Anderson County Year in Review . . . Part 2

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By Stan Welch
JULY
A series of informational meetings about a proposed county road fee continued, with meetings across Council District Six. Sponsored by D6 Councilman Jimmy Davis, and attended by other Council members and staff, the meetings provided historic background on the reasons for reduced revenues for us in road maintenance and repair. Meetings were held in Powdersville, Piercetown, and West Pelzer.
A Florida homicide suspect, Erick Lopez, was arrested by US Marshals in Easley.
According to the Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office, on July 4, the suspect and a victim got into an altercation that resulted in Lopez fatally shooting Arturo Arriga of West Palm Beach.
Leslie Martin, a teacher at Powdersville High School in Anderson School District One, was named the 2019 South Carolina History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Authorities decided that no charges will be filed against Antwain Lorenta Moton, who lives at 440 Boiter Road, Willliamston. Moton shot and killed Efren Nectali Ramirez, a thirty nine year old man from Honduras, who forced his way into the residence.
The town of West Pelzer made history when they swore in new police chief Alexis Eliopoulos, Anderson County’s first female police chief, and one of the youngest ever sworn in.
Renewable Water Resources (ReWa) entered into a strategic partnership with Anderson County officials to manage and maintain sewer service and wastewater treatment operations for 1,100 customers in the county’s northeastern corridor.
Anderson County Council  approved funding to expand Emergency Medical Services in the Slabtown Community.  Under a partnership with Three and Twenty Fire Department, Pelzer EMS began providing ambulance coverage 24 hours a day. The ambulance is stationed on Pickens Drive in a rural area of the County that historically has had longer-than-average response times to EMS calls.
AUGUST
A public meeting was scheduled for August 12th at the Pelzer Community Center Representatives from MKSK Planning Group were to be on hand to share draft concepts of physical, economic, and community development strategies aimed at improving the quality of life and vibrancy of this historic community.  The Pelzer Master Plan study has been underway for several weeks. The scheduled meeting is intended to provide the results of that study to the public, and to receive their feedback.
A couple of significant votes by the County Council impacted future operations at the Anderson Regional Landfill. Camelot Forest, Murphy Road, Ballard Road and Stoneybrook Road all received protection from heavy trucks that have damaged those roads, as well as created significant hazards to civilian traffic. The changes will result in a rerouting of that traffic. Councilmember Cindy Wilson joined the rest of the council in voting to approve an increase in the permitted capacity of the landfill from the current 438,000 tons to 488,000 tons.
At their meeting on August 20, Anderson County Council gave second reading approval to an ordinance authorizing the county to obtain a loan from the Brownsfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund (BCRLF) to be used in additional cleanup at the lower mill site in Pelzer. According to the terms of the loan, provided by the Catawba Regional Council of Governments on behalf of SCDHEC, the funding will be used for removing debris piles, asbestos abatement in the large warehouse, and the demolition and disposal of a small warehouse on the site. An additional subgrant of $48,000 will be dedicated to asbestos and lead paint abatement in the administration building.
A unanimous ruling by the Justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court  brought to an end efforts by former Anderson County administrator Joey Preston to retain possession of more than a million dollars he received in severance more than a decade ago. The court ruled that several of the votes cast in 2008 to award Preston a severance package just weeks before his contract was due to expire were tainted by conflicts of interest, thereby rendering the quorum needed to pass the severance invalid.
Meetings promoting a proposed county road fee continued throughout District Six.
More than a hundred citizens attended a meeting of the Piedmont Crime Watch. The meeting allowed the public s well as a moderator, to question law enforcement and public officials about the options for more efficiently handling criminal activity in the area.
Six Anderson County Precincts are moving to new polling locations, due to the November settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice to ensure accessibility of polling locations to persons with disabilities.
The following precincts will have new polling locations: Belton Annex, Anderson 3/1, Five Forks, La France, Anderson 2/1, and Anderson 2/2.
  SEPTEMBER
  Pelzer EMS personnel along with Powdersville firefighters responded to the scene of a two vehicle wreck at the intersection of Galerie Drive and Old Pendleton Road. A total of six people were transported to the hospital by ambulance. Powdersville firefighters had to extricate at least one person from the wreckage.
A crowd of approximately fifty people were on hand to hear the results of a three month planning exercise intended to produce a master plan for Pelzer. Steve Newton, of Anderson County, and Tee Coker, of MKSK Consultants, led the presentation. Also attending was Mayor Roger Scott.  In a brief business meeting, following the presentation of the final draft of the town’s master plan, the Municipal Association of South Carolina to act as a claimant agency to collect unpaid utility bills for the town.
Pelzer Town Council voted to allow Will Ragland to put up banners around town in 2020 , in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Pelzer Auditorium. Councilman Eddie Waits proposed an ordinance to require every building, residential or commercial, to display the address number on the front of the building, in numbers at least three inches high.  He explained that the measure was necessary to enable first responders to find the designated location more easily.
A juvenile was arrested  in relation to threats of violence made against Powdersville High School. Due to the juvenile’s legal status, no identification was released by the ACSO.
A Williamston meeting explaining the proposed county road fee grew testy as residents focused on their distrust of the government, and its presumptive failure to keep its word. Much of the distrust centered on state government. A separate road fee meeting was also held by the full county council in council chambers during the month of September.

