2014 Year in Review

Published 10:00 pm Monday, December 29, 2014


Editor’s note: Over the next several days, we will take a look back at some of the top stories, newsmakers and images that shaped the year.


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Power outages in Polk County

Polk County experienced 251 power outages the beginning of January with Duke Energy customers experiencing 3,335 outages in the North and South Carolina area.

Wolverine radio gives last growl

WJFJ Wolverine Radio broadcasting high school sports, gospel music, preaching and public service messages closed. The station began in 1954 as WTYN, changed to WKJT and ended as WJFJ.

2013 brings over 30 inches more rain than normal

The year 2013 was wetter than average as several months ended in a few inches of rain above normal. The total amount of rain received in 2013 was 92.11 inches. The normal for a year in the Tryon area is 61.77 inches of rain.

Polk County Schools delayed 2 hours

Polk County Schools were delayed two hours on Tuesday, Jan. 7 because of hazardous weather conditions. According to the National Weather Service, the weather in Tryon was predicted to have a high temperature of 24 degrees with wind chills as low as negative 13.

Landrum High School student dies in single car wreck

A Landrum family and the Landrum community mourn the death of 17-year-old Michael Collin Wessinger, who died in a one-car accident Jan. 6. The highway patrol officer said Wessinger was traveling west on Landrum Mill Rd. when his 2006 Ford Mustang veered off the road and hit a tree. Wessinger died at the scene.

Live meth lab busted in Green Creek

Polk County narcotics officers visited 315 Scoggins Rd. in Green Creek Jan. 9 to follow up on an investigation and discovered residents cooking methamphetamine. Inside the residence officers found an actively working lab of methamphetamine as well as approximately 15 old methamphetamine labs referred to as one-pot, or shake-and-bake labs. The sheriff’s office said it was the largest meth lab discovered in the county in recent years at the time.

Columbus Fire Department honors top fire fighters

The Columbus Fire Department held its annual awards banquet on Jan. 11.

Awards were giving out for: Officer of the Year: Tommy Stott; Firefighter of the Year: Dylan Priester; Junior Firefighter of the Year: Trent Rowland; Most training hours by a officer: Bobby Arledge; Most training hours by a volunteer: Dylan Priester; Most training hours by a junior fire fighter: Trent Rowland; Most calls responded to by an officer: Geoffrey Tennant; Most calls responded to by a volunteer: Dylan Priester; Outstanding service and Dedication: Eric Champion, Tommy Stott, Tom Avolose and Bobby Arledge

Chief’s award: JJ Smith; Certification in Emergency Medical Responder: Ronnie Russell; Certification in Emergency Medical Technician, FF1&2, HAZMAT, RIT and Rescue: Dylan Priester; Special awards also went to the Polk County Board of Commissioners and Columbus Town Council.

Polk men sentenced in federal court

Two men from Polk County were sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to drug charges. The arrests were made from a joint operation in April 2012 with the Polk and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Offices. Israel Avelioneda-Alviar, of Mill Spring and Morgan Nunez, of Tryon were sentenced in federal court, held in Asheville.
Locally owned horse named National Horse of the Year

A horse owned by Landrum resident Janet Peterson has received one of the equestrian world’s highest honors. Her 15-year old Hanoverian gelding Brunello was named National Horse of the Year by the US Equestrian Federation (USEF), the country’s governing body for equestrian sports.

Polk County’s Unified Development Ordinance goes dormant

A document that Polk County spent more than $74,000 on, and a volunteer committee spent almost two years compiling, is all but dead for the foreseeable future. Polk County’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which was a highly controversial document throughout 2012, was barely mentioned by commissioners in all of 2013.

NC Forest Fire service responds to two wood fires

The N.C. Forest Service responded to two fires in Polk County on Jan. 20. A fire on Abrams Moore Road in the Pea Ridge community was reported on Monday morning and burned approximately ¾ of an acre, according to Polk County Forest Ranger Brian Rogers. The fire service also responded to a fire on Artesian Lane in Green Creek that burned approximately ¼ of an acre.

