2010 was a good year mostly with good stories and thought-provoking issues throughout.
No. 1 — Community clashes over Islamic Center of Murfreesboro
From the Islamic Center trial to local crime, here are the Top 10 (11, because it was a good year) stories that shaped 2010 in Rutherford County and Murfreesboro.
1. Community clashes over Islamic Center of Murfreesboro
On top of everything that happened in 2010, one story stands high above the rest: the protest over the proposed Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
In April, the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved a site plan for the local Muslim community to build a 52,000-square-foot community center with worship space on Veals Road.
A backlash ensued with a group of citizens claiming proper public notice wasn’t given to the community of the request and its subsequent approval by the planning commission.
The plan was approved under “use by right” provisions that allow all religious groups to circumvent public zoning hearings by simply submitting plans for approval.
Some residents felt they didn’t have proper notice, and some argued the size of the facility and its planning requirements warrant review. Still most who protested focused more on the threat they feel the Islamic faith presents to the community.
The approval and protest received national attention as the angry voices grew and eventually made it to the Rutherford County Chancery Court.
In mid-November, Chancery Court Judge Robert E. Corlew III denied temporary injunctive relief sought by local plaintiffs in a lawsuit to stop the construction of the community center.
During eight days of testimony that stretched over three months, plaintiffs demanded the planning commission investigate members of the local Muslim community and wanted Judge Corlew to force the local government to halt all subsequent permits for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
In the end Corlew ruled the plaintiffs failed to show how they would be treated differently than other residents if the mosque construction moved forward and denied the requested temporary injuction.
2. RuCo turns red
In the elections of 2010, Rutherford County completed its trend toward the Republican party.
The party took all of the races in the County General Election for the first time in history.
The biggest shocker of the night was Robert Arnold’s defeat of veteran Sheriff Truman Jones. Arnold won with 51.8 percent of the vote, 2,729 votes over Jones, who has served as sheriff since the mid-80s.
Not only did the Republicans pull off the sheriff’s race, but the party also unseated incumbents in the circuit court clerk and register of deeds races.
The red tide flowed in November, when Republicans swept into the state house in picking up at least a dozen seats, putting them solidly in control of both houses of Tennessee’s General Assembly.
Two of those new seats came from Rutherford County, where the GOP picked up an open seat vacated by Donna Rowland in the 34th District and a win in the 49th District.
In the 34th District, Rick Womick beat his Democratic challenger Bill Shacklett with 16,389 votes to Shacklett’s 7,734.
State Representative-elect Mike Sparks didn’t win by such a wide margin, but still pulled in 58 percent of the vote to incumbent Democrat Kent Coleman’s 42 percent.
The remaining Rutherford County Republican incumbents – State Sen. Bill Ketron, State Reps. Joe Carr and Pat Marsh – all retained their seats easily.
With these wins, and others across the state, the GOP now controls both legislative chambers, along with the governor’s office, for the first time since the Civil War.
3. New MTMC opens
At a cost of $267 million, the new Middle Tennessee Medical Center opened its doors Saturday, Oct. 2 as a 286-bed facility with additional unfinished space for more beds in anticipation of the county’s continued growth.
The nearly 600,000 square feet of new construction includes 10 surgical suites, 32 intensive care beds and 30 obstetrical beds, as well as a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit.
The new hospital’s campus at 68.5 acres is more than four times larger than MTMC’s old campus on Highland Avenue where the hospital was established in 1927.
It is located in this city’s Gateway District on Medical Center Parkway, between Thompson Lane and the Stones River.
4. TBI investigates MPD officer’s death
On Oct. 23, the body of Murfreesboro Police Officer Brittany Maxwell was found dead from a suspected suicide in her home.
“No foul play is suspected,” TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.
The 25-year-old was named one of “Murfreesboro’s Most Beautiful People” by Murfreesboro Magazine in its October issue.
The TBI was called in at the request of Chief of Police Glenn Chrisman and Rutherford County District Attorney Bill Whitesell, MPD spokesman Kyle Evans said.
Maxwell lives on with “The Brittany Project,” which was intended to collect artificial trees for those families in the Franklin Heights Housing Complex who otherwise will not have a tree.
5. Square fire claims three buildings
On Saturday, March 20, a fire claimed three businesses a block off the Square on West Main Street.
