Year in Review – July

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

New budget approved
July 1 marked the first day of the new fiscal year for North Carolina governments. Columbus approved its new budget during its June meeting.


In the approved new budget, which includes no property tax increases or water and sewer rate increases, there is a three-cent increase in the tax rate.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


The town’s new budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 includes a 2 percent cost of living salary increase for employees and a 1.2 percent increase in the employer’s required contribution rate for the North Carolina Local Government Employees Retirement System.


General Fund Revenues are expected to be $1,321,655 with Enterprise Fund revenues expected at $1,370,573 this fiscal year.


The new tax rate is 47.46 cents per $100 of property valuation, including for the town and the re tax.


Sales tax revenues were projected to be less this year because of the 2018 World Equestrian Games held in 2018. 


Occupancy tax is expected to be the same at $28,000 for Columbus.


The town held a public hearing during its June meeting prior to unanimously approving the new budget, with no residents speaking. 


Scenic byway
A group of residents whose protest led to the stopping of the Highway 108 widening project between Columbus and Tryon donated enough money to complete phase I and phase II for a scenic byway.


The Polk County Board of Commissioners met and heard from residents as well as County Manager Marche Pittman on the scenic byway project. Phase I of the scenic byway will cost approximately $2,000 and phase II will cost $2,500.20.  People pledged a total of $5,435 which was enough to cover all the funding and no county tax dollars would be needed. 


Nina Simone home receives celebrity support 

The Nina Simone childhood home went under construction to preserve the singer’s childhood home in April of 2019. The project and the Nina Simone Foundation have received national recognition and received support from celebrities as well.


Among the celebrities who have donated to the foundation are singer John Legend, rapper Talib Kwelli and comedian Issa Rae. Many other notable public figures have also given to the foundation.


Crys Armbrust, Tryon City Councilman and Founder/Executive Director of the project, said, “The Nina Simone Project is pleased to have national and international celebrities join with us, the National Trust, and other project partners to preserve the childhood home of a Tryon daughter who went on to achieve international fame as an icon of popular music and civil rights activism.”


Landrum boy rides his way to nationals 

Kade Stokes of Landrum was the only resident from South Carolina to make it to the High School Rodeo Nationals in Rock Springs WY in 2019.


Stokes has competed in events all over the state and country. He is also a member of the National High School Rodeo Association. The national rodeo competition is the “world’s largest rodeo” with at least 1,500 participants from the United States, as well as Canada and Australia. Participants had the opportunity to win specialized one of a kind rodeo merchandise. Academic scholarships were also awarded to winners. 


Polk County receives own Health Department 

Originally a part of the combined Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District, The Polk County Health Department began its independent operations on July 1.


Human Services Director, Joshua Kennedy shared with the Polk County Board of Commissioners that the transition had been rather smooth. During the beginning of the transition, much of their time was spent decluttering the health clinic building, located on Walker Street in Columbus.


A big reason for the transition into an independent health department was due to the lack of permits from RPM. 


Commissioner Ray Gaspearson had served on the RPM Health District Board and shared that Polk was the smallest of the three counties. He felt as though Polk was getting lost in the shuffle of the others counties so this new health department would be strictly focused on Polk. 


Buncombe County Commissioner indicted with ties to TIEC
A former Buncombe County Commissioner was indicted in federal court Tuesday for what federal officials are calling a scheme involving the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).


Ellen Madans Frost, 64, of Asheville was charged with conspiracy to commit federal program fraud and mail fraud, according to the federal indictments.


Frost is accused of conspiring with former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Skillington Greene to defraud the county of more than $575,000 by misapplying funds allocated to the county’s economic development program. The indictment says that Frost, who is a horse owner and boards horses in Polk County, had a personal interest in supporting equestrian venues including TIEC and the PBIEC, located in Wellington, FL.


Greene and Frost used county funds without the board of commissioners’ knowledge or approval for sponsorships and advertising for equestrian events and to promote the Asheville Regional Airport. The indictment alleges that the county’s sponsorship contracts guaranteed access to amenities at the two equestrian venues exclusive to high-level sponsors. 


Habitat for Humanity opens Columbus office
Habitat for Humanity opens a new office house in Columbus, located at 40 E. Mills Street, on July 23.


Columbus Councilman Robert Williamson spoke about Habitat for Humanity at the July monthly council meeting. He said there have been 68 Habitat homes built in Polk County and Landrum since 1983. He went on to say Polk County has one of the more unique Habitat for Humanity programs because Landrum, located in SC, is a part of the Polk organization.


Of those 68 homes, 24 of them were built in Tryon. Landrum had 23 homes built, Mill Spring has had 12 and Columbus has seen 9 new Habitat homes.


Williamson mentioned that the current plan is to add 6 new homes each year going forward. 


Chief’s last call
Tryon Fire Chief and Polk County School Board Chairman Geoffrey Tennant once said he was very fortunate in his life and felt he had an obligation to pay it back or pay it forward. “It is a way that when I leave this world, people will say, ‘at least he tried to make a difference.’”


And what a difference he made.


Tennant, 79, passed away after a sudden illness and immediately, the community rallied to honor and remember him.


Thousands took to Facebook after hearing the news to honor Tennant and a parade of 30 emergency vehicles escorted his body late Saturday night on its way to Tryon from Chapel Hill. Hundreds of residents lined the streets to welcome him home.


There will likely never be another man who gave more to Polk County over his almost 60 years here, whether it was through his time, his intellect, his skills or his philanthropy.


Polk County Schools’ Superintendent Aaron Greene said there is no way to adequately express the respect and admiration he has for Mr. Tennant.


“We have lost our guardian angel, our mentor, our teacher, our coach, our friend,” Greene said. “None of us will ever fully realize the true amount of good that Mr. Tennant has done. He changed so many lives in so many ways.” 


New fire chief
Assistant Chief James “Tank” Waters was introduced as the new Tryon Fire Chief on July 23, 2019 after the unexpected passing of Chief Geoff Tennant.


Chief Waters has been a part of the Tryon Fire Department since 2005 when he signed on to be a volunteer. In 2012, Waters decided to become a career firefighter. Waters became Assistant Chief in 2014.


After being named the new chief, Waters shared his gratefulness of the team under him. With 25 years of fire fighting under his belt, Waters shared that he loves being a helping hand to everyone in need and is appreciative to be in this line of work. 


In memoriam of 


Nancy Jane Rauner Benson

Eldonna “Donna” P. Butler

Aubrey Neal Camp

Ester Maybrey Carson 

Delbert Leon Case

William Robert “Bill” Chitwood

Franklin Edward Harrod

Barbara Ann Henson (Jackson) 

Betty Jo Jackson

Scott McKinly Jarvis

Tommy “Tom” Johnson

William “Allen” Jones

Edwin “Paul” Ottis Keith

Gordon Geroge Kovell 

Ronny Lance

Henry Forest Linder

Angelica Rojas Martinez

Randall “Hypo” Keith Maw

Dazel Defoy Morrow

Lesley G. Oaks

Peggy Jo Shehan Painter

Albert M. Pasternack

Shelva Jean Phillips

Helen Irene “Renie” Reid

Ralph Eugene Schnell 

Virginia Lind Sheppard

Ida Elora Meers Swope

Jane Powell Templeton

Geoffrey M. Tennant

Douglas Martin Thompson

Matthew Eugene Thompson

Dr. Joella F. Utley

Bobby L. Wessinger