SIKESTON -- Controversy, celebrations, elections and more marked this past year. The Standard Democrat has compiled our picks as the top five news events of 2006, listed below in no particular order.
This year may be remembered as the "year of the train" with controversy about increased train traffic spilling over from 2005.
As a result of a group effort by Scott County citizens and politicians, including Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, Sen. Jim Talent, Scott County commissioners, Sikeston Mayor Mike Marshall and more, Union Pacific's plans were derailed. It had proposed a swap of 23 miles of tracks from Rockview to Dexter with Burlington Northern Santa Fe in exchange for tracks in Colorado. This would have resulted in an additional 24 trains through Sikeston daily, up from the current four to eight.
City leaders, including Marshall and City Manager Doug Friend, said the tracks cut off much of the city's population from emergency services by splitting the town in half. A train stalled on the tracks would separate a school, three residential care facilities and a sheltered workshop with 150 employees from emergency services, Friend said.
Throughout, officials said they didn't oppose trains, but wanted UP to look at an alternative: putting a second track alongside the tracks running from Dexter to Rockview. "They've got an alternative," Marshall said. "We want them to pursue the double tracks up there."
A resolution that formally opposed the Union Pacific railroad tracks swap with Burlington Northern Santa Fe was approved in May, after several revisions and careful consideration.
The federal Surface Transportation Board approved half the tracks swap on June 7.
But in September, Union Pacific changed its plans and announced its decision to drop its petition to the STB. The railroad said it would instead go with the "northern route" as suggested by Sikeston officials.
Mark Davis, the railroad's spokesman, stated UP's petition to the STB for the Sikeston tracks was withdrawn because the review process was taking too long while the railroad needs to increase its freight capacity through this area now.
Eleven years after its first appearance in the final four in boys basketball, the Sikeston Bulldogs went to Columbia for the second time in school history.
The team had a second-place finish in the Class 4 championship, and a 23-7 season.
Community support raged for the team, with pep assemblies, mass fan support, and police escorts out of town and on the return trip.
Following the games, two players, junior Julian Beard and freshman Michael Porter were named to the first-team Class 4 All-Region team. Both were also named to the Class 4 All-State team, with Beard on the second-team and Porter on the first-team.
Oran, East Prairie and New Madrid County R-1 approved bond issues for their schools this past year. In the meantime, construction continued at Sikeston and Kelly schools, where voters approved issues in 2005.
In New Madrid County, voters approved two measures on Nov. 7. The first allowed the R-1 Board of Education to borrow $8,993,000 for the purpose of providing funds for completing extensive remodeling, renovation, and repairs to the elementary sites at Lilbourn, New Madrid, Matthews and the Central High School. This involved no increase to the debt service levy fund. The second issue allowed the Board to increase the operating tax levy ceiling by 80 cents. This amount will be phased in over an eight year period at the rate of 10 cents per year in order to provide funds for maintaining the expanded facilities at current locations, hiring and retaining staff, and meeting the educational needs of the district.
In April, Oran R-3 voters approved a $2.5 million bond issue to build a new elementary and junior high school connecting to the high school. Bids were awarded in September for the project, which includes the construction of a multi-purpose/cafeteria building and kitchen area with the existing cafeteria being expanded into a library/media center. Lighting, electrical and plumbing system updates are also planned.
Also in April, about 88 percent of voters in the East Prairie R-2 School District gave approval for the district to borrow $2.75 million. It will provide funds for roof repairs and replacement, an electrical wiring system, lighting and heating, ventilation and air condition system upgrades and other improvements to the district's facilities. Work has begun and is expected to be complete by summer 2007.
There were several murders and other violent crimes this year.
After no murders in over two years, Sikeston had four in 2006. There was a shooting death in February. In June, the body of a woman was found in the pond behind Kingdom Hall on North Ingram, who was later discovered to be killed by her boyfriend over custody of their child. In July, a woman was arrested on suspicion of abuse which led to the death of her 13-month-old stepdaughter, and in August, a woman was shot and her boyfriend injured.
In East Prairie, a Hispanic man was found dead in a ditch, with gunshot wounds, in April. Another murder occurred there in September, when a man was shot and killed by his former brother-in-law.
There were also two murders in New Madrid. In May, a father shot and killed his son, and in August, a 70-year-old man was victim to a burglary and homicide.
In November, a 13-year-old from Bloomfield was charged for the shooting and death of a 64-year-old Dexter man.
And in December, a 29-year-old Wyatt man was shot and killed by a 61-
year-old, reportedly as part of an ongoing dispute.
This year's elections resulted in some new faces in county, state and national governments. Higher than average voter turnout was also reported at several polling stations.
In Scott County, Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel did not seek reelection, and current Second District Commissioner Jamie Burger was elected to succeed him, receiving more votes than Glenn Pinkerton. Also, Division 5 Associate Circuit Judge David C. Mann, who had not faced an opponent for 26 years, was ousted by challenger Scott T. Horman.
In Mississippi County, a new circuit court clerk was elected, as Leigh Ann Colson upset incumbent Karen S. Turley.
Missouri State Representatives Lanie Black, from the 161st district, and Peter Myers, from the 160th district, were both prevented from running for office again due to Missouri term limits. Republican Ellen Brandom was voted in to take Myers' seat, and voters selected Democrat Steve Hodges to fill the seat for the 161st district.