More Apprenticeships Proposed

   Laurens County had big news this week with an almost $7 million grant announced for expanding opportunities for students at Clinton and Laurens High Schools to prepare for jobs of the future. The four-year grant features apprenticeship programs as part of the expanded opportunities for students here and at two Richland District 2 High Schools.

   More ideas of apprenticeship are up for discussion in the nation’s capital this afternoon during a bi-partisan discussion on a bill proposing to fund more apprenticeship programs. The discussion is to feature Senator Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina and Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey. They’re to be at Facebook headquarters in DC  at 1:45 this afternoon is the first-ever live bipartisan Q&A to discuss their ‘Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs’ (LEAP) Act.  The bill proposes to provide a tax credit to employers to help increase the number of registered apprenticeships in the U.S. to put more people to work and help fill the 4 million job vacancies across the United States – openings often attributed to a skills mismatch between employers and job seekers.

    Even as companies report unfilled positions, there are still 10 million jobless Americans, and 16 percent of 16-24 year olds in the United States today are unemployed. The numbers are far worse among youth of color and for those without college degrees. Apprenticeships can help fill this gap. The U.S had just 358,000 active, registered apprenticeships in 2012. By contrast, that’s 7 percent of what England offered when adjusted for population, and in Germany nearly 50 percent of all young people go through apprenticeship programs.

    Senators Tim Scott and Cory Booker will be on the Facebook Q & A around 1:45 this afternoon at facebook.com/SenatorTim Scott and Facebook.com/corybooker.

FILOT Changes under Consideration

    How money from Fee-in-lieu-of-Tax agreements with new industry gets distributed was on the table for discussion this week at Tuesday night’s Laurens County Council meeting. Specifically, they were talking about how revenues from Phase II of the Owings Industrial Park would be split between county government and schools.

    Council was reminded that while the ZF site and other property in Phase I of Owings Industrial is in School District 55, the Phase II portion of Owings Park is in the Greenville County School District.

   County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks told council that according to state law, the county can allocate the funds as they see fit, and that in Phase Two of the industrial park the only local taxing entities are Laurens County and the Greenville School District.

    A new allocation plan is being considered to help Laurens County recoup County money invested in the industrial park that would otherwise go to the Greenville School District. On the other hand, Council was informed that a new High School planned for Fountain Inn is designed to alleviate overcrowding at Hillcrest High in Simpsonville, and would benefit students from Northern Laurens County who are in the Greenville School District; so FILOT funds going to Greenville’s school district would still assist Laurens County residents.

   Council agreed to put this issue to committee after County Administrator Ernie Segars said that the upcoming budget will be tough, nothing they’re scrambling to include any possible additional funds.

     Six examples are to be examined by the committee regarding distributions of the FILOT funds from Phase II at Owings Industrial Park. They range from having 35% go to the Laurens County government operations with 65% to Greenville County Schools to having 75% of the funds go to Laurens County government with 25% to Greenville County Schools.

‘Stalking’ Phone Calls

 The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest yesterday from alleged phone calls from a Cherokee County woman last month. 31-year-old Tammy Lynn Wyatt of 227 Henderson Street, Gaffney was charged with Stalking and with Unlawful Use of Phone.

Warrants allege that on March 3rd, 2014 in Laurens County Tammy Lynn Wyatt did use profane, obscene, vulgar and/or indecent language in a telephone communication to the victim; doing so repeatedly for the purpose of annoying/harassing the victim and victim’s family. A Stalking warrant states that on March 3rd Ms. Wyatt used a pattern of words through a cell phone that serve no legitimate reason and were intended to cause, and did cause the victims to fear for his life and safety. Tammy Lynn Wyatt was being held in the Johnson Detention Center overnight pending arraignment this morning.

One Dead, One Held for Murder Charge

   One man dead, another held for murder charges, following a fatal shooting yesterday afternoon. Laurens County Deputy Steve Paterson reported he responded to Cochise Drive, Waterloo at 4:28 pm after a call from a man saying he had shot his neighbor. Deputy Paterson reported arriving and observing 51-year-old Harold Dean Price Sr. lying on the ground beside his lawn mower in his front yard at 323 Cochise Drive, and that he appeared to be dead. This later confirmed by the coroner. Officers went to the suspect’s home nearby and located the alleged shooter. Deputy Brewington took the suspect into custody while Deputy Paterson went back to the victim’s home to intercept the victim’s wife, who was returning home. Investigators arrived and took control of the case. 63-year-old Johnny Lamar Lever of 288 Cochise Drive, Waterloo was booked by the Sheriff’s Office and placed in the Johnson Detention Center, expected to be charged with Murder.

Laurens Considers Building a Civic Center

   Laurens City Council is considering building a Civic Center. That news surfaced yesterday during a budget workshop. Mayor Sharon Brownlee said discussions include having multiple uses for the facility, including a gym for sports and rooms that could be used for meetings and receptions. She said that the city’s bond attorney indicates the $2.2 million project could be funded without any new taxes because a previous bond for the Sun Trust building is about to be paid off. Other costs could be paid with hospitality tax revenue. Brownlee said the ideas discussed suggest the city will contract with a “Design & Build” firm to oversee the project, both in design and construction, to have a reliable cost estimate going in. A possible location for the proposed civic center would be on a 90-acre tract of land the city owns on Exchange Drive, near City Park. Mayor Brownlee said a hilltop on that property is part of the area where the city is having trees harvested. She expects the concept of a Laurens Civic Center to come up for a first vote at next week’s City Council meeting.

