Fire Chief Chapin Jones told Great Falls Town Council during his monthly report that his department responded to an overdose involving an 18-month-old baby. He didn’t tell them the whole story, however.
“He wasn’t going to get up there and talk about himself, but he saved that child’s life,” said Great Falls Interim Police Chief Randy St. Clair.
Fentanyl overdoses have become an increasing problem both nationally and locally and even infants are not immune to exposure. At 1:06 p.m. last Monday, Jones said he responded to a call of an unconscious baby that was not breathing near the downtown area. He didn’t know that any drugs were involved initially, but said his training led him to that conclusion quickly. When he arrived, he said family members ran towards him shouting, “please do something.” The tiny body was limp and totally unresponsive. He immediately began to administer CPR.
“I started compressions. I did two round of them,” Jones said.
His actions managed to get the child breathing again. EMTs soon arrived on the scene and administered NARCAN, a drug commonly used to treat individuals have that overdosed. St. Clair said he was happy to report that at last report, the baby was recovering in a Richland County children’s hospital. What he was not happy to report is that the scene that played out last week is not uncommon. He estimated that Great Falls police and fire are responding to fentanyl overdoses and administering NARCAN at least once every 10 days. That is only inside the municipal lines of Great Falls and those aren’t the only instances over overdoses that are taking place.
“You can get NARCAN now and a lot of people administer it to themselves or someone else does it for them,” Jones said. “They’ll call after the fact and straight up tell us they overdosed and ask to be taken to the hospital.”
That doesn’t account for the fentanyl users that do not overdose.
“It’s an epidemic,” said St. Clair.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to high number of instances of fentanyl overdoses in Great Falls, St. Clair said. He thinks the rural location, the number of rental houses, the proximity to I-77 and other factors all come into play. There was a significant drug bust in the Town in past few days (see related story) but St. Clair said he knows the supply will keep flowing in. It comes from a number of sources, but a great deal of it flows into the country over the southern border, St. Clair said. It often pressed to authentic-looking pills. Some people may take in unknowingly, but most know what they are taking, either ingesting the pills or crushing and snorting them. The drug is so dangerous, Jones said first responders are warned not to use all their NARCAN on overdose victims, as it is important to save some for themselves in case they are accidentally exposed. Government estimates indicate that 175 Americans die of fentanyl overdoses daily. Unfortunately, there isn’t a first responder just a minute or two away to come and perform CPR and administer NARCAN every time there is an overdose. Thankfully, there was in Great Falls last Monday.
The case remains under investigation.
A Charlotte PBS station came calling to the Lando Manetta Mills History Center recently to let others know what nearby residents in Chester County have known for a long time: there is a wealth of history to be discovered in this little community museum.
WTVI producer Russ Hunsinger stopped b y the History Center recently and got a guided tour provided by History Center board member Paul Williams. Hunsinger recorded plenty of “B-roll” (as they say in the TV biz) of the Center and the people who were visiting it. There to make introductions was Quilt of Valor coordinator Harvey Mayhill and wife Lin, who met Hunsinger on a shoot he was doing about some area Quilt of Valor recipients.
After his tour of the Center and the camera shoot, Hunsinger sat down with The N&R to talk about his visit here.
“I met Harvey Mayhill when I was doing a story on the Quilts of Valor (and particularly about USN Ensign Barbara Alderson). We started chatting and when I wrap up a story I like to ask ‘are there any other things going on in this area, any interesting stories?’ We love sharing local stories. I had never heard about the History Center and it sounded so interesting, I wanted to come and find out more about it and do a story on it,” Hunsinger said.
The segment will air on WTVI’s program Carolina Impact. The program produces a segment called “One Tank Trip,” Hunsinger explained, where the program reports on interesting places people could go on a day trip, on one tank of gas.
“We want to bring awareness to those little hidden, out-of -the-way locations that you might not know about,” he said.
Hunsinger’s impressions of what he found at Lando and in the History Center were, “this is really a slice of American history about 100 year span. The interesting thing is, a lot of the people who lived this way in these mill villages, a lot of them are still around. They are real living history.
“I’m letting the people and the place tell their stories. This segment will be an opportunity for people who may not know what a mill village was, to come and learn about what that life was like,” he said.
He said he hopes
that his reporting will show “what this place is, why it’s important and why you should come visit.”
Over 100 business and community leaders and interested citizens took part in the Chester County Chamber of Commerce’s first Discover Chester County Tourism Talks event recently.
At the lunch and learn, Chamber President Brooke Clinton prefaced the tour by stating “The purpose of today’s event is to disseminate information, to generate excitement for the upcoming tourism projects, and to help you all make connections to boost and promote your businesses.
“Since the pandemic started in the spring of 2020, we have had approximately 125 small businesses join the Chester County Chamber of Commerce. It’s my estimate that about 52 of those businesses are directly impacted by tourism,” Clinton said.
