O’Shields Contract Extended

The District 56 School Board met with Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields on November 1st for their annual evaluation. This past week, Board Chair James Barton released his letter to the Superintendent with a summary of that evaluation.

Barton indicated he was pleased to report that the Board remains satisfied with O’Shield’s performance during the past year, indicating he’s made good progress toward his goals. These included focusing on implementing the Board’s vision, academic achievement, personnel management, fiscal responsibility, policy development and superintendent-Board relations. Barton said to the Superintendent, “The Board believes that you continue to be a visible and positive presence in the community, are dedicated to our students and this school system, and exhibit a depth of knowledge of instructional issues.” He added “Although student achievement increased in many areas, other areas, particularly including history at the high school, deserve a renewal of efforts to ensure better achievement.  The Board also believes that efforts need to be made at all levels to teach students “soft skills” in order to be successful in life.”

In light of the positive evaluation, the District 56 School Board voted to extend Dr. O’Shields’ contract for one year, through June 30, 2019, and increased his salary by 2.0%, effective July 1, 2016, which is the same increase provided all teachers who have in excess of 22 years of experience.

Things are “Grand” in the PC Music Department

An announcement this week indicates the estate of Maj. William Putman, from the PC class of ’55, has gifted the department of music with its third grand piano of the year. The gift is a 1950s-era Steinway Model D, a nine-foot concert grand piano, preferred by performers. Porter Stokes, professor of music and Chair of the Department of Music, said of the piano: “Though already a 60-year-old piano, the instrument is in pristine condition, having been owned, played, and maintained only by Mr. Putman.” Stokes also said of the piano, “It may be, now, the best performing piano we have on a PC stage.”

Earlier this year, the PC Music Department received an 1894 Steinway Model M grand piano that had been restored to almost showroom quality from alumnus, Charles Weston, class of ‘69. In addition, the Rehoboth Presbyterian Church donated a 1984 Steinway Model D along with a significant donation to the Neville Hall Project.

The late Major Putman was born in Laurens in 1933. After graduation from Laurens High School in 1951 he attended Presbyterian College, where he majored in bible and minored in history. He began his military career at Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1956. After many assignments include Vietnam, his career included a return to Ft. Benning in 1979 where he served 22 years as the protestant director of religious education.

Four 911 Employees Recognized

Four members of the Laurens County 911 Dispatch system were recognized by County Council this week. The four employees were presented with certificates Tuesday night in recognition of their having been presented the Palmetto Award from the South Carolina Emergency Communications Organization. The awards cited valuable service to the citizens of Laurens County. Those receiving the award were, Becky Bagwell, Angie O’Sullivan, Jody Shea and Karen Bridges.

Tension over Finances

Financial problems were noted in an alleged domestic assault outside Fountain Inn last night. Laurens County Sheriff’s Corporal Brent Rushing responded to Chapman Road at 9:13 pm and met with a woman who indicated that she and her husband had argued over money due to bills, and that during the argument the husband had thrown a cell phone, striking her in the chest. Their adult son had reportedly observed the incident and called 911. The man indicated he had not intended to hit his wife with the phone. The wife displayed no signs of injury and did not want to seek medical treatment. The 47-year-old husband was arrested and placed in the Laurens County Detention Center, pending a warrant to be sought today to charge Domestic Violence 3rd Degree.

Economic Development Update

Laurens County Council this week unanimously approved Resolution #2016-27, which allows the expansion of the Octagon Industrial Park on the Greenville side, to accommodate a new industry formally known as “Project Dalmatian.” That project has now been revealed to be Poseidon Advanced Materials. Laurens County Council also gave a 2nd reading approval to Ordinance #825, which is to expand the Donaldson Multi-County Industrial Park.

Pursuit with Blue Lights

A Joanna man was arrested by the Sheriff’s Office early yesterday following a police pursuit. 29-year-old Jarvis Jermaine Wideman of 305 Sumter Street, Joanna was issued tickets by Deputy McLain that charged him with having an Expired Tag on his vehicle at 4:00 in the morning on US 76 East. Wideman was also ticketed for Failure to Stop for a Blue Light. He remained in custody earlier today with cash or surety bonds set at $5,000 on the Failure to Stop charge and $155 for the Expired Tag ticket.

