Looking Back at 2020 . . . Year in Review Part 1

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Following are the headline news events that were covered by The Journal for the first part of 2020:

JANUARY

Jan. 8 – Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office were investigating a case of animal cruelty after being called to the property of 1126 Dunklin Bridge Road. The request was made by Animal Control after their officers were called to the property regarding the operation of a possible “puppy mill” of caged dogs being used for breeding. The 39 dogs were described as a wide variety of breeds, significantly malnourished and not being properly cared for.Two were found deceased.

With a full council including new member Pat Alexander, West Pelzer Town Council took steps for road paving and work on town hall during their first meeting of the year. They also kicked off the first GRAND Gallery of the new year, celebrating the art of Anderson University Professor Peter Kaniaris who has exhibited nationally and regionally. Council approved a resolution for a match for a PARD grant of $8,000 for work on the old Town Hall. Work on the historic building will include replacement of a roof, paving, building a deck on back and new steps.During citizens comments, Gary Alexander requested the town pick up a toilet and broken cabinet left on the corner of Marguerite and James Street.

Williamston Town Council approved second reading on an ordinance to purchase property on Mill Street for $10,000 and on an ordinance to amend the zoning map for property at 602 Greenville Drive to allow original use of the property as a car lot.
Envision Williamston Executive Director Tony Brown reported that he is developing strategic partnerships for Envision Williamston with Anderson University, Clemson University and Lander University. He said the organization will have several new board members this year and that he is looking into USDA grants and corporate sponsorships.

Jan. 15 – Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office investigated a bank robbery at the Commercial Bank, located at 8016 Augusta Road. The suspect presented a note to the teller, demanding cash and left the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The Milltown Players presented their first production, Moonlight and Magnolias, (one of only three they would hold)

Williamston police officer Ronnie Drennon was struck by a sport utility vehicle while investigating a single car wreck at the intersection of Gossett Dr. and West First St. Drennon was pinned between his patrol car and the SUV and later released from the hospital with only minor bruising.

Jan. 22 – Eight-year-old Devan Segar of Williamston was one of the 20 “Grin Kids” selected for the Ace & TJ’s Grin Kids five-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Walt Disney World.
A benefit for Scotty Jamerson was at the Living Water Church in West Pelzer. Proceeds from the hot dog and bake sale benefit went toward medical expenses.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast in Williamston featured guest speaker, Juana S. Slade, CDM, CCF- Director, Diversity & Language Services-AnMed.

Jan. 29 – The Anderson School District One Board recognized the 4A State Champion Wren football team and two Wren High golfers. The meeting was held in the Wren High School Auditorium where Wren Hurricane football team and parents were recognized along with their coach Jeff Tate. Tate said as a former player and coach at Wren to come back and coach at Wren was special.
Board member Melissa Hood was recognized for 10 years of service and Board Chair, Nancy Upton was recognized for 30 years of service as a school board member.
Superintendent Robbie Binnicker reported work on the two new middle schools is progressing with Wren Middle being a bit ahead of schedule. Work was also going on for the eight room addition at Spearman Elementary and ten room addition at Powdersville Middle. The board also approved funds for requested equipment at the District One and Two Career and Technology Center.

During a Williamston Town Council work session, Angie Stringer, of the Cancer Association of Anderson, presented the idea of a three day hot air balloon festival dubbed the Hot Air Affair – Rising Above Cancer to be held in Williamston May 1- 3. The chairman of the town planning commission, Marion Middleton Jr., was on hand to discuss a broader, more active role for the commission.

The Woodmont High School Athletic Hall of Fame honored the 7th class in the Athletic Hall of Fame. The three inductees in this year’s class (Class of 2019) are Connie Kendrick, Brian Miller, and Glenis Redmond.

Feb. 5 – West Pelzer Town Council approved a resolution making their leaf and limb pilot program more permanent.
Mayor Blake Sanders announced that a Leadership Anderson group will come to West Pelzer March 4 to hear about town government. A group of 54 Junior High and High School students visited the town in January. Council was asked to think about a flag design that will “tell the story of West Pelzer.”

Feb. 12 – Heavy rains and flooding in northern Anderson County led to concerns about the possibility of evacuation downstream from the Saluda River dams in Piedmont and Pelzer. Those concerns led to rumors which Anderson County Emergency Management Director David Baker quickly squelched in a telephone conversation with The Journal.
There was significant flooding in the area, with a number of roads being underwater and unsafe for travel. In Williamston, Big Creek overflowed its banks and a portion of Mineral Spring Park was flooded.

