eLearning thru January 28 for District 55

Laurens County District 55 students will continue on eLearning through January 28th.

The latest data received from health officials reportedly shows that the critical nature of our county crisis from COVID-19 remains unchanged.

In making the announcement yesterday, Superintendent Dr. Ameca Thomas said, “In consultation with local health authorities we hear that the spread of COVID-19 continues at a very high rate, which is taxing our health facilities. While we have personal protective equipment in place on all of our campuses, this mitigates but does not eliminate the potential for the spread of the disease. Therefore, to help reduce the spread and to minimize the impact of our schools on the health system, we will continue in eLearning operations for the next two weeks.”

District 55 officials will continue to monitor data and consult with local and state health officials.  Thomas added, “Our hope is that the health crisis will subside over the next two weeks and we will be able to return to face-to-face instruction to start the second semester.”

District 55 Student Nutrition Services Department will continue to offer hot meals at all schools. Because this Monday is a Holiday, extra meals were to be provided today. Meals are available from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Laurens County Virtual Academy (LCVA) students will continue to pick up all of their meals on Wednesdays, with meals provided for Wednesday lunch through the following Wednesday breakfast.

Council Approves Review of Employee Compensation

During Laurens County Council discussion of proposals for changes in pay for some EMS employees a few weeks ago, a suggestion was made to have a formal analysis of the pay county employees receive. This week, County Council approved a proposal for the study submitted by Human Resources Director Casey Bolton.

This action provides $22,500 for Evergreen Business Solutions of Spartanburg. Bolton told council that eight proposals were received, ranging from $9,000 to $44,500. Bolton said some of the proposals were subject to additional costs to get the information wanted. After a thorough review of these proposals, the $22,500 bid from Evergreen was selected for Laurens County.

Evergreen was noted as having vast experience in compensation studies, has completed studies for local governmental entities with positive reviews, and appears to have knowledgeable insights to the growth and challenges that Laurens county is facing. Bolton said Evergreen also has local market knowledge, and has completed compensation studies for Spartanburg, Dorchester and Beaufort Counties and for cities including Spartanburg, Mauldin, Chester.

While most of the other companies were adequate, Casey Bolton said Evergreen Solutions seems to have the resources, local governmental knowledge and expertise to complete the project within the requisite timeframe.

McDaniel Reflects on January 6th Events at the Capitol

Laurens County Council Member Garrett McDaniel had comments on last week’s developments in Washington D.C. during this week’s County Council meeting. He said, “We are at a crossroads in the history of the United States. One path is hate, bigotry, incivility, unrest and lies. The other leads to hope, healing, and empathy for our fellow citizens.”

McDaniel noted, “The people expect our leaders to do just that, lead and many have been led astray during the past 4 years, echoing lies and calls for chaos that have now left 5 dead and our country in turmoil.”

He added, “The very people who believe they are protecting our democracy have succeeded in attempting to destroy it.”

Councilman McDaniel concluded, “Make no mistake, this shameful chapter in our history is on them and those who supported them. The terrorist acts of the day almost a week ago will live in infamy.”

Guns for Sale on Facebook

Posting guns for sale on social media was cited with an arrest in Laurens County yesterday. Pardon, Probation and Parole charged 27-year-old Terrell Pyles of North Old Laurens Road, Gray Court with Violation of Probation.

Pyles is accused of failing to follow the advice and instructions of his supervising agent by being in possession of a pistol and an AR-15. This was allegedly made evident by a obtained from Facebook where he reportedly posted the guns for sale under the alias of “Trapp Godd”

Terrell Pyles remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing on his Violation of Probation charge.

Dangerous Driving on Chestnut Street & US 221

Dangerous driving in the City of Laurens Wednesday was alleged in warrants served yesterday. Officer Rushing of Laurens Police arrested 26-year-old Darron James Butler of Central Avenue, Whitmire. He’s now charged with Reckless Driving, Failure to Stop for Blue Lights and 3rd Offense Driving under Suspension.

Butler is accused of driving a motor vehicle at 70 miles-per-hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone Wednesday, then when reaching a stop sign at the end of Chestnut Street, failed to stop as he entered US 221 south. He reportedly continued to drive in a reckless manner for another eight tenths (8/10) of a mile after being signaled to stop by lights and siren from a police vehicle. He was allegedly driving while his driver’s license was suspended for alleged failure to pay traffic ticket charges.

With cash or surety bonds set yesterday totaling $5,545, Darron James Butler remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning.

