By Jason Evans
PICKENS COUNTY — The proposed Pickens County fiscal year 2017 budget is now available online.
Pickens County Council members voted on first reading last week to adopt the $59.2 million budget. First reading is in title only.
The FY 2017 budget is an increase over last year’s $55.9 million budget.
Interim county administrator Tom Hendricks spoke briefly on the budget during last week’s council meeting.
The budget as proposed does not raise taxes, Hendricks said. It does provide for a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for county employees.
It also includes an anticipated 10 percent increase in health insurance expenses.
The budget creates several new positions, including two full-time mechanics for building and maintenance, two full-time mechanics for vehicle maintenance, two part-time firefighters at the Vineyards Fire Department, one full-time county attorney, one full-time operations assistant at Mile Creek Park, one part-time attendant at Hagood Mill, one full-time operator at the county landfill and two part-time paramedics.
The county had been contracting with local attorney Ken Roper for legal services.
The 2017 budget allocates $198,689 that will cover the county attorney’s salary and fringe benefits, as well as fees for outside legal services as needed.
Councilman Tom Ponder asked Roper to look into state law to determine what the county’s obligations are regarding funding for Tri-County Technical College.
“I always thought our obligation was maintenance and operation,” Ponder said. “I’d like Mr. Roper to look into that and make sure that’s what state law requires us to do.”
Budget provisos from previous years will remain in the 2017 budget, including a proviso from last year opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees into Pickens County.
Smith introduced a resolution that would prevent any sitting council member from being considered as candidates for the Pickens County administrator position.
Smith said he wanted to address unfounded rumors in the community about council members vying for the position.
Budget work sessions for council will be scheduled at a later date. The proposed budget can be found online at www.co.pickens.sc.us.
If adopted after three readings, the budget would take effect July 1.
Randy Robinson, who had led the Daniel High School football program since 2006, was hired last week as the new head coach at Berkely High School in Moncks Corner.
By Eric Sprott
Courtesy The Journal
CENTRAL — After 20 years at his alma mater, including the last decade as its head football coach, Randy Robinson is saying goodbye to Daniel High School.
And with that, the school finds itself in the rare position of looking for someone to lead the football program with just its fourth vacancy in 56 years.
On Thursday, Robinson was announced as the new head coach at Berkeley High, where he began his coaching career in 1989 just a few short years before joining Allen Sitterle’s staff as an assistant coach at Daniel in 1995.
In his first interview since accepting the job, Robinson said on his way to the Moncks Corner school Thursday evening it was an “extremely difficult decision” to leave the Lions, as there were few jobs that could pull him away from Central.
“I told the committee down there when they interviewed me that there were maybe one or two jobs that could even be good enough for me to apply to leave Daniel, and this was one of them,” he said. “One of the other ones came open a couple of years ago, and I prayed about it, and it just didn’t feel right. To be totally honest, this one came up, I prayed about it, it didn’t feel right and I didn’t apply.
“But circumstances down there dictated they didn’t hire a coach, and they opened it back up. God opens doors for a reason, so we just threw our name in the hat and ended up getting the offer.”
The opening came after Berkeley head coach and athletic director Jeff Cruce was fired at the end of last season after going 25-32 in five seasons. Cruce, who filed a wrongful termination suit following his departure, was poised to be replaced by former Stags coach Jerry Brown, but the Berkeley County School District didn’t approve his hire.
That’s when the job was reopened and Robinson — who coached at Berkeley from 1989-1993, followed by a one-year stint at Carolina — decided to apply, ultimately ending a highly successful run with the Lions and the longest current head football coaching tenure in Pickens County.
In his 10 years as head coach from 2006-15, Robinson coached Daniel to a combined record of 96-33, which included six Western 3A region championships — from 2007-09 and 2011-13 — and an appearance in the Class 3A state championship game in 2013.
Robinson also had the honor of coaching three current NFL players who starred at Clemson after leaving Daniel— Jarvis Jenkins, DeAndre Hopkins and DeShawn Williams — while Shaq Lawson is poised to make it four as a widely projected first-round selection later this month.
Robinson, who was a part of the Lions’ state championship teams in 1995 and 1998 under Sitterle, knows despite a 4-7 record last season, he’s leaving a talented team behind.
“One thing I’ve always tried to do is keep it about the kids,” he said about breaking the news to his team Thursday afternoon. “It’s not about me, and it would have been easy for me to break down, but I just challenged them to continue what we’ve started. We didn’t have a great year last year, but we built a foundation for a tremendous run.
“I told them not to use this as an excuse not to keep working and achieving the goals we set up. I expect whoever gets the job to have a great team the next three or four years.”