OCTOBER
There were six candidates, including incumbents, seeking four seats on the Pelzer Town Council. Five of them were hand to meet the voters and answer questions Tuesday night. The five that participated were David Hatley, Gary Pridemore, Margaret Jamison, Eddie Waits and Will Ragland. Rick Haynes did not.
Town attorney Jimmy King was the moderator. Eight of the twenty two citizens present signed up to ask a question, and each candidate answered every question. The candidates expressed their opinions on the town’s preservation efforts, as well as the need for a boost to the economy and continuing upgrades to the infrastructure.
The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office was called to the area of River Road and White Road in Piedmont in regards to a survey crew locating possible human remains. ACSO Criminal Investigations detectives and Forensic investigators responded to the scene and it was determined that it was in fact human remains.
Anderson County achieved a record-low unemployment rate of 1.7 percent in September 2019, according to local area unemployment statistic (LAUS) data released by the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW). September data shows Anderson County has a labor force of 91,001 with 89,448 of those employed. The surge in job creation and economic development over the last decade has seen unemployment lowered by almost eight percentage points. Wages have increased and a surge in new housing construction.
An Easley man was being held at the Anderson County Detention Center after allegedly stabbing and killing his stepfather. Anderson County deputies responded to a call involving a stabbing incident at an address on Three & Twenty Road. As they approached, they encountered Karley Shane Hembree, and apprehended him after a brief struggle. Upon arriving at 2112 Three & Twenty Road, they found Stevie L. Odom, a sixty two year old white male, in the front yard. He had suffered a knife wound to the chest, and he was deceased. Odom was Hembree’s stepfather, and Deputy Coroner Brent Simpson described the situation as a domestic dispute involving the two men.
A final meet the candidates forum was held in Pelzer in advance of the November municipal elections. The candidates answered questions from the public and shared their views about the town’s future. One of the candidates, Margaret Jamison, later withdrew from the race prior to the election.

NOVEMBER
Voters used the new paper-based system that is replacing the state’s aging paperless system that has been in place since 2004. Voters in municipal elections across the state, including Pelzer and West Pelzer, were among the first to use the new Election Systems and Software (ES&S) ExpressVote voting system. The new voting system functioned smoothly according to poll workers at both locations.
Otis Trevion Newby, of Piedmont was fatally injured when he lost control of a white KIA Optima that traveling on Bessie Road, Piedmont toward US Highway 25. According to Greenville County Coroner Parks Evans, “Mr. Newby’s vehicle ran off the right side of the roadway, over-corrected and went off the left side of the road and struck a large tree.”
The Anderson County Transportation Committee (ACTC) took under consideration a list of requested road projects from the town of Pelzer. The town requested repairs and resurfacing on eight roads in the town’s limits. Those roads are Guy Street, McCaughrin Street, Lewis Street, Baldwin Street, Hale Street, Front Street Baptist Street and Pelzer Park Street.
The ACTC will send out their paving consultant and contractor to evaluate and price the various projects before the committee takes any action.

