Looking Back at 2021 . . . Part 1 – Jan. – June

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South Carolina residents began the year with apprehension and hope that the new COVID-19 vaccines would be available soon and help stem the coronavirus pandemic that plaqued the nation and world during 2020. There was also hope that a new president, Joe Biden, who promised to bring us all together and end the pandemic, would be able to fulfill that promise.

On a more local level, there were a lot of accomplishments during 2021. There were also some big announcements during the year, announcements that will bring changes to the area. Among them, the Town Square Center property in Williamston was being purchased by Ingles Markets and the Pelzer Heritage Properties would see major development.
Here is a look back at events reported by The Journal during the year:
January 2021
Jan. 6 – AnMed Health welcomed the first baby of 2021 at 8:57 a.m. on New Year’s Day. A baby girl was born to Christian Johnson of Anderson. Rileigh May Autry was 7 pounds, 1 ounce and 19 ½ inches long.
South Carolina faced new records for the highest number of new total cases and highest positivity rate – reaching 5,077 new cases on Jan. 6 with a positivity rate of 34.2%.
The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced that the statewide vaccination percentage per doses received by the federal government is at 31 percent, which is above the national average of 19 percent and nearly double that of other southeastern states.
EuWe Eugen Wexler US Plastics, Inc., a producer of high-quality plastic products worldwide for the automobile industry, announced plans to expand operations in Anderson County. The $8.6 million investment will create 16 new jobs.
Anderson County Council re-elected District Five Councilman Tommy Dunn Chairman and District Four’s Brett Sanders vice-chairman. They also welcomed new member from District One John Wright. In the face of rising numbers of COVID cases, the Council also passed an emergency ordinance which prohibited the various committees and bodies, from meeting in person for 61 days or less, if the COVID numbers decline. The next county council meeting was at the civic center to allow for spacing.
Easley attorney Candy Kern Fuller surrendered her law license, supposedly for health reasons. Kern Fuller and her company Upstate Law Group had an administrative judge in Arizona rule that Fuller’s actions related to a scheme to buy veterans’ benefits from them – was a violation of state and federal law and imposed fines of almost a half million dollars and directed the reimbursement of approximately $2.7 million to more than twenty investors who lost their life savings in the scheme.
During their first meeting of 2021, Williamston Town Council installed a new mayor and councilmember, set a date for a special election and approved a resolution in support of a shared use sidewalk/path on Depot Road. Newly elected councilmember Tabatha Austin was sworn in. Austin made history as the first female to serve on Council and represents Ward 3. Rockey Burgess was sworn in as mayor and presided over his first meeting in that capacity. Councilmember Chris Alexander was sworn in to another term representing Ward 4.
West Pelzer Town Council heard concerns from citizens about a proposed shared use path along the abandoned railbed and Depot Road that passes through West Pelzer, Pelzer and Williamston. The concerns centered on the potential increase in foot traffic along the path, and the effects on adjacent properties. Mayor Blake Sanders agreed to seek changes in the resolution that would specify the term sidewalk, instead of the more nebulous term shared use path. The resolution was passed.
SCDHEC announced that 69,959 Phase 1a healthcare workers in the state were scheduled to receive vaccination against COVID-19. SCDHEC announced that hospitals should begin to vaccinate their admitted patients, who are aged 65 years and older, as long as they do not currently have COVID and a provider feels it is indicated for them.
Jan. 13 – Governor Henry McMaster and DHEC announced that any resident 70 or older, regardless of health status or preexisting conditions, could begin scheduling an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Williamston Police Department was investigating an armed robbery at the Fast Fuel, 207 West Main Street. The suspect pointed an assault rifle at the clerk and told her to “get the money” or he would kill her. He then left the store with $1,687 in cash from the lottery register and the store register, walking toward Mineral Spring Park.
To ensure the state has enough trained medical professionals for administering shots when vaccine supply becomes more widely available, DHEC and the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) issued a joint order expanding the number of medical professionals who could administer COVID-19 vaccines.
During the first meeting of the year under Pelzer Mayor Will Ragland, who was elected in November, bids for activities related to the Monkey Park made up the majority of the agenda for Pelzer Town Council. The purpose was to make the park less attractive to undesirable traffic in the area. As the work progressed they found that illegal dumping had also taken place in the back corner of the park. Council voted to seek bids to have the park formally surveyed and its precise boundaries marked by a three rail fence.
Pelzer council also adopted changes in the language of a shared use resolution approved a week earlier by West Pelzer and Williamston.
COVID-19 cases continued to increase at record levels and DHEC announced the state will change its efforts from containment to community mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus.
