Year in Review 2017

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2017 In Review


  Sadness, solar progress, a rare eclipse and crime highlighted the news stories.
  The death of County Council Chairman Don Hancock topped the news. The chairman lost his battle with cancer, which necessitated special party primaries and a special election in December.
  An official called Saluda County the “solar capital of South Carolina” at the dedication of the solar farm on the Columbia Hwy. This is before two giant solar farms were announced at an investment of $115 million each.
  Visitors from throughout the country came to Saluda County to view the rare solar eclipse
  The top crimes stories involved the death of a retired United Methodist minister and a home invasion at Persimmon Hill Estates.
JANUARY
  •Saluda County Council approved a roofing project Mon., Jan. 10, that will pave the way for a new business to open in downtown Saluda.
  In the first meeting of 2017, Council heard a report from Development Director Ed Parler on the proposed CAB Business Development Center, which will be located at 119 N. Main Street, the former location of Saluda Consignment Shop.
  Saluda County will purchase the building, using development partnership funds, and will then lease the building to the town of Saluda, who will sublet it to CAB on a ten-year lease.
  The county has received a $115,000 grant from the S.C. Department of Commerce to make repairs on the building. From those funds will come roof repair.
  •With Representative Ralph Shealy Kennedy as the primary sponsor, the SC House recognized and commended retiring Clerk of Court Doris B. Holmes through a Framed, Formal House Resolution, H.5125.
•Saluda County’s Phil Perry and another former Saluda County Agent, J.M. Eleazer,  were honored at Clemson recently along with three other South Carolinians who were recognized for lifetimes of service with their induction into the Frank Lever County Extension Agent Hall of Fame at Clemson University.
  Perry and Eleazer join two more former Saluda County Agents, Bill Craven and Bill Riser in the Hall of Fame.
  •A 39-year-old Columbia man died in a one vehicle accident in Saluda County Mon. night,. Jan. 16.
  According to L/Cpl Tonny Keller of the S.C. Highway Patrol, the man was driving a 2013 Kenworth truck and travelling west on U.S. 178, about 4½ miles from Saluda, when the truck went off the side of the road, overturned and hit the guardrail on the left side of the road.
  •At Piedmont Technical College’s fall commencement exercises, outstanding students from each of the college’s seven supporting counties were honored for academic achievement. Saluda County student Wanda Shull was honored for maintaining high academic success.
•Charles Long was named the 2016 Saluda County Firefighter of the Year at the annual dinner hosted by the Saluda Fire Department on January 16, 2017. Charles retired from the Saluda Fire Department on September 30, 2016 with 32 years and 8 months of service.
  •Four Saluda County 4-H members and their chaperone attended the Inauguration Ceremony of Donald Trump during the 4-H Citizenship-Washington Focus Week. Attending were T. J. Price, Grey Riley, Mackenzie Riley, and Lindsey Scott.  They were joined by 4 additional 4-H members from South Carolina and their chaperones, Cynthia Price and Allie Winter.
  •Saluda County 4-H was well represented at this year’s South Carolina 4-H Pageant.  Miss Mackenzie Riley  was crowned Miss South Carolina 4-H.  Among her court were also two Saluda County 4-H members.  They were  Samantha Nichols, 1st runner up and Allison Harman, 2nd runner up.  Also participating from Saluda 4-H was Lindsey Scott.
 •What appeared to be Saluda County’s second highway fatality of 2017 turned out to be a death by natural causes.
  According to Saluda County Coroner Keith Turner, an autopsy revealed Anthony William Venable, 56, died of natural causes rather than from injuries received from a one vehicle accident that took place at 6:10 p.m. on Sun., Jan. 29.
  •First-generation farmers Chalmers and Lori Anne Carr of Titan Farms were named the winners of the 2017 Top Producer of the Year award. The couple’s operation is one of the largest peach producers in the U.S. They also grow peppers and broccoli and recently diversified with a frozen-fruit facility for processing of peaches that are sold in bulk or pureed for use in yogurt, baby food and other products.
FEBRUARY
  •February 2, 2017, was a great day of thanksgiving for Saluda County Water and Sewer Authority (SCWSA). 
  SCWSA is now under construction for their transformational $21.1 Million Water Treatment Plant (WTP) will be built withdrawing water from Lake Murray.  SCWSA’s board first envisioned having their own WTP almost two decades ago. It is now under construction in 2017. SCWSA expects the WTP to be operating by early Summer in 2018.
