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2009: A look back at a historical year

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 was an eventful year and included the Great Ice Storm of February; Highland High School Band performs in Orlando; Horseshoe Bend loses fire station to fire; Barack Obama takes office as the first African American president; Michael Jackson dies; Ruth Reynolds works hard to collect signatures to get a place on the ballot for the wet/dry issue in Sharp County; H1N1 flu runs rampant; and a Sharp County treehouse is torn down as a result of a zoning issue in Highland.
Yet again, another year seems to have flown by. We have all survived Christmas, and are just about ready to usher in a new year. 2009 has been an eventful year at both the national and local level as far as news is concerned. So, let's take a look back at the events that will go down as history making 2009 stand outs.

During 2009, America lost many key public figures including Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and the last of the Kennedy brothers, Senator Edward Kennedy, as well as numerous other celebrities. America also made great strides in embracing diversity in electing Barrack Obama as the first African American President and voting in Sonia Sotomayer as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Later in the year, President Obama also claimed the 102nd Nobel Peace Prize to the shock of many Americans. The year has also been filled with turmoil, with the economic bailouts of both the auto and banking industries as well as a battle to overhaul the nation's healthcare system. Swine flu also entered the United States and Iran worried the world with their nuclear program.

Along with the many woes and negativities of the world, some positive news was also good for the country. The survival of passengers aboard a United States Airways plane that crash landed in the Hudson River by a brave pilot was nothing short of miraculous.

Locally, there were also a lot of newsworthy things that the Sharp County area endured in 2009, many of the stories revolve around the fact that 2009 went down in history as the wettest year on record. Many of the major news stories of the year tend to deal with Mother Nature's wrath and the county's continual recovery from numerous floods, the major ice storm that left many in the dark for weeks and the aftermath of each of these events.


Discussion about Sharp County getting a natural gas pipeline was the major topic of discussion of the Sharp County Quorum Court. The discussion was met with rebuttal from SERT, a local group which was concerned about how long this gas would last and at what cost to both taxpayers as well as the Earth. By the end of the year, despite various meetings about the subject, the county has no definite plan in effect for the gas line.

The strange weather patterns of 2009 also began early in January with record highs in the 70s followed by temperatures in the teens days later. This would be a preview of coming attractions for the area.

The Cave City Cavewomen finally won the Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament. After their third attempt, the Cavewomen were victorious and won the 1A-2A-3A honors with a late night 46-40 victory over Rivercrest at ASU Convocation Center.

Brock Felton, a former Izard County Consolidated School teacher was found guilty of sexual crimes after collapsing in the courtroom and having to be transported to the Calico Rock Medical Center. Felton was sentenced to six months in the Department of Corrections and ordered to pay $180,000.

January was also the beginning of "The Big Switch" which would be put off for a few months. This was the year of the extinction of the analog signal and the ushering in of the full digital signal for televisions. Many in rural areas were less than thrilled with the big switch despite the months of forewarnings as well as coupons to assist with the costs associated with changeover.

The Ash Flat Health and Rehabilitation Center was honored with a Governor's Award in January. The award was a commitment award accepted by April Spurlock from the center.

The natural gas project was again discussed in a Jan. 12 meeting in which mayors from the quad cities met with Stewart Noland with Crist Engineering. After reviewing the feasibility study conducted by the engineering firm, Sharp County Judge Larry Brown and others decided during the meeting that the project should move forward to the next phase of the project.

The Lady Rebels won their second George Kell Classic in three years with an exciting 56-54 victory over the Southside Southerners.

On Jan. 21, Horseshoe Bend lost their fire department in a late night fire. Ten local fire departments responded to the blaze to assist in containing the fire that ultimately gutted the building.

To end January, the Ozarka Board of Trustees met to determine an interim president following the resignation of Dr. Dusty Johnston after he accepted another position. The board appointed Tina Wheelis, vice president of finance to act as president until the board hired another president.


February brought with it many events that will stand out in local residents minds, beginning with the survival mode many went into after one of the worst acts of nature the county has endured. Nearly a year to date after the devastating F-4 tornado that caused massive damage to the area nearly 3-inches of ice crippled the area and caused many to be without power for up to two-and-a-half weeks. The damage created by the massive ice storm damaged numerous homes, closed roads for days, as well as inflicting horrendous damage on timber across the state.

