Laura J. McKenzie

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.

Williston approves matching grant to buy two police cars

The Williston Town Council approved an allocation as the town’s part of a matching grant to purchase two police cars and a utility vehicle.

The USDA grant pays for 55 percent of the cost up to $50,000 with the town matching 45 percent.

“We estimate the total cost will be about $88,000 meaning the grant will fund $48,400 and we would have to fund the remaining $39,600,” said Town Administrator Kenny Cook in a memo to council members.

He suggested that $22,000 from the Utilities Fund and $17,600 from the General Fund.

County Council approves sale of property

Barnwell County Council approved the sale of property owned by Economic Development Corporation related to “Project Bradley”.

The unanimous vote came at the end of a 3-hour meeting, most of which was in closed session.

No details were given on the project.

Also at the end of the meeting council held first reading of ordinances approving fee in lieu of taxes for five solar projects.

They include Barnwell Solar, Blackville Solar II, Crossroad Solar, Edison Solar and Richardson Solar.

Williston church holding vendor fair to raise money for food pantry

A Williston Gift & Craft Fair will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Winfield Heights Baptist Church’s Eddie Yelton Building (315 Chester St., Williston).

Admission is free, but all proceeds from raffles, concessions and booth fees will be donated to local organizations that assist those in need.

In addition to a variety of vendors, there will also be a bounce house, concessions, raffles and entertainment.

Towns, county to meet Nov. 16

The Barnwell County Council and the mayors from the municipalities of Barnwell, Blackville and Williston are slated to sit down this week and talk. The topic of discussion is the Barnwell County Economic Development Commission (EDC) and Corporation.

Council Chairman Lowell Jowers confirmed this week the meeting will be held on Thursday, Nov. 16 at the Barnwell County Library – “a neutral site”.

“It is just the mayors and council, no attorneys present,” said Jowers. “We want to sit down like gentlemen and try to get this thing settled and start working again.”

EDC receives ‘clean’ audit report

The Barnwell County Economic Development Corporation and Commission received a “clean opinion” of its finances following an annual audit for fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.

The annual audit was presented to the EDC on Oct. 30 by Lorie Salley of the accounting firm McGregor & Company.

Salley noted that the net position of the Corporation is down $566,446 from the previous year but $382,040 of that is depreciation of the EDC’s property.

The corporation’s net position in 2017 was $10,298,000 compared to $10,854,000 in 2016.

Bomb threat at Blackville-Hilda High School under investigation

Students and faculty from Blackville-Hilda High and Middle Schools were evacuated Wednesday, Nov. 15 following a bomb threat.

Barnwell County Sheriff Ed Carroll said a call came in to the school between 12:56 and 12:59 p.m. of the threat of a bomb at the high school. He declined to give further details of the call or the caller as it is an active investigation.

3 meetings slated this week for County Council

The Barnwell County Council will meet three times this week.

The first is a special called meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 3 p.m. in Council chambers. The only item on the agenda is a closed session to discuss a “personnel matter related to the museum”.

Later, at 6 p.m., the council will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting in council chambers. The agenda includes a letter of support for SRP Credit Union ATM in Blackville. It also includes a closed session for four items:

Emergency drill scheduled Nov. 15

There will be lots of lights and sirens in Barnwell County on November 15 but residents are not to worry – it is only a drill.

Barnwell County Emergency Management Director Roger Riley said South Carolina will be holding a full-scale disaster exercise that day. While the statewide exercise will simulate a mass power and communications outage, the Midlands Region will simulate an earthquake at a local high school resulting in mass casualties.

Toys for Tots returns to Barnwell Co.

A local veterans organization and a Bamberg County family are teaming up to provide toys for children this holiday season.

The Barnwell County Leathernecks, a Marine Corps League chapter, is working with Deanna Berry of Denmark to bring the Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” to Barnwell and five area counties.

The Leathernecks have wanted to start a Toys for Tots project locally for a while, says Bud Bazemore and Nigel Abner, members of the Marine Corps League.

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