Anderson County Year in Review . . . Part 1

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By Stan Welch

The following news happenings took place during the first part of 2020:

JANUARY
The Anderson County Council moved quickly through a brief agenda at their first meeting of the new year. The main thing achieved was the continuation of the current leadership of the Council, as Chairman Tommy Dunn (D5), as well as Vice Chairman Ray Graham (D3) were reelected to those posts.
At the second Council meeting of the month, District Six Councilman Jimmy Davis offered a resolution recognizing and honoring the Wren High School Golden Hurricanes for winning the state 4A football championship. The resolution followed the accomplishments of the schools first 13 win season in sixty two years, as well as the team’s 34-19 over Ridge View High School for the Upstate championship.
The team then traveled to Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia where they defeated the Myrtle Beach Seahawks by a score of 35-23 to secure the state title. Along the way, six members of the team were named to the South Carolina Football Coaches Association All Star team. They were Joe Owens, Tyler Cherry, Eli Wilson, Colin Kosek, Dez Frazier and Harrison Morgan.
Then came a resolution honoring a lifetime of service to both Williamston and Anderson County. That resolution recognized the remarkable life of Williamston native Theodore A. ‘Ted’ Mattison. The accomplishments mentioned included academic, military, business and civic achievement. Williamston Mayor Mack Durham called Mattison a true blessing to the town of Williamston, and to Anderson county as well. “We must count ourselves very fortunate that such a selfless man, such a servant to his community returned to Williamston to live after his military career. Williamston would be a different place today, had Mr. Ted chosen otherwise.”
Angie Stringer, of the Cancer Association of Anderson, was on hand at the Williamston Town Council work session to present the idea of a three day hot air balloon festival dubbed the Hot Air Affair – Rising Above Cancer. The dates will be May 1- 3. While the event has been held in other locations for two years previously, Stringer’s vision is to make Williamston the event’s official home site. “I really believe that the charm of this town and the attraction that such an event always becomes will work together beautifully to put Williamston on the tourist map and on the balloonist calendar,” said Stringer, herself a cancer survivor.
At that same meeting, Councilman Rockey Burgess also informed the council that the demolition date for Palmetto Middle School was being delayed by the district in response to numerous requests for a final, more formal closing, which would allow the public a chance for a nostalgic final tour of the facility. Burgess predicted huge crowds, and asked that the town provide fifteen hundred dollars of a twenty five hundred dollars fee to engage the Jake Hartley Band for a concert during the event.

The Pelzer town council convened with a bare three vote quorum, a circumstance that would prevail until April; following a special election to elect a new mayor, and fill the council seat vacated by Olene Bear.
The two resignations put the new council in an unusual situation for the next two months. Any absence by a member will render the council unable to function, due to a lack of a quorum. Two members were sworn in at the meeting, including incumbent Eddie Waits, who won re-election, and former councilman Will Ragland; who was returned to council after missing the last term.
Mayor pro tem and third member of the council Mike Matthews did not face re-election. He did, however, nominate Ragland as mayor pro tem; a nomination that was quickly confirmed by vote. The move effectively makes Ragland the town’s mayor until the special election. That election will occur in late March.
Veteran town attorney Jimmy King also ended his tenure, with Richard Thompson being hired in his stead. King is in the process of contracting his practice.

Long-lived reports of a planned brewery and possible retail site at the lower mill location in Pelzer gained some traction, as developers and public officials met to determine the best way to implement the infrastructure needed to make those plans a reality.
State Senator Mike Gambrell, Pelzer town clerk Cheryl Boudreau, Chris Paulson, of the Saluda River Brewery and Richard Greer, who has been involved in the development plans for the mill sites since their inception, were all on hand; as well as representatives of ReWa.
The issues of water and sewer at the proposed site have historic origins. Most of the water used in the mill operations was drawn directly from the Saluda River. It was essentially free and not potable. When the mills closed, their former facilities were naturally disconnected from the town’s infrastructure, such as it was.
But now, with a proposed brewery looking at the site, clean potable water and sewer is essential. The lower mill site, along the banks of the Saluda River is very attractive to developers. Potential plans included retail sites as well as a venue for concerts and other performances. In addition to the infrastructure issues, there is a need for cooperation from the SCDOT to create easier access to the site from Highway 8. Currently, the only access is Murray Street, a short cross street that goes over the railroad tracks of the Greenville and Western Railroad.

