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Annexation, downtown fire top stories of 2007

The annexation and the infamous Brookhaven downtown fire top TheDAILY LEADER’s stories of 2007, according to both DAILY LEADERreaders and staff.

The annexation led the poll for DAILY LEADER staffers, while itcame in second with 19.4 percent of the votes to the downtown firein the online reader poll. The annexation project was theculmination of years of work by city officials which nearly tripledthe city’s size to 14.4 square miles. It became final on July 1,ensuring the city could collect taxes on the newly annexed area forthe entire year of 2007.

Mayor Bob Massengill said he feels the city has adjusted well tothe move, and that the annexation is a major step in moving thecity forward to being one of Mississippi’s premier cities.

“We have had some growing pains but this is a positive move inthe long run for the city,” Massengill said. “It got started longago, but I think it is an important step and I think we’re going tosee over the next few months some really good thingshappening.”

* The downtown fire of May 24 topped the list for the readerpoll, with a stunning 69.4 percent of the voting.

The fire broke loose in the Posey Place on Whitworth Avenue,downtown Brookhaven, at 4:53 a.m., and fed off the historicbuildings until it had gutted four of them.

The Posey Place, Tri-County Financial Loans, BrookhavenElectronics and Louise’s Family Fashion were all destroyed by theblaze, but officials praised the efforts of the Brookhaven FireDepartment and the county’s volunteer departments for keeping thedamage to a minimum. Every member of BFD, on or off-duty, wascalled to the scene, and every volunteer department in the countywas dispatched to help in a county-wide mutual aid plan.

In consequent months, the debris from the businesses was clearedand the lot sits vacant as property owners ponder their nextmove.

“We look forward to having something positive happen there, butthat’s not up to us, that’s up to the property owners,” Massengillsaid. “The downtown overall is looking so good, we’re glad it’scleaned and we look to see something happen there soon.”

* The DAILY LEADER staffers chose the retirement of District 92Representative Dr. Jim Barnett as number three on the list of2007’s top stories, while it got 1.6 percent of the readervote.

Barnett announced his retirement in January after 16 years inthe House. While on Capitol Hill, Barnett was instrumental inbringing the Mississippi School of the Arts to Brookhaven.

Bringing his medical experience to the table, Barnett alsoplayed a major part in opening the doors of the Mental HealthCrisis Center in Brookhaven on Dec. 4.

Republican Becky Currie won the election for Barnett’s open spotafter defeating his son, Paul Barnett, in a tight primary anddefeating Democrat D.W. Maxwell in the Nov. 6 general election.

* The groundbreaking at the Linbrook Business Park on Dec. 5ranked fourth for DAILY LEADER staffers, while it received no votesin the online poll.

The county and city have each given $2.2 million toward thepurchase of the property and to install the infrastructure of theyears-long project, which is expected to bring industry to the areaand continue to put Brookhaven and Lincoln County on the map as anindustrial power in southern Mississippi.

The Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce alsocontributed $500,000 to the project. In addition, the LinbrookAlliance secured a $1.1 million grant through the EconomicDevelopment Administration.

A million-gallon elevated water tank and adjoining well will bethe first structures to be put up on the property, located west ofthe city near the end of Brookway Boulevard. Officials expect thewell and tank to be finished by October of 2008.

* Number five on the list for The DAILY LEADER employees was theoutcome of the county elections, while it tied for third with”other” in the online poll with 4.8 percent of the vote.

Currie’s victory in the District 92 House of Representativesrace was a major decision in Lincoln County’s 2007 elections. Allfive county supervisors retained their seats, as did Chancery ClerkTillmon Bishop, Circuit Clerk Terri Lynn Watkins, and Tax AssessorNancy Jordan.

Ann Reeves won the vacant Post Two Justice Court bench, andRalph Boone, took the Post One spot.

Sheriff Steve Rushing retained his appointed post with astunning 60 percent victory in the primary over four otherDemocratic opponents, and an 89 percent margin over Republicancandidate Terry Harper.

* The continued expansion of King’s Daughters Medical Centermade the sixth spot in the polling.

The $12 million renovation and expansion project, which isexpected to continue for the next two years, will create a newemergency department, intensive care unit and 10 new patient roomsand renovate existing patient rooms. The project will also add asprinkler system for fire suppression to the second and thirdfloors, a new pharmacy and a heliport.

* Lighting for Interstate 55’s Exit 40 was next on the list ofthe top stories.

After years of discussion with the Mississippi Department ofTransportation, efforts to secure cluster lighting at Exit 40 bycity and county lawmakers finally came to fruition.

After talks with Southern District Transportation CommissionerWayne Brown and MDOT Executive Director Butch Brown, funding forthe project was found.

Brookhaven is currently one of only a few cities on the I-55corridor that does not have cluster lighting. Talks in the pastbetween city and county government and MDOT have proven ratherfutile as the project had been treated with somewhat lowpriority.

* The death of former Mayor Doug Sullivan, which grieved thecommunity greatly, ranked as the year’s eighth-most importantstory.

Brookhaven residents were shocked and saddened by 69-year-oldSullivan’s July 11 death. He succumbed to a heart attack in hisvehicle as he was traveling Highway 51 on his way to work. He wasmost recently serving as the state office director for Sen. ThadCochran, an office he had held since 2001.

“I’m deeply saddened by the death of Doug Sullivan. He was agood friend and an important member of my staff,” Cochran said. “Hehad a strong sense of duty and worked hard to see that our needs inMississippi were addressed by the federal government.”

* Coming in at number nine on the list is the opening of theMental Health Crisis Center.

The grand opening of the Brookhaven Crisis Intervention Center,a mental health facility that operates under the guidance of theMississippi State Hospital in Whitfield, took place Dec. 4. Thecrisis center has the capacity to simultaneously treat 16 patients,employing a staff of 50 full-time and contract staff. The crisiscenter has physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, nursepractitioners and nurses as well as security, housekeeping andmaintenance personnel on hand to provide services to thepatients.

* Rounding out the list of top stories for The DAILY LEADER’sreading area for 2007 was the sale of the Brookhaven CountryClub.

Jeff Wilson, the former owner of the Wilson Chrysler-Jeep-Dodgedealership, became the leading bidder for the 18-hole golf courseand other facilities July 15 when Jackson-based Alcatec LLC failedto close on the property.

Wilson completed the $700,000 purchase, which includes 270 acresof property on Country Club Road featuring an 18-hole golf course,club house, eight tennis courts, swimming pool and maintenancefacilities and equipment.