Academic Achievement Recognized

Outstanding students from each of Piedmont Technical College’s seven counties were honored for academic achievement during recent spring commencement exercises. These included Laurens County student Ashley Alewine. She was recognized by PTC area commission vice chair Jane Herlong. Ms. Alewine is an administrative office technology graduate.

Man Jailed with Sentence from 2 ½ Years Ago

A conviction in Laurens Municipal Court 2 ½ years ago was noted with the booking yesterday of 40-year-old Larry Wiggins of 25 Clark Street, Laurens. He was served with a Bench Warrant that states he was convicted October 2nd, 2014 on a charge of Malicious Damage to a Vehicle, with a sentence of 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. Larry Wiggins remained in custody today.

New Charges Added to Tuesday Convictions

A young Laurens man was served with Bench Warrants from convictions in Laurens Municipal Court this Tuesday, along with new charges from very early Wednesday.

Laurens Police Officer Billy Sellers issued tickets yesterday charging 30-year-old Christopher Brian Thornhill of 208 Hilldale Drive, Laurens with Disorderly Conduct, 3rd Degree Assault and Resisting Arrest at 1:31 Wednesday morning at 255 East Main Street. Cash or surety bonds were set on the three new charges totaling $3,000.

Mr. Thornhill was also served with Bench Warrants showing convictions in Laurens Municipal Court May 16th with sentences imposed of $647 or 30 days on a Driving under Suspension charge and $440 or 30 days on a conviction for Using Another Person’s License.

Christopher Brian Thornhill remained in custody this morning.

Increased Requests for Info on Laurens County

Very encouraging information concerning Laurens County’s workforce and continued economic development was provided at yesterday’s meeting of the Laurens County Development Corporation. After LCDC Chair Jeff Field called the meeting to order at 12:15, Lynn Finley updated the board members on their first quarter financials. Jonathan Coleman then informed the board that 17 formal requests for information had been made in the months of March and April and 5 so far in May; bringing the total to 28 so far this year. He stated that this was very good news considering they had only received 49 per year the previous two years and this was lining up to be the biggest year ever for requests. Coleman also reported that a videographer in Greenville had been contracted to produce work-force related videos and Drone aerial videos of Laurens County. He said that the LCDC will soon have a Youtube channel. Jon Coleman also stated that the LCDC and Laurens County Council had applied for a joint grant to conduct a transportation study of I-385 from exit 22 down to exit 19.

In other news from the meeting, with Frank Stovall leaving the board due to his departure from Clinton, the nominating committee proposed John Young of the Laurens CPW as the new treasurer of the development corporation. This was unanimously approved.

Mauldin Plant Moving to Laurens County

A Mauldin manufacturing company is going to be relocating to Laurens County. Laurens County Development Corporation Director, Jonathan Coleman announced that development to the LCDC board yesterday, noting it means a $2.2 million investment and 40 jobs. He noted some of the jobs are filled already with the current work force.

Coleman also noted that he and Lynn Finley of the LCDC recently held a business and education partnership meeting with 11 industries in Laurens County. Another meeting is set for June. Jon Coleman said these meetings give companies an opportunity to discuss workforce concerns with partners like the Development Corporation and Piedmont Tech’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM).

The LCDC board was also advised that Phase 3 for developing the “CAM” to provide for a new Automation Lab and classroom. A new board room is being constructed, as well, to host business prospects at the center in showing workforce development and education in Laurens County.

Laurens City Council Approves Budget at $7 Million

Laurens City Council last night gave 1st reading approval to a budget of just under $7 million for the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year. The spending plan includes $6,462,100 in General Funds and another $520,000 in the Hospitality Fund for a total of $6,982,100.

A revision made to the budget on last night’s 1st reading, at the suggestion of Councilman Lowry, was to restate funds in the budget for the Laurens County museum. The Museum Association made an appearance at last month’s council meeting requesting to be included.

