County residents were still morning the loss of Hope Melton, killed the day after Christmas 2011, when the new year began. Her death sparked conversations on self-defense, especially for women, and prompted several local law enforcement officers to host free classes on gun safety and self-defense. In late October, prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty for the accused, Nicholas Jermaine Miller, 23.
The Teal’s Mill Bridge, which had been closed for more than a year, re-opened in January of 2012. The current bridge in use is temporary. Eventually, the permanent bridge will span more of the water. According to representatives of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, the permanent structure will eliminate the dangerous curves that lead to and from the bridge.
January also marked the opening of a new space for the Cheraw Recreation and Leisure Services gymnastics program in the old B.C. Moore warehouse on Powe Street. Future renovations for this municipal facility are still underway and were discussed as recently as December’s town council meeting.
It was on January 12, 2012, that members of the Chesterfield County School Board voted 6-3, to give into the demands of the lawsuit filed against the school district in the fall of 2011 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The suit claimed the district violated Constitutional laws regarding the separation of church and state. Compliance with the Consent Decree, issued by United States District Judge R. Bryan Hartwell, resulted in a “45-day educational period” for all personnel, faculty and administration, to fully understand and comply with federal and school district policies regarding religious practices in public schools.
In February, Jeffery Johnson, Dylan Snead and Mark Davies launched their plan to “try new things.” They decided the lakeside at Cheraw State Park would be the perfect place to host free summer concerts. What was “new” about their idea to sponsor the Lakeside Music Room is they asked the public and local businesses to pay for the concert series before the end of spring. Their marketing plan proved successful. The concerts were presented the last Friday night of each month from May until August.
January and February were unusually warm in 2012. Flowers, not usually seen until late March or April, were spotted across Chesterfield County and around the world.
Talk of saving Cheraw’s historic U.S. Post Office surfaced again in February; and continues still. Several meetings with local city officials and postal representatives were held throughout the year, including a public hearing to close the downtown facility in August. Mayor Andy Ingram said the fight is not over. “Currently,” he said, the decision lies within the hands of the postmaster general. “we do not want to loose the vitality this facility brings to the downtown area,” said Ingram.
February saw the departure of Chesterfield High School football coach, Steve Taneyhill. Taneyhill, a former football star for the South Carolina Gamecocks, led the Rams to three consecutive state championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Plans for the addition of an outdoor reading room at Matheson Memorial Library on Huger Street received a green light from Cheraw Town Council members in February. Council agreed to give The Friends of the Library $75,000 toward the project, once the rest of the money for construction is acquired.
Karla Davis, a rising musical talent who was featured on The Voice, performed at Southern Bed and Breakfast on Kershaw Street in Cheraw in March. Choles Roddy was named Miss Brave for Cheraw High School. And Jeannie McKinney won $61,500 on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
A lot of talk surfaced in April about a Rails to Trails Project that would offer a walking trail from ACL Avenue, near Old St. David’s Cemetery, to Cheraw State Park. That same month, Graham Franklin Douglas, the man accused of killing his friend, Eden Smith of Chesterfield, in the summer of 2011, requested a motion to dismiss his murder charges.
Douglas was incarcerated in Marlboro County immediately following the incident, but served most of the time since Smith’s death under house arrest. His claim of self-defense was accepted and his freedom granted in November 2012, by Chesterfield County Fourth Circuit Judge Michael Baxley. “This court finds, based on the evidence in the record,” said Baxley, “that it was reasonable for Defendant Douglas to believe that deadly force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself.”
The year proved to be one of marked success for local economic growth, and dogged determination for local politicians. In May, Carolina Canners announced an expansion of their operations by $20.8 million. During the same month, local and state politicians, mostly democrats, who thought they had properly filed for candidacy, found out they had not. It was a long battle for some candidates who spent the summer petitioning to have their names printed on the November ballot.
South Carolina District 53 Representative Ted Vick was arrested in Columbia May 24. After being stopped for speeding, the officer suspected Vick had been drinking and asked him to take a sobriety test. Vick’s refusal caused him to be taken to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. While there, officers learned Vick had a gun in his pocket for which his concealed weapon license had expired. He was then charged with unlawful possession of a handgun.
Not long after his arrest, Vick dropped his campaign for U.S. Congressman. But on Nov. 6, 2012, he was re-elected to another term for the S.C. House of Representatives by 46.5 percent of the vote. Republican Tom Rice was the one elected in November to serve as the new, additional voice in Washington; representing increases in the state’s population as recorded by the U.S. Census Report.
The November election also put each of Chesterfield County Council’s incumbent candidates back in office.
As summer began, Chesterfield County School District Superintendent Johnny Williams retired, and Dr. Harrison Goodwin took over as superintendent. Swimmers were allowed to return to the water at Cheraw State Park, known years ago as “Cheraw Beach.”
In June, Cheraw Police Officer David Watson was arrested on charges of drunk driving. On Aug. 29, 2011, he committed suicide. A lawsuit regarding this case has been filed on Watson’s behalf.
Craig Norton, of Norton’s Funeral of Cheraw, was arrested on charges of fraud in June of 2012. Allegations against Norton, according to Cheraw Police Chief Jay Brooks, include “cashing life insurance policies and not returning the appropriate amount, after funeral expenses, to the beneficiaries; head stones or urns that where paid for and never received.”
In July, David Sides’ hard work and the town’s support for the creation of a cell phone tour to promote tourism, landed Cheraw the South Carolina Municipal Award. A recorded history of 25 sites in town are now available by cell phone, 843-865-3002, anytime one is interested. Also in July, The Cheraw Chronicle and Chesterfield Advertiser donated bound issues of The Chronicle, dating back to the early 1900’s, to the Chesterfield County Historical Society. These issues are now housed at the society’s gallery in the Old Chesterfield County Courthouse on Main Street.
In late summer, the Alligator Rural Water Company in the McBee area of Chesterfield County filed a $450 million lawsuit against several local farmers, businesses and industries. The suit claims the use of certain chemicals by the various businesses have contaminated the water table. According to Chesterfield County Deputy Clerk Carol Bowman, this case will not go to court until the summer or fall of 2013.
On September 1, the night clerk and three customers were robbed at gun point at Crown Discount Tobacco store at the corner of Moffat Drive and Highway 9. Just a few weeks ago, in December, the same store was again robbed at gunpoint.
Allegations surfaced in September that local Boy Scout leaders in the Cheraw area had molested young scouts in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. These accusations are the bases of a lawsuit filed against former solicitor Jay Hodge Jr, the estate of the late William Hebard, the Boy Scouts of America, Pee Dee Area Council Boy Scouts of America, and First Presbyterian Church of Cheraw.
In November, the Cheraw Chamber of Commerce named Mel West as the town Citizen of the Year for her efforts with Mercy in Me Free Medical Clinic and other community service programs.
Fireworks were a part of the celebrations in downtown Cheraw this past year, not only in July, but in December as well. The town sponsored the first annual Christmas Fest that featured all-day carnival events and games for the children, horse drawn carriage rides and a grand display of fireworks at twilight.
Also in December, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley visited Cheraw for the first time, but promised it wouldn’t be her last. She was here to commemorate a $40 million dollar expansion of operations at INA for the Schaffler Group. Haley said the employees and their “work ethic” were responsible for the company’s decision to expand here. The expansion is estimated to bring 190 new jobs to town for 2013. That should brighten the new year for a lot of families. Happy New Year!
—Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.