Robinson is scheduled to meet his new team for the first time today, and his last day at Daniel will be April 15, as he praised Daniel principal Josh Young and School District of Pickens County superintendent Danny Merck for allowing him to be released from his contract prior to the end of the school year so he can coach the Stags during spring practice.
“They’ve been unbelievable,” Robinson said.
And while the 2016 schedule hasn’t been officially released yet, Daniel and Berkeley, as fate would have it, are scheduled to meet to open the season.
However, Robinson indicated that could be subject to change.
“There’s some negotiations going on there,” he said. “Those kids invested in me, and I’ve invested in them, and that would be a tough situation for the kids. I think it’d be best if we can work something out.”
As Daniel looks to replace Robinson, whose tenure came on the heels of Sitterle (1990-2005) and Dick Singleton (1960-89), it will turn to boys’ basketball coach and former assistant football coach Ben Touchberry to run the program as the coaching search takes place.
“Coach Touchberry currently oversees our weightlifting program, and with his knowledge of our students and program, we think that his daily interactions with our players will allow for a smooth transition for the next head coach,” Young said in a statement.
While wishing Robinson well — noting he “will not be easily replaced” — Young added the position is now open, and he hopes to have a new coach named in time for spring practice in May.
The Easley-Pickens line was chartered on Dec. 24, 1890 by the South Carolina General Assembly after two failed attempts to build a railroad through Pickens from Easley. The line connected with the Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railroad (later the Southern Railway) and was completed in 1898.
On the railroad’s first revenue run, the Pickens Railroad suffered a serious derailment that was caused by a local group of boys that had placed spikes on the rails, in their words, “to see what would happen.” No one was seriously injured, but the incident caused the fledgling company a serious financial setback, leaving it to operate in the red until 1905.
In its early years, it was nicknamed the “Pickens Doodle” because the train would run backward to Easley and forward to Pickens, which “looked like a doodlebug,” according to area residents. The Pickens Railroad at the time did not have turning facilities until the line built two wye sections of track at each end of the line years later.
The Southern Railway briefly acquired control of the Pickens around 1910, however, it was reverted to local interests several years later.
In the 1920s, Singer Manufacturing located a sewing machine cabinet plant on the Pickens Railroad. The plant eventually became the railroad’s biggest customer, and the line was purchased outright in 1939 by Singer. In 1927, the Appalachian Lumber Company built a network of logging lines in hte upper portion of Pickens County. By 1939, it too was acquired by Singer and organized under the Poinsett Lumber and Manufacturing Company. Passenger service was discontinued in 1928 as better roads were built in the region.
In 1959, the Singer Company consolidated its sawmill and cabinet operations with the woodworking operations from Arkansas and the Craftsman power tools from New Jersey to the Pickens location. Several years later (in 1963), Poinsett Lumber and Manufacturing Company had announced that the Pickens Railroad was for sale. James F. Jones of North Carolina purchased the line for approximately $50,000. Jones built a new enginehouse and established a carshop for rebuilding and renovating railroad cars. Jones sold the Pickens in 1973 to Philadelphia-based National Railway Utilization Company (NRUC), which expanded the carshop to build new freight cars.
In the early 1990s, NRUC became Emergent Group and sold the railroad to CLC-Chattahoochee Locomotive Corp., which renamed the railroad Pickens Railway Company, according to the Federal Register, May 1, 1996. On April 2, 2013, Pickens Railway pulled the last train to Easley because of lack of business. The final run was pulled by Pickens #9502 and CLCX #12132. The last train ended an era of more than 100 years of running to Easley.
By Jason Evans
CENTRAL — The Central Railroad Festival aims to be both fun and informative.
“We really want people to focus on Central’s railroad heritage,” said Kathi Dimmock, chair of the Central Railroad Festival Committee. “We want the festival to celebrate the railroad’s heritage, and it’s also to educate and to entertain.”
The Central Railroad Festival will pull into historic downtown Central on Saturday, April 23.
The festival begins at 10 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m., featuring entertainment, food, music and more than 25 arts and crafts vendors offering a variety of handmade items.
“The committee is really excited about the event we’ve put together for the Railroad Festival, the Town of Central and the visitors who come into the town for the festival,” Dimmock said.
The event focuses on the whole family, she said.
Live entertainment will include the SWU Jazz Ensemble, the D.W. Daniel High School Jazz Band, top 40 classics from The Flying Saucers, and more. At the kids’ stage, Gregg “Buffalo” Barfield will have fun, interactive entertainment for the youngsters. The Central-Clemson Library, Arts Center of Clemson and Lowe’s will offer more hands-on children’s activities.
