December 31, 2008 Edition

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TD staff selects top stories of '08



County Judge Alex Latham stands in a section of County Road 410, northwest of Walnut Ridge, after it caved in during flooding in March.
Submitted Photo
The Times Dispatch staff voted recently to select the top 10 stories of 2008. An ongoing dispute between the Walnut Ridge Golf Club and the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission topped the list, followed by extensive spring flooding, the move of the Lawrence County Library to downtown Walnut Ridge and the second deployment for the local National Guard unit.

The entire top 10 list is as follows:

#1 ~ Walnut Ridge Golf Club members, the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission and Walnut Ridge officials were the subject of multiple articles throughout the year as they have worked to resolve a dispute regarding the country club's lease with the commission and the proximity of the golf course to one of the airport's runways. In June, the golf club filed suit against the commission and the city to prevent them from being able to remove obstructions on the property leased by the club. A countersuit was filed asking for the country club's suit to be dismissed and the lease be voided and the property returned to the city and commission.

Many meetings have been held regarding the issue and, as of now, a solution has yet to be found.

#2 ~ Record-setting rainfall in March resulted in extensive flooding throughout Lawrence County, especially along the county's rivers. Many had to evacuate their homes, and damage was reported to homes and buildings, as well as roads and crops.

A second round of rain caused another round of flooding. The county was declared a disaster area and some assistance was received from FEMA.

#3 ~ The Lawrence County Library's main branch, which was previously located on Highway 412, moved to downtown Walnut Ridge in September. The new facility occupies part of the Lawrence County Community Building, which was donated to the county by Bob and Paula Hutcherson.

Plans are also being made to convert the former library building into a second courtroom to help with overcrowding and scheduling conflicts at the Lawrence County Courthouse.

#4 ~ The local unit of the Arkansas National Guard completed a second tour of duty in Iraq this year. Sendoff events were held in January as the soldiers prepared to leave for training in Mississippi and then service in Iraq.

The unit arrived back in the United States in mid-December, and members were able to spend the holidays with their families.

#5 ~ Fireman's Hall, a Walnut Ridge landmark, was razed in February after it was determined that the building was beyond repair. Over the years the building was used for many events including weddings, the annual Fireman's Ball, class plays, spring formals, basketball games, concerts and much more.

The building, which was deeded to the Walnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Department in the 1950s, also included a truck bay, which was left standing to provide a substation on the south side of the railroad tracks.

#6 ~ Polar Freeze, a popular Walnut Ridge restaurant, marked 50 years of business in July. Current owners Jack and Velma Allison hosted a reception, which was well attended. In addition, the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce recognized the business for its many contributions to the community throughout the years.

#7 ~ An early morning fire on April 7 destroyed the building that had formerly housed the Hob Nob Restaurant in Walnut Ridge. The familiar landmark was located at 415 Northwest Fourth Street (Hwy. 67B), across from the Polar Freeze.

The Walnut Ridge Fire Department used its new ladder truck to combat the blaze, and firefighters from Hoxie, Alicia, Sedgwick, Portia and Imboden assisted. The building was a complete loss and had to be razed.

#8 ~ In May, the Lawrence County Children's Shelter Board purchased a building located at 107 Benson Drive, off Highway 412 West, to locate the shelter in.

Throughout the year, the board received assistance from community members, churches and organizations providing needed upgrades, repairs and furnishings. The board hopes to open the shelter as early as possible in 2009.

#9 ~ The formation of an Intermodal Authority received support in Lawrence County in April when the Hoxie and Walnut Ridge city councils, as well as the Lawrence County Quorum Court, voted to get behind the project.

The Intermodal Authority, which also includes Randolph County, Pocahontas and Corning is still in the formation stages. The authority will help the region work together to recruit industry and support businesses in the Walnut Ridge Industrial Park and the surrounding area.

#10 ~ Remnants of Hurricane Ike roared through Lawrence County in September. Heavy winds downed trees and caused power outages throughout much of the county.

Prior to the storm's arrival, gas prices soared as residents raced to the pumps fearing a possible shortage. Rice farmers reported both downed rice and shattered rice as a result of the storm.

Receiving a high number of votes, but not making the top 10, were the City of Hoxie's recognition as an Arkansas Community of Excellence and the City of Walnut Ridge's acceptance into the Arkansas Downtown Network.

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