Susan Delk - Staff Writer

Blackville gets clean bill of fiscal health with audit

Blackville Town Council brought the year to an end with its final monthly meeting Dec. 21 with updates from town departments and a report from an auditing firm.

Melissa Hallbick a certified public accountant with Webster Rogers, reviewed the town's audit with Mayor Jackie Holman and council members during the meeting.

Hallbick said the town's revenues and expenses were "pretty comparable to the previous year."

Hallbick also said the town's cash balance remained relatively steady.

Home (away from home) for the holidays

Christmas has come and gone in Barnwell County but memories of it will remain - especially for several Fort Gordon soldiers.

"Christmas in the Country" was the brainchild of Holly Rimes, the event coordinator for S.C. FamilyFest. The idea was to bring soldiers into the community who were not be able to go home for Christmas.

Lt. Col. Edwin Larkin, the commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Gordon said the soldiers enjoyed the time here in the area.

"They just couldn't have been happier," he said. "It was a wonderful outpouring from the community."

County animal shelter helps with soldier's holiday wish

A new puppy for Christmas - that is the wish of many little boys and girls each year. It was also the Christmas wish of a soldier, Spc. Allen Esposito.

Esposito was serving in Iraq when his long-time companion, a Labrador retriever, Shelby, died.

"The Lab we had died while I was over here and I have been heartbroken. She was a great with my family and friends," Esposito said.

He said Shelby was a one-in-a-trillion dog.

Esposito brought her to Fort Bragg, N.C. all the time.

Area group hosts holiday for soldiers

What is a Wounded Warrior?

Although there are specific criteria for qualification to the program, a simple answer would be a wounded warrior is defined as any disabled veteran who has served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

And Barnwell County residents are warming to welcome some of these warriors to the area for Christmas.

Holly Rimes, event coordinator for S. C. FamilyFest, has been organizing the event for several months and as time draws near, is putting the finishing touches on plans for the event.

Williston changes policy after clerk's arrest

Williston Town Council voted on and/or discussed the following during their regular monthly council meeting Dec. 14.

Council approved a corporate resolution which is required to change the names of the individuals who have authority to sign checks for the town.

This change comes on the heels of the former town clerk, Patricia Fowler, being arrested on charges of embezzlement. Fowler is charged with embezzling more than $ 35,723.63.

Currently, Neely is the interim town clerk until a new clerk can be hired. The town also has an assistant town clerk, Betty Jordan.

Holiday home away from home planned for wounded warriors

The scene is set - brightly lit Christmas trees overflowing with presents. Friends and family gather around the table for a holiday meal. The children's faces shine in anticipation of Santa.

Now, imagine all this without being able to enjoy it with family.

This scenario will be repeated for many throughout the holiday season.

It will also be enacted for some soldiers in the area who will not get home. These are soldiers in the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Gordon, Augusta, Ga.

One local organization is ready to change the holiday outlook for those soldiers.

New phone styles help people with disabilities

Talking to someone on the phone becomes a frustrating experience when words are not clearly understood. Being able to see the numbers one dials is important but maybe nearly impossible for those with vision impairments.

These residents could soon have telephone equipment that will enable them to enjoy talking on the phone once again.

The South Carolina Equipment Distribution program allows residents with hearing, vision and speech loss the ability to use a telephone once again through new and innovative equipment. Qualified residents can received the equipment free of charge.

Blackville Town Council welcomes new members

With the raising of four right hands, Blackville swore in three new council members and one returning member.

On Nov. 16, Mayor Jackie Holman administered the oath of office to the newest members prior to a reception and its regular meeting.

The new members include: Vivian Alston, Allen Harrison and Michael Beasley. Councilman Rubert "Russ" Reed was the returning incumbent.

The town of Blackville opted to not hold elections for this election because there was no opposition to any of those running for seats on council.

Williston town council makes changes on police policy

The Williston Town Council voted on and/or discussed the following items at its Nov. 9 regular meeting.

Scott Neely, the town administrator, told council a resident called town hall to discuss a problem with traffic crossing over the former railroad property from Sunnifield Drive to Main Street.

Because of the dangers, including a ditch-like area made from water run-off, council approved a motion to allow Neely to barricade the area to stop traffic per S.C. Department of Transportation standards.

Rain doesn't dampen zeal for Relay for Life's new funding season

With rain pouring down the evening of Nov. 10, the festivities changed venues - but the message was the same - raising funds to have more birthdays.

The annual Relay for Life kick-off was held at the Barnwell County Library instead of the Circle -- its original location.