 

FEBRUARY
The right to bear arms, as assured by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was a topic of discussion at the last Anderson County Council meeting in February.
Thirty to forty citizens appeared at the county council meeting in a preemptive effort to make Anderson County the fourth county in the state to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary county. That designation essentially ensures that any unconstitutional gun control measures adopted by the General Assembly would not be enforced by local law enforcement. The group’s statement of purpose says that they will “endeavor to protect, and where necessary, restore “ the right to bear arms under contrary state laws.
A crowd of approximately thirty five residents of the Cheddar community gathered for an update on the progress of the petroleum spill that continues to threaten Brown’s Creek, Broadway Lake and waters further downstream.
The crowd included a large contingent from the Cheddar Fire Department, as well as a smaller group from the Anderson Regional Landfill. There were also representatives from Upstate Forever and the Savannah Riverkeepers. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson introduced Chris Cosker, the new site manager at the landfill. He explained that ongoing efforts to reduce strong methane odors at the site are continuing, but are being hampered by the heavy rains, which significantly increase the amount of leachate on the site.
Frank Holleman then took the floor to review steps that have, and more importantly, have not been taken by Kinder Morgan, the owners of the Plantation Pipeline that was breached almost six years ago, spilling at least 370,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel into the wetlands and creeks that lace the area. Holleman opined that a number of experts estimate that the spill might have been closer to a half million gallons.
But he saved his most righteous anger for both the pipeline’s owners and SCDHEC. His main complaint with the efforts of those two parties is that they are focused on monitoring and not aggressive cleanup. “They are studying the migration of the pollution plume when they should and could be removing it,” said Holleman. He spoke about some partial steps that have been taken, but added that they fail to address the pollution at its deepest point in the water table.
A shooting that took place last Thursday, Feb. 13, at 110 Bryon Circle in Belton resulted in the eventual deaths of three people. Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to that address, where they found Rashad Tamell Nash, a thirty two year old black male dead on the ground of a gunshot wound or wounds.
Also shot, though still alive, was Sabrina Louise Lowery, a twenty one year old white female who was thirty seven weeks pregnant. She died later during surgery, as did her child, bringing the toll to three.
At one of the last meetings before the corona virus made its official debut in Anderson County, the Council approved a letter of intent that cleared the way for the Pelzer Heritage Commission to receive a three hundred thousand dollar grant to be used in cleanup operations at the mill site. The PHC, as a non-profit organization, has functioned as the pass through mechanism for such grants, since the county cannot receive such funds.
Five thousand dollars was allocated to the Belton Chili Cook Off festival; an expenditure that Councilwoman Gracie Floyd challenged on the grounds that the necessary application was not received. County administrator Rusty Burns explained that the long time chairman of the festival had stepped down and, for some reason, the application was inadvertently lost in transit. “We don’t know if they lost it or the county lost it. But this is one of Anderson County’s largest and most successful events and we just want to make them whole and help them out.” Floyd joined the rest of the Council in approving the money.
A house fire claimed two lives in Pelzer. Aaccording to the Anderson County Coroner’s office, and the county fire department, the West Pelzer Fire Department responded to a residence at 207 Whitten St. in Pelzer.
Upon arrival, they found the structure fully engaged in flames. According to Anderson County Fire Chief Brian Moon, the house was heavily damaged, and the roof had almost entirely collapsed. After extinguishing the flames, the department was able to confirm that the owners of the house were out of town.
Later that morning, around 10:00 a.m., the fire reignited and the WPFD again responded. In moving some debris around to make sure the remaining hot spots were distinguished two bodies were discovered.
Charles Edward Tate, Jr., a 29 year old white male, was the son of the owners, while Christine Ann Bagwell, white female, 21, were found under the debris. Smoke inhalation was named as the cause of the deaths.
The presence of the two victims in the home was completely unexpected. Tate, Jr. had an Anderson address, while Bagwell lived in Pickens.
The Anderson County Transportation Committee, which distributes C fund revenues for use in the paving of county roads, approved expenditures of more than $1.6 million for three towns in The Journal’s readership area.
Belton received $871,988 for the paving of Smythe Street, Broyles Street, Madison Street and Cox Drive. The release of the funds is contingent on the town matching ten per cent of the costs, or approximately $87,000.
Williamston was allocated $490,967 to pave Glenwood Drive, Pelzer Drive, Glendale Drive, Mineral Park Lane and L Street.
A Powdersville restaurant, Eggs Up, owner by Debi Bannon, created a program to provide sausage biscuits to health care workers and first responders as the pandemic spread across the Upstate. The program soon expanded to include a light lunch menu, and the proceeds of a Gofundme page were used to reduce or eliminate the need for the recipients to pay for the meals.