DHEC reported 4,809 new cases and 136 probable cases of COVID-19. There were 18 confirmed deaths related to COVID and 5 probable deaths. Anderson County reported 193 new cases. Greenville County reported 794 new cases. Across the state there were 2,427 COVID patients in hospitals with 4565 in ICU and 290 on ventilators.
Jan. 20 – District Two County Councilwoman Gracie Floyd passed away from a combination of health problems, including COVID-19. She had relocated to Charlotte, N.C. to be with her son and died in a Charlotte hospital. Floyd, who completed her husband William’s term on Council, after his death in 1999, served a total of twenty one years. She was the second African American person to serve on the Council. He was the first.
Due to the rise of COVID-19 cases and for the health of staff and patrons, all Anderson County Library System locations returned to curbside services and public access within libraries suspended.
Despite widespread concern that a return to in-person public school would drive a surge in COVID-19 cases, in Charleston County the data showed a different story. Allison Eckard, an infectious disease pediatrician at MUSC Children’s Health, who is working with the school district on pandemic prevention measures, was shocked. “I really was just not in favor of this initially. And now I am a believer. Kids need to be in school, and it’s safe.”
Her research found that only about 1% of the students and staff in Charleston County Public Schools tested positive for COVID-19 between the start of in-person school on Sept. 8 and winter break, which began Dec. 18. That added up to about 500 total cases out of about 38,000 students and staff.
Anderson County Council adopted a resolution acknowledging the Palmetto High School Junior Air Force ROTC’s receipt of the Distinguished Unit Merit Award and the Silver Star Community Service with Excellence Award. Council approved a bid of $250,000 for improvements to be made to the Dolly Cooper Park in Powdersville. The improvements will make the baseball field available for use.
Jan. 27 – During a special called meeting, Williamston Town Council approved second reading on an ordinance for a special election to fill the Ward 2 Council seat vacated by Rockey Burgess when he took office as mayor. Council also approved second reading on an ordinance to convey property at Brock Lane and Ridge Court to Shannon L. Kinman and Melissa Kinman. The strip of property was being deeded to the Kinmans due to a dispute as to the exact location of the property line and complicated by the fact that the Kinmans may have built improvements on town property.
The Anderson District One School Board unanimously approved a one year extension of Superintendent Robbie Binnicker’s contract until June 30, 2024. The Board also approved the sale of a small strip of property, located adjacent to the ballfields behind Town Square Center, for economic development purposes.
The Anderson School District One Board of Trustees approved the 2021-22 school calendar, heard an update on the building program and approved a one time “COVID Bonus” for permanent employees. Full time permanent employees were to receive a one time check for $1,082.84 and part-time permanent employees, a check for $541.42
Williamston Town Council, under the guidance of Mayor pro tem Chris Alexander, addressed several issues at their work session including engaging CCI to handle permitting issues for the town. Mayor Rockey Burgess said the move will streamline certain functions related to city and county permits. The town adopted the county fee structure and added five per cent.
In an effort to have council members more involved, Mayor Burgess asked them to oversee a specific aspect of the town’s operations, with Councilman Alexander involved in Administrative matters; Councilman Tony Hagood working on infrastructure and new council member Tabatha Austin involved with recreational matters.
There was also discussion about a company, identified as X Inc., exploring an economic development opportunity in the town and three small pieces of property that the town may or may not have an interest in. The parcels will be sold for one dollar if the town’s interest is established in the future. Mayor Burgess stated that the uncertainty about the town’s position, in addition to the significant benefits to the town if the development goes forward, would make the decision viable.
DHEC reported 2,130 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, 23 probable cases, 210 deaths and 32 probable deaths related to COVID. There were 1,842 COVID patients in hospitals with 391 in ICU and 240 on ventilators. Greenville County, which led the state in number of cases most of the previous year, reported 5,830 new cases over a two week period.
A 17 year old upstate teenager died from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. At least 42 cases of MIS-C had been reported among children in SC. MIS-C is a rare health condition that occurs in some children and teenagers who have contracted COVID-19 or been in contact with someone infected with the virus.
All Anderson County Library System locations were open for browsing and computer use.
Becker’s Hospital Review, a national healthcare information forum, released a daily report which showed SC is the fifth-ranking state for already using nearly 78 percent of the total doses of vaccine received in the state.
DHEC changed the way percent positive is calculated for COVID-19 cases. According to DHEC officials, the change allowed SC percent positive calculations to be more easily compared to those used by federal entities, including the CDC. The change resulted in a big drop in the percent positive.
