Many people won’t soon forget 2016.
Whether you feel good, bad or indifferent about this year, 2016 has definitely generated some major headlines, both nationally and locally.
But this year, the Metro Spirit has focused on many local issues making national news.
Whether it is Georgia politics, the slow trend toward the legalization of pot, prostitution or the investigation into the Marshall Square fire, it has been quite a year.
Let’s all hope that 2017 brings great success and cheer to the Garden City.
Pot in the Peach State
One frequent topic this year has been debates over marijuana possession in Georgia. The year began with a discussion initiated by state Sen. Harold Jones II about whether Georgia should eliminate felony marijuana possession charges.
Despite his best efforts, many Georgians simply didn’t understand Jones’ proposal and immediately took it as a call to legalize pot in Peach State.
That was definitely not his intention.
Jones was simply trying to prevent lives from being destroyed as a result of a felony marijuana possession charge.
“What we are looking at is all of the different collateral consequences that happen once you get a felony charge, such as losing the right to vote, losing the right to sit on a jury, and, if you are in school, you can lose scholarship money,” Jones explained in the beginning of 2016. “With a felony charge, you are also totally banned in Georgia from receiving any kind of federal aid like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, which is old school for food stamps. The federal government allows you be totally barred, if your state wants to, from receiving those kinds of funds.”
But the misunderstanding of Jones’ bill seemed to stall any efforts to get the proposal even discussed in the Georgia Legislature.
Meanwhile, however, the small town of Clarkston, Ga., in DeKalb County may have forever changed the way local governments view simple marijuana possession across the state.
With a city motto of “Where Possibilities Grow,” the Clarkston City Council took an incredibly bold stand this year by unanimously approving the most progressive marijuana ordinance in Georgia.
The new city ordinance allows for only a $75 fine and no jail time for individuals caught with less than an ounce of pot within the Clarkston city limits.
Clarkston’s new municipal ordinance, which was approved on July 5, basically flew in the face of state law.
Here in Georgia, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
But now in Clarkston, the city’s police officers have the discretion of deciding whether to charge a person facing simple marijuana possession under state law or with violating the local ordinance and ticket that individual a $75 fine.
And, let’s just say, the Clarkston City Council isn’t being shy about the fact that it wants local law enforcement officers to choose to follow the city ordinance.
“This particular ordinance came to our attention because we had various people within our Clarkston community who had been cited or ticketed and they had paid various fines,” said Clarkston City Councilman Mario Williams. “Some had paid $200, some of them had paid all the way up to the $662 maximum here in Clarkston.”
As the chairman of Clarkston’s public safety committee, Williams decided the city should study the issue and hold public hearings to discuss the matter.
Williams said it was important for the city to do its homework regarding the law.
“We did a lot of fact finding on this issue and we decided that the starting point is that, for every city in Georgia, those cities have the ability to regulate in the area of possession of one ounce of marijuana or less to try and dispose of those cases,” Williams said. “So when we started from that position, we said, ‘What do we really want to do? And what can we legally do?’”
The last thing the city of Clarkston wanted was to enter into a legal battle with the state of Georgia over its marijuana laws, so the city council carefully reviewed its options, Williams said.
“Currently, you cannot decriminalize possession of marijuana because the Georgia Legislature has deemed it a criminal activity. So we can’t do that,” Williams said. “But what we can do is fix the fine.”
The Clarkston City Council change in its local ordinance regarding marijuana possession officially began a statewide discussion about the topic.
“Right now, we encourage all cities around Georgia to take a strong look at their laws in this area because the Georgia Legislature allows them to look at their laws and it allows them to regulate in this area,” Williams said. “But there is no such thing as Clarkston city officials trying to decriminalize marijuana. We can’t do that by law.”
The Fallout from the Marshall Square Fire
The Metro Spirit dedicated a lot of time and effort this year to its coverage of the lawsuits involving the deadly fire at the Marshall Square retirement community in 2015.
It has been extremely important for the newspaper to highlight the many mistakes that occurred during the horrific fire at the Evans retirement complex to ensure that such a deadly tragedy will never occur again.
But there are still several unanswered questions revolving around the Marshall Square fire.
Even though the state’s Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens ruled this year that the deadly fire at Marshall Square was “accidental,” local attorneys representing the former residents of the building have made it their mission to find the specific source and cause of the fire.
