Laura J. McKenzie

D19 superintendent receives $8,000 raise, contract extension

The Blackville-Hilda Schools superintendent received a raise and an extension of his contract Monday, Jan. 8 from the District 19 School Board.

At their regular meeting the board voted to give Dr. Shawn Johnson an $8,000 annual raise and extended his contract until 2020.

Board member Sharon McClary made the motion which was approved unanimously by the board members in attendance including Carroll Priester, Ethel Faust and Bill DeLoach. Karen Jowers was not at the meeting.

D45 school board honored; goals reviewed

A table full of gifts and a video by Barnwell Elementary students charmed members of the Barnwell District 45 School Board on Thursday, Jan. 11.

The gifts and serenade were to thank the board members during National School Board Appreciation Month.

Barnwell Elementary School students recorded a video of them singing “Hand to Hand, Heart to Heart”, which was played at the board meeting.

“We want to thank you for your commitment to our schools,” said Superintendent Crissie Stapleton. “We thank you for each and every day.”

Barnwell County Council approves zoning ordinance updates, sale of timber

The sale of timber in the Blackville Industrial Park and second reading on an updated county zoning ordinance were among the actions approved by the Barnwell County Council.

The council took the votes on Tuesday, Jan. 9 during their regular monthly meeting.

Council chairman Lowell Jowers said there were around eight changes to the zoning ordinance, “mostly correcting typos and wording – nothing of significance.”

Coach Berry inducted into second Hall of Fame

Coach David Berry of Blackville-Hilda High School was inducted Dec. 8 into the South Carolina Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

The ceremony took place in Myrtle Beach.

Berry, who retired in October 2017, has been the head football coach for the Hawks for 25 years and has had 24 consecutive winning seasons at Blackville-Hilda High School. During his tenure the Hawks recorded 257 wins and 97 losses, three state championships (in 1995, 2005 and 2007) and 13 region championships.

Denmark man dies in Williston crash

An early morning accident has claimed the life of a Bamberg County man, according to Barnwell County Coroner Lloyd B. Ward and S.C. Highway Patrol Cpl. Sonny Collins.

“Eric Banks, 33, of Voorhees Road, Denmark, was pronounced about 5:10 a.m. from injuries received in a one-car motor vehicle collision,” said Ward in a press release.

Employment trends improving in Barnwell, Allendale

The jobless rate in Barnwell County went up slightly in November while Allendale County’s went down a bit. But those lone statistics released recently by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) don’t tell the whole story of the employment situation locally.

Barnwell County’s jobless rate rose from 5.4 percent in October to 5.5 in November, according to the DEW. Allendale County’s rate dropped from 6.3 in October to 6.2 percent in November.

Williston gives first nod to apartment complex

A rezoning request on property slated for a middle-income apartment complex was given first reading by the Williston Town Council following a public hearing on Dec. 18.

The 3.75 acres of property is located on Main and Dicks streets. The apartment complex would have 32 to 38 units.

Gwen Jenkins of 265 Dicks Street, Williston, voiced her opposition to the rezoning request, saying she totally opposed low income housing being located next to her property. “This will lower the value of my property,” she said.

EDC ok’s timber bid

A bid for timber removal at the Blackville Industrial Park was approved by the Barnwell County Economic Development Corporation at its Dec. 18 meeting.

Attending the meeting were Corporation Board members/EDC Commissioners Steve Jowers, Toby Singletary, Joe Smith, Keith Sloan and Will Kearse.

The bid was approved for S.C. Timber Company to clear timber from a section of the park but the amount was not disclosed as it still has to be approved by the Barnwell County Council at its January meeting.

The action came after a 20-minute closed session.

Accident claims life of Denmark man on Williston Way

An early morning accident has claimed the life of a Bamberg County man, according to Barnwell County Coroner Lloyd B. Ward and S.C. Highway Patrol Cpl. Sonny Collins.

