2017 Year in Review – March and April

Published 11:49 am Friday, December 22, 2017

Editor’s Note: Over the next week, we will publish our annual look back at some of the top stories, newsmakers and images that shaped the year. 



Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Tryon approves Kids In Park program for Woodland Park

The Town of Tryon approved joining the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids In Park Program for the town-owned Woodland Park. Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis said the foundation provides grants in a number of ways. One way is for kids to sign up for the program and get a passport. The children log in online and fill out information to go hike a trail and when they complete that the children get prizes, such as bandanas, patches, first aid kits and stickers.

Group of artists purchase Nina Simone house in Tryon

The birthplace of Tryon’s own Nina Simone has been purchased for $95,000 with new hopes that the historic East Livingston St. home will be restored and not torn down for other development. The closing of the sale occurred on Wednesday, March 1 with four artists getting together to purchase the house. African-American artists Adam Pendleton, conceptualist, Rashid Johnson, sculptor and painter, Ellen Gallagher, collagist and filmmaker and Julie Mehretu, abstract painter purchased the house.

Mill Spring man arrested on forcible sex offense charges

James Dean Huff, 29, of 4439 Hwy. 108, Mill Spring was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree forcible sex offense, according to sheriff’s office reports. Capt. Lowell Griffin said the sheriff’s office is conducting an investigation concerning allegations of sexual misconduct that involves an adult male and juvenile females.

Tryon’s fund balance drops from 40 to 13 percent over last three fiscal years

The Town of Tryon’s fund balance, or rainy day fund, decreased significantly over the last three fiscal years, according to the latest audit report for year-end 2015-2016. Tryon Town Council heard from Terry Andersen, with Carland & Andersen Inc. regarding last fiscal year’s audit report. Andersen said the town’s total general fund balance was $979,400, of which $769,300 is assigned and $210,120, or 13.6 percent is remaining for spending.

Another arrest made in December Lake Adger Rd. fire

A third arrest was made in a fire that burned a house under construction on Lake Adger Road in Mill Spring in December 2016, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Brandon Clarence Burgess, 27, of 1850 Lake Adger Rd. was arrested and charged with felony breaking and entering, larceny after breaking and entering and burning a building under construction, according to sheriff’s office reports.

Advance Auto employees arrested for larceny

The Columbus Police Department recently arrested two employees of Advance Auto Parts in Columbus on larceny and other charges. They were Cody Lee Horton, 23, of 2293 Houston Rd., Columbus and Dillon Reno Alexander, 23, also of 2293 Houston Rd., Columbus.

Author installs historical markers at former Landrum school locations

Martha Walker, author of the book “Landrum Schools Through the Decades: 1880s to 1990s,” placed historical marker signs at former school locations around Landrum. Walker has used the proceeds from her book sales to purchase these signs. Walker’s book has a map of the 10 schools, past and present, located in Landrum since the late 1800s. Out of 10 known school locations in Landrum, seven are marked with signs, from the first school in Landrum near I-26 from 1880 to 1883, to the location of the first Landrum High School on Earle Street from 1926 to 1963.

Tryon firefighter Daniel Walker receives Firefighter of the Year award

Tryon firefighter Daniel Walker received the 2016 Clarence G. Scoggins Firefighter of the Year award. Walker was awarded Firefighter of the Year, named after the late chief Scoggins, as well as several other awards, including Top Dog, Training Hour Award and an Emergency Medical Technician-Basic award. Other awards went to Jordan Fleming, who received the Top Dog award, Training Hours award and Medical Technician-Basic award. The Tryon Fire Department held its annual awards dinner at Caro-Mi Dining Hall. Pictured are firefighters who received awards for 2016. (photos submitted by James “Tank” Waters)

Residents say revaluation is driving natives out of county

Polk County Commissioners got an earful from property owners whose tax values rose dramatically during the recent property revaluation. Commissioners met March 6 and heard from seven residents during citizen comments and others during the discussion, all saying their values increased significantly. Most of the speakers are from the Green Creek area, with some blaming the increases on Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). Polk County completed a property revaluation this year, which the state requires at least every eight years. Appraisers said this year’s revaluation ended with 65 percent of Polk County’s properties staying the same value or decreasing and 35 percent increasing in value.