“Of those, I include folks like new boutiques, restaurants, bars, event venues and farms that have agro tourism. Last year, we worked with the Great Falls Hometown Association and the Small Business Development Center to launch our entrepreneur roundtable discussion groups. Although we’ve only met a handful of times, we’ve already served more than 75 small businesses who have either recently started or plan to launch a business in this area.
“For many of these folks, their reasons for establishing a business here is because they’re excited over tourism opportunities and upcoming plans, like the Whitewater, like the expanded trails, like the new state park that’s coming to Great Falls. These entrepreneurs are confident that tourism dollars are coming to this county,” she said.
She pointed to her own experiences with her three kids and how they stop to get snacks or souvenirs when traveling, or have to visit an urgent care along the way because of mishaps, or maybe stop at a mechanic’s or hardware store when they’re camping.
“So my point is that when we stop and think about the many businesses that indirectly benefit from additional travelers coming in and out, there’s a reason we need to support tourism development in Chester County,” Clinton said. “It means that we’re supporting our small businesses, which of course strengthens our economy, and provides a better quality of life for all of us here.”
She charged the tourists taking part in the tour that their assignment was to “connect the dots. We want you to learn about the three destinations that we’re visiting today. And then we ask that you please spread the word on social media, to your family to your friends. We want you to get in the habit of building each other up, advertise for each other. Take plenty of photos on your tour. Post positive reviews on these folks websites, plan a follow up trip with your own families. We also want you to think creatively about partnering with other businesses to guide and direct tourists from one site to the next,” she said.
“But we need to find more ways to make sure that visitors know that yes, they can run the rapids in Great Falls. But then they can shoot clays at Rocky Creek. They can play a round at Chester Golf, they can fish in the Broad. They can jump out of an airplane in Lowrys at Skydive Carolina.
“Between all of these amazing activities. They can stay in our hotels our bed and breakfasts, they can eat in our restaurants, they can explore our museums, historic sites, antique shops, boutiques, they can take in the natural beauty of Chester County and the surrounding area.”
She pointed out that The N&R announced the hiring of Brian Hester as the new Chester County administrator.
Clinton added, “We look forward to working with Mr. Hester to understand and learn more about his vision for tourism development in Chester County, and what we at the chamber and economic development can do to promote all that we have to our visitors,” she said.
During the lunch and learn, Lynn Montgomery Moore with the Olde English Tourism District briefed the participants on the importance of tourism in the state and in Chester County.
“Who is a tourist? She asked, a tourist is “ someone who travels to the area 50 miles away, they travel for business or leisure purposes. These people stay in hotels, but not only are they paying the hotel fee, they’re also paying accommodations tax, which is two% across South Carolina. It’s a sales tax on all expenditures, and admissions tax. The Olde English District has the largest ticketed attraction in the state of South Carolina in Carowinds. And that’s usually about a five% tax. So tourists are taxpayers here, in that there’s a tax relief from tourists of about $760 per household in South Carolina… So therefore, even if you don’t think you have a stake in tourism, you do because you’re getting as an individual, your household is getting that tax relief,” Moore said.
She exhibited the latest tourism figures that shows jobs and paychecks are created by tourism — over $450 million is spent on tourism expenditures, just in the Olde English District’s seven county region.
“Our research tells us that $150 a day is what a group will come to the area and spend,” Moore said.
“If we have just 100 groups that come to our area that’s $150,000 in a day. That boosts our economy; when they tourists come where we’re able to have things in in our region that we can’t sustain as just local people,” she said.
She encouraged the groups in the room to submit any tourism-related event to the Olde English District website.
Lunch and learn participants also got an update on the Duke Energy whitewater project taking place in Great Falls and a quick economic development update from Chester County Economic Development Director Robert Long. Then by bus from local Chester County tour companies, the tourists made three stops at the Catawba Falls Event Center, Carolina Adventure World in nearby Fairfield County and visited the Nitrolee Access Area, where kayakers will put in to experience the whitewater thrills. Following this they returned to the Gateway for a wine and cheese networking event.
New City of Chester Police Chief Curtis Singleton has a plan to combat crime in Chester. Part of it is making himself known to city residents, the old fashioned way. One person at a time.
Singleton has only been on the job since Dec. 19, but he’s already made himself known to the citizens. Did he use social media or some high tech method? No, you might call it the “shoe leather” approach.
On the day of The N&R interview, Singleton had to appear in court. Following that, he went door-to-door introducing himself to residents. On foot. A real old-time “cop on the beat” approach to policing.
Since he started on the job, the chief has been seen walking around on the city’s main streets, visiting with residents and storeowners.
“You can’t do everything from a police cruiser,” he said, and he’s reinforcing that philosophy with his officers.
Chief Singleton hails from Bamberg, which he says is a town about the same size as Chester.
“It was a town where everybody knew each other; I grew up in a housing project. It was very close-knit. My wife and I have been together since high school,” he said by way of bio information. The couple have two children, Jackson, 13 and Olivia, age 10. The Chief has not yet moved to the Chester area but the family is making plans to do so.
