Year 2017 brought a variety of positive developments to our part on the prairie, even if the path was occasionally rockier than we’d prefer. With that in mind, following is our annual list of the Top 10 news stories for the year.
1. Hillsboro hospital promise becomes reality. Nearly nine years after the announcement of a new for-profit hospital in Hillsboro, HMC/CAH Consolidated Inc. came through with a dedication ceremony of the $11.4 million facility in April. That the first patients in the new facility were victims of shock is an unfounded rumor. Credit the faith of city leaders and hospital personnel for hanging in there and launching a new era for health care in Hillsboro.
2. Leadership transition (county). A new era was launched when independent candidate Dianne Novak defeated longtime District 2 commissioner Dan Holub in the 2016 general election. In 2017, Lori Lalouette, representing District 1, stepped down in January under pressure for missing meetings; she was replaced by Kent Becker of Durham. With Commissioner Randy Dallke serving as chair, the personality mix stirred up more than a little dust at times. Wait—the dust may have been the result of county roads complaints, one of several issues to stir the constituent pot in 2017.
3. Leadership transition (Hillsboro). With her decision not to seek another term as mayor, Delores Dalke completed her 24-year tenure on a positive note with several significant improvement projects to her credit (See item 1, for example.) The race to succeed her between Lou Thurston and Charlotte Kennedy Takashi was spirited, but also positive with at least two public forums to hear from the candidates.
4. County initiated economic development. We hope the new Marion County Community Economic Development Corp. will have a legacy of success that surpasses the awkward length of its name. The funding partnership between county and its three largest cities has been secured—but it took three Hillsboro city council presentations to be convinced to join as the deadline neared.
5. Tabor College growth. Success for colleges usually includes enrollment and facilities. Tabor hit new heights on both counts. In September, the college reported its largest enrollment in school history with 770 students for the fall semester, thanks to student recruitment and new options to attract nontraditional students. In December, the college dedicated the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts, a $13 million state-of-the-art facility that took a year and half to build, easily making it the largest facility in school history.
6. Private sector building projects. We’ve already mentioned two that were completed this year, but we ought not to forget three additional projects in Hillsboro that were completed in 2017. The local pharmacy changed its name and location with the completion of a new $640,000 facility at the corner of North Ash and Orchard Drive for Hillsboro Hometown Pharmacy. Well done, Eric Driggers. Meanwhile, MB Foundation transformed a local eyesore location into a beautiful $2.1 million headquarters for its financial ministries. Vintage Apartments completed six twin homes (for 12 family units) valued at nearly $1.4 million.
7. Quality care for seniors. Several county senior-care facilities either were enhancing their services or being recognized for them. In January, two adult-care homes in Marion County, Bethesda Home in Goessel and Parkside Homes in Hillsboro, were among the 15 homes statewide to be recognized by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Meanwhile, St. Luke Foundation’s $1.5 million “Moving Forward Together” campaign is focusing in earnest on the campaign’s primary project: to renovate the Living Center, which is St. Luke’s 32-bed long-term care unit.
8. Tabor Project SEARCH. Tabor signed an agreement to form a partnership with Project SEARCH, a national program that aims to equip young adults with disabilities with job skills training. The agreement between the college and the Marion County Special Education Cooperative makes Tabor the official work site of Project SEARCH in the county. Four interns have been participating in this inaugural year.
9. Bluejay football three-peat. The Tabor football team tied for the KCAC championship this fall, giving the Bluejays three consecutive conference titles, something the college has never accomplished previously. Congratulations to head coach Mike Gardner, his assistant coaches and his players. Some of us remember the days of yore when winning three football games in a season was an outstanding accomplishment.
10. Warrior leader ends an era. Marion High football coach Grant Thierolf for 30 years has walked the sidelines for his Warrior teams. At the end of the 2017 season, Thierolf decided to step away from coaching Warrior football. Compiling a 185-103 record over three decades, Thierolf is the embodiment of good coach and good mentor. He will be missed on the sideline, but fortunately his character coaching in the classroom will continue. —DR