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Groundbreaking held for Nancy Carson Library’s million-dollar renovation project

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Nancy Carson Library renovation project Friday afternoon.

The $1.25 million update will include mostly internal adjustments, with the hopes that the building will be more spacious and services will be more streamlined.

The project is expected to be completed by September 2024.

Major changes include a designated teen’s section, the implementation of study areas, a smaller and more effective service desk, a relocated children’s section and more storage space.

“This project is … a significant culmination of a lot of corporations, different stakeholders,” Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker said. “A project like this is not very simple.”

The current contract is for $1,250,000, of which Friends of the Nancy Carson Library Foundation has “very generously” contributed $275,000.

“That leaves about $975,000 from the Aiken County Capital Profit Sales Tax, which is going to support this,” Bunker said.

Gene Helmich, chairperson for the Friends of Nancy Carson Library, spoke about his gratitude for being involved with the project.

“The friends are happy that we have the money to contribute to this … partnership,” he said. “It’s gonna be a great, great facility for the area, for the North Augusta and the Belvedere area. We’re so extremely happy that we started and we look forward to this adventure.”

Sandy Haskell, Aiken County Councilman representing the North Augusta area, spoke briefly.

“I would just like to say thank you for all that’s being done,” he said.

Participants of the groundbreaking were Haskell; Teresa Crain, Aiken County engineering director; Helmich; Mary Jo Dawson, director of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Library System; Barbara Walker, manager of the Nancy Carson Library; Kim Butler, with the ABBE Board of Trustees; Jane Carter with the ABBE Board of Trustees; Nathan Stewart, president of J.E. Stewart Builders Inc.; Barbara Price of McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture; and Bunker.

Aiken County Public Library’s first floor reopens to public as major renovation nears completion

Even though the multimillion-dollar renovation of the Aiken County Public Library isn’t quite finished, the soft reopening of the information and media center’s first floor was held Monday.

Aiken resident David Spikes, a retiree who visits the library once a week, was impressed by what he saw.

“It looks like the wait has been worth it,” he said. “It’s much roomier and brighter, and more open and welcoming. It seems to be well laid out and well organized.”

Another fan of the makeover was Hillary Kourliouros, who grew up in Aiken and recently moved back to this area.

“It’s great. I like it,” she said.

Bobby Mason, who lives near Ridge Spring, also was enthusiastic.

“You can find DVDs and stuff better,” he said. “They’ve got everything in order. You don’t have to walk all over the place to look for stuff. It’s wonderful. The floors are beautiful.”

A public-private partnership between Aiken County and the Friends of the Aiken County Public Library is paying for the refurbishment.

Aiken County agreed to provide $2 for every $1 the Friends of the Library contributed.

So far, the total cost is approximately $3 million.

Mary Jo Dawson, director of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library System, described the collaboration as “one of the most successful public-private partnerships in the history of Aiken.”

Friends of the Library President Bill Reynolds said 99.4% of the renovation has been completed.

“I think by mid-February it will be 99.9%,” Dawson added.

The library’s second floor reopened to the public last July after being modernized.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.

In January 2020, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of the refurbishment.

During that phase, the library’s steep front steps were demolished and replaced.

Dawson, accompanied by Reynolds, gave a short tour Monday afternoon of the library’s first floor, where there is a new circulation lounge.

“It’s probably going to be one of the most highly visited spots in the library,” Dawson said. “It’s where people can come in and browse the new books, and they also can pick up their reserved books there.”

In addition, visitors can see the gently used books that are available to purchase.

Located near the lounge area is a new self-checkout station.

“We have our very capable staff waiting to assist,” Dawson said. “Their service desk is adjacent to the lounge.”

In addition, the first floor has new furniture, new shelving, new technology, a new room for teenagers and more.

A new elevator is now operational.

Vending machines will be installed soon on the first floor in an area that has a “Starbucks-like environment,” Dawson said.

McMillan Pazdan Smith is the architect for the project. J.E. Stewart Builders Inc. is the contractor.