Columbus police force recognized for excellence

The Columbus Police Department received accolades for attaining the third highest number of N.C. Governor Highway Safety Program points in the state, Police Chief Chris Beddingfield told the Columbus Town Council on Jan. 15. The Columbus Police Department received recognition at the annual North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program Traffic Safety Symposium.

Ollis hired as new T.L. Hanna head football coach

The Anderson School District Five Board of Trustees on Jan. 21 approved the recommendation to hire Polk County’s Bruce Ollis as the new head football coach at T. L. Hanna High School. Ollis had a career record of 195-125. In the last 11 years as Polk County Head football coach he compiled a 108-38 record, including multiple conference championships.

ReStore volunteer discovers $7,000 Picasso platter

A black platter with its bold, Cubist design caught the attention of Robert Stepp, Habitat volunteer. The Habitat staff and volunteers do not have any idea who donated the platter, as it arrived in a box with random pieces of glassware, one of many anonymous donations made to the store.

St. Luke’s recognized for excellent patient satisfaction

The staff and medical staff of St. Luke’s Hospital were nationally recognized for their outstanding job of providing quality care to patients. Outpatient services, including the emergency department, radiology, lab and outpatient surgery, were nationally recognized by Professional Research Consultants (PRC). Each team received PRC’s Four Star award for reaching the top 25 percent of other hospitals that scored between the 75th and 89th percentile.
Columbus man arrested for child pornography

A Columbus man was arrested in Anderson, S.C. after investigators found evidence of child pornography in his home, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Jonathan Michael Whisnant, 41, of 60 Overlook Cir., Columbus, was arrested and charged with second degree sexual exploitation of a minor, according to sheriff reports.

Polk Schools closes on new early college building

Polk County Schools Superintendent Bill Miller said Jan. 28 the system closed on the purchase of a new location for its early college. A plan to move Polk County’s Early College began almost a year prior when the school system approached county commissioners about the school outgrowing its current space, the county’s former library.

Green Creek fire celebrated 50 years of service

The Green Creek Fire Department celebrated its annual awards banquet on Jan. 18 to honor volunteers for service in 2013. This event was a very special occasion for the Green Creek Fire Department as well as long time firefighter William Page. They both celebrated 50 years of service to Green Creek community and Polk County.

Polk discovered third meth lab this year

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office discovered the county’s third meth lab this month on Jan. 30, in the Sunny View community. Corey Lindsey, 26, of 127 Wolfe Branch Drive, Mill Spring was arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm by a felon, maintaining a vehicle/dwelling/ place for a controlled substance, which are all felonies, and simple possession of schedule IV controlled substance (prescription pills), simple possession of schedule VI (marijuana) and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the sheriff’s office.


Polk County hires new library director

Polk County hired Rishara Finsel as its new library director, who since 2008, has been the senior librarian for public services for the Flathead County Library system in Montana. Finsel grew up in Bat Cave and Broad River.

Mom charged in meth lab bust

The mother of Corey Shane Lindsey, who was charged in January by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for a methamphetamine lab was also charged. Vickie Ruff Lindsey, 53, of 127 Wolfe Branch Drive, Mill Spring was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, maintaining a vehicle/dwelling/place for a controlled substance (all felonies), and misdemeanor simple possession of schedule IV controlled substance (prescription pills), simple possession of schedule VI (marijuana) and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the sheriff’s office.

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson to return to job March 10

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson notified the county of his impending return from military leave with the U.S. Army Reserve on March 10. Whitson, who had served as the county manager since 2007, sent a letter on Monday, Feb. 3 to commissioners of his intent and desire to return as county manager.

Polk’s SBI agent retires after 28 years in law enforcement

N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agent Steve Modlin retired after more than 28 years in law enforcement. During Modlin’s career, he worked 79 homicides, many rape investigations, child abuse cases and other criminal investigations as well as serving on the police shooting on-call rotation. In 2002, Modlin became part of the Western North Carolina Bomb Squad and ended his career serving as the senior bomb technician.

