MIAMI COUNTY — Another year has come and gone and left a bounty of news — good and bad — it its wake.
Here is a look back at some of the news highlights from around the county in 2017.
• Board chooses stadium location: The Tipp City school board voted in January to keep the stadium in its current City Park location, depending on support promised by the city as well as private funding through the Tipp Pride Association. The board had also considered moving the stadium to the high school, but soil borings determined that bedrock was close to the surface and would drive up costs. The stadium property is owned by the city but leased long-term by the school board, which is responsible for maintaining the grounds, buildings and structures.
• One Wellness Place breaks ground: The Tri-County Board of Mental Health unveiled its vision for a “one-stop shop” for health and human services under one roof in a center they’ve dubbed “One Wellness Place” during a fundraising campaign and ground breaking ceremony on Jan. 26
The project plans to construct a 35-40,000 square foot building to house a variety of health and human services agencies. The TCBMH purchased 7.7 acres on North County Road 25-A near Lytle Road for the project site, adjacent to Health Partners of Miami County.
• George’s closes: George’s Dairy Bar announced in February that they would not be reopening for a 56th year of operation at the corner of Spring and Ash streets in Piqua after operator Dave McMillan went into retirement. The George’s Dairy Bar building was built to serve as a Dairy Queen, which was located at 207 E. Ash St. prior to being at their last location. The Dairy Queen was first listed in the city directory in 1955, and George and Ruth McMillan purchased it when they moved to Piqua in 1957.
They operated the Dairy Queen at the East Ash Street location until 1961, when they purchased the Clouse House at their current location. They operated the business as the Dairy Queen through 1990, but they separated from the franchise in 1991. They renamed the business George’s Dairy Bar.
• Dr. Bruce Nordquist remembered: Whether he was attending patients in the emergency room or standing on the sidelines at athletic events, Dr. Bruce Nordquist, M.D. was well-respected as a local physician and county coroner.
Dr. Nordquist passed away Wednesday morning, Feb. 1, in the Hospice Unit of Upper Valley Medical Center, Troy. He was 83. Dr. Nordquist served as the Miami County Coroner from 2008 to 2013. Dr. Nordquist was a general practitioner in Troy for more than 35 years. He closed his practice at the age of 75 and became the Miami County coroner for five years.
• County upgrades 911 center: For the first time in more than 20 years, the county made substantial upgrades to the Miami County Communication Center, which handles all calls for each of the county’s law enforcement and emergency services departments. From the subfloors to the ceilings, the center was gutted and refitted with all new ceiling tiles, carpeting, furnishings and radio equipment. The county spent about $240,000 on renovations and new workstations.
• State of the College: Edison State Community College held their first-ever State of the College on April 5, which encompassed the Edison experience for students, employers, and the community as a whole. Dr. Doreen Larson, president of the college, explained that, of Edison’s $17 million budget, half of that budget is from the state’s subsidy of the college and the other half is made up of tuition fees and some grant funding. With nearly 4,500 people enrolled, Edison boasts a variety of students, from high school teens to senior citizens along with high school graduates, other adults, and international students. Edison is also among the top 25 percent nationally in graduation rates for full-time and part-time students. Larson said that 86 percent of Edison students graduate with jobs associated with their fields of study.
• M-U board rejects TIF agreement: Calling the proposal “too costly and too risky,” the Milton-Union school board declined to approve the financing plan for the Stillwater Crossing development in April. In a letter to the village council, the board explained that it could not support a 30-year tax increment financing (TIF) plan for the Stillwater Crossings development as proposed.
The village went forward with a non-school TIF, which does not require school district approval. A non-school TIF means that the school will receive the full property tax amount that is due to them as properties in the development join the tax rolls. The development is planned to include a Randall House assisted living facility and senior cottages, commercial spaces, and more than 100 single-family homes.
• Kettering Health Network buys ITW/Hobart Brother’s land: Kettering Health Network purchased 8 acres of land at 600 W. Main St. in Troy at the site of the former Hobart Brothers Company’s manufacturing plant.
• Operation Recreation voted down: Troy residents voted against the Operation Recreation 2020 parks and recreation levy with 63 percent against and 37 percent for the issue on the May 2 ballot.
Operation Recreation 2020 levy was a proposed 10-year, 0.25 percent earned income tax to raise $25.7 million for the Paul G. Duke Park expansion, Miami Shores golf course clubhouse renovation and driving range, upgrades to the facility at the Troy Senior Citizens Center and to add a $10 million second ice rink at Hobart Arena.
