Hopes realized and dreams shattered are among this year's list of Top 10 Stories covered by the Daily Sentinel. The rankings selected reflect reader interest, impact on the area at large, and how events might later be seen as history for Plymouth County and the City of Le Mars.
1. Wells' Dairy's announcement that it is considering a new corporate headquarters -- maybe outside of Le Mars and the State of Iowa brought local concern and tri-state interest.
Three governors came to Wells' officials to make offers from Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska to encourage consideration of their states as the location for a new corporate campus to replace seven buildings scattered around Le Mars to serve 400-and-more nonproduction employees.
Will Le Mars continue as home to executives, technical and clerical employees making Blue Bunny products? The mystery continues as officials consider offers from several cities, including Le Mars.
2. Lisa Boss spent most of 2003 as a prisoner of the Plymouth County Jail, held on charges of first degree murder, kidnapping and child endangerment in the February 2000 death of her adopted son Timothy. Her husband, Donald L. Boss Jr., was convicted of murder in December 2002 in a jury trial held in Le Mars, which attracted media coverage from throughout the region. Lisa Boss had won a change of venue with a trial scheduled in December 2003 in Council Bluffs.
In a November surprise, Lisa Boss married fellow inmate Joe Green in a ceremony relayed to each of their cell blocks. Within days she pled guilty to reduced charges and was sentenced to a maximum of 50 years. Meanwhile, the 10-year-old's remains were separated and sent to forensic specialists as potential witnesses. The Boss tragedy is on the Iowa Associated Press ballot for top stories in the state.
3. Water and wastewater -- Le Mars took advantage of low interest rates to bond for up to $9.7 million improvements to the wastewater treatment plant. Odors from the WWTP caused continuing comment throughout the community as the City of Le Mars and consultants for the City and Wells' Dairy planned a re-design of some processes. The city also made plans to use about $7 million for a new treatment plant for water.Two wells would be added, another two shut down and four improved.
4. After years of planning, the Iowa Department of Transportation has been working on design and property acquisition in Plymouth County in preparation for work on the Iowa 60 corridor from Omaha to Minneapolis. Construction should begin in Plymouth County in 2004, reports Dakin Schultz, IDOT field services coordinator.
The bypass is designed for three interchanges into Le Mars which should eliminate dangerous intersections at the Highway 75 junctions with County Road C-38 and Highway 60.
Schultz said today that IDOT will be letting soon for the Iowa 3 portion of the project.
"Iowa 60 was one of the high dollar projects in our 2004 plans," said Schultz. He estimated about $54 million of the $400 million construction program, or about 12 percent, will be spent on the 60 corridor.
About $37 million has been let so far on the project. The Iowa 3 interchange portion of the project will cost $2-3 million.
"It's moving along," said Schultz of the overall project.
IDOT continues to work on some of the design issues and has worked out deals with the county and the City of Le Mars regarding transfer of roadway. Also, a bridge in Plymouth County over the west fork of the Floyd has been let.
Schultz said the Highway 3 portion of the project was moved up to be done at the same time as the bridge so the road would not be closed for two years.
Letting is done and work started north of Alton to Sheldon and "They've done a lot of work up there. You can see the progress," he said. Letting is also done for the part of the project south from Alton to the north end of the Le Mars. bypass.
A land use plan of the bypass area has been endorsed by the City of Le Mars and Plymouth County to guide likely areas for residential, commercial and industrial development of different types.
5. Le Mars said a 'till we meet again' to members of Troop C 1-113th Calvary Squadron of Le Mars in October. It was the largest deployment for the 1-113th Calvary Squadron since World War II, according to Maj. Edward K. Graybill, deputy public affairs officer.
Charlie Company spent several months training in Fort Stewart, Georgia, have returned home for the holidays and will ship out soon for peacekeeping duty in Kosovo. They are expected home mid-summer, when an $ $867,000 addition to the Le Mars Armory will be nearing completion. The unit's need for a tilt-skillet and its record of being at or above troop strength led to the project.
6. Plymouth County completed its $5.4 million Law Enforcement Center to replace a jail which did not hold the needed number of prisoners and failed state inspections. Prisoners were moved into the jail in early August after months of construction that also saw the paving of 14th Avenue Northeast. That construction was interrupted by frequent complaints by a chief contractor, with a request for arbitration filed. Claims are still under examination by the architect.
7. Community Betterment Project of Le Mars was announced in the fall of 2002 as a program of six recreational projects to construction or renovation. An expansion of the outdoor swimming pool included a zero-depth entrance, water spray features, a large curving slide into a plunge pool and lounge furniture in an enclosure to the north. The project just missed the traditional Memorial Day weekend opening.
Action continued at the skateboard park next door, which opened October 2002 to crowds of skateboarders who tackle those yellow and blue hills on every warm day. Tenants expanded recreational and health programs at the Community Wellness Center, where the YMCA serves as an anchor. Additional pledge and grant money funded work on the CBP.
8. Remsen-Union Community School District passed a public referendum to renovate and expand school buildings after four previous votes failed. The new project keeps the old elementary building but means the trailers that have long stood in as classrooms will be gone.
9. Deaths and injuries due to traffic collisions plagued Plymouth County in 2003. The latest was the death of four students from Kingsley-Pierson Community School District who crossed the road on snowmobiles. It is likely for the community, that time will be marked as before or after that horrible accident.
Two Le Mars young women are still in recovery after car accidents which occurred this fall.
10. A story about hope and a dog again made the Daily Sentinel's Top 10. The story of the taffy-colored Labrador mix saved from the pound to be a companion to Betty Jordt of rural Hinton in Hancock Township seemed to touch hearts from around the world. Taffy, who had been missing for seven months, returned just in time for his owner's birthday. She found him waiting for her on the deck one March morning as if he had never left. Taffy's story was picked up by the Associated Press services which led to phone calls from around the world, including a live radio program in New Zealand.
A Top 10 hardly seems sufficient in a year which included the display of The Wall That Heals, a replica of the Vietnam Memorial which attracted thousands to Le Mars.
Certainly emotions were high as the Bulldogs of Le Mars Community High School made it to the football semifinals for the second year in a row.
This was the year when the first phase of Le Mars' StreetScape program appeared downtown.
The Olson Cultural Events Center hosted thousands of people who enjoyed national entertainers, Ice Cream Days, Scoop 'da Loop, Farmers Market, outdoor movies and other activities.
Ice Cream Days was deemed as the top event in the state by tourism experts. The Ice Cream Capital of the World Visitor Center was previously named the top attraction.
Healthcare was a topic that attracted much talk by Presidential candidates coming through the area in preparation for the Jan. 19, 2004 Iowa caucuses. Gov. Howard Dean, Rep. Dick Gephardt (twice), Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards and Rep. Dennis Kucinich have all made public appearances in Le Mars. The area has its own improvements in healthcare as Floyd Valley Hospital is renovating its building for more outpatients and emergency care. The hospital used its municipal status to bond for the renovation and a CT scanner costing more than $.5 million.
Construction continues at the Le Mars Business Park where a Wal-Mart Superstore sees shoppers from throughout the region. Strip malls in several Le Mars locations were renovated or constructed.
A new building in El Guante, Honduras, has Le Mars connections. As Mission Honduras of Le Mars officially became a nonprofit organization, a $50,000 medical clinic was completed to serve the poverty-stricken area. The clinic will serve as a center for development in the village where groups of students and adults have traveled from Gehlen Catholic School for several years.
It's been a busy year -- and more stories are already unfolding for next year.