When he’s not working as a cop, Singleton loves to throw a line in the water and fish for crappie.
“I love to fish,” he said, “when I visited here one time, I looked at Chester State Park and looked at the lake there and man I’m dying to get out there,” he said. His son Jackson has been his fishing companion since he was five years old, Singleton said.
Singleton comes to the job with about 20 years administrative and law enforcement experience, including jobs in logistics while in military service, including several tours in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom.
This is Singleton’s first chief administrative position. He has at least 18 years in law enforcement including as a detective for the Forest Acres Police Department.
He says his management style is to try and not make a distinction between his line officers and the police chief, “because I need to be a part of the line, and I need my staff to know that I am a part of the line. That’s why you see me in the street, running calls with the officers and things of that nature, because they need to see me doing what I expect of them,” he said.
“I’ve worked for supervisors who ran things from a desk, and it was a very hard transition for us to see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I don’t ever want to lose that, so I’m always going to be out there,” he said.
Chief Singleton said he made several trips to Chester before he was selected for the position of Chief of Police, to kind of get an idea of the community. But he knew “I was destined for this position, because it’s my dream job. Even if I only held the office for one day, I accomplished my dream. That’s the way I look at it.
“The opportunity presented itself and late one night, I said ‘I’m going for this.’ I’m going to put it in God’s hands and see if it’s a blessing for me. I went through the process and I got the offer and I was really antsy about it. I told my previous chief that I was leaving, but I said I would never leave because of the money or to be transferring the same type of detective position somewhere else. I had to be leaving for my dream job. He understood that. He told me before I left, ‘I got my dream fulfilled, so I’m not going to throw shade at yours.”
Singleton said on his visits he rode around in civvies and checked the city out, watched how the police officers operated and took note of the dynamic of the different areas of the city.
“I started thinking ‘they could use a light pole here’ or ‘they could use a light pole over there’, just little things, so that when and if I was blessed in the position, I would have something to start on,” he said.
Addressing the recent issues that have plagued the city and the police department, such as the Ariane McCree civil suits and the issue with the employees’ retirement funds and other issues, Singleton said he knew there was a certain amount of baggage in the department he would have to deal with. “I knew that I was going to have to strap on some baggage, but I also look at things in a sense of ‘B.C.’ and ‘A.C.’ — Before Curtis and After Curtis. I come in here and I try not to put too much emphasis on what took place prior to me. If fix it, (my goal is to fix it,) because that’s the only way we get to ‘A.C.’
“My main focus is that’s what we had before; what are we doing for tomorrow? And that’s what I’ve come in, trying to focus on: what can I do to make us better tomorrow? That has been my sole purpose,” he said. He realizes there will be questions on how does the Chief feel about this and that issue that happened three years ago, but “I will never have an opinion on it, because I don’t know the full details of it. I know just as much as the newspaper writes, or just as much as YouTube says, but I know from being in law enforcement, there are intricate parts, of an issue, there is an “and” and an “or” that I’m not aware of, so I wouldn’t insert my opinion on it. I try to speak in facts,” he said.
Chief Singleton said for him job one is hiring officers to fill out the ranks, and seeing they are paid as adequately as he can. He said he is working on plans to increase salaries.
“I will be ecstatic to tell the officers when I walk in the door soon, ‘I see what you make. You are worth more than this, I’m sorry this is where you are in salary, but my first priority is to show you that you matter to me and that you are worth even more than I’m going to get, but this is the best I can get,” he said.
Speaking to the officers, he adds, ‘you come in every day, and I know you feel it. You throw that vest on, and you don’t know how the day or the night is going to go. You don’t know if you’re coming home.’ That’s a lot to put on a person making $14 dollars and hour,” he said.
“The first thing I want to do is to get the public to trust the department. They need to know that they can trust us,” he said. Building the trust means having well-trained officers on the streets. To that end, Singleton has revived the FTO (Field Training Officer) program in the department, where an experienced officer rides with the new recruits for a time and gives them the benefit of their experience.
“We have two officers trained as FTOs to ride along with the three new officers we have, so when those officers hit the streets, they will be ready. The concept is there is someone to ride with those new recruits hand in hand, showing them ‘this is how you do this, this is what you need to look out for.’
“This kind of training is vital — I would not have gotten 20 years in if I had not had this kind of training,” he said. “I was always taught seek out the old guy; he’ll be the one to pull on the younger officers’ jackets and say ‘listen young fellas, don’t do it that way.’ You deal with a bunch of young guys, you’re going to learn what young guys know. You deal with the older guys, they know that stove is hot.”
Singleton said he has good people in the department, and he doesn’t want them in the shadows — he wants them out in the community and being seen, being seen to be approachable and this is how you build trust with the public.
“The public needs to be able to trust the department and I am, and my officers are, the department.”