The year 2005 will be remembered for a community's response to natural disasters, its handling of growth and talk of major change in government.
This was a year marked by tragedy - globally, nationally and locally - but it was a year that showed proof of a county's spirit of compassion and generosity. Columbia County residents donated generously of their time, sweat and money to help victims of the Asian tsunami, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the Pakistan earthquake. The county also welcomed Katrina evacuees.
The August death of Lakeside High's Chelsea Collins, later determined to have resulted from a heart condition, sparked controversy about the school calendar.
Greenbrier High's William Ryan Howell and Lakeside graduates Tariq Fischer and Imran Khan died in separate auto crashes.
Six former Columbia County public officials also passed away in 2005.
The county saw a new elementary school, River Ridge, open at capacity. Evans Middle School saw the final dawn of a new school year. Two new golf courses - Champions Retreat and Bartram Trail - opened. And development continued at breakneck speed.
The year also will be remembered as a busy one in government for talks of county consolidation, the debate over the feasibility of a sports and entertainment arena and the unification of fire services in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Among the top stories of 2005 in Columbia County:
The county's smoking ban went into effect at midnight Jan. 1. despite a Dec. 21, 2004, lawsuit filed by a group calling itself Citizens Opposing Socialist Tyranny seeking an injunction. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
Churches, businesses and civic organizations in Columbia County assembled donations to the Red Cross and other charitable organizations to assist victims of the Asian tsunami.
Gov. Sonny Perdue releases $4.6 million to build an Augusta Technical College campus in Horizon South Industrial Park.
The importance of Columbia County's all-Republican state legislative delegation rose as the GOP took over the Legislature. State Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, became the first Republican to ever be chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Former school board member and assistant superintendent Charles Allen Sr., 83, died.
A minor earthquake shook the Evans area and prompted emergency calls about loud booming noises. No damage was reported.
Greenbrier Middle School sixth-grade social studies teacher Shaun Owen, Columbia County's 2004-05 Teacher of the Year, was named a finalist for state teacher of the year.
Lakeside High School's wrestling team won the Area 2-AAAA Dual Championship.
The Martinez Fire Department changed its name to Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue to reflect its service to 85 percent of the county.
A Jan. 29 ice storm knocked out power to 4,000 Columbia County residents.
Lakeside High School was named a Georgia School of Excellence for the third time.
Columbia County Animal Care and Control seized 92 cats from the home of Denise Beausoleil on Feb. 10. She later pleaded guilty to animal neglect, and was sentenced to six months probation and ordered to pay more than $6,000 in restitution to Animal Control.
Major League Baseball's home run king Hank Aaron cut the ribbon to officially open the Hank Aaron Land Rover and Jaguar dealership on Washington Road in Evans Feb. 17.
Greenbrier High School junior William Ryan Howell, 17, of Evans, was killed in a single-car crash on William Few Parkway on Feb. 27.
The Greenbrier High School girls basketball team made it all the way to the state Class AAAA quarterfinals.
Workers completed a practice green dedicated to the memory of Greenbrier High School golfers Shane Williams and Daniel Hall, who were killed in an April 2003 crash on their way to a golf tournament.
Former County Commissioner Vince Robertson, 80, died.
Columbia County Cares Food Pantry opened its new location in the former offices of the Columbia County Tax Assessors office in Appling.
Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue opened its Clary Cut Road station.
More than 300 of the nation's top professional and amateur anglers competed at the 2005 Citgo/ESPN Bassmaster Tour and Outdoor Expo at Wildwood Park .
Tom Edwin Chumley, 55, of Augusta, was sentenced to life in prison plus five years for the Feb. 28, 2003 shooting death of his mother, Meredith Pete Guy, 74, of Martinez.
McKnight Construction Co. landed a $11.26 million bid to construct the new Evans Middle School amid controversy over bid procedures that temporarily delayed construction and sent the dispute with another contractor to court.
The Columbia County Board of Education approved the name River Ridge Elementary School for the new school on Mullikin Road, turning down a request to name the school after the former Oakey Grove School.
Former Columbia County Commissioner U.H. Pittman, 77, died.
Voters re-approved the one-cent special purpose local option sales tax.
During the 2005 session of the Georgia General Assembly, Columbia County's legislators brought in $300,000 for technology improvements at the county's new library in Evans, $141,000 for site work at the county's industrial park and $138,000 for sewer and waste pond repair for Harlem. They also changed school board districts to include a county-wide elected chairman.
Wildwood Park became the international headquarters of the Professional Disc Golf Association.
Former Harlem City Councilman Raymond "Red" Fulcher, 88, died.
An 11-hour standoff between Columbia County Sheriffs deputies and an armed Appling man ended when 34-year-old Michael Newsome shot himself in the chest. Newsome recovered.
Cyclists competing in the Tour de Georgia, including Lance Armstrong, soon to become seven-time winner of the Tour de France, raced through Columbia County April 19.
The new Columbia County Department of Motor Vehicle Safety office opened.
