CPW Approves Budget for 2019

The Laurens Commission of Public Works approved a $30.8 million budget for 2019 last night, after making some minor changes from the numbers presented last month. The Commissioners gave a unanimous approval for the spending plan.

The 2019 budget anticipates a total operating income of $28,242,000 plus other income bringing the total income up to $30,844,000. The approved budget forecasts total operation and maintenance expenses of $20,383,000 along with General and Administrative expense of $7,503,000. This results in a net income $2,958,000. With additions for capital recovery the budget shows total available capital of $5,285,000. After debt retirement and new plant investment during 2019, the budget projects a capital increase of $46,000.

The revisions made before last night’s final approval of the CPW budget include eliminating a planned facility increase for electric and natural gas along with bond principal reductions. Projected interest payments were adjusted to reflect series 2018 revenue bonds.

In other last-minute changes, the CPW legal budget was increased due to recent news that the state supreme court will hear territorial disputes. They also added $10,000 for lobby renovations.

The 2019 Laurens CPW budget will have increases in water and sewer charges, expected to raise the average residential customer’s bill by approximately $3.90 a month. Noting that the water division of the CPW has been operating in the red for some time, Administrative Director Blake Davis said the budget changes are a step in the right direction. Davis also referenced the expected loss of the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission as a water customer in the future, once their proposed water treatment plant on Lake Greenwood comes on line.

The Commission also unanimously approved extension of the Community Change program for another year. This program allows customers to round up their bill to the next even dollar. This is matched by the CPW and the money raised goes to help pay utility bills for Laurens resident in financial distress. In 2018, the CPW Community Change program contributed $3,621 to the community through the Baptist Crisis Center.

Building Break-in, Burglary

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office served warrants yesterday on a woman arrested Sunday from an alleged burglary and theft that day. 47-year-old Angela F. Gunnells of 5633 Highway 252, Donalds is charged with 3rd Degree Burglary, Petit Larceny and Possession of Less than One Gram of Meth.

In warrants, Sheriff’s Captain Christopher Martin states that on December 9th Ms. Gunnells broke into a building in the 18,000-address range of US 25, Ware Shoals Sunday without consent and with intent to commit a crime therein. Captain Martin further states that Ms. Gunnells was found to be in possession of a small amount of methamphetamine. He further alleges that following the break-in, Gunnells took items including a carport canopy, a weed eater, a street sign, a cross-cut saw and an air tank and a chicken box.   Value of the property allegedly taken from another woman was $800.

Cash or surety bonds were set totaling $22,000 on the three charges. Angela Gunnells remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning. We were not able to determine of the item described as a chicken box was a restaurant fried chicken box or, perhaps a chicken coop.

Two Assaults, Night-Time Burglary Alleged

A man wanted for alleged domestic assaults last Friday and in late October was reportedly arrested at a traffic stop yesterday. 63-year-old Mark Wesley Page was booked with an address of 2790 Fort Lindley Road, Laurens and charged with two counts of 2nd Degree Domestic Violence, along with 1st Degree Burglary and Petit Larceny.

Deputy Adam Galloway states that on October 30th Page committed Domestic Violence in the 2nd Degree by striking the victim in her face and pushing her against the wall, by her arms, then took the victim’s cell phone, preventing her from calling law enforcement.

In the second domestic assault warrant, Deputy Galloway states that on December 1st Page struck the victim in the face with his fist, alleging this occurred during the act of Burglary. Page is accused of breaking into the victim’s dwelling at night for the purpose of committing a crime therein. Mr. Page was further accused of taking $492 in cash from the victim December 1st with intent to deprive her of the property.

Mark Wesley Page was being held overnight, awaiting a bond hearing on his charges.

Summer Assault Charged This Morning

Laurens Police overnight arrested a man regarding an alleged assault last summer. 47-year-old Shamel Antonio Golden of Apt H-4, 900 Church Street, Laurens was booked in the Johnson Detention Center early this morning and charged with Malicious Damage and 3rd Degree Domestic Violence.

