Morse Leaving Post with City of Clinton

More changes in Clinton City leadership will be effective this weekend.

WLBG News confirmed yesterday afternoon that Robin Morse is leaving his employment with the City of Clinton. Morse has served as the Director of Clinton’s Department of Public Safety for the past several years. He previously served several years as Laurens Police Chief and before that was with the Sheriff’s Office.

Robin Morse’s only comment for WLBG yesterday was that this Friday, September 28th, will be his final day of employment with the City of Clinton. He declined to make any other statements regarding the manner at this time.

Last month, Clinton City Council abolished the Department of Public Safety in two special-called meetings, ordering a return to separate police and fire departments. City Manager Bill Ed Cannon immediately announced the hiring of a Union man as Interim Fire Chief, over the current Fire Commander Scott Shifflet.

Since City Manager Bill Ed Cannon’s employment with Clinton in January, other key city leadership departures have included Assistant City Manager Jerre Threatt.

Our call to Clinton City Manager Bill Ed Cannon early yesterday afternoon regarding Robin Morse’s departure from employment with the City of Clinton had not been returned as of this morning’s news deadline.

Mosquito Spraying Now for Barksdale Community

Laurens County Emergency Management Director Joey Avery yesterday announced that precautionary spraying for mosquitos is going to occur in the Barksdale Community of Laurens County, as a result of another confirmed case of West Nile Virus. Avery said the project used for the spraying is safe and meets all federal and state guidelines. He said spraying will be conducted either early morning, just after sunrise, or in the evening, as thee are times mosquitos are most active. Avery reminds residents to eliminate sources of standing water, such as flower pots, gutters and even old tires. He also suggested alerting DHEC on finding any dead blue jays, crows, house sparrows or house finches.

 

 

Eastside & Clinton Elementary to Share One S.R.O.

School District 56 has applied to the state for grants to fund two School Resource Officers (SROs) to cover Eastside and Clinton elementary schools.  Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Pitts informed the school board this week that he received an email Monday afternoon regarding that grant application. He said one of the two grants was approved.

Dr. Pitts said that with Clinton Elementary and Eastside Elementary only about one mile apart, this one new SRO’s time will be divided between these  two schools, spending parts of each day at each school, and also being ready to respond quickly if needed at the other school.

Pitts noted that Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields and District 56 Finance Director Susan Flanagan have applied to the SC Department of Education for this SRO sharing plan, and permission to implement the plan has already received. He said that as a result, there is coverage by a police officer at all District 56 schools, serving 5K through 12th grade, with two elementary schools sharing one SRO.

District 56 also added an SRO for Joanna-Woodson Elementary this year, which is funded by the district budget.

Dr. Pitts called this an “interesting allocation from the state.” He noted this is the first time he is aware of that the state has elected to pay for a product or service directly, instead of providing the funds to the district. This grant will pay directly to the City of Clinton for the provision of a school resource officer. Therefore, the funds will not affect the budget of District 56. David Pitts said the state is saying that these are recurring funds, meaning they should be available in the future. To that portion of the grant Dr. Pitts simply stated: ”We’ll see. I’m waiting on that.”

Two Charged with False Info to Police

A Laurens man and woman have now spent two nights in jail following their alleged filing of a false police report Tuesday. Laurens City Police that day arrested 21-year-old Christopher Ryan Cain and 19-year-old Destinee Danielle Brooks of 100 Lake Street, Laurens. Both have been charged with Filing a False Report to Law Enforcement. Warrants state that Cain and Brooks provided voluntary information to law enforcement Tuesday that each witnessed the theft of a vehicle from 100 Lake Street with full knowledge that the vehicle was not stolen. $1,000 cash or surety bonds were set for each yesterday. Both remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

University for Parents of Students

Parents of Laurens County District 55 students are invited to attend a University. Superintendent Dr. Peters announced to the trustees this week that on Saturday, October 13th there will be a Parent University. This program will be held from 8:30 to 12:30 at Laurens District high school. According to the district’s website, the mission of this event is to support overall student achievement by providing families with learning opportunities and resources that will enable them to become more involved in their children’s educational success. The goal is stated as educating parents on new standards and requirements to strengthen the home school connection. Childcare, door prizes and lunch will be provided.

