The most recent high point was when the Richmond Senior High School won the N.C. 4AA football championship Dec. 14 in Chapel Hill by defeating Jack Britt High School of Fayetteville, 38-35.
That ended 2008 on a high note in Richmond County. The game was televised giving even more positive exposure for the team and Richmond County.
The low point was also in December when UCO Fabrics Incorporated closed its operation in Richmond County with 198 people losing their jobs.
The unemployment rate rose to 10 percent recently along with the rise in unemployment elsewhere. The county had a high rate even before the rise in national and state figures.
Expecting a decline in the economy in 2009, Richmond County government has taken precautions to restrain spending.
The election in November brought two new firsts for Richmond County with the election of Linda Douglas as Richmond County Register of Deeds and Peggy Covington as a member of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners. They are the first African-American women to be elected to those positions in the county.
Another bad event for a number of county residents was the discovery of water wells in the Fox Road area of being contaminated, and the water being unfit for consuming or bathing.
Efforts are under way to construct a new county water line to serve the area. But, the means to take the lines from Fox Road to residences has not yet been determined. In the meantime, residents who are affected are inconvenienced and suffering from the dilemma.
It was a good year for race fans as Andy Hillenburg, who purchased the Rockingham Speedway, installed a new commemorative boulder from Vulcan Materials in front of the facility on which to inscribe race winners and brought racing once again back to Richmond County.
His second major race, the Polar Bear 150 is set to be held Jan. 1.
In the meantime, Rockingham Dragway continues with its International Hot Rod Association National Association events and as many other weekend events as Steve Earwood can schedule.
A potential solid waste landfill being located in Marlboro County, S.C., adjacent to the state line and Richmond County brought a protest from county commissioners which led to a message being sent to S.C. officials.
When the county got no reply, commissioners asked for help from the N.C. Attorney General’s office but was just referred back to South Carolina. Besides concerns from truck traffic on a possible entrance from Richmond County, local citizens have expressed public health concerns.
Highway construction in the county during 2008 continued with the unceremonious opening of the U.S. 220 Bypass of Ellerbe. Plans are to one day extend the highway as I-73/74 from south of Ellerbe to the U.S. 74 Bypass in Rockingham.
As the road was opening, work began on widening U.S. 1 North, Rockingham, from Roberdel Road to Wiregrass Road. That 2.8 miles of widening from two to four lanes of traffic will cost $13.4 million and is scheduled to be completed in 2010 or sooner.
Work on South Long Drive, Rockingham, is being cleaned up from installing drainage and sidewalks and curbing. A contract has been let to widen U.S. 1 from Marston to the Moore County line for $26.6 million with a 2011 completion date.
Work on the U.S. 1 Bypass of Rockingham is still being planned, but in the meantime demolition took place early on U.S. 74 Business between Rockingham and Hamlet to remove unsightly, dilapidated structures to make way for the interchange which will one day be constructed there.
Of benefit to all taxpayers in Richmond County, Progress Energy announced in 2008 it would build another electric generating plant — 600 megawatt — on the site of the present one. The $700 million investment will eventually bring in $3 million in annual tax revenue when completed.
Touchstone Energy, N.C. Electric Membership Corporation, opened its new $150 million peak electricity-generating facility in 2008, which operates on natural gas, in the same area as the Progress Energy plants.
Progress Energy also announced it will build a 64-mile, 230-kilovolt electricity transmission line from Richmond County to Cumberland County with eight miles of that line in Richmond County.
It was a sad day in Richmond County, although patriotic, when a deployment ceremony was held Nov. 16 for soldiers of Co. E, 1/120th Combined Arms Battalion, N.C. Army National Guard unit in Hamlet. A ceremony and family day was held at Cole Auditorium.
The unit is in training and scheduled to leave in the spring of 2009 for a year-long deployment in Iraq.
Work on infrastructure is being planned, considered or underway throughout the county.
Richmond County is finishing up its work on installing water lines in the southeast section of the county and has applied for assistance with installing the new line to provide water along Fox Road.
Sewer lines are being installed in Dobbins Heights at a cost of $852,000. The town will be looking for new grants to provide even more service. Studies are being sought for sewerage service for the town of Hoffman, and a sewer line from Rockingham to Ellerbe.
Work will soon begin to connect sewer lines between Hamlet and Rockingham.
The struggle to keep a shelter for victims of domestic violence open in Richmond County was lost in 2008 for lack of funds. However, New Horizons still provides counseling services for victims and will work to find arrangements for sheltering somewhere.
Construction projects in the county include:
n The Richmond County Judicial Center being constructed in downtown Rockingham will cost $14.4 million, but the total cost of the project including land and equipment is $22 million.
n SRB Holdings LLC is constructing a $10 million 309,000-square-foot distribution center at the industrial park on Freeman Mill Road which will employ from 120 to 150 people.
n A 40,000-square-foot shell building is being constructed by Richmond County on Enterprise Drive in Rockingham’s West Industrial Park.
n FirstHealth is completing work on a new $8.5 million medical office building on South Long Drive.
n Sports Cycles Incorporated moved into a new building on U.S. 74 Business, Rockingham, and the Christian Closet bought the old building across the highway and moved its operation to that location.
n Nearby, Aldi Grocery Store is building a store at the corner of U.S. 74 East and Clemmer Road.
n Walgreens Drug Store is constructing a store in Rockingham at the intersection of East Broad Avenue and Biltmore Drive.
n Hardwick Vision Center renovated a building beside that construction site on East Broad Avenue and relocated from a storefront across the avenue.
n Cordova Fire and Rescue is adding onto its station with more bays.
n Carolina Farm Credit has moved into its new building on U.S. 220 North, Ellerbe.
n A new post office is being constructed to consolidate those at Marston and Hoffman made necessary with the widening of U.S. 1 through those communities.
n An additional station for Hoffman Fire and Rescue was opened in Marston in a new building.
n The National Railroad Museum and Hall of Fame in Hamlet bought and is renovating a building on U.S. 74 Business East for a new facility.
n A new section of hangars is being erected at the Richmond County Airport. A larger, single hangar is also being erected to accommodate a large corporate jet.
To protect the environment and provide for recreation, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission bought the Diggs Tract consisting of 1,659 acres on Old Cheraw Road, Cordova. It was added to the Pee Dee River Game Land at a purchase price of $3.5 million from Progress Energy.
In January, the city of Rockingham adopted a resolution for the Hitchcock Watershed Stream Restoration project to protect that waterway and eventually develop it for recreational purposes. It also includes the eventual removal of the Steele’s Mill Pond Dam.
Rockingham purchased 118.2 acres between Richmond Road Extension and Old Aberdeen Road for future development as a recreation complex, which could cost from $12 million to $20 million to develop as planned.
In May, the long-awaited Veterans Administration’s Community-based Outpatient Clinic opened in Hamlet to serve area veterans. That same month, Hamlet dedicated its Veterans Memorial park at Hamlet City Lake.
The year ends on a personally positive note for one young resident. The community-wide campaign to raise funds for Jack Berry of Ellerbe to obtain a special dog to assist his family when he has seizures was successful, and he will soon be involved in training with the dog.
For an in-depth look at 2008 In Review, see Sunday's Daily Journal. For the next four weekends, the newspaper will provide special coverage.