For more than a year, speculation had centered around a Goodman Company’s packaged terminal air conditioner/heater, often referred to as PTAC, that was located in Marshall Square’s billiard room.
“It was an accident. Sure. Nobody intended to start the fire,” Jack Long, who is representing several former Marshall Square residents, told the Metro Spirit earlier this year. “But we think it started with the air conditioner unit. We think they are going to find that it was a bad electrical connection on that particular unit and that caused the fire.”
It also appears the Goodman Company has a track record of failing to properly report that some of its PTAC units posed a fire hazard.
In September, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Goodman Company agreed to pay a $5.55 million civil penalty to settle allegations that it failed to timely inform the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) of a fire risk posed by certain air conditioning and heating units, many of which were installed in hotels, schools and hospitals.
The complaint also alleges that, when Goodman ultimately reported the fire risk to the CPSC, it misrepresented the number of fires that had occurred.
“Goodman knew of a fire risk but waited roughly two years to inform the CPSC,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, stated in a press release this year. “Companies must report these safety issues immediately, as the law requires, to protect the public from an unnecessary risk of injury.”
The chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission was also dismayed by Goodman’s actions.
“Goodman’s conduct was illegal, dangerous and unacceptable,” CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye stated this year. “Goodman’s decision to hide information about serious fires for years, while continuing to profit from sales, slowed down the announcement of a recall and put the safety of many families at real risk.”
Specifically, the government’s complaint alleges that Goodman knew in 2008 that certain PTACs it manufactured between January 2007 and April 2008 had improperly crimped power cords that could pose a fire risk.
During that time, the federal government alleged that Goodman had been receiving reports about the Subject PTACs catching fire, smoking and overheating.
And these weren’t just fires during the company’s testing of the PTAC units.
These were actual fires in occupied buildings.
The federal government claims that, in May 2011, Goodman learned of a fire at a lodging facility in New York.
“At that hotel, the complaint alleged that Goodman replaced the control boards and power cords for over 100 Subject PTACs,” the Department of Justice stated. “Goodman made similar large-scale replacements in 2013, replacing the power cords and control boards for more than 335 Subject PTACs at seven hotels, following two hotel fires in Indiana and Idaho. But Goodman did not report the fire risk to the CPSC until Nov. 26, 2013, at least six months after it learned of these fires.”
While it appears that the federal government has proven that Goodman was less than forthcoming about possible fire hazards involving its PTAC units, in agreeing to settle this matter, Goodman has not admitted that it violated the law.
That fact doesn’t sit well with the former residents of Marshall Square.
To make matters worse, it seems Goodman is trying to weasel out of paying its portion of the settlement agreed to in early December.
According to a motion filed last week, the settlement was to be paid within 15 days. Apparently, all of the other defendants have paid the money owed to the former Marshall Square residents in lawsuit except for Goodman.
So, attorneys for the former residents are having to drag Goodman back to court this week to settle the matter.
But Goodman is far from the only problem involved in the Marshall Square fire.
Some Columbia County residents were shocked this summer after reading a cover story in the Metro Spirit that detailed the complete and total confusion by Columbia County Fire Marshal Brian Clark during his deposition.
As soon as his testimony began, there were early signs of trouble when John Price, an attorney for Marshall Square, asked how far Clark had gone in school.
“Ninth grade,” he said.
So, the fire marshal who oversees all of the fire code inspections throughout Columbia County has a ninth-grade education?
Now, he does have a GED and job-specific certification and training, but that was a concern for some residents.
The deposition also revealed that, in order to become a fire marshal for Columbia County, you actually aren’t required to have any firefighter training at all.
Prior to joining the fire marshal’s office, Clark was a car salesman, worked in insulation and was eventually a jailer and deputy for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
In fact, in Columbia County, the fire marshal’s office is not even a part of the fire department.
During his deposition, Clark also went back and forth as to whether the fire code required Marshall Square to have a fire safety plan and an evacuation plan.
At first, Clark believed Marshall Square did not have to meet such requirements.
But then Clark began questioning that decision in the beginning of 2015 after Dr. Paul Bilodeau, whose mother lived at Marshall Square, contacted the fire department with concerns about the retirement community’s alleged shelter-in-place policy.