MARCH
The continuing surge in coronavirus cases strained the availability of protective gear for first responders and care givers. To help provide supplies for health care providers responding to COVID-19, South Carolina requested its full allocation of medical equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile.
The 55 pallets in the initial shipment contained N-95 masks, face shields, surgical masks, gowns and gloves. Additional shipments may continue over the next three weeks. Anderson County administrator Rusty Burns reported that the supplies were allocated thusly: fifty per cent to area hospitals, and twenty five per cent each to nursing home facilities and first responders. He said the county has also received requests for assistance from various entities and is cooperating to the full extent of their capability.
“As of March 23, we had fifteen positive among those tested for the coronavirus in Anderson County, and we are adjusting our response as quickly and effectively as we can. Our first responders and the various aspects of the medical community are working very hard with us, and in their own areas, to combat this virus. In addition, state officials are also taking steps to reduce the physical contact between people,” said Emergency Management Director David Baker.
Still closer to home, West Pelzer officials were looking for ways to reach out to local residents in need of non-emergency help, such as picking up food orders at local restaurants, or medications. Mayor Blake Sanders said the idea took root when people were calling the town hall look for help with such matters. Not wanting to overwhelm the police department, Sanders put together a newsletter that includes a highly visible green section that can be torn off and taped to the front door. The green marker is meant to indicate a need within that household.

The Pelzer town council met and conducted several bits of business. Drew Johnston, representing the Palmetto Soccer Club (PSC), presented his group’s proposal for leasing the town’s ball fields. He explained that the group currently uses an inadequate, small area provided by the Town of Williamston; an area that can’t contain even one full sized soccer pitch. His group proposed a short term lease for the Pelzer ball fields. Initially, only the larger field would be used, but both fields would be improved at PSC’s expense.
No money would change hands, but PSC would refurbish the dilapidated bathrooms on site, as well as improving and maintaining the fields, even when PSC is not using them. They would also pay the light bill for the entire time. They would provide off duty ACSO deputies to provide security during games. The lease would run approximately eighteen months, and a review of the arrangement would take place at the end of that time.
South Carolina was on the national political stage as Democratic candidate Joe Biden made huge gains in a very crowded field, garnering forty two percent of the vote in a field of more than a dozen contenders. Bernie Sanders was eighteen points behind Biden. No one after that reached double digits in the percentage of votes they received.

APRIL
West Pelzer Town Council held its first public meeting since March 17. One item of business was the adoption of a resolution encouraging, but not requiring, residents and visitors to the town to wear masks and gloves when conducting transactions that require close contact. The resolution was not an ordinance and established neither a penalty nor a mechanism for enforcement.
The Council also gave first reading approval to the FY 2020-2021 budget. That budget raises neither taxes nor fees, and is a balanced budget.

The new Pine Lawn Cemetery, and other property at the Pelzer Church of God, was vandalized last weekend. An incident report provided to The Journal by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office indicates that approximately two thousand dollars’ worth of damage (estimated) was committed Saturday night.
Deputy C.G. Darnell filed an incident report that indicated spray painting to church property occurred. But additional reports from Dianne Lolliss, chairman of the new Pine Lawn Cemetery committee, indicate that headstones in the new cemetery were also tipped over, with at least one being damaged beyond repair.

