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House approves DTC change; Govan hopes Senate will stop House plan for Denmark Tech

COLUMBIA – The S.C. House passed its version of the state’s $9 billion budget this week, including a proviso that would temporarily close Denmark Technical College and re-open it as an area trade school.

Now the budget heads to the Senate, where Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said lawmakers will be looking at the issue.

“Given the circumstances that exist, I think everybody is trying to make sure that the institution continues to an education mission for the training of young people to get jobs,” Hutto said.

“Obviously, the goal is to make sure young people in Bamberg, Barnwell and Allendale access to and an opportunity to get a technical college education,” Hutto said.

Denmark Tech has faced financial issues in recent years, with some directly linked to a steady decline in enrollment.

The proviso would close the college and task a nine-member committee with studying it. The committee would report its findings to the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee, the Department of Education and the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education by Oct. 1, 2019.

Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, says closing the school and converting it into an area trade school would a negative impact economically. It would also negatively impact the school’s current students, faculty and staff.

Govan is chair of the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus, which opposes the proviso.

During the House’s budget debate this week, Govan offered several budget amendments to solve the school’s financial problems.

“We put up an amendment to provide funding … for things like maintenance and facility upgrades for the school, and also monies for programmatic things and upgrades in terms of equipment,” Govan said.

One amendment would provided $500,000 for the institution’s operating costs, and the other provided $450,000 for workforce training.

“Part of the issue with Denmark Tech, and in terms of this whole notion of the school being able to meet the needs of its students, centers around its ability to provide training and services that are modernized. What we were trying to do there is provide them with the resources so they can upgrade and modernize their equipment,” Govan stated.

“The whole point was to put them on a level playing field when it comes to providing the services and make it competitive when it comes to the other technical colleges,” Govan said.

Govan said the line items in the amendment were comparable to budget line items for other technical colleges.

“There were about four or five other technical schools that had separate line items aside from the money that was put into one pot for all of them,” Govan said.

“One of the concerns we had is how can you single out these other schools for additional funds and special treatment, when you know you a situation down at Denmark Tech when every year it seems to be a problem with providing them with the funding that they need in such a needed portion of the state when it comes to economic development,” he stated.

Govan also offered an amendment that would provide the school with $5 million from the Rural School District and Economic Development Closing Fund for facility upgrades and training equipment.

The amendments failed.

The House version of the state budget was passed with a vote of 100-2. Now, the budget will go to the Senate.

Govan hopes the House’s plan for Denmark Tech will not be included in the Senate version of the budget.

South Carolina’s other technical colleges would to subsidize Denmark Tech to keep it open, Hutto said.

“In talking to representatives and senators around the state, they’re not inclined to do that,” he said.

Hutto noted that Orangeburg-Calhoun Tech would pay $70,000, Trident Tech would pay $300,000 and Midlands Tech would pay $250,000 to prevent Denmark Tech from having a budget deficit.

Hutto said the Senate will look at the institution's needs and the possible programs that can be offered to attract students and increase enrollment numbers.

“We’ll take a look at it when it gets to the Senate,” Hutto said.

Woman, 2-year-old ‘shaken up’ after Orangeburg train collision

A woman and a 2-year-old didn’t appear to have any physical injuries on Thursday afternoon after a train struck their vehicle, Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Capt. Alfred Alexander said.

The collision occurred around 5 p.m. at the intersection of Magnolia Street and Whitman Street.

Alexander said the woman and child are being checked out at the Regional Medical Center.

“They were coherent and answering questions and shaken up real bad,” he said. “The kid is more scared than anything right now.”

Norfolk Southern and ODPS are investigating the collision.

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Santee to host Lakefest; inaugural event coincides with fishing tournament

SANTEE -- Santee’s inaugural Lakefest will be held Saturday and promises to be fun for everyone.

Running from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the event coincides with the Crappie USA/Cabela’s King Kat fishing tournament March 15 and 16 on Lake Marion.

“We decided several months ago we needed a festival to go along with the crappie tournament,” said Joanie Pinter, director of marketing for the town.