“I did a little more research, and when I saw that R-2 (apartments) in the fire code stated it had to have all those procedures, I told (the Marshall Square staff) that it was required,” Clark testified. “And it was later — I don’t remember the exact time — that I realized that the R-2 was only specific for colleges and dormitories.”
It was clear that Clark was confused about the fire code requirements for Marshall Square prior to the fire.
But even during his deposition, Clark became confused about the fire code requirements and once again did a complete 180 about his views on the county’s fire code.
That fact should seriously concern the residents of Columbia County.
But when it was Columbia County Fire Rescue Chief Doug Cooper’s turn to testify, his deposition was equally concerning.
Once Columbia County Fire Rescue arrived on the scene of the fire around 3:30 a.m., it was discovered that the sprinklers inside Marshall Square were also manually shut off by Marshall Square’s property manager, Chris Bryde.
However, Bryde testified that Columbia County fire personnel told him to shut off the sprinklers as soon as they arrived on the scene around 3:30 a.m.
While being questioned by Aiken attorney Robin Braithwaite, who is representing the Nebraska-based company Resort Lifestyle Communities that owns Marshall Square, Cooper insisted that no one from his department would shut off the sprinklers.
“We never turn off sprinklers in any building that’s got live smoke in it until we have that completely under control,” Cooper said. “That’s just an unwritten law.”
Braithwaite asked the chief if he ever discussed the sprinkler system with his firefighters following the Marshall Square fire.
“I did,” Cooper said. “I just said, ‘If anybody cut that sprinkler system off, they better own up and let me know.’”
“And nobody owned up; is that right?” Braithwaite asked.
“That’s correct,” Cooper replied.
Braithwaite’s line of questioning then began to be more specific.
“Let me ask you this, have you made any kind of an assessment or determination what role the shutting down of that sprinkler system played in the spread of this fire?” Braithwaite asked.
“I think it was detrimental,” Cooper replied.
The fire chief insisted that, while the sprinkler system may not have been able to totally extinguish the fire, it definitely would have helped suppress it.
But Cooper again insisted that his firefighters know better than to turn off the sprinkler system.
“I don’t think any individual fireman would cut a sprinkler off,” he said. “I know my firefighters responded appropriately. I know they did. That thing could have been a lot worse than it was.”
Cooper said the fire personnel understand the consequences of any such actions.
“Let me ask you this, would that be dereliction of duty on the part of any fireman who would tell Mr. Bryde to turn that off?” Braithwaite asked.
“It would probably end their career,” Cooper bluntly said.
The fire chief appeared extremely confident about his firefighters’ actions until Braithwaite announced he was going to play an audio recording of radio communications between the firefighters during the early morning hours of June 2, 2015.
On the recording, a male voice can be heard saying, “All right. Let’s shut off the sprinkler system as soon as we can.”
After the audio file ends, Braithwaite asked Cooper if he was able to hear the recorded conversation.
“Sounded like something… about shutting down the sprinkler system,” Cooper replied.
“‘As soon as we can,’ did you hear that?” Braithwaite asked.
Cooper said he did hear that part of the audio file.
“All right, sir. And if I were to tell you that that transmission was made at 3:43, you would agree that’s within 13 minutes of the arrival of your personnel at the scene of the fire; is that correct?” Braithwaite asked.
“That’s correct,” Cooper said.
“And do you recognize the voice on there?” Braithwaite asked.
“Sounded like Danny Kuhlmann,” Cooper said, referring to the operations chief for Columbia County Fire Rescue.
Braithwaite asked Cooper to listen to another audio file that occurred almost one minute later at 3:44 a.m. inside the Marshall Square retirement community.
On the recording, a male voice can be heard saying, “I’ve got Engine 3 on their way. We’re by the sprinkler system control valve.”
Again, Braithwaite asked Cooper if he was able to hear the voice on the recording.
“That was Danny,” Cooper replied.
“All right, sir. So if Chief Kuhlmann is saying we need to shut down the sprinkler system as soon as we can, why would he be saying that?” Braithwaite asked. “Do you have any idea?”
Cooper said he didn’t know.
“The only idea I would have is he thinks he’s got the fire put out,” Cooper said.