Community leader and Williamston resident Theodore ‘Ted’ Mattison was recognized and honored by Williamston Town Council with a resolution and plaque acknowledging his service to the community. Mattison is a native son of Williamston and served on many local and regional boards, organizations and committees. He and a group of Williamston citizens formed the Williamston Action Community Club (WACC) and he served as president of the WACC for 18 years.

The three Saluda River dams used to provide power to the mills of Piedmont, Pelzer and Williamston were sold by EnEl Energy to a New England power generation firm, as part of a larger acquisition by that company. The purchases, Hull Street Energy, headquartered in Maryland, is a leader in the energy field, with holdings that include dozens of facilities, ranging from hydroelectric to gas fired steam plants.

Adam Hogan of Alliance Engineers updated Williamston Town Council on an inflow and infiltration (I&I) project for collection lines with a pump station on Shirley Drive, line testing and grouting of approximately 1000 feet of line and a sewer replacement project on Mahaffey Road. Hogan said the design is complete and permitting should be completed by April. Council also approved a $10,000 funding for the Cancer Association of Anderson three day hot air balloon festival dubbed the Hot Air Affair – Rising Above Cancer., to be held in Williamston in May.

Feb. 19 – The Williamston Police Department responded to the report of an armed robbery at Family Dollar in Williamston which was determined to be a hoax. Regarding the incident, Captain Kevin Marsee said “Probable cause exists to believe that events were in fact falsified and although some type of altercation may have occurred, the robbery as reported did not.”

 

Feb. 26 -The Town of Williamston, through the Envision Williamston Main Street Program, sent in an application to be considered for the HGTV Home Town Takeover in which a small town with a population of 40,000 or less will be chosen for a special production of Home Town Takeover, hosted by HGTV favorites Ben and Erin Napier. Williamston was not chosen.

Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride spoke to a standing room only crowd at the Piedmont Crime Watchers meeting. Technology being implemented by the ACSO was the keynote of the presentation, as McBride told the crowd about the 125 officer body cams that are being assigned to the patrol officers. T

During a work session, Williamston Town Council discussed a number of projects including paving, road and sewer projects for the town. Mayor Durham said work on the Cherokee Road bridge and interchange is slated for 2021. Cherokee Road is also a direct access corridor into downtown Williamston and the town’s comprehensive plan outlines a project to connect Cherokee Road at Mauldin to West Main St. at Prince with a new road. Durham said the price tag for the project is around $1 million. Durham said there would be an executive session during the council meeting next week to discuss an economic development opportunity for the town.

MARCH

Mar. 4 – The Mill Town Players presented their production of Charlotte’s Web, the Beloved Tale of True Friendship directed by Will Ragland and featuring a cast of 32 local actors.

The Palmetto Business Association (PBA) met at the Williamston Municipal Center with special guest speaker, Jeanne Zierhoffer, Certified Sales Trainer with BANKCODE™ who discussed Sales Training.

Williamston’s Slammin’ Sammy Horne was selected to be inducted into the prestigious North and South Carolina Boxing Hall of Fame. Horne became involved in the sport of boxing in 1978 and quickly went from being a tough street fighter with raw talent to one of the top boxers in the country, appearing on a new nationally broadcast sports network, ESPN, three times. The induction banquet was to be held at the Sheriton Charlotte Airport Hotel on April 24, but was postponed due to the Coronavirus restrictions.

Williamston Town Council approved up to $2500 for poles and a cable to hang Festival banners across West Main Street. Council also approved $11,489 for repairs on Bigby Street and $10,689 for repairs on Park Street.

MARCH
Mar. 4 – West Pelzer Town Council heard updates on the REWA purchase of the sewer system and the effects of recent rains on the system during their meeting. Mayor Sanders said work had started on the old Town Hall and should be completed by the end of March. West Pelzer is waiting on Appalachian Council of Governments and USDA to get signatures needed from persons in Washington to finalize the purchase of the town’s sewer system by REWA. Both West Pelzer and Pelzer have requested USDA to waive grant recapture and approve the sale of their systems.
The Town of West Pelzer recognized Governor’s School teacher Paul Yanko and the SC Governors School for the Arts during their council meeting. Following the meeting, Yanko talked about the SC Governors School and art displayed by his students in West Pelzer’s GRAND Gallery.