The theme for this year is - more birthdays.

Barbara Wilhelm, the chairperson for the upcoming Relay, related a comparison of the time Relay is held.

"Relay for Life is an overnight event because ‘cancer never sleeps,' she said.

Barnwell council learns how census counts for city

Paul Sheppard, with the U.S. Census Bureau, spoke with council about the upcoming census.

Sheppard said there were three main points the Census Bureau wants people to hear; It is safe, easy and important.

The newly revised Census forms will be mailed during the month of March to residents, he said.

The new form has only 10 questions for the head of the household and only seven questions about the remaining members of the house, he said.

In the last census, South Carolina ranked 49th out of the 50 states for forms being returned, he said.

Event hopes to bring home to wounded soldiers during holidays

For some, the Christmas season does not bring about joyful anticipation - for some it is more like dread.

The reasons can vary but usually it includes being alone during the holidays.

In fact, national figures show a sharp increase in suicide rates during the holiday season, which nearly doubles for the general population.

For soldiers that rate nearly triples, said Holly Rimes, the event coordinator for S.C. Family Fest.

Rimes has coordinated several events in the area for disabled individuals as well as for the wounded warriors.

Issues still circle around downtown parking limit

The Circle was the center of attention again during a recent Barnwell City Council meeting.

For the Nov. 2 City Council meeting, business owners and other concerned residents came to comment on the two-hour parking limits for downtown that were approved in October.

On Oct. 5, council gave approval for City Administrator John Zawacki to move forward with plans to limit parking to two hours downtown.

The recommendation for the change came from the sanitation and streets committee, which is comprised of Councilmen W.C. Black and J.T. Atkinson.

Event shines bright lights on older adults

Light. We use it to move around in the dark - to point us in the right direction.

Sometimes that light points us in a new direction.

This holiday season will be filled with lights - white lights and beautiful colored lights.

A local charity is hoping residents will see those lights for more than just the beauty it creates.

Jennifer Barnum, like many others, has felt the pain of losing a loved one. However, she put action behind her grief.

In 2000, before moving to South Carolina from Wisconsin, Barnum was her mother's caretaker for many years.

Blackville foregoes holding town elections

Although Barnwell and Williston opted to hold their municipal elections when no opposition came forth, Blackville has opted to forgo the expense.

The decision will seat newcomers Vivian Alston, Michael Beasley and Allen Harrison to council, as well as incumbent Rubert Reed.

Harriet McKnight, the clerk and treasurer for the town said the town decided not to hold elections based on a state law.

The law says municipalities do not have to hold elections when no opposition comes forth for the vacant seats, she said.

County animal shelter hopes to curb its euthanasia rate

Rows of kennels. Lots of barking and meowing. The sad eyes and the tails, slowly wagging, how does one choose.

The decision is hard. It will change lives.

Unfortunately the situation is not one whether a puppy, kitten, cat or dog gets a new loving family.

It is whether the animal is euthanized. This decision has to be repeated many times each month.

In September alone, the Barnwell County Animal Shelter euthanized 67 dogs and 57 cats.

They took in a combined 180 new animals to the shelter in the same month.

Hilda fire damages house, leaves dog hot but unharmed

A passing firefighter noticed smoke coming from a home on Galilee Road Monday morning around 11 a.m.

The home is owned by Summa Builders, Inc. and was being rented by Johnny Kinard.

Hilda fire chief Billy Joe Sharpe said an electric space heater was the cause of the blaze.

There was no one home at the time of the fire, at least no humans.

Kinard's dog, a chihuahua, survived the fire and smoke.

"It was a miracle that little dog survived," Sharpe said.

Returning Williston Council members return to town business

There was some swearing at the regular monthly council meeting in Williston Oct. 12.

The reason for the swearing was a good one as council members and the mayor were sworn into office.

Mayor Tommy Rivers, council members Wanda Matthews, Milton Widener and Jerry Holmes all took the oath before the meeting.

Although no opposition came forth for the candidates, Williston, like neighboring Barnwell, held the elections with only a small fraction of voters participating.

Widener was re-elected as mayor pro-tem.

Getting around Circle parking

Downtown Barnwell has seen quite a few changes over the past year - from the renovation of the old bank building to accommodate the city hall offices to the restructuring the Circle traffic.

One more change is already in the works.

At the regular meeting of the Barnwell City Council Oct. 5, council gave approval for City Administrator John Zawacki to move forward with plans to limit parking to two hours in the downtown area.

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