The library is at 314 Chesterfield Street South.

The information and media center is located in one of the two wings of a brick building. The construction of the first wing was completed in 1891, and the second was added in 1913.

Home for Good Dog Rescue holds groundbreaking ceremony for new Aiken facility

Wearing white hard hats while using shovels to toss some dirt, Home for Good Dog Rescue’s co-founders and others participated in a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for a new facility in Aiken.

It will be called Almost Home.

The prefabricated metal and steel building will be constructed on Home for Good’s 10-acre property at 4568 Whiskey Road.

When completed, the structure will cover approximately 5,000 square feet, said Home for Good co-founder Rich Errico.

The cost will be “probably a shade over $1 million,” he added.

Studio 3 Design Group of Augusta is the architect for the project, and J.E. Stewart Builders Inc. of Aiken is the contractor.

Errico said the Almost Home project would take around seven to eight months to complete.

Established in 2010, Home for Good is a nonprofit based in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.

According to its website, the organization rescues dogs from “high-kill” shelters in South Carolina and Georgia. Then it transports the animals from Aiken to New Jersey and places them in foster homes to prepare them to be adopted.

“We adopt out approximately 1,000 dogs per year,” said Errico, who teamed up with Toni Ann Turco to start Home for Good.

In 2020, the nonprofit’s number of canine adoptees is expected to go up “a little bit,” reported Home for Good board member Bernie Cicirelli. “We’re on target for 1,200. There has been an increased demand. A lot of it, I think, has to do with COVID-19. With people being at home more, they’re in a better position to care for a dog and to train a dog.”

Almost Home will have a full-service veterinary clinic. In addition to helping dogs rescued by Home for Good, it will offer low-cost spay and neuter services to the public.

And people will be able to bring small animals other than dogs to the clinic for treatment.

The fees charged to the public “will help subsidize our rescue efforts,” Errico said.

Almost Home also will have a wellness center where rescued dogs with medical issues will be treated and rehabilitated before being transported to New Jersey.

“It will be almost like a halfway house,” Errico said.

Edgefield veterinarian Clarence Bagshaw will be in charge of Almost Home’s clinic and will work part time while continuing to be involved in his own practice.

“We hope to hire a couple of other veterinarians,” Errico said.

Currently, Home for Good has nine employees in Aiken.

“We’ll probably double the size of the staff down here, so we will have nine on the rescue side and possibly nine on the clinic side,” Errico said.

Prior to the groundbreaking ceremony, the participants scattered the ashes of cremated dogs that Home for Good was unable to save in the past on the Almost Home site.

“This building will be kind of like the phoenix bird that rises from the ashes,” Cicirelli said. “It will represent a new future for the new dogs coming through here, and hopefully we’ll be able to save more of them.”

Groundbreaking ceremony kicks off finish line tower project at Langley Pond Park

WARRENVILLE — A groundbreaking ceremony was held in the rain Thursday for a $1.15 million Aiken County government project to build a finish line tower at Langley Pond Park.

“This will allow Langley Pond to be a world-class venue for championship rowing,” said County Council Chairman Gary Bunker, who stayed dry under an umbrella while speaking.

He added that a parking area and a walkway also would be constructed.

J.E. Stewart Builders Inc. of Aiken is the contractor for the project.

The finish line tower will be a three-story wood-frame building supported by pilings. It will have a metal roof.

The structure will be a place where racing officials will time and coordinate rowing competitions, said Mark van der Linden, director of the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The completion date is scheduled for late this year.

There hasn’t been a rowing competition held at Langley Pond Park since the U.S. Rowing Southeast Regional Championship Regatta in June 2014.

Leaks were found in Langley Pond’s dam in the fall 2014.

The dam is in the process of being strengthened, retrofitted and repaired.

Schnabel Engineering created the design for that project and is overseeing the work. The contractor is Crowder Construction Co., which offered a $13.5 million bid County Council approved in a resolution.

Aiken County Engineering Department Director Teresa Crain said the total cost would be around $15 million, which includes the removal of three sandbars from Langley Pond.

