In 2003, Columbia County experienced new growth and some of the pains that go with it.
The county was in a continual state of new development, including more retail locations near the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans, along Furys Ferry Road and a retail outpost pushing further westward into the county - TPs, a Pumping Station franchise at the corner of Washington Road and William Few Parkway.
New executive directors for the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia County Development Authority, appointed early in the year, have helped reorganize how the county approaches its business community and the growth.
To deal with more residents, the Columbia County Board of Education opened two new schools - Grovetown Middle School in January and Lewiston Elementary School in August.
With growth came growing pains, such as traffic and public safety protection. County officials added a turn lane on Washington Road to ease traffic backups and decrease accidents.
With the influx of new residents into the county, officials spent much of the year studying fire protection and alternatives to improve and consolidate services through the Fire Services Study. Before the year's end, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners managed to pass a countywide fire tax to replace subscription fees.
Special elections in November gained the Grovetown City Council a new member - Tony Arnold - and residents elected Lee Anderson to fill the District 4 county commissioner's seat in November after Mark Devoti resigned.
The Columbia County Justice Center in Evans saw its first anniversary with few problems during the first year. The county broke ground on an $8.8 million library and performing arts center behind the new courthouse.
Some of the top stories of the year include:
* The newly built Grovetown Middle School is dedicated.
* New Columbia County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ron Cross and District 1 Commissioner Steve Brown are sworn into office. Cross is the county's first at-large elected chairman. Commissioner Tommy Mercer is elected vice-chairman.
* Harlem officials unveil plans to upgrade the city's downtown district through a $300,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation. The improvements will include new lampposts, trash cans, benches, crosswalks, sidewalks and handicapped access.
* Columbia County officials purchase nearly 150 acres off Blanchard Road for a new county park that will house a soccer field, tennis courts and walking trails. The $1,633,940 price tag is slated to be paid through 1-cent sales tax money.
* The Marshall Branch of the Family Y opens a 33,000-square-foot facility in the Eagle Pointe Center on Washington Road.
* Frank Neal, Columbia County's director of community and leisure services, works his final day Jan. 7 after resigning to move to Hilton Head, S.C.
* Columbia County School Board officials approve changing to school zones to provide pupils for Lewiston Elementary School on Hereford Farm Road. The changes affect five zones in the western part of the county.
* Columbia County has the first confirmed cases of influenza B in the state when the illness first appears in local middle schools. The flu spreads throughout the system and pushes absentee rates at some schools to 26 percent.
* The Columbia County school board names its newest school Lewiston Elementary School. The Lewis family was prominent in the area near Lewiston and Columbia roads.
* The Columbia County school board names a task force to study the possibility of having an at-large board chairman.
* Work begins on the Petersburg Boat Docks at the Augusta Canal headgates. It is the first phase of construction that also will restore the locks, dance pavilion, barbecue pit and caretaker's house.
* Harlem High School's drama department is one of 12 schools in the state selected to perform at the Georgie Thespian Conference.
* Grovetown City Council approves $30,000 to put sidewalks on Harlem-Grovetown Road near Grovetown Middle School after the principal sent home a letter warning parents of the dangers of letting their children walk along the road during morning hours.
* An force-two tornado demolishes several properties on Clanton Road and in the Windmill Plantation subdivision.
* The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce appoints Andy Kingery as the group's interim director while searching for a full-time director.
* Columbia County gets its first youth theater company with the formation of the Young Artist Repertory Theater Co. Inc., founded by John and Jan Greene, Jim and Beth Borke and Carl and Pam Brown.
* Lakeside High School senior Brandon Layton, 18, of Martinez, dies Feb. 28 on River Watch Parkway when the driver of a Toyota Camry heading the wrong way crashed head-on into Brandon's Toyota MR-2.
* During Barry Fleming's first week serving in the Georgia House of Representatives, he introduces his first bill and is appointed deputy minority whip. Fleming is a former chairman of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
* Local Republicans vote to change the leadership of the Columbia County Republican Party and elect local businessman and Columbia County school board member Lee Muns as the group's new chairman, replacing Alvin Starks.
Officials formally opened the Marshall Branch of the Family Y in Eagle Point Center on Washington Road in January.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst
* The Columbia County Board of Commissioners accepts the county's first tree ordinance regulating the number and quality of trees on all commercial, industrial, office, apartment, townhouse and subdivision developments.
