Aiken County Top 6 Stories of 2020

Top Stories

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) – We’ve seen a lot of news making headlines out of Aiken and Aiken County from crime to the push for innovation at even a lawsuit involving the Savannah River Site.

Top Story Number 6: Crime
The death of 12-year-old Edward McKenzie, Jr following a drive-by at his home rocked the community in October. “He wasn’t bad. He wasn’t a problem, he was just a big old baby. He was a big ol’ baby,” Edward’s mother Sha’mecia Martin recalled.

Four people were arrested in connection with his death. Demetrius Williams is still on the loose. Following what city leaders called a senseless tragedy, the community continued to honor McKenzie’s memory with a tree planting at his school North Aiken Elementary.

In November, 14 people were shot at Seventh Lounge in what appeared to be a targeted attack. Craig Newmans, 30, was shot multiple times and died a short time later. Community activists at the time of the incident told NewsChannel 6 that all bars and nightclubs in the Palmetto State should be closed due to the pandemic. “This club was out of compliance with the pandemic going on, and I do believe that was at 11:00 AM we used to work through when alcohol should be stopped?” Founder of Put The Guns Down Now Young People Jack Logan said.

Dustin Robert Williamson was arrested and charged in a shooting, with murder, 10 counts of attempted murder, and one count of weapons possession.

Top Story Number 5: A patron-less Masters
Although the game is played on the hollow grounds of Augusta National, its financial impact is felt across the river. Businesses like restaurants and hotels depend on the revenue from out of towners. Hospitality businesses told NewsChannel 6 that the money made during the Masters is a large percentage of their yearly income. “At least for me, has involved into a whole month worth of extra business,” CEO of Prime Steakhouse Randy Stamm said.

Meanwhile, all 2020 ticket holders will be guaranteed the same tickets for the 2021 Masters.

Top Story Number 4: A push for innovation
Leaders from state and national agencies made their way to the All-America City to make announcements. In September, Newschannel 6 saw a 3D image of what could become the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative.”So to be able to actually bring research, to gather, bring development to gather is key. So really, the focal point is we’ve got Savannah River National Lab here. We have University South Carolina Aiken here. There’s been a lot of interaction in the past, and we wanted to accelerate that,” Department of Energy’s Under Secretary of Science Paul Dabbar shared.

The National Guard also shared its vision for the Cybersecurity DreamPort. The goal to build research, cyber and technology education, and workforce development.

Both projects could in about two years.

Top Story Number 3: Changes in Education at Aiken Public Schools 
In February, King Laurence is was named superintendent. He replaced Dr. Sean Alford, who resigned following a special meeting where officials went into executive session for more than three hours.” My issue is more so with the transparency on the board’s part and the way that things played out,” concerned resident Dexter Price said. Prior to the announcement of Laurence taking the helm, parents and educators express to the board that the next superintendent needed to focus on recruiting and keeping teachers and discipline.

Top Story Number 2: The Savannah River Site and the plutonium store there
Years of litigation over plutonium waste at SRS ended in a $600 million settlement. Following the ruling, city leaders said the settlement money awarded should stay within three counties of the state Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale Counties. The concern, state leaders may have a separate agenda allowing the majority of the money to be awarded outside the SRS region. “Of course, there needs to be a focus on this area because this, this is where the action has been,” Governor Henry McMaster told Shawn.

The Aiken Municipal Development Commission made its position known concerning the settlement. The group submitted a proposal to city and state leaders outlining what project should be completed with that windfall.

Top Story Number 1: The Coronavirus Pandemic

The disease disrupted the economy, schools, government, and the daily lives of nearly every resident in our area. Stay at home orders were enforced. Social distancing, face masks, and reduce numbers of people in common areas became a new norm. Aiken County saw high voter turnout during the election cycle. COVID-19 outbreaks took place at a number of schools, as well as the district office hybrid versus fully virtual for students became a topic of conversation. “It’s frustrating as a parent, just because, you know, my child is in two days. So she goes to school my Nancy’s day. And then she gets a packet of work for the rest of the week. or one it’s not a full packet like it’s not a full day of instruction,” one parent told NewsChannel 6.

Officials agreed to stay with the hybrid school model through January 15, 2021.

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