The last four months of 2015 would see a variety of events, including a change of hands for KershawHealth, epic flooding, and the third of three devastating deaths of Camden High School (CHS) students lost to car accidents.
At the end of a special called meeting August 29 and following a 90-minute executive session, the KershawHealth Board of Trustees unanimously resolved, 8-0, to authorize Chair Karen Eckford to execute and deliver final transaction documents for Capella CEO Michael Weichart’s signature. The vote came after four extensions of a letter of intent originally signed in December 2014, the transfer of emergency management services to Kershaw County and a request from Capella for the board to retain ownership of the Karesh Long Term Care Center. The hospital would officially change hands and name, from KershawHealth to KershawHealth/Capella on October 1.
The city of Camden got a big boost for one of its major projects -- the truck bypass that is currently under construction. The city received $500,000 in State Transportation C-Funds for the project.
Also in September, Stephen Ross Kelly, 22, of Lugoff, pleaded guilty to strangling to death 18-year-old Briana Rabon, also of Lugoff, in February 2014. Kelly would be sentenced, however, in a decision which drew fire from a number of quarters, including the Chronicle-Independent (C-I). Circuit Court Judge L. Casey Manning sentenced Kelly to 50 years in prison, instead of the life sentence the solicitor’s office, Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office -- and the Rabon family -- had anticipated.
The big story in October, and one of the major stories of the year, was the historic flooding caused by unprecedented rainfall. The city of Camden and Kershaw County received more than 15 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. While Kershaw County did not sustain the damage neighboring counties such as Richland, Sumter and Clarendon Counties did, the county did not escape unscathed. Because of the heavy rain, the ground became saturated, many trees fell when their root systems failed; many of these hit power lines, blocked roads, and damaged property.
While no dams failed in the county, there was flooding due to swollen creeks and saturated ground. Kendall Park, for example, which had suffered major flooding when the Kendall Mill Pond dam failed back in 1990, was severely flooded, but this time the dam held. However, state officials did rate four dams in the county as critical.
Sadly, there was one fatality attributed to the flooding. A man who attempted to drive through flood waters near Twenty-Five Mile Creek in Lugoff died when his car was swept from the road into a ravine. His passenger was able to escape from the vehicle but had to be rescued by the Lugoff Swift Water Rescue Team.
Also, the C-I announced it would publish twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, as of Oct. 2. The C-I and the Camden Chronicle before it had published at least three times a week since the 1950s.
Other significant October events included the county’s approval of a $17.2 million dollar bond issue for economic development purposes; three city of Camden Leadership Legacy benches being dedicated to doctors Larry Parrot and Curtis Watkins, and former Councilman Willard Polk; and Joanna Craig’s announcement she would be stepping down as executive director of Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site at the end of the year. In December, Historic Camden Foundation board members announced Amy Sheheen would serve as interim director.
In November, CHS and the entire Camden community was rocked with another terrible blow with the loss of Sterling Felder. Sterling, a very popular and highly regarded student and athlete, was badly injured in a car accident Nov. 13; he died from his injuries Nov. 22. Sterling was the third CHS student to die from injuries sustained in a car accident in 2015.
At the end of November, Kershaw County Councilman Willie Mickle, citing health insurance needs, announced his resigning from his District 1 seat. Currently, four candidates -- Democrats Art Graham and Bobby Gary and Republicans Al Bozard and George Harkins -- are vying to fill Mickle’s unexpired term. A special primary will be held Feb. 9; the special election between the winning nominees will take place March 29.
Three long-time businesses exited the Kershaw County business community in December. Hall TV in Camden closed its doors effective Dec. 31 after more than 50 years in business. Nettles Cleaners, another long-time fixture of downtown Camden, also closed Dec. 31. And Liggett’s Compounding Pharmacy closed its Lugoff location to merge with Landy’s Pharmacy in Columbia.
Also in December, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at long last granted Duke Energy a 40-year operating license for its Catawba-Wateree Hydro-Electric Project. The relicensing process took more than a decade and involved lengthy and detailed negotiations between the company and stakeholders all along the Catawba River chain.