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Anderson County Seeing Benefits of S.C. Gas Tax Hike

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

For the past two years, Anderson County and their fellow South Carolina motorists have paid more at the pump under a gas-tax hike lawmakers said would lead to the largest investment in state history to fix the state’s damaged and deteriorating roads.

Since going into effect July 1, 2017,  the four-cents-on-a-dollar gas tax has generated $149 million in additional funding for state road improvements. After almost two years of collecting the extra tax revenue, counties are beginning to see results.

So far, the state has collected $541 million in new road money from increases in the gas tax and user fees. Of that, about $116 million has been distributed, including $13 million in tax credits to motorists and $35 million to county road committees for local roads. This year was the first year S.C. residents could submit receipts for gas purchases and vehicle maintenance to claim a tax credit on their state income taxes.

Almost $13 million of the state fund is committed to state road construction projects in Anderson County. The county has already completed $1.5 million in state road projects from the new gas tax trust fund. The largest bulk of these projects, some of which has been completed, include:

$932,188 for construction/repair on Belton-Honea Path Highway.

$521,035 for Whitehall Road

$42,042 for Pearman Dairy Road

$14,599 for S.C. 81 SouthMasters Boulevard

Future construction/repair slated to begin soon on state roads in Anderson County includes:

$4,922,603 - Belton Highway; Anderson Street

$2,821,994 - S.C. 81 South; South Murray Avenue; Liberty Highway

$2,520.536 - Lebanon Road; Concord Road; Harris Bridge Road

$981,713 - East River Street

$536.667 - Greenville Street/S.C. 81 North 

$489,822 = Belton-Honea Path Highway

$328,056 - Reed Road

$131,618 - Old Asbury Road; Whitehall Avenue; Three and Twenty Road; St. Paul Road; McGee Road; Big Creek Road; North Hamilton Street; Palmetto Road; Three Bridges Road; River Road; Old Anderson Road; Shady Grove Road; Standridge Road

$58,674 - S.C. 153

$33,064 - East-West Parkway 

More than 30 other state roads in the county are also slated for construction/repair as well, but have not been given specific amounts by the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

Additionally, almost $19 million is new gas tax revenue will be used for development of state roads in Anderson County.

The current state road development plan includes:

$11,728.648 - Highway 24 (four projects); East River Street; Clemson Boulevard; and West River Street

$3,770,494 - Easley Highway

$1,881,865 - Harbin Drive; Jackson Street; Rogers Street; Bleckley Street

$476,007 - Daniels Street; Sanders Street; Wilson Street; Kennedy Street; Boundary Street; Osborne Avenue; Collingwood Drive; Dooley Avenue; Shannon Way

A total of $610,231 is set aside from the new tax money for rural road safety and bridges in Anderson County. 

Rural Road Safety projects include $600,321 for four projects on Highway 24.

Rainey Road is slated for the only current bridge project on the list with $470,000 for the project.

The delay in spending and completing projects stems in part from it taking time for contractors to schedule the work, S.C. Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall told The State newspaper. Hurricane Florence, other storms and “unusually wet weather” also have slowed progress, she said. 

Statewide plans to ramp up its resurfacing program about $60 million each year, and drivers will notice.

 “As we get into the spring and summer months, we will see those numbers increase pretty significantly,” Hall said.

Even with the delays, however, the new gas tax has led to a record level of road work underway across the state, according to newly released records from the S.C. Department of Transportation.

For the first time in the agency’s history, the total amount of road work underway on the state’s highways exceeded $3 billion in a year, three times the state’s typical annual spending on roads. 

Money from the gas tax increase, is scheduled to pay for $812 million in projects currently under construction and another $169 million in development, according to the DOT. Those projects, combined with the $19 million already completed, total $1 billion in investments. 

A bulk of the road money, nearly $650 million, will pay for paving 2,240 miles of state roads. About $246 million is earmarked to assist with interstate widening projects. Another $95 million is set aside for rural road safety improvements, such as widening shoulders and adding guardrails, and $10 million will replace 15 structurally deficient bridges.


S.C. Lawmakers Return to Tackle McMaster Budget Vetoes

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina lawmakers on Tuesday headed back to the Statehouse for one more time in 2019 to take up Gov. Henry McMaster's limited vetoes of the $9 billion state budget.

