Daily Archives: 03/14/2023

Officials talk train wreck preparedness

With all the train wrecks in the news lately — most of them involving Norfolk Southern, the railroad that slices through Pickens County — it seemed like a good time to check and see what kind of risk we may be facing if a train were to derail here.

“It could happen to any of us, anywhere in the United States,” said Denise Kwiatek, emergency management director for Pickens County.

“We never know when that moment’s going to happen.”

Many of you probably remember a multi-car derailment in Liberty back in 2010 in which two Norfolk Southern tank cars spilled 18,000 gallons of isopropanol and three others discharged 19,000 gallons of a substance referred to only as “hazardous waste liquid.”

The accident forced the evacuation of 536 homes for

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School district moving toward competency-based learning

By Andrea Kelley
Courtesy The Journal

COUNTY — The School District of Pickens County will soon be working toward a more personalized learning approach for students thanks to a proviso from the South Carolina Department of Education.

In August, the SCDE released Proviso 1.116, allowing districts seeking to implement competency-based education to submit a waiver to the State Board of Education allowing them to create their own standards.

The proviso defined competency-based education as “a comprehensive learning approach for a student to master competencies and related standards along a personalized, self-paced and flexible pathway.”

SDPC director of secondary education Lori Gwinn asked school board trustees during a recent meeting to

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Certified SAFE

Pickens County EMS training officer Dietrich Easter and director Michael Dunaway hold the county’s SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Excellence) designation certification. Pickens County recently became the second agency in South Carolina to receive specialized training to provide care to victims in the county. SAFE is created in partnership with South Carolina Victim Assistance Network, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and South Carolina Hospital Association. “This is a victim’s worst day of their life, and to ensure an easy transition, we educated ourselves on how to talk with the victim, pursue evidence and to walk them through the process,” Easter said.                                                   Jessica Mackey/Courier

Liberty lands decorated SC band director

LIBERTY — After Matt Smith resigned as Liberty High School’s director of bands last month, administrators swung for the fences in their search for his replacement.

And the school undoubtedly hit a home run, as School District of Pickens County spokesman Darian Byrd announced last week that Bryan Bone will become Liberty’s new director of bands.

Bone brings three decades of experience leading award-winning middle school and high school bands, including leading large 5A programs at Boiling Springs and Byrnes High School for the past 16 years, according to Byrd.

Bone is the only director in state history to lead high school bands to the South Carolina state marching finals in all five classes (1A Ben Lippen, 2A Swansea, 3A Camden, 4A Berkeley, 5A Boiling Springs and Byrnes). In addition, his bands have won

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Gleaning House honors founders

By Jessica Mackey
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — On the week of Thanksgiving in 1998, Esther and Johnny Corn decided they wanted to open a nonprofit organization to help the Pickens County community.

They had helped with Loaves and Fishes in Greenville and were being mentored by the organization’s director, but one of their concerns with opening a food pantry

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Pickens County emergency officials hold large-scale training exercise

Although all Pickens County students were out of school for a planned break through Wednesday of this week, a large law enforcement presence was evident at Daniel High School on Monday. The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, Pickens County Emergency Management, Pickens County Fire/Rescue, Pickens County EMS, Pickens County Coroner’s Office, Pickens County School District, Easley Police Department, Clemson Police Department, Liberty Police Department, Central Police Department, Pickens Police Department and Clemson University Police Department were at a large-scale training exercise to train together on active threats and mass casualty response. A news release from the sheriff’s office said the exercise focused on crisis response, planning and multi-agency interoperability. Actors included personnel from the sheriff’s office, Pickens County EMS, the School District of Pickens County, students from Youth Leadership Academy and community members.


Photos courtesy Pickens County Sheriff’s Office

More light needed

It’s Sunshine Week in South Carolina and across the nation, a time to recognize the importance of access to public information and accountability in local government.

We should start off by saying it’s not just media that has access to the Palmetto State’s Freedom of Information Act. You do, and it’s important you’re well versed on it. We’ve had instances of citizens poking around government and coming to us with their own findings.

