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County council approves budget - employees get raise

The Barnwell County Council approved a 3 percent raise for county employees and an allocation to purchase memberships in Air Methods Advantage for all Barnwell County citizens in a special meeting held Thursday, June 29.

There were no members of public present at the public hearing held just prior to the meeting so the council moved quickly to the special meeting agenda.

Third and final reading of the 2017-18 budget was approved unanimously by the council whose members expressed satisfaction at being able to provide the employee pay raise.

Students ‘Read to Succeed’ during summer camps

Read to Succeed Summer Reading Camps have been underway throughout the state during June to provide support for struggling third graders.

The target group is students with severe reading difficulties, particularly rising fourth graders, according to the S.C. Department of Education. Qualified teachers teach at the camps in an effort to improve the reading, writing and critical thinking skills of students through small group and individual instruction.

Blackville council approves budget, new fire chief

Blackville Town Council approved second and final reading of the town’s 2017-18 budget on Tuesday, June 27.

The $1,015,719 balanced budget was unanimously approved by the mayor and five council members present.

Budget documents comparing the current year with the proposed budget shows a drop in revenue from property taxes by $1,424 plus the elimination of $94,474.74 from a grant.

Career center funding splits D29 budget vote

A funding request for the Barnwell County Career Center split the Williston District 29 School Board as they finalized the 2017-2018 school year budget.

The board heard about a request by the Barnwell County Career Center for $12,500, although the board was made aware of the request a couple months ago. The request was made in order to keep the career center operating and is in addition to the money the three school districts pay annually for their students to attend the career center.

Blackville school board approves millage increase

A 2.17 millage increase was approved by the Blackville-Hilda District 19 School Board on June 28 as they adopted the district’s 2017-18 annual budget.

Board chairperson Carroll Priester said the board had gone through the budget multiple times over the last two meetings to find a means of balancing the budget without the millage increase.

Director of Federal Programs David Corder said there was an $86,100 decrease in federal and state funding this year. “It’s the largest cut we have had in five years,” he said.

Allendale County School Board suing to retain oversight of district

The Allendale County School District has filed a lawsuit seeking the S.C. Supreme Court’s help in stopping the state from taking over control of the district’s management.

The lawsuit, which was filed June 21 by the school district, came two days after S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced a “State of Emergency” due to concerns about the academic performance of students. This meant she would assume control of the district’s operations and strip the locally elected school board of its management authority.

Join in on the Red, White & Boom

This weekend will have a lot of sparkle to it with the Independence Day Celebration on Saturday, July 1.

The celebration, sponsored by the City of Barnwell, will be held at Veterans Memorial Park in Barnwell from 5 until 9:30 p.m., according to Lynn McEwen, Barnwell’s Downtown Development Director.

“This is a free, family-friendly event,” said McEwen. “People should bring chairs, blankets or anything they want to sit on. There will be food available from vendors, but folks are welcome to bring their own picnics.”

County budgeting for air medical transport insurance

A raise for county employees and an allocation to purchase memberships in Air Methods Advantage for all Barnwell County citizens are two major line items in the 2017-18 proposed county budget.

Barnwell County Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 29. It will be followed immediately by a special meeting whose primary purpose is to pass third and final reading of the budget.

The agenda also includes second reading of a proposal to rent office space at the county health department to Barnwell First Steps.

Towns file amended complaint against county, EDC

Lawyers for the three municipalities suing Barnwell County and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) filed an amended complaint Tuesday, June 20 in the Court of Common Pleas.

The City of Barnwell along with the Towns of Blackville and Williston are suing the county and the EDC after the Barnwell County Council passed an ordinance to dissolve the corporation, moving all its assets under the Barnwell County treasurer. The ordinance also directs that the 7-person commission which has overseen the corporation has no power other than advisory.

Suspect caught after chases in 2 counties

An Aiken County man wanted for a series of incidents in Williston was arrested Tuesday afternoon following chases in two counties by a number of agencies.

Keith Raymond Cunningham, 31, of Warrenville, was arrested June 27 by the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office after they were informed by the Williston Police Department about a stolen red Chevy S-10 pick-up truck.

