It’s like the more money we come across
The more problems we see.” — The Notorious B.I.G.
Augusta is currently in limbo when it comes to the future of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam and the possibility of a whitewater park.
Just last year, the Augusta Commission agreed to spend $40,000 to hire the Colorado firm, McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, to review and evaluate the area around the deteriorating New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam to see if a whitewater park would be possible in Richmond County.
McLaughlin Whitewater is the same company that designed the extremely popular adjustable whitewater park in Columbus, Ga. that has tourism booming in that city. The company has also worked with cities and community groups all over the country including Raleigh, N.C., Tulsa, Okla., and Florence, Ala.
However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans in November to remove the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, which is approximately 80 years old, and replace it with a rock weir and fish passage. Those plans could potentially kill any future whitewater development in the area.
As a result, just before the holidays, the Augusta Commission went on record opposing the Corps of Engineers’ plan because it could drastically impact the water levels of the Savannah River. Instead, the Augusta Commission passed a resolution in favor of retaining the aging dam. But that will likely leave Augusta holding the bag for the full cost of either maintaining the dam and/or developing a whitewater park.
When Columbus built its whitewater park several years ago, the estimated price tag for that project was more than $25 million.
Through a public-private investment and the dramatic removal of two dams on the Chattahoochee River via dynamite by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Columbus developed an adjustable whitewater park called the “Waveshaper” that allows river managers to customize the rapids to the needs of paddlers and whitewater rafters on the river.
Columbus’ urban whitewater rafting course officially opened on Memorial Day weekend in 2013 and it has been thriving ever since.
So, could a whitewater park in Augusta experience the same success?
City leaders seem hopeful that such a park could become a reality in Augusta, however, a recent announcement by the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte might have just hurt Augusta’s chances.
On Dec. 17, The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. reported that the U.S. National Whitewater Center will collaborate with Columbia officials on a recreational project at the city’s downtown Finlay Park.
This proposed “outdoor attraction” will basically be an hour away from Augusta.
But anyone who’s ever been to Finlay Park in Columbia is left wondering what exactly is the U.S. National Whitewater Center going to do with this aging park that features a stagnant pond and a manmade waterfall that doesn’t look like it has properly worked in years.
In fact, the only life found in Finlay Park these days are some of the city’s homeless who regularly congregate there.
So, what exactly is the city of Columbia planning?
Well, the Columbia City Council agreed to look at a plan with the U.S. National Whitewater Center that could completely redevelop the 18-acre park and add a nearby hotel and upscale residences.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin told Free Times, the city’s altweekly, that the plan is to overhaul the entire park.
“Our hope is that this will be a public-private project,” Benjamin told Free Times. “This will be a public park with unfettered public access. We would start seeing some development down there. Hopefully a hotel and, if I have my way, some residential. And there would be an outpost of the Whitewater Center … There’s a concept that they’ve advanced that would bring some of the features of the Whitewater Center to Columbia, to downtown’s Finlay Park.”
When pressed further about the features of the Charlotte attraction that could be a part of the 18-acre Finlay Park, the mayor would only say that it could be a “serious outdoor activity.”
The U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte is situated on more than 1,300 acres and has many outdoor facets, including rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding, rock climbing, zip lines, rope courses and mountain biking.
Columbia City Councilman Howard Duvall told The State that he believes the Whitewater Center attraction in Columbia would be considered a satellite “outpost” for the center and could make Finlay Park “a regional draw.”
But there’s still hope, Augusta.
Mayor Benjamin told The State that while “the space doesn’t allow for whitewater” activities at the downtown 18-acre park, rock climbing is one of the more popular activities at the Charlotte park that Columbia is considering.
“If we’re going to turn this into the marquee park it should be, then it’s going to require us thinking big,” Benjamin reportedly said. “If we’re going to be the city that we aspire to be, we need to have unique, urban outdoor experiences… The vision is in motion. We’re talking about engaging the public on what they want to see this crown jewel become in its second iteration.”
So, the window is still open for Augusta to possibly have a regional whitewater park that could attract thousands of tourists from across the Southeast each year.
But time is ticking and other nearby cities are considering similar options. Let’s hope Augusta doesn’t wait too long to get moving.
This past May, The Insider told Augustans to be prepared to see a familiar face on the national political season, but not here in Georgia.
Instead, a new Republican candidate for Congress in North Carolina had rocked the Tar Heel State by upsetting a three-term incumbent, Rep. Robert Pittenger, in the state’s Ninth District Republican primary.
And The Insider warned that this particular North Carolina race was going to draw a lot of attention because the North Carolina seat could play a key role in the Democrats’ efforts to retake control of the House.
So, who was this blast from the past that might have a heavy hand in the nation’s political future?
None other than Pastor Mark Harris, formerly of Curtis Baptist Church on Broad Street.
After stunning the voters across the state of North Carolina in May, Harris then faced Charlotte Democrat Dan McCready in the November primary election.
And guess what?
Harris won and appeared to be on his way to Washington.
Until… scandal hit.
Last week, the Washington Post revealed that the race involving Harris was facing an election-fraud investigation.
