It’s the time of year when everyone can sit back, relax and think about all that has happened around here the past 365 days or wonder where 2015 went. Years now seem to come and go so quickly, but the news, always seems to be flowing through the county day in and day out.
Each year the staff of The News Democrat and Ripley Bee compile our list of the top stories of the year as we head into an interesting 2016. Much of what happened this year will play a pivotal role heading into next year.
In the past, excerpts from the top stories have ran as the ‘Year in Review,’ this year, however, we are running the top stories in their entirety as a way to remember 2015 for the good, the bad, and the hopeful.
The list, while it might not be perfect, are the stories the staff felt had the greatest impact county wide for the year. In the digital age, sharing stories back and forth has become easier and easier – which is why everyone is encouraged to send their memories of 2015 to us via Facebook, Twitter, E-Mail, or ever the old fashioned way – a letter.
Looking back at the previous year, 2014, one of the top stories was the closing of the hospital, which was a huge event. A year later, another hospital story made the list, again at number three with the foreclosure of the properties, but there also came hope for people in the county searching for medical treatment. Both Mt. Orab Mercy and HealthSource of Ohio announced expansions this past year. While the stories ranked five and six, respectfully, they are as close to equal as you can get.
But, the top story of 2015 had to be the devastating floods that ravaged through Ripley and Stringtown. The night of July 18, shook the Brown County at it’s roots. The loss of the lives of Gabriel Barrios, Rose Barrios, and Victoria Kennard in the Ripley flood proved to everyone that Mother Nature knows no limit, but it also showed how a community hit with tragedy can come together and help a neighbor when they are most in need. In the wake of the flood the entire county joined together to help each other out as best they could in the time of need.
Not all the news of the year was a result of tragedy. The automall in Mt. Orab broke ground back in August in front of a crowd of politicians and those who made it possible. The automall will have Mt. Orab Ford, Peebles Chrysler Dodge Jeep, as well as other projects owner Mark Williams hopes to open. The automall comes with the promise of jobs and growth for the Mt. Orab area along State Route 32. Driving past the area today is night and day different from the groundbreaking in August.
The recent news that is the buzz of the county is the closure of the Brown County Adult Detention Center. While lots of things have changed since the closure, the initial shock the jail was being shut down came as a surprise to many residents in the area. With the project underway as the year approaches the Brown County Commissioners and Sheriff’s Department will have a lot of their plate as they hope to reopen the jail in April, but nevertheless, the initial shock of the closure ranks as the forth biggest story of 2015.
It is no longer a shock to anyone that Brown County is in the middle of a terrible heroin epidemic. Every day there are reports of overdoses and weekly indictments of 30-40 people from the Grand Jury for drug related offenses. The Brown County Prosecutor’s office stepped-up in the big way in dealing with drug related crimes. Kevin Blake Tucker, 22, became the first person tried and convicted of manslaughter by the Prosecutor’s office as a result of a drug related death. Tucker’s plea agreement puts him behind bars until 2019 for involuntary manslaughter as a result of death of Danny Smith.
“I don’t argue that Mr. Tucker wanted Danny Smith to die,” Assistant Prosecutor Zak Corbin said. “I don’t think he purposefully caused the death, but that’s not what involuntary manslaughter is. He brought the drug to Danny Smith, he furnished that drug that caused the death. We would just ask the court to sentence him accordingly.”
The Brown County Adult Detention Center is the center of yet another big story this year. On July 23, Jeremiah Hall was found hanged in his cell by the Brown County Sheriff’s Department. An all too familiar story from the jail as it was the second hanging at the jail since 2013. Hall was in jail on a drug related charge and the BCI took over the case from the Sheriff’s Department.
Property tax rate hikes rarely make the end of the year top story list, but this year in Brown County, those hikes double the previous year for farmers who take advantage of the CAUV program. The three year adjustment will hit the pocket books hard this year as a result of the CAUV calculation. According to Brown County Auditor Jill Hall, most in the program can expect their taxes to double this year. Hall also said it effects roughly 16 percent of all parcels county wide and those in the northern part could be hit harder.
Battling a blaze is never a good thing for any fire department to have to deal with, but one night in February, multiple fire departments had to respond to put out the Sardinia Mill fire. The blaze broke out on Feb. 15 around 9:30 P.M. according to reports. Along with the Village of Sardinia, Fayetteville, Georgetown, Southern Highland Joint Fire — Mowrystown, Mt. Orab, and Winchester departments all responded to the call to battle the blaze.
There you have it folks. Here is our condensed version of 2015 top stories. We are reprinting all of the top stories in their entirety to end 2015. The News Democrat and Ripley Bee wish everyone a happy new year. Send us your thoughts or suggestions on what you think the biggest story of 2015 was for Brown County.