Emergency Management Director David Baker touted his people’s performance in the wake of Easter weekend’s powerful storms. “Overall, we had 125 trees down in roadways that required some level of response to reopen those roads. The public works department did a great job on that. The city of Anderson and the Pendleton area seemed to have the most trees down; and Pendleton appeared to suffer the heaviest damage to real property. “
Baker said he had two crews working by early Monday morning. One crew was assessing the damage in Anderson county, while a second crew flew drones over the Clemson and Seneca areas, helping to assess damage and locate missing persons in areas rendered inaccessible to normal egress.
County Administrator Rusty Burns had six crews were out early Monday morning, clearing downed trees and debris from Easter night’s powerful storms; storms that ravaged the Upstate. While escaping the worst of the damage, the county did have a hundred and twenty five trees down in public roadways; requiring significant cleanup efforts. Serious power outages complicated the various efforts, and intensified the results of the storms for thousands.
Three Anderson County voting precincts were moved to new polling locations. The Piercetown, Pelzer, and West Pelzer precincts will be in new locations starting with the Bond Referendum on April 30.
The changes for two of the precincts are due to a November settlement with the United States Department of Justice to ensure accessibility of polling locations to persons with disabilities, and one due to concerns over the location according to Anderson County Elections Director Katy Smith.

 

More news from 2020 to come!

Anderson County Year in Review . . . Part 2
By Stan Welch

(Published Week of Dec. 30, 2020)

The following news was reported in The Journal from May – Dec. 2020:

MAY
Pelzer Town Council, functioning with a bare quorum of three members, met publicly for the first time in several weeks, due to the corona crisis. They approved seeking bids for several previously approved projects, such as lighting the ballfields and removing several trees from the monkey park. A special election to fill one of the vacant seats was rescheduled for July 14.
In an effort to increase police protection in town, Councilman Eddie Waits proposed that the 2020-2021 budget for the Town of Pelzer include the use of hospitality tax revenues to pay half the cost of adding police protection on the weekends as well as the existing arrangement with the ACSO.

The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded Powdersville Water $2 million to construct resilient water infrastructure and to support manufacturing in South Carolina. The EDA grant of $2 million will be combined with local funds from PW to begin a $4.9 million project designed to improve the transmission of water across a rapidly growing service area.
First reading was given by Anderson County Council to a proposed ordinance which would establish a six month moratorium on the issuance of development permits for RV parks and tiny home subdivisions. Many of the proposed projects would be located in District Two, a circumstance that Councilwoman Gracie Floyd opposed.
Council passed a resolution, sponsored by District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, requesting that SCDHEC require additional testing and remediation at the Kinder Morgan Plantation Pipeline leak in the Belton area. Wilson has relentlessly expressed her dissatisfaction with the efforts of both the company and the state agency in pursuing the cleanup of more than a quarter million gallons of petroleum products in the Cheddar community a decade ago.
The Council also approved a continuing resolution to maintain budget funding at last year’s levels, until conditions allow the creation of a new budget.
As the development and increased use of the Saluda Blueway expanded, so did its reputation as a resource for those who spend time on the water. Evidence of that was the publishing of an article by the National Parks Service (NPS) recently, cataloging the more than decade long project. Authored by Ember Rensel, the article talks about the efforts of Matt Shell, of the Anderson County parks department, to create and develop the forty eight miles of river that runs through the county.
Beginning with a single launch site at the Dolly Cooper Park in Powdersville, the blueway now runs all the way to Belton. With each additional facility being designed for compliance with the American Disabilities Act, the project reached out to the NPS River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program; a partnership that has significantly accelerated the project’s success. Efforts to extend and improve the blueway continue.

 

JUNE
A breach in Paulan Road that resulted from the torrential rains earlier this spring was moved up on the schedule for repairs, according to county administrator Rusty Burns. The corrugated metal conduit that is in place remains intact, but was simply unable to channel the amount of water it received following the heavy spring rains that washed out several roads and culverts in the county.