A two-seat Cessna airplane made an emergency landing on Washington Road in Martinez on April 20. The pilot, Carl William Tomlinson, 75, of Belvedere, was flying from Columbia to Daniel Field when he experienced mechanical problems, forcing him to land. No one was injured.
A group of Evans business owners gathered at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce to protest a proposed concrete median on Washington Road. The state Department of Transportation later agreed to their request, announcing plans to instead install a center turn lane.
Harlem High School baseball coach Jimmie Lewis recorded his 500th win.
The Evans High School boys golf team won Region 2-AAAA.
The Augusta Symphony concluded its 50th anniversary season with a concert at the Evans campus of University Hospital.
The Augusta Prep boys and girls tennis teams won the Class AAA state championship in tennis.
Grovetown considered amending its city ordinance to permit liquor by the drink sales at restaurants on Sundays. The city attorney belatedly discovered the change would require a referendum, and voters in December approved the measure.
The Evans High School boys soccer team made it to the state Class AAAA semifinals.
The Lakeside High School boys golf team finished second at the Class AAAA state golf championship.
Augusta Christian's baseball team won its first state title as member of the South Carolina Independent Schools Association in its first season with the league.
Chris Motes of Augusta Christian won an individual SCISA state tennis title and doubles partners Troy Freeman and Joseph Thigpen won the doubles title.
Columbia County school board members approved the purchase of $15 million in construction bonds to be repaid with local option sales tax revenue.
May 30 marked the opening of Rhinehart's Oyster Bar in Evans.
Evans High School baseball team made it to the semi-final round in the Class AAAA state championship.
Jason Williams, 34, shot and killed his girlfriend Barbara Davis, 46, and then killed himself at her Old Union Road home May 23, police said.
Four new $200,000 fire trucks rolled into service in Columbia County May 23.
School board members asked for the county commission's help in establishing a second egress from Greenbrier High School onto a planned road in front of the school.
Columbia County first responders join an eight-hour search for an airplane beacon detected by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in the Evans area. The beacon turned out to be a malfunctioning unit in a resident's garage.
DOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl announced that a portion of the Furys Ferry Road widening project would be completed by mid-September. The rest of the project remains more than a year behind schedule.
Leaders from McDuffie, Columbia, Lincoln, Warren and Wilkes counties gathered in McDuffie County to begin discussions on regional economic development. The Clarks Hill Lake Partnership later formed as a result.
Rising gas costs forced the Columbia County school system to budget $500,000 for diesel fuel for the coming school year, $137,000 more than the 2004-05 school year.
Champion's Retreat Country Club, a 27-hole private course designed in part by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, opened at Riverwood Plantation.
Jeffrey Noel Brown, who confessed to killing 13-year-old Cheryl Ann Hughes of Martinez in 1985, was released from prison.
Gov. Sonny Perdue came to Columbia County to talk about managing the Savannah River's resources and toured the Grovetown John Deere plant.
William "Billy" Fray Cleveland, of Augusta, a substitute teacher, is investigated on allegations of child molestation at Riverside and Brookwood elementary schools. A trial in the case is still pending.
Columbia County Commission unanimously approved an ordinance that would allow many of the regulations of the Evans Town Center to be applied in other corridors throughout the county.
Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy was the guest speaker at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's inaugural Power Luncheon 2005.
Ron Thigpen, a former Development Authority of Columbia County vice chairman and chairman of Columbia County's Planning Commission, replaced Bill Coleman as chairman of the development authority.
Residents weighed in on the discussion about the county's Growth Management Plan Update 2025.
Gospel Water Branch Baptist Church celebrated its 125th anniversary.
Officials with the Family Y began plans to build a permanent home in Evans.
Evans was named No. 32 on Money Magazine's Top 100 list of Best Places to Live.
Columbia County school officials disciplined Riverside Elementary School Principal Jeannie Hill and Brookwood Elementary School Assistant Principal Barbara Gleitsmann for failing to properly notify authorities of students' reports that they had been touched improperly by substitute teacher Billy Cleveland.
Lakeside graduates Tariq Fischer, 19, and Imran Khan, 20, were killed along with Muhammed Hasan, 19, of York, Pa., in a July 13 crash on I-20 in Warren County.
The Georgia Environ-mental Protection Division lifted a four-year ban on new sewer tie-ins imposed on Harlem after mandated upgrades and repairs to the city's sewer system were completed.
Band leaders at Evans High School said the terrorist bombings in London would not prevent the marching band from performing at the Lord Mayor of Westminster's New Year's Day parade Jan. 1, 2006.
Columbia County's Arena/ Entertainment Facility Com-mittee made its final report to the county commission, stating a 12,000- to 13,000-seat arena is desirable and possible in the county. Such a proposal would cost about $100 million, according to the report.
A change in Georgia law allowed the sale of sparklers and other non-exploding fireworks, which, along with other fireworks, had been banned in the state since 1962.
Grovetown's Department of Public Safety purchased a new Typhoon ladder truck worth $370,000 and capable of reaching 75 feet high.
The Harlem City Council approved a curfew for teenagers. The law went into effect Sept. 1.
