What was big in 2012?
The biggest surprise in the results of polling our staff about the biggest stories of 2012 was how much everyone’s opinions differed. Six different stories were No. 1 on somebody’s ballot while being No. 10 or unranked on somebody else’s ballot.
No. 1 was the construction, opening, and complications with the new Marion County Jail. After years of needing a new facility, the county finally got what it needed. But any project that size has its hiccups. The county realized late that plans hadn’t included a new communications tower, and they needed to get a permit from the City of Marion. A fast-track plan to solve the issue was challenged when a city board ruled that the tower needed a permit separately from the jail. Finally, the county installed a shorter tower that passed muster on the city’s regulations. As soon as the sheriff’s department and dispatch moved into the new facility, another oversight was found. The new facility doesn’t have anywhere for social workers to take children while they try to place them in foster care. A short-term solution to that problem was found faster, as juvenile intake was moved into a portion of the old sheriff’s department. A permanent home for juvenile intake is being sought.
No. 2 was the closure of Marion Reservoir and Marion County Park and Lake for most of the summer because of the presence of potentially toxic blue-green algae. The algae have been a problem in the county for some time, but 2012 was one of the worst summers yet.
No. 3 was the death of Tabor College junior and football player Brandon Brown in McPherson. Brown, a father of two, was found badly beaten Sept. 16 and died of his injuries Sept. 22. More than 600 people attended services for Brown. Former McPherson College football players Alton L. Franklin and DeQuinte Oshea Flournoy are charged with aiding and abetting murder in the second degree in the case. Preliminary hearings for both defendants are scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 21 in McPherson.
No. 4 was the disastrous summer for crops after an excellent wheat harvest. Drought and fires took an enormous toll on hay, corn, soybeans, and milo fields.
No. 5 was the City of Marion being left owing money on the former Arlie’s Paint, Body, & Glass after the business closed during the summer. Another company the city had helped, Flint Hills Building Supply nearby in Marion’s industrial park, also closed. I’ve heard tales of a couple of different people planning to open a hardware store, but neither is ready to discuss plans.
No. 6 was Marion County setting a world record for the largest marshmallow roast. The event attracted 1,272 people, including Gov. Sam Brownback, to the county lake March 24. Guinness World Records announced that it had certified the attempt as the record Aug. 15. No. 7 was Marion County finally diving in to fix roads that have long needed work, none more than 330th Road between Tampa and K-15. No. 8 was Kansas Department of Transportation rating the junction of U.S. 56 and U.S. 77 as the most dangerous intersection in the state and beginning plans to install a roundabout. No. 9 was Marion and Dickinson Counties agreeing to work together to get the fastest response possible to accidents near the counties’ border after a pair of fatality accidents. No. 10 was the announcement that Family Dollar planned to build a store in Marion, followed by development grinding to a standstill.
The quest to recognize Father Emil Kapaun as a saint barely missed the top 10, as supporters of the cause await the next step in the process.
What will the list of the top 10 stories of 2013 look like in 12 months? With any luck, positives will outnumber negatives — especially if we all work together to identify problems and actually correct them, as happened with several of the top stories in 2012.
— ADAM STEWART