Polk deputy taken to hospital in I-26 crash; two people charged

A Polk County Deputy was transported to the hospital and two people were charged with various offenses following a crash on I-26 near Saluda. The deputy was not seriously injured. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said a vehicle made an erratic move traveling west on I-26 on March 9. Deputy Brian Atkins attempted to avoid a collision with the vehicle that suddenly stopped halfway in the lane of travel and halfway on the shoulder of the interstate, Capt. Lowell Griffin said. A tractor-trailer following Atkins was unable to stop before colliding with the rear of Atkins’ vehicle. Atkins was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital for precautionary measures but was released with no major injuries. The patrol vehicle did suffer significant damage, according to Griffin.

Polk sheriff’s office arrests two on drug charges

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested two people from Gail Drive, Tryon with possession of several drugs, including ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamine and marijuana. They were Crystal Belle Ballenger, 37, and Justin Michael Keyser, of 63, both of Gail Drive.

Columbus man charged with child pornography

A Columbus man was given a $500,000 bond for possessing child pornography, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.  Gary Michael Joyner, of 164 Beechwood Drive West, Columbus was arrested on March 9 and charged with 12 counts of second-degree sexual exploitation, according to sheriff reports. The sheriff’s office said its investigative unit received information regarding suspicious activity involving child pornography at the Beechwood Drive residence.

Group pickets 10 N. Trade Bakery over WOFF allegations

A group of local residents picketed with signs and handed out flyers to patrons going into 10. N. Trade Street Café and Bakery on March 11 over accusations being made against Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) in Spindale. The owner and employees of 10 N. Trade are members of WOFF. The restaurant was full of patrons in support, and restaurant supporter Jamie Corn had signs outside as well. Protestors’ signs included “Economic Exploitation Disguised As Religious Freedom,” “Abuse is Wrong,” “Jane Whaley is not a prophet, she sure has a big house though” and “My $$$ won’t fuel WOFF’s abuse.” Signs in support said, “Go Home Trouble Makers; 10 N. Trade Street-best restaurant in Tryon” and “We Love 10 N. Trade Bakery; best food in Tryon, best employees in Tryon, best service in Tryon.” (photo by Leah Justice)

Polk approves new fire and rescue advisory committee (FRAC)

The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved the bylaws and established a new fire and rescue advisory committee (FRAC). The new committee will be made up of seven members, with three people appointed by the board of county commissioners, three people selected by the chief officers association and one member selected by the other six members of the FRAC. The Polk County fire marshal will also serve on the board in an ex-officio capacity and will be a non-voting member.

Landrum Police Department arrests three in grand larceny case

The Landrum Police Department arrested three individuals in connection with a grand larceny case that began in November 2016. According to the police report, Ofc. Shane Southern responded to a call at 120 Morningview Dr. in Landrum on Nov. 11, 2016 where homeowner, Joe Earl Brown, III reported doll-like figurines and other items had been taken from his home. An investigation concluded Brown’s son, Joe Earl Brown, IV, and accomplices Jenna Danielle Tucker and Haley Rae Lin Henderson of Landrum were involved. The three were arrested and charged with grand larceny, according to the report.

Polk discusses how to pay for $2.145 million worth of repairs to dam

The Polk County Board of Commissioners had a lengthy discussion with county engineer Dave Odom over needed repairs to bring the Turner Shoals Dam at Lake Adger up to current standards, and how to pay for those repairs.

The first repair needed is a concrete overlay, estimated in 2014 to cost $1.15 million. The second repair is the installation of anchors to improve the stability of the bulkhead structures, estimated in 2014 to cost $690,000. The third repair is the seismic retrofit of the arch spillway, estimated to cost $575,000.