Braithwaite asked if hearing the recording changed Cooper’s mind about the actions of the fire department.
“It does if he shut that sprinkler system down,” Cooper said. “Like I said, that’s a career-ending move right there.”
And, yet, to this day, not much has changed within the Columbia County Fire Rescue.
Politics in the Peach State
While the national political scene has generated a lot of attention this year, elections in Augusta area were far from peachy.
There were so many local, state and national races in 2016, it was hard for even the most informed voter to keep track of all the candidates.
And there was no lack of political scandals this year, either.
One total political meltdown that was on full display this year was the failed attempt by local attorney Chris Nicholson to unseat Superior Court Judge Carl Brown Jr.
A perfect example of Nicholson’s bizarre behavior this year came during a political forum for candidates in May sponsored by the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government.
During his speech to the crowd, Nicholson began referring to William S. Morris III, the founder of Morris Communications Co. and publisher of The Augusta Chronicle, as “the white devil.”
“He went after the black politicians,” Nicholson said of Morris. “He went after (former state Sen.) Charles Walker. He went after other people and he tried to destroy all of the black leadership in Augusta.”
Now, it’s no secret that Nicholson had filed a lawsuit against The Augusta Chronicle claiming that the paper published a “false” and “libelous” article about Nicholson in February.
In the lawsuit, Nicholson requested a whopping $50 million in punitive damages.
“What I’m telling you is, we need to get rid of the white devil,” Nicholson told the audience. “We don’t need him running our government.”
While Nicholson lost the election, he also faced professional defeat this year.
In October, the Georgia Supreme Court justices unanimously concurred that Chris Nicholson should be disbarred and no longer be allowed to practice law in Georgia.
“Considering the nature of Nicholson’s misconduct, his prior disciplinary history, the absence of remorse, his indifference to restitution, and his repeated and contemptuous efforts to obstruct the disciplinary process, we conclude that the appropriate sanction in this case is disbarment,” the justices wrote in an opinion released on Oct. 3.
It was a sad ending to what was once a very successful law career.
But even if your name is cleared of all wrongdoings, it doesn’t always mean you’ll win an election.
Such was the case for local attorney and former candidate for Georgia House District 123 Wright McLeod.
Even though the Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders announced earlier this year that there would be no indictment of Wright regarding a bizarre case relating to the false imprisonment of a former Augusta Warrior Project employee, the scandal still probably cost Wright his election.
In the beginning of the year, McLeod learned Richmond County Magistrate Court Judge William Jennings had signed a warrant for his arrest involving allegation against him of false imprisonment of former Augusta Warrior Project employee Janice Jamison.
The entire community was stunned.
Not by the absurd allegations of a disgruntled employee, but by the fact that the judge would sign a warrant for McLeod’s arrest along with Augusta Warrior Project Director Amy Palowitch.
Before McLeod knew it, he was booked into the Charles B. Webster Detention Center on Phinizy Road.
After sitting in jail for about two hours and being released on his own recognizance, McLeod was shocked that Jamison was claiming he and Palowitch refused to allow her to leave the office on Dec. 28, 2015, until they searched her purse and backpack.
The only reason that McLeod, who serves as a volunteer board member for the Augusta Warrior Project, was at the AWP office that day was that the staff had requested he assist in the termination of Jamison.
And McLeod insisted the termination was justified.
“The termination was done legally, it was done extremely professionally and it was done ethically,” McLeod said. “Never once did I state or infer that she was not to leave the office. In fact, I was there to get her to leave the office. And I think the evidence will show all of that to be true.”
Obviously, Sanders agreed with McLeod.
“All parties agree that neither defendant physically touched or restrained Jamison,” Sanders wrote. “On the day of the incident, Jamison did not tell the officer that either McLeod or Palowitch had prevented her from leaving Jamison’s office. Additionally, when the officers specifically asked if she wanted a police report done regarding the incidents surrounding the termination, Jamison indicated that she did not.”
Even though, McLeod and Palowitch were falsely accused and the case was completely dismissed, many still believe the scandal cost McLeod the election in his race for the House District 123 seat.
Private dancing and prostitution in the Peach State
Whether it was a local private dancer’s controversial application in Augusta to work as an “adult entertainment independent contractor license” or the recent busts in Columbia County regarding prostitution at two local Asian spas, showing skin is always a hot topic in the CSRA.