There will be free entertainment for all ages. Also open for free tours will be the Central Railway Museum, which features a large HO-scale model railroad layout complete with cities, towns and features found in the region more than a half century ago. The museum also houses a Heritage Room, featuring classic model trains popular in the mid-20th century.
Central restaurants will be open on the day of the festival. Street vendors will offer festival favorites, including pizza, hot dogs, barbecue, nachos, corn dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, funnel cakes, kettle corn, fried Oreos and more.
Explore more of the town’s history by taking the Central Heritage Tour. The walking tour is a 1.1-mile loop that visits several sites in town, including the Central Roller Mill, Red Caboose and the Central History Museum. Take a CAT bus out to Collins Old Town for a trip to the past.
Admission to the festival is free, and convenient parking is available. Clemson Area Transit buses will run continuously, taking festivalgoers from parking areas. Shuttle service is available from Central Town Hall and Central area churches.
Central Area Business Council and the Clemson Area Chamber of Commerce are sponsors of The Central Railroad Festival. The Town of Central and the Central Railway Museum also support the festival.
Just prior to the festival will be the “Keep it Movin’” 5K race to benefit Central Elementary School’s Walk-Run program, which encourages students to walk or run before school on the school track. This year, more than 250 students are actively involved in the program. The race will start at 8:30 a.m. For details about the 5K, contact Paige Bowers at (864) 397-1401 or email@example.com.
As the Central Railroad Festival concludes, festivalgoers are invited to stick around for Bizness Suit and their own brand of “bluesy rock ‘n’ roll,” plus the band Letters & String, downtown as part of the Greater Clemson Music Festival.
As part of the music festival, Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues will take the Main Street stage at 5:15 p.m.
Dimmock said the Railroad Festival and the Music Festival have partnered together for the last two years.
“It’s an event that we’re trying to build on,” she said.
For details about the Greater Clemson Music Festival, visit clemsonmusicfest.org.
The Central Railroad Festival is held rain or shine. April showers in this area tend not to last very long, so don’t let a little rain deter you, Dimmock said.
“If the people would just come out and support the event, we would appreciate it,” she said.
For festival details, call (864) 654-1200 or visit the Central Railroad Festival website at http://www.centralrrfestival.org.
By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal
CLEMSON — A stabbing early Sunday morning led to the arrest of a 19-year-old Clemson student.
Clemson Police Chief Jimmy Dixon said Monday that Logan Jacob Simon, of Prosperity, was charged with attempted murder, possession with intent to distribute illegal narcotics and possession with intent to distribute illegal narcotics within proximity of a school. Simon was later released from the Clemson City Jail on a $36,000 surety bond.
Dixon said police responded at 2:20 a.m. to a call involving a person being stabbed at a party. When officers arrived at the scene, they discovered one victim had been stabbed while in the process of asking someone to leave the party.
Police officers discovered a controlled substance in Simon’s possession that was not prescribed for his use. Meanwhile, the victim was transported to the hospital by EMS for treatment of multiple stab wounds.
The police chief said both the victim and Simon are Clemson University students.
By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal
EASLEY — A 34-year-old Pickens County man has been charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with an alleged assault last week.
Matthew Jamie Bryant, of Hidden Acres Drive in Easley, was found and arrested at a home in Easley on Saturday. Bryant was placed into the Pickens County Detention Facility, where he was being held Monday evening.
Arrest warrants claim that Bryant used aggravated force to accomplish sexual battery against a 17-year-old girl, forcing her into a bedroom, throwing her on the bed and forcing her to engage in sexual intercourse. The sheriff’s office said the victim and the suspect have mutual friends but are not related or involved in any type of relationship.
Reports allege that the assault took place when both were at a home in Easley earlier the same day.
The sheriff’s office said in the arrest warrant that there was probable cause to arrest Bryant based on the incident report, a statement issued by the victim and statements from a witness.
By Jason Evans
SIX MILE — A large chunk of downtown real estate in Six Mile was auctioned off at town hall last month, drawing a large crowd, according to Mayor Roy Stoddard.
Interstate Auction Company held the absolute auction for properties, a total of 26 acres, owned by Six Mile LLC. The properties had been owned by a single family for nearly 100 years. The auction was held to liquidate the assets of Six Mile LLC.
“The place was packed,” Stoddard said.
The auction drew more than a hundred people.
Some bids were even taken over the phone.
“It was big time — they had one auctioneer who did nothing but the phone,” Stoddard said.
Before the auction opened, the town was able to purchase 8.5 acres of property for $125,000.
Stoddard said the town was very fortunate to be able to purchase the property.
“That’s right in the heart of our downtown area,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to control what’s going to take place in an area.”
The family that owned the property had allowed the town to use it for years, Stoddard said.
