2012 Year in Review
The year 2012 was a busy time in Georgetown County.
Not everything can be included in a "year in review" but the news staff of the Georgetown Times voted on what we think were the top ten stories from the past year.
We also asked readers to vote on their preferences for the top stories and those results are included in this article.
The following are our choices for the top ten:
Possible Walmart or big box store at Pawleys Plaza
In early August, news broke that a developer wanted to rehabilitate Pawleys Plaza on U.S. Highway 17. Rumors spread like wildfire that the primary tenant would be Walmart.
Sunbelt Ventures of Mount Pleasant, which had recently purchased the 12.45-acre property, along with 5.32 adjoining acres, released a site plan that showed a 119,500-square-foot retail building, plus several smaller buildings.
Opposition to the plan was immediate and vociferous. The Don’t Box the Neck group, dormant since defeating a plan for a Lowe’s on Highway 17 in 2005, roared back to life. The Coastal Conservation League and the S.C. Environmental Law Project both promised to sue if the plan went forward.
The first step for the proposal was a vote by the county Planning Commission in September. Anticipating a large crowd, the county moved the meeting to Waccamaw High School.
Approximately 1,400 people jammed the school’s auditorium and gymnasium and 90 people signed up to speak. The majority of people passionately urged the commission to not let the plan go forward.
In the end the Planning Commission recommended that County Council approve the plan with a store no larger than 60,000 square feet, which is what’s allowed in the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Corridor Overlay Zone.
County Council gave first reading by title only to the plan at its November meeting, and then the plan was deferred in December.
In late December, Sunbelt submitted a new site plan to the county, which includes a 109,382-square-foot building with three retail spaces. The county will now have to decide whether those three spaces are separate buildings, which would be OK in the overlay zone, or one building, which would not be OK.
County Council is expected to give second reading to the ordinance at its Jan. 8 meeting.
Prayer at school board meetings
On Sept. 18, the Georgetown County School Board — for the first time — began its meeting with a moment of silence rather than a prayer.
The decision to make the change was made by chairman Jim Dumm who said he was following the advice of board attorney David Duff.
Duff said because of an investigation into religious activities being conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, the district needed to stop the practice of praying at board meetings and other district events.
The interpretation of the law by the ACLU has been challenged by both the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Palmetto Family Council.
While President Barack Obama was victorious in his quest for reelection, a majority of voters in Georgetown County and South Carolina voted for his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
Almost 73 percent of the county’s 42,801 registered voters cast ballots Nov. 6.
Locally, Republican Mitt Romney was the winner by a vote of 16,476 to 14,119.
Early in the year, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled hundreds of candidates across the state could not run because of the way statement of economic interest forms were filed.
A lot of those candidates, including several in Georgetown County, decided to run as petition candidates.
None of the petition candidates in Georgetown County won in November.
Voters elected incumbents to new terms in the race for Sheriff, S.C. House Seat 103, Clerk of Court, County Council District 5, School Board Districts 3 and 5.
Brian Shult was elected County Auditor and will replace retiring Linda Mock in July.
The race for the Georgetown County School Board District 6 was not decided until Dec. 5. When the votes were tallied in November, Richard Kerr had defeated Peggy Wheeler Cribb by less than two dozen votes.
Cribb challenged the results but the South Carolina Election Commission determined Kerr was the rightful winner.
New Congressional District 7
This was the year South Carolina officially got a new seat in Congress.
The District 7 seat — covering the Pee Dee and Grand Strand — was created after the 2010 Census.
This is the first time since the 1930s South Carolina has a seventh Congressional seat in Washington D.C.
Republican Tom Rice, who was chairman of Horry County Council, was elected to be the first holder of that seat and will be sworn in this week.
Before the party primaries the race for the new seat attracted nine Republicans and four Democrats.
After a runoff, Rice and Democrat Gloria Tinubu faced each other on the November ballot.
District-wide, Rice received about 55 percent of the vote.
Penny sales tax referendum
Georgetown County Council first started discussing a new one-cent sales tax at the beginning of the year. The idea was the revenue would be used to pay for capital improvement projects such as dredging the Port of Georgetown, building recreation and library facilities, and paving roads.
Council formed a six-person committee in April to come up with a project list. The committee’s list contained $40 million in projects that would be paid for by the one-cent tax, which would be collected for eight years.
During a marathon, four-hour Council meeting in July, opponents of the tax pleaded with Council not to put the referendum on the ballot. In the end, Council members decided to let residents decide.
Opponents on Waccamaw Neck formed a “Stop the Sales Tax” group and supporters countered with a “Pennies for Progress” group. Both used direct mailings, lawn signs and billboards to sway voters.
More than 70 percent of the county’s registered voters turned out on Nov. 6, and the one-cent sales tax proposal was defeated 15,586 to 12,831.
It was the third time a referendum on a one-cent tax was not approved by county residents.
Dogs found in canal
Bobby Joe McConnell, 47, was arrested in July accused of trying to kill a black Lab by taping her mouth and legs and tossing her into the International Paper Co. canal on July 2. Fortunately, people fishing in the canal heard her in the water and called for help.
The dog, which the Saint Frances Animal Center took custody of, is doing fine and has gained 21 pounds since her ordeal, according to director Wendy Goude.
Unfortunately, two other dogs found in the canal the same week did not survive.
McConnell is officially charged with three counts of Ill Treatment of Animals and is awaiting trial.
