DARKE COUNTY — The year 2019 was a busy one for Darke County and its residents. In no particular order, the following is a sampling of some of DarkeCountyMedia.com’s most read stories as well as some other highlights the newspaper reported on during the past year:
Tornado does damage in May
The National Weather Service in Wilmington confirmed an EF1 tornado did touch down in the village of New Madison. Multiple reports of downed trees and power lines, as well as structural damage to buildings and homes within the village prompted a massive response of emergency personnel from across Darke and Preble counties. Mutual aid was received from various departments. Roadways entering the village were closed off to all incoming traffic, while rescue and cleanup activities took place. Multiple streets and sidewalks were blocked by downed trees and live power lines making travel unsafe inside the village.
Great Darke County Fair fire levels swine barn, arsonists caught
It was Oct. 25, 2018, when a fire at the Great Darke County fairgrounds brought the historic swine barn to the ground. Nine departments responded to the blaze that also damaged surrounding buildings and destroyed a host of items stored inside, including tractors and boats. In July, two area men were arrested for arson with one, Christopher L. Garland pleading guilty in October. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. The second indicted individual, Randy R. Mogle, is currently awaiting trial.
State Route 127 ODOT project to curtail accidents
A source of controversy for several years, the US 127 and Kruckeberg Road intersection underwent a face-lift with a Partial RCUT design meant to reduce points of contact by approximately 25 percent. Between 2011 and 2015, there were two fatalities and 45 accidents at the intersection. A fatality that took the life of a teen driver in August 2016 prompted a petition leading to an ODOT safety study. The project was awarded to Brumbaugh Construction and completed last month.
Wayne HealthCare breaks ground for a new addition
This time next year, Wayne HealthCare will open the doors to a new 85,000-square-foot addition currently under construction. The $60 million expansion will include a birthing center, 32 private inpatient rooms, and a Wellness Center and gym with an indoor track. Once complete, a renovation will begin on existing hospital space with work to be completed by April 2021.
Darke County farmers face a tough year
A deluge of rain made it difficult for area farmers this season, the challenges creating a widespread ripple effect from an inability to get into fields to a livestock feed crisis. Darke County is the largest corn and soybean producer in the state of Ohio, and by September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had declared the area a disaster. The local OSU Extension office is currently conducting a survey to help make better management decisions should farmers face another 2019.
Arcanum welcomes new mayor and police chief
It was this time last year when former village council member Greg Baumle was sworn in as village mayor after the resignation of Judith Foureman that took effect on Dec. 31. Since then, Mayor Baumle has overseen the building of a new village administration and police headquarters, a new wastewater treatment plant, and welcomed several new businesses. The village also gained a new police chief, Marcus Ballinger, who has been busy with several projects, including an update to policy and procedures for special functions.
Arcanum High School gains 20,000 square foot addition
The high school welcomed a much needed and highly anticipated 20,000 square foot addition for agricultural education and athletics. It was a dream that began some 40 months ago when the school restarted the FFA Chapter with a vision for a top-notch program that needed proper facilities. The addition, which includes a community center, was possible thanks to multiple financial contributors.
Area county schools go high-tech for student safety
The Versailles school district mounted high-quality, HD video and picture cameras on all their school buses to help in the fight against too many drivers putting students at risk. Meanwhile, the Franklin Monroe school district installed HALO Smart Sensors in the school building to deter students from vaping and e-cigarettes after mysterious lung problems and even death grabbed national headlines.
Polar vortex puts a freeze on nation
A blast of polar air enveloped much of the Midwest in late January, closing schools and businesses and straining infrastructure across the Rust Belt with some of the lowest temperatures in a generation. The deep freeze snapped rail lines and canceled hundreds of flights in the nation’s third-largest city, which was as cold as the Arctic. Heavily dressed repair crews hustled to keep water mains and gas pipes working. At least eight deaths were linked to the system. Darke County was also affected.
Courthouse annex project almost complete
The new security entrance to the Darke County Courthouse is scheduled to be completed soon. The original plan was to have the new back entrance open by mid-December, but a delay in building materials delayed completion. The project began this past summer and includes a 1,000-square-foot annex at the rear entrance. New features include bullet-proof glass and a holding cell to fit three prisoners. When the annex is open, the front entrances to the courthouse will be permanently closed, and will be used only as emergency exits. The cost of the courthouse project stands at $753,786.89.
Eight volunteer firefighters resign from Greenville Township
In June, DarkeCountyMedia.com learned that several volunteer firefighters, as well as the volunteer assistant chief, submitted their resignations to Greenville Township Trustees. According to trustee Matt Kolb, there was a difference in opinion in the way the department was being run. When asked if the rumors were true that the township fire department will disband and the city of Greenville Fire Department would take over, Kolb emphatically stated, “There is no truth to that at all.”
Versailles celebrates 200th birthday
On Sept. 14, the village of Versailles celebrated its bicentennial at Heritage Park. One of the day’s highlights was the grand opening of the park’s newly constructed amphitheater. The Versailles High School Band was the first of several musical performances during the celebration, which also included historical displays, vendors and activities.
Missing UC woman dies in fatal crash
On Aug. 9, the Darke County Sheriff’s Office, along with other local jurisdictions began a joint missing person investigation of Shawna Rue Ressler of Union City, OH/IN..Ms. Ressler had been missing since Aug. 4, when she left her home for an appointment in Celina. On Aug. 14, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office was notified that a vehicle had been found in a steep ditch and was covered in a woods and vegetation. The vehicle matched the description of Ms. Ressler’s vehicle and she was identified as the sole occupant.
Motorcycle shop denied Broadway opening
Greenville Planning and Zoning turned down a request for a variance for a proposed downtown Harley-Davidson store after hearing from local business owners who had concerns with the business. Chris Lovett wanted to put the store on South Broadway. Business and property owners did not oppose the retail store, but argued the “repair shop” would cause problems due to noise and fumes coming from the facility.
Sure Shot Tap is in the making
Andrew Riffle and father Daryl are planning a new venture, the Sure Shot Tap House. After deciding to invest in Greenville, Andrew reached out to Main Street Greenville and the Darke County Visitors Bureau to start discussions looking for the perfect property last fall. The 622 S. Broadway property was purchased. They were able to close on the building in January and demo actually started on the project just a few days after closing. Revival Design Studio is the project designer. Sure Shot will offer a full experience in craft beer with 30-50 draft beers, ciders and wines as well as a beer inspired full menu.
Neff Co. closing its doors
The Early Bird has learned earlier this year that Neff Co. will be closing its doors completely in Greenville by the end of the year. The Neff Company has bounced from one owner to another over the past several years.The company had approximately 60 employees that were be affected by this transition. Some employees may be placed with different operations within Jostens. The Neff Company provided such items as varsity letters and numbers, school patches and awards, school outerwear, varsity jackets, pins, trophies and display frames.
Chicken farm coming?
Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) representatives conducted a public meeting in November to hear comments from area residents on a draft Permit to Install and a draft Permit to Operate for the Golden Heritage Egg Farm, proposed to be located at 13285 Rhynard-Fink Road in Allen Township. Nearly 150 people attended the event in the Youth Building at the Darke County Fairgrounds, but those who wanted to speak were given only three minutes to do so. Several months before that, a public meeting was held in the New Weston Community Building with questions raised and comments spoken. The ODA has yet to make a decision.
Bethany Royer-Delong, Linda Moody and Susan Hartley compiled this report.