It’s been an interesting year for Hillsboro and Marion County in 2003, with more than the usual number of events that could be considered historical in their impact. Without further ado, here is our list of the top 10 news stories from the past 12 months. As always we judge events with one eye on an event’s immediate relevance, one eye on the long-term impact, and a third eye…blind.
1. Budget battles. We hate to start with a “bad-news” item, but the time and energy consumed by our public servants at city, county and school-district levels was almost overwhelming in 2003-thanks in no small part to state funding reductions and ridiculous increases in health-insurance rates. Can anyone spare a dime these days?
2. Hillsboro’s Main Street renaissance. It caused more headaches for local folks and businesses this summer than a front-row seat at a hog-calling contest, but the Main Street renovation project transformed not only the appearance of the downtown business district but the attitude of an entire community. By almost all accounts, this was $800,000 well spent for our future.
3. Algae bloom at Marion Reservoir. Actually, the negative impact of finding potentially toxic crud at Marion Reservoir in June was impressively minimized by the quick and decisive action of city leaders in Hillsboro, and the ultimate solutions found by leaders in Marion. Still, the situation did have a price tag as the two cities secured alternate water sources for 22 days. The impact on tourism at the reservoir was harder to figure.
4. Tabor College’s $10.6 million capital campaign. This is the biggest capital campaign in the school’s 95-year history. If colleges can generate contributions based on courage alone, this campaign is more than do-able.
5. Tabor College football turnaround. In a normal year, the Bluejays’ breakthrough 9-2 season, which included its first national playoff appearance, would probably rank higher on this list. History majors appreciate the incredible transformation that has occurred under coach Tim McCarty over the past five years. The sale of “Please stay Coach Mac!” bumper stickers might make a big dent in that capital campaign drive.
6. Wild days on the farm. The 2003 wheat harvest ranked second on the all-time yield list, according to the local experts-but a better price would have helped. Meanwhile, historic-high beef prices put huge smiles on the faces of area cattle producers this fall. But late word of a Mad Cow Disease incident in Washington State may change those cheers to tears.
7. Grocery-store upgrades. Hillsboro witnessed an unusually high number of changes on the business scene in 2003, but none generated more excitement than the expansion at Dale’s Supermarket and the long-awaited construction and opening of a whole new store by the Vogt family. Beyond the obvious benefits for area consumers, projects of this magnitude did a lot to feed community pride.
8. New housing project. Hometown Developers Co. of Lawrence surprised a lot of us with its decision to launch an affordable-housing development on Hillsboro’s north side. We’ll certainly need the 100-plus homes the development could create if our belief in Hillsboro’s future is as strong and as enthusiastic as this company’s. “Windover at Hillsboro” blows us away.
9. Hillsboro High School sports. The Trojan boys returned to statewide prominence with a third-place finish at the state basketball tournament in March, the boys’ track team placed third at state in June, the boys’ cross-county team was state runnerup this fall, and the football team advanced to the regional championship. Our voices are hoarse from cheering.
10. Reopening of Kansas Highway 150. The transformation of this 17-mile stretch between U.S. 56 and U.S. 50 may have outdone the one done to Hillsboro’s downtown streets-of course, it took a three years longer to complete. But this stretch of new roadway will no doubt bring more traffic to the new stretch of roadway in downtown Hillsboro-as well as to other county communities.
May your road in 2004 be as smooth as these two. -DR