The Piedmont Historical Preservation Society held its second annual Discover Piedmont Day with a crowd of 730 people attending the event at the Piedmont community building. The Rowell Club room was filled with vendors displaying their crafts. The Don Roper History room was filled with people looking at the historical artifact collection of the old mill town. Many of the visitors reminced the past looking at the old photo collection in the history room. Logan Gibbons, Jordan Kilschke, and Michael Dorosh of Greenville were the winners of the Basketball Tournament, referee’s for the tournament were Moochie Merritt and Ezekiel Parro.

 

Piedmont was abuzz with news of a development project with new homes and apartments. The Piedmont Village would be built along the banks of the Saluda River. Red Oak Developers presented drawings for the new development. The renovation of the Old Mercantile Building was expected to begin soon.

Congressman Jeff Duncan voted in favor of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 to provide emergency funding to agencies and states tasked with combatting COVID-19. As a result of the legislation, South Carolina was awarded over $8 million in grants for resources to prepare and stop the spread of the virus. “President Trump and his team have taken unprecedented actions to keep our nation safe and to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The Administration acted early, decisively, and thoroughly by employing a full government approach with a wide range of leaders and health experts to make the smartest decisions possible. I know President Trump’s objective is to keep every single American safe and healthy – I share this objective,” Duncan said.

CORONA CONCERNS BEGIN TO EMERGE

As concerns with the COVID-19 Pandemic began to get more attention, it was becoming obvious that Upstate SC would soon feel the effects.

 

The Journal reported signs that a shutdown on the local level may be coming soon due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The America concert, scheduled for March 17 at the Peace Center, was one of the first events in the area to be cancelled. Other activities and events soon followed including the Greenville St. Patrick’s Day parade and related activities.
NASCAR announced that race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway would be run without fans in attendance. The events were restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race.
The Southeastern Conference announced the suspension of regular-season competition for teams in all sports on SEC campuses, as well as SEC championship events, until March 30.
USC classes were canceled for the week after spring break, March 16 – 22.

The first case of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in SC was reported March 6 by DHEC. The next day DHEC was investigating a possible seventh case. A Camden man tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 on March 8. He was evaluated at a healthcare facility, was not hospitalized and is currently isolated at home. He had a direct contact, (close face-to-face exposure) with a previously announced presumptive positive case.

“We now have evidence of community spread that’s likely to be causing these initial cases in Camden in Kershaw County and the risk of spread to other communities is possible, as seen in other states across the country,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist with DHEC.

Mar. 11 – The Mill Town Players presented a Classic Country March 12-15. Performers were backed by a five piece band.
The Cherokee War of 1776 was the topic for a lecture in the Laurens County Museum Revolutionary War Lecture Series. Durant Ashmore, Battlefield Preservationist and Historical Consultant, spoke about the Battle of Fort Lindley, Esseneca, and the Ring Fight.
Tiger Paw Martial Arts Academy in Williamston will held their 9th annual Invitational. Four time World Champion Grand Master Vick Moore, a 10th degree black belt and Supreme Grand Master attended the event. “This event is for our kids,” said Grand Master Mike Logan.

Mar. 18 – On a Sunday night, (Mar. 15) Governor Henry McMaster announced that schools would be closed from March 16 through March 31, due to coronavirus, with a possibility that he could extend the school closure for an indefinite amount of time. Anderson School District One administration began taking measures including:
Sports teams will not gather to practice or play during this school closure.

Anderson School District One was approved to distribute lunch/breakfast at Cedar Grove Elementary, Palmetto Elementary, Concrete Primary and Spearman Elementary. Any student 18 or under was eligible to participate.

All School District One field trips for the month of March were cancelled. The district was working individually with schools and travel agents to make arrangements to reschedule or cancel field trips after March 31 and get refunds.

At the time the school district stated they did not plan to make changes to the Spring Break scheduled for April 6-10.

The Military Ball at Palmetto High was tentatively rescheduled for May 9th at the Williamston Town Hall.

CAPS conferences scheduled for March 19 were cancelled.

Anderson County officials said they were following COVID-19 guidance from the Governor’s Office, the Center for Disease Control, SC-DHEC, and the White House and the result was limited access to County buildings and facilities, including parks. Local governments soon followed suit.

County offices were open with staff providing services by telephone, email, and online.

County Council decided to cancel its regular scheduled meeting due to concerns with COVID.

Anderson County announced changes in its operation following identification of two presumptive positive cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in the county. The changes will last through the end of March with the possibility of extension depending upon developments in that timeframe.

Emergency management director David Baker described the changes as “common sense precautions that will help this virus run its course as quickly and quietly as possible. He stated that two presumptive positive tests for the coronavirus have been discovered in Anderson County.