One warrant states that an investigation of Officer Blackstock indicates that on July 29th, 2018 Mr. Golden committed 3rd Degree Domestic Violence by slapping his wife in the back of the head twice and by slapping her on the left side of her face, as she was sitting in the driver’s seat of her vehicle at Laurens Glen Apartments, 900 Church Street.

The Malicious Damage warrant alleges He also allegedly committed malicious damage on the victim’s Dodge Charger by throwing food and barbeque sauce over the interior of her vehicle, at Laurens Glen.

Shamel Antonio Golden was also on hold for Probation.

HVAC Super-Sleuths

Winter Weather like the past few days remind us of the importance of good heating systems. HVAC technicians must be super-sleuths in troubleshooting compressor problems. With so many components, just one malfunctioning part can throw the whole system off. We’re told, “Sherlock Holmes would be proud of the detective work demonstrated when the Piedmont Technical College  HVAC Department recently hosted a Semi-Hermetic Compressor Tear-Down Seminar at its HVAC lab facility in Greenwood.”  Bill Cockrell, HLVAC program director at PTC, said “Our students found this hands-on technical training on the diagnostics of failed compressors extremely valuable.” Cockrell added, “There is no substitute for hands-on experience. Participants working in teams donned safety glasses, inspected parts and wiring, used tools to disassemble faulty compressors and  got dirty, just as they would on an actual job.”

Family Night at 6:00 in Clinton Library

The Laurens County Library is hosting its 2nd special December Family Night Out program this evening, featuring Ornament Decorating! The program begins at 6:00 this evening at the Clinton Library on Jacobs Highway. There will be a variety of ornaments and methods of decorating them. The evening will begin with a holiday-themed story time and include hot chocolate. Attendees will then be invited to decorate ornaments for their tree at home or as a gift.

This event is free and open to the public. All family members are welcome. The Laurens County Library Youth Services is happy to offer a welcoming environment for children and their families. The library has resources on parenting for parents as well as grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

Tuesday Closings and Delays

Laurens County District 56 Schools will operate on a two-hour delay Tuesday.

 

Laurens County School District 55 Schools will operate on a two-hour delay Tuesday.

 

Newberry County Schools will operate on a two-hour delay Tuesday. Buses will run two hours later than the regular route time with schools and offices beginning two hours later than usual. Three and four-year old kindergarten classes that meet only in the mornings will not be held.

 

Piedmont Technical College will be operating on a two-hour delay Tuesday, due to concern about freezing temperatures with wet roads. PTC will open at 10:00 am.

 

USC Upstate is operating on a delayed schedule Tuesday morning. All locations open at 10:30 am.

 

Laurens County Officers will again operate on a two-hour delay Tuesday. All employees are to report in at 11:00 am.

 

Because of the weather this Monday, the Board of Directors of the Laurens County Disabilities & Special Needs Board’s December meeting was delayed one week. It is set for Monday, December 17th beginning at 5:30 pm in the Administration Building on Highway 14, Laurens. The public is invited to attend these monthly meetings.

Chop-Shop-Produced Motorcycle

A young man is facing ten charges from the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office following a police chase that allegedly involved a Chop-Shop-Produced motorcycle crashing into a Sheriff’s patrol vehicle.

24-year-old Harley Keith Westmoreland of 471 Buncombe Road, Enoree was issued seven tickets from Sheriff’s Lt. Kimbrell charging him with Failure to Stop for Blue Lights, Reckless Driving, No Motorcycle Endorsement on his Driver’s License, No Vehicle License, No Registration of his Motorcycle and with Simple Possession of Marijuana. The tickets cite these violations occurring at 2:51 Friday afternoon at the intersection of Highway 49 and Granny Apple Road.

Westmoreland was later served with three warrants adding the charges of Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature, Possession of Less than One Gram of Meth and Violation of the Chop Shop Act. The warrants cite an investigation of Sheriff’s Lt. Kimbrell Friday afternoon, December 7th.