In addition, stumps are being removed.

Capital Project Sales Tax III, the Undiscovered S.C. grant program and the Accommodations Tax are providing funds for the dam project.

“We’re targeting January 2020 for completion date if we have good weather,” said Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian. “It’s about 35 days behind now because of wet weather. We’ve had more than our share of that lately. They (construction workers) hope to make up some of those lost days when the days get longer and hopefully drier. They’ll probably work on the weekends some.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for the dam project was held in March 2018.

Jim Buckalew, parks manager for the county’s Department of Parks Tourism and Recreation, and van der Linden are hopeful that rowing races will be able to return to Langley Pond next year.

“We have the rowing course designed to be eight lanes, which will make it an international level course,” Buckalew said.

But the work on the dam will have to be completed and Langley Pond’s water level will have to be raised after being lowered for the dam project.

“We also plan on having triathlons and water skiing events, and we want to get the pond back open for swimming,” van der Linden said.

Prior to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Langley Pond was a practice site for the U.S. Rowing Team.

Best of Aiken 2019

The Aiken Standards annual Aiken’s Choice Awards were held June 25, 2019 at Newberry Hall. Restaurants, businesses, retailers, professional services and doctors were picked by the readers of the paper and were celebrated at the red carpet event. More than 250 Aiken’s Choice winners picked up their awards. J.E. Stewart Builders, Inc. was chosen for best Commercial Builder.

Augusta Data Storage

This project is a new 26,000 Sq. Ft. facility located off Mike Padgett Highway in Augusta , Georgia. The new facility will bring an additional 20 office spaces and and enough storage for 150,000 boxes . The facility will be outfitted to meet unique specifications for record storage, including climate controlled NARA compliant storage, on 1 of 26 NARA compliant storage facilities in the United States.

Augusta Chronicle Posted on November, 10 2016 
Augusta Data Storage Breaks Ground on New 26,000 Sq. Ft. Facility.


On Friday, November 4, 2016, representatives of several local chambers and media outlets joined with the Ellefson Transportation Group, their subsidiary Augusta Data Storage and honored guests to officially break ground on a new 26,000 sq. ft. facility to be located off Mike Padgett Highway in Augusta, GA. The new facility will bring additional office space for the growing organization, as well as additional regulated and climate controlled storage space.

The project is estimated to bring an additional 20 office spaces and storage for an additional 150,000 boxes for Augusta Data Storage’s records storage business. The facility will be outfitted to meet unique specifications for record storage, including climate controlled NARA compliant storage, only 1 of 26 NARA compliant storage facilities in the United States.  Ellefson Transportation Group plans to relocate Augusta Data Storage personnel, Human Resources, and Safety & Compliance into the new facility in the fall of 2017.

The construction project comes at a unique time in the organization’s history, as Ellefson Transportation Group will be celebrating 50 years of service in the C.S.R.A. and Augusta Data Storage will be celebrating it’s 25th anniversary during 2017. “This is an exciting time for Ellefson Transportation Group, our partners, and vendors. The growth of our organization is a credit to the growth of Augusta and the C.S.R.A. as a whole” states Brian Ellefson, President and CEO of ETG. Chief Operations Officer Nyles Ellefson adds “We look forward to the completion of this project and all that it represents for the growth and future of our organization.”

The project team includes, Nathan Stewart of Stewart Builders as the General Contractor and Studio 3 Designs’ Dee Beaird and Lydia Maerzke as the architect and designer on the project.

Ellefson Transportation Group (ETG) is a third generation family owned and operated company, founded in Augusta, GA, in 1967. ETG is the parent company for ADSI Moving Systems, Augusta Data Storage, Acme Moving and Storage, and Augusta Go-Mini’s. Currently owned and managed by brothers Brian and Nyles Ellefson, ETG’s unique business model offers a variety of services under one roof, serving the residential and business community. With a focus on quality and customer satisfaction, Ellefson Transportation Group is the CSRA leader for local and long distance relocations, records management, shredding, warehousing and portable storage.


