It was quite the up-and-down year

The past year has been a turbulent one, with lots of ups and downs, endings and new beginnings. Here at the newspaper, for example, we found ourselves hiring three new reporters mid-year. The combined talents of Oliver Good, Olivia Haselwood, and Joel Wright, who filled those openings, give us reason to be optimistic about 2014.

We aren’t the only ones who have seen significant personnel changes in 2013. Just look at the Marion city office. First the city hired Roger Holter to be the economic development director, then they promoted him to city administrator after Doug Kjellin resigned to buy Donahue Corporation (another significant new beginning in the county). Now the city is seeking an economic developer again, as well as a city clerk to replace Angela Lange, who is leaving to pursue a career in private business.

Health care is seeing changes, both nationally with the implementation of Obamacare and locally with Newton Medical Center opening a clinic in Hillsboro — a development that made administrators at St. Luke and Hillsboro Community hospitals worry about too much competition for too little business.

Ambulance volunteers continue to be stretched thin by high demand for their services with fewer volunteers — an issue exacerbated by ever-increasing requirements for certification.

St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary Shoppe made its big move to the former Duckwall store in downtown Marion, filling one vacancy and creating another. That vacancy was filled when Dan Madgwick announced he would start a food lab, CiboTech, in the former auxiliary shop building. The opening was jeopardized by litigation, but Madgwick quickly resolved that issue and is continuing to move forward with his plans.

After a couple of hot, dry summers that aggravated issues with blue-green algae at the federal reservoir and county lake, we finally got a milder, wetter summer. Of course, much of that moisture came at once in late July, flooding streets, yards, and fields. At least it helped flush out the lakes and give us a respite from all of that blue-green algae.

Centre schools got a new superintendent with Brian Smith, a familiar face to those in Peabody, where he graduated from high school. Outside of Centre’s online programs, schools continued to face generally declining enrollment, with Hillsboro being hit by a much larger than expected decrease.

Some of this year’s news has set up future developments. Rex Savage found a developer to build a wind farm between Marion, Florence, and Peabody. An old hand at the hardware business bought the former Seacat Hardware in Marion and plans to reopen it as an Ace store in 2014. Homestead Affordable Housing got the go-ahead to build a housing development of duplexes for low-income senior citizens. The Big Scoop burned down, and its owners now plan to sell it. And Barb and Larry Smith retired at Country Lakes Cafe, making it available for an enterprising restaurateur to do great things with.

So what do we want to see in the news in 2014? For starters, Ace having a good start, wind farm and Homestead construction going seamlessly, new business-savvy owners for the Big Scoop, Country Lakes Cafe, and Old Town Restaurant in Hillsboro.

We also hope to see renewed movement on Hillsboro Community Hospital’s plans for a new facility on the northeast corner of Hillsboro, following through on plans that have been in place for years.

We hope to see a reversal of the trend of declining enrollment in our public schools and ever greater effort to repair county raods, especially to now much more heavily traveled Pilsen road.

Finally, and this one is for County Commissioner Dan Holub, we hope to see the state legislature come to its senses on tax policy.

– Adam Stewart

 

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