The word “water” was surely the most printed and discussed in Tunica County in 2010, with both the city and county pondering rate changes, the city mulling large expenditures to its aging utilities and farmers and homeowners feeling nature’s caprices, as the year first brought more water than we wanted and then a months-long drought last summer that threatened to finish off cotton and soybean crops.
The town kicked off 2010 asking citizens to conserve in the wake of freezing temperatures, after the town water system experienced loss of volume and pressure.
Extreme cold continued into February, bringing three snowfalls in succession. And flash floods in May dumped four inches of water in less than three hours into already overtaxed storm drains.
Mother Nature turned fickle again the first of June and turned off the tap, with extreme drought conditions continuing through October. The year was the second hottest on record, too, making for a lethal combination. It was a long, hot summer.
In April, county officials enacted new water and sewer rates, with residential customers seeing a 10 percent increase and commercial rates rising 15 percent.
The town soon followed suit. In September, city leaders took a second look at adding a new well to their system, after negotiations fell through for a tie-in to the county’s lines. At year’s end, water issues were still being debated, as the mayor and aldermen labored to complete a long-term facilities plan.
If water was the pressing issue for the city, the county focused on development, with German company Schulz GMBH announcing plans for a $300 million pipe plant in North Tunica County.
Amid much fanfare, including a visit by Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, Schulz broke ground March 10. By April, site work was underway. A change in general contractors in August refocused the project, and as the year ended, walls and roofing were up and manufacturing equipment had begun to arrive. Schulz also advertised late in the year for maintenance hires, as the project points to start-up in the first half of 2011.
Not to be outdone, Tunica Airport brought more good news: scheduled air service to and from Atlanta beginning in May. The first AirTran 717 touched down on May 6. Then in September, an open house showcased a new terminal.
On other fronts, investors with local ties announced plans in January for the county’s tenth casino property on the site of the former Isle of Capri. Site approval was granted by the state in March.
Construction got underway on the Gateway to the Blues Museum and Visitors Center adjacent to CVB offices in the resort area. And in town, Dollar General debuted a new prototype store in June.
Harrah’s hosted an inaugural Memphis-in-May barbecue contest in October, won by local favorite Natural Born Grillers, and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill opened.
In December, Tunica Humane Society organizers purchased property for a permanent shelter, after receiving significant financial support from the Harrah’s Foundation in October and from Rob Thomas’ Sidewalk Angels Foundation.
The year wasn’t without challenges, however, as Tunica County mourned the loss of one of its own in Afghanistan and rallied around another local family when a pre-teen was injured in an electrocution accident.
Here’s a look back at other significant events of 2010:
January – Good Shepherd Catholic Church officially celebrated the opening of its new church in Robinsonville, and Brenda Mitchell was appointed interim district attorney following the resignation of former DA Laurence Mellen. Mitchell won the post in a special election in November.
February – Beatrice Peace is selected Woman of the Year by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, and Trey Eubanks is a part of a team from LeBonheur of Memphis lending a hand to earthquake victims in Haiti.
March – The county’s convention and visitors bureau is named tops in the state and the Southeast.
April – Tunica County’s unemployment rate tops 20 percent, and longtime reporter Peter Thomas departs the Times’ staff.
May – Heroes emerge in the Madysen Acey accident and a May 15 benefit for Acey exceeds expectations. Catholic Social Services honors employees’ 20 years of service, and Harrah’s announces plans to host the 2010 Miss Mississippi USA pageant.
June – The community welcomes Madysen home, and Stan Collins fights to keep his principal’s post at Rosa Fort High School.
July – Best-selling author Charlaine Harris is honored at Tunica Museum; local Scouts celebrate the organization’s centennial; and Tunica RiverPark announces plans for a fall eco-festival.
August – Main Street considers adding a highway district, and The Tunica Times switches to a Friday publication day.
September – Relay For Life raises over $20,000 to fight cancer, and the county sets a $69 million budget for FY 2011.
October – Tunica County turns out to welcome home fallen soldier William Brandon Dawson; longtime tax assessor Betty Gayle Fields retires; and ScoutBase returns for its third successful event at the Tunica Arena.
November – Galen Henderson’s profile is added to the Sons and Daughters of Tunica County exhibit at the Tunica Museum; and Kristen Fields wins Miss Photogenic at the Miss Mississippi Teen USA pageant.
December – Chickasaw Council BSA honors the Flowers family, and the county begins the process of redistricting.
PHOTO OF THE YEAR: The Tunica community suffered painful losses in 2010, including the death of Private William Brandon Dawson, whose flag draped casket arrived at Tunica Airport on Oct. 8.