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The best news stories of 2014

ALCOHOL IN POPLARVILLE: A Poplarville resident takes advantage of the newly legalized beer and light wine availability at Keith’s Superstore in Poplarville.  Photo by Jodi Marze

ALCOHOL IN POPLARVILLE: A Poplarville resident takes advantage of the newly legalized beer and light wine availability at Keith’s Superstore in Poplarville.
Photo by Jodi Marze

Now that 2014 has come to an end, the Item revisited the year’s news coverage and voted on the ten most notable stories of the past 12 months.

After months of deliberation, the City of Poplarville began selling beer and light wine on Jun. 1. A special election was held on Tuesday, Mar. 25 in which the citizens of Poplarville voted to approve alcohol sales within city limits by a final count of 384-157.

Pearl River County District II Supervisor Joyce Culpepper passed away on May 1. Culpepper’s daughter, Michelle Carr, filled in for her mother on the board as an interim supervisor until Malcolm Perry was elected to fill the position in November.

On Wednesday, Aug. 13, Picayune couple Jenna Lockwood and Whitney Brown filed for Pearl River County’s first same sex out-of-state marriage license. The two were married in New York on Jun. 26 of this year.

On Thursday, Sept. 18, a vehicle crashed through the front window of the Donut Hole on Memorial Boulevard in Picayune. The driver reported mistakenly driving into the building while trying to put the vehicle in park.  Two people were injured, including 78-year-old Joel C. Bennett, who sadly succumbed to his injuries and passed away after being pinned between the vehicle and the bar of the establishment.

In the months of April and May, the City of Picayune and Pearl River County were relieved of two separate loans that were taken out after Hurricane Katrina. Picayune was forgiven of a $3.2 million loan from FEMA, while the county was relieved of a $4.6 million FEMA loan.

In May, employees of Lockheed Martin at Stennis Space Center went on strike to protest the change of the company’s retirement plan. Lockheed Martin’s decision to switch from a pension retirement plan to a 401K angered union machinists employees who were concerned about the security of their retirement funds. The strike lasted less than a week before the employees accepted Lockheed Martin’s final offer and returned to work.

The city of Poplarville held an election on Sept. 12 to determine who would take control of the vacant seat in the Poplarville Board of Aldermen, but after the votes were counted for the runoff election, each candidate found themselves tied with 177 votes. Mississippi Code states that if two candidates are tied after a runoff election, the two must draw lots to determine the winner. Stephanie Bounds and David Glen Bolin agreed to the draw of straws on the Thursday night following the election.

Upon drawing the long straw, Bolin was declared the winner and new member of the Poplarville Board of Aldermen.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa reached historically high levels of infections and fatalities, and while the deadly virus never directly impacted Pearl River County, the threat hit close to home when a Poplarville school bus driver’s trip to Africa created concern in the community.

The bus driver never visited an infected area while overseas, but with national news reports about the virus spreading, parents were concerned for their children’s safety. Not wanting to be a distraction, the man voluntarily agreed to stay home from work for 21 days to give the community peace of mind.

The individual was not infected with Ebola, and he returned to work as scheduled after the three-week quarantine period was complete.

In January, south Mississippi was slammed by a winter storm that caused Governor Phil Bryant to issue a state of emergency for 36 counties in the state, including Pearl River County. Citizens of Picayune endured the storm as city officials spread salt and sand on bridges in an attempt to reduce the dangers of icy roads. Freezing rain and snow coated the city and wind chills dipped to single digits. Three people lost their lives in a car accident on the U.S. Highway 11 bridge during the winter storm.

It was decided that the top choice for the year’s most significant story was the coverage of the Australian cattle dogs that were rescued after suffering neglect at the hands of two local residents.

Lynne Hackney, 56, and Miles Allen, 57, were arrested in October for two counts of simple animal cruelty after more than 70 dogs were found living in poor conditions at a residence on East Canal Street. The dogs were collected and taken to the Pearl River County SPCA, where volunteers provided them with the best care possible. Australian Cattle Dog Rescue, Incorporated worked with the Pearl River County SPCA to find appropriate foster and permanent homes for the dogs. Hackney and Allen pleaded guilty to two counts of animal cruelty in Pearl River County Justice Court on Dec. 2 and were subsequently fined $483 a piece, said Deputy Chief Shane Tucker in a previous story.