Any and all County business, if possible, will be conducted online or by telephone, through the end of March.
County offices remained open, subject to change, as officials were reviewing the situation on an hourly basis.
All events at the Anderson County Civic Center, Sports Complex, and Amphitheater were postponed or canceled through the end of March.
The Anderson County Museum and Anderson County PAWS Animal Shelter will be closed through the end of March.
SCDHEC recommends the following preventive practices for individuals: 1) Wash hands often; 2) Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands; 3) Avoid contact with sick people; 4) Stay home while you are sick, avoid others; 5) Cover mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

Governor McMaster announced all schools will be closed through the end of March and recommended against public gatherings of more than 100 individuals. Later, based on updated Federal guidelines, this number was changed to 10.

 

AnMed Health announced (Mar. 15) that two patients had tested positive for COVID-19.
With the announcement, patient visitation was being restricted and visiting hours reduced

The two patients were in isolation at AnMed Health. Following DHEC and CDC protocol, AnMed Health stated they were prepared with the appropriate plans to detect, protect and respond to COVID-19.

Gov. McMaster announced the postponement of all March and April elections. Local elections affected include Pelzer Special Election.

First Citizens Bank in Williamston was one of the first local businesses to begin taking measures, announcing they were closing the lobby for an undetermined period of time. The bank remained fully staffed with full service capabilities and allowed customers inside the lobby by appointment to. Other local banks soon followed the protocol.

Hobart Lewis was officially sworn in as Greenville County Sheriff.

The Journal began limiting access to the office with reduced hours. Business could still be conducted by mail, phone, fax or email.
The Anderson County library system announced that all Anderson County Library System locations are closed until further notice.

Funeral services were held for former Pelzer Mayor Roger Scott, who passed away after an extended illness.
Scott, who was elected to the Pelzer Town Council in 2015 and took office the following January, ran for and won the Mayor’s seat during the next election, taking office in 2018, and serving for approximately a year prior to his illness.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced the temporary closure of schools across the state as new cases of COVID-19 were identified.

The governor said schools will be closed through the end of March.
The governor asked that public gatherings — indoor and outdoor — be limited to 100 people. Later, based on updated Federal guideline, this number was changed to 10.

West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders announced that the Town of West Pelzer will modify services to protect citizens and minimize opportunities to spread COVID-19 in the community.

Access to public buildings was restricted to appointment only; Scheduled public activities and meetings at the Town of West Pelzer Municipal Center were canceled through April 6th. Council meetings, if required or scheduled, would be live streamed for public viewing. • Chapman Park and O’Dell Community Center remained open. Municipal Court was closed.

The Town of Williamston also took steps to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. All Town parks were closed until April 1. Meetings of the Council continued as scheduled with live stream on Facebook and YouTube. Town events at parks and public spaces were suspended until April 1.

The Journal front page headline read – “Our World Has Changed – Coronavirus Pandemic hits locally”
The story began:
“In the last four days, since Sunday, fears, concerns and precautions associated with the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) have resulted in major changes to everyday life. Social distancing has become the new norm.
In South Carolina, and locally, it started with runs on toilet paper and hand sanitizer going into the weekend, then with the announcement Sunday of nine new cases of COVID-19 identified in the state, Gov. McMaster announced that schools were closing statewide. AnMed Health announced that two patients had tested positive for COVID-19.
By Monday, meat counters, vegetables and other items began to disappear from grocery shelves. The Journal was inundated with new releases and emails announcing cancellations of meetings, events and more for at least two weeks. President Trump announced coronavirus guidelines for America to help slow the spread over the next fifteen days. With those guidelines, state, county and local municipalities made more announcements of reduced services and limited contact with customers by governments and businesses. Recommendations to avoid social gathering of 100 went to groups of 50 and then 10. By Tuesday, even more closings and restrictions, with the announcement from the governor that bars and restaurant dining areas would be closed. Drive-thrus and delivery is still be available for now.”

The closings and restriction began . . .

The Powdersville YMCA facilities announced they will be closed for two weeks with plans to reopen April 1st. Powdersville YMCA continued to operate full day childcare programs in Easley and Powdersville for elementary age students of families who work in the healthcare, emergency response and other critical industries.

City of Greenville Mayor Knox White took emergency action requiring bars, restaurants and breweries to limit service to curbside pick-up and drive-thru, closing indoor eating and drinking areas. Gov. McMaster made the announcement that the same actions would be in force statewide.

