Street in Williamston reached a vital milestone as County Council approved a bid from Saluda Construction to perform the repairs and approved a request from the Town of West Pelzer for two vehicles from the county’s inventory.
The Town of West Pelzer approved first reading on their 2019-20 budget. The $1,115,500 budget is almost the same as last year but shows a slight decrease, according to Mayor Blake Sanders. Members of the Pelzer Masonic Lodge presented the town with a painting of George Washington.
Williamston Town Council approved first reading on their 2019-20 budget and heard reports from department heads. Budget highlights include one time funding for department requests. The budget also includes funding for a paid position at the fire department and a raise for public works employees, Mayor Durham said.
Of 41 units in South Carolina, Palmetto High School AFJROTC Unit SC-942  was the only one to receive the 2018-19 “Silver Star” Community Service with Excellence Award for the fifth time. They also received the Distinguished Unit with Merit Award which Palmetto has won for thirteen consecutive years.
Greenville County Schools announced that Dr. Scott Turner, longtime Superintendent of Spartanburg School District Five, will join Greenville County Schools as Deputy Superintendent, effective July 1.  Turner replaces Dr. Mason Gary, who retired in March after 30 years in public education.
CW5 (Ret.) Joseph A. Lawson, of Piedmont, was recognized by the South Carolina Army National Guard at the Warrant Officer Hall of Fame Ceremony in Eastover SC.
The Town of Pelzer held a spring fair called “It’s A Spring Thing on Lebby” with vendors and live music.
Pelzer Town Council met in a budget workshop where they got their first look at the draft version of the proposed  budget. Town clerk Cheryl Boudreau, with assistance from Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG) representative Trey Eubanks, produced the balanced budget.
The annual Pig in the Park Barbecue Festival and Cookoff  was held in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park.
Pelzer Town Council addressed health issues being experienced by the mayor and mayor pro tem by taking the unusual step of authorizing a third member of the Council to preside at meetings when both the other officials are absent. The role of the third councilman, Councilman Gary Pridmore, will also be tasked with “providing administrative support and oversight when the Mayor and Mayor pro tem are unavailable.”
The Anderson School District One Board of Trustees approved a resolution certifying the Bond Referendum and authorizing the sale of the $109 million bond for a new building program. They also heard a budget update based on the most recent Senate version of the state budget.Superintendent Robbie Binnicker offered options for the Board to consider to balance the proposed $78.6 million budget including going to the reserve fund and a tax increase.
Members of Pelzer Masonic Lodge 217 A.F.M. presented the Town of West Pelzer with a painting of the country’s first President, George Washington. Washington was also a mason.
The speed limit on Hwy. 8 through Pelzer and West Pelzer changed to 25 MPH.
May 22 –  The vandalism of several area churches continued as the New Mount Pisgah Baptist Church on the Old Greenville Highway reported five windows in the church had been broken.
Anderson School District One Commencement services for all three high schools were held this at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
May 29 – Duke Energy Government and Community Relations Manager Emily DeRoberts presented a check for $25,000 from the Duke Foundation for the new summer reading program Camp iRock.
The Anderson School District One Board of Trustees approved the 2019-20 budget with no tax increase. A transfer of $747,037 from the fund balance was needed to meet the additional expenditures and to balance the budget at $80,372,490.
The Town of West Pelzer second GRAND Gallery exhibit will feature the art of five Fine Art Majors from Anderson University.
Members of the Palmetto Business Association participated in a tour of the Duke Energy W. S. Lee Station.
The 750-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas plant is celebrating one year of providing energy and remains the most efficient facility in the Duke system.
The monthly work session of Williamston Town Council was contentious with much of the discussion centered on the question of the authority of the mayor versus the authority of the council, both as a body and as individuals.
Someone in the Powdersville area purchased a winning “Lucky for Life” SC lottery ticket at the QuikTrip #1130 on Hwy. 153 in Piedmont. The lucky winner decided between $25,000 a year for life or a one-time cash payment of $390,000 if there are less than 21 winners.
The Town of West Pelzer approved second reading on their 2019-20 budget. The $1,115,500 budget is almost the same as last year but shows a slight decrease. Mayor Sanders said the focus of the budget is to continue to provide a high level of service for traditional services while building on the successes of previous budget years.
West Pelzer has a new “Pop Up” mural painted on the back wall of Westy’s Antiques. Visiting artist Merritt Cates donated his talents as a part of West Pelzer’s GRAND Gallery.  The mural features Abraham Lincoln and his dog Fido.
Williamston Town Council approved second reading on their 2019-20 budget. General Fund Revenues are $3,280,225, up from $3,006,490 last year, reflecting the addtion of a resource officer and armory lease.
A public hearing on the Pelzer budget turned into an almost hour long town meeting, with endless questions, angry complaints, shouting and a touch of profanity thrown in.
Progress on the three Saluda Falls developments continues according to Richard Greer, The project seeks to develop and market properties at the prior mill sites along the river in Piedmont, Pelzer and Williamston. There is a possiblity of a micro brewery in Pelzer, but it will not be Thomas Creek, as has long been rumored.   Plans for a cottage village are proceeding for a twenty four acre tract above the Williamston dam, owned by ENEL, a company that still operates the hydroelectric power houses along the stretch of river in question.
The Piedmont Public Service Commission gave third and final reading to the 2019-2020 budget. The new budget shows revenues of $1,553,716 and expenses of $1,553,140, with a surplus of $576. PPSD Commission Chair Ed Poore said the budget includes funding for the hiring of an additional firefighter for Station Two.
The Town of Williamston will host their annual Freedom Celebration and Fireworks event.
Just over a year since Minor Street was closed due to a washout and “sinkhole”, work finally began on a new bridge to rectify the situation as heavy equipment was brought in and demolition of the old structure began.
The Anderson County Transportation Committee vice-chairman Gary Henderson resigned his seat due to medical issues. Williamston businessman Jim Simpson replaced Henderson on the committee.
Pelzer Town Council, with Mayor Roger Scott presiding, gave final approval to their 2019-20 budget during a special called meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Matthews said the budget was approved with $2000 being added for recreation, some funding for a part-time employee and additional funding for police protection to increase to five days.
The meeting is the first Scott has attended since he began having health issues around the first of the year.
A set of personal circumstances erupted into violence, ending in the shooting deaths of two people in Piedmont.  Tony Mitchell Robinson, 51, was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.
Second half of Looking Back 2019 will be published in the Jan. 1, 2020 issue of The Journal and The Journal Online.