The case drew the attention of media outlets all over the country
U.S. Senator Tim Scott
On Dec. 20, Gov. Nikki Haley elevated Tim Scott from the position of representative to U.S. Senator making him the first black senator in the South’s modern era at a time when the GOP is struggling nationally to win support among minorities.
Scott will fill out the next two years of Jim DeMint’s term before a special election is held in 2014 to fill out the final two years of the seat. Haley said she expects Scott to win out easily.
His political career dates to 1995 when he won a seat on Charleston County Council. He became the first black Republican elected to any office in South Carolina since 1900.
After a long stint on the council, in 2008 he won a seat in the state House of Representatives. In 2010, he won the coastal South Carolina 1st Congressional District seat after incumbent Henry Brown retired.
2012 was a year the City of Georgetown continued to recover from the biggest story of 2011 — sinkholes.
It was also a year those impacted by the sinkholes — which formed in the final quarter of 2011 — still received no definitive answers about what caused them.
Tony Jordan owns Parrish Place, which housed the UPS Store and other businesses. The building collapsed as a result of the sinkholes in November 2011. He said recently he has not heard anything from the South Carolina Department of Transportation about the investigation into the cause. The DOT has been in charge of the drainage project taking place in the vicinity of where the sinkholes formed.
In 2012, most of the impacted businesses have relocated. Jordan sold the UPS Store and it is now on Highmarket Street.
Curry's Cleaners and Wheels Tire Service, both of which were located on North Fraser Street, have not relocated.
Bank of America on Highmarket Street continues to operate out of a mobile office as their building has been ruled unsafe to reoccupy.
Port of Georgetown
The Port of Georgetown received a lot of attention in 2012 — by candidates on the campaign trail — but no funding allocated towards the dredging that is needed to get bigger ships to the docks.
The port right now is 19 to 9 feet in some places. To bring it back to the 27 foot depth it's supposed to be is estimated to cost $33 million and take three years, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Whether the needed funding will come in 2013 remains to be seen.
Tom Rice, elected to the new District 7 Congressional seat has been appointed to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee which, he said, puts him in a position to help fight for the money.
This is one of the issues Gov. Nikki Haley says Tim Scott plans to address as a Senator.
"He knows the need for deepening the ports," she said.
Money from a new penny sales tax was supposed to be used, in part, for the dredging but voters said "no" to the new tax.
Church members killed
Three members of Lighthouse of Jesus Christ church in Georgetown — and a man from Berkeley County — were all killed in a traffic accident near Jamestown Nov. 14.
Church members Edith Jackson, Angie Arthur and Melvira Johnson were killed when the SUV they were in was struck by a vehicle driven by Steven Morse of Jamestown, who also died.
The group was following the church van which had ten people inside. They were on the way to a revival service in Russellville near St. Stephen.
Arthur’s husband, Johnny was also in the SUV. He survived but was badly injured.
The funerals for the three women were held the week of Thanksgiving.
It was also a deadly year in Georgetown County as 14 people were killed on the roadways. That is up from six in 2011.
Other things making news
The following are other stories that made news in Georgetown County in 2012:
• The Town Clock on Front Street was repaired after being broken for years.
• The annual Harborwalk Festival was not held on Front Street for the first time in its 25-year history. It took place at the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Maryville.
• The Family Justice Center announced it has plans to open a local safe house to serve people escaping abuse. The organization is in the process of securing funds.
• Georgetown County opened new recreation facilities including the 8 Oaks Park and Stables Park.
• There were three murders in Georgetown County in 2012 and no one has been arrested for any of the crimes.
James Earl “Scoopy” Richardson Jr., 18, of Pawleys Island was found shot to death on Parkersville Road in May and Sean Edwards, 21, of Connecticut was found at Club Isis in August.
Alfonso “Fonzo” Terrell Thomas, 25, of Duke Street was found dead by a woman and her 13-year-old son as they were walking on the path between Church and Legion streets in August. He was killed by a gunshot.
• Coastal Montessori School opened in August. It is located in the same building as Waccamaw Middle School but is looking for a place to relocate.
• Andrews police Chief Jennifer Flowers was fired in October. Andrews Mayor Rodney Giles says it was for insubordination. He said it stemmed from the hiring of two police officers by Flowers.
• Agru America announced Dec. 14 that it is expanding its Georgetown production facility by 40,000 square feet, with a 130,000-square-foot asphalt storage yard, to accommodate new production equipment. The expansion will involve a $19.2 million investment and the creation of 49 jobs.
• On Oct. 18, the 14,000 workers of ArcelorMittal nationwide approved a new three-year contract. Two weeks later, 20 workers at the company’s Georgetown plant found out they no longer have jobs.
• The state set a heat record in 2012. The temperature reached 113 degrees at the University of South Carolina in Columbia on June 29, the hottest ever recorded in the state. The temperature reached 106 degrees in Georgetown that day.
We asked readers on our Facebook page to select their choices for the biggest stories of the year. Here are the results in the order of votes received:
• Church members killed in accident
• Murders in Pawleys Island and Georgetown
• Andrews Police chief fired
• Prayer halted at school board meetings
• Man accused of killing dogs in canal
• Penny sales tax referendum
• New Congressional District 7
• U.S. Rep. Tim Scott appointed to Senate
• ArcelorMittal Steel mill contract, layoffs
By Scott Harper and
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