Stolen Car Recovered Quickly

A report of a stolen car dispatched a Sheriff’s Deputy to a Waterloo address at 5:48 yesterday afternoon. A resident reported that her sister had showed up at her house intoxicated and argued with her in the home. She said the intoxicated sister then walked outside and took her Ford Mustang, hitting a neighbor’s vehicle on the way out of the driveway. The car was valued at $2,000. The Highway Patrol located the vehicle before it could be entered into the NCIC. It was towed to a body shop in Greenwood. Corporal Dwayne Richey obtained a warrant to charge the sister with Use of a Vehicle without Consent. The case remained open, pending arrest.

Repair to Leaking Roof at Hillcrest Square

The leaking roof at the Hillcrest Square Complex was the major topic of a sub-committee report presented to Laurens County Council this week. Councilman Stuart Jones detailed the problem in an extensive side presentation showing every leaky spot in the building’s ceiling, noting some dangerously close to paper records. It also showed many water buckets in place throughout the building to catch the drips. The committee proposed two actions to solve the problem. County Council unanimously approved Resolution 2016-28 that allows the use of the remaining $269,277 left from the bonds used in the recent administrative office addition to Hillcrest Square. The remaining funds to pay for the anticipated $510,000 for a new roof over Hillcrest Square are to be transferred from the County Reserve Fund, authorized Tuesday night thru Resolution 2016-29.

Council was also informed by the committee that there will be other expenses to adjust shifting needs at the complex and the possibility of undiscovered damage under the old roof that was not included in the estimated cost. Rob Russian, County Director of Public Works, said “We are still looking at design, replacing the damaged ceiling tiles from the leaks, old lighting and air-conditioning that are not energy-efficient, and over-crowed office units for certain departments.” Russian added “We will be doing a full-scale evaluation of the building.”

Councilman Jones said the county may be able to get some funding from the state due to the nature of work conducted at Hillcrest Square. He noted there may also be a need to look at another bond.

Five Charged with Up to Six Drug Charges

Charges were served yesterday on five Clinton men who had been arrested Tuesday regarding alleged drug violations at 812 North Broad Street.

Clinton Public Safety served six warrants on 27-year-old Davarius Aswon Uddyback of 11755 Highway 308, Clinton. He’s charged with Distribution of Crack Cocaine, 3rd or Subsequent Offense, Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, 3rd Offense and with Distribution of Crack Cocaine 3rd Offense. He also is facing three charges of Distribution within Proximity of a School or Park. Sgt. Prather states that on November 29th at 812 North Broad Uddyback sold a quantity of crack cocaine to a confidential informant working in an undercover capacity, and has two prior convictions for narcotics violations. Uddyback also allegedly had a quantity of marijuana with intent to distribute. Sgt. Prather alleged there was a mason jar with marijuana and had a small, clear plastic baggy containing marijuana that was located in a black jacket with a wallet containing the defendant’s SC identification card and social security card, and noted the defendant has two prior convictions for distribution of narcotics. Uddyback also allegedly had crack cocaine in a black jacket along with the wallet with ID and Social Security card, and that the crack was packaged in a way commonly used for distribution. Bond was denied on all charges. Davarius Aswon Uddyback remained in the Laurens County Detention Center.

A resident of 812 North Broad, 54-year-old Vito Jervaria Martin, was charged with Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, Possession With Intent within Proximity of a School or Park and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. He allegedly had marijuana with intent to distribute, a set of digital scales and clear plastic baggies in a Crown Royal bag, and has a prior conviction for distribution of marijuana. While a $500 PR bond was set on the Drug Paraphernalia charge, Vito J. Martin remained in detention with cash or surety bonds totaling $15,000 on the Possession with Intent and Proximity charges.

43-year-old Kevin Fernando Gilliam of 469 Airport Road, Clinton remained in custody this morning with cash or surety bonds totaling $15,000 on his charges of Possession of Crack Cocaine with Intent to Distribute and Possession with Intent within Proximity of a School or Park.

20-year-old Tyrez Montrell Owens of 105 Henry Street, Clinton was charged with Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute and Possession With Intent within Proximity of a school or Park for alleged possession of marijuana and scales at 812 North Broad Tuesday. Tyrez Owens was released Wednesday evening on cash or surety bonds totaling $3,000.

