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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Taxation Without Representation?


Below is the text of a  Letter to the Editor sent to a local newspaper.

"Taxation without representation - this is one of the grievances the People articulated during the time of our Country’s founding. Yet, here in Pickens County, residents find ourselves in these very same circumstances the Founders were in, some 250 years later.

Pickens County just passed a huge property tax increase to fund road improvements. South Carolina passed an incremental Gas Tax years ago to fund road improvements across the state. So, why did Pickens County now decide to saddle its residents with a huge property taxes to pay for roads? This is a legitimate question, one which residents are entitled to hear an explanation for and one County Council obligated to answer.

At Monday 9/20/2021 night’s county council meeting, approximately 75 residents stood patiently and politely waiting, many of whom elderly, for an opportunity to speak and hear the answer.  Instead, residents were captive to 90 minutes of conversation and overworked deliberations on whether the County should grant permission to release 3.5 million dollars in capital improvements for a library. Are the people to conclude the discussion conducted that night on library funding represents the council working in best interests of its residents during a pandemic? Seriously?

Meeting agenda formalities limiting public comment, while appropriate under normal circumstances, should never be used as tactic to silence the voice of legitimate concerns of its constituents. Pickens County residents are good, hardworking, honest people with legitimate needs and concerns. They are fiercely independent and self reliant and ask for nothing except to be heard. The Council has an obligation to listen. Common decency requires this. Legitimate needs of the people were ignored.

The people of Pickens County did not grant their consent to this tax. Most residents had no idea a tax increase was passed. Amidst a pandemic many people struggle financially, yet the council deems necessary an additional tax burden. Instead, it should look for ways to ease the burden and support its residents, not punish them.

I came to South Carolina seven years ago to escape an uncontrollable rise in property taxes from another state. My monthly tax bill increased to point that it exceeded my mortgage. County legislators were largely responsible for that situation. That state is now facing bankruptcy and people leaving in droves. Pickens councilors are taking residents down a similar path.

Power granted to County Council is through the consent of the governed. 

Thank-you Alex Saitta for your lone voice in voting “No” to this tax increase. 

But to the rest, residents would be well advised to ignore re-election bids at the ballot box, just as constituent voices are ignored.

Repeal this property tax increase now!"

Rick Synakowski
Cleveland, SC 

The writer of the letter, Mr. Synacowski,  is not only a Pickens County taxpayer but also a Pickens County GOP precinct member. 

Mr. Synacowski raises concerns many of us have had over exactly "how" this historic tax hike came to be with no citizen knowledge ahead of time. 

The courts had declared the county's previous $20 road user fee per vehicle illegal that they have been collecting since 2001. The first and second reading of a tax hike to replace this illegal road user fee only proposed a revenue neutral proposal. Citizen's had no reason to think there was going to be a change in 3rd reading and nearly a 10 mil tax hike was going to be proposed. 

A couple of councilmen claim no one spoke out against the tax hike at 3rd reading. can anyone speak against a tax hike at 3rd reading when they didn't even know about it? 

This tax scheme of calling roads an "emergency" and setting up a special reserve account is being reviewed at this time and many citizens are seeking other legal opinions. 

Another question COTU (Conservatives Of The Upstate) has is whether or not an illegal road user fee collected by our county should be refunded to the taxpayers. There is already a lawsuit in Greenville County about returning the illegally collected road user fee they had in place. Should Pickens County taxpayers hire a lawyer?

The meeting the author references in his letter was a Committee of the Whole meeting where normally no public forum is included; however, it is clearly stated in the County Council rules for meetings that any councilman can call for a suspension of the rules. COTU agrees with the author of this letter that when 75 taxpayers show up at meeting obviously concerned about an issue, someone should have called for a suspension of the rules and allowed a public forum time of 30 minutes. 

COTU also thinks any one of the council members should have called for a motion to move the meeting to the auditorium to allow more citizens to sit down and hear the meeting taking place rather than forcing them to remain in the hallways.

It is COTU's opinion that the County Council Committee of the Whole Meeting on September, 20, 2021 was a complete disrespect of the taxpayers.

COTU is the only grassroots group in Pickens County who is trying our best to hold elected employees accountable for their actions and keep Pickens County Conservative. 

Given the fact there was a lack of transparency on a major tax hike occurring, what else are they trying to hide from us till the last minute? Please attend our next Thursday, November 18th meeting at 7pm located at Cafe' Connections downtown Pickens, 319 E. Main Street.

And please attend the next regularly scheduled County Council Meeting to be held on Monday, November 1st at 6:30 in the Council's Auditorium located at 222 McDaniel Avenue to voice your concerns. 

