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Anderson's First Tiny Home Construction Well Under Way


New Santee Cooper CEO Salary Double his Predecessor's

BY JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As lawmakers debate if South Carolina's publicly owned utility should continue to exist, the board that runs the company voted Tuesday to hire a new leader and pay him double the salary of its last permanent director.

Mark Bonsall started as Santee Cooper's CEO immediately after the board's unanimous vote. He was given an 18 month contract at $1.1 million a year with the chance to earn $250,000 extra if he meets certain performance targets that were not publicly discussed at Tuesday's meeting.

Bonsall's 41 year utility career before Tuesday was spent in Arizona with Salt River Project, where he rose to CEO for seven years before retiring in May 2018.

Bonsall takes over a utility whose future is uncertain. The last permanent Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter, stepped down after leading the utility into about $4 billion in additional debt after it bought a minority stake in two nuclear reactors that were never built at the V.C. Summer site north of Columbia. Carter was paid about $540,000 a year.

Legislators worried about how that debt may affect not just the 2 million customers who get power from Santee Cooper or though South Carolina's electric cooperatives who buy it from the utility. They also are worried that debt could hit every state resident and voted in this year's session to gather information and possible bids for a private utility to buy the state owned agency or at least manage it.

Supporters of local control for Santee Cooper hope over the next several months to convince lawmakers and Gov. Henry McMaster — who is also pushing hard to sell the utility — that it can keep rates low without being taken over by a company whose goal is to turn a profit.

Acting Santee Cooper Board Chairman Dan Ray said the utility used consultants to negotiate with Bonsall and his $1.1 million salary is about in the middle of what directors of similar sized utilities make.

Bonsall is also the first leader hired outside Santee Cooper in four decades, so the utility had to pay a competitive salary, Ray said.


Report: S.C. Ranks Second in Holiday Highway DUI Deaths

In a new study, the team at Niznik Behavioral Health has analyzed data spanning from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2013-2017 to examine holiday-related fatalities in America and how the data have changed over time Fatality Analysis Reporting System to uncover how safe the roads really are. Unfortunately, South Carolina stood out:

  • South Carolina ranks second for the deadliest state for drinking and driving during the holidays, only behind Missouri
  • July 4th, in particular, is the most dangerous holiday for drinking and driving in S.C.
  • Nationwide, summer holidays are the deadliest—Fourth of July has the largest percent of monthly fatalities (15%) but Memorial Day and Labor Day are tied for second (13%)

Compared to an average day, crash fatalities involving alcohol increase about five times during holidays and considering South Carolina is one of the deadliest states for drivers, your readers at Anderson Observer want to know the risks involved before getting behind the wheel.

View the full Niznik report here.


New Clemson Outdoor Fitness Center to Open in Fall

Clemson University Reports

Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Resembling more of a large cabin than a traditional university facility, the new Outdoor Education Center on the grounds of the Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Center will soon add a unique flavor to an area best known to Clemson of the past as Y Beach. Slated to open later this fall, the project will add 16,000 square feet of dedicated outdoor recreation space and include a pair of academic classrooms, boat and equipment storage, adventure trip rentals and a covered outdoor patio overlooking Lake Hartwell.

When completed, the center will serve as the new home for Clemson Outdoor Recreation Education — affectionately known as CORE — and will be open to anyone owning a Campus Recreation membership.

“We think we have the best outdoor recreation program in the country, and it deserves a home that suits that title,” said Chris Fiocchi, senior director of Campus Recreation. “We want this facility to be a destination on campus.”

The best example of the center’s unique design comes from the application of cross-laminated timber (CLT) on its floors, ceilings and beams — all highly visible from Highway 93. Around the time the Clemson University Board of Trustees was approving the formation of the multidisciplinary Wood Utilization + Design Institute (WU+D) in 2013, professor Scott Schiff and a creative inquiry composed of civil engineering students began studying CLT and the strength of various species of wood.

Michael Stoner was one of the undergraduate students who made up the creative inquiry team responsible for first testing southern yellow pine CLT. Under the guidance of Dr. Weichiang Pang — an associate professor who serves as part of the WU+D team — Stoner is now in the final stages of pursuing a Ph.D. at Clemson in civil engineering. His research has focused on CLT’s performance under the duress of high winds and debris.

Douglas fir and spruce fir are the most common species used in CLT application, but the creative inquiry team narrowed its focus on the potential use of southern yellow pine, which is in plentiful supply across the southeastern part of the United States. Following tests in the institute’s labs, it was determined to meet the required performance standard used in manufacturing.

