PICKENS COUNTY — This past year has been a roller-coaster of news stories for Pickens County. Over the last 12 months we’ve published 103 issues and covered anything and everything that happened in our backyard. As the new year approaches, we reflect on what we’ve been through as a community (both the good and the bad.)
We here at The Sentinel-Progress scoured through past editions to come up with a list of the most impactful stories of 2017.
Starting, with number 10: Liberty house shines.
The story about the charming little house owned by Janie and Waldon Entrekin on Main Street in Liberty was never intended to be one of our biggest stories of the year. Written mainly as just a local interest piece, imagine our shock in the newsroom when it became our most shared story online ever.
On Facebook alone, it generated over 9,000 views and had hundreds of shares. Clearly, “the Liberty house” holds a special place in your hearts. (It does our’s too.)
Number nine: Easley loses icon.
Not in recent memory has the death of a single resident affected an entire community as much as the passing of Joe Lesley. The impact of his loss resulted in balloon launches, a scholarship fund and the renaming of a street at J.B. “Red” Owens Sports Complex to “Joe Lesley Way.”
His iconic ice cream parlor in downtown Easley remains a vital part of the heart and soul of the community — albeit a little quieter without his laugh.
Number eight: Tornado strikes Norris, Liberty areas.
Back in October, the county was thrown for a twist when a tornado carved its waay through the Upstate leaving behind countless uprooted trees, six homes destroyed and thousands upon thousands without power.
It was one of the strongest storms on record for the area in recent years and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
Number seven: County to take over LFD.
As part of a consolidation move to save the city of Liberty some much needed funds, a unique arrangement was set up in which the Liberty Fire Department was taken over by Pickens County.
The program was considered by many to be a much needed step in the process of Liberty regaining financial stability.
Number six: Glassy Mountain subdivision.
Every once in a while, a story will get out there that brings an entire community together — such was the case when Glassy Mountain Holdings, LLC. decided they wanted to put up a gated subdivision on the mountain.
Pickens County Planning Commission meetings were standing room only as hundreds protested with signs and petitions. Eventually, the case went to court before the company relented and filed the land as a conservation easement.
Number five: Animal shelters
The Pickens County Council completely revamped the way the animal control was handled in county when they decided to divert the $70,000 in yearly funding from the Pickens County Humane Society to the newly created county-run SPCA (Saving Pickens County Animals.)
With the funding rug jerked out from under them, the Humane Society faced certain closure until an online funding campaign saved the shelter just weeks before their announced Dec. 31 closing date.
Number four: Casino Night shut down
When Pickens County Meals on Wheels announced their upcoming riverboat casino night-themed fundraiser, no one thought twice about it — that is, until an anonymous complaint to SLED.
Armed with a legal opinion from the S.C. attorney general’s office, SLED shocked the nonprofit by threatening to shut the night down if held as advertised.
PCMOW had no choice but to scrap their plans and change the fundraiser to an online auction. They estimate the anonymous complaint and subsequent action cost the organization upwards of $15,000.
Number three: Four dead in murder-suicide.
Upstate residents were shaken to their core when the murder of Meredith Rahme in a Greenville parking garage also resulted in the deaths of two small children in Pickens County.
The shooting deaths of 9-year-old Hayden King and his sister, 4-year-old Harper Eden, at the hands of their mother in the parking lot of the Greenville-Pickens Speedway was one of (if not the most) horrific stories ever to happen in the area. The loss and shock of what happened to little Hayden and Harper will be felt in this community for decades to come.
Number two: Rec fund usage under fire.
In one of our biggest FOIs ever, The Sentinel-Progress uncovered evidence of massive misuse of the county’s recreation funds — specifically as it involved the then-called Liberty Civic Auditorium.
In the fallout of the story, the rec fund was frozen and new rules and regulations were put into place on expenditures — including, for the first time, an advisory board.
Last but certainly not least … Our number one story of the year, The Great Solar Eclipse.
The eclipse of 2017 was one of the most amazing natural wonders this country had ever seen and right smack dab in the middle of the path of totality? Pickens County, S.C.
People flocked to the Upstate from all over the country to watch the sun disappear and for just over three minutes — all eyes were glued to the sky as night abruptly fell.
It was truly one of the coolest things most of us have ever seen.