Purple Martins fill the sky again



Purple martins again are flocking to Lake Murray, delighting bird-watchers and shoreline residents for another summer.

Thousands of the birds are returning to their long-time roost on Bomb Island, relieving anxiety lingering when they went elsewhere in 2014 for unknown reasons. They returned last year, but in smaller numbers.

“The birds are back, but the population is much smaller than it was,” said Sidney Gauthreaux, director of the Radar Ornithology Laboratory at Clemson University. “It’s not really as spectacular as years past.”

No one counts, but the roost has been as large as 1 million birds at times, according to unofficial estimates. It’s one of the largest roosts of purple martins in North America.


Their numbers today are fewer, apparently due to higher mortality when the birds winter in South America and less reproduction, Gauthreaux said.

After their young leave the nest, the birds spend the summer consuming insects on trips that cover hundreds of miles before returning to their large communal roost on the island.

The roost at the lake apparently began to build sometime in the late 1980s, officials say. By 1994, researchers were estimating its numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

The spectacle has become a summer staple on the 650-mile lakefront.

Boaters sail near Bomb Island in July and August to watch the acrobatic cloud that the birds create at dawn and sunset as they depart and come back from hunting food.

It’s a phenomenon promoted by tourism officials. “Everybody is ‘Wow! I had no idea,’” said Miriam Atria, chief executive officer of the Capital City/Lake Murray Regional Tourism Board.

Tour boat operators are busy with nightly trips to view the flights despite suggestions the number of birds is down.

“Our passengers have not been disappointed,” said Ken Colton, operator of the Spirit of Lake Murray. “It is inspirational to see.”

The birds appear to roost more across the island than settling mainly on its east end facing the dam as they did before, he said.

But the cloud “is nothing like the tornado it used to be,” said Richard Peterson, chief executive officer of the Greater Lake Murray Chamber of Commerce.

Briar bushes should be added to the island to give the birds more spots to stay overnight, replacing landscape that has died out naturally, he said.

“We need to create new habitat,” Peterson said. “If we do that, the birds are going to come back in multitudes.”

No new money for Richland County Recreation Commission


Just like Representative Finlay and I did by sustaining Veto 31 of an “Indoor Aquatic and Community Center” relating to Richland County and recreation, I am wanting to be sure no new funding is available or projects approved by the Recreation Commission until there is resolution from the ongoing local, state and federal investigations and lawsuits.

(Veto message)

Below is an email I sent our delegation today relating to the Park and Recreation Development Fund . The last thing that needs to happen is these tax dollars (your tax dollars) be spent without knowing more about what’s going on with the Commission.

(Email to Richland County Delegation)

2017 PARD

Related posts:

Richland County – sands through the hourglass

Delegation takes action with Recreation Commission

Meet your Richland County Recreation Commissioner

Safety measures coming to dangerous intersection

all-way-stop (1)

Thanks to continued feedback from constituents in the area, the dangerous intersection on Johnson Marina Road will soon become a four-way stop!

*Also, next week SCDOT will be mowing around this intersection to improve visibility. (Special thanks to a young student – Adelyn R. – for mentioning this hazard to her parents who passed it along to me!)

I received this email tonight after inquiring the end of last month.


Representative Ballentine:

Reponses to each of the items are included under each item below in red. Following is a detailed response for Item 3 regarding the intersection of Johnson Marina Road (S-218) at Richard Franklin Road/Reformation Road (S-1333). A study has been conducted to determine the need for all-way stop control at this location.

The review revealed that Richard Franklin Road/Reformation Road intersects Johnson Marina Road to form a cross type intersection. The posted speed limit along Johnson Marina Road, which is the through street, is 45 mph. However, the speed limit is reduced through the intersection by the use of “Intersection” warning signs with 35 mph speed plates. The sight distance from the stop locations is adequate for this speed limit. Richard Franklin Road and Reformation Road are controlled by the use of “Stop” signs and “Stop Ahead” warning signs on each approach to the intersection.