West Cox  announced his intention to run for reelection as a Republican for the South Carolina State House of Representatives in District 10. District 10 includes the northeast Anderson County communities of Piedmont, Powdersville, White Plains and Three and Twenty as well as parts of Greenville and Pickens Counties.
Pelzer Mayor Roger Scott, who has suffered some serious medical problems over the last ten months or so, announced his resignation. A special election will be held in March to fill both his place, and a seat vacated by Councilwoman Olene Bear.
Anderson County extended its commitment to the Saluda River Blueway, as the County Council approved two major projects that will improve access to the waterway.
One of the projects involves the purchase of approximately 28 acres behind the dam at Piedmont. It’s the former Metromont/Cemex site. The land will be used for the placing of an ADA compliant kayak launch, and parking. The cost of the land is three hundred twenty five thousand dollars. The actual launch is already constructed and owned by the county.
An additional three hundred and fifty thousand dollars will be spent in upgrading the ADA compliant kayak launch and the surrounding access to it for the Dolly Cooper site in Powdersville, also in Davis’s district. In addition, a hardened walking trail will be constructed that will follow the riverbank for the entire distance of the park site.
The latest projects will allow kayak, canoe and innertube access to an 8.5 mile stretch of river. For those willing to portage around the dam at Piedmont, they can then travel downstream to the landing at Pelzer. Once below the Pelzer dam, they can travel all the way to the new kayak landing at Belton.

DECEMBER
The plans for the development of the Piedmont waterfront area continued to move ahead, highlighted by the recent announcement that Coldwell Banker Caine has joined with Red Oak Developers to market the project.
Richard Greer, who has been involved in the project since its inception, confirmed that the partnership is in place; and that Red Oak is now leading the project, which is an ambitious undertaking. Developers plan to revitalize the historic mill village into a thriving neighborhood featuring over 60 townhomes and single family residences as well as commercial space.
Development is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2020. The project will include three level townhomes. As well as modern mill village style homes, with larger homes situated on the river front and in areas with extraordinary vistas. Greer told The Journal that all brownfields and environmental concerns have been addressed and satisfied.
In keeping with the green nature of the project, there will be waste disposal and recycling units throughout the project, making dumpsters and enclosures unnecessary. The community will also purchase electricity directly from the existing hydro operation at the dam.
At their December meeting, Pelzer Town Council bade long time town attorney Jimmy King a fond goodbye. King, who is retiring, served the town for thirty years.  Council also set the rate for renting the gym at twenty dollars an hour, with the proviso that an extra hour be included for set up and cleanup. A two hour birthday party, for example, would require a three hour rental.
Town clerk Cheryl Boudreau announced that a special election to fill the Mayor’s position, as well as a Council seat being vacated by Olene Bear, will be held on March 31. The book for signing up for either seat will open in February. On January 2, candidates who won Council seats in November will be sworn in, and the regular January Council meeting will be held at that time. Incumbent Eddie Waits and Will Ragland will be sworn in at that time. Until the special election, those two Councilmen and current Mayor pro tem Mike Matthews will serve as a bare quorum of three.
One person was shot and killed in Piedmont. Greenville County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to Mansion Circle for a report of gunshots. When they arrived they found an individual in a vehicle deceased with at least one gunshot wound. Piedmont firefighters and Greenville EMS also responded to the scene.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT)  provided public notification of the Commission approved 21 day public comment notice to amend the 2017-2022 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) to include: preliminary engineering and construction phases for nine (9) Off-System Bridges in five (5) Counties. Three of the bridges are located in Anderson County including one in Williamston.   The replacement of these bridges aligns with SCDOT’s 10 year plan to reduce the number of closed and load restricted bridges, while improving the movement of goods and services in the affected regions. The total cost estimated for these bridges is $96,759,765.

The issue of accountability for one of the county’s major providers of emergency medical services was the topic of a meeting of the county public safety committee. Medshore, the county’s only corporate EMS provider, is essentially responsible for the city of Anderson. The assigned territory is not that precise; but basically, Medshore handles Anderson. Since the Williamston Rescue Squad folded, a couple of years ago, Medshore has also covered the Williamston area.
Medshore operates under a performance based contract. One feature of that contract requires a response level of less than ten minutes for at least ninety per cent of the calls handled. Those response times are reviewed monthly by Steve Kelly, EMS director, and a representative of Medshore.
Many violations are forgiven based on extenuating circumstances, but recently six thousand dollars in fines were levied for four violations. Medshore and Priority officials plead their case for a reduction of the fines, or possibly forgiveness. After an executive session, he committee voted to recommend a two thirds reduction of the fines.
Area residents watched as the 3rd ranked Clemson Tigers defeated the 2nd ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. Clemson will play LSU in the 2020 National Championship Game Mon. Jan. 13. at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Last season, Clemson routed Alabama 44-16 to win its second CFP national championship and third national title overall in program history.
Greenville County Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested and charged 18-year-old Braelon Jasper Brown in connection with the shooting death that occurred on Mansion Circle December 19th. The incident remains under investigation and more arrests are expected.

Residents also prepared to celebrate the New Year 2020.