AnMed Health announced patient visitation was being restricted and visiting hours reduced.

 

AnMed Health began offering physician-ordered COVID-19 drive-through testing at the entrance of the North Campus, 2000 East Greenville Street in Anderson. The testing was only for at-risk, symptomatic patients who had physician-ordered testing.

Anderson County restricted public access to County buildings. County offices will be open, and staff will provide services by telephone, email, and online.

The Town of Williamston announced that all town parks will be closed until April 1. All town events at parks and public spaces were suspended. The Recreation Department postponed all practice for Tball, baseball and girls softball until after March 31st. Access to all public buildings was restricted. Payments will be accepted over the phone, online, by mail, the drive-thru, and by utilizing the payment drop box located on the left of the front entrance of Town Hall. Phone payments will only be accepted during business hours.

The Town of West Pelzer modified services through April 6th. Access to public buildings was restricted to appointment only; All essential services should be conducted by phone or email.

The Anderson County Courthouse was open, but public access is being restricted. All offices are operating and employees are available during our normal business hours via telephone or e-mail.

State School Superintendent Molly Spearman asked the federal government to cancel the statewide testing that usually happens in the spring.

The Piedmont Mothers Club annual Spring Tea scheduled at the Piedmont Community Building was cancelled.
The Bonnes Amies Club postponed their 2020 Southern Traditions Luncheon.

Tri-County Technical College closed through March 31. The College was determining whether courses may be delivered in an online format after Spring Break ends.

The President’s 15 Days To Slow The Spread Coronavirus Guidelines and SCDHEC Coronavirus guidelines were published and posted on The Journal website.

Mar. 25 – The SC House returned to Columbia for a special session to vote on a $45 million supplemental funding package to provide SCDHEC the funds to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

House District 9 Representative Anne Thayer said, “We quickly acted on Governor McMaster’s request to make funds available for DHEC and less than 15 minutes after we unanimously passed the legislation, Governor McMaster signed it into law. This is just the first step in what will be a long journey of protecting the citizens of our state in combating COVID-19.”

Thayer said the legislation appropriates $45 million from the Contingency Reserve Fund that is saved for emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic and transfers it to the Executive Budget Office for use by DHEC.

 

Funding in the legislation will go toward: DHEC Staffing ($14,598,760) DHEC needs additional staffing to support COVID-19 disease surveillance and contact investigation, laboratory testing, and information phone lines.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ($14,806,800) PPE for DHEC’s healthcare workers to prevent spread of infection.
Staff Support ($5,282,420): Operating costs such as technology, lab supplies and reagents, travel, and facility cleaning.
Education Campaign ($2,500,000): Support for TV/Radio airtime and printed materials.
Quarantine ($1,703,580): Cost to quarantine and support indigent patients.
Transportation ($1,394,958): Cost to courier lab samples and distribution of items from the Strategic National Stockpile.
Contingency ($5,000,000): We have built in about 10% for unanticipated costs or changing assumptions based on disease spread. This package also instructs DHEC to provide oversight and reporting of their expenditures to the State’s Executive Budget Office.

Due to the disruptions of normal procedures made necessary by Orders from the Governor and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, County officials assessed the operation of the Anderson County Courthouse and limiting staff.

All non-essential employees were asked to stay home and perform their duties via e-mail and remote computers. A small number of team members will come in to check mail, handle administrative duties and conduct any emergency hearings deemed necessary by judges. This team will only address criminal, civil and family court matters.

DHEC reported the state’s fourth and fifth deaths related to the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

South Carolina requested its full allocation of medical equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile. DHEC received the first shipment of 55 pallets which contained N-95 masks, face shields, surgical masks, gowns and gloves. Additional shipments were expected over the next three weeks.

The Palmetto Business Association canceled all scheduled meetings and events through the month of April, including the Community Easter Egg Hunt. The event has been held in downtown Williamston on a yearly basis since the late 1980s.

APRIL

April 1 – The Anderson School District One Board met in a video conference where they heard a school closure report from the Superintendent and an e-learning report from the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction on how the District is coping with school closures and e-learning for students.
Superintendent Robbie Binnicker said, “This is an unprecedented time we are in.” Binnicker said the district had some technology issues going from normal operations and classroom learning to e-learning at home because “eighty-five percent of it we have never seen before.”
Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Jane Harrison provided information on Distance Learning and COVID-19 and gave a timeline schedule on what was done to prepare after the Governor announced on Sunday that all state schools were being closed. The next day teachers were trained and gathered lessons. On Tuesday and Wednesday they had e-learning training. Thursday (Mar. 19) was the first day of new e-learning.