Main Street Master Planning Continues

The Main Street Laurens Master Planning Event is in its second day on the Laurens Square. Main Street Director Jonathan Irick said that “Open Studio Sessions” will be held from 8:30 until 6:00 today. “We’re meeting with the Downtown Merchants at 8:30 and then we’re going to have lunch. Then we’re be doing a project update with our Steering Committee, a sort-of advisory committee, setting everything up. But if anybody was not able to attend the public meeting last night and would like to share some of their thoughts and ideas, if they’ll stop by the former “Pixie Dust” building – which is now called “Blank Slate” – on the east side of the Public Square, one of the team members will be glad to talk with them during the.”

Jonathan Irick said team members will be available to talk with people wanting to share ideas for the Master Plan during the day today, from 8:30 until 6:00; except during the lunch break.

Irick said that most events tomorrow will be closed sessions, where planners will be putting together ideas for the Laurens Master Plan. The public is invited in tomorrow evening to get a first glimpse at the plan.

“So then we invite the public to join us at 6:00 o’clock tomorrow evening on the 2nd floor of City Hall, where they’ll do their public presentation and tell us about their thoughts and ideas and what direction we should go.”

Comparing Two Architectural Firms

WLBG News yesterday talked with District 55 Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters to follow up on the Monday night presentations from two firms wanting to be the architect should a new Laurens High School be constructed.

Of the two architects that addressed the School Board this week, Dr Peters said “They are two very good companies with sound reputations.” Peters said “One firm, SFL+a, presented an angle of energy efficiency which would save the district money, while the other firm, Carter Sease Architects, were very competitive in their price,” said Dr. Peters.

Dr. Peters told WLBG that the board will now arrange visits to the schools already built by each firm, and may not render a final vote until the summer.

Mob Assault Alleged on North Harper

A mob assault at the Oaks Center on Laurens’ North Harper Street Monday was alleged in charges served on two men yesterday who had been held overnight, pending the warrants. 35-year-old Jinrun Zou and 29-year-old Ze Jin Zou were each charged with Assault and Battery by a Mob 2nd Degree. Both reportedly reside at 200 Highway 49, Laurens.

Master Patrol Officer Christy Johnson states that on May 15th each suspect, along with the other subject, assaulted a victim by striking him in the head with a blunt object, causing serious bodily injury including broken bones and lacerations requiring medical attention. The warrants states this occurred at 507 North Harper Street.

Jinrun Zou was released yesterday on a $20,000 cash or surety bond. Ze Jin Zou reportedly posted a $20,000 surety bond, but was being held on a detainer from Homeland Security.

Domestic Assault Monday

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday charged a man in connection with a domestic assault in the county Monday. 37-year-0ld Willie James Watts of 307 Gordon Street Laurens is charged with Domestic Violence 2nd Degree and Malicious Damage.

One warrant states that an investigation by Deputy Brandon Howard indicates that on May 15th Mr. Watts inflicted moderate bodily injury by entering the victim’s car and striking her repeatedly about her head and upper body, and that this occurred in the presence of their two minor children. A Malicious Damage warrant states that Mr. Watts damaged a car belonging to another woman Monday by jumping on the hood of the vehicle, breaking the windshield with his elbow and by bending the antenna. Damage was reported to be less than $2,000.

Willie James Watts remained in custody overnight, pending a bond hearing today.

Arrest Alleges Assault Last Thursday

The Sheriff’s Office made an arrest yesterday in connection with an alleged domestic assault last Thursday. 26-year-old Caleb Shawn Simmons of 230 Highway 39, Mountville was charged with Domestic Violence 2nd Degree.

Deputy Benjamin Perry states that on May 11th Mr. Simmons inflicted moderate bodily injury by pushing the victim down while in the presence of their two minor children, by taking her phone, keeping her from calling law enforcement and also by using his car to block her from leaving.