20-year-old Jason Elliott O’Neal Carter of 1201 Elizabeth Street, Clinton was released yesterday on a $500 PR bond for a Simple Possession of Marijuana warrant.

Downtown Clinton Store Break-In

Clinton Public Safety was dispatched to Wilson’s Curb Market at 210 West Main at 9:00 yesterday morning and spoke with an employee who came to open the store around 8:00 and said she heard some noise in the back of the store. When another employee came to work they went to check the back part of the store and noticed the store’s money bag on the floor near the freezer. Only credit card receipts remained in the bag. Officers were advised the bag had $400 inside. A front window of the store was found broken. Damage to the window was estimated at $1,000.

Improving Ability as School Board Member

The District 55 School Board this week recognized Board Member Robby Bell for attaining Level 4 in the South Carolina School Board Association’s “Boardmanship Institute.” He was awarded a Certificate for the accomplishment. Established in 1982, the Boardmanship Institute offers a year-round training curriculum focused on leadership skills for board members for dealing with state and national education issues.

Board members earn points for participating in statewide conferences and on-site training in their district. The Boardmanship Institute’s six levels of recognition are based on points accrued annually.

Attempt to Steal $11 Million from I.R.S.

Acting United States Attorney Beth Drake said that during Federal Court in Anderson yesterday, 46-year-old Stephanie Lake Meyer of Simpsonville entered a plea of guilty to Interference with the Administration of Internal Revenue Laws. United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain accepted the plea and will sentence Ms. Meyer following preparation of a Presentence Report.  Meyer faces a sentence of up to three years in prison.

At the guilty plea hearing Assistant US Attorney David C. Stephens advised the Court that Meyer devised and executed a scheme whereby she sent approximately 45 checks totaling approximately eleven million dollars to the Internal Revenue Service. Each of these checks were noted by Meyer as payment of income taxes.  As the checks came in they were credited to her IRS account.  The IRS then determined that Meyer had no tax liability, so funds were paid to Meyer to account for the “overage” that she had sent in. After just under $257,000 was sent to Meyer, the IRS discovered that all of the checks she had sent in were bogus and that she was running what is commonly known as a phantom account balance scam. This is a scam normally seen with bank accounts where an account holder deposits worthless checks to build up the balance and then draws it down before the bogus nature of the checks is discovered.

Forgery

Fountain Inn Police yesterday arrested one of the suspects wanted for an alleged counterfeit check issued in the Laurens County portion of town this past summer. 41-year-old Denise Elaine Grant of 85 Sheldon Court, Walterboro was charged with Forgery. Officer Joshua Peden states that video evidence indicates that on August 28th, 2016 Ms. Grant, along with numerous co-defendants, willfully and unlawfully utter or published as true, a false, forged or counterfeited instrument of writing, check #1335, in the amount of $469.24, with intent of financial gain. Denise Elaine Grant remained in detention this morning with a cash or surety bond set at $10,000.

Weaving in Interstate Traffic, Child Jumping in Seat

Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Besu was on patrol in the southbound lanes of Interstate 385 yesterday afternoon when he reportedly observed a vehicle moving in and out of lanes with a child jumping in the back seat. The deputy made a traffic stop at 4:30 pm around mile marker 10. He noted three children in the rear seat, with a child under 3 not in a child restraint. There were two adults in the vehicle, who are residents of Clinton. The woman driving the car reportedly said she was going to drop the child without a child restraint off at a relative’s house. Deputy Besu issued her a citation for violation of the Child Restraint Law. Sgt. Moye arrived on scene and reportedly found a marijuana cigarette on the male passenger. He was issued a Simple Possession of Marijuana Citation.

Council Considers Changes to Employee Manual

Revisions to the Laurens County Employee Manual were proposed to County Council last night. County Administrator Jon Camie presented his proposals for revisions of the employee manual that contains changes that will apply to all county employees, except for those working for an elected or appointed official. Camie explained, “I have looked at employee policies in other counties and found that my suggestions are right in line with theirs.”

Some of the changes would be decreasing paid lunch hours to only a half hour, eliminating paid leave, and the most dramatic change that would only apply to new hires, is the elimination of lifetime paid medical benefits. This lifetime benefit for retirees is now paid by county taxpayers.