Controversy is again arising in relation to a Class Two C&D landfill located on Hamlin Road in Powdersville. District Six County Councilman Jimmy Davis, whose district includes the site, and District Ten state representative West Cox held a public meeting online to receive information and allow public input into the proposed expansion of the landfill.
FEBRUARY
Feb 3 – Williamston Town Council approved the sale of property on Pelzer Avenue, established a nuisance abatement fund, approved a contract for permitting and codes and funding for a trails project. The town plans to apply for a SC Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) Recreational Trails Project (RTP) Grant to extend the current Mineral Spring Trail from the old water treatment plant, with either pavement or concrete, hopefully to Minor Street, then to the schools and eventually on to West Pelzer.
Feb. 10 – A quick blast of snow covered the ground in the Wren area. Areas north of where Hwy. 29 and I85 merge received more snow with as much as 2 inches falling in the Greenville area and even more in the mountains. Williamston/Pelzer area residents saw some snow fall but very little accumulation. Numerous weather related accidents were also reported in the upstate.
An FBI SWAT team held practice exercises in Williamston. An armored personnel carrier and SWAT team members were at a vacant house on W5th Street practicing serving an FBI warrant. Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor confirmed it was a practice session and nothing dangerous was going on at the location.
Residents and contractors planning to do work in the Town of Williamston will be able to obtain building permits and plan reviews locally. The town signed a contract with CC&I LLC Services of Roebuck, SC, for permitting and code services. The company will provide building, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire inspections for permitted residential and commercial projects
In a ‘special’ meeting, Pelzer Town Council discussed goals and priorities for the town. Jeff Shacker, field services manager for the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) assisted. A total of thirty goals was produced.
During the regular meeting, Pelzer Town Council accepted a low bid of $3950 from Ridgewater Engineering and Surveying, LLC for the survey of the Monkey Park and two other pieces of municipal property. They also approved a bid of $4377 for the renovation of the lobby at the town hall.
Over a two week period, Anderson County reported 1,182 new COVID cases and Greenville County reported 3,757 new cases. For one day, SCDHEC reported 1,516 new cases and 251 probable cases of COVID-19. DHEC also reported 39 confirmed deaths and 10 probable related to COVID. Statewide there were 1,439 COVID patients in hospitals.
Since Mar. 4 2020, almost one year since the first case of COVID was reported in the state, the Piedmont zipcode had only 182 confirmed case of COVID. Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 9, Piedmont reported 1 new case. The Pelzer zipcode had a total of 521 cases and Feb. 2-9, Pelzer had 26 cases. The Williamston zipcode had 1,325 cases and between Feb. 2-9, 48 cases reported.
SC and other southeastern states were made aware that severe weather affecting the FedEx facility in Memphis and the UPS facility in Louisville, both vaccine shipping hubs for several southeastern states, may delay the arrival of COVID-19 vaccine shipments
The Town of Williamston is making improvements in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park including electrical upgrades where food vendors are located during the Spring Water Festival and restrooms and the tennis court area.
A dispute between Pelzer and West Pelzer mayors over the location of the 7-Eleven convenience store at the intersection of Highways 8 and 20 came back up. At issue is which town is entitled to the hospitality tax revenues generated by the sale of prepared foods at that location.
Feb. 17 – Grand Opening of the Food Lion grocery store was held in Pelzer.
Filing for the vacant District Two County Council seat, formerly held by Gracie Floyd (deceased) ended with seven Democrats and a lone Republican signed up for the seat.
Feb. 24 – Though the number of new cases of COVID-19 were declining across the state and in the Upstate, Greenville County continued to have the highest
In celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Williamston MLK Committee held a virtual celebration via Zoom. The Committee also sponsored an art event involving Anderson School District One art students.
The Town of West Pelzer and West Pelzer Poet Laureate James E. Campbell sponsored an “In Bloom” Spring Poetry Contest.
Williamston Police Captain Kevin Marsee was named Officer of the Year for 2020 by the Fraternal Order Of Police Lodge 10.
The Pelzer Heritage Commission, which has served for several years as the pass through organization for grants awarded to remove substandard housing in the area, agreed to transfer four properties from that program to the town of Williamston.
MARCH
March 3 – Citing a significant increase in vaccine supply and progress in vaccinating people in group 1a, front-line health care workers and those aged 65 and over, Governor Henry McMaster and DHEC announced that SC will advance to Phase 1b of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, ensuring equal access to the vaccine for every South Carolinian aged 16 and over.
Anderson County announced a new Gov App to empower its citizens, create community awareness, and promote local creativity by providing a central platform of information for the county. The concept for the app originated from Council Members Cindy Wilson, Brett Sanders, and Jimmy Davis.