Meth Distribution Added to Traffic Tickets

A Meth Distribution warrant was served after the Highway arrested a Newberry County man in Western Laurens County yesterday. Trooper Rhodes initially issued tickets charging 41-year-old Shannon Anthony McCoy of Mt. Bethel Garmany Road, Newberry with Driving under the Influence, Operating an Unregistered Vehicle and Use of License Plate on a Wrong Vehicle around 10:30 yesterday morning on US Highway 25, Ware Shoals.

A warrant served later charged McCoy with Distribution of Methamphetamine. It alleges he had 2.13 grams of methamphetamine inside a brown card wallet that was inside a plastic bag in the left pocket of his jacket yesterday.

41-year-old Shannon Anthony McCoy remained in Laurens County’s Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing.

Domestic Altercation & Five Family Court Warrants

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office has charged a man with a domestic assault this week and he is further charged with failure to comply with Family Court orders regarding responsibilities to five custodial parents. 46-year-old Anthony Dennis “Drew” Massey of Georgia Acres Road, Gray Court is charged with 2nd Degree Domestic Violence for alleged actions Wednesday, the 13th.

He is accused of pushing the victim Wednesday and of grasping her by the throat during a verbal altercation. This reportedly occurred in the presence of a 13-year-old minor.

The five Family Court Bench Warrants state that on March 3rd of last year he failed to comply with court orders that were issued on February 26th.

Anthony “Drew” Massey remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing on the 2nd Degree Domestic Violence charge and awaiting further court procedures for the five Bench Warrants.

Blocking Traffic on Highway 49

A local man was arrested by the Laurens Count Sheriffs’ office Wednesday after allegedly blocking on Highway 49. 37-year-old Travis Monroe Taylor of Jefferson Street, Clinton has since been issued tickets charging him with Public Disorderly Conduct and Resisting Arrest.

Mr. Taylor is accused of acting in a disorderly manner Wednesday on Highway 49 near Scout’s Hut Road, between Interstate 385 and Laurens Academy. He is alleged to have been in the middle of a lane blocking traffic and disturbing drivers. This allegedly while being under the influence of an unknown narcotic. He is further accused of refusing to place his hands behind his back when deputies advised him that he was under arrest. Further, he allegedly fell to the ground, pulling his hands away, as deputies attempted to place him in hand cuffs Wednesday.

Travis Monroe Taylor remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning with cash or surety bonds on the two charges totaling $5,257.50.

Talk, No Action on Face-to-Face for District 55

The Laurens County School District 55 Board of Trustees assembled in a called meeting last night to discuss how to operate best school during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, the three newly elected trustees were installed. Taking the oath of officer were Neil Patterson, Bubba Rawl and Todd Verner.

Discussion centered around District 55 having entered a “Red Phase” of operations, where students are all on eLearning. Face-to-Face in-class learning has not resumed following the holiday break, with Superintendent Thomas advising of concern about the increase impact COVID is having in Laurens County.

Board Member Cathy Little asked if it was possible for the board to take action on that matter during the called meeting. Board Chair Anthony Carpenter said any vote of the board would have to wait until the next scheduled meeting. Little replied, “Then why are we here?” Carpenter replied, “Because you requested the meeting.”

Mrs. Little said she requested this meeting for board action because back in September the board voted to remove the red phase. She said board action would be needed to reinstate it.

The school board meeting continued with discussion on the hardships endured by parents who are unable to work due to their children not being able to attend school. Concern was expressed of some families being in danger of home foreclosure. Other concerns were discussed about the possibility of ongoing eLearning, stating concerns about its negative impact on education, the health and welfare of the staff and students of the district, and future plans for the next semester.

Chair Anthony Carpenter closed the meeting thanking everyone for attending and for the discussions.

LCCF Installs New Officers, Board Members

Lumas Byrd

 

Laurens County Community Foundation (LCCF) has announced that its Board of Directors has elected Lumus Byrd Jr. as their new Chairman of the Board. Mr. Byrd has served on the LCCF Board of Directors as a Board Member and on the Executive Committee since 2010. Robin Day, Executive Director said, “Lumus Byrd brings a wealth of experience that is critical to the organization as LCCF moves to implement its strategic plan and further its goal to be a trusted partner for the community.

