Year In Review – October, November and December 2021
Published 10:02 pm Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Editor’s note: Over the next issue, we will publish our annual look back at some of the top stories, news makers and images that shaped the year 2021. Following are several of the top stories published in the Bulletin in October, November and December 2021:
The Year in Review – October
Polk offering sign-on bonus
COLUMBUS—Polk County is now offering sign-on bonuses to be a county employee.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners amended its recruitment and retention policy at a recent meeting that means anyone hired between September and the end of the fiscal year, June 30, will receive a $1,000 sign-on bonus.
Commissioners approved a resolution that says Polk County, like most regions across the state and country are experiencing a much higher unemployment rate than normal.
Weekend search ends in safe return of juvenile
GREEN CREEK—Emergency crews and law enforcement called off a weekend search of a missing girl Sunday night just before 10 p.m.
The juvenile, who is 11, was missing since early Saturday morning. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office began sending out alerts at 7:41 p.m. Saturday night, then on Sunday afternoon were searching for the juvenile and her uncle, David Neil Henderson, 38, who they believe was with the missing juvenile.
Remembering those who lost their battles
TRYON—This year was something special.
Maybe it was the pandemic and because the walk had to be cancelled last year, but more than 200 people gathered at Harmon Field on Saturday to remember those lost to mental health.
The 7th annual Walk/Remembrance was held with free food and t-shirts, a walk to remember those who have lost their battles to mental health through suicide or substance abuse, children’s games and activities and a dove release. Local organizations were also on hand to give information about local resources.
Polk in bottom half of counties for child vaccinations
POLK COUNTY—Polk County is in the lower half of the state of children who have been vaccinated.
According to NC COVID-19, 22.5 percent of Polk County’s children have been vaccinated between the ages of 12-17. All children 12 and older are eligible.
There have been 26.24 percent of Polk County children partially vaccinated, or 344 children, according to NC COVID-19. There have been 295 children in Polk County fully vaccinated, which makes up the 22.5 percent.
Overholt crowned Polk County’s 2021 Homecoming Queen
Senior Olivia Overholt was named Polk County’s 2021 Homecoming Queen on Friday evening during halftime of the Wolverines’ 48-28 victory over R-S Central.
Overholt was chosen by the PCHS student body as this year’s queen. Escorted by her father, Pat, she received her crown from the most recent queen, Rollins Carter.
Ashlyn Ramsey was named Maid of Honor while junior Ella Waldman was named Miss Wolverine, that award voted on by members of the Wolverine football program.
Green River bridge rehab begins
SALUDA—A 3-year project to widen and replace the decks of the 2 bridges over the Green River began this week.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation began an early phase of the project, which is set to be complete in late 2024.
Drivers began seeing traffic issues recently from the construction in the Saluda area especially.
Polk awarded grant for Little White Oak Mountain
MILL SPRING—The Polk County Parks and Recreation Department was recently awarded a grant for $336,000 to purchase land and create new trails at Little White Oak Mountain.
The project was awarded the grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, which awarded more than $5 million to fund 14 parks and recreation projects across the state. Governor Roy Cooper made the announcement recently about the PARTF grants, which included the one for Polk County.
Polk deputy fired
COLUMBUS—A Polk County Deputy was fired and charged this week after a discrepancy regarding a timesheet.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on Thursday afternoon saying that the deputy, formerly assigned to the school resources division, was terminated and charged this week.
James Cox was charged with one count of obtaining property by false pretenses, according to the sheriff’s office.
Polk County Schools ranked among state’s top districts
For the second straight year, Niche.com has listed Polk County Schools as the second-best school district in the state. Niche uses a proprietary rating system to rank all districts and schools across the United States.
Only Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools ranked higher on the list of the state’s top districts. The remainder of the top five districts included Union County Public Schools, Watauga County Schools and Asheville City Schools.
Niche also ranked Polk County Schools as the safest school district in North Carolina as well as the best place to teach and the school district with the best teachers. The district also ranked first in all three areas last year.