The governor worked with legislative leaders on the state's spending plan, so they were in agreement on big items like $159 million on teacher raises, $65 million on a new fund to help attract businesses to the state's poorest school districts and $67 million set aside so every income tax filer can get a $50 rebate check.

Many of the 28 items worth about $41 million that McMaster vetoed out of the budget went to items the governor said were requests lawmakers made without saying exactly where the money was going.

One big veto rejected $11 million for the Judicial Department for a case management system. McMaster said money needs to be spent on a system that can work with all parts of the criminal justice system.

In the past two years, lawmakers waited several months or until they returned in January to vote on whether to override budget vetoes.

But House Speaker Jay Lucas said he thinks it is best to have the budget complete before the fiscal year starts July 1.

"That's just best practice," Lucas said.

About two dozen members of public education nonprofit "SC for Ed" met lawmakers as they returned to remind them there is still work that needs to be done in terms of education reform.

WCSC-TV reports the size of Tuesday's group was nowhere near that of the May 1 rally that brought thousands of teachers to Columbia. But their message was the same.

Lawmakers didn't discuss any education legislation or funding, but the group wanted to let lawmakers know they are still there. In the next few months, lawmakers plan to meet with educators who won teacher of the year in their districts to continue that discussion.

"We think using the district teachers of the year gives them a broad perspective geographically ... to get research and advice from," SC for Ed spokeswoman Lisa Ellis said.

The Senate Education Subcommittee will hold a meeting July 8 to continue the debate on the Education Reform Bill.

Lawmakers also could consider the only bill of nine passed in the May special session that was vetoed by the governor.

The proposal would allow erasing of a public disorderly conduct charge for first offenders under certain conditions.

In his veto message, McMaster says criminal records can be forgiven, but shouldn't be erased.

"Criminal history, like all history, should not be erased. Rather, compassion should be informed by fact and should not be forced upon unwitting prospective employers and other interested parties," McMaster wrote in his veto message. "An individual's criminal history can be instructive, but it need not be destructive."


P.A.W.S. Dog Park Groundbreaking Friday

Anderson County P.A.W.S.will break ground for a new dog park Friday at 10 a.m. at the facility at 1320 Hwy 29 South in Anderson.

The P.A.W.S. property includes 12 acres of donated land. On an average day, 150 large dogs need a large area to be walked and to stretch their legs.

The park will contain 10 play areas, an amphitheater to host dog friendly movie nights, yoga, birthday parties and other events.

P.A.W.S. raised over $60,000 in donations and fundraisers. A recent donation of $100,000 was received for the new park that will wind around the P.A.W.S. facility.  This park will serve the animals in our community offer potential pet ownwers and their pets the opportunity to foster positive social interactions. 

“This park gives back to the community. People love to show off and talk about their animals. This will be the perfect opportunity to spend time outdoors with your pet and others,” said Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn. 


YMCA, AIM Collecting Produce for Kids in Need

The Anderson Area YMCA and AIM are hoping to put more fresh produce in the hands of kinds who need it this summer.

"Produce with a Purpose," is an outreach project that aims to provide kids access to nutritional meals and healthy produce during out-of-school months. The YMCA is now accepting donated produce from excess supplies from gardens, farmers markets, or grocery stores.

Produce drop off are Wednesdays and Thursdays at the YMCA membership services desk now through the end of August. Last year more 417 pounds of produce as part of this program.

More than 13 million children and teens live with food insecurity and limited access to healthy foods. That means 1 in 6 U.S. children don’t know where their next meal will come from.

The YMCA partnership with Anderson Interfaith Ministries (AIM), hopes to ensure kids have access to nutritional meals and healthy produce during out-of-school time in the summer, when they need it the most.


City of Anderson Blocking Off Part of South Main for Sewer Work

Expect some delays in downtown traffic, as the City of Anderson Wastewater Deparment begins work on sewer lines under the first block of South Main Street today.

Detours will be posted, but be aware the block which houses Sullivan's Metropolitan Grill and other businesses will be shut off to through traffic during the sewer work.


AU's New Literature Course Brings "Hamilton" to the Classroom

Anderson University's innovative English course focuses on award-winning writer and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda and bringing Broadway to the classroom.