  The WTP is largely financed through a $12,543,000 loan and a $7,133,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD).  In addition, SCWSA received a $500,000 grant from South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) and SCWSA’s contribution of up to $1,000,000.  CoBank is providing the interim construction financing for the project.  The purpose of SCWSA’s WTP is to serve the needs of all citizens throughout the County, residential and industrial.
The Saluda County Sheriff’s office is excited to announce the new phone system coming soon.
  •With an increase in population, there has been an increase in phone calls. This upgrade will be beneficial to anyone wishing to speak to a specific department or inquire about the status of a specific case. Dispatchers are often overwhelmed with multiple emergency calls, while also responding to radio traffic and attending to secretarial duties for the sheriff’s office.
•Billy Coleman, a member of Saluda American Legion Post 65 for 69 years was presented his membership card for 2017 by Post Commander Alvin Butler. At 101, Mr. Coleman is the oldest member of the post. Billy Coleman, WWII hero and Navy veteran, commanded a LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) or “Higgins Boat,” as it was called. The  landing craft was used extensively in amphibious landings during WWII. Coleman was at Normandy Beach on D-Day, ferrying infantry troops from large ships to the ongoing battle raging on the Normandy coast.
  •Retired State Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Brickley of Saluda, South Carolina, was inducted into the South Carolina Army National Guard’s Enlisted Hall of Fame at a ceremony held Feb. 1, 2017 at the McCrady Training Center, Eastover, South Carolina. 
•A Saluda woman died Fri. evening, Feb. 17, when a deer, hit by another car, crashed into the windshield of the vehicle in which she was riding.
  According to Saluda County Coroner Keith Turner, Jennifer Fisher Wertz, 45, of 1913 Fruit Hill Road, died instantly from her injuries.
  The wreck happened at 9:35 p.m. Friday along Fruit Hill Road, about 7.3 miles north of Saluda.
  •The trial of State v. Antonio K. Posey took place this week in Saluda County General Sessions Court. Posey, age 41, was found guilty of Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor – 1st degree and sentenced to forty (40) years of incarceration by Judge Eugene C. Griffith, Jr. following the jury’s verdict of guilty Friday, February 17th. 
MARCH
  •Buck Riley is the latest “star,” joining Charles Baird, Debbie Shealy, Jason and Colton Price and Doris Goff, who appeared on the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods” filmed at Shealy’s BBQ in Batesburg-Leesville and broadcast on  Feb 7, and Bob and Ann Bowles who appeared in a “Tonight Show” skit on Jan. 27.
  Riley appeared in the final episode of the CBS reality show “Hunted,” Wed., Mar. 1. The premise of the program is 10 couples try to evade capture by detectives while traveling throughout the country for 28 days. The couple that isn’t captured wins $250,000.
  •The focus of the March American Legion Post 65 meeting was the presentation of the Law Enforcement Officer of The Year Certificate of Commendation presented to Sergeant Garry Hitt of the Saluda County Sheriff’s Office.
•On Wednesday March 8, 2017 at approximately 12:30am armed suspects entered a residence in the Persimmon Hill Golf Course Community.
  •During the incident the armed suspects grabbed the two home owners, Danny and Lynda Tidwell, separated them and placed them in different rooms with their hands bound behind their backs.  Both victims suffered some emotional and minor physical injuries, but are doing well at this time.
  The suspects did ransack the residence taking anything that was of value along with the keys to one of the victims’ vehicles.  The vehicle was tracked using the GPS system installed on the vehicle from the manufacture.  The vehicle was recovered in Aiken County along with some of the victims’ personal items.    The Sheriff’s Office was able to identify one suspects,  Abin Lee Lowman of Edgefield County.
  Warrants have been issued for three other suspects in Maryland.
  •The WKA Student Council recently  the annual SCISSA (South Carolina Independent School Student Association) Spring Convention in Myrtle Beach and was named the Student Council of the Year.
  •Saluda County Emergency Medical Service has been named the large EMS System of the Year in South Carolina by the S.C. EMS Network.
  The award was presented Sat., Mar. 11, in Myrtle Beach at the 2017 S.C. Emergency Care Symposium. Accepting the award was County EMS Director Jacob Starnes and Assistant Director James Cole.