Specifically, state investigators are looking into the action of a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for Harris’ campaign.
Dowless reportedly oversaw a crew of workers who collected absentee ballots from voters throughout the state, but state investigators are examining whether Dowless’ activities in the general election violated North Carolina’s election laws.
As a result, this fraud investigation has delayed the certification of Harris’ narrow victory over McCready.
Believe it or not, the two candidates are separated by only 905 votes, according to unofficial returns.
Due to the controversy over the results and the fraud investigations, state officials might even call for a new election.
Some officials close to the investigation have told the Washington Post it remains unclear how many mail-in absentee ballots were allegedly diverted in this race.
But investigators have identified hundreds of potential witnesses to interview, many of them voters whose absentee ballots were never turned in, according to the Washington Post.
“The state elections board’s probe is homing in on irregularities in mail-in balloting in the Ninth District general election — most of them in Bladen County,” the Washington Post reported. “Unusually high numbers of mail-in ballots were requested in the county — and unusually high numbers of those requested ballots were never returned, according to state records. A disproportionate number of unreturned ballots had been sent to voters of color, who tend to vote Democratic. Nearly 55 percent of ballots mailed to Native American voters and 36 percent mailed to African-American voters were not returned, while the non-return rate among white voters in the district was just 18 percent, according to state records.”
That doesn’t sound good for Harris and the Republicans in North Carolina.
However, Harris has stated that he is open to a new election if the alleged fraud changed the outcome of the election.
“If this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election, then I would wholeheartedly support a new election,” said Harris, in a video statement released by his campaign.
Harris claims he was unaware of any wrongdoing and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
So, why should Augustans care about an election in North Carolina?
Well, for those Augustans who might not have been around 20 years ago, Harris was once the extremely vocal senior pastor of Curtis Baptist Church.
In fact, Harris not only preached and tried to guide his congregation, but he also was known for attempting to reform downtown Augusta.
Back in October 2000, Harris led the congregation of Curtis Baptist to protest an alcohol license request for a restaurant called Off Broadway Dining & Dancing located at 1285 Broad St.
Despite the fact that the proposed restaurant met all the legal distance requirements for an alcohol license located near a church, Harris, an extremely spirited pastor, strongly objected to the requested license.
For weeks, Harris and Curtis Baptist Church waged a war against Off Broadway’s owner, Judy Tyler, and the owner of the property, the late Julian Osbon.
Harris and the church took their objections straight to the Augusta Commission.
During the first public hearing about the requested alcohol license, more than 100 members of the Curtis Baptist Church packed the commission chambers demanding the license be rejected because it was threat to the congregation’s safety.
Osbon attempted to explain to the commission in 2000 that Off Broadway was not a threat to the church because it was to be an upscale restaurant.
“This is basically for an older crowd,” Osbon told commissioners. “And if they are like me, they are going to be in bed, asleep by 10 o’clock anyway.”
Osbon stood his ground against the church’s objections to the alcohol license.
“I can totally sympathize with the mission of Curtis Baptist and where they are coming from, but I totally disagree with them,” Osbon said in 2000. “If this restaurant is put into place and the lady doesn’t do what she is supposed to do, or, as the landowner, I don’t do what I’m supposed to do, then we should be held accountable for it. But don’t try to micromanage my life and the community.”
During the debate, Osbon believed that the Augusta Commission would do the honorable thing and approve the alcohol license, which was already supported by the city’s license and inspection department and the sheriff’s office.
“Hopefully, elected officials don’t respond to mob rule,” Osbon said in 2000. “I don’t want something done down at the commission because you bring enough people and they cave in. That’s a frightening way to run a community. … My philosophy in life is that you try to focus on the things that you can do something about, so I’m not going to let the church dictate the way I run this property.”
Unfortunately, Osbon had too much faith in the then-sitting Augusta Commission.
Despite the fact that the restaurant was more than 840 feet from the church, which was well beyond the city’s distance requirements for an approved alcohol license from a place of worship, the Augusta Commission voted 6-4 in 2000 to deny the restaurant’s application for a liquor license, as well as a dance hall license.
Tyler and Osbon were in total disbelief after the vote.
“I’ve been approached by many other businesspeople in the community very concerned that what happens here may affect the long-term use of all the properties downtown,” Osbon said in 2000. “One told me if you eliminate all the liquor licenses in downtown Augusta, you might as well put a fire to it, because downtown would be gone.”
In the end, the commission would allow the restaurant to have only a beer and wine license, but no liquor license or Sunday sales.
Osbon was outraged, to say the least.
“Today, Augusta moved a little closer toward insignificance,” he told commissioners. “It was agonizing to watch in disbelief as six commissioners — Jerry Brigham, Ulmer Bridges, Andy Cheek, Richard Colclough, Willie Mays and Marion Williams — drove a stake into the heart of revitalization for downtown Augusta and the city in general.”
After the commission’s vote, downtown Augusta was reeling.
Harris had stepped on the rights of a small, local business just because it didn’t reflect his Christian views.
Now, Harris’ future is in the hands of state investigators looking into the results of his election.