Recaptured, Charged with 1st Degree Assault

Tevin Brown

Laurens Police captured a man yesterday they’d been looking for since August 23rd, when he reportedly escaped from the West Laurens Street Police Station during the booking process. 25-year-old Tevin O’Neil Brown was arrested around 1:30 yesterday afternoon in Greenville County at Lakeside Place Apartment complex off Pleasantburg Drive. Assistant Chief Chrissie Cofield said the arrest was made with the assistance of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and SLED. A $75,000 bond was set on the charge of Escape.

Tevin Brown also had arraignment on the original charge he was arrested on. He’s charged with 1st Degree Domestic Violence, accused of an assault on a girlfriend in the 500 block of Church Street. A warrant, citing an investigation by Master Patrolman Blackstock, states that on August 23rd Brown punched the driver-side window of the victim’s vehicle in an attempt to assault her. This reportedly caused the glass to shatter into the vehicle, cutting the victim about her body and causing injuries that received medical treatment. The warrant further states that an infant daughter of Brown and the victim was present in the vehicle and had pieces of window glass in her clothing and car seat.

While a high bond of $75,000 was set on the Escape charge, bond was denied yesterday on the 1st Degree Domestic Assault warrant. Tevin O’Neil Brown remains in the Laurens County Detention Center. Addresses for the suspect have been indicated at 900 Church Street and in the 100 block of Creamer Street.

Police Chase ’03 Crown Vic with Ammo, Not Brakes

Willie Fred Walker Jr.

Nine warrants were served by Clinton Police yesterday following a Police Chase from the south side of Downtown this Tuesday, where a man reportedly fled from police, making numerous turns in a car with inoperable bakes. 39-year-old Willie Fred Walker Jr. of 108 North Woodrow Street, Clinton was arrested at West Main and Laurens Streets. He has been charged with Driving under the Influence, Hit and Run, Driving under Suspension and 2nd Offense Failure to Stop for Blue Lights. He is also charged with Operating a Mechanically Unsafe Vehicle and Operating without Insurance. Other traffic charges are Open Beer and Failure to Return a Tag. He’s also charged with Possession of Firearms and Ammo by a Convicted Felon. Lt. Cathy Anderson is the prosecuting officer from the Tuesday events.

Warrants state that on September 4th Walker was operating a vehicle, with an open beer, while under the influence of alcoholic beverages and/or drugs, also driving with his license suspended or revoked and with no insurance on his 2003 Ford Crown Victoria. He is accused of failing to stop the car when signaled by blue lights and siren; instead, making a series of turns and increasing speed to elude officers. This is noted as a 2nd charge of Failure to Stop for Willie Fred Walker Jr. The chase reportedly began in the area of South Broad and Hampton Avenue. Walker also allegedly struck another person’s vehicle, damaging it, and left without providing information to the owner. One warrant states that the brakes on the Crown Vic were not operational.

Walker also allegedly had a black Smith and Wesson .45 caliber handgun that contained eight .45 caliber full metal jacket bullets, as well as three boxes of ammunition. These reportedly included one box of .38 caliber rounds and two boxes of .45 caliber bullets. Possession of a firearm or ammunition is forbidden, due to his conviction for a 2nd Degree Burglary.

Cash or surety bonds were set on the nine charges yesterday, totaling $17,609. Willie Fred Walker Jr. remained in custody this morning.

Pedestrian Fatality Identified

Additional information is now available about Tuesday morning’s fatal accident in northern Laurens County.

According to Lance Corporal Justin Sutherland of the South Carolina Highway Patrol the accident occurred at 5:27 AM on Mordeci Mountain Road near Durbin Church Road about 4 miles south of Fountain Inn.  He states that a 17 year old from the Gray Court area was driving a 1995 Honda Civic north on Mordeci Mountain Road when the vehicle struck a pedestrian who was walking in the northbound lane of travel.

Deputy Coroner Vickie Cheek of the Laurens County Coroner’s Office tells WLBG that the pedestrian, 29 year old Jessica Prater of 73 Williams Road in Gray Court was pronounced dead on the scene from blunt force trauma to the head.

Lance Corporal Sutherland states that there are no charges expected as a result of the accident.