Williamston Town Council recognized retiring police Sgt. Kevin Evatt and volunteer event organizer Dianne Lollis. Council also approved second reading on changes to rules of order for meetings, the sale of .17 acres of property on Pelzer Avenue, establishment of a building permit and nuisance abatement fund and appointed an interim town attorney.
March 10 – West Pelzer Town Council held second reading on an ordinance annexing 62.94 acres on Palmetto Road. Mayor Blake Sanders said he expects approximately 42 new homes to be constructed over the next two years. West Pelzer also approved the issuance of a general obligation bond up to $156,000 which will save the town money.
Plans for the development of the Piedmont waterfront area continued to move ahead with the announcement that Red Oak Development is leading the project which 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.
One year since the first two suspected COVID-19 cases were reported in the state, DHEC thanked South Carolinians for their commitment to taking actions to help end the pandemic and encouraged everyone to keep up the work. There have been a total of 1,003,558 COVID-19 vaccine shots administered with 304,724 people being fully vaccinated.
Williamston Mayor Rockey Burgess and Anderson School District One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker announced that the four ton concrete mural wall at Palmetto Middle School will be moved to Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park, where it will become the centerpiece for a concrete block wall along the back side of the town’s current tennis court area. A new wall will be constructed to help block the railroad and provide a back stop for what Burgess said he hopes will be a “pickleball” court.
Originally constructed as Palmetto High School, the building, which has served as Palmetto Middle School since 1976, is in the final phase of being torn down and replaced with almost all new construction. The mural has been in question since demolition and construction began on the new school.
March 10 – Efforts to increase funding for the Anderson County Fire Commission moved to Columbia where the newly elected chairman of the Anderson County legislative delegation, Rep. West Cox, held a delegation meeting to address the situation.
The delegation agreed to put the question to the voters in a referendum, assuming the referendum would be added to the ballot at the next general election. The fire commission, running short on patience, is seeking a stand alone referendum which would cost the county approximately $90,000. The Commission has more than nine hundred volunteers, making it one of the nation’s largest volunteer systems, with 27 fire districts and 31 fire stations to support.
Pelzer Town Council amended the agenda to include an unannounced public hearing to establish building codes in alignment with the county standards. Mayor Will Ragland said that there was an undisclosed business entity interested in locating in the town. He declined to provide any information about the other party, but added that Anderson County officials had made it clear that the adoption of the standards was necessary.
Pelzer Town Council approved first reading on an ordinance authorizing the sale of the cell tower property, which passed by a 3-2 vote, with councilmen Eddie Waits and Mike Matthews opposing.
March 17 – Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison, and his son, Fire Captain Van Ellison, both resigned their positions with the Williamston Fire Department. Timmy Heatherly was appointed interim chief.
There was only one probable death related to COVID reported in the state and it was in Anderson County.
March 24 – West Pelzer firefighters along with Anderson Technical Rescue team rescued three stranded boaters on the Saluda River. The three were in a boat when it sank north of the Highway 20 bridge near Pelzer.
The Town of Williamston is making improvements to the youth ball fields located behind town hall and to restroom facilities at the high school baseball field. Anderson School District One donated the old high school baseball field scoreboard to the town to be reinstalled at the youth league fields.
The Williamston Recreation Program has approximately 800 kids participating with less than 10 percent being Williamston residents.
Williamston Town Council held a special called meeting to hold first reading on two ordinances allowing the purchase and sale of property located near Pelzer Avenue. The first allowed the purchase of a strip of property containing .012 acres for the purchase price of $22,000. The second allowed for the sale of a strip of property for $1 to a developer only identified as “X, Inc.” The ordinance stated that the parcel of property is essential to a potential economic development project and that the economic development project would enhance the town’s infrastructure.
At the regular council meeting the following Monday, Council approved the sale of .17 acres of property on Pelzer Avenue that the town may or may not have an interest in. Mayor Rockey Burgess said the ordinance allows him to release the property to a developer for $1 if it is determined the town does have an interest in it. The properties are located at the entrance to Town Square Center, at Pelzer Avenue where it meets Town Square Center and a strip of property located behind Town Square Center adjacent to a School District One ballfield.
The Anderson School District One Board gave the superintendent permission to enter a contract for the sale of approximately 0.24 acres for Economic Development Purposes. AD1 School Board also approved renewal of a Youth Athletic Field Lease to the Town of Williamston. The renewal of the lease is for 20 years, 2021-2041 for the purpose of increasing opportunities for the town of Williamston to receive grants.
March 31 – The Pelzer campus and the Pleasant View campus of Alive Wesleyan Church sponsored an Easter Egg hunt event in Mineral Spring Park which included multiple egg hunts throughout the day and other fun activities.