Remaining silent does nothing to change anything.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Upcoming COTU Meeting Thursday, Oct 21, 7 PM

Our October meeting is coming up this coming week at Cafe' Connections, 319 East Main Street, Pickens, SC 29671


Our guest speaker is Amy Williams, who is running for our School Board District 7. Please come out and ask her your questions, even if you can't vote for her, we need to vet her, because her votes will impact children's education here in our county as well as our taxes. 

Here is the link to her website:

The other school board candidate is TJ Layton, he was offered twice to come and speak but said he could not. He does not have a website so you'll have to contact him yourself and ask your questions. 

Here's TJ Layton's contact info: Phone# 864-444-5400 and email:

There is a  County Council Committee Of the Whole meeting
Monday night, October 18, 6 PM

It will be held in the main conference room of the Administration Building, 222 McDaniel Ave, Pickens, SC 29671.  Topics on their agenda for discussion are Recreational funding District 3, Mile Creek funding request, Litter Ordinance, American Rescue Act Funding and Emergency Medical Services issues. As I have told you before, they don't video these meetings, so if you want to see their interactions and hear what they say, you have to be there or wait a whole month before the minutes get posted. 

REMINDER, The over 600 signatures for asking our county council to sign a resolution to protect our property rights was ignored by this present county council. This should be of great concern to you as to why they refuse to simply agree to protect our God given property rights. Our Pickens County  Comprehensive Plan that deals with land usage is coming up soon. There's already a meeting about possible infringements happening on  Hwy 11 property owners property rights. This meeting is to be held at 120 Holly Springs Rd, Pickens, SC 29671
Tuesday, October 19th at 5PM till 7PM 

An unelected, non-governmental agency, the Appalachian Council of Governments, is in charge of that meeting. If you plan on going, please read up on the Delphi Technique as I am pretty sure this will be the format used. Here's an article you should read on that technique: 

Here is the video you need to watch on Biden's 30X30 Land Grab plan: 

*** Don't forget we pray every Saturday morning at the Pickens County Courthouse for our country and our people at 9:30. Here's a photo of this past one:

Please follow COTU on social media twitter, Facebook, GAB, MeWE, Telegram


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Open Letter to Pickens County Council on Emergency Medical Services Situation


An open letter to the Pickens County Council,

My name is Tommy M. Page, and up until about three weeks ago I was a Paramedic and Field Training Officer for PCEMS.

Last month, another citizen approached County Council during the monthly meeting with a list of concerns about the current state of our County EMS system, and you yourselves had a lengthy discussion on some of those matters later in that meeting. First of all, allow me to emphatically state that I was not the employee she had referenced in her statement, though many of her issues seemed to be lifted from the pages of my letter of resignation, the same letter that Administrator Roper referenced later that evening.

By all accounts, that letter has grown quite a set of legs and has made its way to many, if not all, of your desks, and it seems that many conversations may have been initiated on account of it.

I served this county for ten years, and had wholeheartedly hoped to retire here. I, like most of the employees of PCEMS, love the people I was honored to work with like family, and I know that, by far, our EMS service would be the employer of choice for a great many providers throughout the upstate, were it not for several major problems that have come to light during the current pandemic.

I have been made aware by many whom I have spoken with that my departure has caused a fair deal of pain and confusion in my wake, and for that I am truly sorry. Unfortunately, as all employees of Pickens County have been made unofficially aware, for one to approach or address this council as an employee means that one will likely no longer be employed here shortly thereafter, as though their rights as a citizen of this county are suspended if they wish to continue their employment.

I feel the things I intend to say need to be brought to your attention in a public forum, so that you and the citizens of Pickens County will have a better understanding of the general morale and beliefs of those you charge with maintaining the public's safety and well-being.

I felt forced to quit a job I loved so I could say what I feel I have been called on to say. I beg you to weigh that statement meticulously, to understand the pain it brings me, to understand the sacrifice I have made to try to better this situation.

There is not a person in this county that is not but one unfortunate event away from having their very lives in the hands of the employees of PCEMS. An accident, an acute illness, an assault, a heart attack, or a stroke could be waiting just around the corner for ANY of us. And when these things happen, the employees of PCEMS are expected to be there, to help keep each of us safe and alive, and to get us to definitive care from a physician. The vast majority of these employees perform this job with passion and zeal, out of genuine concern for the well-being of those entrusted to their care.

As for myself, though I am no longer employed by PCEMS, my family and I all live here in Pickens County. My children, my parents, my sister and her family, my brother and his family, all of them are residents here. Many of the people reading this, I am certain, share this commonality with me.

For those not familiar, PCEMS normally has nine ambulances on duty covering the entire county, but as of late it seems much more common that there are only eight available, and often enough only seven. All of us are put at greater risk when we have to shut down trucks nearly daily because we cannot get providers to cover shifts. Even more egregious is the increased risk these employees and those they serve are subjected to when the needs of the service force those employees to work harder and with fewer breaks due to both the increased call volume and the exacerbation of said volume as the increasing call load is being shifted onto a fewer number of responders.

