EDITOR'S NOTE: Lots of news happened in Farmington, Prairie Grove and Lincoln in 2017. While all three communities have many top stories, The Enterprise-Leader will highlight some of them from each community over the next three weeks.
Former Court Clerk Pleads Guilty
Jimmy Lewis Story, the former district court clerk and finance director for the city of Farmington, pleaded guilty in federal court in November to embezzling more than $1.5 million from Farmington. Story, 57, of Fayetteville, pleaded guilty to one count of theft concerning programs that receive federal funds and one count of filing a false income tax return, according to a news release issued by U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas.
Sentencing will come at a later date. Story was allowed to remain free on a $5,000 bond while he awaits sentencing.
An investigative report issued by Arkansas Legislative Audit accused Story, who resigned after 21 years with the city on Dec. 5, 2016, of misappropriating more than $1.5 million over an 8-year period by receiving revenues for Farmington District Court and the city's general fund but not depositing the money into the appropriate bank accounts.
The audit report showed that Story was the sole employee responsible for preparing and making bank deposits, reviewing and reconciling bank statements and entering information into the court's case-management system. He also was the only city employee authorized to enter and edit information in the district court system.
The city has since started new procedures to prevent this from happening in the future.
New High School Opens
Farmington School District opened a new $13 million high school, called Farmington Career Academies. The spacious building has wide hallways, large classrooms and fully equipped science labs, a modern media center, an agriculture department with separate welding stations for students and an inviting commons area for students to eat lunch and visit with each other.
The new school has 99,000 square feet and houses programs for television/media production, robotics and pre-engineering, healthcare professions, along with fine arts and core classes. It allows Farmington to continue its journey to adopt a career academy model to better prepare all students for life after high school.
Major storms in late April flooded about nine houses on Rosebay Lane in Meadow Sweet subdivision as city and emergency crews were out in force to deal with water issues. Water from the mountain on the other side of Garland McKee Road and a creek coming down the hill rushed across the road and flowed down Rosebay Lane. Residents on Rosebay Lane described their street as a river with floating debris and logs.
According to the National Weather Service, western Washington County received 8-9 inches during the April 28-29 weekend.
Voters Approve City Sales Tax
Farmington voters approved a new, local 1 percent sales tax with one-half of the revenue going to retire bonds for capital improvement projects and the other half going to the city's general fund. The new tax took effect Oct. 1 and replaced one that went off the books. This new tax is a permanent local sales tax.
In August, Farmington City Council approved an ordinance to issue $5 million in sales and use tax bonds: $2.8 million for street improvements and $2.3 million for parks and recreation improvements. When the bond issues are paid off, all of the 1 percent sales tax revenues will be dedicated to operation and maintenance expenses for the city of Farmington.
Sonic Drive-In was named Business of the Year and Farmington teacher Mary Jane Silva was named Citizen of the Year by the Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce at its annual spring banquet.
The Drive-In donates money, water, gift cards and paper goods for many events in the area. It also provides fundraiser cards to help organizations raise money.
Silva was recognized on behalf of the Farmington Back to School Bonanza. Each year, the Bonanza provides free shoes, backpacks, haircuts, socks and shoes to hundreds of children. Silva started the Bonanza at Farmington United Methodist Church and coordinates the event each year, with the help of about 100 volunteers.
New Residential Subdivisions
For the first time in possibly 10 years, the Farmington Planning Commission approved preliminary plats in 2017 for new single-family housing subdivisions. Windgate Subdivision will have 27 lots and is located on Rheas Mill Road. Farmington Heights will have 125 lots on almost 40 acres on the south side of West Sellers Road.
Also for the first time in more than 10 years, single family homes are under construction in a new subdivision in Farmington. The final plat for Saddlebrook Subdivision on Clyde Carnes Road was approved in December 2009 but plans had remained dormant since then. In September, Riggins Construction began pulling building permits for constructing new houses. About 44 permits were issued for the subdivision in 2017.
Williams Named Top School
For the fourth consecutive year, Williams Elementary School in Farmington was named a top performing school in the state based on academic achievement and/or academic gains on the 2016 state tests. As part of the honor, the school received $19,500 in reward money.
Also, Donna Norsworthy, high school counselor, was named secondary counselor of the year by the Arkansas School Counselor Association and then received the state's top counselor award for the year.
School Millage Extended
Voters in Farmington School District gave their support to a request to extend the district's existing millage rate and debt service so it could issue bonds to help pay for football, soccer and track facilities at the new high school.
Farmington School Board adopted a resolution in November to issue more than $4 million in new bonds dedicated to the new athletic facilities. The average annual debt payment will be $240,000.
Student Dies In Accident
Farmington High School students mourned the loss of one of their classmates and held a balloon release in celebration and memory of his life. Isaac Cartwright, 17, a junior at the school, died April 12 following a one-vehicle accident that occurred on U.S. Highway 62, just past the Farmington city limits in Fayetteville. Isaac played tuba in Farmington High Band and was involved in theater. Friends described him as a student who would walk into a room and the "atmosphere would get so much brighter."
New Taco Bell
A new Taco Bell restaurant opened Dec. 20 on Main Street, next to the Walmart Neighborhood Market store. Other businesses that opened in 2017 (according to business license records from City Hall) include Rollin' Thunder, To the Touch Massage, River Dental, Mainstreet Motors, Andrea Brewton Photography, Rising Phoenix Martial Arts, Endless Air of the Ozarks, Chic Gypsy Boutique, Aspen Mini-Storage, Northwest Security, Upper Cervical Clinic of NWA, De Marco's Italian Restaurant, Old School Vintage.General News on 01/10/2018
Print Headline: Farmington Top Stories: Embezzlement, New High School, New Businesses