Envision Williamston held a COVID-19 memorial event in Mineral Spring Park which included a Prayer Vigil and a Floating Lantern Launch on Big Creek to honor and remember loved ones lost during the coronavirus pandemic over the last year.
The special election for the District Two County Council seat vacated by the death of Gracie Floyd resulted in a runoff between Glenn Davis and Marian A. Robinson.
Williamston attorney Lee Cole handily won the Town Council Ward 2 seat vacated by Rockey Burgess when he took office as mayor. Cole, who resigned as the town attorney, was the only candidate on the ballot.
During a work session, Williamston Town Council discussed sewer projects on Green Street and Brock Lane Phase two which extends the line from the fire department to the park. They also discussed park issues involving people being disruptive and offensive to others, welcomed a new town attorney, Rame Campbell, of Anderson and regaining sewer capacity from Anderson County.

APRIL

April 7 – The Piedmont Public Service Commission approved the purchase of a new fire engine and a new pickup to serve as a chief’s vehicle. A fire engine will be transferred to Station Two, upgrading that station’s capabilities as well.
Former Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison passed away unexpectedly. Chief Ellison, 74, was a member of the Williamston Fire Department for 40 years and served as chief until he resigned March 3. Under his leadership, the department had been working steadily to make the volunteer fire department one of the best in the state. In 2014 they received a Class 3 ISO rating, the highest ever scored for an all volunteer department in the state at that time. They improved a 2020 ISO audit score by adding a ladder truck and a paid position, and just missed getting to a Class 2.
During their meeting the Anderson School District One Board heard a detailed report on how $8.5 million in COVID relief grant funding the District received has been used. In a related matter, they also approved a 1.5 percent retroactive salary increase for all District One employees for the current school year.
West Pelzer Town Council funded several projects including restriping several public parking areas, crosswalks, establishment of a more expansive website and providing availability of wifi to the Chapman Park, mulching of flower beds and planting two trees. The Council also adopted a resolution recognizing Earth Day.
APRIL
April 7 – DHEC reported 358 new cases and 179 probable cases of COVID-19. For the first time in months, there were no deaths reported across the state. Anderson County had only 11 new cases and 7 probable cases. Greenville County, 77 new cases and 29 probable cases. There were 509 COVID patients in hospitals across the state with 132 in ICU and 58 on ventilators.
The Palmetto Hich School Agricultural Education program held a grand opening for their new building located at the Palmetto High football stadium. The event also included a Future Farmers of America (FFA) charter ceremony with state officials attending.
Williamston Town Council swore in a new councilman, approved second reading on five ordinances including a zoning regulation change, parking of campers and RVs, mobile food vendors and the purchase and sale of a small piece of property on Pelzer Avenue. Council also approved funding for park improvements, several mutual aid agreements, a list of roads to be submitted for paving and increased the water/sewer tap fee.
Anderson School District One announced administrative changes and recognized some administrators during a Board meeting including Robbie Binnicker, Superintendent; Dr. Jeff Wilson, Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Instruction; Melissa Tollison, 2021 – 2022 Principal of Powdersville Elementary School; Dr. Adam Lanford, 2021 – 2022 Principal of Powdersville High School; Brad Moore, Director of Elementary Education; Dr. Chris Ferguson, Director of Secondary Education and Nancy Upton, Board of Trustees Chair.
April 14 – Glenn Davis was the winner of the Anderson County Council District 2 Democrat primary run-off election to fill the seat vacated by the death of Gracie Floyd.
Anderson County Council District 6 Representative Jimmy Davis and SC House District 10 Representative West Cox announced a new quarterly meeting called “Powdersville Politics” that will offer the opportunity for citizens to discuss issues facing the Powdersville community, county and state.
The Anderson County Planning Commission reviewed and approved the Love’s Travel Stop to be located at the Hwy. 8/I-85 interchange. The facility, comprised of 13 acres, will offer a variety of services and amenities, including a fenced dog park, a fast food vendor with a drive through window and overnight parking for the long haulers.
Pelzer approved sale of the cell tower property at the ballfields for $700,000. Council also adopted uniform building codes and approved $39,165 for improvements in and around the Monkey Park.
E+I Engineering, a leading provider of electrical switchgear and power distribution systems, announced plans to expand operations in Anderson County. The $13 million investment will create 200 new jobs.
April 21 – Jane Harrison, Assistant Superintendent of Anderson School District One, will retire after 37 years in Anderson One. Her career began as a first grade teacher at Concrete Primary School where she went on to serve as Principal before coming to the District Office as Director of Elementary Education. In 2011, she became Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.
