SILOAM SPRINGS -- As 2020 comes to a close it is time to reflect on the top headlines of the past year. Many changes came to the city in 2020, resulting in stories that were exciting, poignant, serious, sad and even sometimes fun.
While compiling the list of top news stories, the Herald-Leader staff considered not only the community impact but also the amount of engagement and interest of the public the stories conveyed. Stories one through five will be published on Wednesday and stories six through 10 are listed below:
6.Election and Runoff
This year saw not only a national election but local elections as well. Positions five, six and seven on the city board, as well as the mayor's position, were up for reelection in 2020. To win the election, candidates were required to receive at least 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote, during the primary on Aug. 11.
Director Reid Carroll retained his seat for position five, receiving 494 votes or 52.44 percent of the vote, negating the need for a run-off election for his position. He defeated candidates James Walls, who received 151 votes or 16.03 percent of the vote, and Kevin Williams, who received 297 votes or 31.53 percent of the vote.
Position Six Director Carol Smiley received 459 votes or 47.81 percent of the vote, necessitating a runoff election during the general election on Nov. 3. She would face challenger Nathanael Stone during the general election, who received 297 votes and 30.94 percent of the vote during the primary. A third candidate for position six, Bob Hollaway, received 204 votes or 21.25 percent of the vote.
Position Seven Director Bob Coleman received 427 votes or 45.28 percent of the vote during the primary, which required a runoff election. Coleman would face former mayor David Allen, who received 318 votes or 33.72 percent of the vote in the primary.
Two other candidates for position seven did not fare well. Former city director Frank Johnson received 141 votes or 14.95 percent of the vote, and Michael Henry received 57 votes or 6.04 percent of the vote.
During the runoff election, Director Carol Smiley retained her seat on the city board with 2,752 votes or 51.72 percent of the vote. Her challenger Nathanael Stone received 2,569 votes or 48.28 percent of the vote.
Allen won position seven with 2,743 votes or 51.31 percent of the vote. Coleman, the incumbent director, received 2,603 votes or 48.69 percent. Allen will begin his term on the city board in January.
Former city director Judy Nation who ran unopposed for mayor, received 5,240 votes and 100 percent of the vote. She will replace outgoing Mayor John Turner in January.
7.WOKA Whitewater Park
The year saw a major development come to Watts, Okla., when the Grand River Dam Authority announced a 30-acre whitewater park would be built on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. The park will host kayaking, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, tubing and rafting.
WOKA, which will be adjacent to the old Lake Frances Dam, will be funded by the Walton Family Foundation and operated by the authority.
On Jan. 7, the city approved a contract to allow 17.25 acres of land owned by the Siloam Springs Water Resource Company to be cleared and grubbed (removal of stumps and tree roots) by the authority as part of a requirement by the Army Corps of Engineers to approve their permit for the land.
During the Oct. 6 city board meeting, the city directors voted to approve deeding the land owned by the water resource compny to the authority along with the dedication of easements. The agreement between the city and the authority will remain in effect as long as the land is used as a kayak park, according to City Administrator Phillip Patterson.
Patton Limited, a company owned by the Walton Family Foundation, is transferring 56 acres to the authority to use for the Kayak Park, according to Luis Gonzalez, senior communications officer for the Walton Family Foundation.
On Oct. 29, it was announced the authority and the city broke ground on the water park, a news release stated. Construction is expected to be completed in 2023.
8.John Brown University's Men's Basketball
This year saw the JBU Golden Eagles' stellar season end abruptly due to the coronavirus. The 2019-2020 men's team achieved a season of wins with a 28-5 record and were poised to go to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in Kansas City, Mo., between March 18-24 and were even tabbed as a No. 3 in the Naismith bracket of the tournament.
Then the coronavirus came and everything changed.
On March 12, the NAIA canceled all winter championship events including the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship.
The cancellation brought the Golden Eagles' successful season to an abrupt end, according to Head Coach Jason Beschta who said both he and the team were extremely disappointed.
Along with the series of wins, the 2019-2020 Golden Eagles finished second in the Sooner Athletic Conference regular season and advanced to the tournament championship game where it lost to Southwestern Assemblies of God (Texas).
On Sept. 21, the Siloam Spring Chamber of Commerce celebrated the grand opening of its new maker space.
The maker space is open to the public and allows people to come and create projects for business or leisure. The maker space includes a banner maker; CNC router; 26 computers; laser cutter; 3D printer; plasma cutter; and a fully stocked woodworking shop.
Chamber staff have worked on the maker space for three years, according to former chamber vice president Nathan Reed. On Dec. 19, 2019, the chamber received a $20,000 donation from Cox Communications and the city contributed $12,500 in January to the maker space.
People wanting to use the maker space may fill out an application and pay a membership fee of $39 a month or a day-use fee of $20.
Local inventor Simeon Tiefel, who worked to find accessories and needed items such as storage lockers and even a large elevator gear to use for the maker space, will provide training to use the equipment in the maker space and checking people off to use the machines.
Arthur Hulbert began his tenure as president and CEO of the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 2, succeeding Wayne Mays in the role. Hulbert has lived in the community for five years with his wife Janet and three daughters. Hulbert has a background in healthcare, business, higher education and politics, according to a press release issued by the Chamber of Commerce.
Hulbert is a native of Waldron, and earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Rocky Mountain University in Provo, Utah; and a Bachelor of Health Science and Master's Degree of Science from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, the release states.
In his role as chamber president and CEO, Hulbert navigated through a coronavirus-filled world. The chamber postponed ribbon cuttings in April and May to prevent the spread of the virus and canceled the Dogwood Festival for the year due to restrictions by the Arkansas Department of Heath.
Under Hulbert's leadership, the Chamber helped businesses with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) grants and loans which were administered under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and even helped set up on-site testing at Gates Rubber Company.
Despite the virus, the Chamber was able to continue some events in 2020. On July 9, the chamber hosted its annual Honor Graduate Luncheon at Simmons Great Hall on the campus of John Brown University. The event normally takes place in mid-May around graduation week, but was postponed due to the pandemic. In keeping with the social distancing requirements, honorees were seated with their families instead of together.
The Chamber also hosted two candidate forums for city board candidates running for office as well as giving state candidates the chance to introduce themselves. The first forum was held on Aug. 6 and the second was held on Oct. 22.
The annual Chamber Golf Tournament returned to Siloam Springs in 2020. The tournament took place on Friday, Aug. 21, at the Course at Sager's Crossing. Hulbert said he was excited about the new improvements that were made and are being made to make a quality local golf tournament possible at the Course at Sager Creek.