“We didn’t invent any of this, it was actually first developed in Europe in the 1990s,” said Pat Layton, director of WU+D. “But we proved the concept could work here with our students. It’s very strong and when designed properly, CLT is environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.”

Stoner fondly recalls the time he spent working with Schiff and another student two years ahead of him — Graham Montgomery — who is now a director for Swinerton Mass Timber in Greenville, South Carolina.

It’s also fascinating to see the project in motion. The first beams arrived on site from WU+D partner IB X-LAM and its plant in Dothan, Alabama and went up on April 16. And it didn’t take long for the entirety of the 24 acres worth of harvested southern yellow pine to be put into place by Sherman Construction, the general contractor for the project.

Combined with architect Cooper Carry’s steel beam design, the facility has taken on the hybrid look university officials were aiming for since the onset of the project.


Electrolux to Donate 800 AC Units to AIM

Electrolux will be donating approximately 800 air-conditioning units worth more than $230,000 to AIM during an event Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the parking lot of AIM. The public is invited.


U.S. Wants to Make Nuclear Weapon Components in S.C.

SAMMY FRETWELL, THE (Columbia) State

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (AP) — As patriotic music played in the background, about 200 people listened to federal employees explain last week why the government wants to produce major nuclear weapons components at the Savannah River Site just down the road from this city on the Georgia border.

The U.S. Department of Energy is seeking to make 50 plutonium pits a year at SRS to put in nuclear weapons because it says existing plutonium supplies are getting stale.

But plenty of people disagree on whether that's a good idea — and the growing dispute came through at a forum Thursday night in Aiken County.

Opponents of the pit production facility said it's a multi-billion dollar boondoggle that could pollute the South Carolina environment and help escalate a new nuclear arms race at a time of world instability.

SRS boosters said they're not worried. They trust the government. And they said the area needs the 1,000 jobs the plant would produce, as well as the role they said SRS could play in keeping the world safe.

Those backing the plant included retired SRS workers and representatives of the Aiken County legislative delegation, local chambers of commerce and state business alliances.

"This is critical for our nation," said John Wall, a representative of the S.C. Manufacturers' Alliance, one of the state's most powerful industrial groups. He said the project would have a "significant state and regional impact" on the economy without hurting the environment.

"It will create new investment and new jobs for this area and this region," he said.

Others said SRS had long shown that it could safely handle nuclear materials. The 310-square-mile site, developed in the early 1950s, once made components for nuclear weapons but never fabricated plutonium pits, one of the most significant parts of an atomic warhead. Those were mostly developed at the now closed Rocky Flats facility in Colorado.

Today, SRS is largely in a cleanup mode and looking for new missions. It still employs more than 10,000 workers.

Former SRS worker Moses Todd, who said he backs the pit plant, said fears of nuclear contamination are overblown. He never got sick from working at the site and isn't concerned that a new pit plant will hurt the environment or the people who work there.

"I'm a living example everything's done safe out there," he said.

Thursday's hearing — held in a community center near the site of an evening band concert that could be heard in the background — drew plenty of pit plant opponents. Environmentalists from South Carolina and Georgia showed up to explain why they think the pit plant is a terrible idea.

The plant would be built on the site of the failed mixed oxide fuel facility, a project that cost the government $5 billion before the energy department pulled the plug. Some, including Savannah River Site Watch director Tom Clements, said the pit plant is part of a government effort to cover up the mistakes that doomed the mixed oxide fuel plant.

Preliminary estimates show that converting the plant from a fuel facility to a pit factory could cost about $5 billion, the same amount the government spent on mixed oxide fuel, critics said.

"I'm not looking forward to this idea of throwing more money down the pit, no pun intended," said Sierra Club member Christopher Hall. "I urge folks to reconsider this very rushed, very ill-thought out project."

Others said nuclear materials, such as plutonium, are dangerous to workers, despite what Todd said. Plutonium can cause cancer.

Laura Dexter Lance said it's hard to trust that the Department of Energy will protect workers at a new pit production plant. Her father worked at SRS for years, but developed a disease she believes resulted from his employment. He is now deceased.

When boosters talk about safety at SRS, they are not talking about "the workers of my father's era," she said, comparing SRS workers to "lab rats." She said boosters of the pit plant and SRS are misinformed because they don't know much about the hazards of working around nuclear materials.

