Anderson County Year in Review . . . Part 2

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By Stan Welch

Anderson County Year in Review – Part 1 (Jan. – April)

(Continued from last week)

The following Anderson County related 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.