Pinter said town officials hope that Lakefest will become Santee’s signature event to be held annually.

Held at the Santee Town Hall Complex at 194 Municipal Way, the free event will feature amusement rides; food, arts and crafts vendors; music and more.

From 10 a.m. to noon, D.J. Furman Dominic will be spinning the tunes, and from noon to 2 p.m., Moses and the Promised Land Band will perform, Pinter said.

“Then, around 3:30 (p.m.) or so, the crappie fishermen come off the lake and they come back to the Santee Town Hall gazebo area ... and there’s the weigh-in and the prizes are all awarded between 3 and 6 (p.m.),” she said.

Also, a kids’ fishing rodeo will be held at nearby Santee State Park beginning at 8 a.m. The rodeo is sponsored by Crappie USA/Cabela’s, she said.

Kids “will be fishing for prizes and for scholarships,” she said.

“We would love to have everyone come and enjoy the Lakefest, and if they want to watch the children fish, they can go to the state park and come back over to the town hall for Lakefest,” she said.

For more information, contact Pinter at 803-854-2152, ext. 5.

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Take a step back in time at Vallentine's in Cope

Vallentine’s Gin and Store in the quaint Orangeburg County town of Cope offers visitors a step back in time when the county played a major role in helping the nation produce more than half of the world’s demand for cotton.

In 1793, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, forever changing the clothing industry. Before his invention, cotton cloth was extremely expensive and difficult to make. Then along came the cotton gin, a machine that quickly and easily separated cotton fibers from the seeds, a job formerly performed by hand.

One hundred and 18 years later, J.I. Vallentine built his own cotton gin in Cope in 1911, putting his family into a business that has continued to thrive for more than a century.

In 1937, his son, the late Robert Vallentine, took over operation of the gin, which has since become a joint family venture.

If they’re around at the right time, visitors can see the gin in full operation as the raw cotton is sucked into the gin for processing, then cleaned and packed. Cotton bales, weighing approximately 480 pounds each, are stacked for delivery to various processing plants.

Vallentine’s Gin isn’t the only relic in operation. A unique feature on the premises is Vallentine’s General Store, which was built in 1911 along with the gin. The store offers a peek into the past through its showcase of memorabilia from the 1930s and 1940s. One area in the store is set aside for cotton souvenirs, including T-shirts, cups, dolls, etc.

When it was built in 1911, the store sold everything from horse collars to knitting needles.

Vallentine’s Gin and Store is one of Orangeburg County’s Discovery Sites on the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor. Stretching 17 counties and 320 miles across the state, the SCNHC is committed to promoting and preserving the cultural, natural and historic resources of South Carolina.

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2nd Orangeburg man charged in shooting death at Cordova club

A second Orangeburg man has been charged with murder in the Cordova nightclub shooting that left one person dead, Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell announced Thursday.

“We have developed information that indicated there were two gunman firing at the nightclub that night,” Ravenell said. “This second arrest is a result of the ongoing investigation.”

Jajuan Cooke, 25, of Parkside Drive, was charged with murder after being taken into custody on Thursday morning.

The Orangeburg man is expected to make his first court appearance on Friday when he will be formally charged and presented his rights.

Ravenell said Cooke was taken into custody off Kennerly Road near the Orangeburg and Calhoun County line by a task force of U.S. Marshals and the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office.

Kendalon Curry, 25, of Michael Street, was apprehended on Tuesday and also charged with murder in the shooting death of a 35-year-old man at the nightclub.

Sheriff’s office investigators allege both Cooke and Curry fired multiple rounds at Da Yellow Sto on Carver Edisto School Road after a dispute.

Witnesses said they saw a vehicle pull up to Da Yellow Sto around 4:20 a.m. on March 2. They said at least two men exited the vehicle and began firing in the direction of the club.

When the firing stopped, Joseph Simms Jr. of Weatherford Road was discovered to have suffered a fatal upper body wound.

Inv. John Stuke is leading the investigation.