"Without facts, it is easy to claim the bomb plant is safe," she said.

Multitudes of former federal nuclear weapons site workers are being compensated by the government after federal authorities admitted that working at places like SRS made employees sick. The State and other McClatchy newspapers reported on the government compensation program in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Energy will use comments from the meeting to help decide what kind of issues to examine in conducting environmental studies on the proposed pit production facility. The government is taking public comments on the environmental study through July 25. About 80 pits would be made annually, 50 of which would be fabricated at SRS. The remainder would be made at a weapons complex in Los Alamos, N..M.

The pit plant has been touted by the DOE as a way to refresh the nation's aging plutonium stockpile, but critics say they've found evidence the government wants to use the pits to produce a new class of nuclear warheads. In 2002, federal authorities sought to develop a pit plant at SRS, but those efforts fizzled.


S.C. Guard Deploys Unit to Mideast

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina National Guard held a Saturday ceremony to say goodbye to a military unit leaving in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

WIS-TV reports about 40 soldiers with 751st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 59th Troop Command, will deploy to the Middle East Sunday, for about nine months. While the group will not be in combat, they will work in support roles. While deployed, the battalion's mission will include supporting contracting work, range operations, dining facility operations, billets management, and more.

Some soldiers say the hard part is saying goodbye to loved ones.

Rhonda Sims, whose husband is deploying, says she doesn't know what to expect while he's gone but is just praying for the unit's safe return.

The group is expected to get back around June of 2020.


County Expands Funding for Belton/Hone Path Bus Route

Anderson County Council has approved additional funding to expand hours for the bus route from Anderson to Belton and Honea Path. The "Purple Route," which departs from the Old McCants Junior High building now offers the following times for bus service:

Monday-Friday 6:20 a.m., 7:20 a.m., 8:20  a.m., 9:20 a.m., 2:20 p.m., 3:20 p.m., 4:20 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.

Council agrees this bus route is already making in the lives of citizens and believe the expanded investment will pay great dividends for the community, especially for local businesses and residents who depend upon the transportation for employees' daily commute.

For more information or questions regarding this bus route or any other route on the Electric City Transit, call (864) 231-7625.


Lawmakers Still Confused on Parts of S.C. Budget

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's state budget includes millions of dollars for local parks and festivals and to restore historic buildings. But not even lawmakers know exactly what some of the money will be spent on.

Gov. Henry McMaster vetoed $27 million in budget items that he said lacked an explanation or justification.

The General Assembly overrode those vetoes last week. The Post and Courier of Charleston reports when members asked for explanations, they were given few details.

For one veto, House Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith was asked about $3.4 million set aside for "historic preservation." The Sumter Republican said his only explanation was it would go "to fund and preserve historic sites and buildings throughout the state."

Lawmakers also overrode McMaster's veto of $6.5 million in "sports marketing grants." When asked their purpose, House Majority Leader Gary Simrill said they go to events like the bass fishing tournament in Lakes Marion and Moultrie.

"They're smaller events in South Carolina but very important to the people who live in those areas who are South Carolinians," the Rock Hill Republican told lawmakers before the 92-14 vote to override.

The money is sent to state agencies, but officials don't find out where it is supposed to go until after the fiscal year starts, when they get the list of what to spend it on from lawmakers.

Events funded by last year's $4.5 million in sports marketing grants handed out by the General Assembly included $50,000 for the black cowboy festival in Rembert; $100,000 for Columbia ballet; $300,000 for a dock in Bluffton; $500,000 for a 5-mile (8 kilometer) trail in Lancaster; and $875,000 for a YMCA in Oconee County, according to state Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, which dispersed the grants.

Lawmakers say these are very small amounts in the state's $9 billion budget and are needed to get support from certain legislators.

Freshman state Sen. Dick Harpootlian said he doesn't have any idea where the money goes and plans to take a closer look at how the budget process works next year. Harpootlian is on the Senate Judiciary Committee and not the Senate Finance Committee which handles budget matters.

"We've got these projects every senator wants for their constituency," the Democrat from Columbia said. "I don't think any senator got a big chunk of dough, but they are earmarks. They're just not publicly seen."

But Harpootlian said lawmakers aren't the only people who spend money without oversight. McMaster's cabinet agencies get to spend money without consulting lawmakers, especially the Commerce Department when it is negotiating deals to bring businesses to the state.

"All this begs for more transparency on everybody's side," Harpootlian said.