“Eric Banks, 33, of Voorhees Road, Denmark, was pronounced about 5:10 a.m. from injuries received in a one-car motor vehicle collision,” said Ward in a press release.  

Hospital records to be digitized

Records at the former Southern Palmetto Hospital are going to be stored electronically following a vote by the Barnwell County Council.

The council on Dec. 12 voted to allow Star Point to digitize and store the patient records at a cost not to exceed $126,000.

Councilman Freddie Houston made the motion following a closed session during which one item for discussion was “potential contract negotiations related to the hospital bankruptcy.”

Sale of the hospital facility had been held up due to questions over ownership of patient records.

Love for Barnwell patients is motivation for local doctor

When Dr. Afsar Waraich came to the United States from Pakistan, his plan was to get a good education, reconnect with family and fulfill a requirement on a work visa to work in an underserved area.

What he didn’t count on was falling in love with a community.

He first attended Dow Medical College and then did his 3-year internship at State University of New York at Stoneybrook. For two years following his internship, he obtained a fellowship to work at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine specializing in gastroenterology.

Winning ‘athletes’ always race for home

Saturday morning’s (Dec. 2) sky was gray over Snelling, the shade matching the feathers on Monty Morrow’s racing pigeons.

A “team” of 20 birds circled above trees whose leaves were reddish brown. They flew as a group, never perching, exercising their wings like the athletes they are.

“This is our young team. They’ve won 6 out of the 12 races this year,” said Morrow. “We’re heading to Georgia today for a race.”

Vickie Benjamin named Williston's Citizen of Year

Vickie Benjamin loves Williston and the community has returned that love by naming her “Citizen of the Year”.

Benjamin was “surprised and humbled” when her name was called out by Mayor Jason Stapleton on Saturday evening at Williston’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting event held on Main Street.

“Wow,” she said after being led to the speaker’s stand by 2017 Citizen of the Year Bob Cothran. “I love so many of you, especially the little ones. I really appreciate the honor.”

Governor visits Allendale schools

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster met with officials and visited Allendale-Fairfax High School Friday, Dec. 1.

The governor first met at noon with Interim Superintendent Dr. Walter Tobin and Allendale School Board members in a closed meeting at the district office.

He then went to the high school where he was met by a formation of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), welcomed by Principal Darlene D. Hall and led on a tour throughout the school.

Grant to fund demo of old Blackville school

The Town of Blackville reinstalled three council members and then got an early Christmas gift in the form of a Community Development Block Grant.

Council members Steven Jowers, Alan Harrison and Fred Orr each took the oath of office administered by Mayor Michael Beasley during the Nov. 20 meeting held at the Blackville Community Center.

Jowers, Harrison and Orr were unopposed in their bid for re-election for four-year terms on council.

Effort seeks to ‘connect’ area

The effort to “get connected” in the Lowcountry Promise Zone is moving forward and was highlighted this week at a meeting in Barnwell.

“A meeting in March 2016 set the stage for where we are today,” said Jim Stritzinger, Executive Director of Connect South Carolina. Since that meeting the United States Department of Agriculture provided a grant to help stakeholders collect data on digital connectivity in the Promise Zone which includes all or portions of Barnwell, Allendale, Bamberg, Hampton, Jasper and Colleton counties.

Towns, county hold civil but direct meeting

A meeting was held Thursday, Nov. 16 without lawyers in a neutral site between four governmental entities that have been at odds for several years.

The Barnwell County Council met with the mayors and at least one councilman from each of the municipalities of Barnwell, Blackville and Williston. They came together to discuss issues related to the Barnwell County Economic Development Corporation and Commission.

Students, various agencies participate in drill

Over 100 people participated in a large-scale disaster drill on Nov. 15 in Barnwell County.

The drill simulated a 6.2-magnitude earthquake centered in Barnwell. The drill “assumed” the county courthouse had collapsed and a mobile command center had to be set up at the Barnwell County Airport. Over the course of the drill there were 51 people deemed as injured and 4 “confirmed” dead.

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