The past 12 months have been a series of roller coaster ups and downs in Garner and Johnston County. Fortunately, there have been more ups than downs.
The town opened its shiny new police department, giving officers a lot more space to operate and maintain evidence. Another shiny new facility opened on Hebron Church Road in the form of South Garner High School. But the first students to fill the classrooms were students from Garner High School.
They went to the new school because Wake County began demolition at Garner Magnet High School. The closing of Garner High evoked lots of memories among teachers and former students who spent their formative years at the school.
Another new building also started rising in 2016, as town officials continue to implement the 2013 bond program. Work has begun on a new town hall on the site of the existing facility. Town employees had to move out of their 30-year-old offices to make way for construction crews. Work is expected to be complete in 2017. Another building expected to begin construction in 2017 saw its final plans take shape in 2016 as town council members approved the design of a new recreation center in downtown Garner.
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Also on the recreation front in 2016, the YMCA met its $7 million fundraising goal to build a new YMCA in Garner. The new facility will rise off Benson Road near White Deer Park. Community members had worked for several years to raise the money needed to build the facility, which will be the first of its kind in Garner. Garner residents will also soon see even more parks and recreation opportunities following the town’s 2016 purchase of Meadowbrook Golf Course from St. Augustine’s University. The course was believed to be the first black-owned and founded golf course in the state, possibly in the nation.
Garner town manager Rodney Dickerson, promoted to the top spot last January, will oversee all those projects.
Getting to those new facilities will one day be easier after N.C. DOT, in 2016, finally approved a route for the southern portion of NC 540. The so-called Orange Route was the favorite among town leaders and its selection put to rest fears that DOT might pursue the much-reviled Red Route, which would have cut through the heart of Garner.
But not all the news in 2016 was so great. Police investigated an embezzlement case involving the founder of an HOA management company, which allegedly misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars belonging to Homeowners Associations, most of them in the Garner and Johnston County area. Police arrested the founder of the management company last month, charging her with 25 counts of embezzlement.
And in Johnston County, school officials were caught off guard when it was public revealed that a retirement package for outgoing superintendent Ed Croom was going to cost the taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars as well because the county’s deal with Croom blew the lid off a cap set by state officials intended to prevent local and state government agencies from putting together exorbitant retirement packages for highly paid employees.