Editor’s note: With 2013 drawing to a close, the staff of the Lincoln Times-News decided to take a look back at our coverage over the past year and remind our readers about a few of the big stories that made these pages. We checked the statistics from our website, looked at the stories that generated the most Reader’s Forum letters and remembered the ones that drew our interest the most. They’re listed below.
No. 1: The “trash tax”
A $10 monthly surcharge for garbage collection was included in the City of Lincolnton’s 2013-2014 budget, which took effect on July 1. City leaders have admitted that they knew the fee would be unpopular before including it in the $28.2 million budget, but it’s doubtful they expected the tidal wave of disgust and indignation that the so-called “trash tax” brought on from city residents. The fee was cut in half, from $10 to $5, in July, and was then repealed entirely in September.
The topic generated numerous letters to the editor, all in opposition. Even after the fee was halved, the City Council continued to hear from angry constituents during the public comments portions of its meetings.
City Manager Jeff Emory stated, in an article published in the Times-News in June, that the financial standing of the city necessitated the extra revenue if services and employee benefits were to remain at their current levels.
It’s not clear, at this time, how the budget will address those issues for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, but we’re looking forward to reading it when it’s released.
No. 2: Operation Top 40
For the past several years, law enforcement officers in Lincoln County have been kept busy with periodic, multi-suspect drug busts. One of the most viewed stories on our website in 2013 was about “Operation Top 40,” a Sheriff’s Office roundup of 40 suspected drug dealers and users. The raids were the Sheriff’s Office’s sixth operation of its kind since 2011 and second of 2013, with nearly 300 suspects indicted during that time period.
No. 3: Gay-Straight Alliance club at West Lincoln High School
The Times-News broke the story about the Gay-Straight Alliance club at West Lincoln High School in our Dec. 16 edition. The club, currently being advised by WLHS principal Dr. Cale Sain, is designed to “promote understanding and tolerance,” according to the story. Sain said several of the club’s flyers advertising its meetings were torn down off school walls and a homophobic slur was recently painted on a large rock that rests on the school’s campus. The formation of the club created a firestorm on social media, and students and parents have made several allegations of bullying and threats. We’ll be publishing more on this story in the coming weeks.
No. 4: Actavis plant to shut down
The loss of over 300 local manufacturing jobs was unwelcome news in our Nov. 8 edition.
Actavis, which manufactures pharmaceuticals, announced it was shutting down its Lincolnton plant, with the doors closing in mid-2015. A company spokesman said the plant’s prescription drug operation was moving to the company’s Salt Lake City, Utah facility and over-the-counter medication production was being transferred to a third party.
No. 5: Man loses 400 pounds
The story of Lincolnton resident Todd Reynolds’ dramatic journey from 634 lbs. to 234 lbs., in August, was another one of the most-viewed stories on our webpage. According to a story by staff writer Jenna-Ley Harrison in our Aug. 14 edition, Reynolds lost the weight through a dieting program called Body by Vi, through Michigan-based Visalus Sciences. Reynolds was the company’s first customer to reach the 400-lb. goal.
City elections — Democrats maintained control of Lincolnton’s City Council after November’s elections. Dr. Martin Eaddy edged Republican Jay Thomas for the seat vacated by longtime councilman Carroll Heavner. Incumbent Republican Devin Rhyne narrowly bested challenger Mary Frances White and Republican mayor John Gilleland, running unopposed, kept his seat.
Solar farm — A 36-acre solar farm that was proposed for the county’s eastern end drew consternation from residents of a nearby housing community. The property’s owner and Strata Solar had requested a rezoning of the plot to allow for the solar panels. After public hearings and planning board meetings, county commissioners voted to deny the rezoning request at their December meeting.
Kidnapped woman struck and killed on US-321 — A Catawba County woman who had been kidnapped was struck and killed by multiple vehicles on US-321 in August. Police said the woman had been kidnapped by a man and stabbed several times before jumping from the vehicle.
Program helps get young readers up to speed — A program through the YMCA of Greater Charlotte helped young readers from 1st-3rd grades that had low reading scores improve their skills over the summer vacation. The six-week program was free for the students, with funding coming from grants and donations.