  •According Clemson Extension reports, the peach crop in the Ridge was severely damaged by the mid-March freezing temperatures.
  Extension Agent Greg Henderson said the loss in the Ridge area is estimated at 80-90 percent. He added this figure is not just for the Ridge, but all of South Carolina and the Southeast.
APRIL
  •A tornado did damage in the Ridge section of Saluda County Wed., April 5.
  “The National Weather Service did confirm last Thursday that we did have an EF2 tornado impact Saluda County on Wednesday of last week,” Saluda County Emergency Management Director Josh Morton said. 
  “The tornado damage began east of Johnston and continued northeast through Ward before dissipating northwest of Ridge Spring off Murphy Farm Road.  There was a great deal of damaged and uprooted trees, as well as damage to multiple homes and vehicles. 
  •Ben Ward, a member of Saluda American Legion Post 65, began a project to put stories behind the names listed on the Saluda County memorial to the soldiers from here who died in war.
•Saluda High School teacher, Mrs. Amanda Crouch was selected as the South Carolina Association of Agricultural Educators (SCAAE) Outstanding Teacher of the Year.
  The award recognizes leadership in civic, community, agriculture/agribusiness, and professional activities. Outstanding agricultural educators are innovators and catalysts for student success in agricultural education.
  •Saluda County School District held its second annual Special Olympics on Friday, April 21, 2017.    
  Because of the generosity of the our community, the event raised approximately $6,250 as well as many other donations such as food drinks, water, hats, art supplies, and balloons.
  •Two people lost their lives Sunday afternoon, April 30, in a head-on collision on the Greenwood Highway.
  According to Saluda County Coroner Keith Turner, Evan Blair Campbell, 18, of Greenwood and Lexie Turner Rodgers, 66, of Ninety Six were both pronounced dead on the scene.
  Cpl. Bill Rhyne of the S.C. Highway Patrol said the accident happened at approximately 4:10 p.m. on U.S. Highway 178, near Fruit Hill Road, six miles from Saluda.
  A 1997 Nissan  Altima, driven by Campbell, was traveling east when it crossed the centerline into the path of a 2004 Ford Econoline van driven by Mrs. Rodgers. Both victims were wearing seatbelts.
MAY
  Dr. David Mathis, superintendent, explained the repairs at the Saluda High football stadium. A facilities study conducted earlier this year by the SC State Department of Education revealed that the stadium needed significant attention. In January, a structural engineer examined the facility and determined that work needed to be done before the stadium could be safely used. The work will include replacing the bracing, eliminating any corrosion to the steel beams, providing structural sound concrete skirting to the front and sides of the seating, creating handicap seating to meet ADA compliance and painting. The concrete wall behind the seating will be removed to eliminate concerns of a wall of that height becoming a structural problem.  Drainage problems on and around the field are also being addressed so that stability will be ensured for the future.
  •Mae-Ann Webb of Ridge Spring was crowned Miss Earth United States.
At the beginning of the new business section, Hancock read the following:
  •County Council Chairman Don Hancock explained the settlement of a lawsuit: “In October 2015, former Saluda County Auditor Jane Guy, current Saluda County Auditor Memmus Forrest, and current Saluda County Treasurer Tina Shealy filed a lawsuit against Saluda County that challenged a provision of Saluda County’s ordinance governing salaries of elected officials as contrary to state law. In the interest of working together for the good of the County, the parties sought to resolve the dispute out of court.
  In April 2017, Saluda County, Jane Guy, Memmus Forrest and Tina Shealy entered into a written settlement agreement that resolves the dispute without any admission of unlawful action or intent by any party. The Saluda County Council believes that incomplete implementation in the past of a comprehensive pay scale system for county employees in part contributed to low salaries for the elected positions of County Treasurer and Auditor,   While Ms. Guy, Mr. Forrest and Ms. Shealy lack personal knowledge of Council’s past intent, they do agree with the County that initiation of a new salary study for all county positions is in the best interest of the County.”
  •William Holecek (Will) was named the new Saluda County Veterans Officer.
  •A Ninety Six woman became Saluda County’s third highway fatality on the Greenwood Hwy. (U.S. 178 West) in the last three weeks, when she died in a single vehicle accident Thurs., May 18.