The most recent review of the crash history at this location shows that the crash rate has significantly increased over the last year. The cause appears to be a result of an increase in traffic volumes occurring from a substantial growth in the number of houses in this area. While the traffic volumes do not quite meet warrants for all-way stop control, they are close enough for consideration. Therefore, due to the continued growth in the area as well as an increased crash history, converting the intersection to all-way stop control is recommended to increase safety to the traveling public. Our maintenance forces will perform the work needed to convert the intersection to all-way stop control as soon as their schedule permits.

Thank you again for bringing these matters to our attention. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Robert C. Dickinson, P. E.
Acting District 1 Engineering Administrator
1400 Shop Road
Columbia, SC 29201

Richland County – sands through the hourglass


As I kid, I “grew up” watching Days of our Lives with my Mom.

This was back during the days of those rather large VHS recorders and my Mom would “set the timer” every day to record her show and watch after she had finished her day teaching at Greenville Tec (25+ years) and making dinner for our family. When I went off to college years later, I happened to catch an episode or two and it seemed the “characters were still the same”.

I share this because it seems like I’m watching the same thing here in Richland County. Again.

First the Election Fiasco and then the Recreation Mess.

While I’ve been one of the first elected officials to call for drastic measures in both instances , it takes awhile for resolution to occur. While the Elections Director was not fired – she was at least finally replaced. While the Recreation Director has not been fired – he has at least been relived of his duties – until further notice.

In both instances, it took time. More time than I – or you – believed necessary. But that’s politics and that’s what happens when you have a larger block of votes against you.

My constituents recall years ago when a Senator unceremoniously removed my appointment to the Recreation Commission. I knew then that some members of the Legislative Delegation were too much “involved” in the operations of the Commission. I was told our commissioner was removed because he “wasn’t voting correctly” (verbatim from the Senator).

I agree with an editorial I read today . Some of us have been asking questions; what have the others been doing? Helping or hindering?

Here’s a question I have for the legal minds out there: Can a commissioner be removed (like my appointment was years ago) simply by having enough votes to remove him/her? If so, then I will ask my colleagues to remove the current commissioners – much like we did the Elections Commission (except for one holdover).

If we don’t remove the Commissioners (along with the Director), it means this soap opera will continue just as Days of Our Lives has for years. Same characters and basically the same story line. One of these isn’t good for ratings; the other isn’t good for our employees, our children and our taxpayers.

UPDATE: Proposed Housing Developments


Wanted to keep you informed of the proposed developments (The Park at Lake Murray, The Point at Lake Murray). Pictured above are the Preliminary Scores for each development. Obviously, too small to read. You can click here to review the scores.

As I read the list, it appears 22 developments received higher scores than these two. I also notice that the proposals in Irmo (Lexington County) and Chapin (Lexington County) received higher scores than these two in our area. As previously shared on NathansNews, I’ve been there is only funding for 20 of the 42 submitted projects.

Per the schedule on the SC Housing website , it is anticipated that notification of the Final Tax Credit Reservations will be made in late July to early August 2016.

While I do not get a “vote” on these matters. I have shared your concerns. If you have questions/concerns/support, you can either:

1) Email me directly at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov with the title “The Park and The Pointe” (names of the 2 almost identical proposals) and I will forward you emails to the SC State Housign Finance and Development Authority
2) Email Laura Nicholson directly (please cc: me at email above) at her address: Laura.Nicholson@schousing.com

As soon as I hear if these projects received tax credits (or not), I will share with you!

Delegation takes action with Recreation Commission


From The State

COLUMBIA, SC – State lawmakers from Richland County called Tuesday for the suspension of the county Recreation Commission’s executive director until law enforcement investigations into his office are complete.

James Brown III would be suspended with pay if the Richland County Recreation Commission, which has authority to hire and fire its director, follows the legislators’ recommendation.