The proposal to eliminate lifetime benefits caused much discussion last night, especially from Councilman David Pitts. Councilman Pitts, who is Assistant Superintendent of the District 56 School District, spoke out in opposition to the plan, saying it would turn away new applicants. Camie responded, “Our benefit package for our employees is still better than much of what is offered in the private sector, where the offering of lifetime benefits is extremely rare.”

Other changes Camie proposed in the policy manual would modify incentive packages that reward employees for longevity. The proposal would have incentives start earlier than the now 4 years. County Council Member Diane Anderson indicated she is in favor of this proposal.

Each council member was given a large packet explaining the new policies for their detailed examination before voting on the changes. A first vote is expected at the next meeting.

Camie reminded council, “These are just my recommendations, You are making the final decision.”

Railroad Crossing Closures Expected

Watch for railroad crossing closures today in Clinton. Signs early this morning indicated there will be work on the downtown West Carolina crossing, with traffic detoured over other tracks to West Main. We understand there may also be some work done this week on the Ring Road at the Springdale Drive Crossing.

Grinch Takes Over the Bookmobile

The Grinch is on the run! Throughout the month of December the Laurens County Public Library Bookmobile is celebrating Christmas with a “Grinchy” spirit. The theme of the month is based on the classic children’s book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel.

The famous story follows the Grinch, a mean and grouchy creature, who attempts to bring an end to the joyous celebration of Christmas. Despite his best efforts, citizens of Whoville celebrate anyway and even bring happiness to the foul creature.  As part of the library’s outreach services, this event through December is designed to encourage literacy during the holiday season. The Bookmobile has been transformed into Whoville, and staff members are portraying characters from the story.

This December, adults, families and children are invited to visit the Bookmobile and meet the friendliest Grinch in Laurens County.  You can pickup up a book, CD or DVD and get a little holiday surprise from the “Grinchy” man and his friends.  Don’t have a library card? No problem. There are books and goodies for you too!

As the Bookmobile makes it’s rounds through December, the Grinch and his friends will be traveling to locations in Clinton, Cross Hill, Gray Court, Greenpond, Hickory Tavern, Joanna, Lanford, Laurens, Mountville, Princeton, Ware Shoals, Waterloo and in Whitten Center.

For information is available from Outreach Director Julian Shabazz at

(864) 681-7323, extension 219.

Ware Shoals One of 11 Towns Getting CDBG Money

Eleven communities from across South Carolina are slated to benefit from public improvement projects supported by more than $4.3 million in funds from the latest round of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The S.C. Department of Commerce is awarding CDBG funds to these communities, representing more than 26,600 residents.

The awards include a grant to the Town of Ware Shoals. This is a grant of $228,670 that is to be used for Demolition of the Fairview Avenue Apartments. Another nearby grant is $500,000 to the City of Greenwood for the Mineral Court Apartments Demolition project.

Other cities receiving grants across the state range from a Rail Depot Demolition project in Pickens to a Neighborhood Revitalization projects in Gaffney and Beaufort and new fire trucks in Yemassee and Georgetown.

Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said “The CDBG program continues to be a powerful tool in our economic development arsenal, allowing local communities to offer the best quality of life possible.” Hitt added “Businesses don’t locate to states or regions but, rather, to communities. And, that is why the CDBG program is essential to attracting new investment to communities in all corners of South Carolina.”

$2,000 Loss from Apparent Fraud

A Laurens area woman reported the loss of $2,000 thru an apparent case of Fraud. She advised Sheriff’s Lt. Higgenbotham that she had seen an ad on Craig’s List where a woman advertised a Polaris 4-Wheeler for sale. She said that after corresponding thru email with the woman, she followed instructions and used E-Bay gift cards totaling $2,000 in value on an Ebay link to pay for the vehicle. Since then, she had not received the Polaris 4-wheeler and the other “woman” is not responding. She suspects she was given a false link, as Ebay said no such purchase had been made through their system. The Sheriff’s Office received the name of a female suspect in Maryland.

Professional Parcel Sale Gets 1st Reading Approval

Laurens County Council last night approved selling a parcel of land in the County Professional Park. The move came following discussion in executive session. Councilman Stuart Jones made the motion to sell lot #5 in the Professional Park for $90,000 in the first reading. The land being sold is the lot behind the County Health Department. A second vote of approval is required before the sale can be consummated.