• Food Truck Rally: Despite spotty showers, thousands of people showed up hungry for the third annual Miami County Gourmet Food Truck Rally and Competition at the county fairgrounds. As the lunch crowd cleared, visitors enjoyed music, vendors, and a variety of sights. The annual event has grown to approximately 53 food truck vendors in 2017 and interest is building.
• Taste of the Arts: The annual Taste of the Arts experienced a rain delay this year on May 19. The start of the event was postponed one hour, but even with the slow start, Taste of the Arts picked up steam as community members and visitors ventured into the downtown once the severe weather warnings were over and the weather had settled into a cool evening. There were six art demonstrations going on in downtown shops.
Live entertainment came in the form of environmental children’s entertainer Chris Rowlands in the Piqua Public Library and music from Red Hot Rhythm Review in the downtown. A stilt walker and juggler from the Cincinnati Circus Company were also found strolling around the kids’ tent. A variety of food was housed underneath two large tents.
• Randolph freed people: The local history of Randolph freed people got a new spotlight at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMCC) at Wilberforce.
On May 20, NAAMCC unveiled an exhibit on the Randolph freed people, which were a group of 383 emancipated people and survivors of slavery on the Roanoke Plantation in Virginia in the 1820s. They left Virginia for approximately 2,000 acres of purchased land in Mercer County, but they were forced to leave that area and resettle north of Piqua at Rossville, a location also referred to as the Randolph Slave Settlement.
The artifacts and other historical items of the Rossville Historic Springcreek House Museum were bequeathed to the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, which former Miami County native and recent Wright State University graduate Hadley Drodge of Troy took part in cataloging, digitizing, and curating for NAAMCC.
• Edison project: Edison State Community College announced a new project on May 23 funded by at $2.5 million donation from the Robinson Fund.
Faculty, staff, and students from Edison, along with local officials and community members, joined Edison State President Doreen Larson, Pat and Thom Robinson of the Robinson Fund, and Tom Milligan, chair of Edison State’s Board of Trustees for the official check presentation and the unveiling of a new campus entry point.
• Medical marijuana facilities banned: By the end of May, the cities of Piqua, Troy, and Tipp City along with the village of Covington all approve bans on medicinal marijuana facilities from locating within their municipalities. Bans in Troy and Covington received approved in April while the ban in Tipp City was approved earlier in the year.
• Hobart Brothers celebrates 100th anniversary: The ITW/Hobart Brothers Company celebrated its 100th anniversary with a “family picnic” with more than 500 current and retired employees gathered on the front lawn at its headquarters in Troy on Thursday.
The Hobart Brothers Company, named after the three sons, was incorporated by founder C.C. Hobart, his wife and three sons on March 24, 1917. William C. Hobart and his wife, Julia, were in attendance at the celebration along with dozens of family, friends and corporate partners, customers and business colleagues. Also in attendance were ITW’s Chairman and CEO Scott Santi and Vice-President John Hartnett.
• Strawberry Festival: The 41st annual Troy Strawberry Festival — aimed at raising money for the county’s non-profits — kicked off with the chairman Matt Watkins’ theme, “Silver Screen Berries.”
For the 2017 festival, held June 3-4, fundraising activities generated more than $392,900 for the 67 participating organizations, which was nearly $20,000 more in revenue for the nonprofit organizations that participated in 2015, a comparable year.
Corie Schweser, former manager, said she believes the larger location of the 2017 Strawberry Festival — the levee and downtown venues — is a big factor in the improved revenue and attendance.
• New Water Treatment Plant: The new Water Treatment Plant is in full use in the city of Piqua. The city of Piqua began using the new plant on June 1 at midnight. The city held a dedication ceremony for the building later in September.
Peterson Construction built the new plant at a cost of approximately $36 million with most of it being funded through an Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) loan to replace the old plant, which had been built in 1925.
• Lock 12 Project unveiled: The Troy Historical Society and the city of Troy dedicated a historic model made out of the preserved canal blocks to commemorate the historic Lock 12’s place in the city’s history. The Lock 12 project used the recovered lock blocks for the 120-foot-long-by 15-foot-wide mock-up of the former lock, which was buried underneath the factory. Three markers will be part of the project, including a Hobart Brothers Company historical marker, a Lock 12 historical marker and an official Ohio Historical Society marker. The display of lock canal blocks is located on Elm Street, next to the Eagles club parking lot and adjacent to Treasure Island Park.