With a cash or surety bond set at $10,000 yesterday, Caleb Shawn Simmons remained in the Laurens County Detention Center today.

$7 Million Budget Approved

District 55 Trustees Briefed on High School Designs

Members of the Laurens County District 55 School Board last night received presentations from two architectural firms that are finalists for the design of a new District 55 High School, should the 109 million dollar bond referendum be approved by voters in September.

Carter Sease Architects from Columbia and SFL+a Architects of Raleigh N.C. had been selected as the two finalists to be considered to design and build the new school.

Both firms gave an extensive power point presentation on their ideas. These featured the latest in energy efficiency, including ideas like the use of solar panels, with a potential energy buy-back program with local utility providers. Other features related to student safety and the idea of providing a construction design that will accommodate the latest learning methods.

Some of the student safety designs presented involved bullet proof glass, ease of supervision, open stairways, lockdown points, and a good line of sight design in case dangerous intruders should gain access.

The team representing SFL + A even had a former S.W.A.T. member on its staff as a consultant on school safety methods.

Each presenter highlighted some schools that they constructed, and provided comments of praise from the districts where those schools were built.

One presentation showed the comparison of new school designs and their advantages vs. what the existing Laurens District 55 High School. The safety disadvantages noted for the current high school included having multiple points of entry, unsupervised back corridors, excessive perimeter walls, and a spread-out floor plan.

The advantages of a new design for the high school, especially in regard to the safety aspect, were noted as including a compact floor plan, single point entry, a design that would make it easier to monitor the entire building and design features that would reduce the use of energy.

Dorman Assistant Named Basketball Coach for LDHS

A new basketball coach for Laurens District 55 High School was announced yesterday, after a thorough examination of candidates during three rounds of interviews. Laurens High selected Ryan Walker, formerly a varsity assistant coach at Dorman High School, to lead the Raider basketball program into the future.

As an assistant coach, Walker helped lead Dorman High School to the 2017 5-A State Championship. He has a B.A. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Sports Management and an M.S. in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. As a teacher, Walker is expected to fill a physical education vacancy at the high school.

District Athletic Director, Ed Murray, said, “we had a very challenging selection process with candidates ranging from former NBA players to current college coaches. In the end, we felt like Walker’s experience with a highly successful 5-A program gave him a head start in identifying what work needs to be done to bring the Raiders to the same competitive level.” Superintendent, Dr. Stephen Peters, said, “I am very pleased with the process we went through and I am confident that basketball has a bright future at LDHS.”

Mike Hughes has more details on his Sports Report for today.

Arrest Alleges Car Theft in January

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday made an arrest in connection with the alleged theft of a Waterloo man’s car early this year, as well as with an alleged sex offender registry violation the same month. 43-year-old Thomas Andrew Pate of 71 Forrest Lake Road, Simpsonville was charged with Grand Larceny and with Violation of Sex Offender Registry.

Investigator Matt Veal states that on January 13th 2017 Pate took a 2002 Lexus GS 300 with intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, which was valued at $4,000.

Lt. Marty Crain states that on January 1st, 2017 one Thomas Andrew Pate failed to contact the Sheriff to register as a sex offender, as required by law.

Thomas Andrew Pate was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing on the charges today.

Anderson Man Held Here for Probation

An Anderson man was booked in Laurens County yesterday on a Violation of Probation warrant. South Carolina Department of Pardon, Probation and Parole delivered 49-year-old Mark Anthony McCall of 110 Morningside Drive, Anderson to the Laurens County Detention Center. A warrant states that Mr. McCall failed to follow his agent’s instructions, including failure to report to the probation office as directed, failing to obtain authorization before change of residence, absconding supervision, and with failing to maintain gainful employment as well as failing to pay for DNA and supervision fees. Mark Anthony McCall was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing on the Violation of Probation charge.