Wreck occurs by Landrum Ingles

A wreck occurred involving a van and a car, and the van flipped over. The wreck occurred on Hwy. 14 across from Ingles in Landrum. “Aside from both drivers being shaken up, both walked away,” according to eyewitness Roy Richards. (photo submitted by Roy Richards)

Polk releases statement about property revaluation

Polk County released a statement on March 24 in response to citizens who attended two commission meetings and voiced their dissatisfaction and frustration with their recent property revaluations. The statement from County Manager Marche Pittman as sent to the Bulletin reads in part as follows: “While the Board of Commissioners couldn’t make changes to the schedule of values, or lower valuation, they all understood the concerns of the citizens who spoke so passionately during the meeting.”

Sexting cases with middle and high school students on the rise in Polk

Local parents and students may not be aware that children under the age of 18 can be charged with child pornography for sharing nude photos and videos of anyone under the age of 18. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has had 12 cases in the last 15 months at Polk County Middle School and high school involving charges of dissemination of lewd material where students were charged with criminal acts for sharing pictures and videos, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. There were six cases last year where students were charged with juvenile crimes involving sexting and six cases already in the first three months this year, according to the sheriff’s office.

St. Luke’s Hospital infusion center renovations underway

St. Luke’s Hospital worked on renovations to Building 4 of their medical office park for a new infusion center expected to open before the summer. According to Kathy Woodham, director of marketing and public relations at St. Luke’s Hospital, the 4,681 square foot building was formerly the Hyperbaric and Wound Care Center. The center is now open.

Tryon holds off on rails to trails support following complaints

The Town of Tryon held off approving a resolution in support of a rails to trails project through downtown after a group of property owners came to the town’s meeting and expressed strong opposition to the project. Tryon Town Council met March 21 with town manager Zach Ollis who said the City of Landrum has started more discussions about the rail line from Inman, S.C. to East Flat Rock, N.C., and is asking for the rails to trails project to be lifted off the ground. Ollis said the resolution before council would put the town firmly behind the Saluda Grade Trail Committee and their commitment to working toward turning the “W Line” into a rails to trails project.

Cardinals’ Pierce, Bravo, Zimmerman earn state place honors in wrestling

Landrum’s Wrenn Pierce, Ismael Bravo and Paul Zimmerman capped their outstanding wrestling seasons as place-winners in the state AA individual tournament at Anderson, S.C. Pierce finished the season as state runner-up at 138 pounds; Bravo as state runner-up at heavyweight (285) and Paul Zimmerman at fourth in the 195-pound class.

At Thompson’s request, Ollis returning as Polk County head coach

The winningest coach in Polk County football history is returning to the Wolverine sidelines. In a chain of events set in motion by current head coach Jamie Thompson, Bruce Ollis will again lead the Polk County football program. The Polk County Board of Education approved at its regular monthly meeting on Monday the rehiring of Ollis, who will become the sixth head football coach in school history and the first to hold the job twice. (Jane Ollis photo)

Longshore shatters school record in long jump to lead Polk at T-N Invitational

Marissa Longshore soared, soared and soared some more during the 50th annual Times-News Invitational. Longshore shattered her Polk County school record in the long jump, reaching 17-4 1/4 inches in winning the event during the day-long meet held in G.M. Tennant Stadium. In setting the school indoor mark in the event in February, Longshore jumped 16-5. She bettered that mark by almost a foot to establish a new outdoor record as well and nearly match the meet record of 17-5 set in 1987 by Pisgah’s Melissa Shook. Teammate Mariah Overholt set a personal best of 16-2 to finish fifth in the event.