Could Harris’ dreams of heading to Washington, D.C. be in jeopardy?
Just a few weeks ago, CNN uncovered major concerns about the water supply in the small town of Denmark, S.C.
After a year-long investigation, CNN discovered that the state government was adding a substance known as HaloSan to one of the city’s four wells in an attempt to regulate naturally occurring iron bacteria.
According to CNN’s report, HaloSan is a chemical that’s typically used as a disinfectant for pools and spas. Many experts believe it should not be added to drinking water.
It was big news that rocked the Palmetto State.
Well, it appears that CNN has a taste for South Carolina’s controversies because two days after Thanksgiving, the national news network was back in the Palmetto State.
But this time, CNN stopped just across the Savannah River in North Augusta.
Its purpose was to interview North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit about the controversial stone monument that has stood in the city’s J.C. Calhoun Park since 1916 honoring Thomas McKie Meriwether, a white man who died in what is known as the Hamburg Massacre.
For those who aren’t aware, the Hamburg Massacre was a violent clash that broke out in 1876 as armed white men attempted to take control of a predominantly black town with the same name.
The monument is meant to commemorate the lone white causality of the massacre, but the clash also left seven black men dead.
According to historical accounts of the massacre, an all-black regiment led by a man named Dock Adams was stationed in Hamburg, which angered a white paramilitary group known as the Red Shirts.
On July 4, 1876, hundreds of Red Shirts surrounded and eventually attacked the 84-member black militia regiment, killing seven black men.
After the massacre, Dock Adams testified before a congressional committee describing what he witnessed that terrible day.
He said that many of the black men who were killed during the massacre were executed.
“They called them out one by one and would carry them off across the railroad, and stand them up there and shoot them,” Adams testified, adding that the white men were celebrating while killing the black men. “You could hear it all the time. ‘By God! We will carry South Carolina now. About the time we kill four or five hundred men we will scare the rest.’ Even before it begun you could hear, ‘We are going to redeem South Carolina today!’ You could hear them singing it on the streets, ‘This is the beginning of the redemption of South Carolina.’”
Not a proud day in South Carolina’s history.
But, according to the monument, Meriwether was a “young hero” who gave his life “maintaining those civic and social institutions which the men and women of his race had struggled through the centuries to establish in South Carolina.”
The monument further states, “He exemplified the highest ideal of Anglo-Saxon civilization. By his death he assured to the children of his beloved land the supremacy of that ideal.”
Needless to say, the Meriwether monument in North Augusta has attracted a great deal of attention after the controversial removal of several Confederate monuments around the country last year.
But in this case, the Meriwether monument isn’t tied to the Civil War or the Confederacy, so that makes it an unusual case.
Pettit told CNN that, while he believes there is a state law (South Carolina’s Heritage Act) that prevents the city from removing the Meriwether monument, he thought North Augusta could add to the monument by recognizing the black men who also died in the clash.
“It’s an opportunity to look at something divisive for the community and hopefully make it a positive for the community,” Pettit told CNN on Nov. 24, adding that he admits the monument clearly promotes white supremacy. “I’ve had nobody dispute it to me. And we just need to take positive action to remedy that situation, in my opinion.”
Ironically, Pettit acknowledged that he, along with most North Augustans, was not even aware of the transcription on the monument.
“It had stood in the center of town for over a hundred years in a prominent location, and most people didn’t pay attention to what it said,” he told CNN. “I think a lot of people are uncomfortable because of it, knowing that’s not what we think today.”
As a result of the city’s concerns over the monument, Pettit explained that North Augusta established a committee of three whites and three blacks who spent 14 months investigating the monument’s history.
After the investigation, the mayor has recommended that additions be made the park and monument to recognize the seven black men killed in the 1876 massacre including James Cook, Allen Attaway, David Phillips, Albert Myniart, Moses Parks, Hampton Stephens and Nelder John Parker.
Pettit felt that the harsh language on the monument could be used as a “teaching tool, so that those white supremacy attitudes portrayed on the monument didn’t happen again.”
“It’s educational to know that viewpoint existed, so that it’s out in public and you can recognize that it’s not consistent with the way we’re thinking today,” Pettit told CNN, adding that he would not recommend taking the monument down. “I think that’s a one-and-done, where as this, I think, can have a positive effect for a long time. And I think in that regard we’re much better off as a city to have this educational experience that will persist.”
When it comes to controversial monuments in their towns, that’s a pretty uncommon position for many mayors across this nation.
Keeping the monument, but still trying to tell the full story of the massacre might be an impossible task for Pettit and North Augusta.
Thanksgiving weekend was not a very happy one for the family of Georgia state Sen. Lee Anderson.
His daughter, Katie Anderson, was arrested twice over the past week, according to WJBF News Channel 6.
Katie Anderson was reportedly arrested on a shoplifting charge on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving.
She was accused of stealing some shoes from Uptown Cheapskate.
Four days later, on Sunday, Nov. 25, she was arrested and charged with battery, after fighting with an acquaintance.
As a result, Katie Anderson was taken to the Columbia County jail.
