Fire ruins home but not faith
By Faye Ellison
How people pull together in times of need despite their differences is a good way to measure any community. Lisa Williams, mother and wife, has found this to be true in one of her family’s darkest hours.
While at work on Friday, she received a call that changed her life.
“On Friday afternoon, a little bit before 5 p.m., my next door neighbor, Allen (Whit) called me and said, ‘Lisa you need to come home,’” Williams said of her unexpected summons to her home located near the McDuffie-Warren County line. “I have this elderly dog that I am very fond of, I just knew he was going to say my dog had died. But he said, ‘Lisa your house is on fire.’ He said our house was burning. He came where I work at KaMin to get me.
“When we got there, my roof was caving in. After about 10 minutes the ammunition in the house started going off. By about 5:30, 6 p.m. everything was gone.”
Though the official cause of the fire has not been released, Williams said she was told that officials believe the fire began in the wall between the dining room and one of her son’s rooms.
“The fire got so hot in that room and burned so intensely that there was pretty much nothing left,” she said. “I had an oak dining room table and the only thing they found in the rubble was the mechanism that was in place to take the table’s leaf in and out.”
The fire was fought until about 11 p.m. that night, Williams said. It took several fire departments to put out the blaze, but it flared up again during the night and the fire crews had to reassemble at the Williams home.
McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services Assistant Chief Stephen Sewell said about 30 firefighters responded to the alarm that sounded about 4:50 p.m. Two fire engines, as well as two tanker trucks were used to battle the fire, which kept firefighters extremely busy for more than an hour.
Her home was located on Highway 17. It housed her, her husband, Chris, and her three boys, Chandler Hadden, Trey Haley and Blake Haley, and the memories they had made together as a family and mementos of their past. But luckily no one, including her pets was injured.
“That day I was pretty numb, until the police chief asked me if it was my home,” Williams remembered. “He asked me my name and I told him who I was. He told me, ‘Mrs. Williams I am so sorry.’ I completely lost it after that.
“We actually feel like we are going through a death right now. I have lost my mother, father and brother, and now everything we had from them is gone. All these personal things are gone. I feel like I’ve lost them all over again. The things I had of them, that represented them are all gone. This is something I want no family to have to go through.”
But through the smoke and rubble of their charred home, the Williams have found new memories – memories of love and support from family to friends to strangers in their community.
“The outpouring of the community has been phenomenal,” Williams gushed. “There has been this outpouring of love that we have been shown. God has truly blessed us with the community, church, friends and school.”
With help from her niece Beth Braddock and her sons’ school Thomas Jefferson Academy, many of the Williams’ needs have been met in a short matter of time.
“The school’s Booster Club has already made a donation,” Williams said. “And Beth, my niece, went far and beyond anything I could ever imagine. Everyone has been coordinating through Beth. She has been absolutely wonderful.”
Word of the family’s loss spread quickly throughout Jefferson and McDuffie counties and Williams and her family found themselves caught in a whirlwind of love and understanding from all over. She fielded calls from friends offering an ear if she wanted to talk and prayers for healing.
“I want to thank all the firemen, Lee Woods, he was Johnny on the spot, he was there five minutes after I called him,” Williams gushed. “The churches have been wonderful, including New Hope Baptist Church, In the Faith Riders, Fort Creek Baptist Church, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and Wrens Baptist Church Day Care. There are so many people to thank.
“KaMin has collected things for our family with help from Charlene Robinson at KaMin. They have been phenomenal. And my bosses Ken McKenzie and Dwayne Outlaw have been great. Chris works for Bob Richards’ Nissan and they collected a lot of stuff too. Bob Richards Jr., Jeff Richards and Terry Lambert headed up the donations there. And, of course, Thomas Jefferson, Miss Gail called me the following morning and prayed with me. They have all collected and given so much to us.
“The Hadden and Haley extended have been very supportive as well. I want to make sure that the first person to thank in this is God. Without him his touch to these Christian people, none of this would have been possible. Chris and I want to make sure that if they are not mentioned, it does not mean they are not thanked. With the outpouring of love that we have received from everyone, it would take a whole page in the newspaper.”
The Williams have met with the American Red Cross and received help from them as well as their neighbors who held her up during her time of despair.
“Allen and Lynn Whit have been great,” she said. “They have both of our animals taken care of.”