• Treasure Island Harbor tragedy: Lillian May was pronounced dead at Upper Valley Medical Center after she was pulled from the harbor area around 11 p.m. July 18.
May had been swimming in the harbor area with some friends, according to reports. The girls were playing a “hide-and-go-seek” style game in the water when May went missing. Friends had initially thought May had left and went home to her grandfather’s home on Lincoln Street. May was a seventh-grade student at Troy Junior High School.
• KHN breaks ground: Kettering Health Network breaks ground for new hospital in Troy: Kettering Health Network and local officials broke ground to mark the beginning of a new era where the former ITW/Hobart Brothers manufacturing facility once stood. The facility three-story, nearly 100,000-square-foot hospital on West Main Street in Troy is expected to cost approximately $60 million and open in late 2018.
The Troy Hospital will feature an emergency room, a surgery center, admission beds, imaging, lab services and medical offices.
• Fair week: The 2017 Miami County Fair had a better year than the previous year when daily rains dampened the week-long event. Children from throughout the county participated in the fair with their animals or other projects. Community members enjoyed entertainment, midway games and rides — and of course fair food.
• Bethel teachers reject contract: The school board and the Bethel Education Association (BEA) began contract negotiations in early March and teachers rejected a contract in August. Teachers started the year without a contract and have yet to reach an agreement with the board on a contract.
According the BEA, the sticking points are salaries and experience recognition. The organization said their salaries have been frozen at the same experience level for the last six years, which they agreed to during the recession. Teachers have asked for a return to salary schedules that take into account their years of experience. New teachers with similar training and experience have been hired on at higher salaries, the BEA said.
Superintendent Virginia Potter noted that, although step increases have been frozen, teachers have received roughly a “9 percent increase on their base salaries between the years of 2014-2017.”
• Eclipse mania hits Miami County: On Aug. 21, communities across the country stood still as eyes turned to the sky for the Great American Eclipse. Libraries across the county handed out free eclipse viewing glasses and hosted parties.
While Miami County wasn’t in the “totality” — the area where the sun is totally blocked — everyone was able to see a partial eclipse that blocked about 90 percent of the sun. Miami County will be in the direct path of the next total eclipse in April 2024.
• Festival of Nations: Foods and traditions from across the world came together on an August afternoon on the levee for Troy’s annual Festival of Nations. The focus of the event was Ukraine, the festival’s featured country. A large display of traditional Ukrainian dresses, artwork and culture, as well as traditional Ukrainian dancing and food was on display at the festival. Many other countries were represented with booths offering foods and items native to the countries. Entertainment was offered throughout the day.
• Piqua BikeFest: It began with a controversy, when it was announced that singer-songwriter David Allan Coe would be the headliner for the annual festival in downtown Piqua. Songs from Coe’s past were denounced as “vile, racist, homophobic, and misogynistic,” though the country musician claimed to no longer perform those song in public. Ultimately, Coe’s appearance was scratched, and Piqua BikeFest went on without a hitch, drawing thousands of bikers and other visitors from other cities and states to enjoy live music, stunt demos, pinup and tattoo contests, and other entertainment.
• Bethel addition opens: After years of planning and the successful passage of a $22 million bond issue, the newest addition to the Bethel Local Schools campus opened for the new school year in September.
• Tour De Donut rolls through Troy: On Sept. 16, more than 1,800 cyclists from 22 states made their way around the county to kick off the famous Tour De Donut ride. The Tour de Donut is a bicycle event in which participants’ “ability to eat donuts is just as important as their ability to ride their bicycle.” The race was held in Darke County in the area of Ansonia, but event coordinators move the bike ride to Troy for its 11th annual race. According to the participant list on its website, 1,883 riders flocked to Troy to log in the miles and chow down on donuts for the event. The event will be held on Aug. 25, 2018.
• County residents rally to help hurricane victims: In the aftermath of several devastating hurricanes, people across the county organized to help those in areas hit by storms. In Tipp City, “Fill The Truck For Texans,” a project organized by Tipp Monroe Community Services (TMCS) and Thrivent Financial, sent several trucks full of supplies to Texas. Schools around the county collected clothing, toiletries and toys for children.
