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Crime-and-courts
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Orangeburg schools receive ‘possible threat’; law enforcement presence boosted at OCSD5 facilities

The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office and Orangeburg Department of Public Safety increased their presence at area schools on Thursday after a “possible threat” appeared on social media.

“We acted on information provided to us. Thankfully, no incidents occurred at any of our schools related this morning’s concerns,” sheriff’s office spokesman Richard Walker said.

Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 spokesman Bill Clark said officials were responding to a possible threat of a “potential shooting incident.” He didn’t disclose the exact origin of it.

“Although there were rumors to the contrary, there were no incidents at any of our schools today,” Clark said.

He said, “The district became aware of anonymous threats being made on social media that referenced two of our schools: Clark Middle School and Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This information was shared with law enforcement and as a precaution, additional law enforcement resources have been provided at these schools.

“The district takes all security threats seriously and coordinates with law enforcement whenever security concerns arise.”

While there were rumors that Clark Middle was on lockdown, Clark said it wasn’t.

“All of the schools in the district have their outside doors locked during the school day. Visitors to the schools must be identified before the doors are unlocked and they are permitted to enter,” he said.

Clark said the district is aware that some parents removed students at various times throughout the day, but he wasn’t immediately sure how many.


Crime-and-courts
breakingfeatured
Dumpster trucks burned; SLED asked to probe loss of six trucks at Orangeburg Waste Management site

Four roll-off dumpster trucks, a side-loader truck and one other truck burned at Waste Management’s site on Landfill Road late Wednesday night.

The damage is estimated to be “in excess of several hundred thousand dollars," Jamison Fire Chief Kirk Davis said.

The S.C. Law Enforcement Division is assisting with the investigation into what started the blaze. Davis said it is normal procedure to contact SLED when the loss is significant.

The trucks are total losses, Davis said.

Davis did not have an exact dollar amount on the loss Thursday afternoon.

"We are trying to get an estimate," he said.

There were no signs of the fire being suspicious or arson, Davis said.

Dispatchers sent deputies to the site at 11 p.m. Wednesday because the fire department needed help forcing entry into a locked gate, according to an Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office incident report.

When deputies arrived, the Jamison Fire Department was already at the scene, extinguishing the fire.

Davis said the call rang out at 10:47 p.m. and firefighters were at the scene at 10:56 p.m.

Davis said firefighters remained at the scene until 4 a.m. and then returned at daylight to check on hotspots.

The Orangeburg County Fire District also responded to the blaze.


Local
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Park has beautiful view; Orangeburg County planning more amenities for Indian Bluff

EUTAWVILLE— Scenic views of Lake Marion, wildlife and relaxation are among the offerings at the Indian Bluff Recreational Park.

Located in Eutawville, the 32-acre park offers swimming, a fishing pier, a boat ramp and hiking along various nature trails. There’s a playground and volleyball court, according to T&D archives.

No park would be complete without outdoor grills, picnic tables and the all-important restrooms, all features of the recreational park. The park also offers endless photo opportunities.

The park opened almost three decades ago and is a joint venture between Orangeburg County and Santee Cooper.

Admission to the park is free and the facility is open year-round, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m.

The park most recently suffered damage due to Hurricane Matthew. Restoration efforts were completed in 2018.

Orangeburg County Community Development Director Richard Hall said, “Both the fishing pier and the boarding dock were heavily damaged during Hurricane Matthew. So, using FEMA funds, we were able to rebuild both of those. Those are both fairly new, only about a year old since they’ve been redone.

“We just finished a shoreline restoration project that was also from Hurricane Matthews damage.”

Hall said that the future of the park is being discussed.

“Currently we’ve contracted with Johnson Laschober & Associates P.C. to develop a master plan for the park. We’re going to be doing some environmental studies, all of the permitting studies to figure out exactly what we can and can’t do at the park,” Hall said.

“I think council and administration would like to see the park developed, not into a commercial-type park, we like the fact that the park is a passive park, but we’d like to improve the amenities there,” Hall said.

Hall listed some possible additions to the park’s amenities, including campsites, rustic cabins and a meeting space.