The Recreation Commission’s board is appointed by Richland legislators. However, the legislators’ recommendation is advisory only.

Legislators voted 9-5 to recommend Brown’s suspension against the backdrop of ongoing investigations into allegations of public corruption at the Recreation Commission, and civil lawsuits accusing Brown of sexual harassment and other improper behavior. Richland County Council also has frozen the majority of the Recreation Commission’s 2016-17 funding until an audit shows how the agency spends its money.

To read more, click here.

Other articles of interest

SLED is 3rd agency asked to investigate Recreation Commission (April 2016)

Meet Your Recreation Commissioner (October 2008)

Thank you!


One week ago, we celebrated a tremendous win at the polls!

Winning 84% of the vote doesn’t happen without a total team effort. Tonight, I want to again THANK everyone who helped #TeamBallentine over the past several weeks during the campaign! I know I will leave off many, and I apologize; but I did want to list a few as well as share some memories along the campaign trail.

My parents filmed my brief remarks that evening; but I wanted to write more this week on my website.

Thanks to..

* God for his continued blessing and plan for my life (Jer 29:11)

* Karen and the kids for the time they spent helping on the campaign and the time we missed while I was away during the campaign!

* My parents for their support, prayers, and advice almost every day!

* My in-laws for spreading the word around town!

* The almost 400 members who were first to publicly list their support for the campaign!

* The students of Chapin High Student Government were the first to hit the streets with me knocking on doors!

* The many small business owners willing to publicly support me by having 4×8 signs or yard signs at their property (Pelicans, Breeze Cleaners, Silver Fox Grill, Cassell Brothers, Meetze Plumbing, Stanick Roofing, Durclean, Exit Realty, ERA Wilder Realty)!

* The more than 200 households who publicly supported me by having yard signs in their yards!

* The numerous local donors to the campaign (ranging from $20 to $1,000)!

* Gene for the use of his truck for campaign sign delivery. O’Show for helping put signs up. TNT for sign delivery!

* Trey and Nick for “keeping focused” with me door knocking! #LeaveNoDoubt

* Luke and his team for putting up with my numerous “revisions” to campaign materials (and who, by the way consulted for 8 winning races last week with only 1 loss, and 4 races in runoffs this week)! Thanks also for helping me keep a positive campaign when others would have gone negative!

* Ascot and Forty Love neighborhoods for their candidate drop-ins!

* The residents around town who invited me inside their homes to cool off/talk or to give me water during the hot days walking the neighborhoods!

* The young students (Erica, Andrew, Mary Kate, Emily, Elizabeth, Derek) who helped me reach more voters door-to-door!

* Russell Gaskins, an Iraqi War Veteran, whose wife brought him to meet me on the side of the road one afternoon.

* The men of F3LakeMurray who helped with precinct signs during the early morning hours on election day and Crash with the highway signs!

* Our few precinct volunteers on Election Day: Erica, Andrew, Joe, Jason, Judye, Jim, Paul, Marie and Jack. And to Will Owens and Grace Rentiers for delivering some great vote totals to us!

* Debby Nalbone for praying over me when I ran into her at Oak Pointe on Election Day

* Lila Mozingo for holding my hand and a volunteer for my opponent’s hand, along with her parents, and signing “It’s a Small World” at Spring Hill precinct

* Kim, Christina, Tania, Catherine and Kristen who helped put the Election Night Viewing Party together! (Crash too for our technical assistance)!

* 84% of you that voted on a hot, humid summer-primary day!

* To those I forgot, I apologize. There are so many more special memories along the campaign but I will keep those to myself and my family. Just know, many of you made a difference and impact for us over these past several weeks!

