Building boom brought new public, private facilities

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The new millennium brought a building boom to the area, along with all the associated fundraising and politics.
All local politics eventually come down to sewers and landfills. Certainly Polk Countys solid waste plans were the center of controversy for awhile.
In 2001 and again in 2003, the county contemplated allowing a regional landfill to locate at the former, leaky Little Mountain landfill site. Despite the fact that a regional landfill might have netted the county $1 million a year, the idea was quickly rejected both times.
But Polk County had to do something as the countys Hwy. 9 landfill approached the end of its useful life. Eventually, county commissioners decided not to build a new landfill, but instead to collect solid waste locally for transfer to landfills outside the county.
The implementation of that plan would change Polk County politics for the decade.
Polk County commissioners, if only for a few days in August, 2003, considered taking land along Hwy. 108 by eminent domain for a new transfer station before buying the Hwy. 9 landfill land. Still angry voters a year later in November, 2004 seated a new majority on the county board. Karim Shihata would resign as county manager a few days later, and all sorts of plans in the works were dropped or changed.
Michael Talbert was hired to manage the county at the end of 2004 and served as county manager until the end of 2006. In 2007, current county manager Ryan Whitson was hired.
In happier circumstances, there were downtown beautification projects in Landrum, Tryon and Columbus. A new Green River Bridge was constructed and the old High Bridge was kept in place for sightseers. Rogers Park opened in Tryon. Ziglar Field opened. Hwy. 14 in Landrum was widened and improved.
Laurel Hurst was built. Tryon Methodist built an addition. Landrum got a new EMS station.
Columbus and Landrum implemented major sewer projects and Tryon began a major water plant renovation.
A new Polk County Veterans Plaza finally found a home on land donated across from the Columbus Fire Department in April, 2004, following years in which planners moved the site back and forth between the Polk County Courthouse lawn and a closed Courthouse Street.
Polk County High School completed a new art wing. FENCE built an arena. The Tryon Fine Arts Center renovated its auditorium. e-Polk Inc. raised $1.8 million through grants and private partnerships to build a two-county fiber optic network.
Harmon Field won grants and donations for constant improvements. Steps to Hope built a new shelter for battered women. Hospice built new facilities in Columbus and Landrum.
The Rotary clubs built a new clock tower in Tryon and the town built new sidewalks. Upstairs artspace moved into a renovated building in downtown Tryon. The Polk County Community Foundation bought the old First Union building.
The Classical School was built, operated, closed and then was converted to house the county senior center and adult day care facilities.
The Ashley Meadows subsidized housing complex was built. The Cooper-Riis healing farm facilities were built.
As if all that did not keep us busy enough, we also completed several major public projects in addition to the $12 million Polk County Middle School.
We spent:
* $970,000 to restore the Polk County Courthouse a second time after the first renovation was found to be faulty. Phase II ran from June, 2004 to August, 2008.
* $28.5 million to build a new Landrum High School. Ground broken, May 2004. Completed 2006.
* $2.875 million to build a new Polk County Library. Ground broken, March 2005. Dedicated, October, 2006.
* $1 million – the Saluda branch of the Polk County Library. Opened, December 2000.

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