Another year has come and soon will be gone. Before it ends, we face a final task: to offer our top 10 news stories for 2010. As usual, our criteria include both the short-term splash and potential longterm ripples of the events we witnessed. In the end, we hope you stayed afloat from start to finish. Here are the stories that captured our attention.
1. School budget blues. With state funding cuts, school districts of all sizes had to learn how to live with less. Strategies ranged from shorter hours to fewer staff, but it?s been a painful lesson for all.
2. Hospital headway. St. Luke Hospital in Marion is off to a great start on the brick and mortar for its $6.3 million renovation project, while Hillsboro Community Hospital found funding sources in the nick of time to break ground within this calendar year on its $10-plus million facility. In time, we?ll be able to diagnose whether having two ?new? hospitals 10 miles apart is a glorious medical miracle, or whether their mutual survival will require one.
3. Pipeline project. Who would have guessed it? The oil company was the one who conscientiously looked after the needs of the six Kansas counties it inconvenienced while our elected state officials were the ones who siphoned away the substantial economic benefits to which we were entitled.
4. Warrior hoops. The Marion High School girls? basketball team made it to the state championship game for the first time in school history and made its first state visit to state since 1991. It definitely was a fab legacy for the four-year senior starters who led the charge: Kayley Heerey, Lindsay Hett and Julia Zeiner. Contributing to the cause were classmates Danae Edwards, Bridget Lundy and Kristen Steinborn.
5. From love to hate. The story began as a feel-good community service project to build a house for a severely injured Afghanistan war veteran and his wife. But the plot line took a sad turn when Ryan Newell?s baffling arrest in Sedgwick County led to protests plans by the missionaries of hate from Westboro Baptist Church.
6. Another year, another record. For the third year in a row, enrollment hit an all-time high at Tabor College, one of the largest employers in Marion County. Let?s say it one more time: What?s good for Tabor College is good for Marion County.
7. Cat pack. You can probably count on two hands and maybe a few fingers the number of Trojans through school history who went on to compete athletically at the NCAA Division I level. For Hillsboro High to have four alums on Kansas State rosters this school year is one for ?Ripley?s Believe It Or Not.? Congrats to Wade Weibert, JuliAnne Chisholm, Lucas Hamm and Dakota Kaufman.
8. Hillsboro Business Park. An aggressive strategy by the city of Hillsboro to provide a new home for Midway Motors and future businesses along U.S. Highway 56 generated a tiff late this year for school and county officials who apparently were surprised to learn they will have to endure delayed gratification on property-tax revenue, thanks to tax increment financing.
9. Senior celebration. The 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of Senior Citizens of Marion County was almost a sidenote to the reminder that what the organization accomplished through the establishment of community centers for seniors is the county?s surviving legacy as a leader in lasting social change.
10. Non-economic developments. The Marion County Economic Development Council spent most of its year debating its purpose for existence. Before the year ended, the group voted to focus on tourism and marketing and leave economic development to the individual communities. The squabbling generated headaches for those involved and multiple inches of coverage in the newspaper, but if a tree falls in the woods does it have an impact on the county?s desire for a more prosperous future? Wait, that last sentence makes no cents either.
We hope all of us grow in common sense and common cents in 2011. ?DR