The fire started shortly before 11 o’clock Saturday morning in the Music City Medical Supply building on West Main Street. The fire quickly spread throughout the building and likely into the neighboring buildings, 3 Brothers Deli and a music store.
The medical supply building is a total loss. The roof collapsed in on the 100-year-old building and damaged both 3 Brothers and the music store.
The fire department had 30 firefighters on hand with four engine companies and one elevated platform truck. The department battled the blaze for more than two hours before getting the fire under control. No one was injured in the fire.
3 Brothers Deli and Restaurant reopened in September.
6. Post names new publisher
Long-time newspaperman Ron Fryar took the driver’s seat of The Post as its new publisher in March.
“I’m excited to be back in Murfreesboro,” Fryar said. “Taking the reins of The Post will give me not only the opportunity to renew both personal and professional relationships with many of my friends and business acquaintances here, but also allow me to work with a dedicated and vibrant staff.
Fryar takes the place of former Post Publisher and President Mike Pirtle. Michelle Willard was named as The Post editor and Travis Swann the sales and marketing manager.
7. Killings acquited
Rutherford County Sheriff’s Det. Killings had been a controversial figure for the RCSO since he was tried for the hitting and killing 11-year-old girl Lakeisha White with his patrol car while en route to aid another officer July 17, 2007 on Bradyville Pike.
Killings was indicted for reckless homicide of White of Hopkinsville, Ky., filing a false police report and tampering with evidence.
Besides the homicide charge, Killings was accused of concealing a bottle of liquor so the container would not be used as evidence. Also, he was accused of giving a false statement to Murfreesboro Police investigating the crash. But those charges were dropped after he was cleared of wrongdoing in the reckless homicide case.
Killings was rehired by former sheriff Truman Jones in early August after being cleared of wrong doing in a trial this spring and other charges were dropped afterward. He subsequently fired by the new Sheriff Robert Arnold in September.
8. Explosion on South Rutherford Boulevard
An explosion reported shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 at the RockTenn factory on South Rutherford Boulevard was caused by a boiler, authorties said.
Initially officials thought a ruptured gas line caused the explosion, which led to the closure of South Rutherford Boulevard and the CSX tracks.
The explosion heavily damaged the walls and roof of the boiler room and was felt as far away as Warrior Drive and the Public Square.
Murfreesboro Building Codes is inspecting the damaged part of the building and Tennessee’s Division of Boilers, Elevators and Amusement Devices looked into the cause of the explosion.
9. Tracy resolution on illegal immigration passes
A resolution, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy commending the state leadership of Arizona on their tough new immigration law, passed the Tennessee Senate late Friday night in the final days of the 2010 regular session of the 106th General Assembly.
The measure passed the Senate with a majority vote of 17-7. The House passed its version by a count of 67-27 last month.
The measure congratulates Arizona lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer for “their actions to protect their citizens and the borders of our great nation.”
The Arizona law requires authorities to enforce the federal law, notifying the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if a person is reasonably suspected of being in the country illegally.
Rutherford County’s legislative delegation plans to introduce a similar law in the 2011 legislative session.
10. SportsCom pool opens
Murfreesboro’s SportsCom outdoor pool reopened to the public in June after months of renovations.
Bids for the renovation project were received by the city in January. The pools were originally built in 1987 and were scheduled to reopen Memorial Day of this year.
The total cost of the project was $3.6 million. Renovations include an extensive shallow splash area for younger children, water slides, a rock-climbing wall, and space for basketball and volleyball.
11. UFO experts to touch down in Murfreesboro
Local officials of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), the world’s largest scientific UFO research organization, held a second conference in Murfreesboro in September.
According to state MUFON officials, 2010 has been a big year for UFOs in Tennessee.
“We’ve been very fortunate this year.” says Alyson Burgess, MUFON Field Investigator and State Director of Public Relations. “Not only have we seen an increase in the number of sightings reported, but the quality of the reports has been improving by leaps and bounds. We’ve worked some very good cases in Tennessee this year and we’re very excited to present them to the public so that they can examine the evidence for themselves.”
Particularly important to Burgess is the opportunity to let Tennesseans know that they have someone credible to call if they spot something strange in the skies.
One of the highlights of this year’s event was a presentation by Travis Walton, famed author, speaker, and subject of the 1993 blockbuster film “Fire in the Sky”.