Looking back provides a time to reflect on the top headlines of the year 2021.
The communities of Farmington, Prairie Grove and Lincoln saw the return of traditional events in 2021, as well as new challenges.
The covid-19 pandemic continued to dominate headlines with positive cases waning in the spring and early summer before ramping up again with the Delta variant, covid vaccine clinics, mask mandates, quarantines and Zoom meetings for safety.
Housing boomed in western Washington County, with Farmington setting a record for the number of permits issued for new residential construction in a single year.
An officer-involved shooting on May 4 in Prairie Grove stands out as the top news story for 2021.
Prairie Grove police officer Tyler Franks was shot three times on May 4 while responding to a domestic disturbance with officer Andrew Gibson.
Gibson returned fire and was able to move Franks to safety where he applied two tourniquets to stop the bleeding. Gibson is credited with saving Franks' life with his quick action.
Franks was taken to Washington Regional Medical Center. After several surgeries, Franks' left leg was amputated from above the knee because of irreparable damage to his vascular system. Franks was able to return home on June 2 to continue his recovery and has been fitted with a prosthetic leg.
The following provides highlights for each month from the pages of the Enterprise-Leader in January-June 2021. Highlights from the remaining six months will be published in the newspaper's Jan. 19 issue.
• The city of Lincoln hired Thomas Pinder Jr. as a full-time fire chief, along with the administrative duties. Previously Lincoln had a volunteer fire chief and full-time fire administrator. Pinder came from the Schertz Fire Department in Schertz, Texas.
• Larry Oelrich, director of administrative services and public works for the city of Prairie Grove, retired after 41 years with Prairie Grove. He took time off for several months and returned during the summer to work part-time as the city's administrative assistant.
• Local firefighters and police officers were some of the the first in western Washington County to receive the new covid-19 vaccination and area schools, along with local pharmacies, began sponsoring vaccine clinics for teachers and other staff.
• Farmington, Prairie Grove and Lincoln school districts received their first round of federal covid relief funds.
• Voters approved the city of Prairie Grove's proposal to replace two existing sales taxes with two new sales taxes of the same rate to pay for bonds to finance capital improvement projects with a total estimated cost of $15 million. Voters approved issuing bonds for a new fire truck and water, street, park, sewer and drainage improvements.
• Voters in Farmington School District approved a proposal from the district to restructure debt so that it could issue new bonds for construction projects, including additions for the junior high and two elementary schools.
• Snow and multiple days of single digit and subzero temperatures in western Washington County and across Northwest Arkansas caused power shortages, water shortages and closed school buildings and city offices. The area received a total of eight inches over two snow events and had nine consecutive days of freezing temperatures from Feb. 10-18, 2021.
• Farmington Planning Commission approved the large-scale development plan for Farmington Hills Community, a development with 57 duplexes on 16.6 acres at the end of East Wilson Street.
• Terri Strope, assistant superintendent with Farmington School District, submitted her resignation, effective at the end of the school year. Strope had worked in education for 35 years and served Farmington schools for 21 years.
• Prairie Grove Lions Club announced that it would host the Clothesline Fair over Labor Day weekend 2021. The fair was canceled in 2020 because of covid-19 concerns.
• Sterling Drug owner and pharmacist Gary Davis celebrated his 50th anniversary with the store on April 1, 2021.
• The city of Prairie Grove and Entegrity celebrated the city's new solar array during a "Flip the Switch" ceremony. The array is located near the city's wastewater treatment plan and is expected to generate $28,000 in annual savings for the city.
• Prairie Grove School District was the first district in the area to drop the mask mandate for covid-19 during the second semester of the 2020-21 school year. The school board voted to make face coverings optional for students and staff.
• Farmington School Board voted to promote junior high Principal Joe McClung to assistant principal, effective July 1, 2021.
• All three school districts announced they would have in-person, outdoor graduation ceremonies with masks optional and no restrictions on the number of guests allowed to attend.
• The city of Farmington created a new code enforcement position.
• Ron Bond, who served Prairie Grove School District for 20 years, submitted his paperwork to retire as an educator. Bond was high school principal for 18 years and a junior high teacher for two years. He finished his 34th year in education, which included five years with Farmington schools.
• Nickolas Colbert of Prairie Grove was booked into the Washington County Detention Center on a $1 million bond after his arrest in connection with the shooting of Prairie Grove police Officer Tyler Franks. Colbert was arrested in connection with attempted capital murder (two counts), domestic battery in the third degree, aggravated assault (three counts), aggravated assault on a family or household (three counts), criminal use of a prohibited weapon and terroristic threatening (four counts).
• Lincoln High School, during its 2021 graduation ceremony, surprised graduate A.J. Valdez with "AJ's Sno Shack," a food trailer that Valdez would be able to use to sell snow cones at community events. Valdez, who was diagnosed with autism as a young child, had expressed thoughts that he would like to have a snow cone truck one day and the school made his dream come true.
• Farmington School Board approved a $3.8 million energy savings performance contract with Entegrity Energy Partners. The company guaranteed the school would save $282,389 in annual costs when all the energy projects are implemented. Projects include LED lighting, replacing HVAC systems, multiple solar arrays, smart thermostats.
• Prairie Grove Police Officer Tyler Franks returned home June 2, four weeks after he was shot three times while responding to a domestic disturbance. The community of Prairie Grove held a parade in his honor to welcome him home. Franks and his wife, Amber, were escorted by a long line of vehicles from law enforcement vehicles across Northwest Arkansas.
• Lincoln Middle School was named a 2021 Arkansas Opportunity Culture Model School for its efforts to "improve student access to a high-quality education by extending the reach of excellent teachers to more students."
• Stacy Hurst, secretary of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, came to Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park to address those concerned about the preservation of historic artifacts store on park property and a decision to move the artifacts to another facility. She said a goal would be to keep the artifacts in Prairie Grove "in perpetuity."