Locals connect nationwide in radio field day

The Salkehatchie Amateur Radio Society (SARS) made contact with more than 400 ham radio operators in the United States and Canada as part of the nationwide annual Amateur Radio Field Day.

Amateur radio operations started at noon on Saturday, June 24 at the Barnwell County Emergency Operations Center at the Barnwell County Courthouse and ran continuously until noon on Sunday, June 25. Traditionally the field day has been held at the Barnwell County Airport, but the weather and the heat have taken a toll in past years.

Three people homeless after fire destroys house

Three people are homeless after a fire destroyed their home last week.

Firefighters from the Barnwell Rural, Blackville and Hilda fire departments responded to the home at 3450 Highway 70 around 11:15 a.m. on June 21 for a fire in the kitchen. However, responding firefighters found the home fully engulfed when they arrived.

“Once it got going, there was no stopping it,” said Barnwell County Fire Coordinator Timbo Williams, who was the first firefighter to arrive on scene.

First Baptist Church members receive Red Cross training

Twenty-two members of Barnwell First Baptist Church attended Red Cross training on Saturday, June 24 at the church.

The training was held in response to Hurricane Matthew when there were no local Red Cross trained residents to help run the shelter that was set up at Barnwell Elementary for coastal evacuees. According to Barnwell County Emergency Management Director Roger Riley, there were only one or two trained residents in the entire county before the June 24 training.

“It’s important to have a local presence,” said Riley.

Wreck into pole knocks out power, injures one

A wreck into a power pole knocked out power to two businesses and sent one person to the hospital.

Just after 10 a.m. on Friday, June 23, a white Isuzu box truck owned by the LKQ auto parts supply company crashed into a pole in the Boney Motor Company parking lot, knocking it and three phase transformers down. The pole landed on top of the truck while the power lines fell in the Boney Motor and KFC parking lots.

Blackville Town Council receives departmental updates

Departmental updates and approval of committee members were the focus of the Blackville Town Council meeting held June 19.

The council voted 5-0 to appoint Ms. Frenchie Smalls and Rev. Terry Smalls as new members of the town’s Recreation Committee. Councilman Fred Orr and Mayor Michael Beasley were unable to attend the meeting which was led by Mayor Pro-Tem Vivian Alston.

Police Lt. Washington reported to the council that the department was “fully staffed” with six full-time officers, several part-time and one reserve officer.

Public invited to Amateur Radio Field Day on Saturday and Sunday

The Salkehatchie Amateur Radio Society (SARS) will be participating in the nationwide annual Amateur Radio Field Day the weekend of June 24.

Amateur radio operations will occur starting at noon on Saturday, June 24 at the Barnwell County Emergency Operations Center at the Barnwell County Courthouse and will run continuously until noon on Sunday, June 25, said Emergency Management Director Roger Riley.

The call sign of the SARS is KK4BQ.

State takes over Allendale schools

“Continued poor student academic performance” has led the state’s education chief to take over management of the Allendale County School District.

South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman declared a “State of Emergency” in the district on June 19, less than two weeks after a community meeting where she hinted at the possibility. This is the second time the state has seized control of the district as the state last took over control from 1999 to 2007.

Williamson found ‘not guilty’ in 2013 Blackville murder

There were tears in the courtroom following the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Dustin Williamson.

Tears of joy flowed from the relatives of Williamson who sat on one side of the courtroom as tears of grief poured from the eyes of Roger Lee Isaac’s sister who was seeking a conviction in the 2013 murder of her brother.

Williamson was on trial last week where he stood accused of fatally shooting Isaac in the face on May 30, 2013 in the middle of Oak Street in Blackville.

Four vie to be police chief

Two current Barnwell Police Department (BPD) employees are among four experienced law enforcement officers in the running to be police chief.

After 16 people applied for the job, the police committee reviewed all applications and invited four candidates for interviews on June 19. The committee interviewed Brian Johnson (captain and current interim chief of the BPD), Brian Owens (detective with the BPD), Timothy Wilke (police captain for Pelion), and Chad Dilling Sr. (chief of public safety for the Town of Ehrhardt).

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