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In 2016 The COLT Football 101 Club presented the family of La'Darious Wylie with this special picture frame, containing pictures of the heroic 11-year old student and a rally rag from his beloved Carolina Panthers.

‘Open door on the left!’ Simulated danger; real-life tactics:

The danger was simulated. The tactics practiced are used in real life.

Officers with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office took advantage of the Spring Break student absence at the Academy for Teaching and Learning recently to take part in some active shooter training.

Paul Heitz, a former Special Forces engineer, who is the primary instructor for Controlled Chaos Tactics, put the deputies through their paces as they practiced how to secure a hallway filled with open-door classrooms on the main hall at ATL.

He explained the deputies were practicing CQB, which stands for Close Quarters Battle. The officers, dressed in tactical gear and wielding Airsoft military-style carbines and rifles, moved cautiously and purposefully down the hall, entering each open doorway with eyes and barrels scanning for any threat. For this exercise as they got used to the tactics, the “threats” were represented by paper poster targets, such as a picture of a man holding a gun to a child’s head. They neutralized the threat by firing their Airsoft weapons at the poster. In another room, they secured a civilian who was hiding out from the active shooter.

“If I run these guys through this active shooter drill, and in every single room that we are doing this (at ATL) then they can use the same tactics anywhere they go, from dealing with a structure like that two story house,” he said, pointing across the street from the school, “to trailers, they can perform the same tactics by running through these exercises,” Heitz said.

“What we’re doing today is getting those repetitions (of those exercises in) so the officers can build their confidence…I’m a firm believer in the basics; stick to the basics and you can do anything.”

Training Officer Lt. John Kelly from CCSO said for the best result, officers consider this exercise as if it was real, and react the same way.

“You put it in your head in the beginning — there are 10-year old kids at this school (even though the school was vacant over the Spring Break holidays), maybe you even pretend your friend’s kids are in this school, and someone bad is going to hurt or kill those kids — what are you going to do? That helps the officers get in the mindset, because we obviously can’t put little kids in here running around. It becomes pretty easy when you think of your own daughter in this situation, and you take it more personally. It makes it not as routine,” he said.

Heitz added, “Taking training seriously is a hugely important thing. What we will do in training is, we’ll throw a little bit of stress on ‘em, whether that be yelling at them, or playing loud music, just a little bit of extra stimulus that makes them think, ‘(This is real.) Let me stick to my basic principles and not just go through the motions.’ Take it seriously every time you do it, then see what your mistakes were, and once you realize what they are, you can correct them,” Heitz said.

Part of that correction comes in the form of talking about what they did wrong and what they did right following the exercise, and, as Lt. Kelly explained while the previous group went through a series of arm circles, squats and other exercises (because they failed to do something during the evolution) if you put a little bit of physical exercise “punishment” on the deputies when they fail, the physical exercise helps them “remember” what they did wrong so they can correct it during the next round of exercises.

The training continued on into the afternoon and Heitz said it would include some more realistic exercises, where one of the deputies would don a ski mask and carry a pistol as they took on the role of an active shooter.

Heitz said this type of training is important, because the threats of active shooters can happen for law enforcement anywhere, in a business or even a grocery store, not just a school. He said the schools are the more high-profile examples of active shooter locations because they have children there, but it can happen anywhere.

Fire destroys home on Sugarplum Road

Several fire departments were called to Sugarplum Road in Chester on April 15 to assist the Chester City Fire Department with a fully involved structure fire. Responding were City of Chester FD, Chester County Fire Service, North Chester FD, Lewis FD and Richburg FD. The home was a total loss. Cause of the fire is undetermined at this time due to extensive fire damage making it unsafe to search through damaged area.

Bond referendum ‘Concerned Citizens’ group distributes brochures
  • Updated

A group known as “Concerned Citizens of Chester County” who is advocating for voters to vote No on the proposed $263 million school bond referendum has begun to make their presence known with signs around the county and three brochures.

