David Purtell - Staff Writer

EDC ‘donates’ land to towns

The Barnwell County Economic Development Corporation handed over property it managed to three towns in the county and one private company.
Four property deeds filed with the Barnwell County Clerk of Court's office show the corporation, part of the EDC, "donated" land it managed in Blackville, Barnwell city and Williston to the respective municipalities.
Land located near the Barnwell County Airport was given to the South Georgia Tissue company, a private company that was supposed to build a plant - but never did - on the property.

County Council removes EDC board members; SLED opens investigation

Barnwell County Council removed all members of a county board from their appointments during a special-called meeting Friday, Dec. 20, and gave the county's attorney permission to do whatever is necessary to get back county land, money and other assets given away by the board's members -- and state law enforcement has opened an investigation into the situation.

Council passed two resolutions after a closed session with county attorney J.D.

County gets A-plus credit rating

Barnwell County received an A-plus credit rating after a review by a major rating agency.

In early November, Barnwell County councilmen Freddie Houston and Keith Sloan - along with county administrator Pickens Williams Jr. and a team of financial lawyers - went to New York City and made a presentation to Standard and Poor's, one of the big three credit-rating agencies.

Standard and Poor's defines an A-plus rating as a "strong capacity to meet financial commitments, but (is) somewhat susceptible to adverse economic conditions and changes in circumstances."

County Council violates Freedom of Information Act twice

Members of Barnwell County Council broke the law twice in late November, it was revealed during the regular meeting Dec. 10.

Council Chairman Freddie Houston said council meant no ill intent when a majority of members met on Nov. 22 and Nov. 27 to discuss the future of the Barnwell Economic Development Commission without notifying the public or media, which is required by the Freedom of Information Act.

Economic Development group gives county's land to towns

The Barnwell Economic Development Corporation handed over property it managed to three towns in the county and one private company.

Four property deeds filed with the Barnwell County Clerk of Court's office show the corporation, part of the Barnwell Economic Development Commission, "donated" land it managed in Blackville, Barnwell city and Williston to the respective municipalities.

Land located near the Barnwell County Airport was given to the South Carolina Tissue company, a private company that was suppose to build a plant - but never did - on the property.

Council spreads cheer, talks water

Barnwell City Council handed out some holiday cheer during its regular meeting Dec. 2.
Council voted unanimously to approve the annual bonuses for the city's firefighters - a total of $5,760.
The money was split between 31 firefighters, most of them volunteers. Firefighters get $5 for each drill they attend and each call they respond to. Blake Towne responded to 108 calls, the most among the volunteers.

Slain doctor remembered by co-workers and friends

Dr. Charles Mann III was remembered as a kind and caring man during a public memorial service Thursday at the Barnwell Public Library.
Mary Valliant, CEO of Southern Palmetto Hospital where Mann worked, spoke at length about the general surgeon.
"I haven't talked to a patient who didn't tell me how much they liked him," Valliant said, adding that Mann always spoke highly of the hospital staff.
Mann lived in Kathleen, Ga., but stayed in Snelling during the week while he was working.

Water tower demolition expected to cause loud bang

There will be some crashing and banging Wednesday morning in Barnwell.

The city's water tower on the old Milliken plant property will be demolished in the early morning hours. The tank is expected to come down with a thundering crash around 7:30 a.m.

The city has released a statement about the demolition to give residents the heads up. The full statement is below.

From the Barnwell Fire Department:

Blackville council welcomes new member

Blackville Town Council said hello to a new member and goodbye to an outgoing councilman during its regular meeting Nov. 18.
Fred Orr, elected to council this month, was sworn in by Mayor Mike Beasley. Orr is a longtime Blackville resident and former math teacher at Blackville-Hilda High School. He takes the place of Russ Reed, who did not run for re-election.

Gerrick convicted of murdering Donaldson

A Blackville man was sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted him of murder last week.
Sammie Lee Gerrick, 42, was found guilty Thursday afternoon of murdering Tyrone Anthony Donaldson in July 2011 after a four-day trial at the Barnwell County Courthouse during the November general sessions term.
The jury deliberated for about 50 minutes before delivering the verdict shortly after 1:30 p.m., and Circuit Court Judge Jack Early gave Gerrick a life sentence without the chance of parole.

Williston finds dual meter solution

Williston Town Council has settled on a plan to solve the problem of customers with dual water meters.
Earlier this year, council changed how customers' water bills are calculated, and the new formula essentially made having two water meters (sprinkler and house) unnecessary. But people will still be charged for having a second meter even though it is obsolete under the new plan.

Recreation group wants to see YMCA in county

The push to bring more recreational activities to Barnwell County made positive strides last week, according to Barnwell County Councilman Jerry Creech.
Creech said he is optimistic a YMCA will be built in the county. He said before the meeting he thought, "Can it happen?" but now thinks it's just a matter of time before the groundbreaking begins.
But he stressed that the whole county will have to get behind the project if it is to become a reality.

Donaldson murder trial begins

The murder trial of Sammie Lee Gerrick is happening this week at the Barnwell County Courthouse during the November term of General Sessions Court.
Gerrick, of Blackville, is charged with murder in the death of Tyrone Anthony Donaldson.
Gerrick was with Donaldson the day he was last seen alive, July 21, 2011. Donaldson's body was found Aug. 4, 2011, in a wooded area off Sunshine Road outside of Blackville.
On Tuesday, a State Law Enforcement Division forensics agent testified about finding Donaldson's buried body.

Blackville voters elect new council member

Blackville Town Council will have a new member after an election day that saw a small number of voters come to the polls.
Fred Orr, a write-in candidate, received 97 votes and will join council Nov. 18. A total of 151 ballots were cast out of a possible 1,576 in Blackville's three precincts.
Orr, a former math teacher at Blackville-Hilda High School, decided to run for council after it was announced that Councilman Russ Reed would not seek re-election. Orr has said he will focus on job creation and will support the development of affordable, safe housing in the community.

Food stamp reductions hit home

Recent cuts to food-stamp benefits could hurt not only the people who use them but also businesses.
This month, automatic cuts go into effect for the Supplemental Nutritional Food Program, commonly known as food stamps. Those cuts represent the end of increases put in place by the American Recovery and Reinvestment act of 2009 - the stimulus. Because of the cuts, and Congress's pending plans to decrease funding for SNAP in the long term, thousands of people in Barnwell County will have less money to spend on food for themselves and their families.

New business brings sparkle to downtown

A new business in Barnwell is proof that retirement isn't just an ending.
BeBe's Baubles and Bows had its grand opening Friday. Beverly Dixon owns the business, which sells wreaths and decorating accessories.
Located on the Circle in Barnwell, the store is the result of a hobby that kept growing. Dixon, who retired from the state Department of Revenue three years ago, said she helped a neighbor decorate for a dinner party and things escalated from there.

Credit monitoring changes begin for taxpayers

There is a new company providing protection for South Carolinians who were victims of a cyber attack last year.
South Carolina awarded a contract to CSID in September to offer identity protection to people and businesses whose personal information, including Social Security numbers, was stolen in 2012 after a hacker breached the state Department of Revenue's network. The contract is worth up to $8.5 million depending on how many people sign up for the taxpayer-funded credit-monitoring service.


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