Year in Review – January 2019

Published 10:31 pm Sunday, December 22, 2019

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Harmon Field sees upgrades

It was no secret that the former playground located at Harmon Field was a little dated, as that playground equipment had been there for twenty years. The Harmon Field Board of Supervisors approved to spend $50,000 on new playground equipment. Along with that, Fans of Harmon Field were able to raise funds. A part of the money raised by Fans of Harmon Field were received from the Dallara Foundation. The Dallara Foundation presented $20,000 towards the new playground. The new equipment totaled at $70,207 and was purchased from PlayNation of WNC out of Asheville. The new equipment included slides and activities for all ages. There was also an ADA-compliant swing set, ride-on equipment, new benches and an ADA-compliant merry-go-round. Henson’s Inc. donated new mulch once the playground was completed. 


Columbus gets picked for Charters of Freedom to be on display

In January of this year Polk County received a gift of the Charters of Freedom. The Polk County Appearance commission recommended that Columbus be the home of the Charters of Freedom, specifically placed on display in Veterans Park. The Charters of Freedom were gifted to Polk in 2018 from Foundation Forward, Inc. The Charters of Freedom are exact replicas of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Polk County Appearance Commission chair Joe Cooper shared that the appearance commission looked all over town for possible locations, including Stearns Park and the courthouse. “We were unanimous that the Veterans Park should be the location for these monuments.” They felt that placing the Charters of Freedom by the only Flag Museum in the country was a great idea.  

Remains found in Saluda
Skeletal remains were found in Saluda by an occupant of a neighborhood on Howard Gap Road. The neighbor was walking their dog when they peered down an embankment and saw a skull roughly 4o-feet away. Once the Polk County Sheriff’s Department was made aware, officers investigated the scene and determined it was a human skull. Sheriff Tim Wright shared in a press conference that the skull had been there for some time. According to the clothes found on the body, it seemed that the remains were of a woman but that could not be confirmed. However, Sheriff Wright shared that there were no active missing people in the county. The remains were sent to Raleigh when there was no match found in Polk. The North Carolina State Bureau took over the investigation.  

It went dark
Polk and Landrum residents found themselves in the dark one Sunday during January, when large and extremely strong wind storms hit the area. The storms were strong enough to knock down power lines, which resulted in the loss of power to many of the surrounding areas. Downtown Tryon was hit pretty hard as almost all of downtown was without power for the entire day. Heavy rain the Saturday before caused very saturated grounds and as the wind picked up everything loosened. Approximately 3,500 people lost power during this wind storm and did not regain power for quite some time. Once the town of Tryon realized there was no power in downtown they released an email stating to treat traffic lights as four way stops since they would not be working as usual. Trees fell on buildings and cars but luckily no one was injured. Many roads were closed for a short time in order for rescuers and power companies to get in and fix the issues at hand.  

Horse shot in Green Creek
A horse was found shot on John Weaver Road in Green Creek. Horse owner Anne Baskett sadly found her 3-year old bay warmblood mare dead in her pasture in January. Once the horse was confirmed deceased it was sent to the Western Carolina Diagnostic Laboratory for a necropsy where it was discovered that the horse was shot in the heart by a .22-caliber rifle.  The sheriff’s office asked if anyone had seen or heard anything and if so to call them so that they could get to the bottom of the situation. 

Boots & Sonny’s Drive In comes to Landrum
Foothills residents were thrilled to see that the iconic Spartanburg hot dog spot was making a move towards the mountains. Boots and Sonny’s Drive In have been around for four generations. The brother-sister duo and owners of the Landrum location, which was recently Kent’s restaurant, are thrilled to get their children more involved and show them the family business. It was declared that regular long time customers to Boots & Sonny’s in Spartanburg would receive the same delicious taste at the Landrum location.  There is something on the menu for everyone from delectable hot dogs to soups and burgers. Customers will not leave disappointed. Since family runs the restaurant they insist it is a great family environment to bring the kids to and enjoy a meal together. 

Standoff ends in suicide
In January a man caused a stand off with police that ended in a suicide. Camden Owen McWhirter was arrested on suspicion of impaired driving. While being transported to Polk County Detention Center, McWhirter made officers aware that he had a weapon on him. After many hours of negotiation the suspect took his own life. Counseling was offered to the deputies as they were both extremely upset over the outcome. At this time Sheriff Wright had only been in office for a little over a month, as he was sworn in as the new sheriff in December. 