Even the worst of times brought out the best in humanity as various churches, businesses and organizations did their best to insure everyone had food and a warm place to stay. The Red Cross, area churches and organizations set up shelters and helped supply food to residents who could not get to their homes or whose homes were without power. The cleanup after the major storm would not be complete by the end of 2009; some minor cleanups in remote areas of the county are still underway.

The controversial Hidden Valley tree house made national news in February. A tree house built by Brian and Melissa Shackleford was targeted by Highland Code Enforcement to be torn down because of its close proximity to the road. The battle to keep the tree house raged on, as area children loved the structure and played in it daily.

Ryan Eagan of Cave City was charged with homicide following a February altercation that left Vernon J.W. Humphries dead.

Highland students from Mr. Eric Gotte's Life Skills class continued with the spirit of giving as they collected items for servicemen and women.

Feb. 12, an emotional goodbye was felt by all who were at the Ash Flat church of Christ for the farewell to the Hardy branch of the Arkansas Sheriff's Youth Ranch. The ranch was closed due to funding issues and residents of the Hardy location were relocated to other locations including the one at Batesville.

The Highland City Council agreed to accept a bid for the new fire station and go ahead with construction to replace the station destroyed by the Feb. 5, 2008, tornado. During the council meeting Feb. 17, Highland Mayor Jerome Norwood told the council that the lowest bid given to the city for the construction was $410,500. The bid was submitted by Province Construction.

After being placed on Areawide Media's Web site of items lost in the Feb. 5, 2008, tornado, the owner of a quilt from Atkins was located. Mark Hoser, store manager of Alco found the quilt behind the store. He then gave it to Lenice Hansen an area quilter and the search for the owner began. The quilt was returned to Ruby Kersten of Atkins.

Farrel A. Stark, 44, of Hardy, pled guilty to second degree murder Feb. 17. Stark was charged with killing his live-in girlfriend Theresa M. Kosik, 42, also of Hardy, on Sept. 2, 2008, when he was arrested after Hardy Police Chief Ernie Rose and Fulton County Deputy Jeremy Rose found Kosik's body in the residence.

Also in February newly elected President Barrack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. One of the provisions of the act is the Making Work Pay credit. The act created new withholding tables that gave money back to those earning regular paychecks.

Hollis and Maurine Cathey celebrated a half of century of marriage on Feb. 28, 2009.

Sharp County was declared a disaster area for the fourth time in a year following the historic ice storm.

At the annual Spring River Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet, Pat Sasfi received the E. Wilson Green award for her outstanding volunteerism to the community.

An increasingly large number of break-ins within Sharp County were solved in March by Sharp County Criminal Investigators Mark Counts and Ken Guidry. A 15-year-old juvenile was charged with the crimes of breaking into area businesses including From the Beginning Daycare.

Ruth Reynolds, president of Save Energy Reap Taxes, a Sharp County advocacy group, continues in her efforts to allow voters the opportunity to vote on whether to allow Sharp County to become a wet county. After a failed effort in the 2008 election, due to an error in some signatures on her petition, Reynolds began early collecting signatures as she spent hours at the Sharp County Courthouse laden with cardboard signs around her neck alerting the public to her petition to get this issue on the ballot for the November 2010 election.


Hardy City Hall moved back home to their newly remodeled office. Hardy Mayor Nina Thornton was excited to be back in the Hardy City Hall building after almost a year of working in the cramped fire station office.

A disgusting site at a home in Hardy resulted in the seizure of a pet rat, one guinea pig, one rabbit and 37 dogs and cats by Northeast Arkansans for Animals after Hardy Police Chief Ernie Rose discovered a feces covered home with unfed diseased animals at the home of Cassandra and Albert Dacus in Hardy. The Discuses were charged with cruelty to animals among other charges.

Fulton County Hospital Chief Executive Officer Angela Richmond handed over her 30-day notice and resignation letter to the board during the March 30 board meeting. Richmond was working part-time between two hospitals, Community Medical Center of Izard County in Calico Rock and FCH in Salem, for the past year.

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