Council Releases List of Priority Road Projects

Anderson County Council has approved $2.2 million for County road improvement projects over the next year. This funding is in addition to the money the State of South Carolina appropriates through the Anderson County Transportation Committee for local transportation projects. 

The roads Council is prioritizing are as follows:

Planned Road Construction Projects
*        Hobson Road - 0.741 miles
*        Oakridge Court - 0.120 miles
*        Harbison Drive - 0.170 miles
*        Plantation Road - 0.237 miles
*        Branch Road - 0.383 miles
*        Valley Drive - 0.212 miles
*        Meadow Road - 0.214 miles
*        Hopewell Ridge - 0.606 miles
*        Winding Creek Road - 0.348 miles
*        Creekside Court - 0.047 miles
*        Crossridge Lane - 0.059 miles
*        Old Oak Trail - 0.081 miles
*        Grove Road - 1.290 miles
*        Shirley Drive - 1.330 miles
*        Airline Road - 1.449 miles
*        Firetower Road - 2.479 miles
*        Old Webb Road - 1.263 miles
*        Holden Lane - 0.045 miles
*        Cely Lane - 1.335 miles
*        Governor's Boulevard - 0.484 miles (Alternate)


Why Fireworks on Independence Day?



It’s hard to imagine Independence Day without fireworks. But how did this tradition get started? 

As it turns out, setting off mini-explosions of all shapes and colors (but particularly red, white and blue) on July 4 goes back almost as far as American independence itself. 

Fireworks have a long and colorful history, but the story of how they became ubiquitous on July 4 dates to the summer of 1776, during the first months of the Revolutionary War. On July 1, delegates of the Continental Congress were in Philadelphia, debating over whether the 13 original colonies should declare their independence from Britain’s Parliament as well as King George III himself. 

That night, news arrived that British ships had sailed into New York Harbor, posing an immediate threat to the Continental troops commanded by George Washington. On July 2, delegates from 12 colonies voted in favor of independence (New York would follow suit on July 9) and the motion carried. On July 3, even as Congress revised a draft of the declaration composed by Thomas Jefferson, an excited John Adams took up his pen to write to his wife, Abigail

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” Adams wrote. “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” 


Adams was off by a couple of days. 

On July 4, after making a total of 86 (mostly small) changes to Jefferson’s draft, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, though most of the delegates didn’t even sign the document until August 2. Some impromptu celebrations greeted the declaration’s first public readings on July 8, in front of local militia troops in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but the first organized celebration of Independence Day would take place in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777. 

“Yesterday the 4th of July, being the anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America, was celebrated in this city with demonstrations of joy and festivity,” reported the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 5, 1777. “About noon all the armed ships and gallies in the river were drawn up before the city, dressed in the gayest manner, with the colors of the United States and streamers displayed.” 

After each ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute (in honor of the 13 colonies), the festivities continued, including an elegant dinner, a military demonstration and a performance by a Hessian band. “The evening was closed with the ringing of bells,” the Evening Post reported, “and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” 

Did you know? Adams lived to see exactly 50 years of American independence. On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence, he died at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, just five hours after Jefferson’s death in Virginia. 

Adams’s hometown of Boston saw its own fireworks display that July 4th, as Colonel Thomas Crafts of the Sons of Liberty took the opportunity to set off fireworks and shells over Boston Common. In the years to come, various cities continued the tradition of celebrating independence, holding picnics, parades, speeches and fireworks displays for the occasion, though Boston was the first to designate July 4 an official holiday (in 1783). 

By the time Independence Day celebrations really took off after the War of 1812 (another conflict pitting the United States against Britain), fireworks were even more widely available. They would become an increasingly important part of the festivities in the years to come, as public safety concerns caused cannon and gunfire to be gradually phased out of celebrations. 

In 1870, Congress established Independence Day as an official holiday. By 1898, a reporter would note that “the American Fourth of July is the greatest event the maker of firecrackers knows,” historian James Heintze recorded in The Fourth of July Encyclopedia.

As every July 4 brings numerous fireworks-related accidents, some causing injuries and even deaths, many cities and states would pass bans on different types of pyrotechnics; Adams’s native Massachusetts, for example, now bans all consumer fireworks. Despite these safety concerns, Americans spend somewhere around $1 billion on fireworks each July 4, allowing for a nationwide celebration of independence John Adams would surely have appreciated.