Daffy-Jills Garden Club holds Blue Star Highway Memorial rededication

The Daffy-Jills Garden Club sponsored a Blue Star Highway Memorial Marker rededication on April 3 at the N.C. Welcome Center off I-26 in Columbus on the 40th anniversary of the marker’s dedication in 1977. The New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs started the Blue Star Memorial Program in 1944 when they planted 8,000 dogwood trees as a memorial to veterans of WWII, according to Nancy Hiley, president of the Daffy-Jills Garden Club. Members of the Polk County Honor Guard were present at the rededication of the Blue Star Highway Memorial marker. Members include Bevin Corbin, Michael Collins, Morton Poliakoff, Charles Davis, John Magee, Gail Benner and Robert Holycross. (Photos by Michael O’Hearn)

Polk plans to apply for N.C. PARTF grant to acquire 300 acres for trails

The Polk County Recreation Department has requested Polk County apply for a $350,00 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) in order to acquire 300 acres adjacent to the county recreation park in Mill Spring for hiking and biking trails. The recreation department is attempting to acquire the 300 acres from the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), which recently purchased the former Foster Creek Preserve, a planned housing development that fell through a few years ago. The county later acquired the grant and purchased the 300 acres for future trails.

Frustration mounts over TIEC’s impact on property tax values

After holding a public information meeting and signing up residents for appeals, Polk County has also asked state legislators to come and hear residents’ concerns over the 2017 property revaluation. The Polk County Board of Commissioners met April 3 and heard concerns for the third meeting in a row over the recent property revaluation. This was the first meeting, however, that residents showed their appreciation for what the county is doing to help, particularly with property owners who have seen their values increase significantly in the Green Creek area, some say as much as 300 percent.

Suspect identified and sought in Bi-Lo advertising scam

The suspect in a scam involving advertising at area Bi-Lo grocery stores has been identified and local police departments are seeking the public’s help locating him. The Tryon Police Department has filed charges on Thomas Scott Bailey, 48, of Granite Falls, N.C., according to Tryon Police Chief Jeff Arrowood. Bailey is charged with one felony count of obtaining property by false pretense and one felony count of attempting to obtain property by false pretense. Bailey was later found and charged.

Polk child protection team asks for family resource center

The Community Child Fatality Prevention and Protection Team asked the Polk County Board of Commissioners to fund a family resource center for the county. The Polk County Board of Commissioners met April 3 and approved a resolution in support of child abuse and prevention month as well as heard the annual child fatality prevention and protection team report. Polk County Department of Social Service (DSS) Director Lou Parton told commissioners a family resource center could help to provide educational information and could lead to prevention efforts pertaining to child abuse and neglect. Parton said during the month of March, DSS received 32 reports of child abuse and neglect in Polk County.

Federal indictments charge Tryon Councilman Roy Miller and former Tryon Fire Chief Joey Davis

Federal indictments were unsealed in U.S. District Court charging Leroy Miller Jr., 51, and Joseph Samuel Davis, 42, both of Tryon, N.C., with federal program fraud conspiracy. The indictment also charges Miller with three additional counts including federal program fraud, extortion under color of official right, and witness tampering.

Polk County approves funding for 911 back-up center

Beginning July 1, a 911 call in Polk County should never go unanswered as plans are for a back-up center to be installed in Green Creek. The Polk County Board of Commissioners recently approved a budget amendment for $180,000 to fund a 911 back-up center at the Green Creek Fire Department. The money comes from 911 funding that the county receives every year from the state.

71st Block House Races attracts high praise, strong attendance at new venue

More than 9,000 spectators turned out for the 71st annual Tryon Block House Races – the historic steeplechase of Tryon Riding & Hunt Club – at its new venue in Columbus. The 2017 event grew from four races to six and from 17 entries to 40. The prize money more than doubled to $175,000. Tryon Equestrian Partners’ Roger Smith, who had the vision for the new venue, was honored with a new perpetual trophy – the Roger Smith Cup. Smith commented, “This was a dream come true for me to see such a great turnout from spectators, trainers, and owners for the inaugural event. The weather and the event could not have been more perfect.”

Pacolet Area Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy consolidate organizations

The board of directors and staff of the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) announced a consolidation of the two organizations. As sister organizations – each with deep roots and strong histories of conserving and preserving lands in the areas they serve – they are uniting to create a new organization that will increase conservation efforts in our area. They believe a united organization will help build a larger community of advocates for the common missions of protecting and conserving natural resources in the burgeoning region for generations to come.

