NEWBERRY COUNTY — With 2017 coming to a close, we look back at the biggest news stories of the year.
1. Samsung begins operations in Newberry
In June, Samsung announced plans to open a $380 million manufacturing plant in Newberry County, with more than 950 jobs being created over the next three years. Samsung moved into the former Caterpillar plant at 284 Mawsons Way and is expected to be operational in early 2018. Samsung will be producing state-of-the-art home appliances, including washing machines and engaging in research and development. Samsung has already hired 350 employees.
The ultimate goal is the facility serving as the U.S. hub for home appliance manufacturing across the business unit.
2. Total Solar Eclipse
In August, Newberry was right in the path of a Total Solar Eclipse, something that Newberry will not see again until 2078. In celebration of the Eclipse, events were held all over the county including a four day festival in the City of Newberry as well as an event in Whitmire. The estimated number of people here during the Eclipse is in the 10s of thousands. During this historic event, there were numerous events involving NASA experts, including an astronaut.
“My dad caught me at one point during Monday’s activities, and said ‘You know when you are in an international airport and can stand in a corner and hear five different languages? I can do that in Downtown Newberry right now,’” said Mary Alex Kopp, tourism and events coordinator at City Of Newberry Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.
4. Teacher Shortage
The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) has reported in their 2016 Supply and Demand Survey that about 6,500 public school teachers did not return to the classroom for the 2016-17 school year.
The report also showed that 4,842.1 did not return to any teaching position. The report also stated that the number of graduates who completed a South Carolina Teacher education program was only 1,898.
“Just in the state, the CERRA Report, 481 vacant teaching positions, in South Carolina public schools, that were never filled. At the same time there were 52 administrative positions that were not filled,” said Superintendent Jim Suber. “What we are seeing is an increase in those numbers.”
3. V.C. Summer Nuclear Station construction suspended
In August, The Santee Cooper board of directors approved the suspension of construction of Units 2 and 3 at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville. The decision to suspend construction was based, in large part, on a comprehensive analysis of detailed schedule and cost data, from both project contractor Westinghouse Electric Co. and subcontractor Fluor Corp., first revealed after Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy in March.
Nearly 5,000 people lost their contracting jobs at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant due to the suspension of construction.
5. Officer involved shootings
In February, a deputy with the Newberry County’s Sheriff’s Office shot a man during a hostage situation after the man advanced on officers while pointing a gun at them, making verbal threats.
Deputies were called to Thornhill Lane after receiving reports that someone had been shot at the residence, on the way there deputies were notified that there was a hostage situation.
The hostages were able to escape from the residence before law enforcement arrived. The suspect also fled. The suspect hid in a ravine, before leaving that position and aggressively advancing on the officers who were attempting to take cover behind a tree. Sheriff Lee Foster said despite repeated demands to stop and drop the weapon, the suspect continued to advance on the officers with the weapon pointed at them. One officer fired, striking the suspect who was then disarmed.
Christopher Rodney Thornhill, 50, of 447 Thornhill Lane in Prosperity, was charged with two counts of attempted murder, three counts of kidnapping, four counts of pointing and presenting a firearm, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, and resisting arrest while armed with a deadly weapon.
In June, Officers with the City of Newberry Police Department responded to shots being fired on Drayton Street, once they arrived the suspect began shooting at the officers, who returned fire, striking him.
Glenn H. Boris, 41, was charged with three counts of attempted murder, a felony that carries a penalty upon conviction on each charge of up to 30 years in prison.
6. Three homicides in Newberry County
This year there were three homicides in Newberry County.
In March, the body of Clinton Stephens, 48, was discovered in the parking lot of the Newberry Green Apartments on Drayton Street. Newberry County Coroner Laura Kneece determined through an autopsy that Stephens died from multiple gunshot wounds. In September, John Henry Davenport, 37, of 420 Floyd Street in Newberry, was arrested in connection to the death.
In May, Clifton Boozer, 40, was detained after he called 911 to report he had killed his girlfriend, Clatie Dean Stribble, 35. Coroner Laura Kneece said Thursday that an autopsy showed Stribble died from asphyxia due to strangulation with a contribution of a stab wound to the neck.
In September, Joseph Lee Graham, 54, of Holloway Street, was charged with the murder of his brother, 48-year-old Mark Edward Graham. Newberry County Coroner Laura Kneece said an autopsy showed that Mark Graham died from asphyxia due to strangulation.
7. College Street Bridge re-opens
In July, a portion of College Street that had been closed for nearly a year and a half to repair the bridge over Scott’s Creek officially re-opened to the public. The new bridge replaced the original bridge that was built in 1930. The bridge was originally scheduled to be completed by May 31, but delays extended the intended completion date.
Matthew Shealy, resident construction engineer with the S.C. Department of Transportation, said delays with relocating the water and sewer lines played a role in delaying the completion of the $1.8 million project.
8. MM Technics opens
In January, MM Technics broke ground on their new facility at the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park, and in October they were open for business. The new facility will supply stamping parts for the body structure of the new BMW X3 and X5.
9. Dopeys Closes
In May, after more than 60 years in business, the Tomahawk — or Dopey’s Cafe, as it is more commonly referred to closed. According to John Edwards Jr., or Buzz as he is more commonly referred, his father opened the restaurant after leaving Newberry College when he was 23 or 24. Rose Edwards, Buzz’s wife, said he named the new restaurant Tomahawk for the Newberry College Indians.
The Edwards said they were at retirement age, and together they discussed it and decided it was just time.
Before Dopeys closed, many Newberry residents, and Newberry College alumni, returned to the establishment. Each night before they closed, there was roughly a three hour wait time.
10. Ag and Art Tour
In June, Newberry County, for the first time, participated in the South Carolina Ag+Art Tour, coordinated by the Clemson Cooperative Extension.
According to the Ag+Art Tour’s website, agandarttour.com, the South Carolina Ag+Art Tour is a free, self-guided tour of farms and artisans. During the tour visitors had the opportunity to see first-hand where their food comes from, watch artists in action and purchase their works. The tour is the largest free farm and art tour in the nation with over 20,000 visitors participating since 2012.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.