This year brought a long election season, snow, new buildings, crime and other notable events in Bryan County. Here is our list, in no particular order, of the top stories in Bryan County in 2010:
The District 4 race, to replace retiring Toby Roberts on the Bryan County Board of Commissioners, was the only contested race in the general election even though six people ran in the primary for three open seats on the Bryan County Board of Commissioners this summer. Wade Price won the District 2 primary and election to replace Blondean Newman, who retired from her post. Jimmy Henderson beat incumbent Rick Gardner in the primary for the District 5 seat and subsequently secured his spot on the board in November. Butch Broome won the District 4 primary, but faced opposition in the general election on Nov. 2. Broome was the Republican candidate for that spot and Carter Infinger was the Independent candidate while Lynda Morse ran an aggressive write-in campaign. But neither Broome nor Infinger garnered the 50 percent plus one vote needed to secure the seat and the race went to a runoff vote on Nov. 30. Infinger was declared the decisive winner.
On the school board, six people ran for four spots on the board during the primary. The general election ended up uncontested.
Incumbent Eddie Warren ran to keep his job as chairman, while Paine Bacon ran for District 1. Incumbent Joe Pecenka ran for District 4 and David Schwartz ran for District 5. The seats for districts 1 and 5 are being vacated by Mary Warnell and Judy Crosby, respectively.
PENS, PAPER, PEACE
A not-for-profit agency, formed to honor a local marine who died in a warzone, expanded tremendously this year. The Matthew Freeman Project: Pens & Paper for Peace launched on Memorial Day and blossomed into a national organization. By October, 2 tons of school supplies was shipped to Afghanistan, far exceeding organizers’ expectations. A 5K was also held on Veterans Day. The not-for-profit agency was founded by Richmond Hill resident Lisa Freeman, who lost her son Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman in August 2009 in Afghanistan. She was inspired to start the agency, which ships school supplies to war-torn countries, by the last words her son said to her about the children in Afghanistan wanting pens and paper more than food or water. Most recently, supplies were delivered to the U.S. Air Force 165th Air Lift wing at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
Terry Nielsen, 56, a volunteer firefighter in the Bryan County Fire Department, died in September at the Joseph M. Still Burn center in Augusta after suffering an arm wound during training exercise in June. He was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease, in July. In October, the county named a road in South Bryan after Nielsen.
HENRY FORD CITY
The Richmond Hill City Council voted in February to keep the slogan “A Henry Ford City” on its “Welcome to Richmond Hill” signs. Some city residents have campaigned to get the Ford reference removed from the city’s sign, arguing that Ford was anti-Semitic and should not be endorsed by Richmond Hill.
BRYAN COUNTY ADMINISTRATIVE CENTER
Bryan County started meeting in the new county building in South Bryan in August, after holding a ribbon cutting ceremony there in May. The 29,000 square foot, $3.6 million Bryan County Administrative Complex is located on Capt. Matthew Freeman Drive, off of Hwy. 144. The project was paid for by SPLOST funds. The county seat is in Pembroke, but many residents live in South Bryan. Officials have said they wanted to bring the government closer to the people.
Former Mayor Passes
Woodrow Pickett, the Mayor of Pembroke from 1978 to 1990, died in June. He was 96. Pickett lived in Pembroke for more than 50 years.
The Richmond Hill City Center opened its doors in April, after its ribbon cutting ceremony in January. The facility, a 22,800 square-foot building in J.F. Gregory Park is designed to host weddings, private events and corporate meetings, cost $6.2 million to build. It was revealed this fall that the City Center is expected to take a near $497,300 profit loss this year. That number is expected to diminish to about a $194,000 loss in 2011, according to the Wilderman Group, which manages the center. The City Center is maintained by hotel/motel taxes, SPLOST funds and operating revenue.
In July, Bryan County voters approved Sunday sales of alcohol in the unincorporated areas of the county. The Bryan County Board of Commissioners in August passed a law allowing licensed establishments to sell alcohol on Sundays. It is aimed at giving residents the option of having an alcoholic drink with a meal.
After prolonged discussions, developments and revisions, the Richmond Hill City Council passed a tree ordinance for the city in July. The law requires all new developments to have at least 40 percent foliage coverage.
PEMBROKE ABSORBS RECREATION DEPARTMENT
Pembroke restarted its recreation department back in June. The city hired Linda Warburg in May to run the city’s recreation and leisure services, including a swimming pool, the Miller Teen Center, a baseball field, some tennis and basketball courts and the Tommy McCormick Play Park.
NEW ARMY CLINIC
In October, Fort Stewart officials announced the spring 2011 opening of the Richmond Hill Medical Home in the former Harvey’s/Food Lion store in the Ways Station shopping center on Hwy. 17. The primary care clinic will serve only active duty family members. The new center will occupy less than half of the building, which was vacant for nine months this year.