Nothing like bringing the entire family down right before the holidays, but unfortunately, this isn’t the Anderson family’s first brush with the law.
In October 2016, Lee Anderson’s son also faced some legal troubles.
Ben Anderson, who was 32 years old at the time, was arrested for DUI in Columbia County just days before his father’s 2016 election.
At the time, Lee Anderson was the Republican candidate for Georgia state Senate’s District 24 seat and was on track to becoming the next state senator for a seat that was then held by retiring state Sen. Bill Jackson.
Now, the troubles of Ben Anderson didn’t affect Lee Anderson’s election at all.
He was running in an overwhelmingly Republican district in which he has developed deep connections with the citizens his entire life.
He won without any problems whatsoever.
But no politician ever wants to be forced to answer questions from the media less than three weeks before an election about their grown son’s inexcusable and criminal behavior.
However, the truth is, both Andersons are very lucky that the situation wasn’t much worse.
Ben Anderson could have easily killed someone while driving under the influence.
Then, it wouldn’t have been just a political embarrassment for his father. It would have been life changing for Ben Anderson, Lee Anderson and the innocent victim or victims that could have been struck and killed.
So, how did Lee Anderson respond to his son’s actions?
“There’s no excuse for my son’s dangerous and reckless behavior,” Lee Anderson said in 2016. “We raised Ben better than that. He deserves the harsh punishment coming his way.”
And now, Lee Anderson must face future questions about the alleged illegal actions of his daughter.
That’s difficult for anyone, whether you’re a politician or just an average Joe.
But it’s also particularly difficult for Lee Anderson because he has dedicated part of his political career to helping those who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
“The governor appointed me to the Board of Corrections and, believe me, I have learned a lot,” Lee Anderson told the Metro Spirit back in 2016, just a few months before his son’s DUI arrest. “It is very expensive to have inmates in prison. It is big money, and I have learned that there are other options out there that possibly would save tax dollars.”
For those with minor offenses, Lee Anderson told the Metro Spirit that prison is not always the answer.
“I’m not talking about a cold killer. I’m talking about someone who has had some DUIs or drug charges,” Lee Anderson said in 2016. “Somebody who has just messed up and just needs to get their life turned around. There are places where they can go to get help, and these people will keep them accountable and they will report to probation officers.”
One such group that Anderson admired is called Mighty Man Ministries in Davisboro, Ga.
“It is not about the dollar bill for them, and that’s what I love about them. They don’t ask but $300 a month for one man,” Lee Anderson said. “It costs taxpayers, for that type of inmate, $18 to $19 a day to house them in prison. Now, I’m not saying every family can afford this, but if they have the financial ability and they really want to help their loved ones and get their lives turned around, I would love to see the judges have more capability to sending them to a place like Mighty Man Ministries and the sentence would be that they have to complete the entire 10- to 14-month program.”
Lee Anderson really believes in such programs.
He doesn’t want to see young people behind bars.
And, surely, the last people he ever wanted to see in jail are his own grown children.
Let’s hope both Anderson children decide to give their parents the greatest gift of all by taking care of themselves, keeping out of trouble and staying out of jail.
When Historic Augusta announced last week that Squeaky’s Tip Top, the former extremely popular tavern on Central Avenue, was on the 2019 Endangered Properties List, many locals couldn’t help but shake their heads in disbelief.
After all, there have been many locals over the years who have long hoped that someone would not only preserve, but restore the former tavern.
While being listed on the Endangered Properties List is never good for any local building, it could be a turning point.
Someone might finally step up to the plate and do something with the long-abandoned building.
After all, Squeaky’s has a tremendous history in Augusta.
Almost 20 years ago, the Metro Spirit sat down with owner Michael Harrison to discuss the many tales and anecdotes that have long been tied to Squeaky’s Tip Top.
For example, the legend of Dr. Ed Hall’s finger being buried in the back of the tavern almost 40 years ago.
“Ed’s finger would be the early 1980s,” owner Michael Harrison told the Metro Spirit back in 1999, explaining that Hall, a Squeaky’s regular, was a resident surgeon at the Medical College of Georgia at the time.
One day, while building a sandbox for his children, Hall had a little mishap that his colleagues at the medical college were not able to correct and the surgeon lost his finger.
Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of the accident, Hall decided to make the best of it and threw a party for his finger at Squeaky’s Tip Top.
“We had a little casket and we had a little service back there,” Harrison told the Metro Spirit in 1999. “I won’t tell you all the things that we did.”
Needless to say, over the years, there have been a lot of stories that have come out of Squeaky’s.
“This is where streaking in Augusta first became popular, too,” Harrison joked.
One night, in the mid-1970s, Harrison said a friend of his decided to get naked in the pub. This occurred well before Harrison owned the tavern.
But it was a night to remember, Harrison said.
“This is how crowded it was: He got up, took his clothes off in the booth at the back of the Tip Top, put them under his arms and started walking toward the front door,” Harrison said. “He’d come up to somebody, tap them on the shoulder and say, ‘Excuse me, I’m streaking,’ and everybody standing there with their beer, said, ‘Sure,’ and just moved out of the way. It took him about 25 to 30 minutes to get out of the front door. Nobody knew he was naked until they saw him walking out the door.”
