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Vote for 2017 top stories
December 21, 2017

The past 12 months could go down as among the most significant in the community's history.

Long-planned projects finally reached fruition. Others are in their first steps. In some cases, the impact is immediate; in others, it won't be felt fully for years or decades.

Below are the editors' choices of the top seven stories of 2017.

Vote for your choice of top story in our poll on the front page of this website. Voting will continue through 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28. Results will be published in the Jan. 4 issue of the Sun.

Bypass work begins

Many residents who have been hearing about the bypass for more than 20 years were justifiably skeptical it would ever happen, but construction of the Hwy. 30 bypass just south of Lisbon and Mount Vernon got under way this year. Initial grading work resulted in road closures and increased truck traffic. Department of Transportation officials say rubber will meet the road in 2020.

Russell Science Center

By dollar amount, it may be the biggest project ever in Mount Vernon. Cornell College began construction of the Russell Science Center, the centerpiece of a $35 million effort to transform science education facilities on campus. A lead gift of $20 million by Dr. Jean Russell, Class of 1965, is the largest cash gift in college history. The last beam was put in place in the fall, and the building is expected to open in January 2019.

Housing developments

After years of little or no new housing being built in Mount Vernon, two developers had preliminary plats pass the city council. The two developments could add more than 250 residences to the city. Houses may be under construction in the summer in Spring Meadow Heights in the northeast and Stonebrook additions 6-10 in the southwest.

Student success

High school students excelled in extracurriculars this year. Among the achievements: Mount Vernon's Science Olympiad team is the first to knock off Ames for a trip to nationals, dozens of speech students and musicians earned all-state honors, Lisbon's wrestling team won traditional and duals state championships, its track team captured a third state championship, local archers won national titles, Mustangs Libby Ryan and Tristan Wirfs graduate as two of the state's most decorated high school athletes and continue their success at the collegiate level, Blake Langhurst took off in his track career with a medal in a National Junior Olympic event. The success stories go on and on.

Land purchase, wellness center borrowing

Lisbon and Mount Vernon invested heavily in the communities' health, wellness and recreation facilities. Lisbon committed $350,000 to purchase 30 acres near Meyers Meadow to use for a recreation center. Mount Vernon committed to building a $6.5 million community wellness center based on the designs of OPN Architects.

Business changes

Big Creek Emporium closed after 20 years on the corner of First and First as more than half the uptown Mount Vernon businesses opened, closed, changed hands or changed location this past year. There were many more business changes throughout Lisbon and Mount Vernon, such as the opening of Addy's Pub, Fantastic Escape, Big's BBQ, Elaine's and the Gathering Place, not to mention the $12-million, 64-room Rehabilitation Center of Lisbon, which opened in the spring.

New superintendent

Gary O'Malley retired after more than 40 years as an educator and four years leading the Mount Vernon School District. Greg Batenhorst was hired from Clayton, Mo., where he was the assistant superintendent and started at Mount Vernon July 1.

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