Letters to the Editor 5-6-20

Supporting Gravely for council seat

Dear Editor,

I’m the owner of small business LaRue Fine Chocolate and a lifelong resident of Pickens County. I’m not usually a letter to the editor writer, but the upcoming Pickens County Council District 3 race has me pretty excited.

I think now more than ever it is important to elect officials who actually care about their constituents and understand that they are our public servant and should always selflessly put aside their ego and their best interest to serve the interest of the community.

For years in District 3, we’ve been shuffling through the same people running the same campaigns. The current incumbent has never risen to the challenge of the office. And Alex Saitta, whose name is printed on the “Opinion” page more than most, may have a new campaign “look,” but he’s the same out-of-touch politician who leaves those of us who are truly invested in this community out to dry, whether he’s jockeying for the school board or county council.

Finally, this time around, we have Debbie Gravely running. I’ve had the pleasure of serving with Debbie as part of the Pickens Women’s Association, and she is different in all the best ways. She’s warm. She’s personable. She listens. She cares about our community and she shows it by actively volunteering and engaging in economic development right here in Pickens. She is not invested in high-yield stocks or second-home real estate ventures. She is invested in PEOPLE. She is invested in Pickens.

Debbie makes an effort to attend local events, supports her friends and neighbors and generally values building relationships in our community. It’s such a breath of fresh air to think that someone who cares about Pickens would be willing to serve the people of Pickens on our county council.

I hope that everyone reading will make an effort to check her out before the primary on June 9. At a time when supporting your neighbor is of the utmost importance, Debbie Gravely is a true friend to our community and will truly represent all of us.

Elizabeth Logan McDaniel



Saitta the top choice in county race

Dear Editor,

Three years ago, in early 2017, Pickens County Council was made aware of its road funding problem, shortly after four new council members were sworn in. The new council did not prioritize road funding at the time. Instead, the council has spent county tax dollars on other entities that receive their own taxpayer funds. It was regularly announced they could spend money without a tax increase.

Now the council is up against a wall trying to figure out how to pay to fix county roads. They are looking at a tax increase in the form of another penny sales tax on top of the extra penny tax we pay now. They never would have gotten public favor if they raised taxes for the extra spending on Tri-County Tech or TIF deals with cities in the county. Roads, however, are a necessity, and everyone complains about the condition of both state and county roads.

Why was there no priority put on roads? Repairing county roads is the most expensive spending item the council faces, and it was not addressed until now. All other spending should have been considered in relation to what could be budgeted for our roads. Instead, the council goes for the easiest solution, and lays out many options for a tax increase.

I attend almost every county council meeting. I think Pickens County needs new leadership that can set budget priorities and understand long-term plans. Decisions have to be made on whether to spend out of current revenues or add county debt by issuing bonds. We need a council that can manage taxpayer money through tough times. Unemployment is 15 to 20 percent now. It is going to take months if not a year to get our economy back where it was. Money is going to be tight again.

Right now an understanding of economics and finance are the most important thing. The county administrator is a lawyer. The chairman of the council is a marketing guy. The vice chairman has expertise in emergency medical services. I think Alex Saitta has proven he knows numbers, budgets and is prudent fiscally. He is the best choice of the county council candidates running for office in the Pickens area.

Steve Haynie


Centralized voting in Pickens Co.

Dear Editor,

Elections officials are saying that voting under pandemic recommendations is going to be difficult. Staff shortages are predicted, as well as longer wait times.

Centralizing voting at our four high schools would help with staffing. The buildings are empty, so setup could occur immediately to reduce staff demands in June. It would also provide space for social distancing and provide space indoors for voters to wait instead of outside in the elements.

We have a new, inexperienced elections board, and we have no elections director. We need to prepare now for the June primary. Let’s not wait to prepare for a very different experience at the polling places.

Let’s put a plan in place now to centralize voting at the four high schools.

Phillip Bowers

Six Mile

Grant fund distribution unfair

Dear Editor,

I must say I was shocked when Butterfly Wellness Shala, which was one of only two final applicants for the 2019-2020 Main Street Challenge, was not awarded even a small amount of grant money by the Pickens Revitalization Association. The winner has been known for over a month but has just now been announced, and I’ll tell you, You Drive Me Glazy was awarded the entire $10,000 grant.

Please understand that I love this donut shop and support them 100 percent, but for them to receive the full $10,000 is extremely unfair. They did not even apply for $10,000, but rather justified a smaller portion of the grant.

The Pickens Revitalization Association (PRA) was formed as an “economic tool that enables the community to focus on business and community development.” Two of the purposes of the PRA are to grow Pickens’ businesses and retail base and to revitalize downtown. The Main Street Challenge grant was established back in 2015 to help do just that. Some of the previous winners of the grant have included Burgess & Taylor General Store, Colonial House, Appalachian Ale House, Bee Well Honey and Morris on Main.

Butterfly Wellness Shala has been open for almost a year now and has supported the Pickens community in a number of ways. They have donated to fundraisers, given to silent auctions, joined the chamber of commerce, helped advertise local businesses, and they have sponsored free meditation hikes. I don’t understand why PRA did not give Kit Heelan, the owner of Butterfly Wellness Shala, even a small portion of the grant!

Kit applied for the grant money for two reasons. First, she wants to expand her yoga programs to help the elderly in the community. She planned to coordinate with the Hagood Community Center to bring seniors to her facility and assist them with activities geared toward mobility and improved health. Second, she asked for money for a sign, because she is down a side road just off of Main Street and many don’t know where she is located.

Essentially, by giving nothing to Butterfly Wellness Shala, the Pickens Revitalization Association is saying they do not support Kit and her mission. I think PRA needs to rethink the distribution of funds and give Butterfly Wellness Shala even a small portion of the grant money from the 2019-2020 Main Street Challenge.

Louise Hope