Green Creek woman charged with animal cruelty
GREEN CREEK—A Green Creek woman was charged this week with animal cruelty and unlawful disposing of a dead domesticated animal, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Sarah Kathryn Stepp, of Green Creek, was charged with 10 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty and 1 count of unlawful disposing of a dead domesticated animal, according to sheriff’s office reports.
Sheriff’s office officials said the charges involved 7 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs, 1 duck and 1 deceased animal.
Marlyn Earlene Foster
James R. Edney
The Year in Review – November
4 plead guilty in 2018 attack on Landrum store owners
LANDRUM—An attack on a well-known Upstate couple who own the W.E. Willis Store outside Landrum has been solved with 4 men pleading guilty on Monday.
Jack Foreman IV, Jack Foreman III, Jeffrey Mullins Jr. and Da’Juan Young were accused of attempted murder, kidnapping and other charges.
Warren and Ann Willis were attacked on Sept. 28, 2018, with Greenville County Solicitor Walt Wilkins saying 6 defendants were engaged in the crime.
Challenger unseats Saluda Mayor in Tuesday’s election
POLK COUNTY—Challenger Tangie Morgan is the City of Saluda’s new mayor, upsetting current mayor Fred Baisden by 56 votes, according to unofficial election results Tuesday night.
The 2021 municipal election was held Tuesday.
Morgan, a political newcomer received 145 votes compared to Baisden’s 89 votes, according to the Polk County Board of Elections Office.
Vaccines now available for ages 5 and up
POLK COUNTY—Parents of children ages 5 and above can now get their children vaccinated against COVID-19.
The vaccinations were approved this week for children ages 5-11. The vaccinations have already been available for children aged 12-17.
The Polk County Division of Public Health announced the availability of the free vaccines for everyone now ages 5 and above.
Polk defeats Southwestern Randolph in opening round of playoffs
As Angus Weaver rumbled up field Friday evening on a long third-quarter run, a Southwestern Randolph fan turned to a group of fellow supporters and sighed.
“Boys, we’re in deep trouble,” he said.
Polk County held a 29-14 lead at that point and kept that margin until game’s end, defeating the Cougars in the opening round of the state 2A playoffs.
The Wolverines (7-3) remained perfect on the road this season and will put that unblemished mark to the ultimate test next Friday, traveling to top-seeded Shelby (10-1) for a second-round matchup. The Golden Lions defeated Owen 55-3 in their opener.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office to provide Thanksgiving meals for Polk County Schools families
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with Polk County Schools to provide free Thanksgiving meals to Polk County Schools families.
Any Polk County Schools student whose family is in need of a meal for Thanksgiving can contact their school counselor to be added to the list for meals. Students and families must notify school counselors by Nov. 12 to be placed on the list.
Polk adds another 3 COVID deaths
POLK COUNTY—There were 3 more Polk County residents who died from COVID-19 last week.
The county has now lost 47 residents to the virus, according to the latest data released from the Polk County Department of Health and Human Services.
The number of cases last week remained steady with the county adding another 24 positive cases. The county’s new case number has remained in the 20s the last few weeks.
Polk towns see overall 16.45 percent voter turnout
POLK COUNTY—Polk County’s towns saw an overall 16.45 percent voter turnout for last week’s municipal election, with the City of Saluda seeing a far higher turnout than the towns of Columbus and Tryon.
Saluda, which had the only race in all 3 towns, had a 41.62 percent turnout, according to the Polk County Board of Elections prior to the official canvass. There were still 6 provisional votes in Saluda to be added this week.
Columbus had an overall 14.53 percent turnout, with Columbus 1 having a 10.82 percent turnout and Columbus 2 having a 19.09 percent turnout.
Tryon had the lowest turnout of 7.44 percent.
10th annual Tryon Beer Festival
The 10th Annual Tryon Beer Fest was Saturday, November 6th in Downtown Tryon. People were ready to celebrate. An appreciative crowd was rewarded with everything you could want in a festival. Festival goers enjoyed live music with dozens of beers to sample, an oyster roast and perfect fall weather.