Fatal Accident Near Waterloo

A fatal single vehicle accident occurred near Waterloo on Thursday evening.

According to Lance Corporal Bill Rhyne of the South Carolina Highway Patrol at about 8:15pm Thursday a 1999 Acura 2 Door was travelling south on Harris Springs Road near the Rolling S Golf Course when it crossed the center line of the roadway.  The driver then over corrected and ran off the right hand side of the road.  The vehicle struck a tree, overturned then struck another tree.

The driver, who was the car’s only occupant, was wearing a seatbelt but was entrapped and did die at the scene.  Laurens County Deputy Coroner Vickie Cheek identified the deceased as 49 year old Eugene Fleeman, Jr. of Walker Street in Waterloo.  He was pronounced dead at 8:20 PM due to multiple blunt force trauma.

School Consolidation: Is It Dead?

Is the idea of consolidating Districts 55 and 56 now dead?

At Thursday evening’s strategy session  held at the Ridge at Laurens, Representative Mike Pitts said that he would not be discussing school district consolidation.  However, that didn’t stop Dr. David Pitts, member of Laurens County Council and Assistant Superintendent of Schools in District 56 from asking a question:  “Will the bill to consolidate Districts 55 and 56 be re-filed in January?”

In response, Rep. Pitts first handed the microphone to Sen. Danny Verdin.  Sen. Verdin said that he did not intend to be a part of a consolidation plan unless he was certain that it was something that his constituents wanted to see.

Rep. Mark Willis was also in attendance.  He stated basically the same position…..that in his eyes the request to consolidate would have to come from the people of Laurens County.

After a break, Rep. Pitts answered the question.  He said he was convinced that consolidation of the two districts was the right thing to do.  However, he said, it would be pointless to re-file the bill when he knew that he did not have the backing of the Laurens County delegation.

He gave several examples of benefits to students from consolidation.  Students in the Cross Hill area must now ride the bus all the way to Clinton to attend school when Waterloo Elementary School is just a few miles away……albeit outside of their current school district.  He also pointed out that managing the coming growth could be done much more equitably if there were one school district.

He suggested that the SC Department of Education was working toward having one school district for each county in the state and intimated that consolidation would eventually happen with or without local involvement.

So, while Rep. Pitts stated adamantly that he thought consolidation was the right decision he would not be re-filing the legislation unless something changes prior to the end of 2018.

County Council Say “No” To New Clinton Apartments

Laurens County Council this week refused to give a letter of recommendation for a new apartment complex outside Clinton. A representative WODA Development Construction Management appeared before County Council, asking them to give the company a letter of support for a 42-unit affordable housing project just outside Clinton at 309 Jacobs Highway.

Tammy Stansbury from The WODA Group explained that her company consists of experienced developers, general contractors, and property managers specializing in the design, construction, and management of affordable housing in rural, suburban and urban communities. She said the 29-year-old company is based in Westerville, Ohio, but has built housing in 14 states. Stansbury told County Council Tuesday that this housing project is only for working families and is not for the Section Eight program. She said they’re proposing an investment of $8.4 Million in a part of Laurens County where growth is stagnant. She told Council, “We are not asking for any money, we just need a letter of support that is required for us to receive tax credit through the Low-Income Housing Credit.”

Council members Garrett McDaniel and Diane Anderson cast the only votes in favor of providing the letter of support. McDaniel said, “I believe that by us saying that we don’t want housing designed to be affordable for households making less than $40,000 says that we only care about industry and those building million-dollar houses.” He later expressed displeasure to WLBG about Council’s refusal to support the project.

Councilman Keith Tollison told council Tuesday evening, “I am very much concerned over bringing lower income families that devalues the system to our county. I see neighborhoods that houses people who play the system, and residents in the area do not want this type of housing.”

One of the most vocal critics of the project was Councilman David Pitts, a Clinton resident, who told council that the value of the homes in his area would go down if the plan went through.

Barry Accountius, Vice President of WODA Development Construction Management, told WLBG News yesterday that the project is now, “Dead in the Water, and we will just move on to where we are wanted.” He said Council “Did not truly understand what we were trying to say.” Repeating they’re not affiliated with the federal Housing and Urban Development program, he said We just receive a tax break for keeping rents reasonable.”

