Year in Review: A look back at some of the top stories of 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016
Poinsett County officials Bob Cantrell, Mary Ann Arnold, and Johnny Rye can be seen among several other officials at the dedication for I-555. (DT Photo/Corey Clairday)

Here is a look at some of the top stories that ran in the Poinsett County Democrat Tribune over the past year.

In January, Jerry Lung took over as police chief of Marked Tree after Chester Ford retired. Toward the end of the year, Michael Matlock would become police chief.

The month of February saw Lepanto do what many other cities in the area have done over the past several years, take over garbage pickup. They had been using Dedman's Sanitation for some years after Delta Environmental went into liquidation in 2012. The governor visited Poinsett County and served as guest speaker for the Trumann Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet. For Marked Tree, the last of several votes to renovate Carver Gym failed, though in March the council approved a plan to donate the gym to interested persons.

March also saw the official dedication of I-555, some 15 years after the "future I-555" signs went up on the highway. The project had been stalled for years until an exemption allowed for farm equipment on the stretch between Payneway and Marked Tree. The Tour duh Sunken Lands won the Boot Strap award at the 16th annual Delta Awards. Also, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department released its plan for highway improvements over the next five years. Sixteen projects were slated for Poinsett County. Most of them were preservation projects, with around 38 miles of I-555 scheduled for preservation. Another big project listed was widening for Highway 69 in Trumann. Recently, the highway department has had surveyors out on 69 in prepartion for the 2019 project. The widening of 69 was originally approved in 2004 and set for 2008, but funding ran out due to the financial crisis. Sadly, March was also when the Trumann Area Fine Arts Council announced that the Maxie Theatre would have to be torn down due to lack of funding and the extreme deterioration of the building. On the historical bright side, though, Trumann native and professional boxer Pete Mead was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

April started off with flooding issues in Trumann after eight inches of rain fell on the last day of March. Stepping Stone Sanctuary opened in Trumann to serve as a homeless shelter, food pantry, and soup kitchen. Throughout the year, the shelter quickly expanded as it helped many people get back on their feet. Trumann also held its second annual job fair, put on by Goodwill Industries and the Trumann Chamber. The fair was bigger than the year before and saw double the amount of job seekers compared to the first one. At the end of April, the Marked Tree Rotary held a talent showcase in conjunction with Marked Tree School District. This was the first such showcase the club had done and was meant to be a change of pace from the usual yearly banquet. Attendance to the event was incredible.

In May, the city of Tyronza began hosting First Fridays, which gave people a chance to get together in the downtown park for food, arts, and crafts. Funding was also secured to repair the erosion at St. Francis Lake between Ditches 60 and 61. The U.S. Corps of Engineers have been out there making the repair, which involves plugging the washout with large stones and fixing the gravel road between Dam 10 and Ditch 61. Kim Smith was named Marked Tree School District's Teacher of the Year. Smith has taught for 13 years and teaches seventh and eighth grade Math. Marked Tree School District also received money from the state in recognition of their academic growth during the previous school year. Toward the end of May, the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Visitors Center was opened, and the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival was announced. The annual festival, the first of which is set for October of 2017, will bring the Johnny Cash Music Festival to Dyess and expand it with an academic conference and other activities.

In June, Marked Tree native Douglas Moore was inducted into the U.S. Army Cadet Command Hall of Fame. In Harrisburg, Gavin's Downtown opened. The restaurant is named after local celebrity Gavin Grubbs, who also works there greeting people and running plates to the kitchen on his wheelchair. Tyronza celebrated its 90th year since its incorporation at its annual Stars and Stripes Jubilee. Meanwhile, after over a year of constant debate, the Marked Tree City Council finally settled on donating Carver Gym to Jeremy and Jarmel Bell. The Bells run an education program and nonprofit organization and hope to renovate the gym so it can be used for academic and athletic programs. Marked Tree Schools racked up 12 awards from the Office of Educational Policy and was recognized as a school that was "Beating the Odds" in several areas. The Keith Bise family of Weiner were named Poinsett County Farm Family of the Year. Connie and Jim Huff took over as directors of Marked Tree's food pantry, and since then the Three Rivers Food Pantry has grown to serve hundreds of people out of the old armory every week.

In July, the Trumann Animal Shelter moved to a new facility. The new facility, at 628 North Speedway, is four times the size of the previous one and is more accessible to the public. In Marked Tree, the month of July also saw the rescue of Nathan Williams and Craig Beakley, who were trapped in a grain bin at Ritter Grain Services for nearly five hours. And here at the PCDT office, the staff said goodbye to Bridget Bean, who had been a crucial part of the office for the last six years. Bean and her family moved back to Northwest Arkansas for her husband's job, but while she was here, she made a huge impact on the paper.

In August, the Tyronza Post Office shut down after suffering damage from a fire that burned through the ceiling. The post office recently reopened in a temporary building nearby on Dec. 1.

In September, Trumann's one cent sales tax passed during a special election by a close vote of 376-312. The tax is to be used as a revenue stream for city improvements as part of long-range planning. The Trumann Police Department became the fourth in the state to receive accreditation after meeting all 188 standards. And Lepanto Police Chief Chad Henderson was reinstated to his position by the city council after he had resigned when the mayor tried to demote him to patrolman. September also saw the death of a Jonesboro Dollar Tree manager. Loretta Pixler was kidnapped on Sept. 25 and forced by the suspects to drive them away in her vehicle. She was later discovered dead near her car, which was involved in an accident near the Payneway exit off I-555 in Poinsett County. Three suspects were eventually arrested: Byron Ford of Lepanto, Dawaun Logan of Earle, and Rodney Watkins of West Memphis. September also saw the closing of Tyboogies in Tyronza.

In October, the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum celebrated its tenth anniversary. Tyronza Police Chief Tony Turner was named Poinsett County Officer of the Year at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Summit. Richard Tarver was sentenced to life in prison for the July 2015 abduction and killing of Lavinda Counce, 90, of Bay.

In November, the big news was election results with Donald Trump surprising many by winning the Presidency. Locally, Kevin Molder won the race for Sheriff, John K. Hutchison won County Assessor, current County Assessor Johnny Rye won State Representative District 54, and current State Representative Dave Wallace won State Senate District 22.

In December, Trumann Police Chief Chad Henson was the first Trumann officer to graduate from the FBI National Academy.

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