We would humbly remind everyone it was Westminster resident and former city council candidate Wendy Golten who found information that revealed some seriously questionable purchases made by one city committee in desperate need of oversight last fall.

While great strides have been made in the open records law that was last modified in 2017, there are still some agencies that look to circumvent or — even worse — try to obstruct the law because they know they won’t really get in trouble over it.

It is worth pointing out many of the entities we cover daily comply entirely with the law and respond in a timely manner, save for one particular agency we’re taking a good, hard look at right now. More on that later, hopefully.

We’ll run through a few quick hiccups we’ve seen here of late. At Clemson University, it’s commonplace to receive an investigative report on Greek life shenanigans with pages — yes, pages — completely blacked out and redacted. Good luck coming up with a good-faith argument to justify that.

We’ve had inconsistent billing for documents we’ve requested in the past, only to come back with a higher cost than the last time. Is inflation really hitting hard in the electronic documents economic sector?

In February, we reported on a Six Mile man being charged with felony driving under the influence resulting in death in a fatal November crash. Naturally, we contacted the South Carolina Department of Public Safety for the “incident report, arrest warrants and any other supplementary documentation” on the case, but never checked a box requesting the dispatch audio/log.

That didn’t stop the agency from trying to bill us for it. In all, they wanted $175 for us to be able to tell you how this person was charged with such a serious offense.

After being called out for the absurdity, we got some gobbledygook back from the state office about how it is woefully inundated with requests — by the very person whose job it is to fulfill them — and how, actually, arrest reports, warrants and collision reports are provided to the media at no cost.

Did that public information officer provide them in that email with the halfhearted explanation? Of course not.

The last little battle we plan on pushing back on is over the withholding of supplemental police reports. Sometimes, we’ll receive initial incident reports that only have a few sentences concluding with, “See supplemental for further.” In the supplemental, there is much more color and insight on whatever is alleged to have happened.

After internally questioning why we couldn’t get hold of those supplemental reports in an active investigation or case, we were recently informed by South Carolina Press Association media lawyer Taylor Smith that they are fair game. Police are required to disclose any report that includes “the nature substance, and location of any crime or alleged crime reported as having been committed” as defined in Section 30-4-50(A)(8).

There are others across the state who have had their own issues with agencies not following the law, and we’ll try to highlight them here.

Not all is doom and gloom, though. There is still sunshine coming through the clouds. We’re grateful to have a tool to provide transparent coverage and only want it to be stronger.

Courier Letters to the Editor

Saitta gives update on broadband

Dear Editor,

I want to follow up on the article titled, “$24 million grant to expand county internet access.” High-speed internet service has been a critical need in the district I represent on county council (Pickens area and north of Highway 183).

While most of the funding is coming from Blue Ridge (Upcountry Fiber), federal and state governments, I supported and voted for giving Blue Ridge a tax incentive to make it all happen faster for us in Pickens County. In 2021, the county council voted unanimously to give a $1.6 million tax cut to Blue Ridge in return for a $10

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COVID numbers

How does it feel when you’re the only one in the whole grocery store who’s wearing a mask? Or when you get three phone calls from the senior center asking if you’re interested in signing up for the monthly ladies lunch, after you’ve already said no?

Do you feel tempted to explain to the young person who gives you the eye in the dairy aisle? Or worse, apologize to the

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Walking on bridges that human eyes cannot see

Soon after Jesus had resurrected, we find a beautiful account found in John chapter 20 that is a wonderful example of how much God loves us and desires to help us.

The friends and family of the Messiah were gathered together after his horrific crucifixion and were still grieving over his death when suddenly, He appears in their midst. Even though they remembered how He had promised to return, I’m sure they were still awestruck. Jesus stretches out His hands and reveals His wounds, and of course, they are overjoyed to see Him again. He spoke peace over them, commissioned them, filled them with the Holy Spirit, then vanished.

Thomas was not there that night, and later when he returned, he was told that Jesus had visited them. He responded

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