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.

Two Criminal Domestic Violence Cases

   The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday arrested 38-year-old Bradley Patton Grasser of 25 Lockhorn Lane, Simpsonville on a charge of Criminal Domestic Violence 1st offense. He’s accused of assaulting his x-wife on April 5th, striking her about her face, causing swelling to her right eye and scratches around her neck. Bradley Grasser was being held in the Johnson Detention Center overnight, pending arraignment this morning.

 

  Clinton Public Safety Sgt. Ritter responded to Davidson Street just before 6 last evening on a report of an assault at that location. A man had allegedly head-butted his wife during an argument. He was found next door sitting on the porch drinking with a neighbor. 32-year-old Michael Zachery Bibb of 318 Davidson Street, Clinton was arrested and placed in Clinton City Jail overnight. He was to be arraigned this morning on a charge of Criminal Domestic Violence.

Changes on Youth Pending Locating Chain Saw Owner

   Clinton Public Safety Officer Harris responded to North Sloan Street at 6:38 last evening on a report of a suspicious item. A resident said he had walked outside and noticed a black case sitting on his front steps. Several people in the area told the officer of seeing a subject leaving that item on the steps. As Officer Harris patrolled the area looking for the subject, people told him of observing a subject carrying around a green chain saw. Reports indicated the male had been seen walking with the chain saw, but running behind houses when police approached. Lt. Robinson located the juvenile subject on Jefferson Street near Forrest Street but he didn’t have a chain saw. Following up on further information, officers found a green chain saw in a shed behind a house on Jefferson Street that the resident said was not theirs. The mother of the 15-year-old male juvenile arrived. The youth was released, with potential for being charged once the owner of the green chain saw is located.

Major Grant to Help Prepare Students for Work

   District 56 and 55 officials were joined by representatives from Piedmont Tech, Upper Savannah plus Laurens County and City governments and others yesterday afternoon to announce that a Federal Department of Labor grant of over $6.8 million to fund a Youth Career Connect Program in South Carolina. District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said a Department of Labor and Education grant was announced yesterday for the Carolina Alliance for Technology and will be used in Laurens and Clinton High Schools from Districts 55 and 56 and at two High Schools in Richland County District 2.

 “The goals of this program are to boost computer science and engineering, to earn post-secondary credits while in High School, to provide academic counseling, educational course work, mentorships and apprenticeships for our students, and to better prepare our students for college and for careers, but most importantly for life in a demanding and ever-changing workforce.”

     The money will be matched over the next four years, not with local dollars but by local school and industrial involvement to prepare students for jobs of the future. 

     District 55 Superintendent Billy Strickland said with the news of the Grant yesterday, the rainy day became a great day in Laurens County.  “I think this is exciting for Laurens County. Not only from the education side of it, from industry, county government and the economic development. And it’s fitting that we are here at the Chamber because I think it pulls all the groups together.”

    The Obama Administration yesterday announced a total of 24 programs across the country that will share $107 million as part of a high school redesign competition for improving integration of real-world experiences into the classroom. In addition to the  Laurens 56 and 56 and Richland 2 partnership, other winners in the $7 million range were New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Pike Township of Indianapolis and Prince George’s County in Maryland. 275 groups applied for the 24 Department of Labor grants announced yesterday.

   In addition to Clinton and Laurens High Schools, the Carolina Coalition will fund these new services in Ridgeview and Westwood High Schools in Richland County School District 2. 

   At yesterday’s news conference at the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce,  District 55 Superintendent Dr. Billy Strickland said the news marks an exciting day for our area. He said that work-based learning experiences will be fostered by strong partnerships through companies like ZF Transmissions, Bosch Rexroth, Laurens County Government, SCANNA, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Intel and Moore Center for Orthopedics. He said these and others will allow students to participate in field trips, job shadowing, leadership, field experiences and mentoring. Strickland said an important part of the grant is providing partnership with employees to create a path for students to industries and occupations. “Apprenticeship Carolina will work with employers in both regions to find and create registered apprenticeships matching employers with students. And that is what we’re all about. We are excited about getting this process in High Schools and going on to Technical Schools – Piedmont Tech and also Midlands Tech for the Richland 2 area – is an exciting time for them to make this happen for our young people.”

   District 56 Superintendent  Dr. David O’Shields said of 24 national grants that were announced yesterday in this program, the grant announced for the consortium between Districts 55, 56 and Richland 2 was one of the 6th largest.

   O’Shields said “Students today need deeper knowledge and an expanded skill set to prepare them for college and the jobs of the future. These grants will expose and engage our students with much more hands-on, relevant academic opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.”

  Dr. O’Shields and Dr. Cynthia Pitts of the Upper Savannah Regional Education Center  were on the actual grant writing team. She said they had to select specific areas of study to be enhanced with this program, “…and we’re going to be doing computer technology and we’re also going to be doing engineering.

     Superintendent O’Shields told WLBG preparations will be made the rest of this school year to be ready to start the program with the next school year. The grant funds the program for four years.