January 05, 2011 Edition

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End of lawsuit tops
TD stories in 2010



Emma Richey, daughter of Heath and Emily Richey of Walnut Ridge, stands in a snowdrift in her yard after a winter storm system dropped eight to 12 inches of snow throughout Lawrence County.
The end of a lengthy legal dispute between the Walnut Ridge Airport and the Walnut Ridge Golf Club was selected by staff members of The Times Dispatch as the biggest story in 2010.

In May, the Court of Appeals upheld Judge Harold Erwin's granting of summary judgment in favor of the airport and the city of Walnut Ridge in the dispute, which was the result of the close proximity of the course and one of the airport's runways. The club subsequently voted not to pursue a petition for review, which brought the legal battle to an end.

Following that decision, several members of the Walnut Ridge Country Club headed an effort to reorganize. The country club reopened, but at this time the golf course remains closed.

Other stories making the top 10 were:

#2 - The Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority worked throughout the year with Integrated Renewable Resources to try to secure a plant in the Walnut Ridge/Hoxie area.

The company, which produces railroad ties, is interested in locating in the area to utilize the railroads that run through the county. In August, Wayne Gearhart, chairman of the authority, announced that everything was on track for the plant to locate in the area.

#3 -Races in Walnut Ridge and Hoxie resulted in new mayors being elected in both towns. Don House was elected as Walnut Ridge mayor, and Lanny Tinker was elected to serve in Hoxie.

# 4 - Dale Freeman was elected as the new county judge, and Jody Dotson was elected as the new sheriff during a Primary Election runoff. Several Democrats ran for both positions after incumbents, Judge Alex Latham and Sheriff Dan Ellison, announced they would not seek re-election.

#5 - County Judge Alex Latham announced in February that he would not seek re-election to the office, which he had held since 1989. He was in his 11th term as county judge.

Following his decision not to run for re-election, he filed to run for a seat on the Lawrence County Quorum Court and won election as a justice of the peace.

#6 - A winter storm dumped eight to 12 inches of snow on Lawrence County at the end of January. In addition to causing hazardous road conditions, the weight of the snow caused damage to some structures, including the Captain Catfish building on Main Street in Walnut Ridge.

Schools were closed for several days, and services were cancelled at many churches. A second round of snow fell the following week, again closing schools and making roads treacherous.

#7 - The completion of construction on the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives facility at Powhatan Historic State Park in December made the Lawrence County Historical Society's dream a reality. Historical records that were previously stored in the Powhatan Courthouse, returned to Powhatan after being housed at Arkansas State University for several years.

The facility, which will be staffed by the Arkansas History Commission, is expected to bring at least 1,000 visitors to the county each year to do research.

#8 - The Lawrence County Tourism Committee unveiled plans for two tourist attractions along Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67 during a quarterly meeting of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce in October.

Planning to capitalize on the landing of the Beatles at the Walnut Ridge Airport, as well as the fact that many musicians played in clubs along Highway 67 in the 1950s and '60s, the committee announced plans for a Beatles sculpture at the airport and a guitar plaza in downtown Walnut Ridge.

Fund-raising efforts were quickly underway, and the Beatles project has been completely funded with several donations already made toward the guitar plaza.

#9 - The Walnut Ridge Commercial Historic District was one of 10 Arkansas properties approved for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places on April 7.

The district includes buildings that date back as far as 1875. Local business and building owners decided to seek the nomination to the register following meetings with AHPP officials.

#10 - The City of Walnut Ridge, through efforts by the Walnut Ridge Fire Department, receive a decrease in its ISO rating from Class V to Class III. Chief Alan Haskins reported the change to the Walnut Ridge City Council at its July meeting.

Other stories that were closely ranked were Lawrence Memorial Health Foundation's successful campaign to renovate rooms at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and an April storm system that hit eastern Lawrence County damaging several structures and downing power lines.

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