The Mill on Park quickly attracting startup businesses

Construction began at The Mill on Park’s downtown Aiken location before Christmas, and Catie Rabun can report good news that actually surprised her.

The president of Caradasa LLC, Rabun worked with her father, David Sacks, in pursuing the concept of an office community – providing spaces for small businesses, one-person offices and a larger space that Best Lawyers is now occupying.

The small businesses have their own offices, but can utilize as needed rooms designed for conferences or business equipment.

“We have 50 percent of our space upstairs with seven businesses already moved in,” Rabun said during a media day on Wednesday. “I didn’t expect so many this soon.”

On his way to the Savannah River Site, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., stopped by to visit.

“This is brilliant,” he said. “For those starting a business, this is an alternative to a business starting out or being in a garage … From a Chamber point of view, this is a good way to recruit business.”

Rabun is formally collaborating with USC Aiken and the Small Business Development Center, located on campus.

Both will have a presence at The Mill on Park.

Dr. Deidre Martin, USCA vice chancellor for University Advancement, is bringing two roles to the venture.

The Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce provided encouragement for the project, and Martin is also a member of The Mill’s advisory board.

“We’re so excited to be a part of this,” she said. “Chancellor Dr. (Sandra) Jordan brought a lot of energy and new ideas, and one of her visions was to have a larger presence in downtown Aiken … This is a mill that’s producing small-business owners and entrepreneurs.”

The Mill is also renovating a first-floor space into a restaurant that will offer coffee and sandwiches, Rabun said – not only for the tenants, but for the public.

The Mill on Park is located at 237 Park Ave. S.W.

For more information, call 803-215-4731 or visit

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter.

Renovated sanctuary warmly received by St. John’s congregation

For the congregation of St. John’s United Methodist Church, Sunday was an important and much anticipated day.

After a major renovation of the sanctuary, worship services were held there for the first time since May. There was one at 8:30 a.m. and another at 11 a.m.

“Everything is lovely,” said Dorothy Poe, who has been a St. John’s member for 63 years, as she looked around at the new choir loft and new stained glass windows.

Other changes included pews that had been stained a brighter color, new lighting and a new wooden floor in the chancel area.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said the Rev. Dr. Tim McClendon, who is St. John’s senior pastor.

For him, the biggest concern was the decision to replace the clear glass in the windows with stained glass.

“I had some doubts at first because we have a contemporary modern structure, and I was afraid stained glass would take something away from it,” McClendon said. “But the stained glass is marvelous. The windows are understated and elegant.”

McClendon also was pleased with the sanctuary’s overall appearance.

“It was beautiful before, but now it is more welcoming,” he said. “It has a warmer feeling.”

Stewart Builders of Aiken was the main contractor for the project, and North Carolina-based Laws Stained Glass Studios made the white crosses and panes of red, yellow and other colors for the windows.

Heavy rains on Sept. 24 caused a leak that created some trouble with the new lighting, but that didn’t have a negative impact on the church members’ celebratory mood.

It just meant there would be something more that was different to experience during future worship services.

“We will be able to do so many beautiful things with the lighting now,” said Catherine Stapleton Nance, St. John’s director of music ministries. “We’ll be able to create all sorts of moods and have beautiful Christmas Eve services where we can make it gradually get darker for the candlelighting.”

The narthex also was refurbished.

“What I liked about the sanctuary was its plainness,” said Alison Carpenter. “They kept that, and it still brings honor to God.”

Deanna Goodlove also was happy with what she saw.

“It looks better than I expected it to look,” she said. “Before it was so dark in here, and now it’s so bright. The things that I was worried about them changing they didn’t change. The big cross is still up there (hanging near the front of the sanctuary), and the little white crosses on the wall over there that I love are still there.”

After walking down the aisle for the 11 a.m. service, Jerry Reese said, “It looks great, and it even smells new.”

Holland Architects was the architectural firm responsible for design of the sanctuary renovations.