Polk schools mask decision
POLK COUNTY—Polk County School parents will be able to decide if their child wears a mask to school if the county’s percent positive rate for COVID-19 remains under 5 percent for 2 consecutive weeks.
The Polk County School Board met Monday and made the decision by a 4-3 vote. Board members Judy Jackson, Sherry Page, Danielle Gibbs and Rick Covil voted for the motion and board members Michael Ashworth, Cindy Allen and Sara Bell voted against the motion.
Honoring our veterans
A Veterans Day parade was held in downtown Columbus Thursday morning during a light drizzle of rain to honor Veterans Day. Local groups participated with hundreds lining the streets to watch. Army veteran Jack Jeter served as the grand marshal. Veterans were invited to a free lunch at the Columbus Baptist Church following the parade.
RV park opponents ask state to rescind septic tank permit
CAMPOBELLO—Homeowners and conservation organizations have made a move asking the state to rescind a septic tank permit for a proposed RV park in Campobello.
The request was made to the governing board of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to review and rescind the permit issued to T Tree Farms RV Park, proposed on Landrum Mill Road.
State budget to boost county by more than $16M
Polk County officials were alerted this week that funding is being placed in the state budget for major needs in the county.
Senator Ralph Hise sent word to county officials this week that the funding proposal for $16,693,576 has passed the Senate.
Of the funding, the City of Saluda is proposed to receive $160,000 for at-risk water/sewer projects; Polk County is proposed to receive $6.5 million for Lake Adger Dam repairs; the Town of Columbus is proposed to receive $9.5 million for unnamed projects; the Town of Tryon is proposed to receive $425,000 for water and sewer and the Polk County Health Department is proposed to receive $108,576, according to the state’s budget proposal.
Hospice Thrift Barn is closing
LANDRUM—A fixture in Landrum will be closing its doors for good on Thursday. The Hospice of the Carolina Foothills Thrift Barn announced last week that it is closing on Dec. 2, thanked customers for their business and announced closing sales.
The store is offering clearings sales prior to the closing.
The Hospice House is still fully functional.
Landrum Farmers Market roof collapses
LANDRUM—Strong gusts of wind Friday caused the roof of the new Landrum Farmers Market to collapse.
There were no injuries to anyone as no one was working at the site at the time.
Construction on the new pavilion began earlier this month at the intersection of West Rutherford Street and South Randolph Street.
The Year in Review – December
Polk County Toy Run raised more than $20K
COLUMBUS—This year’s Polk County Toy Run was a huge success for the children of Polk County as it raised more than $20,000.
The toy run was held on Saturday, with 488 motorcycles, 153 passengers and 31 volunteers.
The event raised more than $20,000 this year and 54 bags of toys.
Polk issues own burn ban
POLK COUNTY—As wildfires continue to burn across the state, Polk County has joined the state in issuing a burn ban.
Polk County Emergency Management Director and Fire Marshal Bobby Arledge issued the county-wide burn ban on Tuesday, following the state issuing a state-wide burn ban this week.
Saluda electric charging port
SALUDA—Area residents with an electric vehicle could soon have another charging station in downtown Saluda.
Saluda City Manager Steven Orr told commissioners during the November meeting that the charging station will be up and functioning by Dec. 13. He said the station was paid for through a state grant through a Volkswagen settlement that took place throughout the United States.
Polk percent positive rate still above 5 percent
POLK COUNTY—Polk County added another 24 cases of COVID-19 last week and its percent positive rate was 7.8 percent.
The Polk County Department of Health and Human Services released its weekly dashboard on Friday, noting that the previous week the dashboard was not released because of the holiday.
The week prior’s percent positive rate was 5.4 percent according to the DHHS.
First to file
COLUMBUS—Filing for the 2022 election began Monday with several candidates filing for local races.
Polk County Commissioner candidates as of Monday include democrats Ray Gasperson and Andy Millard and incumbent republicans David Moore, Tommy Melton and Paul (Little Beiler).
