1. Energizer battery plant closes
It started with an afternoon press release issued Thursday, Nov. 8, by St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings Inc., the corporate parent of the Energizer battery production plant in Maryville.
Soon the word was out all over northwest Missouri − the 40-year old production facility would close its doors by Dec. 2013, a victim of advancing battery technology and changing world markets.
Whatever corporate realities lay behind the long-rumored shut-down, the move had an immediate impact on the local economy.
Besides 310 full-time employees, the operation also provided jobs to between 150 and 200 contract workers. Many of those employed at Energizer had worked there 20 years or more.
In the wake of the announcement, local and state economic development officials began mobilizing efforts to assist the jobless. A state Department of Economic Development "rapid response team" was dispatched to Maryville to aid the local Missouri Career Center in setting up job-search and retraining programs.
"At this time and in the future, our response team’s primary focus is on the affected workers, their families and ensuring support and training is provided as needed," said Lee Langerock, executive director of Nodaway County Economic Development. "… We have an excellent community, a diverse industry base and great resources that will ensure we continue to thrive."
Besides putting people back to work, Department of Economic Development spokesperson John Fougere told the Daily Forum his agency would work to recruit another tenant for a half-million-square-foot manufacturing plant as quickly as possible.
A key selling point, Fougere said, would be "the great resources we have in the northwest part of the state, especially the skilled, trained and enthusiastic workforce that you have in Maryville."
2. Spoofhounds win state football championship
Despite what the rankings showed throughout the 2012 high school football season, Missouri's best Class 3 team currently resides in northwest Missouri.
Perceived as underdogs, the Maryville Spoofhounds placed an exclamation mark at the end of a perfect first season under head coach Matt Webb, defeating John Burroughs High School 35-22 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
After an interception by senior linebacker Paden Maudlin on the game’s final play, the 'Hounds poured onto the field to celebrate a largely unchallenged state championship season.
Ecstatic teammates passed the trophy from hand to hand, some of them actually kissing the Show-Me State's most cherished piece of high school football hardware.
Burdened with state championship expectations since middle school, what was possibly the best senior class ever to suit up for MHS returned home with nothing left to prove.
"Together you can always do more," said Webb, himself a Spoofhound alumnus. "This is a true testament to a team victory and a team season."
Page 2 of 6 - Quarterback Jonathan Baker punctuated the victory with a 35-yard touchdown run in the final minute, setting off an enormous roar from the Hound faithful on hand.
At that point, the title was in the bag.
“Really, you can’t put it into words,” said Baker. “It’s indescribable. It was just me in the open field and Derek Stiens. He was leading me through. It’s just one of those moments that you literally will cherish forever and just sums up the game we had and how great it was."
In a vintage offensive performance, Maryville ran the ball 69 times for 436 yards. Sophomore running back Brody McMahon exploded for 213 yards and two long touchdowns.
"I think it's a testament to the character and will power of our offensive line," Webb said. "One of our philosophies … is to run the football when everybody in the stadium knows you're going to do it and be able to be successful."
3. Northwest student dies in assault
Two Harrison County men were charged with second degree murder and felony assault following an incident in the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 14, that ended in the death of a popular Northwest Missouri State University senior outside a bar and dance club on the Maryville square.
Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice wasted little time in formally alleging that Tony M. Overlin, 23, and Kevin Dell Mooney, 31, both of Bethany, caused Smith's death by striking him in the head with their fists.
According to court documents, the attack came as Smith and a fraternity brother left Molly's bar about 20 minutes after an altercation between Smith and Overlin involving some young women.
In the weeks following Smith's death, both Overlin and Mooney received preliminary hearings involving several hours of eye-witness testimony and were bound over for trial in Circuit Court.
A pre-med student from a modest south St. Louis suburb, Smith was well-known on campus, where he belonged to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and worked as a personal trainer at the university's fitness center.
The night of his death, more than 1,000 students, many of them in tears, held a candlelight vigil in his memory.
Smith was also memorialized in December during a somber memorial service at Northwest's Bell of '48. Later that day his mother and other family members accepted a posthumous degree in his honor during winter commencement exercises.
Officers Rex Riley and Rick Smail gave Smith CPR and mouth-to-mouth respiration as he lay dying on a sidewalk near Fourth and Market streets. While talking to Smith after the initial scuffle, Smail said the young man, with whom he was acquainted, thanked him for "keeping it safe at the bars."
"I feel like I let him down," Smail said. "… I remember his smile most of all. He really impacted us, and it was hard for me to deal with. It still is."