As of Tuesday afternoon Must Ministries has sent out a truck filled with household goods and clothes for the whole family.
Currently Williams said there is nothing that the family needed immediately besides a little time to get their lives back together.
“We are trying to firm up getting a home right now,” she explained. “Danny and Lisa Stoms have taken their home off of the market to rent to us until we can get our own home built. The house we found is unfurnished except for the appliances. But at the time, clothes were the most important thing.
“My children are spread out; one is with his father and another with his father. Right now we just want to get into a home to try to get the family back together.”
Thomas Jefferson Academy is receiving donations on behalf of the Williams family including toys, household items and monetary donations, as well as her niece Beth Braddock.
Qualifying opens next week for Norton's county seat
By Carol McLeod
Qualifying for the seat on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners vacated by the death of Sydney Norton will begin Monday, Jan. 26, at 9 a.m. until noon on Friday, Jan. 30.
Norton had been the county commissioner for District 3 at the time of his death Dec. 3, 2008. He had been a county commissioner for a total of 14 years.
In order to be eligible for this seat, an individual must be, among other things, a United States citizen and a legal resident of District 3, which is part of Precinct 77, part of Precinct 81, all of Precinct 1460 and all of Precinct 1593.
Qualifying will be at the Probate Judge’s office at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Louisville. The qualifying fee is $162. Anyone who wants to qualify for this special election should bring a current form of identification with them.
Advance voting will begin Monday, March 9, through Friday, March 13, and will be held at the Jefferson County Registrar’s Office located at 302 East Broad St., Louisville.
The office will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday during the week of advance voting, said Chandrel Evans, the registrar.
Anyone who wants to vote in this election but has not registered can register through Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 5 p.m., Evans said. Anyone who needs to register must do so at the registrar’s office. Normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The office closes for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.
The election will be Tuesday, March 17, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the usual District 3 polling stations, Evans said.
“We will do early voting as soon as we get our ballots in,” the registrar said.
“We will do absentee ballots. Anybody in that district who wants to vote by absentee ballot for any reason will need to submit an absentee ballot application. The dates for getting the absentee ballot application have not been set,” she said.
Evans said she is waiting to receive the ballots from the Secretary of State’s office. When those arrive, she will be able to set the dates for the absentee ballot applications as well as start allowing early voting.
During early voting, eligible voters may vote at the county registrar’s office Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.
The special election will be Tuesday, March 17, at the usual District 3 polling stations from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. A runoff election, if required, will be held Tuesday, April 14.
Gas bills should be lower in Wrens
By Leila Borders
Though the city of Wrens is still struggling with budget shortages, its citizens can look forward to a reprieve from their natural gas costs this winter. An agreement with Southern Company is allowing the city to reduce residential and small commercial gas prices by 25 to 35 percent.
Eight years ago the city of Wrens entered into a 10-year contract with Southern Natural Gas that obligates the city to purchase a fixed amount of natural gas each year. At the time, the city boasted several plants that operated on this gas. As many of those plants closed over the years, the cost of the gas that the city no longer needed but was still obligated to purchase was passed on to residential and small commercial consumers.
After a failed discussion with another company last year, the city entered into an agreement this year selling a portion of that excess natural gas to Southern Company, a southeastern energy provider. The portion is substantial enough to allow for a significant reduction in natural gas costs for residents and small businesses.
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“The amount that they’re taking has enabled us to lower our prices,” said Mayor Lester Hadden. “We could use some good news.”
The 10-year contract will expire in 2010, and it is then the city expects to renegotiate and be able to offer their citizens a more competitive natural gas rate.
What does this reduction translate to in terms of actual bills? For the month of December, natural gas cost approximately $21 per unit in Wrens. In January, that cost is expected to drop to $16 or $17 per unit. Two years ago, the average heating cost according to public record for December was approximately $350. A 25 percent reduction in that rate means the bill would become $262—a savings of almost $90.
Citizens can expect to see these savings as early as their next bill. The February bills for January consumption will be at the new reduced rate.
This reduction comes after budget discussions threatened to raise water and sewer prices, and after the city announced personnel cuts across many city departments. However, the rate reduction will not affect the budget, either positively or negatively.
The natural gas system in Wrens accounts for more than $15 million of expenses and revenue in the city’s budget. The system is expected to generate excess revenue of almost $400,000 for the city in the upcoming year, even with the rate reduction.