Lumus Byrd is a retired businessman and citizen activist. He has served on the Board of Directors of multiple local organizations, reflecting his strong dedication to the community. Mr. Byrd has been recognized for his community activism with awards including Laurens County Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year, National Council of Negro Women Annual Civic Award, Presbyterian College’s Martha Anne Green Award, and Outstanding Contribution and Dedication from Laurens County School District #55, Co-Citizen of the Year from the Clinton Chronicle, and the award for Outstanding Woodland Manager from the Laurens County Extension Advisory Council.  After the last LCCF Board meeting of 2020, Byrd said, I am sincerely grateful and excited to serve as Chairman of the Laurens County Community Foundation Board.  I deeply sense the great obligation of this position and I shall regard it a duty and privilege to advance its mission and policies.  It has been a pleasure to work alongside our outgoing Chair, Mr. Morris Galloway and I am most thankful for his outstanding leadership and service.  Mr. Galloway will continue to serve on the LCCF Board in the role of Immediate Past Chair.

Norman Scarborough was elected Vice Chair, succeeding Lumus Byrd, and additional new Board members Samuel Moore, Karen Mattison, and Gary Bailey were approved the board to occupy the vacancies left by those who have completed their term of service on the LCCF Board.  Outgoing members are Dr. Ed Gouge, Elma Madden, and John Ferguson, who were recognized for their outstanding work and dedication to help those in need in our county through their service with the Laurens County Community Foundation.

The LCCF Board of Directors represent citizens of Laurens County with backgrounds in the areas of finance, law, business, education, public policy, and philanthropy. Their job is to build upon the valuable mission and vision of the Laurens County Community Foundation and ensure it remains a well-governed, fiscally sound, and highly effective organization.

Historic Courthouse Renovation Moving Forward

Laurens County Council has approved moving forward with plans for renewal of the Historic Laurens County Courthouse.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Council unanimously approved a request from Public Works Director Dale Satterfield for design and bid work in Phase II of the renovation and for design work for Phase III.

Satterfield advised council that they’re nearing completion of the Phase I work on the historic structure. He noted this included repairing and restoring the dome, which is now clad in copper. He said Phase I also repaired and added downspouts to better manage storm water on the roof. It also included installation of a state-of-the-air fire detection system to alert emergency services in the event of fire.

Dale Satterfield said that a bid from Craig, Gaulden and Davis for $345,375 was selected for the design and bidding of Phase II. This work is to prepare a schematic design for the entire restoration and focus Phase II construction of roof replacement, repairs and weather tightness to prevent further damage. He noted that based on bids for some of these materials, window replacement and installing an elevator inside the building may have to wait for Phase III.

Satterfield said the Phase III design is to cost $50,639. He said interior design work also needs to be performed to answer some much-needed questions for elevator installation and removal of infills in 1973. The interior work will also help calculate good cost projections for environmental abatement with asbestos and concealed lead paint. A proposal from Building Envelope Enclosure Group, which specializes in building envelopes and asbestos in roofing materials, is for $50,639.”

The total expenditures approved last night for Phase II Design and Bidding and Phase III Design is $405,014.

Funding for Phase II and III renovations of the Historic Courthouse is from the Capitol Projects Sales Tax approved by voters in November.

Criminal Sexual Conduct

Inappropriate touching was alleged with a Laurens County Sheriff’s office arrest yesterday. 68-year-old Daniel Dean Croyle of Mountain View Drive, Gray Court was charged with 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. He is accused of forcing a nine-year-old minor to place her hands near his genitals over his clothing. Mr. Croyle remained in the Johnson Detention Center overnight, awaiting a bond hearing.

Moving Without Permission

State Pardon, Probation and Parole yesterday arrested 32-year-old Kathryn Olivia Collins of Falcon Drive, Fountain Inn. A Violation of Probation is accused of failing to follow the advice and instructions of her supervising agent. Those failures allegedly included changing her residence without the consent of her supervising agent. This was reportedly evidenced by a home visit last June 25th when an agent was told she was not living at the residence. Kathryn Collins remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing.

Failing to Appear in Court

Failing to appear in Laurens County General Sessions Court this month was alleged with an arrest by South Carolina Pardon, Probation and Parole yesterday. 27-year-old Kevin Michael Nelson of 1539 Knighton Chapel Road was charged with Violation of Probation. The warrant alleges he was notified last November 19th of a court appearance and failed to appear in court January 4th. Kevin Nelson remained in the Johnson Detention Center earlier this morning, awaiting a bond hearing.