Incumbent Polk County Clerk of Superior Court Pam Hyder, a democrat, filed for re-election Monday.
For Polk County Sheriff, incumbent republican sheriff Tim Wright filed for re-election along with challenger, also a republican, Daniel Elliott.
For the Polk County School Board, 3 challengers filed on Monday. Dee Obrien filed for the Coopers Gap Township, Sydney Holbert filed for the Green Creek Township and Jolene Williams filed for the Tryon Township. As of 5 p.m. Monday, no incumbents had filed for the school board, which include Judy Jackson for Coopers Gap, Sherry Page for Green Creek and Mike Ashworth for Tryon.
County communication center receives grant to relocate
COLUMBUS—The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved accepting a state grant to relocate its 911 communication center.
Commissioners met Monday and heard from communications director Jeremy Gregg. Gregg discussed the grant and current conditions of the department.
He said the 911 center is for all emergency services in the county and some departments after hours. The staff is at minimum 2 employees and peak times are 3, with Gregg saying because of space issues the center cannot have more than that.
The center is being moved to the former jail in Columbus.
Campobello man sentenced in fatal hit and run
CAMPOBELLO—A Campobello man received a 12-year prison sentence for a 2020 fatal hit and run along Highway 11.
Randall David Price, 58, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to hit and run with a death.
The wreck occurred on Oct. 2, 2020 on Highway 11 near Harvey Gosnell Road, where Dalton Lee Taylor, 27, also of Campobello, died. Taylor was riding a moped around 11:10 p.m. when he was struck by a Chevrolet pick-up truck driven by Price, according to police reports. Price hit the moped in the rear and fled the scene. Taylor died at the scene.
County health insurance increased 24 percent
COLUMBUS—Rising costs of healthcare has caused the county’s cost of insurance coverage to rise 24.02 percent starting in January.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from county manager Marche Pittman about the budget amendments needed to cover the increase.
The additional increase is $158,634, of which the county had $26,450 budgeted.
Housing opportunity available
COLUMBUS—Polk County residents have an opportunity soon to help build their own home to save money.
The Housing Assistance Corporation is now accepting applications for the Self Help Program, where groups of 4 qualifying families work to build their homes under the guidance of a construction supervisor.
Polk County’s project is in Columbus at the intersection of Highway 108 and Houston Road.
The project helps families save money and earn sweat equity by completing 65 percent of the labor. No construction experience is required.
Residents take book, other school concerns to commissioners
COLUMBUS—Polk County Commissioners heard from a couple parents this week about books and other issues they are concerned about at Polk County Schools.
Commissioners met Monday and heard from 2 residents during citizen comments on non-agenda items.
Jason Allen addressed books that he said should not be available to children at school.
Polk to continue sign-on bonus
POLK COUNTY—The Polk County Board of Commissioners decided to extend a sign-on bonus for new hires with the county.
Commissioners met last week and heard from county manager Marche Pittman.
Pittman said unfortunately, when the county did the retention resolution, county officials were hoping the market would turn around and that has not happened. He said the county has 23 openings.
District One honors the late board member Gordon Lee
SPARTANBURG COUNTY—Spartanburg County District One Schools honored the life and service of the late Gordon Lee during its board of trustees meeting Monday.
Lee, 50, of Landrum passed away suddenly on Nov. 20.
Lee had served a decade on the Spartanburg District 1 School Board of Trustees when he passed away. He was also a former Spartanburg Soil & Water Commissioner.
Columbus man sentenced for woman in the well
COLUMBUS—A Columbus man was sentenced last week for voluntary manslaughter in the case of a woman found in a well in 2018.
Jeremy Lynn Bradshaw, who was 34 at the time of his arrest, of 228 Winwood Dr., Columbus, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last week by Judge Mark Powell in a Polk County Criminal Superior Court Administrative Session.
Bradshaw pleaded guilty to conceal/fail to report a death and voluntary manslaughter. He received 6-17 months in prison for conceal/fail to report a death, which was suspended for him to serve 2 years of probation and to pay court costs.