Clearly, there were wild times at the Tip Top.
But Harrison explained to the Metro Spirit back in 1999 that owning and running the tavern was not an easy job, adding that some of the younger owners who have tried to run it, treated it like an extended party.
That scenario never worked out. Then, other tenants over the years have “moved out in the middle of the night” owing rent.
But to this day, many locals still rave about Squeaky’s famous pizza and cheeseburgers and the good times spent in the tavern.
There are also fond stories about some of the beloved items that once were on display in the Tip Top. Items like the “Earls” that were crazy works of art that used to hang in Squeaky’s.
The story goes that a local “artist” named Earl, who was also a Veterans Administration patient, would make these unusual pictures and sell them to Harrison for $2 or $3 apiece.
“He probably used the money to buy cigarettes,” Harrison said. “We had the largest collection of Earls in the world.”
Unfortunately, some of the former tenants eventually stole the Earls from the tavern, Harrison said.
And then there were regulars to the tavern, such as a man named “Stan,” who was like the Norm Peterson of Squeaky’s.
Everyone knew Stan and had a story to tell about him.
These days, while most Augustans know that Squeaky’s had a long history in this city, many don’t realize that it’s been in existence since at least the 1930s.
“Arguably a very recognizable neighborhood landmark in the Summerville Historic
District, the Tip Top Grill first appears in the city directories in 1938 and first shows on the Sanborn Fire Insurance map in 1951 with the street number of 2596 Central Avenue,” according to Historic Augusta’s information on the building. “The commercial buildings clustered along Central Avenue and Monte Sano are all significant for their architectural and developmental contributions to the district.”
Ironically, an owner from the 1940s named Fred Johnson, who supposedly had a high-pitched voice, added his nickname, Squeaky, to Tip Top when he bought the tavern in 1946.
According to Helen Callahan’s book, “Summerville: A Pictorial History,” Tip Top was originally built as a restaurant by an Augustan named Pearl Harley, but closed down a few months after it opened.
It later opened its doors as a tavern and grew in popularity.
At one time, it is believed that 500 of Tip Top’s regulars had their own personalized mugs around the bar.
Now, that’s love.
Hopefully, someone will have faith in the history of this great Augusta hangout and will bring Squeaky’s Tip Top back to life.
This past week, CNN turned the world’s eyes toward the small town of Denmark, S.C.
Located about 50 miles from Augusta in Bamberg County, Denmark has a population of only about 3,000 people.
For more than a decade, Denmark’s residents were told that their drinking water was safe despite many locals complaining that the water had a suspicious rust color.
Some residents even began collecting water samples in jars, refusing to drink it.
They told local and state officials that something was wrong.
Finally, after a year-long investigation, CNN reporter Sara Ganim is forcing South Carolina officials to take the complaints by the residents of Denmark very seriously.
CNN discovered that the state government was adding a substance to one of the city’s four wells in an attempt to “regulate naturally occurring iron bacteria that can leave red stains or rust-like deposits in the water,” CNN reported this week.
“The substance, known as HaloSan, was not approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to disinfect drinking water,” Ganim reported. “It’s unclear what the effects of HaloSan might have been on the almost 3,000 people who live in this rural, tight-knit community, but a group of about 40 residents believe the water is to blame for illnesses and maladies they say they’re suffering from.”
According to CNN’s report, HaloSan is a chemical that’s typically used as a disinfectant for pools and spas.
Many experts believe it should not be added to drinking water.
However, in Demark, it was used in the public’s water for 10 years.
A spokesman for South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control tried to defend the chemical’s use to CNN.
“The Berry Systems HaloSan treatment unit had been advertised as an effective treatment in the control of iron bacteria and was certified,” Tommy Crosby, director of media relations for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, reportedly said.
Local officials appear confused about the matter.
“It was our thinking that it was an approved chemical to be used,” Denmark’s mayor, Gerald Wright, told CNN. “We rely totally on DHEC because they have the responsibility and expertise to test, monitor and advise.”
However, an EPA spokesperson told CNN that HaloSan is not approved to be used to treat drinking water.
“HaloSan has not undergone the necessary evaluations as part of the pesticide registration process and, therefore, EPA cannot confirm the safe use of this product for the disinfection of drinking water,” according to the EPA.
Apparently, HaloSan is capable of being a “significant eye and skin irritant.” The chemical also could cause “burning, rash, itching, skin discoloration/redness, blistering, allergic type reactions including hives/welts, allergic contact dermatitis, and bleeding,” according to CNN’s research.
If you are looking for a more scientific reaction, Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech engineer and researcher, told CNN that he was “dumbfounded” when he tested one of Denmark’s wells.
“I did a thorough search, and I’ve never seen it approved for a public water supply before,” he said. “And the EPA approvals that I saw, none of them were for municipal potable water.”
“You have to make sure you don’t put too much of it in the water,” he added. “And there was no way that they could prove that they weren’t exceeding the recommended dose. There’s a maximum allowed amount, even for industrial applications. And they have no way of proving that, that level is not being exceeded.”