36 Teams from S.C. Expected for Dixie Youth Tournaments

Teams from acroos the state will visit the Anderson Sports and Entertainment Center, the City of Belton and Anderson County, for three South Carolina Dixie Youth Baseball tournaments which begin Saturday.

The tournaments will feature a total of 36 teams representing Dixie Youth Baseball Districts with Belton serving as the official host team.

"We are very excited to be a part of hosting the great folks from South Carolina Dixie Youth Baseball, the participants and families in Anderson County for two action-packed weeks of baseball," said Neil Paul, executive director or Visit Anderson. "Our community has bought in and will serve as a great host for our guests. The team from the City of Belton and Anderson County has worked very hard to make this event a reality in our community. I particularly want to single out the folks at ASEC that have worked very hard to prepare the facilities for this event."

The AA Coach Pitch State Tournament represents participants, ages eight and under, and will be played on Saturday-Tuesday. The AAA Division 2 State Tournament represents players, ages 10 and under, and will be played Saturday-Thursday. The AAA Division 1 State Tournament will be played July 13=July 18 at the Anderson Sports and Entertainment Center. The AAA Division features participants, ages 10 and under, and will have Opening Ceremonies July 12 at the Civic Center of Anderson. 

Each tournament will feature a double-elimination style bracket and games will be played each day at the Anderson Sports and Entertainment Center.

"This tournament is not only important for the City of Belton, but it's important for all of Anderson County," said Joey Lance, Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Belton and District 1 Director for South Carolina Dixie Youth Baseball. "The kids in our program at Belton have worked really hard and will represent our community well in this state tournament and I am proud to represent our community in working closely with the Anderson County team. We definitely want to make this an annual thing."

Tickets are $7 per day for adults 17 and older and $5 per day for youth 6-16. Kids under the age of 6 will be admitted free. Please note that Anderson Sports and Entertainment Complex observes a Clear Bag Policy for ticketed patrons. Opening Ceremonies Friday and July 12 are free and open to the public.

For more information, including brackets and game schedules, please check out 


S.C. Oks Pesticides for Hemp Crops

CLEMSON — The South Carolina Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has approved a list of pesticides for use on hemp crops, removing a hurdle farmers have faced since the crop was cleared for production in the state earlier this year.

Both federal and state law have been amended in the past six months to allow licensed production of industrial hemp, a strain of the same plant as marijuana but without its intoxicating effects. The S.C. Department of Agriculture has approved 114 growers for the state Hemp Farming Program for 2019, however, no pesticides have yet been labeled for use on the crop.

“We don’t want to be in a conundrum where we have growers who have no pesticides to use,” said Tim Drake, DPR State Programs manager. “We’re already seeing samples of young hemp plants with cutworm damage. These are expensive plants. When you’re paying $4 for a plant you can’t afford to lose too many of them.”

The pesticides DPR approved were first adopted for the crop in the state of Washington, which has a history of hemp production. All are classified as 25(b) pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, meaning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers them minimum-risk pesticides.

Drake cautions, though, that not all the pesticides on the list are currently registered for use in South Carolina.

The list is being distributed to Clemson Extension Service agents in counties where the more than 100 licensed hemp farmers in South Carolina reside. Extension agents help farmers adopt best practices is the production of a wide array of crops.

The approved list is a temporary measure adopted to help farmers who are licensed to grow industrial hemp until federal regulations are created. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to issue production regulations by the end of the year. There currently are no EPA-registered pesticides labeled specifically for hemp.

“There are a lot of misconceptions,” said Katie Moore, a Clemson Extension associate with the university’s Pesticide Safety Education Program. “I think many people are under the impression that organic pesticides can be used on hemp. Just because it is organic doesn’t mean it is allowed. It must be labeled for herb crops. You need to read and follow the label.”

Hemp and its cousin, marijuana, are both strains of the Cannabis sativa plant species. They are distinguished by their fiber content and chemistry.

Hemp is more dense in fiber. It also has much lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive substance for which marijuana is known.

By law, industrial hemp must have less than 0.3 percent THC, while marijuana may contain between 10 and 100 times that concentration. By contrast, hemp has higher concentrations of cannabidiol, or CBD, which does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC but is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use controlling epileptic seizures.

Industrial hemp is grown for its fiber and seeds. The strength of hemp fiber makes it valuable in products from textiles to rope. Its seeds can be processed as a food additive or crushed for their oil.

The end use of the product — whether it is grown for its fiber or as a food or oil crop — is a crucial factor in pesticide selection.