* Barry Smith, former Augusta Trees and Parks division director, resigns from a similar position in Savannah to replace Frank Neal as Columbia County's director of community and leisure services.
* A three-year renovation project at the Harlem library is complete. Renovations include an added conference room, and new shelving and carpet.
* University Hospital breaks ground on its $8.7 million, 60,000-square-foot medical complex in Evans.
* Federal Court Judge Dudley Bowen rules that Columbia County's stormwater utility fee is a tax, not a fee, sending the suit to superior court.
* An April 10 crash on Frontage Road kills three people - David Williams, 25, of Covington, and Micka Andrews, 20, and Candace DeChiaro, 19, both of Martinez. Williams and DeChiaro were former Lakeside High School students.
* Greenbrier High School juniors Shane Williams, 17, and Daniel Hall, 16, die in a car accident on Ashmore-Barden Road in Lincolnton on their way to a school golf tournament.
* Columbia County officials name Zack Daffin as the Columbia County Development Authority's executive director.
* Harlem City Councilman Craig Brooks turns in his resignation to move to Knoxville, Tenn., and take a new job.
* The Columbia County Board of Education refuses to vote on a request for a waiver of the 200-yard distance requirement from Rhinehart's Oyster Bar owners, who want to build a restaurant near Belair Elementary School. Tentative approval for the waiver is recalled.
* Clarence Shumate, 46, shoots his live-in girlfriend, Linda Downard, 43, before turning the gun on himself at his home near Grovetown. Shumate died, but Downard survived.
* Greenbrier High School senior Thryshaun McCladdie, 19, is arrested April 28 and charged with three reported sexual assaults on school grounds.
* High insurance premiums force Krystal River Water Park owner, Ken Edwards, to close the area's only water park.
* Harlem High School's drama department is invited to attend the world's largest annual drama festival - the 2004 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland.
* The city of Harlem dedicates Field II of the Harlem Recreation Park in memory of Andrew Hawkinberry, 8, who died in a car accident last fall.
* Gordon Renshaw, former director of community relations for Goodwill Industries, is announced as the new director of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.
* Putt-Putt Golf and Games in Martinez is named one of the top 10 miniature golf courses in the country by the Travel Channel.
* Evans High School students Brad Thornton, 17, of Evans, and Keith Kroggman, 16, of Martinez, are killed June 7 in a car accident on William Few Parkway. Authorities said the driver, Jennifer McElmurray, 16, lost control and the vehicle hit a stand of trees and caught fire.
* A task force is put together by the Columbia County Board of Education to study the idea of an at-large chairman after the board rejects the voter-backed proposal.
* Columbia County officials announces plans to revamp a dormant archery range at Wildwood Park into a disc golf course by 2007.
* Evans High School band director Richard Brasco retired after 35 years as a music educator.
* Stevens Creek Elementary School receives state funding to continue its foreign language program.
* Rain does not deter thousands from attending the fireworks display and Fourth of July celebration at Patriots Park.
* Martinez Fire Department and county officials break ground on the department's new headquarters building off Old Evans Road.
* All retail stores in West Town Shopping Center are full after three years of major renovations.
* Columbia County hires five new principals for the 2003-2004 school year.
* Classes begin for Columbia County's 19,600 pupils, including 445 at Lewiston Elementary School, the county's newest school.
* The lawsuit seeking to overturn Columbia County's stormwater utility fee fails in superior court. Attorneys for the property owners announce plans to appeal the decision.
* Authorities discover the bodies of U.S. Army Capt. Kenneth Anderson, 40, and his wife, Linda, 36, in their Martinez apartment. Authorities rule Capt. Anderson's death a homicide and his wife's as a suicide.
* Valery Dinkins, a sixth-grade teacher at Harlem Middle School, is named Columbia County's Teacher of the Year.
* Former Harlem High School student Alex Inglett, 17, is killed in a car accident Aug. 19 when the car he was a passenger in veers off the road, flips and rolls over on him.
* Aleisha N. Lee, a junior at Harlem High, dies when a vehicle she was riding in swerves off Otis Way and lands upside down in a creek.
