The Catch-Up: Riverbanks Zoo reveals plans for new habitat, new Dollar General in Leesville

Posted 5/17/23

One of the Midlands’ most prominent attractions has announced the next step in its ongoing push to reshape its facilities.

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The Catch-Up: Riverbanks Zoo reveals plans for new habitat, new Dollar General in Leesville


One of the Midlands’ most prominent attractions has announced the next step in its ongoing push to reshape its facilities.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is set to add a new, larger habitat for its Komodo dragons in the spring of 2024, the zoo said in a release, with a donation from the late Loyd and Doris Liles funding the effort.

“Komodo dragons are one of the most charismatic reptile species. Creating a larger space with a multitude of new views for guests not only is exciting for Riverbanks and our community but also benefits the animals as a whole as we work toward the goal of having a long-term sustainable population,” Sean Foley, Riverbanks’ curator of herpetology, is quoted.

The release notes that the new facility “will enhance the Zoo’s ability to breed, house and care for Komodo dragons as recommended by the SSP.”

“Riverbanks’ current pair of Komodo dragons hatched in 2011,” the release states. “When the siblings arrived at Riverbanks in November of that year, they weighed only a half pound each. Today, the male weighs nearly 120 pounds. Plans to obtain another male are in the works. The new habitat will offer more indoor space for the additional dragon plus room for future hatchlings.”

The facility is part of phase one of the zoo’s planned Bridge of the Wild expansion, with the first phase costing $32 million and being funded by private investments, accordinging to Riverbanks.

Phase two, set to cost about $90 million, is envisioned to include an immersive, walk-through orangutan habitat as well as a brand new multipurpose facility and restaurant with a large deck along the banks of the Saluda River.

The zoo has sought public funds to help pay for the effort but hasn’t yet received any additional considerations from the counties of Lexington or Richland.

School district parts ways with controversial auditing firm

Lexington-Richland School District 5 has parted ways with the auditing firm behind a controversial recent audit.

The board gave Jaramillo Accounting Group a 30-day notice that it was ending its contract with the firm following a 5-2 vote at its May 9 meeting, The State’s Bristow Merchant reports.

“At least one board member cited the controversy around JAG as a reason to end the contract,” Merchant writes.

“I believe it’s time for us to move on and turn the page on our auditing contractor,” Kevin Scully is quoted. “[The district needs] a fresh start to work with an auditing firm they have full confidence in.”

Merchant reports that Scully also pointed to the firm being listed as a co-defendant in a suit against the district as another reason for the split.

“In March, former Lexington-Richland 5 Superintendent Stephen Hefner amended a lawsuit against the school district to include the New Mexico-based accounting firm as a defendant, as well as school board member Catherine Huddle and former school board members Jan Hammond and Ken Loveless,” Merchant writes. “Hefner accuses the three board members of conspiring with the accounting firm to retaliate against him because he filed a complaint with the district’s accrediting agency.

“Jaramillo’s report accuses Hefner of improperly awarding a ‘sole source’ contract to an architectural firm when he was superintendent in 2016. A sole source contract can be awarded if a firm is the only company that can provide a service. Hefner responds that not only was the district aware of the contract, but the school board unanimously voted to approve it.”

The firm raised questions in March about the district’s $234.6 million bond referendum in 2008 and $24 million allocated to an ultimately failed effort to build a new elementary school in Chapin that was spent elsewhere.

Relocated Dollar General opens in Leesville

A new Dollar General in Leesville is now open.

“The recently relocated and updated DG Market store format plans to provide area residents with an updated layout and new offerings including an expanded selection of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, as well as the same categories, brands and products customers trust Dollar General to carry,” the company states in a release.

The store is at 9286 Columbia Hwy.

In a provided quote, Matthew Simonsen, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development, touts how the store’s updated design and its ability to provide closer access to fresh foods to the local community.

“At Dollar General, we are committed to serving our customers with a pleasant shopping experience and strive to be a good corporate citizen,” he is quoted.

Individuals interested in joining the DG team may review available positions and apply online at  The Company provides employees with competitive wages, world-class and award-winning training and development programs and benefits including day-one telemedicine eligibility and Dollar General’s Employee Assistance Foundation – as well as health insurance coverage options, 401K savings and retirement plans, tuition reimbursement, paid parental leave and adoption assistance to eligible employees.

 Through its mission of Serving Others, DG strives to be a good neighbor and is committed to the communities it proudly calls home, evidenced by unwavering support of literacy and education initiatives through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The Leesville store provides the opportunity for schools, nonprofit organizations and libraries within a 15-mile radius of the store to apply for Dollar General Literacy Foundation grants. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $233 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 19.3 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy or continued education. For more information about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and its grant programs, visit

riverbanks zoo, dollar general leesville, lexington-richland district 5


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