Polk Middle opens health Center
Polk County Schools, Polk County Local Government and Blue Ridge Health officials gathered at Polk County Middle School Monday night to celebrate the newly opened Polk County Middle School Health Center. The facility, located inside a renovated classroom inside the Mill Spring School, is designed to help the school’s nursing and support staff identify and treat student health issues. Polk County Middle School is the sixth such school-based health center operated by Blue Ridge Health 

Scenic byway route is changed
The scenic byway resulted from citizens who disagreed with a proposed North Carolina Department of Transportation plan to widen Highway 108 between Columbus and Tryon last year. After months of meetings and a rally, the state’s plan died, and local leaders asked the community to devise plans for a scenic byway designation along the highway instead. The Polk County Board of Commissioners appointed Polk County Appearance Commission Chair Joe Cooper to chair the project, with assistance from volunteers. These volunteers include Tom Brylowe, Melissa LeRoy, Becky Oliver, Olivia Pleasants Whiteside and Dorothy Easley. When asked about the new byway Easley said, “The scenic byway, the second of two in Polk County, is perfect for this county and benefits not just the immediately surrounding community, but all communities in the county.” The new proposed route deleted Warrior Drive from the initial proposal. The latest proposal goes from the corner of Skyuka Road and Highway 108 near the Pacolet Baptist Church, turns right before the Pacolet River Bridge onto Old Howard Gap Road, passes historic landmarks and scenic farms, takes a left onto Howard Gap Road, loops back onto Highway 108/Lynn Road, then right onto Erskine Road and ties into Highway 176. Easley added the new byway would add to the recognition of the beauty of Polk. 

Columbus gets 47% fund balance
Columbus ended 2018 with a nice amount of money left in the budget. The Columbus town manager shared that the fund balance did increase from the year before. “Even though the over fund balance went down from last year, the unassigned fund balance went up,” Barth said. The town had $565,091 in available fund balance, which was 47 percent of its total general fund expenses. The total fund balance was $872,773, which was a decrease of $27,125 from the previous year. The total fund balance was 65 percent. Columbus’ debt decreased by $85,750 for the general fund and decreased by $292,545 for the proprietary fund, per the audit report. The town stayed in good financial position partly because revenues were greater than budgeted by $7,221 and actual expenses were less than the budget by $55,492. 

Howard Gap breaks under pressure
Howard Gap Road experienced more issues in January as parts of the road split right down the centerline. A section of the road between Tryon and Saluda was closed indefinitely and crews were attempting to assess the damages. The road was closed and the date was unknown as to when it would reopen, according to the North Carolina Department of transportation. Prior to the January destruction, the road was closed from June to October because of torrential rainfall that caused mudslides in May on 2018. The road had been closed in other parts as well.   

Campobello homeowner shoots suspects
A Campobello homeowner was shocked to find people in her backyard when she returned home one evening. The Campobello police chief, Chad McNeill, shared that shots were fired when the homeowner realized there were suspects in the backyard. The homeowner shot one of the suspects in the back of the leg that required medical attention at Spartanburg Regional. The suspects were caught and were expected to be the same people who broke into the same house weeks prior. The South Carolina Enforcement Division was called to investigate and assist during the investigation.

In Memoriam of 

Mark McCraw
Delmer Dennis Green
Alvin Page
Billy Ray Cooper
Judith Metcald
Robert Charles “Bob” Meeske
Rev. Earl Thomas Byers
Charles Wilson Doty
Janet Louise Nelson Goodwin
Dutch Browning
Lucille Melton Bradley
Arthur E. Bevans
Kay D. Bennett
Joyce Marie (Davis) Laughridge
Byron J. Brewer
Patricia Kathryn (Pruette) Barber
William Bradley
Richard J.W. Smith
Michael McDaniel
John Charles Greaser
Anne Johnson Boyd Dunlap
Kathleen Margaret Davis
Michael Daniel Vaughan
Joseph Barrilee Jackson
John Eugene Watson
Randy Thomas Cochran
Vernell McDowell