WLBG spoke with Councilman Pitts yesterday and he said that he had received thanks from many of the residents in his district for voting down the project.

Annual Chamber of Commerce Awards

Individual and businesses that have contributed to the County over the past year were honored at the Annual Laurens County Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, held Thursday night at Presbyterian College.

The Robert M. Vance Small Business of the Year award was presented to Walter Hughes of Sadler Hughes Apothecary of Clinton. Finalists for the honors were the other three quarterly winners from 2017: John & Lesley Mitchell of All-Dry of the Carolinas, Ron & Renee Brigman of Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps along with Danny and Kim Verdin of Verdin’s Farm and Garden Center and Verdin’s Too.

The chamber’s John P. Faris Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Jim Firmin of Firmin Ford, recognizing him for his influence, guidance, knowledge and hand-on dedication used to push the chamber forward.

The Spirit of the Chamber Award is presented annual to a member of the chamber who has demonstrated exceptional service to the organization’s mission to promote, strengthen and develop the county’s business community. Receiving this award for 2017 Thursday night was Marilyn Easter.

At each year’s Chamber Awards Dinner, Duke Energy presents its award for Public Service, recognizing an individual or individuals who set a standard and foster a culture for citizenship, service and community responsibility and who displays strong moral values such as integrity and stewardship.  Theo Lane of Duke presented this year’s award to Jeff Field, Director of the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission. In addition to duties in that role over the past 12 years, Field was recognized for a large number of other responsibilities in the county from church to education, particularly for his work with the Laurens County Future Scholarship Committee.

The Laurens County Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador of the Year for 2017 was Amber Graydon from Hospice of Laurens County. She was selected from the four Quarterly Ambassadors. Other quarterly honorees were Natalie Fleck of Carolina Gardens, Melinda Gray of Palmetto Heritage and Robi Owens of Cornerstone Investments.

The 2nd Annual Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award was presented to Captain Michael Coates of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. He was recognized for over 16 years of service to the county, as well as being active in his community and church.

The Cecil O. Davenport Citizenship Award recognizes students from local high schools each year. The 2017 Award was presented to Abbigail “Abby” M. Fulmer of Laurens District 55 High School. Runners-up for this year’s award were Priscilla J. “Cilla” Burns of Laurens Academy and Ava E. Machione of Clinton High School.

The Wendy’s Heisman Memorial Trophy was presented  to Elizabeth Childress and Issac MacMillan of Clinton High. Cali Heisey and Braylen Williams of Laurens High were also selected for the honor.

District Teachers of 2017 recognized Thursday night were Ms. Kerry Gambrell from District 55 and Ms. Carissa Messer from District 56.

First Freeze Winner

Jonathan Irick and Tim Clayton

Congratulations to Timothy Clayton of the Hickory Tavern Community.  Tim had the closest prediction to the actual moment of the first time the temperature at the Laurens County Airport hit 32.0 degrees………officially freezing.

Participants were able to register predictions of the first freeze by qualifying through an on air contest with WLBG or by visiting select merchants who are Main Street Laurens members.

As the winner of the WLBG/Main Street Laurens First Freeze Contest Mr. Clayton was awarded the $86 cash prize by Jonathan Irick of Main Street Laurens.

By the way, Tim’s prediction for the first freeze was October 30th at 6:08AM.  The actual first freeze occurred on October 30th at 7:15AM.  He didn’t predict the exact time but was only 1 hour and 7 minutes off and was the closes prediction to the actual time.

New EMS Station at Owings

A new EMS station for Upper Laurens County is in the works. The EMS sub-station is to be built at the Owings Industrial Park on Old Laurens Road. News at last night’s County Council meeting was that ZF Transmissions has donated land for the new EMS building and Representative Mike Pitts has arranged for the state to pay for the building’s construction.

The Public Works Committee of Council recommended a Laurens County EMS Master Plan, that included the building for Owings. County Council approved the plan, with a “no” vote from Stewart Jones.

Job Fair Today 10:00 ‘till 3:00

Employers in Laurens, Greenwood and other Upper Savannah counties are looking to hire people for over 2,000 now available jobs. 50 employers are going to be an Upper Savannah Regional Job Fair is from 10:00 this morning until 3:00 this afternoon at the Greenwood Mall on Greenwood’s 72 By-Pass.