Ballentine Early Supporters
Chapin Student Gov
Business 4 x 8
Emma and JC helping
At door
Volunteers and signs
JC and Michael signs
Emma 4x8
Karens car
Lemonade stand
Side of road
Election Night  parents

VOTE! Tuesday, June 14th – no wait

After recent issues (and, of course, past issues ), I wanted to be assured every voter in our area would be able to vote in the primary of their choice (Democratic or Republican). Here is correspondence I received from the Director of Richland County Elections & Voter Registration


Rep. Ballentine:

I visited the Northwest section of Richland County, District 71 and our Absentee Satellite Voting precinct on yesterday. The Satellite precinct is located at 1009 Bickley Road. We made this effort for the convenience of voters in that area. I can assure you that this office is ready for the upcoming June 14, 2016 Countywide primary.

I can state emphatically that every precinct has been provided with the requisite number of machines as provided by State law and based on our historical analysis. (An attachment of our machine allocation by precinct is attached)

All of our voting machines (1147) were checked, cleared and tested after the recent Presidential Preference Primaries and the Poll Managers working in the Northwest area are very much aware that there is a Republican Primary.

Rep. Ballentine, as always, if you encounter any concerns on Election Day, I am available to assist you. My cell phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx and my office number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Let me also state, that we will have some issues on election day as no election is issue-free, but I again assure that they will be minimum and minute.

Samuel J. Selph, Director
Richland County Elections & Voter Registration

Veto! What’s your thoughts on these?

As I’ve done for several years , I’d like to ask your thoughts on the Governor’s Budget Vetos which she shared earlier today.

Fiscal Year 2016-2017 General Appropriations Act

Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Capital Reserve Fund

If you’ve never seen a veto message before, those links show you exactly what each House and Senate member receives.

I usually sustain several vetoes; but not before hearing from you and your rationale for why that particular veto should be overridden or sustained.

The General Assembly will return next Wednesday, June 16th, to vote on these. We actually take a little longer than we used to before I was elected. Partly due to roll call voting; also due to more deliberation from the floor instead of the usual “override them all” mentality that was around for many years.

If you see something you feel strongly about (for or against), please let me know! You can always comment here in the comment section or click “Contact” up top on the website to send me an email.

For those outside the Richland, Lexington area, be sure you let your Representative or Senator know your thoughts!

The Weekly Rewind: Week of May 30th



June 2, 2016

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to S.1258, legislation addressing ROAD FUNDING AND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation allows for an estimated total of up to $4.5 billion to be devoted to the state’s roads over the next ten years. This includes: $950 million to repair or replace all structurally-deficient bridges on Interstate and national highways; $2 billion in widenings and improvements to existing Interstates; and, over $1.4 billion in pavement resurfacing. The legislation transfers motor vehicle sales tax revenue and the revenue from various Department of Motor Vehicles fines and fees to the Department of Transportation’s State Highway Fund. Transferred funds may be used for the issuance of bonds through the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank projects that are financed utilizing these transferred funds do not require a local match. The legislation’s revenue revisions also allow for existing Department of Transportation funds to be redirected. Under the legislation, the Department of Transportation is charged with developing and implementing a needs-based weighting methodology to allocate funding within the state funded road resurfacing program, which must include consideration on a county-by-county basis, to ensure that each county in the state is guaranteed funding. The legislation includes a restructuring of the Commission overseeing the South Carolina Department of Transportation that retains the commission’s geographical representation, but provides that legislators would no longer elect commissioners and that all commissioners would, instead, be appointed by the Governor, upon the advice and consent of the Senate. The Governor’s transportation district appointees are submitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives for approval by the appropriate delegation of legislators residing in the corresponding congressional district. If approved, appointees are referred to the Joint Transportation Review Committee to ensure that they meet the qualifications for the office. The Governor’s at-large appointee is submitted directly to the Joint Transportation Review Committee for screening. Commission members may be removed from office at the discretion of the Governor subject to the prior approval of the appropriate legislative delegation. Terms of service are limited to a maximum of twelve years. Under restructuring, the DOT Commission assumes the responsibility of appointing the Secretary of Transportation, upon the advice and consent of the Senate. In order to afford the chief internal auditor of the Department of Transportation greater independence, the legislation provides for the department’s chief internal auditor to be appointed and overseen by the State Auditor rather than the DOT Commission. The legislation also provides for revisions to the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Before providing a loan or other financial assistance, the Board of Directors that oversees the Infrastructure Bank must, under the legislation, submit its decision to the Department of Transportation Commission for its consideration. The DOT Commission can, in turn, approve or reject the decision or request additional information from the bank’s board of directors. The Infrastructure Bank’s policy of following the SC Department of Transportation’s project priority criteria is established as a statutory requirement. The General Assembly may, however, enact a joint resolution specifically allowing the bank to fund a project without using DOT’s prioritization criteria. The minimum project amount set in Transportation Infrastructure Bank requirements is lowered from $100 million to $25 million. This threshold is lowered to allow more areas to be able to afford local match requirements and take advantage of the bank’s bonding capabilities for financing their transportation projects.