When local resident Sharon Bush Ellison applied for an “adult entertainment independent contractor license” in Richmond County this year, it definitely caught the Augusta Commission off guard.
“I can’t really form an opinion or know how to vote unless I have a demonstration of what she is going to do. Seeing it is worth 1,000 words,” Augusta Commissioner Grady Smith jokingly told the Metro Spirit this year. “I have to see what I’m voting on.”
For several months, city officials tried to explain to Ellison that, in order for her to legally work as an adult entertainment dancer in Augusta, she was required to be licensed to dance at one of the permitted adult entertainment establishments in downtown, such as the Discotheque Lounge, Fantasy’s Showgirls or Vegas Show Girls.
If adult entertainment dancers were allowed to receive independent licenses and perform in private residences, the city would be unable to properly monitor their activities.
But Ellison said it is “illegal and unconstitutional” for the city to require her to get a license that would only allow her to work at one of the permitted adult entertainment establishments.
She insisted it was a form of “indentured servitude or indentured labor,” to have such a requirement.
But Augusta’s Deputy Planning Director Rob Sherman told the commission that simply wasn’t true.
“A person who wants to have a dance club, he or she has to comply with the zoning requirements, just like an alcohol license,” Sherman told the commission. “She was wanting to dance at private homes. By our current ordinance, she cannot do what she would like to do. Therefore, the sheriff’s department denied it and the planning and development department denied it.”
In the end, commissioners voted 9-1 to deny Ellison’s appeal.
Ellison was dismayed by the commission’s decision.
“It’s not obscene,” Ellison said of her private dancing. “The ones down on Broad Street where you get total buck naked is completely absurd to me.”
She insisted dancing at private parties should be a licensed business in Augusta.
“Doing a private party is not unheard of,” she said. “People have bachelorette parties and bachelor parties, but because I want to do it and I want to be on my own and be independent in doing it, something has got to be wrong with it?”
But at least Augusta wasn’t facing some of the problems popping up in Columbia County this year.
Just last month, two of the women working at King’s Spa on South Belair Road— Sun Okay Kim, 62, and Mun Sook Choi, 49 — were arrested and charged with trafficking a person for sexual servitude, while Sun Ja Song, 36, was charged with prostitution.
According to the incident reports from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, the three women were taken to jail on Nov. 9 after Song did “knowingly and willfully consent to perform sexual acts for money.”
A few hours later, the sheriff’s office also discovered illegal sexual activity occurring just a couple miles away at Gold Spa on Columbia Road in Martinez.
Officers arrested and charged Chong Huy Lee, 49, with prostitution after she consented to “sexual intercourse and oral sex” for money, according to the incident report.
But that wasn’t the first time employees at King’s Spa have been arrested on similar sex-related charges.
Since 2008, women have been busted for masturbation for hire at least three previous times at King’s Spa, but the spa’s doors remained open until just last month.
When asked if Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle was going to recommend to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners that King’s Spa and Gold Spa’s business licenses be revoked, Morris replied, “The sheriff has not made a recommendation.”
Earlier this year, a violent crime also struck King’s Spa when a 39-year-old Atlanta resident, Damione Aaron Evans, was arrested after allegedly assaulting two of the spa’s female employees, raping one of them, and then robbing the business of approximately $300.
While King’s Spa recently closed its doors following the undercover operation by the sheriff’s office, Gold Spa appears to still be open for business.
Like many communities across the state of Georgia, Columbia County is struggling with the problem of how to properly handle these massage parlors, while also protecting the rights of legitimate massage therapists throughout the county.
North Augusta in the News
Whether it was the federal indictment of 20 local Irish Travellers, the mystery surrounding the Scuttle’s Island water park or the slow moving development of Project Jackson, North Augusta has certainly been in the news this year.
Probably the biggest story over the river in North Augusta in 2016 was the federal fraud case involving Irish Travellers living in Murphy Village.
More than 20 individuals were charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for allegedly committing crimes of fraud including schemes to obtain life insurance benefits, food stamps and Medicaid funds and providing false information involving vehicle financing. HYPERLINK “http://2kdda41a533r27gnow20hp6whvn.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/feature-1.jpg”
The 45-count indictment states that several of the defendants are also accused of mail fraud, wire fraud, structuring monetary transactions to evade tax reporting requirements and interstate transportation of stolen items.