LAWSUIT DROPPED IN PEMBROKE
A federal judge dismissed a civil lawsuit alleging civil rights violations against Pembroke Police Chief Mark Crowe and another Bryan County Sherriff’s deputy. It marked the second time that the lawsuit, which accused the deputies of misconduct, was dropped at the request of the plaintiff. A similar suit was filed in April 2009 in Bryan County Superior Court and later dropped apparently so it could be filed in federal court. The lawsuit stemmed from an April 2009 incident between a North Bryan resident and then-Bryan County Sherriff’s deputy Crowe and another deputy. The resident claimed Crowe used racial slurs and deputies used excessive force against him during an incident that led to the arrest of five.
SHOOTING CLOSES RICHMOND Hill SCHOOLS
A Richmond Hill man was shot in the jaw by a 15-year-old Richmond Hill High School Student on Dec. 1 at the Plantation Apartments. The complex is across the street from the Richmond Hill Middle and High Schools, which were locked down for more than an hour after the incident as a precautionary measure. Authorities received conflicting reports about where the juvenile went after the shooting. The shooter turned himself into police hours after the incident and was charged with four felonies. About a week later, the 20-year-old victim was charged with three misdemeanors for his part in the altercation. The pair apparently planned to meet to fight prior to the shooting incident, police said. The shooter was permanently expelled from the Bryan County School system.
MURDER/SUICIDE IN SOUTH BRYAN
South Bryan resident Jeffery Minor shot and killed his wife Gail in their bedroom at their home on Hwy. 144 in June. After leaving his home and firing 10 shots at the neighboring home on Smith Road, he returned to his home, set it on fire and eventually shot himself in the head.
FIRES IN RICHMOND HILL
A January fire destroyed the Spruce Street home of Firefighter Michael Cooper with the Richmond Hill Fire Department. His family lost all possessions, but the community hosted fundraisers this winter to support them. A fire also destroyed Denny’s Restaurant on Hwy. 17 in Richmond Hill on December 7. No one was injured but the blaze left more than 40 people out of a job. The community banded together, holding bake sales and pulling together Christmas dinner, to benefit those who lost their jobs.
NEW PLANT FOR RICHMOND HILL
Richmond Hill officials worked this year to get plans in place to upgrade and expand the wastewater treatment plant near Sterling Creek. This year, the city signed a consent order with the state that outlined a construction timeline. Richmond Hill has around 30 months to finish upgrading the plant from treating 1.5 million gallons a day to 4 million gallons a day. The estimated $21 project should begin by mid-2011, according to city officials. A new plant is needed since the city’s plant is operating at capacity and caused a few “major” spills this year.
RECORD NUMBER AT FESTIVAL
Richmond Hill hosted the 12th Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival in October, and a record number of people attended the event in J.F. Gregory Park. Around 35,000 people attended the three-day festival in 2009, and organizers estimated that more people attended this year’s festivities. Little River Band headlined the festival.
RICHMOND HILL PLANTATION
A local developer had to put his project for Plantation Village on hold after the Richmond Hill Planning Board in October tabled approval of a master plan for the development. Steve Croy sought approval to build access roads on 7.18 acres of land on the 112-acre Plantation Village, inside Richmond Hill Plantation. Officials said he needed a master plan approved first. Croy last sought approval from the Planning Board in October, and members moved to table his request to a later date. Croy is proposing to build between 409 and 520 single- and multi-family homes in Plantation Village, which will also include 22 acres of retail and office space. His plan also met some criticism from Ford Plantation residents, who opposed the lack of a public hearing for the project.
It snowed twice this year in Bryan County, a first for the area in more than 20 years. The first snow was in February. It dumped about an inch in Bryan County and marked the first time residents saw snow here in 21 years. The second snow was more recent, just after Christmas this year. That storm just dusted a small amount in some areas of Bryan County.
Ducks were leaving their droppings and snaring traffic in the Piercefield Forest and other surrounding subdivisions, until the Richmond Hill City Council declared those ducks a nuisance in April. The declaration allowed the ducks to be relocated to a pond is Screven County.
JIM ANDERSON HONORED
The Bryan County Emergency Management Director Jim Anderson in January was named the “EMA Director of the Year” by the Emergency Management Association of Georgia. Anderson has been with the county for five years.
GOV. PERDUE VISITS
Outgoing Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce in April. He was invited as the guest speaker of the organization’s 25th Anniversary Dinner and also spent some time here hunting turkeys. Republican Nathan Deal was elected to replace Perdue in November.
Gunner Mate 3rd Class Justin Myers, of Pembroke, helped the Navy sink a Somali Pirate Skiff in the Gulf of Aden, off of the coast of Djibouti, on April 10. Myers was aboard the USS Ashland when he helped sink the pirate skiff.