Founded by Tipp City residents, the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team traveled to Texas to set up headquarters in Portland, Texas — not far from where the hurricane first made landfall in Rockport, Texas — where they provided food, supplies and help in rebuilding homes.
• Mum Festival: Tipp City welcomed thousands of visitors to one of the Miami Valley’s longest running fall festivals, the Tipp City Mum Festival.
This nearly 60-year-old tradition celebrated the community with a parade, 5K run, and live entertainment, and features one of the largest car shows in the Miami Valley. The festival kicks off each year with the annual cruise-in downtown on Friday, and continues throughout the weekend in City Park.
• WACO to expand: The Waco Air Museum’s Learning Center celebrated its 20th anniversary by digging into its future in September. The WACO Air Museum’s Learning Center officially broke ground for its new $1.5 million learning facility dedicated to the thousands of local children and community members it takes under their wing each year. The facility was awarded a $1 million gift from the Thom and Pat Robinson Fund this year. The learning center will be raising funds for approximately $500,000 for the rest of the building project. The building is expected to be complete by fall 2018.
• Piqua Marine helps wounded Vegas concert-goer: Austin Cox, a 2011 graduate of Piqua High School and a corporal serving in the United States Marine Corps, was attending the Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 when gunfire broke out.
Cox picked up Katrina Hannah, who had been shot twice, and ran to cover. He contacted her mother and stayed with her family in the hospital overnight. He downplayed his role in the event, saying, “All in all, I just tried to help as many people as I could.”
• Bucio banned: Former Miami County lawyer Christopher R. Bucio had his license to practice law suspended indefinitely by the Ohio Supreme Court. Bucio, a former partner of Roberts, Kelly & Bucio LLP, (now called Roberts and Kelly), had his license suspended on an interim basis in January 2017 following a seven-year legal battle in Shelby County Common Pleas Court. Bucio was found to have violated several professional conduct standards regarding the unauthorized use of a client’s property. Bucio took farmland owned by a Shelby County woman as payment for her legal representation, sold the land and kept all the proceeds. Those funds have since been returned to the victim in full. Bucio later acknowledged spending 40 hours working on the case and he would have charged $9,000 for his services instead of $127,000 worth of land he acquired from the client.
The field house will boast several sports surfaces, including basketball/volleyball-type courts and an artificial turf surface for indoor soccer. An indoor suspended netting system also will be put in place for indoor baseball/softball practices. A three-lane indoor track will make up the perimeter of the field house to allow members to walk and run.
• Troy voters reject new construction proposal: Troy voters rejected the 4.61-mill levy to build the two new elementary schools and make improvements, such as adding air conditioning to the common areas at the high school.
The district planned to build two separate elementary schools housing pre-kindergarten through second grade in one building and third through sixth grades in another.
The board signed a contract for the potential purchase of property for 58.67 acres at 3054 W. State Route 55 and Nashville Road for $733,375 from the late Don Isern heirs. The property is to the west of Kensington and Edgewater developments. In December, the board agreed to pay up to $25,000 to hold the property for an additional year.
• Threats at Piqua High School: In a story line lifted from “Pretty Little Liars,” a Piqua High School student created the Snapchat user name “A” after a character in the TV show and threatened to expose secrets of fellow students. At some point, rumors about the messages from “A” indicated there was a threat to shoot up the school. In addition, a non-threatening message was discovered on a bathroom wall, and determined to have no connection to the Snapchat incident. However, a second message appeared later, stating, “I’m still gonna shoot the school – A.” For safety reasons, the school was placed under lockdown and students dismissed early, and classes were canceled the next day to allow administrators and Piqua police to investigate the situation.
A 15-year-old student responsible for creating the “A” Snapchat account is being charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, while a 14-year-old student responsible for writing the threat to shoot the school is being charged with felony inducing panic. According to police, there was no collaboration between the two suspects; the younger student had seen the chats by the older student. The incident received national media attention.
• Tipp O’ the Town to close: After 29 years in operation, the owner of Tipp O’ the Town Family Restaurant announced the restaurant will close its doors on New Year’s Eve. Owner Paul Loubier said the decision to close the Tipp City mainstay is “bittersweet,” but that the time is right for him to retire. The property will likely be the future location of a new Taco Bell.
A flood of festival-goers flock to the streets and levee in Troy during the 41st anniversary of the Troy Strawberry Festival.