* Nine-year-old Forrest Hutto dies Aug. 25 when his family's home in Martinez catches on fire. His parents, James and Michelle Hutto, and his twin brother, Robbie Hutto, were unharmed. Forrest's brother Andrew Nalley was burned but survived.
* Veronica Menefee, former deputy clerk of the county magistrate court, is arrested for stealing more than $2,300 from fines paid to the court since mid-2002.
* Columbia County's average 2003 SAT scores increase 12 points overall to 1,037, well above the state and national average.
* Columbia County seeks state permits to ship sludge from wastewater plants to Jefferson County to be used as fertilizer.
* The Columbia County Justice Center in Evans celebrates its first anniversary.
* Columbia County officials break ground on the county's $8.8 million library and performing arts center behind the justice center.
* Gov. Sonny Perdue announces Columbia County resident Mike Annis as the Augusta Judicial Circuit's newest Superior Court Judge.
* Greenbrier High School sophomore Phillip Hill collapses at a junior varsity football game and is airlifted to Medical College of Georgia Hospital. Hill recovers, but school officials re-examine the placement of ambulances at games.
* District 4 Commissioner Mark Devoti resigns to move to Virginia and take another job, and Columbia County officials plan for a special election to fill the remaining year on his term.
* Evans High School graduate Andrea Bailey reaches the semi-finals in the Miss America pageant, where she represented Georgia.
* Grovetown City Councilman George James resigns to run for the county's empty District 4 commissioner's seat.
Half of the children in Marilynn Morris's sixth-grade class at Riverside Middle School were absent with flulike symptoms. The flu left many school desks empty in 2003.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
* Richard Chad Muns, 18, is indicted on several charges, including rape and child molestation, after being accused of sexual offenses by three women, including two minors.
* Susanne White, a former treasurer of the Windmill Plantation Property Owners Association, is arrested and charged with stealing more than $79,000 from the group.
* Construction starts on a new strip shopping center on Washington Road near the Evans Wal-Mart. An investment group also purchased a spot next to Evans Diner that will house retail stores and professional spaces.
* Columbia County's Fall Fair opens with a new midway operator - Drew Exposition, which was dropped from Augusta's fair earlier in the year. Drew brings new rides and shows to the Merchants Association's annual fair.
* County commissioners approve plans for a 47,000-square-foot Kroger store at the intersection of Furys Ferry and Evans-to-Locks roads. The size is smaller than the 85,000-square-foot shopping center developers wanted to build.
* Lee Anderson, a farmer and self-employed businessman, is elected to fill the District 4 seat on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
* Tony Arnold wins a Grovetown City Council seat, which became vacant when George James resigned to run in the county commissioner's race. James later is appointed to fill Arnold's post on the Grovetown Planning Commission.
* The Columbia County Board of Commissioners votes to consider a new logo for the county by soliciting ideas from residents.
* Developer Frank Mullins announces that he is in preliminary negotiations with Target to build a store in Columbia County. Mullins says he wants to build a 450,000-square-foot shopping center at Washington and Owens roads.
* Three Columbia County high schools and a middle school win their appeals to the Georgia Department of Education to be taken off the needs improvement list. Eight other county schools remain on the list, which is part of the national No Child Left Behind Act.
* Ken Edwards, owner of Krystal River Water Park, auctions off the park's assets and announces plans to rebuild the site as mini-warehouses.
* Crews began clearing land for Bartram Trail Golf Club and new subdivision on Columbia Road near Patriots Park. The course is expected to open 2005.
* The Merchants Association of Columbia County's parade drew 120 entries.
* After two parent surveys, the school board approves a school calendar for next two years that includes a four-day fall break.
* County political and business leaders dedicate International Parkway, a 1-mile stretch of asphalt that will open up Horizon North, the county's newest industrial park.
* Harlem holds its first Christmas festival downtown, including sidewalk sales, vendors and attractions for children.
* County health officials deliver the final 29 flu shots they have available as a nationwide shortage of the vaccine hits the area.
* County commissioners vote to stop collecting the voluntary subscription fees that fund the county's various fire departments and switch to a tax-based system.
* Marie A. Oglesby, 76, dies in a Christmas Eve fire at her house on Weldon Road.
- Correspondent Ali Leonard contributed to this report.
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