Joe Charbonnet, a science and policy associate at the Green Science Policy Institute, also told CNN that without knowing the concentration levels in the water, “it’s hard to know the health effects,” but “it could produce compounds that are toxic.”
Just hours after CNN reported its findings, The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., began pursuing the story, as well.
The newspaper also found that HaloSan had not been used by other drinking water systems across the country.
Most rely on chlorine products to kill bacteria, The State reported.
“I have never heard of its usage before,’’ according to one EPA official quoted in an email obtained by The State.
Edwards, the Virginia Tech engineer and researcher, began questioning the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control about the chemicals last May.
“Has feeding of this chemical previously been disclosed to Denmark residents?’’ Edwards reportedly asked DHEC officials in a May 24 email. “I was never told or read anything about this before.’’
Some Denmark residents became so concerned that they began driving 20 miles roundtrip each month to collect local spring water in cases of gallon jugs and used that water to cook, drink and brush their teeth, CNN reported.
Another Denmark resident was told by his doctor that the level of lead in his blood was high, and he should avoid his own water.
Could Denmark become the nation’s next Flint, Michigan?
It’s a real question that South Carolina local and state officials need to address right away.
Some of these Denmark residents are babies, small children, the sick and the elderly.
Do you remember when the inadequate schools in Denmark were the city’s biggest problem?
Let’s face it, South Carolina’s smallest and poorest cities need the most help.
And, right now, there is something rotten in Denmark.
Over the years, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has discovered a few bad apples within the department.
Whether it’s an off-duty deputy starting a fight in a local bar or an investigator stealing Oxycodone pills from the narcotics division of the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Richard Roundtree has generally acted very quickly in terminating those unlawful individuals from his department.
But the recent arrest and later termination of Narcotics Lt. Richard Elim was a shocker for many in this community.
Anyone who’s been around Augusta and the local government for the past several decades knows Elim.
He had served for more than 30 years with the sheriff’s office and frequently represented the sheriff’s office during meetings with the Augusta Commission when local bars or clubs were facing the potential loss of their alcohol or business licenses due to illegal activities within the establishments.
So, for Elim to be charged last month with multiple crimes relating to gaming machines was disheartening to say the least.
According to the sheriff’s office, lottery officials contacted the department after they discovered discrepancies in Elim’s paperwork that he submitted seeking reimbursement for inspecting some local electronic gaming machines.
Elim, 53, allegedly claimed he inspected some lottery machines at a particular location, but lottery officials discovered there were no longer any such machines in that specific building.
According to the arrest warrant regarding Elim, these false inspections occurred between July 14 and Sept. 16 at the VFW Post 649 in Augusta.
In the end, Elim was charged with one felony count of violation of oath by public officer, one felony count of false statements and one felony count of theft by deception.
After Elim was taken into custody and booked into the Charles B. Webster Detention Center, the sheriff’s office released his mugshot.
It’s difficult to see someone who had worked so long with the sheriff’s office fall so hard.
Those who have been involved in local law enforcement for some time couldn’t help but recall a similar scandal that hit the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in 2002 and shook that department to its core.
Back then, two former Richmond County vice officers, Roderick Berry and Stoney Turnage, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison for extorting money from a strip club owner and accepting bribes.
Basically, the two veteran officers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion.
Both officers ruined their careers and went to prison for taking bribes in the form of cash and a few thousand dollars worth of merchandise.
FBI agents recorded meetings between a convicted felon and the two officers in 2001 when the men received two Masters badges, Masters shirts, Cuban cigars and $2,000 cash in exchange for allowing an Augusta nightclub to keep its entertainment license.
During sentencing, Berry and Turnage told a federal judge that they had lost the most important thing in their lives: their law enforcement careers.
Together, Berry and Turnage had a combined 39 years on the force, but that all vanished because of foolish greed.
“After hearing from the character witnesses and my family, I only have one question, ‘How could I be so stupid?’” Turnage reportedly told U.S. District Court Chief Judge Dudley Bowen Jr. in 2002.
In the end, Bowen gave Berry six months in prison for his cooperation in the case, followed by three years of supervised release, 150 hours of community service and a $2,500 fine.
Turnage was sentenced to 18 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, 100 hours of community service and a $7,500 fine.
That scandal could have really hurt the public’s view of the sheriff’s office, but it didn’t.
At the time, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength openly addressed the charges and managed to keep the controversy from tearing his department apart.
Roundtree also has done well this year.
Since the charges against Elim have become public, Roundtree also has dealt with the issue head on.
He quickly fired Elim from the sheriff’s office after an internal investigation, and he was upfront with the media and the public about the charges against the veteran officer.
But, unfortunately, Roundtree’s problems within the department didn’t stop there.
Just a few days after the scandal broker regarding Elim, Richmond County Deputy James Bryan Ouzts was also arrested and fired after he was accused of “double dipping” on the job.
Basically, Ouzts was working a special duty assignment at the Private Eye Nightclub in Augusta while he was supposed to be on his regular, on-duty assignment.