‘Consider a Reasonable Alternative’ the first brochure recommends…‘Do you really know what you are voting for in this referendum? No Specific Plans have been made but your taxes will go up for 25 years…In 10 years the CCSD will need a plan to fix this one! And adds, ‘Trust is an issue.’

Inside the brochure urges the school district to ‘raise our reading and math scores before raising our taxes.’

The brochure also tells voters that property taxes will increase, and even renters will feel that increase because their landlords will increase their rent. Small businesses will have to pass their costs onto customers, or their business will suffer layoffs or reduce their employee hours.

‘If this referendum passes, Chester County will have the highest school debt service millage rate in S.C. at 197.5 mills. In comparison, Lexington 4 school district is second at 112.4 mills.’

The text in the brochure also brings up the question of attendance lines, and states, ‘there is no guarantee that the attendance zones will remain the same or that all projects will be funded and completed equitably. The biggest concern in a time of rising inflation and economic uncertainty is cost.’

The brochure asks ‘how many small businesses will go elsewhere because Chester County has higher taxes than neighboring counties?’ and ‘What democratic principle is being taught when the majority of this school board bought the same land and are proceeding with the same plan that the voters twice rejected?’

And finally the brochure asks, ‘How does this referendum bring up reading and math levels for our third through eighth grade students?’

The second brochure is aimed at small business owners and taxpayers and shows the potential increased taxes on a home, on rental property, commercial property and vehicles with a $20,000 value and a $40,000 value.

The brochure claims ‘businesses and industries under the FILOT (Fe in Lieu of Taxes) agreement will not be affected’ by the potential tax increase.

Finally the brochure states ‘the $263 million dollar school bond referendum will be a crushing blow to local businesses and taxpayers if it passes.’

The third brochure in circulation targets voters in the Lewisville and Great Falls attendance areas.

The brochure reiterates some of the same information contained in the other two brochures and brings up the question of the district’s having deferred maintenance with “$43 million on hand” and claims the $43 million (which was the amount generated by the Chester County School District using their bond capacity with a cap of eight% of the value of assessed property in the county) could have built:

secure entrances to schools;

secure fencing for schools;

drainage at Great Falls little theater;

classrooms at Lewisville Elementary;

or all the proposed athletic improvements in the school district’s “Vision 2026” plan.

The information in the brochure, which says it is a ‘compilation of concerns and facts’ lays out what the group sees as the main problems with the referendum, focusing on the Great Falls area:

‘Great Falls schools have no real room to grow and there is no plan to buy any land to accommodate growth.

‘With any significant growth in Great Falls, the high school students most probably would drive or get on a bus to Chester High School just like students go to the Career Center. There is no room for real expansion in the new plans. Lewisville gets a new high school built on the same “difficult” location with no real room to grow and no plans to purchase any land. Housing developments have been approved and students are coming. Rezoning may work for a few years.’

The brochure claims that no one can guarantee the next board of trustees elected will keep the same attendance zones. The brochure states, ‘What can be guaranteed Is that even after a $263 million capital improvement plan, the only high school that will have real room to expand is CHS’ and the group brings up the issue of consolidation of schools once again, which was a concern during the last bond referendum. Consolidation, the group claims, ‘is embedded in every part of VISION 2026.’

The brochure provides suggestions for the district to consider instead of the bond referendum, including a well-managed maintenance program that includes oversight from a committee composed of people in various service and repair areas ‘to monitor all maintenance activities,’ mandatory year round schools for students who are not performing at grade level in reading and math’ and advising the district and superintendent to not be afraid of ‘the “C” word,’ compromise.

The next panel on the brochure breaks down the percentages of the $263 million bond that will be spent on Great Falls Elementary, GFHS, Lewisville Elementary, LHS and CHS. Zero amount of the bond dollars will be spent on Lewisville Middle, Chester Park Complex and Chester Middle School, the brochure points out and concludes this informational panel by stating, For Great Falls, Vision 2026 will ultimately lead to a bus ride to Chester.’