“That’s kind of where we see the park going next,” he stated.

With warm weather and the summer months approaching, the traffic at the recreational park will be sure to increase.


Local
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Masonite closing Denmark factory; 110 full-time employees to lose jobs

DENMARK -- One of Bamberg County's largest manufacturers has announced it is shutting down its local operations.

Masonite International Corporation, a door maker, says it is closing its manufacturing plant in Denmark on July 31.

That will result in the loss of 110 full-time jobs, according to SouthernCarolina Regional Development Alliance Vice President of Marketing Kay Maxwell.

The plant, located at 1349 Locust Ave., also has a number of temporary employees. This number was not immediately known Thursday.

The temporary employees will be released immediately, Maxwell said.

An attempt to reach Masonite officials Thursday was unsuccessful.

"The local Masonite management team was informed by corporate around Feb. 15 that Masonite is decreasing its footprint on the East Coast due to reduced sales on the East Coast," Maxwell said. "The closure of the Denmark plant is one of the facilities that will be affected by this plan."

Masonite officials said local and state officials could do nothing to help keep the plant open, Maxwell said.

"There was nothing about the business environment or anything to do with Bamberg," she said. It was a corporate decision to consolidate manufacturing plants companywide.

Masonite officials have told the SouthernCarolina Alliance that all employees at the Denmark location have been offered severance packages and benefits, and the local managers will work with any employee who may receive job offers to release them early.

Maxwell said, "The State Rapid Response Team was scheduled to be onsite last Thursday (Feb. 21), and Masonite has engaged a training group to assist employees with resume and benefits applications."

According to a notice sent to Bamberg County Administrator Joey Preston from Masonite’s senior counsel, operations at the plant will be phased out starting this month.

The notice states employees will get paid through April 16, 2019 with declining levels of employees until July 31.

Masonite is also among the county's top eight employers.

Maxwell anticipates Orangeburg, Bamberg and Barnwell county residents will be the most impacted by the closing of Masonite, citing commuting figures from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

According to DEW’s December numbers, about 528 people commuted from Orangeburg County into Bamberg County for work while 518 people commuted from Barnwell County into Bamberg County.

Bamberg County had a 5.9 percent unemployment rate in December, according to DEW.

Bamberg County Council Chairman Trent Kinard said, "It is detrimental to the community anytime you lose an employer and lose jobs."

Kinard said the silver lining is that Bamberg County owns Masonite’s 200,000-square-foot building and will work with the SouthernCarolina Alliance to get a “bigger and better” industry to fill that building.

”This is a setback, but I think we can move forward and have the right industry to go in and replace them,” he said.

Maxwell said, "As the regional marketing and industry recruitment organization, SCA is working with Masonite to return the building back to the market as soon as possible so that we can market the property to other prospective manufacturers.”

Maxwell, like Kinard, noted local companies are looking to hire, such as Blackwater Barrels in Bamberg and Energy Solutions in Barnwell.

Maxwell is optimistic Masonite employees will be able to find jobs quickly noting, "Those are the most employable people with good working skill sets."

Masonite acquired the Denmark facility in 2010 with the purchase of the former Lifetime Doors Inc. plant on Mayfield Street, which then had 40 employees.

In July 2011, Masonite said it would bring up to 200 jobs and invest $14 million in new technology over a five-year period.

The closure of Masonite comes less than three years after the company announced it was expanding its Denmark plant by adding 50 new positions. The company at that time expected the plant to continue to grow into the future.

The company now says it plans to focus on optimization of its manufacturing footprint, product lines and business portfolio to better position itself for less predictable market conditions in the year ahead.

Masonite plans to reduce the total number of manufacturing plants across the company by more than 10 percent by the second half of 2020.

The company expects to reduce jobs by 5 percent in the first half of 2019 through a combination of attrition and focused restructuring efforts.

Masonite International operates more than 70 locations around the world--with 37 sites in the United States alone. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., the company employs more than 10,000 people worldwide.

The SouthernCarolina Alliance is a marketing and industrial recruitment organization for seven counties, including Bamberg.