Lanes hope to bring new life to historic Tryon buildings

After purchasing the famed Missildine Drug Store building before Thanksgiving last year, Gayle and Scott Lane waited to close the deal on purchasing the former drug store’s adjacent Tryon Federal and Jackson buildings. The Lanes began facade and interior renovations later this year. The three iconic Tryon buildings at the corner of N. Trade and Oak streets have remained unoccupied since Tryon Federal Bank moved to its N. Trade St. headquarters in 2006. The Missildine building was built in 1913 after the first Missildine drug store burned.

Polk applies for class IV for Green River watershed

After struggling to get the Green River watershed reclassified to a class III, Polk County moved swiftly with a class IV request in order to use Lake Adger as a future source for drinking water. The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Feb. 3, and heard from county engineer Dave Odom, who provided N.C. Rep. Chris Whitmire information to provide justification for requesting a watershed IV classification rather than a watershed III classification in order to be able to utilize Lake Adger as a water supply intake.

House of Flags celebrates renovation of second floor

The oak floors gleamed and the scent of fresh paint lingered Feb. 6 as the House of Flags celebrated a festive ribbon-cutting ceremony to open its newly renovated upstairs educational facility.

Landrum’s John Cann hired as AD at T.L. Hanna

After 12 years as athletic director at Landrum High School, where the Cardinals recorded 13 state titles, 21 Upper State titles and 58 regional titles, John Cann will serve in the same capacity at T.L. Hanna High School, Anderson (S.C.), after the Anderson District Five School Board approved a recommendation to hire him on Feb. 10.

Schools closed from snow from Pax storm

Both Polk County and District One schools announced their students will not attend classes on Feb. 12 because of pending inclement weather. Polk County Schools sent students home at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 11 and Saluda School students home Feb. 10 at 11:30 a.m. from snow accumulations.

Earthquake shakes foothills

Many area residents may have been watching the Olympics on Feb. 14 at 10:23 p.m. and felt a strange shaking of their house. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a 4.1 magnitude earthquake struck approximately seven miles from Edgefield, S.C. in the midlands at 10:23 p.m. Friday. The earthquake was reported to be felt in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and as far away as Tennessee and Virginia.

Polk extends economic development contract for another $15k

The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved extending the contract for its consultant for an economic development plan and met disagreement on its decision.

Commissioners met Feb. 17 and approved paying Robert Williamson, with Strategic Work Systems Inc., another $15,000 over the next five months for work on the county’s proposed economic development plan and strategy.

Pearson’s Falls’ green restroom facilities now open to public

Pearson’s Falls’ innovative new green restrooms are now open for use, and the unique building sports a living roof. After much research, the club decided to use the Clivus Multrum composting system because it provides clean, sanitary and accessible restrooms with minimal intrusion to Pearson’s Fall’s natural environment.

Prayer at county commissioner meeting stirs debate

A prayer read by Pastor Thomas Olson, with the Trinity Lutheran Church in Tryon, opening the Feb. 17 Polk County Board of Commissioner meeting stirred debate in the county. The prayer brought public comments for and against Olson’s views with debate over whether a prayer such as Olson’s should be allowed at a government meeting.

Columbus honors Diaz, Price for life-saving efforts

Columbus Town Council honored Officer Ron Diaz and Polk County Rescue Squad Chief Robbie Price for their outstanding heroism in saving the life of a woman traveling through Columbus.

Polk finds fourth meth lab this year

Polk County detectives discovered the county’s fourth meth lab this year along Coxe Road in Green Creek. The meth lab was found Feb. 20 and was determined to be a small lab, consisting of one two-liter bottle and empty battery cases, according to sheriff reports. The lab was described as a shake and bake method.

Call for action made at black history program

A group of about 50 people gathered Feb. 22 to talk about that call to action and how to overcome struggles many still face today. The program was called  “Native Sons and Daughters” where successful natives of the Eastside community in Tryon were keynote speakers.