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Year in Review - Part 1 of 3

A year of triumphs, tragedies and an equestrian good-bye

Posted: January 2, 2018 10:58 a.m.
Updated: December 29, 2017 1:00 a.m.

THE LATE Marion duPont Scott will have the Colonial Cup race run in her memory each spring as part of the Carolina Cup card after the Carolina Cup Racing Association voted to put an end to the Camden fall classic race meet after 47 years.


2017 got off to an inauspicious start with two fatal accidents reported over the New Year’s holiday weekend, including the Jan. 1 death of Matthew Boland, son of Camden Military Academy Headmaster Eric Boland. His would be one of 19 traffic-related deaths in 2017, tying the number of similar fatalities in 2016. In March, Boland joined Kershaw County Coroner David West and Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews in announcing a program where students from the Applied Technology Education Campus built white crosses to be placed at traffic fatality locations across the county, in many cases sporting the names and date of death of the victim. A number of the year’s fatalities involved young children, As the year came to a close, West, Matthews and Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd urged motorists not to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not to drive distracted or aggressively and, instead, to drive defensively.

During its first meeting of the new year, Camden City Council, with new Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford at the helm, voted unanimously to pass second and final reading of an ordinance authorizing a no more than $1.9 million hospitality tax bond to help pay for the design and construction of the city’s now nearly completed tennis complex on the southern end of what used to be Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy property. An additional $600,000 from a previous bond balance and another $400,000 from the city’s existing budget is helping to pay for the $2.854 million project. Groundbreaking took place in late March.

At the end of the month, council celebrated a special gift from long-time caterer Jack Brantley: his home of Aberdeen. At its second meeting of the month, council passed second and final reading of the ordinance authorizing the city’s acceptance of the property. After the meeting, the large crowd in attendance moved up to Monument Square to tour the home and celebrate with Brantey, council members and others. Brantley will continue to live in the home until he no longer can, after which the city will take possession and maintain it.

The parents of a 3-year-old Lugoff boy found him in an in-ground pool in late January. Despite being underwater for several minutes and suffering from cardiac arrest, the boy, Brayden, recovered enough to leave the hospital and even attend services at Friendship Baptist Church, which rallied the community to come to his and his family’s aid.

Also in January:

• Kershaw County Council welcomed new members Al Bozard and Ben Connell to its ranks in mid-January. During the same meeting,

• The Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center’s board of directors named interim executive director Amy Kinard as its permanent director in January, officially becoming effective on Feb. 1.

• The town of Bethune obtained a $650,000 S.C. Department of Transportation grant to improve the intersection of King and Main streets (U.S. 1 and S.C. 341, respectively) with a full stoplight (as opposed to a flashing one), delineated crosswalks, pedestrian signal controls and other pedestrian-friendly amenities.


For years, the city of Camden and Kershaw County had been exploring ways to get the owner of the former Bi-Lo shopping center on Old River Road off West DeKalb Street spruced up. Annexation seemed the way to go, but the city had always had trouble convincing the owner, who lives in the Upstate, to agree. In February, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen sponsored a bill that would allow the city to unilaterally annex the former center. While Gov. Henry McMaster ultimately vetoed the bill, further negotiations -- primarily with City Tourism/Economic Development Director Suzi Sale and Camden Fire Chief John Bowers -- finally convinced Blake Garrett Jr. to petition for annexation. The city annexed the property in June and applied final General Business District zoning in August. Now, residents wait to see what happens at the property now that is inside the city limits.

Sheriff Matthews reported in February what has appeared to be an uptick in gang activity in Kershaw County during the previous 12 and a half months -- something that may still be growing as the county nears the end of the year. During that time, deputies had already more than a dozen people on a range of charges, most of who appeared to have ties to criminal gangs such as Bloods, Crips and Folk Nation. While Matthews said at the time there didn’t appear to be a concerted effort by gangs to establish themselves in the county, activity by people believed to be tied to those gangs -- and mostly not from Kershaw County -- appeared to be on the rise. Deputies arrested two self-proclaimed Bloods members in June following drug activity in Lugoff. Other law enforcement reports have pointed to possible gang-related activity throughout the year.

Also, Sheriff Matthews and a very special K-9 surprised Harriet Boykin-Garrity’s 1st Grade class at Jackson Elementary School by announcing that 7-year-old student Madison Cook had submitted the new four-legged officer’s winning name: K.C., which she said is short for Kershaw County.

Also in February:

• Lugoff-Elgin High School band director Glenn Price was the only person inducted into the S.C. Music Educators Association’s Hall of Fame.