An internal criminal investigation discovered that twice in October, Ouzts was paid $500 for working security at the nightclub while on regular duty. Therefore, while accepting money from the nightclub, he also was compensated by Augusta-Richmond County through his regular paycheck.
As a result, Ouzts was charged with one felony count of violation of oath by public officer and one misdemeanor count of theft by deception, the Augusta Chronicle recently reported.
Needless to say, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Let’s just hope that future deputies learn from these mistakes and don’t get tempted to take the money and run.
We all know that salaries for local law enforcement officers, particularly those in Richmond County, are not what they should be.
But stealing money or taking bribes isn’t the answer. That only leads to prison.
There are heavy hearts in Augusta’s Municipal Building this week.
Just last month, Augusta commissioners and city leaders were forced to face the harsh reality that Super District 10 Commissioner Grady Smith had died on Oct. 16, leaving an empty seat on the commission.
This week, with heavy hearts, the commission moved to swear in Commissioner-Elect John Clarke to replace Smith’s vacant seat.
But as many of his colleagues and friends have recently stated, no one will ever be able to replace the kind heart and humor of Grady Smith.
Sadly, however, tragedy has once again struck the Augusta Commission.
This past Sunday, city leaders were shocked to learn that another colleague, District 5 Commissioner Andrew Jefferson, had also passed away suddenly at 58 years old.
Jefferson, who took office in 2017, was attending a worship service this past Sunday at Good Shepherd Baptist Church when he suddenly collapsed. He was taken to University Hospital where he later died.
Jefferson, who had previously served on the Richmond County School Board and had retired from Augusta Technical College in 2016 after more than 30 years in education, still had two years left of his four-year term.
But it’s too early to even think about someone else taking over Jefferson’s seat.
Instead, this week is a time for mourning the loss of another Augusta commissioner.
“We are saddened by the sudden passing of Augusta Commissioner Andrew Jefferson,” the Augusta Fire Department stated on its Facebook page. “Our sympathy goes out to his family, friends and the citizens of Augusta. Commissioner Jefferson was a true gentleman, had great spirit and his presence will truly be missed.”
Jefferson was a quiet man on the Augusta Commission, but when he spoke, people listened because his arguments were always well thought out.
Jefferson, who was the former director of continuing education at Augusta Tech and had worked at the college since 1991, also was a proud resident of south Augusta.
He was a strong advocate of the new James Brown Arena being built at the former Regency Mall site.
In fact, Jefferson felt the Augusta Commission was “infringing on the rights” of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority by not letting the authority officially decide the location of the new arena.
“The coliseum authority is an authority, and they should make a recommendation to us,” Jefferson said earlier this year. “We should not hold their feet to the fire or threaten to fund or not to fund the arena.”
The decision on the location and design of the arena should be in the authority’s hands, Jefferson frequently said.
“I think if we strip the power from the coliseum authority, we become a dictator,” Jefferson said earlier this year. “I don’t think this body wants to be known as a dictator.”
Jefferson was extremely passionate about his beliefs and stood firmly in support of his community, especially south Augusta.
“I’m an advocate for small-business people,” Jefferson once told the Metro Spirit. “Richmond County is in need of economic growth, especially in south Richmond County. We have businesses closing, and we need new businesses.”
The loss of both Jefferson and Smith has left a huge hole on the Augusta Commission that will be extremely difficult to fill.
Thank you for your service to this community, gentlemen.
Those who had the pleasure of meeting Aiken horse trainer and Dogwood Stable President Cothran “Cot” Campbell over the years knew he was a true gentleman, but also a character.
We’re talking about a man who had the quirky habits of wearing monster masks and occasionally driving around town with an oversized doll named “Darlene” seated in the passenger seat.
Sadly, on Saturday, Oct. 27, Campbell passed away at 91.
A celebration of Campbell’s life will be held on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 2 p.m. at Aiken’s First Baptist Church, followed by a reception on the grounds of the Aiken Training Track at 538 Two Notch Road at 3 p.m.
It’s a sad week for the close-knit horse community of Aiken.
Just this summer, Campbell was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as “Pillar of the Turf,” which is an honor given to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the sport.
Campbell was a racing visionary, who truly revolutionized horse ownership in this country.
But he was also a blast to be around.
Over the years, the Metro Spirit was able to interview Campbell on several occasions and each experience was unforgettable.
Shortly after Campbell wrote his second book detailing the horse-racing life titled “Rascals and Racehorses: A Sporting Man’s Life,” the Metro Spirit sat down for an interview with Campbell about his life and legacy.
The book was a follow-up to Campbell’s 2000 release, “Lightning in a Jar,” in which he outlined the pluses and pitfalls of thoroughbred ownership. Campbell also wrote a third book called “Memoirs of a Longshot.”
Although Campbell kept himself extremely busy between the horse racing and breeding seasons, he said he always made time for writing and spent much of his professional life doing it.
“I was a sports writer, I wrote radio copy for an advertising agency and produced radio shows, which I wrote,” Campbell said in 2002. “And I’ve always thought I was a good, clear writer. Writing advertising copy was good, because it teaches you brevity.”
