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Aiken Standard’s top local stories of 2018 – No. 10-6: Joye in Aiken, Silver Bluff Road and NAHS girls are champs

December 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part 1 of 2 articles highlighting the Aiken Standard’s top local stories of 2018. Part 2 will be published Dec. 31.

10. Joye in Aiken celebrates 10 years

Joye in Aiken celebrated its 10th anniversary in March with a splash of color when organizers and friends added red dye to the fountain on Newberry Street to match the arts festival’s logo.

For a decade, Joye in Aiken, named after the Winter Colony estate Joye Cottage, has brought students, graduates and faculty members from The Juilliard School in New York City to perform at venues through the city. The festival later expanded to include world-class artists from around the globe.

The festival’s mission is to bring the the highest quality performing arts to Aiken and make them as accessible as possible.

The festival makes the participating artists accessible to young people through its educational outreach program, which includes master classes and concerts for students in Aiken and surrounding counties.

In 10 years, the program has reached an estimated 26,000 students.

The genesis of the festival dates back to 1989 when New York lawyers and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning authors Steven Naifeh and the late Gregory White Smith bought Joye Cottage, a 60-room “cottage” built by W.C. Whitney, a New York financier and cabinet member in President Grover Cleveland’s administration, in the early 20th century.

After renovating the estate, the authors decided the property would be the perfect setting to train talented, young musicians and performers, and Joye in Aiken was born.

9. CPST vote passes

Voters in November were enthusiastic in their support for Capital Project Sales Tax IV.

More than 60 percent of those who cast ballots approved the 1-cent levy.

“This was the largest margin that the Capital Project Sales Tax has received in its four rounds,” said Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker.

CPST IV is commonly known as a 1-cent, 1 percent or penny local option sales tax.

It is the latest iteration of a levy that was approved locally for the first time in 2000. The second version was passed in 2004, and the third received approval in 2008.

Money generated by CPST IV will be collected during a seven-year period that will begin May 1, 2019 and will end April 30, 2026.

Proceeds from CPST IV are expected to total around $163 million.

The funds will be divided among the City of Aiken, City of North Augusta, Aiken County and eight other municipalities: Burnettown, Jackson, Monetta, New Ellenton, Perry, Salley, Wagener and Windsor.

A formula based 50 percent on population and 50 percent on point of sale will determine the amount each entity receives.

The money will help pay for a variety of projects, including the construction of a new Aiken County Sheriff’s Office complex, major improvements along Whiskey Road and the paving of dirt roads.

8. Frozen puppy

In early January, police charged an Aiken woman after finding a frozen dead puppy and a dog chained up in freezing weather outside her home.

Robyn Denise Bacon, 39, of Newberry Street, was charged with cruelty to animals, according Aiken Public Safety.

On Jan. 2, Aiken Public Safety officers responded to her Newberry Street residence for a safety check and a dog, barely clinging to life, was seen shivering on a chain in the backyard.

It was 15 degrees outside, leading officers to walk over and check on the animal.

Once officers got closer to the dog they then noticed a nearby cage with a puppy inside they reported to be dead and “frozen solid.”

The bottom of the cage was covered in more than a days worth of “waste,” and a plastic food container in the cage was turned over and crushed, police reported.

Both animals appeared to officers as “very skinny,” with investigators able to see their ribs. Two “dirty and dry” dog food bowls were also seen nearby by officers.

The dog that was still living was reported to be a white female pit bull with little shelter from the cold.

Officers also reported several cuts and sores on the pit bull’s legs.

Both dogs were taken to the SPCA.

7. Silver Bluff Road debacle

The original completion date for the Silver Bluff Road Corridor Improvement Project was Aug. 31, 2017.

But that proved to wishful thinking. The relocation of utilities caused delays, and there also were other setbacks.

In addition, the efforts to widen the busy thoroughfare and make other improvements have created problems in the Gem Lakes neighborhood.

There have been issues with stormwater runoff and increased amounts of sediment being deposited in Gem Lakes’ ponds, which have angered residents.

In July, the South Carolina Department of Transportation completed the renegotiation of its contract with Eagle Construction Co. for the Silver Bluff project.

The agreement set a new completion date of July 31, 2019.

In addition, it contains incentive pay for Eagle Construction if it can finish its work before then.

6. NAHS girls basketball champs

It went from unfinished business to business as usual for the North Augusta High School girls’ basketball team.

The 2017-18 season produced the Lady Jackets’ second consecutive Class AAAA state championship, and to simply call them dominant still doesn’t grasp their greatness – their 18-point win over Wilson, their repeat victim in the title game at Colonial Life Arena, was actually one of their tightest contests.

North Augusta’s 26 wins were achieved by an average of 40.6 points per game. Only four of their wins were by less than 20 points – by contrast, 10 of them were by 50 or more.

The easiest way to put it is this: North Augusta was playing a different game than everyone else.

There was a loss – by six in Washington, D.C., against Florida’s Class AAAAAAAA champ – to halt a 32-game winning streak, but all that did was make the Lady Jackets tougher.

They reeled off 22 straight wins from there, focusing on crushing their opponents in the third quarter and removing any hope of a close game – much less an upset.

The honors were numerous, and appropriately so. The Lady Jackets were surprised with a pro-style celebration and parade, which may have been the worst thing to happen to the rest of the teams in the state.

They liked it so much that they want another in 2019.

Staff writers Larry Wood, Dede Biles, Tripp Girardeau and Kyle Dawson contributed to this article.

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