The new school year began and the new River Ridge Elementary School opened. The old Evans Middle School began its last new school year. A replacement building is under construction on Hereford Farm Road and will be the new home of Evans Middle beginning in August 2006.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski asked county officials for approval to apply for a grant for a study that would determine how feasible an arena would be for the county. The commission tabled the request.
Bartram Trail Golf Course opened to the public.
Lakeside High School freshman Chelsea Collins, 14, died Aug. 22, after officials said she complained of not feeling well during a physical education class. An autopsy later determined she died because of an enlarged heart.
The school board approved a new, stricter attendance policy for students.
The Winn-Dixie stores on Columbia and Furys Ferry roads closed after the company filed Chapter 11 in July and announced it would close or sell 326 locations across the southeast.
The Georgia DOT announced an improvement project for the intersection of Washington Road and Gibbs Road in Evans that will ultimately include turn lanes and a traffic signal. The Board of Commissioners also announced a turn lane project for Washington at Hardy McManus Road.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and state school Superintendent Kathy Cox visited Republicans in Evans.
Residents, churches, business and charities in Columbia County gave of their time, sweat and money to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Thirteen members of the county's Community Emergency Response Team traveled to assist victims in the Biloxi, Miss., region.
Columbia County Commission voted unanimously to move forward on studying and implementing incorporation and consolidation of the county.
Leeann Fleischauer is named Columbia County Teacher of the Year.
Planning and development officials announced a developer's plans to build Riverwood Plantation West. The plan, which called for 3,600 or more new home sites and commercial development on 1,500 acres in the Greenbrier District, was later approved by commissioners after the developer made changes to satisfy local residents.
Columbia County schools closed Sept. 26 and 27 in compliance with a request by Gov. Sonny Perdue to close school for two days to conserve fuel and lower energy costs.
News-Times readers voted Gene Sullivan "mayor" of Evans.
The county commission presented a conceptual plan for a new Evans Towne Centre Park.
The commission approved new aesthetic standards for new construction along Furys Ferry Road. The standards were later approved for Columbia and Washington roads.
Approximately 30,000 people jammed the streets of Harlem for the 17th annual Oliver Hardy Festival.
The county commission voted to enter into negotiations for low-rate lease to the Family Y to build a facility on county-owned land at Blanchard Woods Park.
The first phase of the Mullins Crossing shopping center opened with Columbia County's first Kohl's and Target stores.
The final football game at Evans Middle School was played Oct. 11. The Knights beat Greenbrier Middle 22-0 as Justin Black, a Hurricane Katrina evacuee whose family moved to Evans, scored the final touchdown at the stadium.
Former state Rep. William S. "Bill" Jackson, of Appling, was appointed to serve on the state Board of Corrections by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The school board denied a request by the Georgia School Board Association to oppose replacing property taxes with a state sales tax for schools.
The DOT announced the future widening of Washington Road will extend a mile farther west to Kiokee Creek.
The It's Spooky to be Hungry Food Drive netted record donations of food and money for the Golden Harvest Food Bank.
The county commission approved Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue taking over the territory formerly covered by North Columbia Fire and Rescue. Martinez-Columbia will cover most of the unincorporated parts of the county.
The Save the Columns group met to plan the move of the stone arch and seven pillars, the remnants of the original 1927 Evans school house located in front of Evans Middle School, before the school is demolished to make way for commercial development.
The 40th annual Columbia County Fair opened.
Former City Councilman George James and incumbent Bruce Stoddard are elected to Grovetown City Council, and Grovetown voters also approved a referendum allowing alcohol to be sold by the drink on Sundays.
Augusta Christian's football team won the SCISA state championship.
The Greenbrier volleyball team won the Region 2-AAAA title.
The school board's calendar committee announced it will poll parents in 2006 to determine their pick of three school calendar options.
Harlem city officials passed a strict ordinance to regulate adult entertainment businesses inside the city.
A transition house on Flowing Wells Road near Martinez Elementary drew the ire of parents who signed petitions to have county commissioners reconsider the zoning of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. The effort faded after the commission attorney said the facility is legal.
DOT announced a center turn lane for Washington Road will be extended to Gibbs Road.
Former County Commiss-ioner Paul Armstrong, 61, died.
The first of at least three public meetings to explain consolidation was held. As the year ends, the commission is still studying the issue.
Coaches and former soccer teammates of Tariq Fischer planted a tree in his memory at Patriots Park.
Planning and zoning board members approved a slightly scaled back version of Riverwood Plantation, calling for 3,100 new home sites and commercial development in the Greenbrier district over the next 20 years.
Evans High School graduate Deke Copenhaver is elected mayor of Augusta and promises to work together with Columbia County.
Former County Commissioner John Evans, 79, died.
County commissioners ended their two-year agreement with North Columbia Fire and Rescue a year early and decided not to assume the department's debt.
Harlem rejected a county proposal to continue paying the city per call to provide fire service to the unincorporated area south of the city.
Columbia County Choral Society founder Jaques Kearns died. He had been awarded the inaugural Columbia County Arts., Inc., Outstanding Arts Supporter/Volunteer award in June.
As 2006 begins, The News-Times looks ahead to what's coming in Columbia County.
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