The year we’re winding up had its share of lifetime memories. War in Iraq. Presidential campaign. Boston wins the World Series. We can’t compete with those headline-grabbers in Marion County, and wouldn’t want to. Still, this was a pretty memorable year at home, too. As per our tradition, we offer what we feel were the Top 10 news stories of the year. As always, we weigh the immediate impact of an event as well as its long-term effect. Here’s how we see the year.
1. Church fire. The image of that March 7 blaze burned a lifetime memory in the minds of all who witnessed it. But the real story was not about a fire. It truly was about the courage, commitment and caring of an entire community.
2. Declining school enrollment. It seemed almost every district dealt with it in one way or another. USD 410 cut staff and raised the mill levy. The more urgent question continues to be: How can we attract more young families to our towns?
3. Deadly highways. It was a horrible year of agonizing loss for so many Marion County families. That U.S. 50 recently was named one of the deadliest highways in the state does not surprise us. But it still angers us.
4. Economic development. Let’s hire a county eco-devo devotee. Or maybe not. Let someone else make the decision. Agri-tourism sounds good. At least in Texas. Why is that green gunk still floating in our No. 1 existing tourist attraction? …Can anyone see our future yet?
5. Water issues. Yes, the green gunk came back, although it didn’t muck up our potable portions the second time around. Does it really make sense for Hillsboro and Marion to spend millions of dollars each time the EPA decides to raise the bar for our two water-treatment plants in the future?
6. Tabor College, KCAC football champs. Still sounds weird to us. Even if McCarty had stayed and accomplished it, the first-ever title would have been special. But Gardner got it done in his first year-and after the loss of a huge and talented senior class. Amazing.
7. Hillsboro High, state track champs. That one rolls off the tongue a little easier. The boys had an incredible two days and deserve the glory, but an all-freshman girls’ team placing second? Yeah, we’d give Dennis Boldt the state’s coach-of-the-year award, too. But is anybody that good?
8. An up year down on the farm. Very good wheat harvest followed by a great fall harvest. Mad-cow shook up the beef market for a few days, but prices remained pretty good. When our farmers win, we all win.
9. March madness. Tabor College men make it to nationals, Hillsboro High boys take third at state. It’s not as newsworthy as it used to be, but it still feel great!
10. New swimming pool-er, aquatic center-for Hillsboro? It’ll cost $2.5 million, give or take a stroke. Plus a half-cent sales-tax increase. A steep price to pay to dog paddle. But if we don’t build it, they’re even less likely to come. (See No. 2.) It may be sink or swim for us.
Hope your 2005 goes swimmingly well. -DR