  At approximately 8:25 a.m. the accident occurred at 1984 Greenwood Highway. A 2014 Nissan Altima driven by Jacqualine Amanda McCarthy, 22, of Ninety Six, was west bound toward Saluda when it left the road for an unknown reason and struck a tree.
  •For the second time this year, a tornado touchdown in Saluda County has been confirmed.
  According to Emergency Management Director Josh Morton, the National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down in Saluda County on Wednesday, May 24, in the western part of the county around Fruit Hill, Old Charleston, and Old Chappells Ferry roads.
  On Wed., April 5, an EF-2 tornado touched down in the Ridge area of the county.
JUNE
  •The  Saluda Young Farmers Truck and Tractor Pull was held June 9 and 10 
  The Young Farmers were pleased to award seven scholarships for 2017.  This year’s recipients are: Ashley Owens (Clemson University), TJ Price (Florence-Darlington Tech), Megan Corley (Clemson University), Samaria Reed (Piedmont Tech), Alyssa Easler (Emmanuel College), Texanna Miller (Winthrop University).
•Saluda County EMS  received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Silver Award for implementing quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks.
  •Saluda County Council gave third and final reading to the Saluda County School District’s budget Mon., June 12.
  The county’s portion of the budget is $6,645,557.00, minus revenues and credits reflected on the tax receipt from Fee-In-Lieu, Property Tax Relief, Homestead Exemption, Tier 3 Property Tax Relief, and Motor Carrier, for a net amount of $4,312,446.00 from Ad Valorem Taxes.
  •Four Piedmont Technical College students recently received the Paul DeLoache Scholarship: Sandra Herlong, a massage therapy student from Saluda; Micah Griffith, an associate in arts student from Saluda; Erin Gilliland, an engineering design technology student from Johnston; and  Ethen Hipps, an engineering design technology from Johnston. The scholarship is awarded annually to Saluda residents and is based on academic achievement and financial need.
•Saluda County Council gave third and final reading to the 2017-2018 budget Mon., June 26, but the big news was the announcement of a massive solar farm for the county. 
  Council passed a resolution and gave first reading to an ordinance that will allow a fee in lieu of ad valorem taxes for the project.
  In a written report to County Council, Development Director Ed Parler said: 
  “What is known as the Project Beulah has plans to develop a 75 megawatt solar energy facility in Saluda County, with an investment of $115,000,000.
  The proposed site is on Beulah Road, bordered by Old Golf Course Road and Double Bridges Road, near Batesburg Leesville encompassing approximately 650+ acres.
  The county budget has expenditures of $12,347,107. Debt service (Piedmont Tech) is $161,903.63.
  •Saluda County Council Chairman Donald Hancock will take over as chairman of the Upper Savannah Council of Governments (USCOG) Board of Directors for Fiscal Years 2018-2019.
  The Board unanimously nominated Hancock as chairman for the term beginning July 1, 2017.
  David Sawyer, also of Saluda County, who was filling in as interim chairman, “passed the gavel” to Hancock during the Board’s June meeting. Hancock’s first meeting as chairman will be in August 2017.
  •Legionnaires of Post 65, Saluda, sponsored Cadet Katie Ryan to attend the Nathan Wolfe Cadet Law Academy. Cadet Ryan was chosen by her peers and instructors and   awarded the prestigious Patricia A. Glover Award As the Outstanding Female Cadet, Nathan M. Wolfe Law Enforcement Cadet Academy, June 23, 2017.  Cadet Ryan was also presented with a $1000 scholarship.  This is the first scholarship ever given at the Academy.
  •Jeanne & Brandon Velie visited the James Beard House in New York City, where Chef Brandon prepared the meal, which featured locally produced products, including those by Rawl Farm, Watsonia, The Nuthouse, Yon Farms, Titan Farms, and Adluh. The five course meal featured shrimp, striped bass, beef, rice, vegetables, pecans, peaches, etc. Saturday “Today” host Craig Melvin, a Columbia native, and former S.C. Governor now U.N. Ambassador Nikki Hailey and her husband were among those attending.
  •Saluda County resident Laney Edwards was crowned National American Miss South Carolina on June 25.
  •A horseback rider travelled through Saluda County Fri., June 30, as part of his goal to ride his horse to  48-states to raise money for children’s charities
  “It has been a rainy ride into Saluda, South Carolina today! My wife and I stopped at the 7-Eleven to get us some burgers and a coffee,’ Tye Surgenion wrote on his Facebook page.