St. John’s is at 104 Newberry St. N.W.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the architectural firm responsible for design of the new sanctuary.

New Carolina Bay deck opens

The weather was a bit chilly Tuesday morning, but residents warmly celebrated the opening of the new observation deck at the Carolina Bay.

A green ribbon was cut by city officials along with individuals from the Aiken Land Conservancy, the Savannah River Ecology Lab and Aiken County Schools Superintendent Dr. Beth Everett.

Students from Millbrook Elementary and St. Mary’s were also in attendance.

“I’m pleased to say that we have another classroom for us to learn in,” Everett said. “This will be a place where learning happens.”

The observation deck, which can hold around 40 students, is around a 36-by-28-foot, two-level structure that’s covered and includes a sink and work table. The deck was constructed over the summer by Stewart Builders.

“What a beautiful building,” said Larry Comegys, Aiken Land Conservancy president, who saw the deck on paper before it became a reality.

“This building came out even prettier than in the plans.”

The new observation deck can be used by area schools and is ideal for science classes. Teachers were already bringing students to the bay and now there is a safe, accessible area for them to conduct class. The Carolina Bay is home to a variety of plants, birds, reptiles and insects.

“There’s so much that can be learned by the little creatures here,” said Fred Cavanaugh, Aiken city mayor.

“There are many things in the water you can learn from. It’s really a unique treasure that Aiken has.”

Cavanaugh added that the bay is a great asset for residents of all ages.

At the end of the ceremony, some of the students asked City Manager Richard Pearce if they could have a piece of the green ribbon as a momento of the event.

Pearce helped each child who wanted the small souvenir cut off a piece.

“It’s a great day,” Pearce said. “We’re very excited to have the Carolina Bay observation deck open.”

The project was estimated to cost around $73,000 and was a Capital Sales Tax item.

The Carolina Bay is located off Price Avenue near the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center.

The deck is available for public use all week from sunrise to sunset, as long as it’s not reserved for an event.

Schools can use the facility for free but are asked to call the Weeks Center to make a reservation.

Other reservations for events are available in four-hour time blocks, and fees do apply.

Call 642-7631 for more information.

New Ellenton, Wagener libraries may open earlier than planned

Ribbons are expected to be cut at the expanded and renovated Nancy Bonnette Library in Wagener and the new library in New Ellenton in February, roughly one month ahead of schedule.Aiken County’s engineering department set March 8 as the date for the opening of each library, but it appears the two will be open to the public one month before that, according to County Engineer Joe Berry.The construction at both libraries is essentially finished; all that’s left are the final inspections, crossing off the punch lists and the installation of furniture and equipment. The final inspections are set to be completed by the first week of January, and Berry believes furniture, shelving and equipment will be in by mid-January.”We’re ahead of schedule and right on budget,” he said.The Nancy Bonnette Library has been closed for several months while crews have renovated the existing structure and added on 1,449 square feet.The expanded library will have approximately 870 square feet of reading area, will be able to accommodate 77 people in its meeting space and will extend its hours. There are 12 computer stations planned for the new library, as well as a self-checkout station at the circulation desk.The project cost is $304,700, which is funded through round two of the Capital Projects Sales Tax program.Though the library is closed, the Bookmobile is in Wagener every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.In New Ellenton, the library moved across the street to a site next door to New Ellenton City Hall. The City of New Ellenton donated the land for the library, which is about four times the size of the current one. The current building is 500 square feet. The new one is 2,337 square feet.The new library will have about 700 square feet of reading area and will be able to accommodate 70 people in its meeting space. There are 10 computer stations planned for the new facility, as well as a self-checkout station at the circulation desk.The project cost is $283,500, which is funded by round two of the Capital Projects Sales Tax. The City of New Ellenton has allocated some of its one-cent sales tax funds to furnish the new library, provide sewer and improve parking.Mary Jo Dawson, director of the ABBE Regional Library System, has been pleased with the progress and how smoothly it’s gone.”Excitement is starting to build. These will be a great New Year’s gift to the public,” she said.