The Year in Review – April

Published 2:55 pm Monday, December 28, 2020

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Over the next several issues, we will publish our annual look back at some of the top stories,

newsmakers and images that shaped the year. The following are several of the top stories

published in the Bulletin in April.

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Polk County schools prepare nearly 10k meals for students

POLK COUNTY––Polk County Schools campuses may be closed, but that hasn’t stopped the district’s food service staff from making certain students have healthy meals.

Food service workers have remained hard at work during the current closing of school campuses due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Polk County schools are providing free meals each weekday to all county children ages 0-18 with those meals available from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the four elementary schools in the county.

Staff members from throughout the district are at each location to help distribute those meals, but the food service staff fuels the process by assembling bags that contain both that day’s lunch and breakfast for the following day.

In the first eight days of the program, more than 4,700 bags have been distributed, meaning Polk County schools’ food service staff members have prepared almost 10,000 meals for area children.


EMS workers exposed to Covid-19 virus

POLK COUNTY––Polk County announced its 4th presumptive case of the Coronavirus as well as a mishap where EMS workers were exposed to the virus.  

Polk County EMS was dispatched to a medical call where the patient did not identify as a potential Covid-19 case per the county’s protocols.

The EMS workers went to the residence unprotected and during the course of the call determined that the patient was suspected of having the virus, based on symptoms and the person’s travel history. The patient later tested positive for Covid-19.  

During the interaction, the EMS workers were exposed without the use of Personal Protective Equipment. The EMS crew was immediately placed into self-quarantine and is in isolation for 14 days starting on the date of exposure.  


Columbus joins county to make US 74 an interstate

COLUMBUS––The Town of Columbus has joined Polk County officials in approving a resolution supporting the designation of a future interstate quality corridor along U.S. 74.  

Columbus Town Council met and approved the resolution which would improve U.S. 74 to interstate status from Asheville to Wilmington.  

The need to improve U.S. 74 to an interstate to improve freight movement and in-state access through southern North Carolina has been identified in previous studies and interstate quality US-74 corridor will provide better connectivity, business planning, transportation safety, and resource efficiency from I-26 to I-85.  

The town council of the Town of Columbus requests that our North Carolina federal legislation delegation submit and support federal legislation to secure a future interstate designation for the section of US-74 from I-26 to I-85.  


N.C. and S.C. issue statewide burning ban

FOOTHILLS––People in the area cannot burn as of April 3 for North Carolinians and as of April 7 for South Carolinians.  

Both the North Carolina Forest Service and the South Carolina Forestry Commission declared state burning bans.  

Polk County Fire Marshal Bobby Arledge also issued a county burning ban within 100 feet of a dwelling to comply with the state ban. The burning ban prohibits yard debris burns; prescribed or controlled burns; campfires and other types of recreational open burning. The bans were put into place in the interest of public safety amid the current threat of Covid-19.  South Carolina state officials also said for infected individuals breathing smoke could make the symptoms worse which would increase the risk of hospitalization or death.  


Tryon man charged with attempted murder

TRYON––The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Tryon man regarding a 6-month-old baby discarded in Tryon last week on attempted murder charges.

Joshua Oren Hardin, 37, of Hollow Wood Lane, Tryon, was arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder; felony breaking and entering and felony larceny after breaking and entering.

While deputies were investigating a 911 call that stated a baby had gone missing from its crib, they received a call that a baby had been found in a black gym bag in the parking lot of the Trinity Lutheran Church, located in the Pacolet Valley, just outside of Tryon. 

Heather Lynn Walsh, the mother, was charged that day with misdemeanor child abuse/neglect. Hardin was her boyfriend.

The baby and an older sibling were taken into department of social service custody where they both remain.

Hardin was being held at the Polk County Detention Center under a $200,000 secured bond.


The loss of James “Tank” Waters

TRYON––James “Tank” Waters, Tryon’s Fire Chief, brother and friend, 40, died unexpectedly.  

He never met a stranger and told everyone he loved them because he truly did.  

Many remember Waters as a boy n his grandparents’ stores, Cowan’s Grocery and Hardware in downtown Tryon. Others know him from his service to the community and many children fondly referred to him as “Uncle Tank.”

Waters stepped up as fire chief after the town lost former Chief Geoffrey Tennant last year unexpectedly.  

Town Manager Zach Ollis said, “He had the heart of a lion. The thing that hurts the most is knowing all the young men and women at the station that looked up to him and that he will not get to see the fruits of his labor. He was the one that pushed them to be better than they could ever be.”

Waters was a native and lifelong resident of Polk County. He began his fire service career in 1995 serving as a junior fireman with Tryon Fire Department. Following graduation, he went on to earn his B.L.E.T. in 2001 and began working for Columbus Police Department, Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Tryon Police Department. Through the years, he served at Tryon Fire Department, Columbus Fire Department, Saluda Fire Department and Henderson County Rescue Squad.  

Chief Waters became a career firefighter with TFD in 2012, became Assistant Chief in 2014 and Chief in 2019.  


Tryon names interim fire chief 

TRYON––The Town of Tryon has appointed Marshall Lipscomb as interim fire chief after the sudden passing of chief James “Tank” Waters.  

Lipscomb has been with the department many years and was the assistant chief at the time of Waters’ passing.  