The assault warrant states that Westmoreland intentionally and unlawfully struck the left side of Lt. Kimbrell’s patrol vehicle while he was fleeing from law enforcement. It states that there were no injuries from the collision. The Enoree resident was further charged with having methamphetamine in his possession, found incident to arrest for numerous traffic violations. The Chop Shop Act warrant states that Westmoreland intentionally and unlawfully had in his possession a motorcycle of unknown make and model, stating it is a motor vehicle with an obliterated Vehicle Identification Number.

Harley Keith Westmoreland was released from the Johnson Detention Center after the posting of bonds totaling $56,577.50 on the ten charges.

 

Installation Ceremony for Laurens County

Laurens County Administration has announced Thursday, January 3rd as the date for newly elected Laurens County officials to take the oath of office. The ceremony is to start at 10:00 that morning in Courtroom Chambers of Hillcrest Square.

Making Voting More Secure

Security of online voting has become a concern around the country, especially with news of cyber-attack attempts. The South Carolina Election Commission in conjunction with the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, Friday released a Request for Proposals for South Carolina’s next statewide voting system.  The SEC is seeking a uniform, statewide voting system solution that features a paper record of each voter’s voted ballot to replace the current paperless system.  The SEC expects to implement the new system by January 2020.

A report on the move from Chris Whitmire of the Election Commission indicates a new voting system will not only provide the state with a dependable system that will serve voters for years to come but will also improve the security and resilience of our election process.  Having a paper record of each voter’s voted ballot will add an important layer of security as it allows for post-election audits of ballots to verify vote totals.

The SEC is issuing the Request for Proposals now to allow adequate time for evaluation of voting system proposals and subsequent implementation by January 2020.  The SEC continues working with the S.C. General Assembly to acquire funding for this replacement effort.

Any vendor with a voting system certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is encouraged to submit a proposal.  Certified systems include both those using hand-marked paper ballots and those that produce paper ballots using a ballot-marking device.  Proposals from Vendors are due in by March 4th, 2018.

Extra-Clean-Water Award for CPW

The Laurens Commission of Public Works was recently awarded the 2018 Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) Excellence Award by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for going beyond state and federal drinking water regulations.

The objective of the Water Optimization Program is to encourage water treatment plants to “voluntarily optimize” or increase water treatment techniques to protect public health.  According to SCDHEC, the AWOP model is approximately 10 times better than regulatory standards and can reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses. Laurens CPW Water Plant Supervisor Chris George aid, “Our focus has been and always will continue to be on plant optimization and producing the best possible drinking water for all of our customers and community.  We hope this award proves our mission of providing the highest quality services to the people of Laurens and surrounding areas.”

Threats with Firearm

Threats involving a firearm were alleged following a Laurens Police arrest Friday afternoon. 25-year-old Alexus Deshon Coleman of 116 Hunter’s Court, Laurens was arrested by Laurens Police and charged with Pointing and Presenting a Firearm. Sgt. Thibodeau also issued a ticket charging Ms. Coleman with Public Disorderly Conduct at 218 Spring Street at 3:40 Friday afternoon. A warrant with the Pointing and Presenting charge states that an investigation of Sgt. Thibodeau indicates that Alexus Coleman had a handgun in her possession while making threats and that on at least one occasion she pointed the firearm at the victim. This allegedly occurred Friday afternoon behind an apartment at 218 Spring Street. Alexus Deshon Coleman was released on bonds totaling $10,500.

Conspiring to Steal Cell Phone

Clinton Police arrested two women Friday regarding the alleged theft of a cell phone. Charged with Conspiracy and Petit Larceny were 29-year-old Jessica Hope Boyce of 136 Pine Street, Clinton and 33-year-old Shelly Brooks Ray of 927 Church Street, Laurens. Warrants allege that Ms. Boyce and Ms. Ray conspired to steal a cell phone and that they took a black and gray touch cell phone valued at less than $2,000. This allegedly occurred Friday at a Pine Street address in Clinton. Both Jessica Boyce and Shelly Ray were released on personal recognizance bonds totaling $940 each.