“For our festivities, the Issaqueena Festival, Christmas parade, you name it,” he said. “A parking and staging area. They put up kids’ inflatables and let the kids play there. It was just neat the way they allowed us to do that.”
The town would like “if at all possible” to restore the Dillard House, the white house that sits on the purchased property, Stoddard said.
“We’d have to have help,” Stoddard said. “That’s the idea, to make it kind of a showplace, maybe a museum down the road. We’ve got our ideas. We’re still germinating, still trying to pull things together.”
Stoddard doesn’t know yet what the new owners plan to do with their new purchases, which include the former site of a restaurant.
One couple who purchased several of the auctioned properties are business owners in another part of Pickens County, so Stoddard hopes they will use their new purchases for retail in the town.
“We’re excited,” Stoddard said. “We think that it will really help the town. We’re looking for big things in Six Mile.”
PICKENS — Soapstone Church invites everyone to a special fundraiser at the church, located at 296 Liberia Road in Pickens, this Saturday, April 16.
The event will feature fine cooking and will be held from noon-8 p.m.
Visitors will enjoy true Southern cooking, including a fish fry, barbecue and fried chicken with all the fixings right from Mrs. Mabel’s kitchen.
The Pickens High School Class of 1956 held its 60th class reunion at the Gatehouse in PIckens on Saturday. Pictured from left, front row, are Nancy Brown Reece (seated), Shelby Henderson Finley, Shirley Newton Lovingood, Carolyn Ellenburg Freeman, Judy Rampey Norton, Shelby Duncan Reilly, Betty Garren Brock, Ruth Ann Lovell Smith, Hazel Owens Couch, Blanche Boggs Fowler, Lucy Boozer Harward and Mozelle Holden Stewart. On the second row are Tunkie Cole Stokes, Sam W. Stokes, Ruth Ellen Cassell Trotter, Ernie Baker, Marilyn Dorr Black, Shirley McNeely Kay, Margaret Roberts Waldrop, Fran Hasket Wood and Jean Masters McCall. In back row are Floyd Collins, Allen Chappell, Allison Dalton, Charles Barker, Heyward Maddox, Tommy Boggs, Garvin Stewart, Doug Hudson, John Frank Hendricks, Wallace Couch, Ray Haskett Mascot and Tom Bivens. Not pictured are Anne Acker Childs, Morris Keasley and Mary Ann Simmons Hayes. At right, John Hendricks even brought the car he actually drove to school while attending PHS.
PICKENS — Pickens High School teacher, Yardifacts Ornamental Concrete owner and lifetime community resident Wes Hendricks has filed to run for Pickens County Council District 3.
Hendricks is a graduate of Pickens High School and the University of South Carolina, where he played football for Coach Joe Morrison in the 1980s while earning his bachelor’s degree. He earned his master’s degree in administration and supervision from South Wesleyan University.
Hendricks is a special education teacher of students with learning disabilities at Pickens High School. In his 22nd year at PHS, he has more than 25 years of teaching experience. During his teaching career, he has coached football and basketball, with his last coaching job at Pickens High School. He took the varsity boys’ basketball team to the playoffs in 2007. He has taught and coached in Anderson and Edgefield counties as well.
“With much prayer, I have decided to run for Pickens County Council District 3,” Hendricks said. “I feel the time is right for me to serve the people of Pickens County in a much larger capacity. My service as a person with the ability to work with others and unite a divided county is much needed at this time. Pickens County is at a crossroads or a make-or-break point. I have invested a lifetime in Pickens County in many ways, including giving back and serving others. My past experiences and being a family man raising my children in Pickens County will serve the people of Pickens County better than anyone else on the ballot in District 3.”
He says the county does not need to be divided with institutions being forced to close as they have been recently in the communities of District 3.
“Misrepresentation with the media being used as a facade to make it look positive needs to be prevented in our county,” he said. “Simply recommending and voting for a recommendation in a staged attempt to look good in public does not get the job done. Working with others as a team and persuading them to follow the will of the people and betterment of Pickens County gets the job done.
“All of our communities and municipalities need to work together to make each other stronger. We need to let people hired to do county jobs perform with the needed resources while holding them accountable in an appropriate manner without micromanaging them. We need a new jail, as I have seen first-hand while helping a learning-disabled student get his diploma as he was housed at the LEC awaiting trial. Business recruiting and job creations are a must.”
Hendricks said he has “the courage to stand for the well-being of Pickens County, the fortitude to back it up and the perseverance to get the job done.
“I am from Pickens County and I am for all of Pickens County. Let’s work together to make Pickens County prosperous and progressive for our future with your vote for me on June 14.”