If found guilty, some of these Irish Travellers could face up to 20 years in prison.
The federal government has already seized about 25 vehicles, and it is currently seeking five properties all located around North Augusta’s Murphy Village.
While these federal charges clearly shook up Murphy Village, actions by the South Carolina Department of Social Services this year also enraged this close-knit community.
In September, the South Carolina Department of Social Services removed six young girls, ages ranging from 6 to 13, from their parents’ custody. The children were allegedly removed during the middle of the school day from Our Lady of Peace Catholic School by DSS.
While DSS said it could not publicly comment on the case involving the children, many local residents believed that the agency is looking into allegations that these young girls were already being groomed for the Irish Travellers’ custom of arranged marriages.
Some have gone further to suggest that the state is looking into allegations of sexual abuse. The Irish Travellers insist such allegations are completely untrue.
The allegations have turned Murphy Village, the home of about 3,000 Irish Travellers in North Augusta, upside down.
Many local residents are now asking: Will these charges against the Irish Travellers be the end of Murphy Village?
Only time will tell, but it may be a long wait.
The trial for Irish Travellers accused in a racketeering scheme out of Murphy Village has been pushed back to April.
Another question that lingered on folks’ minds this year was whether or not the Scuttle’s Island water park would ever open in North Augusta.
It appears there won’t be a $21.5 million water park constructed off Interstate 20, at exit 5.
Cedar Rock Holdings, the company behind Scuttle’s Island, has been asked to file bankruptcy, according to documents filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court earlier this year.
The company’s creditors filed an involuntary petition for bankruptcy stating Cedar Rock Holdings owes nearly $554,000.
So, not only have the developers never moved an inch of dirt on the land located off exit 5 in North Augusta, which just happens to be owned by an Irish Traveller living in Murphy Village, but the developers also owe creditors more than $550,000.
This appears to be a very disappointing ending to a project that once caught the attention of a lot of local residents.
However, many people are still holding out hope on the future of another major development in North Augusta, Project Jackson.
Ever since Project Jackson was proposed along the Savannah River in North Augusta back in 2012, there has been a great deal of interest in the future of the multi-use development next to the Hammond’s Ferry neighborhood.
Project Jackson is far from just the future home of the Augusta GreenJackets.
The estimated $180 million project is expected to include not only a baseball park, but a proposed hotel and conference center, restaurants, retail shops, luxury residential units and an office building.
While there has been a lot of excitement over the future project, there has also been some criticism regarding the slow progress of its construction.
But North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones still insists that Project Jackson will be built once all of the financial pieces of the puzzles come together.
“The project was announced in December 2012 and, from the outset, this was a very, very ambitious project for the City of North Augusta,” Jones said. “It’s unlike anything that has ever been done here before. And we said the only way it could happen would be to have enough private development to pay for the project.” HYPERLINK “http://2kdda41a533r27gnow20hp6whvn.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Lark-Jones.jpg”
No matter how long it takes, North Augusta is committed to sticking to that financial plan, Jones told the Metro Spirit earlier this year.
“That sounds too good to be true to some folks, but most of the opponents that talk about stadiums and minor league teams that are not working, those have projects that they built the stadium and hoped other things would come,” Jones said. “That is not what this project is. This is, we build it together. And part of the latest delay has been on making sure all the pieces to the puzzle fit and the numbers work.”
Regardless of people’s concern over whether Project Jackson will ever materialize, the City of North Augusta is determined to build the project, but to “do it correctly,” he said.
Finally this year, there was very sad news about local legend and North Augusta native Sharon Jones.
On Nov. 18, Jones, the soul and funk singer of the Dap-Kings, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 60.
The last time the Metro Spirit spoke to Jones was right before the Godfather of Soul’s birthday last May where she truly dazzled the entire Augusta audience.
Jones, who was often called the female James Brown, was always so full of life and kind to everyone she met.
It is hard to believe she is gone.
But, no matter what, Jones will always be near and dear to Augusta’s heart.
While it has been a long year, here’s to positive growth, happiness and good cheer in 2017.
A very, happy New Year, Augusta!