The primary reason this is occurring is not because of a limited number of personnel to pull from on any roster, as every EMS system in the country is currently having the same issues due to the COVID Pandemic. I along with many of the current employees of PCEMS wholeheartedly believe this is due to the fact that the hourly rate of pay for the part-time employees we need to cover shifts is nowhere near high enough to incentivize them to work our open shifts when our full-time employees must be out for whatever reason.

Do not misunderstand, I am not speaking about setting pay rates competitively based on a projected annual salary, but on the base HOURLY rate offered by those services that also need this vital and very limited resource.

These part-time employees have bills to pay, families to support, and per the numbers being provided on the COVID incidence rate in our county, every time they pick up a shift they risk an exposure, no matter how well protected they may be. It is only natural that these part-time employees will only pick up shifts for which they feel they will be adequately compensated, and sadly that typically means service to the highest bidder.

As always, there are of course some outliers, as we do have a handful of part-time employees that do not work EMS as their primary source of employment and who serve simply for the love of serving, and some that love working with our employees enough that they would prefer to work here rather than elsewhere, but those precious few are already doing all that they can. The numbers do not lie, those precious few cannot keep our trucks rolling on their own, we need all the hands we can get, and that means hourly pay has to be brought up to or above the levels offered around us, period.

The only way to realistically have any chance of getting part-time employees to work our open shifts is to offer truly competitive, or preferably even better, pay than those services around us. And with the increased work load being put on our crews, they are becoming more and more exhausted, they are increasing their exposure to illness and injury, and they are feeling very unappreciated, especially in the face of all that they have done for the citizens of the county in the past two years.

Eventually, even the best care provider can become tired enough to miss something or to make a mistake, and mistakes in this profession can cost lives.

I am aware that PCEMS was just awarded raises, but in all honesty many of the employees of PCEMS felt that the average raise of just $0.50-0.75 an hour in the face of what they have been through over the past twenty or so months was pitifully insufficient, and some even described it to me as “insulting.” I am acutely aware that I got very lucky when I found my new employment, and feel no shame in stating that my new base rate is more than five dollars an hour higher than what I was making when I left PCEMS, with that being before any shift differentials or COVID incentives offered by my new employer (which are quite significant, again in the ranges of several dollars per hour, not mere cents).

I say this not as a brag or boast, but in an attempt to show what we are up against competitively on wages. In fact, were the staffing issues to be resolved, I'd happily take a pay cut to return, though I have my doubts as to whether or not that would even be possible after this parlance. Part-time employees will almost always turn down a shift making seventeen dollars an hour in favor of a shift making thirty, or even considerably more given the incentives being offered at some local services. And, human nature and personal necessity being what it is, if the pay rate of PCEMS part-time personnel is raised to the point it will need to be to get our shifts covered, full-time rates will have to increase as well, unless the goal is to see a massive shift of full-time personnel transferring to part-time. Given that anytime an EMS employee takes or uses vacation or sick time they actually lose money from their paycheck, most would forgo other benefits for the increased pay rate hands down, and find another source of insurance and such through a different full-time employer or elsewhere.

The overtime that is touted as the reason PCEMS hourly pay is so low when compared to surrounding services is completely lost when our employees need to take time for self care, often resulting in a loss of hundreds of dollars on a paycheck.

The argument can be made that no other department in the Pickens County infrastructure gets paid their overtime rate when they use their vacation or sick-time, but might I not only inquire which other department literally has the lives of our citizens in their hands as a default description of their employment, but also which other departments work 24 hours at a time with ZERO mandated or protected breaks for basic human needs (such as food, bathroom needs, or even sleep so that accidents are not exacerbated by increasing exhaustion)? The only departments I can think of that could possibly relate would be Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Services, and they, too, are woefully underpaid and underappreciated, truth be told. The people serving our community in PCEMS answer the call to duty throughout the day, regardless of the time or how recently ran their last call, and they deserve to be treated and compensated as though we actually appreciate what they do for our citizens.

Many of our newer and younger employees have never received a single time-in-service raise, and, in fact, during my ten year service I can only recall a single successful salary study that raised pay rates in that fashion, though afterwards it was widely believed that it had been only due to an accounting error that rates had been raised to the levels that they were. When this happened, though, PCEMS was the highest paid EMS service in the area, and we experienced a massive hiring boon, allowing us to bring on some of the most talented providers available locally.

That being said, when PCEMS pay rates were again surpassed by the local average, many left for greener pastures, so to speak. And again making an example of myself, we move forward to the present, to when I was still only making the base starting rate for FTO pay when I resigned after ten years, with nearly half that as an FTO and with my being recognized twice by County Council as the PCEMS Employee of the Year (2012 & 2018) during my employment.

