Originally created 02/12/99

Incorporation plans tossed out



BEECH ISLAND -- Plans to incorporate one of the oldest communities in South Carolina into a municipality died Thursday night after a vehement majority killed them in a community meeting.

About 70 people attended a meeting held by the committee researching whether to incorporate Beech Island, and after an hour of answering pointed questions about the estimated tax burden affected residents might face, committee chairman Dan Johnson called for a vote.

The vote was tabulated by a fast show of hands, and Mr. Johnson announced the incorporation effort was over. Mr. Johnson said the outcome was what he expected, given the crowd.

"The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and the silent majority was not here," he said. "I would not have pursued this as I did without the phone calls and support of a lot of people."

Incorporation supporters pushed it as a means of preserving the community's identity and protecting its interests from the encroachment of North Augusta and Jackson.

Other people who attended the meeting saw it differently. When the committee began to talk about water and sewer fees, Sally Whinghter, who lives inside the proposed incorporation area, interrupted and told them she saw no need to incorporate.

"This is going to cost us," she said. "We'll be like New Ellenton. We're going to be so sorry."

New Ellenton's sewer problems have resulted in a number of long court battles that resulted from former Mayor Randy Shaw embezzling a portion of sewer funds in the early 1990s. He pleaded guilty and was sent to prison in 1995.

Buddy Vaughn, who also lives inside the proposed city limits, drew applause from the audience after he asked to see all the committee's reports and asked them to bring the incorporation to a vote.

Mr. Johnson had described the meeting as a presentation of information that would lead to a vote. But presenters were often met with sarcasm and harsh criticism from people who didn't agree with their estimated tax increases needed to support a municipality.

Michael Rouse, a member of the incorporation committee, called the meeting's results "a vote against progress."

"The community just wants to be deadlocked and stagnant," he said after the meeting was over.