Probation Violation Cites Newberry Arrest

An arrest this month was cited in a Violation of Probation arrest yesterday of a Gray Court area resident. 33-year-old Jamichael Lee Owings of Quarter Horse Lane is said to have been arrested January 12th by the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office on a charge of Trespassing. Further evidence of his failing to follow the advice was alleged to be a failing to reside in an agency-approved address. He is also allegedly $800 behind in payments on his supervision account and $20 behind on payment of a drug testing fee. Jamichael Lee Owings remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing on his Violation of Probation charge.

New Leadership for Laurens County Council

New leadership for Laurens County Council was elected last night during the first meeting of council in the new year. Laurens County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks guided the meeting through the nominations and voting procedure.

Council member Brown Patterson was unanimously elected as Chair of County Council. Then, there was close vote for the Vice-Chair position. Jeff Carroll was elected to the post with one vote more than Garrett McDaniel.

 COVID Situation “Very Serious”

The current COVID situation was a big part of the discussion during last night’s Laurens County Council meeting.

Justin Benfield, Chief Executive Officer of the Prisma Health Laurens County Hospital, said, “Our resources are being taxed, our in-patient numbers have almost doubled since June and July, and the Laurens Campus is filled to 135% capacity.” Benfield added that fortunately the National Guard is assisting with additional space provided along with eight National Guard personnel, four in a Step-Down unit. Justin Benfield told County Council, “We are in the eleventh month of this pandemic, and our health care workers are exhausted. We are pleading for your help. This is a very, serious situation.”

Benfield kept emphasizing the need for all to be vigilant in mask wearing, social distancing, and staying away from large crowds.

Laurens County Emergency Communications Director Joey Avery updated Council on arrival of the vaccine. “We hope to have all of our health care workers and first responders vaccinated with the first shot by the end of the month, with a second shot following the first 21 days later.”

Avery also said that starting today – Wednesday January 13th – people 70 or older are eligible to register for the vaccine online through DHEC. He noted registration is also available at Ingle’s.

Citizens can make an appointment by calling 1-855-472-3432 or by going to this web site: www.scdhec.gov/vaxlocator

Education in COVID for District 55 Trustees

The Laurens County District 55 School Board has a called meeting set for this evening at the district office in Laurens. The agenda calls for school trustees to discuss school operations during the current community health crisis, but we believe that newly elected school board members may be given the oath. The public may view the proceedings online with links from the District 55 website and Facebook page. The meeting starts at 5:30 this evening.

Meanwhile, the Laurens County School District 56 Board of Trustees will meet tomorrow evening at Clinton High School. This will be for the mandatory yearly ethics training required of school board members.

Dangers Other Than COVID-19

The Laurens Commission of Public Works held their January meeting online Monday evening, due to the increased threat of COVID. Meanwhile, there are other threats faced daily by employees.

The commissioners were advised this week of an employee injury that recently occurred. A Natural Gas Division employee was reportedly bitten by a dog, suffering minor injuries, while inspecting a meter.

From the relative safety of indoor offices, Laurens CPW staff is also working to close the books on 2020. Administrative Services Director Blake Davis told the commissioners this week that the past year’s accounting is now being closed out as his department prepares for the annual financial audit.

Winter Heating Assistance Available

The GLEAMS Human Resource Commission announced it has received funding for a new round of assistance to eligible low-income households.  The money comes in Federal Grants through The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and General Emergency Assistance Program (GEAP). These programs are designed to assist eligible low-income households meet home heating, cooling, and housing needs.  Home energy is defined as residential heating and cooling as well as to increase energy self-sufficiency; thereby reducing the vulnerability resulting from energy needs. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is also designed to intervene in energy-related crisis situations and to conduct outreach. The General Emergency Assistance Program provides rental and mortgage assistance for individuals facing immediate eviction.

The GLEAMNS Community Services Department also offers driver’s training and educational assistance through their Case Management program.

GLEAMNS serves the Upper Savannah Region of Laurens, Greenwood, Edgefield, Abbeville, McCormick, Newberry, and Saluda counties. GLEAMNS is now making appointments for energy and rental/mortgage assistance.

Laurens County residents may call (864) 984-5123 to inquire about the service. GLEAMNS notes that all customers can receive services twice a year. One goal for the program here in 2021 is to expand outreach to previously un-served households, as they seek to reduce and/or prevent poverty, increase efficiency of energy usage, and target energy and rental/mortgage assistance to eligible households with the highest needs and lowest incomes.

The local contact number, again, is: (864) 984-5123