Campbell, however, said he had to think twice about getting into book writing, initially turning down a publisher’s request to write the book that became “Lightning in a Jar.” Campbell’s wife, Anne, convinced him to rethink the idea.
While Campbell painted a romantic and fun-filled landscape of the horse-racing industry, it would seem the sport could lend itself to cut-throat competitiveness, owing to its high stakes.
But Campbell always said the sport rarely got personal.
Instead, Campbell said, it was more about pitting one animal against another in the race to the finish.
“I think we all try to beat each other; we try to win races,” Campbell said in 2002. “But I don’t think there’s any particular emphasis on beating another person. I’ve run in races with close friends, and you want to beat them, they want to beat you, there’s no doubt about it. But I don’t think it ever gets really personal. I really don’t.
“There’s a lot (of horses) I don’t necessarily pull for, but there’s nobody I think, ‘I want to beat that son of a bitch,’ and I don’t think there’s any of that directed toward me.”
In “Rascals and Racehorses,” Campbell was very honest about his life. He recounted the beginnings of his horse career as a pudgy kid showing a horse at the Nebraska State Fair.
From there, readers were taken on a zany journey introducing them to some of Campbell’s colorful relatives and associates along his path to thoroughbred success, which includes a Preakness win and a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
For instance, there’s Campbell’s account of his ne’er-do-well Uncle Al, who attempts to liven up a party with a dip in the pool:
“With all the spirit of an Australian lifeguard entering the surf, he dove enthusiastically into the pool,” Campbell wrote. “There was no water in the pool. That broke up the party. And it sure as hell broke up Al. He spent the night in a nearby hospital suffering from a fractured collarbone and a severe hangover!”
Then there’s Albert Warner, a former horse partner of Campbell’s, whom he takes up in the chapter “Drinking and Drinkers.”
Warner liked to drink, an affectation that would often cause him to be absent from winner’s circle photos. When the photos arrived at home, Warner’s wife often questioned him about his whereabouts on the heralded day.
Finally, Warner went and had a studio photo made, which he then instructed the photographer to superimpose into the winner’s circle picture each time it was made, often with varying results of believability.
However, it seemed to satisfy his wife.
“Mrs. Warner was not interested in scrutinizing the picture, once she had ascertained that Albert was ‘tending to business,'” Campbell wrote. “The fact that Albert sometimes seemed to be levitating escaped her.”
Campbell, who swore off drinking when he was 30 upon joining Alcoholics Anonymous, also gave several unapologetic accounts of his own imbibing days.
Such as the time he set off in his pink Packard for a night of drinking in Atlanta. Emerging from the bar that night, he couldn’t manage to find his car and therefore had to rely on renting one in order to search for it.
In the process of the search, he stopped in at another liquor joint, and, you guessed it, he lost that car, too. Campbell rented a second car, which he also lost, before finally recruiting a friend’s help.
“When the sun finally got over the yardarm that day, we had located and checked in the two rental cars, and I was in proud possession of my pink Packard,” he wrote.
Campbell, who was born in New Orleans, La., and spent much of his life in Atlanta, called Aiken home for the past several decades.
Campbell was proud that Aiken had a presence as a horse-training community that extended around the globe.
Horses also brought much to the city of Aiken, Campbell said.
“In the horse world you can go to Paris, France, or England and talk about great training centers and they know about Aiken, South Carolina,” Campbell said in 2002. “So I think it creates a personality for the city and brings a lot of rather glamorous visitors in, who come for polo or horse shows or horse races or training of horses. There’s no doubt about it; it brings some heavy money into the city for visits; some of them stay and live here.”
When he wasn’t horsing or writing, Campbell enjoyed playing tennis and having quiet get-togethers with friends.
He was always a people person.
“I like watching people. We go to Saratoga and we do unusual things. We go to the fair — the little country fairs around there,” Campbell said in 2002. “I like knowing people in every walk of life. I like the fact that the people on the racetrack, the grooms and people in lower stations, know me and like me, and I know their names.”
Among Campbell and Dogwood’s accomplishments over the years were Summer Squall’s Preakness Stakes win in 1990 and filly Storm Song’s sales-topping bid of $1.4 million at the 1997 Keeneland November sale. Dogwood had purchased Storm Song two years earlier at Keeneland for $100,000.
Over the years, Campbell’s Dogwood Stable raced more than 80 stakes winners, including Palace Malice, who won the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
Unfortunately, Campbell and Dogwood Stable were never able to win the Kentucky Derby.
It was Campbell’s dream.
He always said if he ever did win the Kentucky Derby, the first thing he would do is throw a colossal party in Aiken.
“Winning the Derby would be a wonderful thing, and it would have stamped my report card with an A-plus on there that could never be taken away,” Campbell said. “My report card’s pretty good now, but winning it would be a marvelous thing and the ripples from that would go out like a rock thrown into a pool for the rest of your life. And they still go out from winning the Preakness. But winning the Derby, that would follow you to your grave with great glory and accolades.”
Despite never winning the Derby, Aiken and the local horse community will always be grateful for the love, kindness and devotion shown by Campbell.
He will be truly missed.