 

Salary Increase, Insurance Costs Up

   Laurens City Council held a budget workshop yesterday on their proposed $6.3 million budget for 2014-2015.  Mayor Brownlee said the budget includes a 2% pay raise for employees. Some tweaking will still occur before the first reading at the May meeting of Council. Meanwhile another brief workshop is to be held in late April. A big concern for the budget is a $180,000 increase in the cost of employee health insurance. That brings the total cost to the city to over $800,000 for providing coverage for some 75 employees and 11 retirees. Another financial concern for Laurens City Council is the fact that bids for tearing down a dilapidated building just off the square came in over estimates. They expected $78,000 would cover the cost, and County Council agreed to help by covering half that price tag. But the lowest bid came in at $124,000, with costs going up after DHEC became involved. A firm hired to manage the process has requested additional bids. Meanwhile, that project is on hold at this point.

  City Council also discussed the idea of using C-Fund money returned to the counties for road repairs to work on streets inside the city. Joining Council for the discussion were two representatives from the county committee that allocates these funds.

Major Needed Repairs to Durbin Fire Station on Hold

    Plans for repairs of the Durbin Creek Fire Station are now on hold, after Laurens County Council last night tabled action that would convey ownership of the station to the county. Durbin Creek Fire Department said it was willing to turn the building over to the county so that bonds could be sold to pay for the $50,000 in repairs.

     Councilman Ted Nash motioned to move forward with the plan, seconded by Diane Anderson. During discussion, it was obvious that not all were in agreement. Joe Wood said “I have a problem about the county taking ownership of the building which means we now assume all maintenance costs.” He added “we have given money to other stations that we do not own.”  County Administrator Ernie Segars replied “We were wrong in doing that, it is not proper to spend public money on private buildings.” Segars added “If the county issues a bond to repair other rural stations that need repairs, the bond attorney will not authorize it.”

    Council Chairman Jim Coleman assured Wood that the county already owns a good number of its fire stations and that there are contracts that address maintenance issues. Segars noted the county lost $1.5 million due to the fire at the Ekom station, which the county does not own. County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks said “We have liability for those we do not own now.”    

     Chairman Coleman told council that this is all about the bonding issue due to the fact that there are eighteen other fire buildings that are of the same age as Durbin Creek, and at least seven will be needing repairs as well, with a ball park estimate of $100,000.

     Diane Anderson said more information was needed and she rescinded her seconding and asked Nash to withdraw his motion. He refused, stating the urgency of the repairs and the willingness of the Durbin Creek Fire Department to turn over the building to county.

     Council finally agreed to table the action until next week, with Nash responding “I hope we do not wait too long.”

FTC Fraud Alleged

   Laurens City Police yesterday charged a young woman with using another person’s bank card illegally last month. 24-year-old Candace Lee Shaw of 45 Flash Drive, Laurens was charged with Financial Transaction Card Fraud, 2nd Offense. Detective Leann Riggott states that from approximately March 3rd to March 26th the defendant, Candace Shaw, did obtain goods or services at various locations by use of a Palmetto Bank debit card which she knew to be fraudulently obtained and used without permission of the card holder. Goods valued at $535 were allegedly obtained.  Candace Shaw was being held in the Johnson Detention Center overnight, pending her arraignment today.

Two Charged Illegal Drug Possession on 221 South

 The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office arrested two people yesterday for charges that they were in illegal possession of drugs yesterday at a location south of Laurens. 40-year-old Matthew Victor Waldrop of 328 North Marion Street, Joanna was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine and 51-year-old Cynthia Denise Bagwell of 3081 By-Pass 127, Laurens was charged with two counts, Possession of a Controlled Substance.

   Sgt. Matt Veal states that on April 8th one Matthew Waldrop possessed a gram of methamphetamine and that Cynthia Bagwell possessed Hydrocone and Clorazepate, Schedule III and IV controlled substances, without authority. Both illegal possessions allegedly occurred at 5467 Highway 221 South of Laurens yesterday. Matthew Waldrop and Cynthia Bagwell were being held overnight in the Johnson Detention Center, pending bond hearings.

Shoplifting Damage Includes Medical Bills

   A man arrested on an assault charge by the Sheriff’s Office late yesterday morning is also facing charges related to an alleged chemical spill inside a Laurens store last fall.

   58-year-old Dennis Lamar Kernells of 300 Marion Place, Clinton was issued a ticket charging Simple Assault and Battery at 11:45 yesterday morning by Sheriff’s Corporal Johnson. Meanwhile, Laurens City Police have served warrants from November charging him with Malicious Damage and Shoplifting.

  Laurens Police Detective Jared Hunniutt states that on November 15, 2013 Dennis Lamar Kernells committed malicious damage greater than $2,000 by creating a health hazard after mixing chemicals while attempting to shoplift said chemicals inside Wal-Mart, and that he created a chemical spill which damaged shelves and flooring, contaminated surrounding items for sale and caused clean-up costs that included man hours, waste disposal fee, medical bills and workers compensation for one employee who was injured by a chemical burn while assisting in the clean-up. Costs of the damages from the chemical spill were estimated at between $3,500 and $4,000. Detective Hunnicutt alleges that Kernells shoplifted by opening several bottles of different products such as a drain opener and a degreaser, mixed the contents into another bottle and took this mixture out of the store without paying for several of the items that were opened and moved from their original location. Items were allegedly hidden behind other items so as to conceal them, during the incident November 15th 2013 at Wal-Mart, 922 East Main in Laurens. Kernells was being held overnight in the Johnson Detention Center, pending a bond hearing.