The State of South Carolina suspended public access to all public boat ramps, boat landings, other recreational water access points, and all associated parking lots and facilities.
The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) remains open, but the agency adjusting hours of operation at select branches. The Belton DMV branch would be one of nine offices that will only be open two days a week.
The Palmetto Business Association, Envision Williamston, Town of Williamston and The Journal organized a “Drive By Easter Egg Hunt” event for local families with small children.

During a teleconference meeting, Anderson County Council passed an emergency declaration that extends various changes in county operations which facilitate the county’s ability to access emergency federal programs and other resources.
Emergency Management Director David Baker described the changes as “common sense precautions that will help this virus run its course as quickly and quietly as possible inlcuding social distancing, washing hands, disinfecting common surfaces and staying at home if sick.
County Administrator Rusty Burns confirmed that the County received a second shipment of personal emergency equipment including masks and respirators from the national stockpile. They were allocated fifty per cent to hospitals; twenty five per cent respectively to nursing home facilities and first responders.

Many local businesses were still operating and serving customers, though some limited access and all are taking extra precautions during the COVID-19 crisis.

Gov. McMaster issued an executive order that closed all businesses not considered essential, including barber shops, hair salons and entertainment venues. The governor said his list is the “bare minimum” of businesses that could close while having a relatively minimal negative economic impact. Included are barbershops, beauty salons, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, arcades, museums, and indoor children’s play areas. Child care centers are excluded for now. The order also includes stopping all sports that share equipment or cause people to come within six feet of each other and spectator sports. The order would last for 15 days and be re-evaluated.

McMaster closed public beaches. The governor said he would not go as far as a stay-at-home order, for now.

On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released recommendations regarding the use of cloth face coverings. South Carolina residents were told they should not run out and buy masks. As a reminder, the CDC warned that the pandemic is a historic, unprecedented outbreak and that supplies are limited. Their guidance said, “It is important that we save the manufactured masks for doctors, nurses, and first responders who need them most. Masks, however, can be homemade.”

Apr. 8 – Anderson County Coroner Greg Shore, and deputy coroner Don McCown, reported there had been four deaths related to the virus in Anderson County. Those four patients were all elderly, hospitalized at AnMed, and had underlying medical issues.

Shore said that his office requested that they be notified of any deaths that could possibly be related to the virus; even among patients who expired after lengthy stays in medical facilities. State law also requires that all deaths be reported to the coroner’s office. Shore also confirmed that his office is field testing any deceased persons who might have been potential virus victims.

In an effort to stop the rate of non-compliance on previous executive orders, Gov. Henry McMaster issued what he called a “Work or Home” order that went into effect Apr. 7. Those who disobey the order can face a misdemeanor criminal charge with up to 30 days in jail and/or $100 fine for each day of violation, the governor said.

The Governor also announced that more “non-essential” businesses, venues, facilities, services, and activities were to be closed to non-employees and not be open for access or use by the public. Among them: Furniture and clothing stores, Department stores, with the exception of hardware and home-improvement stores, Sporting goods stores, Book, craft, and music stores, Flea markets, and flower stores.
Online and phone orders, curbside purchase, pickup, or delivery and home or off-site delivery, implemented with effective “social distancing” was still allowed.

With new poles and an easier way of hanging banners, the Town of Williamston made it possible to have festival banners placed back across West Main Street. The Pig in the Park Barbecue Festival and Cookoff banner was the first to be placed on the new poles. Organizers said they were planning to make it happen and already had seven cooking teams signed up for the event in May.
One week later a truck hit the banner and broke both poles.
Due to corona concerns, the Pig in the Park BBQ festival was canceled soon after.

The Pine Lawn Cemetery, and other property at the Pelzer Church of God, was vandalized with approximately $2,000 in damages which included spray paint to church property and headstones being tipped over.

AnMed Health announced that they are making leadership salary reductions and furloughs for staff due to COVID-19.

The Mill Town Players canceled their highly anticipated production of Simple Man: A Southern Rock Show
and their annual concert, A Pelzer Gospel Homecoming. Both productions help provide funding for other upcoming productions and events.

The West Pelzer Town Council meeting that was scheduled for Apr. 7, was canceled due to the coronavirus situation. However town operations continued with some modifications. West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders provided all Council members with a draft budget for review.

April 17 – Gov. McMaster’s Office issued a revision to Executive Order 2020-16, Section 1(C) that reopened public boat landings and ramps.

