The ongoing drought has seen the city of Graham implement two phases of water restrictions and continue with several upgrades to its overall water system.
A local hospital was granted new life when it was voted as a taxing district.
An old building on the square, the source of contentious debate for governing bodies and citizens alike, will be demolished in the near future; the result of a sudden vote by a divided county commissioners court.
Grahamites themselves were divided on tax rates, school curricula and even what to name a new park. 2013 was a banner year for news, and though it was difficult to narrow the list down to just 10 stories, here they are.
10. The new hospital district
It was an interesting year for the Graham Regional Medical Center to say the least. In early February, GRMC's board of directors voted to proceed with a petition to create a hospital district. The main reason given for the need for tax money was increasing competition from hospitals in neighboring cities such as Olney and Jacksboro.
In March, the Graham City Council took its first step in the renovations of its entire water delivery system as it voted to adopt a resolution approving and authorizing publication of notice of intention to issue certificates of obligation in the amount of $2.5 million. The money was to be allocated for engineering services for the water treatment plant. By the end of the year, the city council was working with roughly $15 million, money earmarked not just for the water treatment plant, but for the upgrade of its only water delivery line, the addition of a second water delivery line and the eventual repair of its many distribution lines.
The old county jail
The Young County Commissioners Court served as the microcosm for how county residents felt about the underutilized one-story building on the southwest corner of the largest square in the country. Should it be repurposed and used as a much needed storage space? Should it be torn down, effectively opening up new options for that corner of the square? What was the best option for the taxpayers of Young County? This particular debate predates 2013, but its presence was felt this year all the same, as into August, the commissioners court still couldn't agree on what should be done.
7. Keeping Graham Beautiful
The city of Graham did much to improve its physical appearance in 2013. A February agreement between the city, Brazos River Authority and US Army Corps of Engineers sought to expedite the addition of a new park on the west side of Graham, and by the end of the year, the city council had its new name down to three options: 1. Heritage Park 2. North Star Park 3. Salt Creek Park
6. The fairy-tale ending of the Graham Drive In
Pam and David Scott, owners of the Graham Drive-In, had known for over a year that their business was in need of a miracle. By 2014, distributors would no longer be selling 35 mm film, necessitating a switch to digital projectors at an average cost of $80,000 In all likelihood, this meant that for the dwindling number of drive-in owners throughout the country, business would cease permanently.
Enter Honda. The international car company's public relations department had an idea early in 2013 to renovate a drive-in theater near one of their manufacturing plants here in the U.S. The people at Honda saw it as a way to preserve an iconic component of American car culture. Soon after their idea to renovate a single-drive in, the concept grew a little bigger.
5. The animals
This past year had some heartbreaking stories in the world of strays and abused pets that highlighted the need for more conscientious pet ownership. Several stories came out of the Graham Leader regarding the financially unstable and overpopulated state of the Humane Society of Young County.
The deaths of community benefactors
The late March death of Louis Pitcock saw many in the community mourning the loss of a dedicated servant to the city of Graham. Whether through his service as a Rotarian, a member of First United Methodist Church or as a general mentor, many city luminaries extolled his vast contributions to the community he loved, including City Manager Larry Fields, NCTC Foundation board member Neal Blanton and FUMC Minister Richard Reed. Among many other members of the community, Graham also lost Ray Herring.
3. The disappearance and murder of Candice Sheilds
Candice Shields went missing on Dec. 11, 2011, and it took authorities 14 months to make their first arrest in the case. Police arrested Jeremy Thornburg Monday, Feb. 4 of this year in connection with the disappearance and murder of Graham resident Candice Shields. Thornburg has been a person of interest in the investigation since he was one of the last people known to have spoken with Shields the night of her disappearance, and his bail was set at $750,000.
2. The numerous upgrades made by the GISD
Most recently, the Graham Leader did a series on the evolving teaching strategies of the teachers of GISD called “The Millennial Strategy.” The crux of that series focused on emerging educational trends for a generation born fully immersed in digital technology. But that was just one aspect of a gaggle of initiatives taken on by the school district this year.
1. The adoption of a new city plan
In October of this year, The Graham City Council approved a new city plan through a unanimous 6-0 vote. The plan was overseen and largely drafted by planning consultant Christopher Butler, and its primary focus is for Graham and its surrounding land to prepare for the inevitable population growth the city will experience in the years to come.
Read the entire story in this weekend's edition of The Graham Leader.