2019 was an exceedingly busy year in Conway and there doesn’t seem to be any chance that things will slow down in 2020.
Here’s a list of the stories that were the 10 biggest newsmakers this year.
- Growth: Conway has been growing at break neck speed for the past decade, but things really seemed to take off in 2019. Conway’s population estimates now stand at just under 26,723, and new houses are going up everyday. The city has grappled this year with plans for a just under 200-home subdivision on the old Conway Golf Club property and a 2,000-home subdivision along Collins Jollie Road, with a 20-year build-out. This year, the city added about 415 acres, and about .6-square-miles.
- Flood recovery: Conway spent much of its year working to battle its way back from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. So far, using FEMA money, the city has bought 28 properties, at a cost of $2.4 million. These properties were damaged in Hurricane Matthew, and the structures there have been torn down. But there was money left over, so FEMA allowed the city to turn its attention to homes destroyed in Hurricane Florence. None of the sales of those properties have been completed at this point, but buyouts are expected to start in mid January. Other accomplishments include rebuilding Sherwood Park, which opened in October the same month that city residents planted $35,000 of trees. The Riverfront Park was sanitized and rebuilt and the children’s playground is expected to reopen soon. Conway officials were so happy with the city’s progress they held a Conway Strong festival in October to celebrate the city’s continuing recovery.
- New council members: Conwayites re-elected one council member and voted for two new members. Longtime Councilman Tom Anderson was not re-elected and left his seat on council at the end of 2019. Councilman Ashley Smith left council in July to take over Conway’s Parks and Recreation Department. The two new councilmen, Alex Hyman and Justin Jordan, will take office Jan. 6. Councilman Larry White was re-elected.
- New staffers: After a lengthy impasse, Chris Eldridge resigned as Horry County’s administrator with a departure package of $270,000. Council then promoted assistant administrator Steve Gosnell to the administrator’s post. Just before that, assistant administrator Justin Powell resigned his position with Horry County to take a job in Columbia with the S.C. Department of Transportation.
- New city hall: Conway City Council agreed in February to move forward with planning for a new Conway City Hall. They hired architects and held several meetings giving citizens a chance to have their say on what the new building might look like. At this point, planning has the building facing Main Street, beside the current city hall. The building is projected to be 50,000-square-feet covering three floors. City council is also looking at making the new city hall large enough to take care of future growth, giving local groups a chance to use some of the extra room until the city needs it.
- Chamber troubles: The most recent plans for the new City Hall show the building using the space where the Conway Chamber of Commerce is now housed. Chamber officials have created a committee, under the chairmanship of Delan Stevens, to look into the chamber’s future. Will the group build a new home, or find a suitable building already there? How much will the city have to pay the chamber to buy out its lease that is good until 2034? Stay tuned! This issue will continue into the New Year.
- Main Street Memorial Bridge: The S.C. Department of Transportation closed the Main Street Bridge in January saying its much-needed renovations would take until the end of March. However, the bridge didn’t reopen until late fall in just enough time for the city to rewire it and get the much-loved Christmas wreaths back in place in time for holiday.
- In and out of court: There were some significant legal actions during the year. A judge ruled that Renee Poole needed another trial. It won’t come before March. Poole was convicted of convincing a friend to kill her husband while they were on a weekend trip to Myrtle Beach. The S.C. Court of Appeals exonerated Heather Causey Sims of killing her husband saying a judge had erroneously allowed a jury to consider a verdict of manslaughter. A federal jury sentenced Brandon Council to death for killing two CresCom bank employees in Conway’s Sixteenth Avenue office. State charges against Council were dropped. The final defendant in the Sunhouse killings was convicted of murder, armed robbery and attempted murder. Jerome Jenkins was sentenced to death in connection with the 2015 killings in two convenience stores; one on Oak Street in Conway and one on S.C. 905.
- DUI charges: Two people associated with the Horry County School District left their positions in 2019 after being charged with driving under the influence. Board member Holly Heniford resigned her seat before a judge determined that a police officer’s error made her charge improper and threw it out. The board elected the Rev. W. Russell Freeman to take her place as the District 1 representative. Transportation director James Floyd “Jim” Wright retired his position recently after being charged with driving under the influence.
10. More school news: There was lots of rejoicing when Horry’s Early College High School got top scores on the S.C. Report Card. There was much consternation when the school board decided to make the Scholars Academy a standalone school and limit the Academy of Arts, Science and Technology to juniors and seniors only.
Other important stories: Conway spent $400,000 to purchase property from the Burroughs Company on Conway’s riverfront; Frank Theatres closed its facility in Conway, but the theater complex was purchased by the B&B Theatres and reopened, but it’s still being renovated; Cultra Road was resurfaced with a turn lane added for Horry Electric; the U.S. Tennis Association joined the city’s efforts to rebuild the riverfront tennis courts, with work possibly getting underway soon; the city opened a beautiful and highly-popular new park, featuring a mural of the old Shoo-fly train, at the corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue; Conway City Council approved a new land use plan as part of its Comprehensive Plan; CRP Industries, Inc. opened a new facility on Bashor Road in Conway representing a $2.5 million investment and promising 115 jobs; the S.C. Department of Transportation announced its favored path for a new Perimeter Road set to encircle the city from U.S. 378 to U.S. 701 South.