If the lives and well-being of our citizens are as important to us as they should be, EMS should be the one department that would always be given the utmost priority in budget considerations, not just in payroll but in needed equipment, supplies, and training materials.

To my knowledge, every budget that had been submitted by any of the numerous directors that have served over the past ten years was slashed horrendously by the finance department prior even to any committee considerations, with our department heads then having to go before a committee to fight for what remained, often with minimal success.

To those on the outside of those decisions looking in, it seems as though the lives of our citizens are of much less importance than road maintenance, or a new jail, or Sister-City projects, or even replacing the trees outside the Administration Building because those that were originally there weren't “native species” and thus not in line with the desired aesthetic. When the lives of our family, friends, and loved ones are on the line, we shouldn't have to fight to have the personnel, tools, and up-to-date skills needed to give the best possible treatment for our citizens.

I understand that Administrator Roper is going to be riding with a PCEMS Supervisor to experience just what PCEMS does. While I appreciate that efforts are being made to experience what working EMS is like, might I suggest that rather than just one representative of the administration or Council scheduling a few hours riding with a Supervisor, EACH of you do a ride-along with one of the Easley crews for a full 24 hour shift on a day when one, or even two, of the three Easley units has been placed out of service due to under-staffing? As often as it has been occurring as of late, a day such as that should not be hard to schedule, and a true picture of what PCEMS does for this county could then be seen. See what it is like first hand to run three or four calls back-to-back while having to hold your bladder, to order a meal that you might get to take a bite of four hours later, or to run calls for fourteen or sixteen straight hours only to have the tones drop for more calls every time you sit down or lay your head on a pillow.

I hope that I have been able to effectively convey how serious this matter truly is. I personally know of several PCEMS employees already looking at other employment, and several more strongly considering doing the same. If even only those that I know of do make that jump, PCEMS will be very hard pressed to keep the number of shut down units to merely one or two trucks per day. And if that happens, it will very much appear that the citizens of Pickens County are being placed at an unnecessarily and highly increased risk because the bottom line was deemed more important than their safety and well being.

Money should never, ever, be more important than lives, especially when the funds that could be used to fix these problems are there and available. For example, Pickens County received $24,645,730 from the federal government via the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and utilization of this money for funding the issues I have addressed appears to be specifically both covered and allowable.

Councilmen and Administrator Roper, the citizens and voters of Pickens County are now relying on you for your guidance and heartfelt concern in addressing these issues. In fact, many of them may soon have their lives riding on it. All it takes is one unfortunate event.

Sincerely and with hope,

Tommy M. Page

Monday, October 4, 2021

Proposed Form For Pickens County Taxpayers That WANT To Pay More Taxes To Pickens County

This is a serious post.

If a taxpayer in the County of Pickens wants to raise taxes or pay more, then they should lead by paying more. This form should be promoted by the county and at every level municipal, county and state.

If anyone is truly serious about proposing or implementing higher taxes, then they should be willing to lead by example.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Were Taxpayers Misled By Our Pickens County Council On Fire Fees Restructuring?


Below is a letter written to all Pickens County Councilmen from
one of our Conservative of the Upstate Members: 

Dear Councilman __________,

I took a look at the 2021 tax bills (online) for some various properties last night 
and noticed some very high fire fees (as much as $230 on residential properties).

As I recall, last year when the new "plan" was discussed, fees of $90 to $156
 (depending on square footage) were claimed as follows:
$90 (under 1000 sq')
$112 (1000-1999 sq')
$134 (2000-2999 sq')
$156 (3000+ sq') 

It seems the actual fees being charged are much different:
0-1249'       $90
1250-1499'  $110
1500-1749'  $130
1750-1999'  $150
2000-2249'  $170
2250-2499'  $190
2500-2999'  $210
3000+          $230

This seems quite unreasonable and contrary to what was supposedly planned.
WHAT HAPPENED? When were these fees further discussed? Was it at a public
meeting or  behind closed doors? Why were the potential fees beyond $156 
not mentioned to the public in the County's extensive campaign to educate
(and push) the new fire fee plan last year? 

The figure of $105 for everyone, as a flat fee, was used as the amount it would take
to meet the funding needs of  the fire districts. I spoke to you last year, during a 
council meeting, after a public poll was conducted where the results favored a flat 
fee over a square footage based fee by a ratio of 2 to 1. Instead of listening to the 
public preference, it seems we now have 8 different fees, half of which are higher 
than the claimed maximum of $156. 

Please provide answers to the questions above as the public deserves an 
explanation as to what happened to the more reasonable fees mentioned when the
county was pushing the "new plan.”

Is this another example of not being transparent and honest
with the taxpayers from out present County Council? Stay
tuned, maybe, if we are lucky one of the councilmen will
respond to his email. But don't hold your breath.