Tryon hires William Morgan as new town attorney

Tryon Town Council met April 18 and approved a memorandum of understanding to hire William Morgan, out of Asheville, as the town’s new attorney, replacing former town attorney, Bailey Nager.

PCHS students earn five medals at state Science Olympiad competition

Polk County High School students brought home a handful of medals from the North Carolina Science Olympiad, the annual test of science knowledge across a wide range of topics held on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. PCHS students earned five medals, each signifying a top-10 finish, while competing against students representing more than 100 public, private and charter schools across the state.

Polk High students qualify for national land judging competition

This year’s Polk County High School land judging team headed to the national competition after securing third place in the state and second place in regionals this year. The team was made up of juniors Haley Robinson and Noriana Saunderson and seniors Aaron Adams and Mackenzie Blackwell.

Residents learn more about I-26/Hwy. 74 ramp

Polk County residents had an opportunity to register their opinions or to ask questions about a $15,500,000 project to add a ramp to access U.S. 74 from I-26 at the roundabouts in Columbus. The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) held an informal public meeting on the state’s proposed improvements to the I-26/U.S. 74 interchange on April 25 at Isothermal Community College-Polk County Campus. The timeline for the project includes finalizing designs in June 2017, beginning right of way acquisitions in July 2017 and construction beginning in September 2017. The project is expected to be complete prior to September 2018. (Photo by Leah Justice)

Polk petitions state for tax reform following revaluation

Polk County made a statement to the entire state of North Carolina to get tax laws changed. The Polk County Board of Commissioners met April 25 and approved a resolution calling for the General Assembly to complete a study of the property tax system and to provide relief to long-term property owners from being taxed out of their properties. Polk sent the resolution to all North Carolina legislators and Governor Roy Cooper, as well as all county commissioners in the state’s other 99 counties asking for their support.

Booker to begin second pro season with Class A Kannapolis

Former Polk County baseball standout Joel Booker will be continuing his professional career close to home. The Chicago White Sox have assigned Booker to their Class A affiliate in the South Atlantic League, the Kannapolis Intimidators.

Landrum High School fishing team wins state youth championship

The Landrum High School (LHS) fishing team returned home with first place after winning in the S.C. Youth Bass Fishing Championship at Lake Murray on March 25. According to Cheryl Rathburn, mother of LHS freshman and fishing team member Doug Rathburn, the team placed first in the bass fishing tournament with a combined weight of 33.19 pounds between the two boats that entered into the competition.


In Memoriam


Peggy George Brewington

Madelyn Obelia Lanning

Curtis Harris

Mary Michael Mauney

James McClintock

Bob Coburn

William Joseph Ruff

Grace B. Underwood

Harold Louis Gathmann

Esther Ruff

Percy Darr

Helene Janet Coffin Smith

Melanie Ann Taylor

Ethel “Lois” Bennett

Lydia Leonhardt Clontz

Carroll C. Campbell

Pearl Gritton

Dorothy H. Webster

Lawrence (Larry) James Traber

Conyers Shanklin Woodruff

Fred William Reinhardt III

Melanie Ann Taylor

Dorothy M. Bright

James Vincent Monroe

Ernest Wilson Glass

Jeanette A. Rhodes

Jo Ann “Gina” Trakas

Patricia Ann Fiol

Betty Lane Huddleston

Robert J. Mischler

Ruth B. Collins




Parky Flanagan

Kammie Sue Shannon

Kena Nichole Eubanks

Bronson “Jim” Panther

Edwin Garrett Hardin

Michel Jackson

Cynthia McCraw

William Voss

Herbert A. Edwards

Margaret Louise Lentz

John G. Trippett

James E. Mullins

Kathryn Jones Holland

Lawrence E. Swabb, Jr.

San Woodbridge

Donald Max Moran

Phelmas “Buster” Carswell

Lewis Lester “Terry” Womack, Jr.

Thomas Manns

Ann Bowen McCown

Kathy Ann Gilbert Ward

Martha Sleepack Frederick