Conspiring to Steal Cell Phone

Clinton Police arrested two women Friday regarding the alleged theft of a cell phone. Charged with Conspiracy and Petit Larceny were 29-year-old Jessica Hope Boyce of 136 Pine Street, Clinton and 33-year-old Shelly Brooks Ray of 927 Church Street, Laurens. Warrants allege that Ms. Boyce and Ms. Ray conspired to steal a cell phone and that they took a black and gray touch cell phone valued at less than $2,000. This allegedly occurred Friday at a Pine Street address in Clinton. Both Jessica Boyce and Shelly Ray were released on personal recognizance bonds totaling $940 each.

Monday Closings and Delays

Laurens County School District 56 closed.  Expected to operate on a regular schedule for Tuesday.

Laurens County School District 55 will be closed Monday. Expect regular schedule Tuesday.

Newberry County Schools will be on a two-hour delay Monday morning.  No 3 or 4 year old Kindergarten on Monday.

Laurens County Governmental Offices will operate on a two-hour delay Monday morning. All employees should report to work by 11:00 am.

Clinton’s Municipal Office will open on a two-hour delay Monday.  Bailey Municipal Center will open Monday at 10:00 AM. Public Works, Police, Fire, and Municipal Court will operate on the normal schedule.

Piedmont Agency on Aging (Clinton location) closed on Monday.

Mike Pitts to Retire from State House

State House 14 Representative Mike Pitts Sunday announced he is retiring from the South Carolina Legislature, effective December 31st. Last month, Pitts was re-elected for another two-year term in the State House.

Republican Representative Mike Pitts thanked the citizens of House Seat 14 for the “incredible honor and privilege of representing the finest citizens of South Carolina for the past 16 years. I have given you my best effort, standing firm on principle while building alliances to help lead our state forward. This is how a democratic republic is supposed to work. You may not have agreed with me at times, but you always knew with certainty where I stood on any issue.”

Pitts cited his health issues in his decision to retire, just before another term was to begin. “During my tenure, I have faced some harsh personal challenges with two rounds of cancer treatment, and on October 20 of this year, a heart attack and surgery. My doctors say I can make a full recovery in time, with patience, rehabilitation, a far less hectic schedule and a reduction in stress. Serving in an elected position becomes more stressful each year; as the poison of politics grows, so do the daily demands of constituents. Chairing the House Ethics Committee during an investigation into certain House members has been particularly stressful.”

“With that said,” Mike Pitts concluded, “Based on the advice of my doctors and my family—to whom I want to express eternal gratitude for their support of my endeavors—I have decided I should retire from the legislature. My plans are to remain active in another capacity with a more singular focus and more manageable schedule to maximize my effectiveness.”

Mike Pitts said his retirement from the State House will be effective December 31, 2018, with an official resignation effective January 3, 2019. This will trigger a special election to fulfill the term for which I was just elected. To the handful with all the answers, here’s your opportunity to step into the arena. To those who don’t have all the answers, but are ready to ask the right questions, I implore you to prayerfully consider public service.”

Pitts concluded his statement, saying, “Family, friends and supporters, thank you again for the opportunity to make a difference. Together, we have.

Merry Christmas and God bless you all.”

 

Holiday Events Adapt to Forecast

Holiday activities are planned for Downtown Laurens tonight and Saturday. The Laurens County Museum is having a “Merry Market” from 4:00 until 8:00 this evening. It’s being held in the Witherspoon Building on the Square, on Main Street.

Laurens Main Street Director Jonathan Irick said that the Laurens Lights Tour begins at the Museum, but he notes there are two options for the Lights Tour.