The final two panels of the brochure call for community support and state ‘The new school administration is more interested in passing a bond referendum than getting to know this county. VISION 2026 is made up of plans originally begun for the previous superintendent and the 2018 and 2020 referendums. The vision of the S.C. State Superintendent and our previous superintendent encouraged and supported consolidation in poorer rural counties. The very foundation of VISION 2026 began with consolidation in mind.’

And in the final panel, the Concerned Citizens Group asks voters, ‘Are we being educated or manipulated?

‘All but three of the current board members voted to go along with the former superintendent’s “Plan B” to purchase the same land that taxpayers rejected twice. The Board then rubberstamped the plan suggested by the same bond advisors. They continued to borrow up to 8% without needing a referendum or public approval and managed to accumulate $43 million. This money was to prepare for a pay-as-you-go you go plan to build the Career Center anyway!’

The brochures have been left at convenience stores and other places frequented by the public.

Driggers hopes to put himself out of a job
  • Updated

In some ways, it is now the job of Ed Driggers to put Ed Driggers out of a job.

In the wake of the dismissal of City Administrator Stephanie Jackson, Chester City Council has brought on Driggers as interim supervisor. In his present role with Parker Poe Consulting, Driggers advises and guides local governments through important projects like strategic planning and execution and executive recruitment. He had not taken on an interim administrator roll until Chester called, though, saying he is working on too many other projects (including in Fairfield County and Orangeburg) for it to be feasible.

“I’ve turned a few down,” he said. “My schedule hasn’t allowed it…but my availability and Chester’s needs were a match.”

The current plan is for him to work 15-20 hours a week and be in -person two or three days a week. He said he will make it a point to attend as many committee meetings as possible and all meetings of Chester City Council. It certainly helps that Driggers has a history in Chester. He worked in management at Carolina Tank Corporation for seven years and then served as the City of Chester’s full-time administrator for four years before moving on to a successful 20-year stint in the position with the City of Greer before retiring in 2020. His wife is from Chester, his children went to school here and he has kept up with the goings on in the City and Chester County in general. Familiarity in general and existing connections with people only go so far, though. As with any municipality or county he works with, the City of Chester has a unique set of challenges through which he has to navigate. Presently, the City does not have a finance director (and has not for almost three full years) or a human resources director. The former position is one that has to be tackled first, but before that can be done, Driggers said he needs to “get his arms around” the financial situation of the City.

“I’m getting a screenshot of where we are, but I need to help get the 2020-’21 audit completed. Right now we’re working with numbers from the June 30, 2020 audit, which makes it hard to get a true evaluation,” he said.

Driggers has multiple meetings set for this week with Marc Wood, a CPA that has helped the city with finances and bookkeeping in the absence of a full-time finance director. Wood himself told Chester City Council last year that hiring a full-time finance director needed to be a priority since he can’t be present to do the day-to-day work the position requires. Driggers said sound financial structure is essential for everything to function as it should, so he agrees the position is a crucial one. It is conceivable that he could help bring in some subcontractors to help with finances or other positions, people with experience in the open positions.

“It will take a couple of weeks to make those assessments,” he said.

The human resources position (open since last summer) has to be filled with the right person as well. As it stands now, the City has trouble attracting and retaining staff in a number of areas (the police department only has six patrol officers as of right now and would ideally have four or five working per shift).

Once the pieces are in place, Driggers said he will work with the Council to determine what their goals are, then help them work towards them. There is a lot to do, but he said “we’re going to eat this elephant one bite at a time.”

“The City needs a path forward for the next few years. We don’t want to be in a holding pattern,” Driggers said.

Driggers will be a part of his first Chester City Council meeting next week, at which he plans to deliver an initial report and assessment.

Lastly, Driggers wants to work on replacing himself with a full-time administrator. That again will require working closely with the Council to determine what strengths they will be looking for and the areas of expertise they hope to see their next administrator have. Once that blueprint is developed and compensation has been settled upon, he will help recruit and evaluate potential administrators. He believes that process will take somewhere between four and six months. When it is complete, by design, he will have helped find his own replacement and will move on.

“My objective is to end my own job,” Driggers said.