Billy Morgan, Deputy Workforce Development Director of Upper Savannah Council of Governments, said “We want people to connect with employers who are hiring, but we also want them to work toward getting the skills needed for the jobs those employers are ready to fill.”

In addition to the 50 employers, job seekers today visit a table from Piedmont Tech to get information on educational programs available to get people ready for the jobs that are now open. Rusty Denning, Associate Vice President of Economic Development and Continuing Education at Piedmont Tech, said “This new partnership is a great opportunity to help residents see the connections between the training they can receive at PTC and the workforce needs in our region.” He added “Whether you’re talking about health care, manufacturing or other areas, several companies are facing staffing shortages in skilled positions. We’ll be there to help visitors understand the steps they’ll need to take to ready themselves for those jobs.”

Ann Skinner, Upper Savannah Director of Workforce Development, said most of these jobs are full-time, with benefits. She also added that plans are now in the works for another job fair in Laurens County in another month.

Parent Honored for Volunteer Work

The ‘Spirit of 56’ made another appearance at this week’s September meeting of the Laurens County School District 56 Board of Trustees.

The Spirit of 56 Award is presented to individuals who have gone above and beyond in the furtherance of education for students in District 56. One might expect that award recipients would be employees of the district, but not this time.

Melodie Edwards, Principal at Clinton Elementary School told the trustees Monday evening of a parent who provides assistance constantly. She said that she has never asked him for anything for her students that he did not find a way to provide. Edwards specifically mentioned his assistance with the students during the recent total solar eclipse, saying his presence, patient instruction and assistance greatly enriched the experience for students at Clinton Elementary. Principal Melodie Edwards then presented the ‘Spirit of 56 Award’ to Mr. Tim Howard. Joining her with thanks for his service to District 56 students were Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields and the members of the District 56 school board.

LDHS Student Semi-Finalist in National Merit Scholarship

A Laurens District 55 student is among semi-finalists in the 63rd annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Officials of the program this month announced 16,000 semifinalists from about 1.6 million juniors from over 22,000 high schools wo entered the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. Aden Keith Partee of LDHS now has an opportunity to continue in the competition for one of some 7,500 scholarship worth more than $32 million. They will be awarded next spring. About 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

Laurens County Drops to 9th in Traffic Fatalities

We reported yesterday that a Monday afternoon wreck that killed a Batesburg man on Highway 56 South of Clinton brought Laurens County’s total highway fatalities to 25, based on the Highway Patrol’s count.

As of midnight Sunday night, the weekly traffic fatality update from South Carolina’s Department of Public Safety showed Laurens County had finally dropped from 8th place in the top ten counties with the most highway fatalities, still in the top ten counties as #9. Our now 25 fatalities is more than double the number this time last year.

Horry County, which includes the Grand Strand, now has the most traffic fatalities, with 46 as of Sunday midnight. Greenville was next with 45 and Charleston is 3rd with 42. Of other neighboring counties, Spartanburg is tied with Lexington for 5th with 34 deaths on roadways and Anderson County is in 7th place with 28 traffic fatalities.

Domestic Assault 2nd Degree

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday arrested a man on allegations of a domestic assault Monday. 30-year-old Demik Anthony Wells of 1311 Pinehaven Street Extension, Laurens was charged with Domestic Violence 2nd Degree.

A warrant citing an investigation of Lt. Timothy Byrd states that on September 25th Mr. Wells inflicted moderate injury on the victim by pushing her forehead with his fist and breaking her cell phone, preventing her from calling law enforcement. He is also accused of breaking her windshield while children were present.

With a cash or surety bond set at $15,000 during arraignment yesterday, Demik Anthony Wells remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

3rd Degree Domestic Assault

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office arrested an Upper Laurens County man yesterday, alleging an assault that day. 30-year-old Casey Jack Carroll of 3981 Durbin Church Road, Fountain Inn was charged with Domestic Violence 3rd Degree. Deputy Bryan Willard states that on September 26th Mr. Carroll struck the victim about her nose and face, causing bleeding, bruising and swelling. Mr. Carroll was being held overnight, awaiting a bond hearing.