Assistant Superintendent for Administration, Dr. Kelly Pew also announced her retirement from Anderson One. She served as an Assistant Principal in Anderson One, Superintendent in Pickens County and Superintendent in York 3, before returning to Anderson One.
Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office arrested three suspects connected to the 2014 shooting death of Marquail Marvista Hellams in Piedmont. Kris Thomas Capatino (46), Destany Maria Fields (26) and Rahiem Jarrard Griffin (28) were arrested. During the course of the investigation, investigators learned that on January 31, 2014 Griffin, Fields and Hellams met up with Capatino under the victim’s presumption that they were going to purchase narcotics. Ultimately the parties got into a vehicle with Capatino as they drove to a gravel road off of Davis Road, in Piedmont.
During a special called meeting Williamston Town Council approved a bid of $160,000 for construction of new “Pickleball Courts” in Mineral Spring Park and approved second and final reading on four new ordinances and seconding reading on an ordinance prohibiting trespassing on Town Property and disruption of public meetings. Council then held a budget work session on the proposed budget for 2021-22 which includes a 1.5 percent salary increase for town employees and some adjustments to the Hospitality Tax fund budget. The Envision Williamston budget was cut in half, to $35,000.
Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Piedmont man in connection with the death of a man whose body was found in the woods behind 101 Palamon Street in Piedmont. Investigators arrested 20 year-old, Russel Wydell Giliam, Jr., 101 Palamon Street, Piedmont in connection with the death. He was charged with Murder and Possession of a Weapon during a Violent Crime.
April 28 – Town Square Center owner/developer Jim Simpson, in a prepared statement through the Windsor Aughtry Company, Inc. a real estate company in Greenville, announced that Ingles Markets, Inc. is purchasing the Williamston Town Square Center property in downtown Williamston. The deal has been in the works since November of 2019, when business partners and commercial real estate brokers Bobby Barreto and Matt Brashire of the Windsor Aughtry Company, were introduced by then mayor Mack Durham to Town Square Center property owner Jim Simpson.
In South Carolina, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 began to decline, in part because of the purposeful prioritization of high-risk individuals in the state’s vaccination plan, as well as the success of the state’s monoclonal antibody program.
While monoclonal antibody treatments were only approved for emergency use, data showed they help reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits due to COVID-19. State health officials estimated that over 1,000 hospital admissions had been avoided and more than 100 COVID-19-related deaths prevented in SC due to the treatments.
There were 76 school districts in the state offering full face to face instruction for all students and 3 districts offering hybrid in-person instruction. The three districts are Colleton, Greenville, and Hampton 2, which planned to transition to five day face to face instruction for ALL students on April 26. No districts were only offering fully virtual instruction .
The 2020 U.S. Census counted 331,449, 281 Americans. That number reflects a remarkably sluggish growth rate; up only 7.4% from 2010. That rate of growth was second only to the even lower rate during the years of the Great Depression.
The Anderson School District One Board of Trustees heard an update on the building program, approved 29 new hires and held a budget worksession. Phase 3, which includes connecting the new cafeteria/gym building to the rest of the building was underway at Wren Middle School.
The proposed AD1 2021-22 budget included a shortfall from the current millage of 153.4 mills and proposed an increase to 165.3 mills, which included an adjustment for CPI and growth. The increase will fall primarily on businesses, rental properties and automobiles.

MAY

May 5 – Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office arrested Corey Jerome Daniel, 43, 173 Cherokee Rd, Williamston in connection with the shooting death of Dallas Rosemond that occurred in the parking lot of a Dollar General at 9538 Augusta Road.
Anderson County Council decided to dissolve the EMS advisory board. County Administrator Rusty Burns explained that the creation of the public safety committee had made the EMS advisory board essentially redundant.
May 12 – Investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office arrested William Lee Miller, 57, in connection with a case involving inappropriately touching an elementary school student at Sue Cleveland Elementary. Miller worked as a building services employee at the school.
A cyber attack on the Colonial Gas pipeline resulted in lines at local gas stations being extremely long as motorists heard of possible shortages and went out to fill tanks. The next morning, some local stations were out of gas. Upstate gas prices rose 10.5 cents per gallon over a week, averaging $2.61/g.
West Pelzer Town Council recognized town employees for service and commitment. Council also held first reading on the 2021-22 budget which shows a slight increase over last year to $1,133,860.81. Highlights include an increase in the fund balance due to conservative spending; restructure of a General Obligation Bond and removal of annual WPPD vehicle payments.