The House and Senate adopted conference committee reports and enrolled for ratification H.5001, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.5002, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the $7.5 billion FISCAL YEAR 2016-2017 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. $84 million in Department of Motor Vehicles fees and fines and $131 million in motor vehicle sales tax revenue is transferred to the State Highway Fund. $50 million in nonrecurring funds is distributed among the County Transportation Committees to use for resurfacing, reconstructing, and repairing roads and bridges in the state-owned secondary road system. $49 million is allocated to the Department of Transportation to address road repair costs from the October 2015 flood damage. $72 million in nonrecurring funds is allocated to the Adjutant General’s Emergency Management Division as the full state and local match for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds for the 2015 catastrophic flood response. The budget legislation accommodates the $40 million appropriation from the 2014-2015 Contingency Reserve Fund for the “South Carolina Farm Aid Fund” that is created to assist farmers who suffered extensive damage in the October 2015 floods. $30 million is provided for coastal beach renourishment. For K-12 public education, $218 million is used to increase the base student cost by $130 to arrive at an estimated $2,350 per pupil. The budget legislation makes provisions for a 2% teacher salary increase and a one year step increase for teacher salaries and an increase in the state salary schedule to 23 years. The K-12 technology initiative is afforded $29.3 million in Education Lottery proceeds. The State Department of Education is provided $18 million in Education Lottery proceeds for instructional materials. $23 million, including $2 million in nonrecurring funds, is provided for new school buses. The budget includes $28 million in recurring increases for the state’s colleges and universities, a 5.5% increase on average. $10 million is provide for the Children’s Hospital at MUSC. $13.5 million in nonrecurring funds is devoted to worker training through the Ready SC Program at the state’s technical colleges. A 3.25% state employee pay increase is provided with $54.3 million in recurring funds. $26 million is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state’s health and dental insurance plans with no increases in the premiums paid by employees and no reductions in coverage. The Local Government Fund receives $12.5 million in recurring dollars and $10.6 million in nonrecurring dollars for total funding of $233.1 million. $5 million is provided for a Rural Health Initiative partnership between DHHS and the USC School of Medicine to enhance the recruitment of physicians to practice in underserved areas and to improve access to life-saving emergency room care in the wake of rural hospital closures. Telemedicine is afforded $10 million through the Healthy Outcomes provisions and $2 million in recurring funds. $2.8 million is allocated to the Rural Infrastructure Fund that is used to provide grants for water and sewer projects that facilitate economic development in rural areas. $8 million is included for a new Statewide Water and Sewer Fund that allows areas that do not meet the criteria for being considered rural to obtain grants for sewer and water projects that are needed to support economic development. $17 million is provided for the Deal Closing Fund that the Department of Commerce uses to recruit new business to the state. The Department of Commerce is afforded $6 million for the Locate SC Site Inventory for potential business relocation prospects and $2 million for the Office of Innovation to support high-tech and high-growth industries. [Read more…]