“You can take the Trolley Ride from the Square. We will be selling the tickets and loading and unloading there at the second set of doors for the Laurens Museum on Main Street. For $5 a person you can take the trolley, which will take you up West Main, over to South Harper and down to the park. You can then get off and take the Tinsel Tram. Or you can go directly to the park and for $3 you can just take the Tinsel Tram along the walking trail.”

With the likelihood of rain Saturday night, Irick said that for Saturday, “We will not be doing the Tinsel Town tours at the park; however, we will still be doing the Trolley tours from the Museum.”

The Laurens Lights Tours are set for 6:00 to 8:00 tonight and Saturday night, with the Tinsel Tram Tours on the walking trail only this evening.

The Laurens County Museum is having the Merry Market in the Witherspoon Building this evening from 4:00 until 8:00 and Saturday from 9:00 am until 8:00 pm. Its featuring Artists, crafters and vendors with great gift ideas. The museum’s gift shop will have a wide variety of items for children and adults.

From 5:00 until 6:00 this afternoon, Christmas music by the Y Strings can be heard in the Witherspoon Building. Tomorrow morning, the Coffee Roost will have a station with delicious hot chocolate to warm everyone, and CD’s Barbeque will have lunch items.

A $5 admission goes to support the activities of the Laurens County Museum. Children 12 & under admitted free.  The Merry Market promises to have something of interest for all!

The Annual Reindeer Run for the Laurens Y is also scheduled this weekend, rain-or-shine.

Multiple Drug Warrants Follow Traffic Arrest

Clinton Police served multiple drug charges yesterday on a man the Highway Patrol arrested on a traffic charge shortly after midnight. Trooper Ward of the Highway Patrol arrested 28-year-old Tyler Vaughn Petty of 224 Brandy Lane, Clinton, issuing a ticket charging Petty with Driving under Suspension on U.S. Highway 76, Clinton at 5 minutes after midnight Thursday morning. Later in the day, Clinton Police served warrants charging Tyler Petty with Distribution of Meth, Distribution within Proximity and with Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute.

In warrants, Police Sgt. Wicker states that on August 8th Petty sold a quantity of methamphetamine to a confidential informant working in an undercover capacity. This was investigated by Detective Prather of Clinton Police and Investigator Nations of the Sheriff’s Office. This reportedly occurred within a half-mile of a Public Park. Sgt. Wicker also alleges that on the same date this past August Petty had in his possession more than one gram of methamphetamine on Clay Street at East Main Street.

While a $647.50 personal recognizance bond was set on the traffic charge from the Highway Patrol, cash or surety bonds were set totaling $12,000 on the three Meth charges from Clinton Police. Tyler Vaughn “Ears” Petty remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning.

Red Devil Coaching Change

Laurens County School District 56 administration has announced that a search is underway or a new Head Varsity Football Coach at Clinton High School. Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields thanked Coach Andrew Webb for his hard work and direction given to District 56 athletes over the past four years. Coach Webb said, “It has been the honor of my life to lead our Red Devils.” On WLBG sports on-air and on-line, Mike Hughes has more details on the changes for the Red Devils.

New Fire & Police Chiefs Given Oath

It’s now Official: At Monday’s December meeting of Clinton City Council, two recently hired city officials were officially sworn to service.

Phillip Russell stood with his wife as City Clerk Tammy Templeton administered the oath of office as Fire Chief for the Clinton Fire Department.

Next up, Socrates B. “Sonny” Ledda stood alongside his wife and repeated the oath as the new Chief of Police for the Clinton Police Department.  Chief Ledda comes to Clinton after serving as Chief of the Laurens Police Department for over four years and a brief stint as Chief of the Bishopville Police Department.  Prior to the Bishopville position, Sonny Ledda served for many years with the Clinton Department of Public Safety, reaching the rank of Lieutenant before his 2013 departure for Bishopville.

Both Sonny Ledda and Phillip Russell received applause from the Mayor, Council and the audience in attendance as they completed their oath.