A local woman was shot and killed at the Waffle House restaurant in Powdersville; apparently the result of a relationship involving the victim and man that was with the accused female shooter. Amanda Marie Stovall was working her shift at the Waffle House, 103 Assembly Drive (Piedmont) when Ronald James Baker, 38, and a woman he was involved with, Autumn Faith Hicks, 38, arrived. According to reports, Stovall and Baker apparently also had a relationship, and the three got into his truck to discuss the situation. Warrants later served on Baker and Hicks, state that sometime during that encounter Hicks shot Stovall several times with a .380 caliber pistol. The three then drove in Baker’s truck to his residence at 820 Joe Black Road in the Williamston area.

Following a public hearing on the matter, at which one citizen spoke, the Piedmont Public Service Commission gave final approval to the budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. The budget, which included no millage increase actually showed small surpluses in each of the three areas that it covers

Anderson County Emergency Management Director David Baker confirmed reports that the Williamston zipcode (29697) had a significant increase in confirmed positive cases of Covid -19 to 53 confirmed cases. He attributes the spike partly to increased testing. The coronavirus pandemic and its impacts were a constant theme throughout the year. (See Looking Back at 2020)
Incumbents won each of their primaries, with Lindsey Graham leading the way. With a voter turnout of just under twenty five percent, Republican voters outpaced their democratic counterparts by almost six to one.
As part of a larger acquisition, Hull Street Energy, headquartered in Maryland, purchased the Piedmont, Pelzer and Williamston hydroelectric plants from EnEl Energy.

JULY
Due to multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 County officials decided to close the Historic Courthouse to all employees and all persons until further notice. All other county buildings and offices are maintaining current operation.
As plans to expand and improve the Dolly Cooper Park facility continued, the reputation of the area for water recreation continued to grow as well. Originally obtained during the Preston administration, the site has gone largely undeveloped, with the main exception being the construction of an ADA compliant kayak launching site. That facility anchors one end of an extensive Saluda River Blueway that has become a major attraction for the northern end of the county. Development of the site has recently accelerated somewhat, as a walking trail of approximately a third of a mile was formed and poured recently.
In a letter authored last November, Tim Fadul, district manager for Waste Connections, requested that discussions begin between the company and the county concerning a lateral expansion of the landfill, with an attendant increase in the tonnage cap. Fadul supports his request by citing an increase in the amount of solid waste received at ARL from 236,757 tons when Waste Connections assumed operations to 426,630 tons last year. The latest amount is essentially the permitted capacity for all practical purposes. Waste Connections is ultimately seeking an increase in its permitted tonnage of 150,000 tons each year. According to the letter, the original footprint permitted is 113 acres, which Fadul claims limits the remaining life of the facility. Following an online meeting at the end of June, DHEC agreed to a temporary increase of fifty thousand tons, with any further increases to be negotiated with the county.

AUGUST
The lack of a fifth member on the Pelzer town council left them hamstrung, as a motion to sell the small parcel of land that includes the cell tower was defeated by a 2-2 tie vote. The land could have been sold to the company currently leasing it for $750,000, but the lack of a deciding vote left the situation unresolved.

Figures about the coronavirus released by the Anderson Emergency Management Division confirmed a significant change in the course and pace of the virus with a downward trend in new cases. Pelzer, Piedmont, and Williamston reported no new cases. Pelzer and Piedmont remained flat, while Williamston saw a reduction of four reported cases.

Anderson County Council declined to pass a county wide face mask ordinance. District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, whose district lies partly within Anderson city limits, sponsored the proposed requirement.

SEPTEMBER

Anderson County Council gave first reading approval to the FY 20-21 budget, which like so many things, was delayed and slowed by the COVID problem.
County Administrator Rusty Burns told The Journal that the budget basically takes a ‘hold your ground’ approach due to the many uncertainties created by COVID, and the administration’s need to prioritize its response to the virus. Two main features of the budget were no increase in taxes or in the solid waste fee charged to each homeowner.
Three of the six Pelzer churches were vandalized in one week, with windows being broken and property being otherwise damaged. ACSO Deputy J.M. Bennett responded to Alive Wesleyan, where Pastor Mark Tolan reported that eight windows had been broken and the church otherwise defaced. The damage was estimated at two thousand dollars.
Deputy I.B. Parker responded to Pelzer First Baptists Church where pastor Mark Manes reported that windows had also been broken in the church, and the 2004 Ford church bus had the windshield smashed. That damage was also estimated at two thousand dollars. The Presbyterian Church on Lebby Street was also damaged.
The Pelzer Rescue Squad launched a fundraising effort in support of one of their own, Julia Nichols, in her fight against pancreatic cancer. Nichols has worked as a dispatcher, as well as working for the Pelzer Rescue Squad and the Williamston Fire Department, where her father, Steve Ellison is chief. She completed her nurse’s training about a year ago and works for Prisma Health.