County Council Budget Workshop at 5:00

All Laurens County Department heads have been requested to meet with Laurens County Council for a Budget Workshop this evening. County Council will assemble in council chambers of the Historic Laurens County Courthouse to discuss the fiscal year 2017 – 2018 Budget during this evening’s workshop, which starts at 5:00 pm.

History & Genealogical Groups Gather Thursday

The Laurens District Genealogical Society and the Gray Court Owings Historical Society have announced their annual Picnic is scheduled for this Thursday. The log cabins, church, school and other buildings will be open for tours during the event this Thursday evening. Everyone is asked to bring their favorite dish. New members for either organization are welcome.

The event starts at 6:00 Thursday evening at the Culbertson Backcountry Settlement in Gray Court.  In the event of rain, the picnic will move into the historic church that’s a part of the Culbertson Backcountry settlement.

More information is available at 864-876-3712.

More on Drug & Firearms Charges

Yesterday morning we reported on the arrest of 51-year-old Brian Preston Cooper of 498 Pemberton Street, Waterloo, who was served with six Drug and Firearms warrants.

Later yesterday, Chief Laurens County Deputy Jarvis Reeder announced that Mr. Cooper’s arrest came after Narcotics Agents along with Criminal Investigators from the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office executed a Narcotics Search warrant Saturday at Brian Preston Cooper’s residence on Pemberton Street, Waterloo. A search of the house reportedly located three shotguns, a small-caliber revolver with the serial numbers removed, digital scales used to weigh and distribute narcotics, items used to Manufacture Methamphetamine, a large sum of cash, and 37 grams of Methamphetamine in the form of “Ice.”  Preston Cooper, who was home at the time, was arrested and charged with 2nd Offense charges of Trafficking in Ice, crank or Crack, Manufacturing Methamphetamine and Distribution of Meth. He was also charged with Unlawful Disposal of Meth, Possession of Weapons during a Violent Crime and with Possession of a Stolen Pistol.

Chief Deputy Jarvis Reeder stated, “I’m extremely proud of our deputies.  These Agents and Investigators received complainants from the community about Preston selling drugs, conducted a thorough investigation and arrested him with a substantial amount of Meth. Investigations such as these are results of communities in Laurens County working with law enforcement officers to rid the streets of illegal drugs.”

Car Damage Reported

Laurens Police were called to the Spring Street Apartments at 9:48 Sunday night to investigate a report of a car being vandalized. A complainant told officers that when he went out to his car to get a package of diapers for his baby, he found damage to his vehicle’s rear side, including the trunk and to the hood of the car. A report noted the man indicated he did not have any idea as to who may be responsible for the damage.

Drug Trafficking & Firearm Charges

A Waterloo man was accused of multiple drug and firearms violations Friday. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office Friday arrested 51-year-old Brian Preston Cooper of 498 Pemberton Street, Waterloo and charged him with Trafficking in Ice, Crank or Crack 2nd Offense , Manufacturing Methamphetamine 2nd Offense and Distribution of Methamphetamine 2nd Offense. He was also charged with Unlawful Disposal of Meth, Possession of a Weapon during a Violent Crime and with Possession of Stolen Pistol.

It is alleged that on May 12th Mr. Cooper was knowingly in possession of between 28 and 100 grams of methamphetamine, and that he has a prior drug-related conviction. He also allegedly was in possession of multiple items used to manufacture methamphetamine, such as sulfuric acid, ammonium nitrate, lantern fuel and pseudophedrine. A third warrant states that on May 12th Cooper distributed a quantity of methamphetamine to another man. He is also accused of unlawful disposal of meth waste Friday. Bryan Cooper is also accused of being in possession of a .22 caliber pistol, a .410 gauge shotgun and a 12 gauge shotgun Friday while trafficking in methamphetamine. A 6th warrant states that he was in possession of a Rossi .22 caliber revolver handgun on which the serial number had been obliterated or removed.

No bond was set for any of the six charges. Brian Preston Cooper remained in the Laurens County Detention Center today.