The class, “Creative Inquiry Through Literature,” most notably featured Miranda’s works on “Hamilton: An American Musical,”and “In the Heights.” Dr. Drew Stowe, a professor of English who taught the “Hamilton” course, said that he is aware that some universities have studied “Hamilton” from a historical perspective, but a literature course not only on “Hamilton” but also on the works of Miranda is on the cutting edge.

“In literature, we talk about authors across different periods, but for this class it’s wonderful to check Twitter and see the latest from Lin-Manuel Miranda," said Stowe. "It adds depth to a class to be engaged with a creator who is engaging with the world at present.”

The “Hamilton” course let students explore literary history as it is being written. In addition to “Hamilton” and “In The Heights,” students studied other widely recognized works that Miranda has been involved with, including “Moana” and “Mary Poppins Returns.”

“The language and its rhythms, and the skill that the stories are told with in ‘Hamilton,’are absolutely among the most clever and purposeful wordsmithing I have ever seen or heard in any context,” Stowe said. “I’m not the first to say it, but I think Lin-Manuel Miranda is a modern Shakespeare, and I believe his works will be remembered in 300 years. It’s a testament to Miranda’s creative genius: working hard and surrounding himself with brilliance; that this musical has been able to capture the popular zeitgeist has made the class popular on campus.”

The relevance of Miranda’s works also gave students a firm understanding of Miranda’s cultural context that allowed them to analyze his works in a distinct way.

“In class we are dealing with material that was recently created so I don’t have to explain why it is popular; the students already get that," he said. "This allows us to really look at the work in an incredibly detailed, nuanced way to discover all the different creative elements that are in the musical.”

“(The class) was very interesting in that we took a musical and viewed it through a literary lens—something I had never done before,” said AU student William Bell. “It has piqued my interest because it made me realize that literature is all around us and isn’t necessarily limited to books with decaying spines and yellowed pages.”

As the course title suggests, creativity was an important component of the “Hamilton” course as well. For their final project, students created their own spin on Miranda’s canon by generating a musical scene and explaining why they think their piece could add something to any of Miranda’s works that they studied throughout the semester.

“Dr. Stowe’s … class asks students to approach literature as an active, creative and collaborative process,” said AU Assistant Provost Dr. Nathan Cox. “There are many excellent literature courses that engage students with outstanding classic texts that have withstood the test of time, but this course focuses on more recent and familiar pop culture examples. Students explore creative processes that lead to powerful and relevant story telling through a variety of different genres, including musical theatre, animation and others.”

“One of the main goals of this class is to help students move beyond thinking about creativity and to move toward being creative,” Stowe said. “As much as anything, it is designed to help people consider that it took six years and hundreds of hours from numerous people to make ‘Hamilton’ come to fruition. Thus, if you have a thing you are passionate about, it’s going to take a lot of work. You are going to have to leverage the collective intelligence of the people around you.”

The “Hamilton” course satisfies the creative inquiry degree requirement, a part of AU’s core curriculum.

The course was nearly full this semester, and Dr. Stowe said it will likely be offered again in the future.


S.C. to Expand Hemp Farm Acreage by 1,200 Percent

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina is projecting a 1,200 percent increase in hemp farming acreage, as the state looks to join in on the booming market with others in the region.

The Post and Courier reports South Carolina has 113 permitted growers this year planting about 3,300 acres, up from 20 growers and 256 acres last year.

Jason Eargle is the founder of growing and processing center Brackish Solutions. He says the market for hemp is growing exponentially and could expand into the textile and biofuel industries.

The 2018 Farm Bill removed federal limitations on hemp cultivation and the plant's federal status as a Schedule 1 drug.

Eargle was among those pushing expansion of the state's program in response.

"We'll get left behind if we don't open this up to more people," Eargle said. "If federal law allows it, why should we cap it? We wanted to not hold back our state from competing."

Most of the hemp demand stems from the popularity of CBD oil.

With five years in the hemp-farming business, Kentucky has 1,035 approved growers and the region's largest acreage, at 6,700.

"I think we're in a really good position right now to be a solid hemp state," said Vanessa Elsalah, hemp outreach specialist for the state Agriculture Department.

The agriculture department's hemp division fields multiple calls daily from potential new growers hoping to plant in 2020.

"Since that law has been passed, (state Agriculture Department officials) are really jumping in head first," Eargle said. "If they keep doing that, I think we will very quickly catch up with and surpass our neighbors."