West Pelzer will receive approximately $350,000 from the American Recovery Program which can be used for revenue reimbursement, infrastructure, technology and COVID related expenses. The funding will allow the town to increase reserves from 18 percent to 24 percent.
Williamston Town Council approved first reading on the $3.3 million 2021-22 budget. Millage will remain the same at 112.5 mills, with no tax increase. Highlights include a 1.5 percent across the board salary increase for town employees, some adjustments to the Hospitality Tax fund budget and the Envision Williamston Main Street Budget being cut in half. Council approved a request by the mayor to re-roof the municipal center building at a cost of approximately $200,000 and approved rezoning a small parcel of property located behind Town Square Center for full core commercial.
May 19 – Pelzer Town Council meeting got a little testy with most of the tension centered around the purchase of two pieces of property. Mayor Will Ragland explained that one property at 4 Blythe Street, was overgrown and an eyesore. The purchase was contingent on the sale of the land where the cell tower is located, was approved by a vote of 3-2, with council veterans Eddie Waits and Mike Matthews opposed. The second proposed property purchase was the old swimming pool site, which had been mentioned as a potential site for a tire store. Its location drew significant opposition from nearby residents including a petition, as well as numerous phone calls, opposing the proposed business.
Work is underway to demolish the old eighth grade wing at Palmetto Middle School and will eventually include the auditorium. Construction on the new Palmetto Middle and Wren Middle schools is being done in phases and while using the current facilities. Both school have a wing that was built approximately twelve years ago that are being incorporated into the new buildings.
While the number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop to very low numbers across the state, the Upstate Counties of Anderson and Greenville, along with York, are the three with the highest numbers. Anderson County reported 12 new cases and 3 probable cases, Greenville County reported 16 new cases and 8 probable cases. York County reported 14 new cases and 3 probable cases. The rest of the counties have less than 10. There were only 2 COVID related deaths reported in the state.
SLED agents arrested two former Anderson County detention center officers in connection to the in-custody death of an inmate in the Anderson County Detention Center on October 17, 2020. Milton Brady Wilson, 28, and Chancelor Stephen Lee Saxton, 26, were each charged with involuntary manslaughter, along with misconduct in office.
With a low turnout of less than 4.5% of the eligible voters, a four mill increase in the Anderson County fire commission tax levy was approved by eighty votes. A $100,000 house would see an increase of about $0.71 in the first year.
The passage of House Bill 3094 by the S.C. House of Representatives eventually led to the establishment of South Carolina as a Second Amendment Sanctuary state, as well as making open carry with training (OCWT) legal beginning in August. As a 2A sanctuary state, South Carolina would require the state attorney general to review any federal law, regulation, or executive order deemed to have the potential to limit or abridge the right to bear arms.
May 26 – One of the largest and oldest trees in Williamston, located at the corner of Academy Street and West Main St., was cut down. The last few cuts on the base resulted in slabs of wood over five feet in width. The tree was estimated to be over 100 years old.
Graduation ceremonies for all three Anderson School District One high schools were held at Bons Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. Palmetto High Salutatorian was Ella Gracelyn Froedge, Valedictorian Kaylin Brooke Bell. Powdersville Salutatorian was Avery Caroline Mustar, Valedictorian was Emily Elizabeth Willis. Wren Salutatorian was Drew Grayson Alexander, Valedictorian Rachel Mae Bertram.

JUNE

June 3 – Pelzer Town Council looked over the 2021-22 draft budget during a workshop. In the general fund, the proposed revenues were budgeted at $186,532; approximately five thousand dollars less than last fiscal year.
Nearly a hundred citizens attended an informal town hall meeting at the Powdersville Fire Department Monday night (May 24) for the first meeting of the new “Powdersville Politics” series.
Anderson School District One Board members approved the budget for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. The budget includes a tax millage increase of 10 mills to 163.4 mills, slightly less than originally proposed in the draft budget. Revenue generated from the millage increase will amount to $1,220,700. The average state operating mills for schools is 188.
Anderson County Council gave Third reading approval to the 2021-2022 budget which adds positions in the Sheriff’s Department while avoiding any tax increase. The County also allocated additional funds for improvement and development at Dolly Cooper Park, which has been the object of approximately $400,000 in funding in the last several months. Those improvements brought one ballfield up to playing condition, as well as the opening of a short innertube loop totally within the park.
At a work session Williamston Town Council addressed a request for funds by the Williamston Cemetery Committee. Mayor Burgess announced that the funds the town would receive from the American Recovery Act, related to COVID impacts on communities and towns, had been increased from $1.95 million to $2.1 million. He also announced that the town had saved several thousand dollars by replacing the culvert under Green Street themselves, only to total the town’s newest (2018) dump truck while depositing the soil materials at the county landfill. According to the mayor, the truck wasn’t especially heavily loaded, but it was on uneven ground, and as the bed went up, the load shifted and twisted the truck.