Apr. 22 – Williamston Town Council member Rockey Burgess graduated from the Advanced Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government.

Apr. 29 – Gov. McMaster and Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced that schools across the state will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. Students and teachers have been using e-learning to keep up with their studies. Gov. McMaster said the decision will ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff.

Members of Beaverdam Baptist Church organized a parade to honor Wayne Rogers on his 100th birthday. The parade included many vehicles with church members holding signs, balloons and flags, a float with children waving flags and banners. Rogers and family members sat under a tent and watched as the well wishers drove by.

The Anderson School District One Board held a virtual meeting during which they heard an update on finishing the school year, progress on the building program and preliminary budget information.

Superintendent Robbie Binnicker said the District is doing well with e-learning and “getting better at that everyday.” He said students would be allowed to keep their electronic learning devices through the summer to allow learning to continue.

Binnicker presented information on the draft budget and options for the board to consider to make up a projected deficit of more than $3 million. The draft budget tentatively had 15 new teachers.

 

Community leader Theodore ‘Ted’ Mattison passed away on at the age of 83.

MAY

May 1 – Governor Henry McMaster announced that the statewide “Work-or-Home” order will be lifted and returned to voluntary status on May 4th. Restaurants throughout South Carolina can provide outdoor customer dining service in addition to existing take out, curbside, and delivery services. The Governor also announced that close contact service providers, including barber shops, hair salons, tattoo parlors, gyms, tanning services and others can open for business.

Williamston’s Pig in the Park Barbecue Festival and Cookoff was canceled due to the COVID-19 situation. If it had been able to happen, it would have been their 10th festival. Organizers said they plan to hold the festival, which is always on the weekend after mother’s day, next year.
May 6 – Dalen Creamer of Willliamston saw that people were hand cutting cloth for masks to supply to persons in need and knew he could speed up production with a Co2 laser engraver he uses in his business. The business Lazer Werk cut out 18,000 mask/mask panels to be sewn together which were shipped out to medical professionals, first responders and the military.

May 13 – DHEC provided the results of a cross analysis of the deaths reported directly to the agency by medical professionals and the deaths reported to the agency on death certificates. “As our state continues to respond to this unprecedented event, DHEC remains committed to ensuring that every South Carolinian who has died from COVID-19 is counted,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Physician. Through the data comparison, DHEC identified 29 additional deaths associated with COVID-19 that had not been previously reported. This brings the statewide total deaths related to COVID to 232.

Anderson County had 211 reported cases of COVID-19 and an estimated 1,296 total cases.
More than half of those were in the Powdersville area which had the most cases, followed by Piedmont with 50.
Pelzer had 24 cases and Williamston had 12.

May 20 – School District One announced that the District plans to host a live graduation on June 5 at each of the District’s three high school football stadiums and each will be followed by a parade.
The State Department of Education, CDC and DHEC guidelines limited graduations to two guests per graduate. In order for all family and friends to be a part of the ceremony, each event was streamed live on FaceBook.

The American Legion Family is encouraging communities to pay tribute to the nation’s fallen heroes at dusk Memorial Day, by lighting candles of honor and placing them on front porches.

 

Rep. West Cox presented a $5,000 PARD Grant to the Piedmont Public Service District for lighting repairs and other work to be done at Tom Pack Park.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) announced the completion of the SC 20 bridge deck replacement project over the Norfolk Southern and CSX Railroads in Greenville County.

May 27 –

The Anderson School District One Board approved final reading on a $80,273,309 budget for 2020-21 during a virtual meeting. The budget was balanced with no tax millage increase, remaining at 153.4 mills. They opted to cut expenses by approximately $1 million, mainly by leaving 17.2 FTE teaching positions open and cutting other expenses.

Anderson County, along with Greenville and 14 other counties in SC, posted unemployment rates of 12% or higher for the month of April. Anderson County unemployment was at 1.7 percent in fall of 2019.

DHEC reported 253 new cases of the novel COVID-19 and 6 additional deaths. Greenville County had the most new cases reported with 46. Anderson County only had three new cases. The total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina since the first case March 6 was 10,416. Of those, 446 people, mostly elderly, had died.

JUNE

June 3 – All three Anderson School District One High Schools held outdoor graduation services on June 5 at their respective football stadiums.

 

Williamston Mayor Mack Durham and other officials met in Mineral Spring Park Friday to make an announcement about the full re-opening of the park and a statement regarding the death of George Floyd.