Meals on Wheels Needs Drivers in Powdersville/Wren Area

Meals on Wheels of Anderson needs drivers for the Powdersville and Wren area.

If you are able to take on a route regularly or just want to fill in as needed, please contact Jessica at 225-6800.


DHEC Encouraging HIV, STD Testing in S.C.

COLUMBIA, S.C. - National HIV Testing Day is Thursday, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging South Carolinians to get tested for HIV and other STDs.

As of December 31, 2017, there are nearly 20,000 South Carolina residents living with diagnosed HIV infection (including AIDS).

“Early detection through testing for HIV remains essential to successfully identifying and treating the disease and is critical to preventing new infections” said Ali Mansaray, Director of DHEC’s STD/HIV and Viral Hepatitis Division.

Between 2016 and 2017, over 1,500 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in S.C. Of those newly diagnosed, 66 percent were African American, 22 percent were white, and 8 percent were Hispanic.  

Much like new HIV infections, African Americans are disproportionately impacted when it comes to the total number of people living with HIV in South Carolina. As of December 31, 2017, African-American men account for the highest number of individuals living with HIV in SC, which was 46 percent of the total population living with HIV; 22 percent were African-American women, 20 percent were white men and 5 percent were white women. Five percent of people living with HIV were Hispanic/Latino (men and women).

 “Most people in the early stages of HIV infection have no symptoms,” Mansaray said. “Early diagnosis can link people to services that will help them stay healthy longer, benefit most from treatment, reduce costly hospital visits and help prevent transmission to others.”

CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Knowing your HIV status allows you to take steps to keep you and your partner healthy. National HIV Testing Day promotes HIV testing and early diagnosis.

Participating health departments will be offering free HIV/STD testing on June 27. Appointments are encouraged. For more information about HIV testing, as well as local HIV testing sites, call 1-855-4SCDHEC (1-855-472-3432), or visit DHEC's service locator at


No Confederate Flag Flying at Statehouse This Year

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — This year, the Confederate flag won't temporarily be raised at the South Carolina Statehouse to mark the day it was permanently taken down.

A group calling for racial fairness — Showing Up for Racial Justice Columbia — has a permit to rally on the grounds July 10.

The South Carolina Secessionist Party has raised a Confederate flag on a temporary flagpole the past three years to protest the date the rebel banner was permanently removed.

Showing Up for Racial Justice Columbia founder Sarah Keeling told The State newspaper she applied for the permit the minute it was available so the Secessionist Party couldn't gather.

Officials review requests to hold events partly to prevent conflicts with other groups.

The Secessionist Party may not have shown up since the group has splintered.


Three New Roundabouts Coming to Anderson

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

In an effort to ease traffic flow and increase public safety, three more roundabouts are in the works in Anderson. Site of new roundabout scheduled to be completed by 2021.

The first two - one on West Market Street bringing together Southwood Street and Monroe Street - could be completed by 2021. 

A third - at the convergence/intersection of Midway Road, Crestview Road and Harriet Circle - is still in the planning stages, but could be in operation by 2023. 

In South Carolina, the most recent study of intersections converted to a single-lane roundabout by the Traffic Safety Office of the S.C. Department of Transportation have shown to reduce the total crashes by 64 percent and injury crashes by 79 percent. 

“They are definitely safer,” said Holt Hopkins, assistant administrator for Anderson County and the man in charge of roads and bridges in the county. “They are something different, and people go into them terrified, which is a good thing because it slows everybody down.” 

Hopkins said roundabouts improve safety by reducing “”T-bone” and rear-end accidents. Site of new roundabout scheduled to be completed by 2021.

The SCDOT is responsible for studies on choosing best sites and solutions for traffic safety, which sometimes include roundabouts.

The two current roundabouts in Anderson - one at Concord Road at Harris Bridge Road and the other at the intersection of Brown Road and Kings Road - anecdotally seem to have reduced accidents and injuries at the sites, though it’s too early to confirm this speculation with data.

Site of new roundabout scheduled to be completed by 2023.


University of South Carolina Oks .6 Percent Tuition Hike

The University of South Carolina will boost in-state tuition .6 percent as part of a buget plan approved by the university's board of trustees today. 