West Pelzer Town Council approved second reading on the 2021-22 budget which shows a slight increase in revenues and expenses over last year to $1,133,860.81. It has no increase in taxes or fees. Highlights include: An increase in the fund balance due to conservative spending and restructure of a General Obligation Bond.
The 11th Annual Saluda River Rally will be held over the weekend with staging at Dolly Cooper Park. The event is a FUN fundraiser for South Carolina Special Olympics Area 14-Anderson County Athletes and is hosted by Anderson County and supported by local partners.
June 8 – DHEC reported 87 new cases and 48 probable cases of COVID-19. There were no deaths reported in the state for the second day in a row. Hospitals across the state had 205 COVID patients with 54 in ICU and 28 on ventilators.
West Pelzer Police Chief Alexis Eliopoulos announced she is leaving the West Pelzer Police Department and will be retiring from public service and law enforcement after a 14-year career in municipal and university law enforcement. During her two-year tenure as Chief, the police department improved technical response systems, continued to reduce significant crime, and was the recipient of numerous grants for tactical systems.
Williamston Mayor Rockey Burgess announced that David Huff had been named Chief of the Williamston Fire Department. Huff will be the town’s first paid full time firechief. A part-time paid position at the fire department was created just before former Mayor Mack Durham left office.
Pelzer Town Council gave first reading approval to the 2021-2022 budget. In the public works, expenses salaries and benefits for the town’s three full time employees will rise from $77,297 (for two employees last year) to $118,477 in the coming year. Fees for water and sewer taps on new construction were also increased to $1300 and $1000, respectively. Council voted unanimously to spend $26,500 to purchase a used bucket truck with money from the public works reserve fund. The Council also voted to purchase a piece of property at 6 Stewart Street which had been the topic of numerous citizen complaints.
Williamston Town Council approved second reading on the 2021-22 budget, rezoned property located near Town Square Center and Mahaffey Road and is taking steps to abandon a small portion of Pelzer Avenue. They also heard several requests related to events, planning and zoning updates and honored former councilman Dr. Harold Mackey who passed away the week before. Mayor Pro Tem Chris Alexander conducted the meeting in the absence of Mayor Rockey Burgess, who phoned in for discussions and votes. The Springwater Committee asked council to allow alcohol to be sold during the evening entertainment (concert) hours of the Spring Water Festival.
June 16 – The Anderson County Legislative Delegation held one of two yearly meetings, appointing and re-appointed various members to various boards, and approving budgets for the Anderson Districts 1 & 2 Career and Technology Center, the Anderson County School Board, the Anderson County Alternative School, and the Anderson County Fire Commission. The delegation also awarded West Pelzer $23,500 to be used in establishing a riverfront presence along the Saluda.
June 23 – A live entertainment event honoring front line workers and first responders was held in Mineral Spring Park. The “Back Alive Jam in the Park” featured three bands including organizers, the Odyssey Band and Show.
The Palmetto High “Wall Mural” was moved to Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park. The mural was a key feature of the entrance to the school when it was constructed in 1953 as Palmetto High School. The building, which has served as Palmetto Middle School since 1976, has been in the final phase of being torn down and replaced with almost all new construction. The mural has been in question since demolition and construction began on the new school. It is 14’ tall, 9’ wide, 8” thick and weighs approximately 14,000 lbs.
The Anderson County Fire Protection Commission presented a budget proposal to the Anderson County Legislative Delegation, based on the special tax levy of 6.77 mills and anticipated revenues of $4,516,553.
The Town of Pelzer held a special meeting to give final approval to the 2021-22 budget. The budget, which is balanced, reflects no contingency fund in either the general fund or in the public works. The budget does contain a capital projects/reserve fund in the general fund budget. That fund is available for any capital improvements.
June 30 – The Pelzer Heritage Commission invited the community to gather at the Lower Mill parking lot on July 4 for free hotdogs and fireworks. The event is being sponsored by Pelzer Heritage Commission, Pelzer Church of God, the original light people and local businesses. The Town of Pelzer also hosted a Freedom Fest Celebration on July 3 with Field Games, Raffles, Food Trucks, Vendors, a 5k Fun Run and a Parade.
The Town of Williamston held their Freedom Celebration on Saturday, July 3. The event included a car show/cruise-in, food vendors, fireworks and live music.

Part 2 of Looking Back at 2021 . . . will be published in the January 5, 2022 issue.
Happy New Year!