• Camden and North Central high schools hired new athletic director/head football coaches with, respectively, Brian Rimpf and Tyronne Drakeford. The hiring of Rimpf and Drakeford (a North Central alum) mean all three Kershaw County high school football teams are being coached by former National Football League players.

• The city of Camden hired Katharine Spadacenta as the manager of its new Main Street SC program, the first such manager in 25 years.

• The Kershaw County Farmers Market announced it would be moving again, from Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site to a permanent home at Broad and Clyburn streets to open in time for its 2018 season.


At its first meeting in March, the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees learned that a new Wateree Elementary School (WES) -- part of the school district’s $129 million slate of referendum-approved projects -- would not be able to be a two-story facility. It turned out that work to make a two-story building sit safely on the land next to the existing school would be too costly, thereby necessitating it be built as a one-story school. This, in turn, led the district to assist the county in finding new homes for baseball fields that were originally going to be left intact. By the end of the year, a great deal of progress had been made not only at WES, but on the two-story replacements for Camden and Lugoff elementary schools. Later in the month, trustees learned the schools could cost $3.5 million less to build, thanks to changing from steel frames to load-bearing masonry.

In early March, Sheriff Matthews announced that, based on preliminary autopsy information, the case of Adam Ray Davis was now being considered a murder investigation. Davis had been missing since Dec. 29, 2016. Relatives contacted deputies when he didn’t show up for his daughter’s birthday four days later. Deputies found his body on March 8 thanks to a set of hand-written GPS coordinates anonymously mailed through the U.S. Postal Service to Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) headquarters. Not long after a press conference announcing the discovery of Davis’ body, Matthews alerted the media that the case was being treated as a homicide, but did not explicitly explain why. Despite accounts of investigative activity in Bethune at different times during the year, Matthews has yet to announce any further progress on the case.

Also in March, Camden residents began seeing the demolition of the former Burns Shopping Center where Piggly Wiggly (now across the street) used to be on East DeKalb Street. The demolition brought back memories for members of the Burns family, which once owned the property and for whom it is named, and former Piggly Wiggly manager Julian Gause, as well as former employees, customers and others who ran businesses in the shopping center. Within weeks, the asbestos-filled property was gone, along with an out-parcel housing a former insurance business. The property is currently owned by the Health District of Kershaw County, which has yet to announce future plans.

Also in March:

• Hundreds of people attended the Montessori School of Camden’s first-ever Irish Fest in early March, which featured a children’s parade, food, arts and crafts, bounce houses and musical acts along Rutledge Street between Broad and Church streets in downtown Camden.

• ALPHA Center Executive Director Paul Napper announced to Camden City Council in mid-March that the center will build a new $2.5 million facility in 2018 on a 4-acre lot on Ehrenclou Drive across from near the S.C. National Guard.

• Yancey Wilson and Randy Jones Jr., arrested in June 2015 for the armed robbery of Bethune’s Sandhills Bank branch, pleaded guilty in late March, facing prison sentences of 10 and 25 years to, possibly, life.


The biggest news in April might have been the biggest news of the year: After 47 years, the Carolina Cup Racing Association (CCRA) decided to shutter the fall Colonial Cup event -- normally held in November -- and roll the race itself into the spring Carolina Cup event beginning in 2018. The CCRA’s John Cushman called it a “very difficult decision” that would affect not only Kershaw County, but the jump racing community at large. The CCRA board came to the decision at the end of a specially called meeting after three or four years worth of revenue losses following each event. Those involved said the compromise of bringing the Colonial Cup into the Carolina Cup now gives the race jumping fans a “one-two punch” at the beginning of the season, with purses of $75,000 and $150,000 -- and makes the Colonial Cup the first Grade I jump race of the year.

The Kershaw County Board of School Trustees presented its $81 million budget to Kershaw County Council in April. When it did, the board and Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan, asked council to help find a long-term funding solution to help the district adequately provide for an increasing student body and tied the request to working with council on matters concerning the funding and oversight of school resource officers (SROs). The two bodies formed a joint ad hoc committee to address both issues later in the year. In recent weeks, the committee reported it had decided to leave SRO funding and oversight as it currently stands and offered a preliminary growth local funding formula to assist the district.

• Weylchem US Inc. announced in April that it would invest more than $13 million during the year to expand activities at its Elgin plant, which celebrated its 50th year of operation (under various owners) in June.

• The KCSO earned its sixth consecutive DUI enforcement award from the S.C. Department of Public Safety and the Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs.

• After months of work and discussion, Kershaw County Council allowed a proposed nuisance ordinance to die on third and final reading. The ordinance would have authorized the county to abate rubbish, debris, junk and other materials determined to cause a public nuisance and/or negatively affecting citizens’ health and welfare.


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