Food Lion announced it had entered into a transaction to purchase 62 BI-LO/Harveys Supermarket stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia from Southeastern Grocers.

The Town of Pelzer installed street banners along Lebby Street to celebrate seniors from the town who are 2020 graduates of Palmetto High School. The ten pole mounted banners cost the town $3,100.

Approximately 100 people crammed into the training room at the Powdersville Fire Station to hear from candidates for the upcoming Republican primary. A handful of cloth masks were seen, but the social distance maintained was often shoulder to shoulder. Several themes were constant: the right to life, the right to bear arms, each candidate’s status as at least staunch Christians, if not necessarily born again, and the need to keep the Democrats out of the White House in November.

The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded Powdersville Water (PW) $2 million to construct resilient water infrastructure and to support manufacturing in SC.

Stage Stores, Inc. (Goody’s) filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

The Town of West Pelzer held a public hearing on the 2020-21 budget. The budget shows revenues and expenses of $1,115,500.53 with no change in the millage rate which is .94.

Williamston Town Council approved second reading on the town’s 2020-21 budget and approved a property purchase. There was no discussion on the $ 5.4 million budget, which was approved unanimously with no changes from the first reading. Millage remains at 112.5.

A disagreement among council members and the mayor on opening of Mineral Spring Park led to three councilmembers walking out of the meeting.

The Town had initially posted that parks would be opening June 1, however Mayor Mack Durham stated that he had decided to have a “soft opening” on June 2. The soft opening included removing the road blocks and allowing people to use the park. Restrooms remained closed, portojons with hand sanitizer was provided. Also the town would not be renting shelters and playground areas remained closed. Mayor Durham encouraged social distancing guidelines be practiced and said the decision was “out of an abundance of caution” and was based on information from the Anderson County Emergency Preparedness and the Governor.
Drew Johnston of the Palmetto Soccer Club spoke to Williamston Town Council about the local soccer program and addressed concerns that the club may be “looking for another home”. Johnston had recently spoke at a Pelzer Town Council meeting and his comments raised some concerns about future plans for the club, especially with Councilman Rockey Burgess, who attended the meeting in Pelzer.

June 10 – The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a vandalism incident at the Siloam Baptist Church in Powdersville.

Fort Hill Natural Gas Authority announced that they are closing the Williamston office at 701 N. Hamilton St.

Walgreens announced that they are canceling their weekly sales paper insert in The Journal and other publications for the remainder of their fiscal year which ends August 31.

Anderson County libraries opened with social distancing and other CDC guidelines.

Anderson and Greenville County personnel worked together in a joint effort to locate a drowning victim who apparently entered the Saluda River from the Greenville County side. The identity of the victim, a 45 year old white male, had not been released by the Greenville County coroner’s office at the time. Units assisting included the Piedmont Fire Department, the Greenville County dive team, the Greenville County Emergency Response Team, Anderson County Technical Rescue, and the West Pelzer Fire Department.

 

June 24 – The Town of Williamston decided to cancel the 4th of July Freedom Celebration and fireworks.
In a special called meeting Tuesday, Mayor Mack Durham said that the vendor the town had contracted for the fireworks was not able to secure fireworks due to import restrictions from China. Councilman Rockey Burgess offered that he had contacted a company in Easley that could do the show on July 4th if the town decided to proceed.
The Class E show would have provided fireworks that don’t go quite as high as some the town had in the past, but would be at a cost of $5000, half of what was budgeted. The event remained canceled.

The Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners gave final approval to the budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. The budget, which includes no millage increase actually shows 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.

Two community testing events in Anderson drew a combined total of more than 1400 people. The first one saw 580 people tested with only thirteen positive test results. The other test event at the civic center had 836 people tested. Baker said that slight increases are occurring throughout the county, but added that the proximity of Greenville to the Williamston/Pelzer/ West Pelzer areas is also a contributing factor.

DHEC confirmed that a cat found near Academy Street and West Main Street in Williamston, tested positive for rabies. Two people were exposed to the cat and have been referred to their health care providers.

DHEC reported that people under the age of 30 are testing positive for COVID-19 in increasing numbers. 4,160 of the 22,608 confirmed cases in the state at the time were people ages 21 to 30. This accounted for 18.4% of all confirmed cases in the state. Teens accounted for 7.0% of confirmed cases.

July through December 2020 will be in the Dec. 30th (New Year’s) edition of The Journal!
Have a Merry Christmas!

Looking Back at 2020 – Part 2 (July – Dec.)