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A look back at 2012 South Missourian News stories

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


The much anticipated opening of the Aquatic Conservation and Education Center in Mammoth Spring, Ark. involved more work than anticipated. The highly anticipated 2012 opening has been delayed until after the first of 2013. The center will have several indoor and outdoor exhibits and will have several educational benefits.

The Thayer High School received a new scoreboard for the football field paid for by the Bank of Thayer. Bank of Thayer executive vice president Adam Courter said the bank readily agreed to sponsor the new board, as the bank strives to be a community bank, not just in words, but actions. "We view this as an investment to the local community and the school's sports program,' Courter said. The district saved money by doing some of the installation work themselves. The new board displays sponsors names.


Thayer City Council decided to not open the city pool for the summer of 2012, while park employees work to repair the changes needed. In 2011, city council members discussed seeking a grant to help pay for the repairs needed, which is still something, the city is looking into. The current plans are to have the pool up and running for the 2013 summer.

In addition to Michael Bunting's lawsuit against the city, filed in Oct. 2011, two more former police officers filed lawsuits to reclaim their lost wages. Terry Bounds and Kevin Bettis filed in January and both alleged they were wrongfully terminated by the city.


Oregon County Prosecutor Fred O'Neill was honored by the Missouri Department of Conservation for aiding in 107 wildlife violation convictions in a five county region and the MDC's estimated $28,000 in fines. Missouri Department of Conservation regional supervisor Gary Cravens, an Oregon County agent from 1978-87, said the award was given for O'Neill's "outstanding efforts in the pursuit of justice. Cravens was joined by district supervisor Gerald Smith and Oregon County agents Paul Veatch and Brad Hadley for the presentation in the courthouse. The extensive wildlife violation investigation centered on Craig's Taxidermy in Birch Tree, where more than 200 animal mounts were seized.

Kevin Jotz was fired from police chief of Alton in a city council meeting on Feb. 13. The South Missouri News reported in March that he was fired for "not getting along with the Oregon County Sheriff's Department" and for having a "bad temper." Mayor Richard Haigwood declined to comment on the matter at the time. Jotz went on to run for Sheriff on the Republican ticket but lost in the August Primary to Thayer Police Chief David Bailey.

Narda "Addee" Pranke, a rural Alton woman, was brutally murdered and her dismembered body found on Feb. 29. Pranke lived alone and was found in and near a neighbor's shed about half a mile from her property. Pranke's neighbor, Guy Varnell, 47 was charged with first degree murder, a Class A felony. When deputies and troopers located Varnell he admitted to killing Pranke.

Former Oregon County deputy, Dophes "Gene" Barton, was found guilty of eight felonies. Barton was guilty on four counts of burglary and four counts of stealing for crimes he committed while serving as a deputy of the Oregon County Sheriff's Department.


The City of Alton elected Steven Crigler as its new Mayor. Richard Haigwood had been the Mayor of Alton for 16 years. Haigwood did not seek reelection. He served on the board the past 12 years, also serving two terms in the 1990s. "I appreciated working with the city," Haigwood said. Crigler defeated challenger James Hollis.


Oregon County Sheriff George Underwood and Chief Deputy Eric King teamed with Thayer-Mammoth Spring Rotary members to speak to fifth graders in area elementary schools about the dangers of methamphetamine. The program taught children about the consequences of trying meth and the danger of addiction.

Frankie Smith, of Mammoth Spring, created Choices.tlc as a mission to help veterans in the area. Smith held several meetings in the area for veterans with questions about their benefits. Frankie became interested with veteran services while working at the Beck Pride Center at Arkansas State University, where she assisted in veterans' claims. She has also been to several trainings to learn more about offering veterans assistance. Smith can also assist in organizing medical records, not from the VA, to put into a claim to receive assistance. The main concern that the veterans in attendance had was why it takes so long for a claim to go through.


Couch School said goodbye to two beloved and dedicated educators. Elementary and High School Principal Russell Deckard and Kindergarten teacher Gail Burr decided to retire from education after many years of service. Deckard retired after 22 years in education. Burr retired after 29 years in education.

Thayer High School Seniors, from the 2012 class, Lauren Hargus and Meghan Hedden didn't just win their state science fair. They earned the right to move on to the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hargus and Hedden competed in the Ozarks Science and Engineering Fair held in Springfield, Mo., and were two of the three overall winners chosen to compete at the IISEF. They were in different categories in the Springfield competition, both winning first in their categories, but competed against each other in Pennsylvania.

Mammoth Spring welcomed back an organization from the past. The Spring River Lions Club held a "Charter Night" to celebrate its start on Thursday, June 14 at the Mammoth Spring School Multi-Purpose building. The first projects for the Spring River Lions Club involve two of its most known programs -- collecting new or used glasses for recycling for the Sight program, and establishing a scholarship for their club.

Look for the Year End Review, Part Two in next week's edition of The South Missourian News.

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