Page 3 of 6 - 4. Crops, communities hit by historic drought
As area farmers entered harvest season, the effects of one of the worst droughts since the Dustbowl years of the 1930s were all-too apparent.
After months with little or no rain, crops withered in the field, and some farmers sold livestock as ponds dried up, making it impossible to provide animals with sufficient water.
The corn harvest, most of which took place just before late-August rainfall arrived in time to save much of the soybean crop, was − to say the least − bleak.
"From what I've been hearing from the ones that are done, they are getting about a half or two-thirds of the average yield," said Tim Dreier, executive director of the local U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency office. "Getting half of what you normally get is never good."
But it could have been a lot worse. The drought eased just enough between mid-August and early September to give soybeans a new lease on life.
While many producers reported corn yields of between 30 and 100 bushels an acre — 160 bushels is considered optimum — soybean totals pushed the low threshold of average.
The drought also created a hay shortage, which had farmers hustling to buy enough forage to get cattle through the winter. By early fall, big bales were selling for as much as $100 each, more than double the usual cost of between $30 and $40.
The drought also left the southern Nodaway County communities of Skidmore, Graham and Barnard dangerously short of water as municipal wells dried up.
In an effort to relieve the affected towns, the Northwest Missouri Regional Council of Governments hammered together a Community Development Block Grant application that resulted in $400,000 earmarked for new infrastructure tying the affected communities into the Nodaway County Public Water Supply District.
5. McDanel named new city manager
Barely two months after the departure of former City Manager Matt LeCerf and an accelerated recruitment process undertaken by the Maryville City Council, new municipal executive Greg McDanel arrived for his first day of work at City Hall Feb. 29 − a day earlier than scheduled.
Before accepting the post, McDanel held a similar position in Cherryvale, Kan., but he was no stranger to the community, having graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 2002 with a degree in geography before going on to earn a master's degree in public administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
His resume also includes five years with the city of Independence as a land acquisition manager and engineering technician.
Wasting little time settling into the job, McDanel won a rare first-year contract extension from an impressed council as he launched the city into a flurry of projects that included two major street reconstructions, derelict housing demolitions, a new equestrian campground at Mozingo Lake, completion of a comprehensive growth plan and a successful campaign to secure voter-approved financing for a multi-million-dollar sewer plant.
Page 4 of 6 - Early on during the interview process, McDanel told the Daily Forum that he saw Maryville's family friendly culture as one of the city's biggest plusses. He added that he was impressed by the number of infrastructure improvements, especially the newly completed streetscape around the courthouse square.
He also said he considered Mozingo Lake to be a blue-chip asset for the community, and that working to develop the site as a recreation destination would be a priority for his administration.
6. Fire destroys former restaurant
The quiet of a breezy spring morning in Maryville was shattered by the wail of sirens Friday, May 18, as firefighters and other emergency personnel from across the county rushed to battle a dramatic blaze that destroyed a defunct restaurant in the 2800 block of South Main.
Reduced to rubble was the former Napoli's Italian Restaurant, an abandoned eatery vacant for more than a year. There were no injuries, and no cause for the fire was officially determined, though officials suspected faulty wiring.
Firefighters arrived shortly before 9:30 a.m. after witnesses reported seeing smoke rising from walls and roof vents.
Heavy smoke billowed from the structure as fire trucks pulled into the large parking lot. The building became engulfed in flames within minutes as gusting southerly winds − and a malfunctioning truck-mounted water pump − hampered efforts to bring the blaze under control.
The Napoli's building, since razed, adjoined the north end of the Comfort Inn motel, and for some time it looked like the lodging house might catch fire as well. However, a firewall between the two structures held. The hotel sustained significant damage but remained open to guests following the fire.
Built in 1986, Napoli's, formerly a Country Kitchen, comprised 6,300 square feet. The property was owned by UMB Financial Corp. of Kansas City, who, according to county assessment records, acquired it from Midwest Partners Group L.C. of St. Joseph. Comfort Inn was also built in 1986 and is currently owned by University Inn Inc. of Maryville.
7. R-II, Northwest adopt drug testing
Efforts to prevent the illegal use of recreational drugs by students, and especially student athletes, were bolstered in 2012 as both the Maryville R-II Board of Education and the Northwest Missouri State University Board of Regents adopted random drug-testing policies.
The R-II board voted unanimously in favor of implementing a testing program after months of debate and a series of public meetings, during which both parents and students weighed in on both sides of the issue.
The policy ultimately adopted is limited to students participating in Missouri State High School Activities Association programs, which include extra-curriculars like band and forensics as well as inter-scholastic sports. High school students who park on district property are also subject to testing.
