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County council votes down pay raise

A vote on a pay raise for councilmen and an audit were among the many topics of discussion for the Barnwell County Council on Tuesday, Feb. 13 in a meeting that lasted over three and half hours.

A major topic for discussion was on a proposed $1,000 pay raise for each of the councilmen. The proposal was defeated by a 1-6 vote.

The raise was proposed by the county’s personnel committee, which is comprised of County Council members Jerry Creech and Don Harper, County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. and Business and HR Manager Debbie Fickling.

Chavis Auctions welcomes buyers & sellers

Andy Chavis has been fascinated with auctions since he was a little boy. Now the Williston native is the owner of his own auction house in his hometown.

Chavis Auctions opened on May 4, 2017 at 1157 Williston Way in Williston. They sell a variety of new and used merchandise on Friday and Saturday nights starting at 6 p.m.

“I want to have a variety of good merchandise for our customers,” said Chavis, who spends the rest of the week finding merchandise at yard sales, estate auctions, storage unit auctions and wholesale distributors.

Mediation could resolve long-time EDC issue and lawsuit

Representatives and attorneys for Barnwell County and the municipalities of Barnwell, Blackville and Williston will come together this week in hopes of resolving a lawsuit filed relating to the Barnwell County Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

In March 2017, the three towns filed suit against the county and the EDC. The suit alleges the County Council broke an agreement with the towns over direction of the EDC and the corporation’s assets.

Lent begins with message of giving God the best

The 2018 Barnwell County Lenten Worship Series kicked off with a message of giving God the best.

The first service was held on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Barnwell Presbyterian Church. Rev. Phillip Thomas of Second Baptist Church in Barnwell was the guest minister.

Thomas told the story of how Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead after everyone had given up hope.

“They buried Lazarus too soon,” said Thomas.

D45 starts staff recruitment efforts

Barnwell District 45 has started recruitment efforts for the next school year.

The district sent out letters of intent on Jan. 8 for employees to return by Jan. 19. This allowed the district to know who planned to retire. Two instructional aides, seven certified teachers and two guidance counselors indicated they planned to retire at the end of the current school year, said Superintendent Crissie Stapleton during the Feb. 8 school board meeting.

Two rescued from wrecked SUV

Two people were airlifted to a hospital after being extricated from their wrecked vehicle last week.

Armard Breeland, 16, of Beaufort, was driving a 2001 Ford SUV west on Highway 278 near the town of Kline when the vehicle ran off the left side of the roadway and struck several trees, said Lance Cpl. Judd Jones with the S.C. Highway Patrol. The wreck occurred on Friday, Feb. 9 around 7:58 a.m.

Catoes help couples for more than 25 years

“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you.”

Rev. Ken Catoe and his wife Lynn have not only taken those vows seriously during their 46 years of marriage, but have also led other married couples to understand the keys to a successful marriage.

“Marriage is designed for a lifetime,” said Rev. Catoe, who has been pastor of Hagood Avenue Baptist Church in Barnwell since 1992.

American Zinc Recycling apprentices earn awards

A local company is investing in its employees and, at the same time, their employees are investing in their future.

American Zinc Recycling in Snelling last week recognized five employees who had completed apprenticeships to become Electromechanical Technicians.

“Our program started six years ago with the support of the South Carolina Technical College System and Denmark Technical College (DTC),” said AZR plant manager Eric Stroom. “”It is a foundation element of our local organizational development initiatives.”

EDC given project updates

No action was taken by the Barnwell County Economic Development Commission on Feb. 5 but the commissioners met for close to an hour getting updates on projects.

Tommy Boyleston, who serves as the EDC’s executive director, said any votes on Economic Development Corporation assets would have to be in a corporation meeting. Since none was needed, the commission meeting would be for advisory matters only.

Barnwell County Council votes on three candidates for Administrator - none approved

“We don’t have an administrator,” said Barnwell County Council Chairman Lowell Jowers after three votes failed to approve the hiring of any of the three finalists during their regular council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

The first vote on Debbie Fickling resulted in a 3-3 deadlock. Chairman Jowers recused himself on an ethics ruling due to the fact that Fickling is his sister-in-law. Fickling is currently the business manager for the county.

Keel reappointed as SLED chief

Barnwell native Mark Keel has been reappointed as the state’s top law enforcement chief.

S.C. Governor Henry McMaster announced on Jan. 31 his decision to reappoint South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel. Having first been appointed to the position by Governor Nikki Haley in June 2011, Chief Keel’s distinguished law enforcement career spans over 40 years, according to a press release.

$1,000 raises proposed for county council

A $1,000 annual raise for Barnwell County Councilmen is one of two recommendations by the county Personnel Committee to be presented to the full council on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

The committee met on Wednesday, Jan. 24 to discuss the matter. The committee is comprised of County Council members Jerry Creech and Don Harper, County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. and Business and HR Manager Debbie Fickling.

Barnwell Co. Career Center director retiring in June

The Barnwell County Career Center is searching for a new director.

BCCC Director Sam McKay is planning to retire at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The school board unanimously accepted his resignation due to retirement during the Jan. 29 meeting. McKay’s last day is June 30.

“I’m going to miss the kids,” he said.

Vroom program steers parents as teachers

A new early learning initiative is looking to drive the growth and development of young brains.

Save the Children is partnering with Vroom, an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation, in communities that have the Early Steps to School Success (ESSS) program. This includes Barnwell County where there are ESSS programs in all three public school districts.

“It teaches parents how simple interactions can build brain capacity,” said Lakisha Bowman, an Early Steps to School Success Program Specialist with Save the Children.

Jack Keel’s grandson continues legacy

Jack Keel lived up to State Farm’s motto: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Now his grandson is hoping to continue that legacy.

Will Keel, the son of Mark and Jeri Keel, officially became the agent of the State Farm office located at 505 Reynolds Road, Barnwell, on Thursday, Feb. 1. The agency was started in October 1958 by his grandfather, who worked for State Farm for nearly 60 years until his death on Sept. 23, 2017.

Wil Alexander returns home to help people

A Barnwell native has returned home to open a personal injury law office and help his community.

Wil Alexander recently established the Law Office of William H. Alexander, LLC in downtown Barnwell after completing law school and a one-year stint as a law clerk in Chester.

Living in other places, including bigger cities, “made me realize what a special place Barnwell is. It’s special because of the people. I’m really happy to be back in the community,” said Wil, who is the son of Don and Garnette Alexander.

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