OCTOBER
Pelzer Town Council held a Concerned Citizens meeting to discuss recent criminal activity in the Town of Pelzer.
Easley attorney Candy Kern Fuller, and her company Upstate Law Group, came out on the wrong end of a ruling by an administrative judge in Arizona. The judge, ruling on Fuller’s actions related to a scheme to buy veterans’ benefits from them – a violation of state and federal law, according to the judge – has imposed fines of $480,000 and has also directed the reimbursement of approximately $2.5 million to more than twenty investors who lost their life savings in the scheme.
Six years after the largest fuel spill in state history, Kinder Morgan settled a lawsuit resulting from the spill of almost four hundred thousand gallons of fuel into an unnamed tributary of Brown’s Creek, which in turn feeds into Broadway Lake and Rocky River on its way to Lake Secession. The settlement establishes a fund of a million and a half dollars, to be administered by Upstate Forever and the Savannah Riverkeepers, two prominent environmental organizations that filed the suit through the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC).
The efforts of the Town of Pelzer to create a recognizable brand met with mixed responses. The second branding meeting attracted almost twice as many residents as the first meeting, with approximately twenty people in attendance, including the entire town council to hear the presentation by the design group, Lunchbox Creative.
Coroner Greg Shore advised that his office is investigating the death of a man that died at AnMed Health after
suffering Cardiac Arrest at the Anderson County Detention Center. Deputy Coroner Don McCown advised identified him as Robert Dale Robertson, 55 years old. The preliminary investigation indicated that the victim was being processed in the booking area of the Anderson County Detention Center and suffered cardiac arrest after sustaining a fall.
ACSO Deputies responded to a shooting incident on the side of Interstate 85. Upon their arrival it was learned that a person traveling on Interstate 85 stopped near mile marker 32 to assist what appeared to be a stranded motorist. Once outside of his vehicle, the victim was shot by an unknown suspect at least one time. The suspect then took the victim’s vehicle and left the scene. The victim was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

NOVEMBER
During the general election, new records were set in a number of categories which gauge voter interest and participations. Not surprisingly, two of the voter records broken included absentee ballots and mail in ballots, as voters reacted to the COVID 19 pandemic. Absentee ballots more than doubled the previous high, while mail in votes almost exactly tripled the previous record. More surprising, however, was the fact that the number of in person voters more than doubled the previous record with just under two million votes cast on Election day, fueling a total voter count of more than two and a half million people. The percentage of registered voters casting ballots was seventy two per cent. The only higher percentage came in 2008 when 76% voted.

Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office arrested Sergio Donte Latimer, 31, of Piedmont, in connection with a string of robberies in the Greenville area. The crime spree began when Latimer stole a relative’s 2016 Nissan Versa. Following an investigation, GCSO Investigators arrested Latimer at his residence, located at 417 Rosalee Drive. He is facing charges for: Breach of Trust w/fraudulent intent, 3 counts of Armed Robbery, 2 counts of Shoplifting, Possession of a Weapon during a Violent Crime and Criminal Conspiracy.
The Pelzer Town Council finally regained its full contingent of members as recently elected Alisha Tuttle was sworn in by town attorney Richard Thompson.

DECEMBER
The first phase of a significant road project in the Powdersville area began when River Road was closed at the intersection of Hwy 153. The north side of River Road will undergo construction to achieve improved drainage. Additional turn lanes will also be installed at a later time, according to SCDOT project engineer Zach Herron. Next summer, additional work will be done to replace a culvert on the southern part of River Road. Work will also be done to improve the intersection of old Pendleton Highway in the area. The total contract is funded at just over $2.1 million.