Page 5 of 6 - Superintendent Larry Linthacum said 82 percent of parents responding to a survey favored testing, a show of support convinced the board to move forward.
Randomly selected students testing positive for drugs now face a 30-day activities suspension for the first violation, a 90-day suspension for the second violation and a one-year activities suspension for a third offense.
In September, the university's Board of Regents adopted a similar program for Bearcats athletes after being told by Athletics Director Wren Baker that drug abuse on college campuses nationwide was "trending upward."
At Northwest, positive tests result in three tiers of disciplinary action, the first of which centers around treatment and counseling but does not automatically result in suspension from competition.
A second positive test results in temporary suspension, while a third infraction can lead to indefinite suspension from all athletic-related activities.
Baker said the policy was designed to be "educational and pro-active" rather than punitive.
"We do not want it to be a 'We gotcha, we're gonna getcha, and we're coming after you' kind of policy," Baker said. "We want to help people, not punish them."
8. City of Maryville’s budget keys on major projects
The streets of Maryville may not be paved with gold, but two more major thoroughfares will be covered with concrete in 2013 after the Maryville City Council in September signed off on one of the most ambitious capital improvements budgets in decades.
The fiscal 2013 spending plan contains funding for a number of major projects — everything from hiking/biking trails to the start of construction late this summer on the city's new multi-million dollar wastewater treatment plant.
Highlights include $3.2 million in capital spending for two fully reconstructed streets, South Munn and South Depot.
Other initiatives comprise engineering for both proposed streetscaping along Fourth Street between downtown and Northwest Missouri State University and a new fire/police headquarters.
Municipal reserves of around $2 million provide a key slice of the new year's budget pie in which estimated general fund revenues of $5.6 million exceed a $6.1 spending blueprint by nearly $430,000.
City Manager Greg McDanel justified the deficit by saying the city has traditionally figured revenues low and expenses high in an effort to avoid a surprise flood of red ink.
A total of $152,000 was earmarked for Fourth Street planning, with Northwest Missouri State University contributing $55,000 as its share. The project carries a total price tag of $1.3 million, much of which the city is hoping to pay for with state or federal grants.
Mayor Glenn Jonagan praised McDanel for working with the university to move the project into its initial phase, and described the town-and-gown partnership as possibly unique in Maryville history.
"You should certainly get a gold star on the refrigerator," the retired school superintendent said.
Page 6 of 6 - 9. Voters approve $13.7 million sewer plant
City officials heaved a sigh of relief around 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3 − Election Day − as local voters overwhelmingly approved passage of a $13.7 million bond issue needed to build a government-mandated wastewater treatment plant.
Voters adopted the proposal by more than a six-to-one majority, clearing the way for construction of a new mechanical plant that will replace the city's antiquated lagoon-based system.
City Manager Greg McDanel called the voters' decision "very good news" for the city, which otherwise would have had to finance construction through high-interest loans, hefty user-fee increases, or both.
Had the measure failed, Maryville would have faced punitive fines for failing to meet environmental standards.
"The city has been able to use the least expensive sewage treatment method for many years with a lagoon system," Public Works Director C.E. Goodall said before the vote. "Those days are fading fast."
Proceeds from the bonds will be used by the city to construct a new mechanical sewer plant designed to meet regulations for ammonia removal implemented in 2012 by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
As the new rules made their way through the regulatory pipeline, the City Council at first thought the lagoon system could be upgraded. That plan failed to satisfy regulators, however, so the decision was made to build a mechanical plant at significantly higher cost.
"It is definitely within the city’s best interest to make sure we meet the proposed deadline (for construction)," Goodall said, "We do not want to incur fines. That is just a waste of money."
10. Apartment complex construction begins
Construction began this fall on a new 40-unit apartment complex to be constructed on a large, vacant parcel located south of Walmart and north of Bearcat Lanes.
Volunteer Management & Development Co. Inc. of Jackson, Tenn., the developer, described the project as a "planned unit development" that will provide housing for lower- to middle-income families.
In addition to private investment, the company qualified for a tax credit program administered by the state Department of Economic Development.
Pete Ramsel of CRA Investments, which is providing financing for the project, said marketing for the apartments would be "focused on working families."
He said 32 of the units are to be reserved for tenants earning around $30,000 a year, or 60 percent of the county's median household income. Eight units will be leased to tenants with household incomes at the 80 percent threshold, or up to $47,000 a year.
Residents will be able to avail themselves of a number of services and amenities, including an after-school child-care program.
Estimated construction cost is between $6 million and $6.5 million and crews began moving dirt in late August with actual construction continuing until the area's first major winter storm a few days before Christmas.