In 2018, the school increased tuition for in-state students 2.9 percent. Undergraduate tuition for 2019-2020 in Columbia will be $12,688 for residents of South Carolina and 

Per-semester undergraduate tuition this fall in Columbia will be $6,344 for in-state residents and $33,928 for those who are not residents of the state

This budget, approved by the General Assembly and  the governor, includes an additional $18.7 million in funding for university system operations and $36.8 million in one-time funding for system-wide capital needs.


Cooperative Baptists Want Racial Reconcilliation

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The 2019 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which includes First Baptist Church of Anderson and Boulevard Church, general assembly included a day focused on racial justice, including a worship service featuring testimonies from pastors deeply engaged in the work toward racial justice and reconciliation.

“The work of reconciliation is challenging to preach, and even more challenging to practice,” said Erica Whitaker, senior pastor of Buechel Park Baptist Church, which partners with Von Speigel Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

For Buechel Park, the work of racial reconciliation and justice required rethinking and relearning basic biblical stories of salvation and working against the knee-jerk reaction to “fix” things in their partner church.

“We have a long way to go but we’ve come so far,” Whitaker explained. “We have done the hard work of getting out of the land of comfort zones, crossing the sea of the stale, everyday ministry, and entering the wilderness where God shapes and forms a community who is always willing to risk failure for the sake of salvation.”

Tables of fellowship

Scott Dickison, pastor of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., described the fear of a church member prior to a pilgrimage to Montgomery, Ala., with members of partner congregation The First Baptist Church in Macon.

This—and many other hopes and fears—are shared around tables of fellowship among these partner congregations, Dickison said. The hard work of reconciliation started with Easter egg hunts, youth trips and potluck suppers—worshipping around tables and breaking bread together as all share hopes and fears, he noted. The pilgrimage to Montgomery brought these partners out from around the table, where they were confronted with their hopes and fears head on, he noted.

“My hope is that this shared experience will lead us into the next phase of our covenant together, in which we at the First Baptist Church of Christ will need to dig deeper into this painful history in order to confront our painful present,” Dickison said.

CBF joins Angela Project summit

A diverse group of Cooperative Baptists gathered at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham for the third summit of The Angela Project and a commemoration of the 400-year anniversary of black enslavement.

The Angela Project was launched as part of a multi-denomination Baptist coalition led by Simmons College of Kentucky and including the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc., The Progressive National Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley reflected on the sermon of Martin Luther King Jr. at the funeral for the three victims of the 1963 bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church.

“Standing in this place, I can’t help but think of the words that Dr. King spoke at the funeral of three of the young women who died in the bombing of this church,” Baxley said. “Almost 60 years have passed since Dr. King spoke those words, and we as Cooperative Baptists are joined to the work of The Angela Project because honesty compels us to recognize that the dark of the storm has not yet passed.

“I wonder as we gather in this space today and as we listen to each other—I wonder how the risen Jesus and the Holy Spirit want to stir our consciousness.”

The blood of the four young girls who lost their lives in the bombing of the church serve as a “redemptive force,” Baxley said, and call Christians to acknowledge that we live in a time where “photo ops and pulpit swaps are not enough.”

“How is the risen Jesus asking his church—black, white—to partner together to bring a new day?” Baxley asked. “There is still much to be done for Dr. King’s prayer in this place to be fulfilled. Today, we come to listen, to be challenged, to be remade.”

Angela Project attendees also heard greetings from Arthur Price, senior pastor of 16th Street Baptist Church, Brenda Girton-Mitchell on behalf of the president of Progressive National Baptist Convention and Jeremy Powell, representing the North American Baptist Fellowship and Baptist World Alliance. They also heard presentations from Joshua Poe, urban developer and city planner from Louisville, Ky., and Cheri Mills, author of 40 Days of Prayer for the Liberation of American Descendants of Slavery.

Two individuals and three ministries were presented with the Emmanuel McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer Award.

Individual award recipients were Francis Ford, executive director of Sowing Seeds of Hope in Perry County, Ala., and Sean Roberds, pastor of First Baptist Church in Herndon, Va.

Ministry organization recipients were CBF Arkansas for its advocacy on behalf of justice, equity and unity; and Friends of Justice, an organization committed to reforming the criminal justice system through empowering local communities and working to hold public officials accountable for equal justice, along with Empower West in Louisville, Ky.