Town officials said while no one can replace chief Waters, multiple agencies have stepped up to support the town in its time of need.  


Local cities conducting meetings over web

FOOTHILLS––Local cities are still conducting business during the pandemic and required social distancing, but this month at least will be a little different.

The City of Saluda will have its regular board meetings as a live broadcast so people can watch from home. Saluda will take public comments which will be read into the minutes.  

Landrum will do the same for its regular board meetings; they will be broadcasted live and can be viewed over a life feed from the city’s Facebook page. Public comments will be taken differently for the Landrum meeting. Residents can call into the meeting during the live feed with any public comments.  

North and South Carolina are both now prohibiting any gatherings of more than 10 people, so public meetings will have to be changed during the orders.  


Gov. Cooper announces further restrictions 

POLK COUNTY––North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper placed some new order on businesses to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

Cooper ordered retail stores to restrict the number of shoppers allowed inside at one time to 20 percent of each store’s fire capacity, or 5 people per 1,000 square feet.

Cooper said that if the order is not obeyed, law enforcement has the authority to issue Class 2 misdemeanor citations. He also put in a place a mandatory protective order for nursing homes, which bans group activities and gathering in common spaces.  


Fire burns 21 acres

MILL SPRING––The pallet plant on Fox Mountain Road caught fire and ended up burning 21 acres in the area. There were 25 agencies from a few counties who fought the blaze on the windy afternoon.

The fire burned for hours throughout the night. Fox Mountain Road from Highway 108 to Bill Collins Road was closed. Duke Energy had almost 250 customers without power because of the fire. Some homes had to be evacuated during the fire which quickly spread to the woods. 

The fire consumed approximately 21 acres with extensive damage to several pieces of machinery equipment, vehicles and several buildings on the property.  


Landrum grants Operation Hope $2,500

LANDRUM––With Covid-19 in full gear, businesses are closing and having to lay off employees.  The City of Landrum decided to help those in need.

Landrum City Council met and decided to grant $2,500 to Operation Hope. City officials said they will donate that amount now and possibly grant more money later if needed.  

City administrator Rich Caplan said the city gave gift certificates to local restaurants to its employees to help local businesses to the run of $800. The city has leftover funding, including for the car show which now will not occur and other monies unspent for new businesses.  

Caplan said Operation Hope is anticipating other needs in the future besides food, such as household bills and rent.

Council decided to grant Operation Hope $2,500 now and will re-evaluate the needs later to possibly grant more funding in the future.  


Polk County Covid-19 cases rise to 10

POLK COUNTY––After going a week without another case of Covid-19, Polk County now has a total 10 cases.

The 10 cases rank Polk County as the 25th lowest in the state with not many counties having less than 10 cases. North Carolina has 6,746 laboratory-confirmed cases, with 179 deaths in the state.

N.C. has completed 79,484 tests, with 373 people currently hospitalized. The most cases are in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte area) at 1,210 cases. There have been no reported deaths in Polk County from the virus.  


Gov. Cooper closes N.C. schools for remainder of 2019-2020 school year

FOOTHILLS––North Carolina and South Carolina governors both announced that schools will be closed for the remainder of the year.  

The Coronavirus pandemic caused the schools to be closed, with South Carolina claiming that keeping students on buses and in classrooms 6 feet apart would be impossible.

While some students are thriving with e-learning the state has in place, some families are struggling to get access to the internet.

With graduation right around the corner, many schools begin planning virtual graduations as in person would be impossible.  

The North Carolina Board of Education adopted updated grading measures for students, which will give high school students the option of letter grades over the summer. Middle and elementary school students will only receive a passing grade or a withdrawal grade.  


Polk opens drive-through testing

COLUMBUS––Polk County reports that it has tested a total of 133 patients for the Coronavirus. The county just opened a drive-through tested center at the former county jail in Columbus and reports that tests were completed on the first day. The drive-through test center will be by appointment only. The county reports that its weekly message line calls are at 57.


Polk Schools getting $100k

COLUMBUS––The Polk County Board of Commissioners decided to give the school system its remaining $100,000 for the after-school program to be used for tis food program. 

Polk County appropriated $299,000 this fiscal year for the county’s after-school program. One-cent of the county’s tax increase this year was for the county’s after-school program. There is approximately $100,000 left in the funding.

County manager Marche Pittman asked commissioners for a consensus to give the school system the remainder of the funding because of the food program the school system is currently doing for students.  

The school system is providing meals to all students at each elementary school five days a week.


In Memoriam 


Pearline M. Bell

Margaret Louise Collins Edwards

Edward Bobo Ensley, Jr.

William P. ‘Bill’ Gilbert

Claude D. Graves

Charles Arthur “Charlie” Hall

David Lomax Hart

Ms. Mildred Barger Herschler

Dean Thomas Horton

Elizabeth Barton Horton

Kenneth Plato (Sonny) Justus

Mary Lee Edney Lindsey

Zannie Mae Littlejohn

Rocky Earl Mabry

Betty Amelia (Kennedy) Neighbors

Betty Jo Newman

Travis Shane Price

Joyce A. Prince

Judy Audrey (Greene) Schlitt

Kaye Marilyn Steele

James “Tank” Waters

Joyce Ann Pittman Walker

Ken Witt