Originally created 09/21/00

Across the area



SOUTH CAROLINA
Insurance companyseeks rate increase

CHARLESTON - For the second year in a row, Nationwide Insurance is seeking a homeowners rate increase in South Carolina.

But this time the increase will be higher inland than along the coast.

The average rate increase will be 11.9 percent and, if approved by the state Insurance Department, will be introduced in winter or spring 2001, according to the company.

Aiken, Edgefield and Lexington counties will see the highest increases at 22.8 percent, said Insurance Department spokesman Clayton Ingram. Rates in parts of Charleston County are proposed to increase 3.8 percent.

Nationwide ranks third in the state in homeowners' premiums. The company says it has a 10.2 percent market share in South Carolina.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
Industry announcement delayed

Columbia County officials canceled a news conference Wednesday during which they were expected to announce a potential prospect for a new industrial park - Horizon North Industrial Park - north of Interstate 20 between Lewiston and Chamblin roads.

"We want to wait until the prospect is ready to make the announcement as well," said Commission Chairman Pat Farr, who didn't know when the news conference would be rescheduled. "We were rushing it too soon, so we just backed off to give ourselves more time and make sure we've worked all the details out and all the legal documents have been executed and everything's ready to announce."

On Tuesday night, commissioners approved a rezoning request for the 260-acre industrial park.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Board OKs refunds for gas users

ATLANTA - Anticipating immense winter gas bills and plenty of irate bill payers, the Public Service Commission has voted to refund $40.9 million to 1.5 million natural gas customers next year.

Residential customers on Atlanta Gas Light Co.'s distribution system will get refunds of $13 each in February and March as a result of Tuesday's unanimous PSC vote.

"All indications are that gas prices are going up for the winter," Commissioner Bobby Baker said.

About 30,000 low-income senior citizens will get refunds of $10 each in January and $23 in February and March after the commission agreed to Commissioner David Burgess's request to add $900,000 for that purpose.

The money will come from the state's $48 million universal service fund, which is maintained by Atlanta Gas Light to reimburse marketers in Georgia's 2-year-old deregulated gas industry for bad debts and pipeline extensions.

The refunds were approved along with a new method for calculating the monthly base charges by Atlanta Gas Light for delivering gas.

Since deregulation, the company has figured the base charge - which accounts for about 40 percent of the gas bill - in fixed monthly amounts. Starting Feb. 1, the charge will be based on gas consumption.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Officer faces pepper spray charge

FLORENCE - A poor dining experience led a Florence police officer to disperse pepper spray in a restaurant, investigators say.

Officer Tameka L. Byrd, 25, was upset because the restaurant had stopped serving the meal she wanted Friday night, sheriff's Capt. Todd Tucker said.

Officer Byrd paid her bill, then came back in the restaurant. That's when an employee heard a hissing sound, Capt. Tucker said.

Soon after, everyone in the restaurant had to leave and two truckers needed medical treatment for breathing problems.

"They had to completely evacuate until they could open up all the doors and windows and get some fresh air in there," Capt. Tucker said.

Investigators think the pepper spray came from a canister issued by the Florence police department.

Officer Byrd has been charged with illegal use of a device containing foul or offensive odors.

GEORGIA
Teacher resigns in drug incident

GAINESVILLE - A veteran teacher accused of obtaining drugs with forged prescriptions has resigned from East Hall High School.

Gayle Marie Gabriel, an English teacher for 23 years, was arrested Sept. 11 with her husband, Charles Gabriel Jr., 53. Both were charged with seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance by forgery, a felony, and released on $35,000 bond.

Mrs. Gabriel, 51, was placed on administrative leave after her arrest. She resigned Tuesday.

Her attorney, Jeff Talley, said she is innocent but offered to resign to "get the criminal matter aired out." He said it was her husband who used the forgeries to get painkillers, although she was present when the prescriptions were filled out.

Mr. Talley said Mrs. Gabriel plans to seek reinstatement to her job once the charges are settled.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Secretary accused in church theft

COLUMBIA - A financial secretary is accused of taking more than $300,000 from the church where she managed the books, authorities say.

Columbia police investigators say Sally Bradshaw, 58, took $314,086 from Second Nazareth Baptist Church over eight years.

Ms. Bradshaw was entrusted with the church checking account and made numerous checks payable to herself, police said.

She cashed the money for her own use, at times paying off personal debts with the church's checks, police said.

The church dismissed Ms. Bradshaw in April at about the same time they found out about the missing money, authorities said.

Officials said it was unclear whether Ms. Bradshaw was an employee or a volunteer.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Woman wins suit in son's death

SPARTANBURG - The mother of a federal informant killed in 1996 has been awarded $2 million from the men responsible for her son's death.

Sylvene Samuel, of Spartanburg, sued Tommy Pabellon and Darrell Young, of Spartanburg, and Bob Harry Fowler, of Greenville County, who were convicted in 1997 of the death of 25-year-old Rick Samuel.

Ms. Samuel's lawyer, Chad McGowan, said his client knows she won't get the money from the men, who are in federal prison and have virtually no assets.

Ms. Samuel will try to collect part of the men's prison pay and any money Mr. Young makes after he completes his 16-year sentence, Mr. McGowan said. Mr. Pabellon and Mr. Fowler were sentenced to life in prison without parole.

"Prisoners make something like seven cents an hour," he said. "You can do the math. To Sylvene it was never about the money. It was about her knowing that she did everything she could about the death of her son."