Editor’s Note — This is the third weekly installment in a series looking back at what the year 2002 meant for the city of Farmington.
The mid month of summer saw changes start taking place at Farmington Correctional Center, one of the city’s largest employers. Department of Corrections Director Gary B. Kempker announced that long-time FCC Superintendent Jim Purkett would be leaving to take the position of superintendent at the newly constructed Eastern Reception Diagnostic Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. Kempker’s announcement was effective immediately, with Purkett assuming his new duties at the first of the month.
With Country Days a month past thoughts turned to next year. 2003 will mark the first time for an indoor concert associated with the festival in years, and the first time the concert will be held at the Farmington Civic Center. Planners also began work in earnest on the ‘Voices of the Past’ presentation held later that month at downtown cemeteries. The event was a success and raised funds for the downtown development organization.
Officials with the Farmington R-7 School District gathered and celebrated in July 16 with the formal ribbon cutting and grand opening of the district’s new elementary school, Roosevelt Elementary. Board President Randy Rains wielded the scissors for the event, and the school went into use only weeks later.
The month also brought the first official word of a new large retailer making its way to town. Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse announced it would be locating a 100,000-square-foot facility near the corner of Karsch Boulevard and Potosi Street. Early winter would bring even more shocking news, this time of a second large home improvement retailer planning to set up shop in town.
In the “exit” category, some 130 workers were informed that Allegiance Healthcare would be closing its Farmington production and packaging facility in the industrial park. Formerly Ni-Med, the facility sterilized and packaged disposable medical and surgical packs. The plant would go on to close for good on Sept. 13.
The month of July would end with word that country music icon Wynonna Judd would be coming to town to perform for one show at the civic center. That announcement would be tainted only weeks later when Judd abruptly chose to cancel her show, apparently costing the civic center several thousand dollars in a contract agreement.
The eighth month of the year an aligning of candidates for races later in the year. 106th District State Representative Tom Burcham III would handily defeat J. Cecilia Fallert for the Republican primary, while long-time city administrator Jim Dismuke would lose to Presiding Commissioner hopeful Jim Henson. While several other races were decided, these two and what would transpire afterward would become fodder for several additional news stories in coming months.
Students prepared to go back to school, while a slim lead in the vote count between Circuit Clerk Shirley Williford and County Clerk Sandra Wells for the office of circuit clerk in St. Francois County would widen with a court-mandated recount. Following court proceedings and an electronic recount, Wells would go on to win the bid for Circuit Clerk. Presiding Commissioner Mark Hedrick would eventually be sworn in as County Clerk.
Bad news on the wing would arrive with the discovery of a dead crow in the county in August. The West Nile Virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, had slowly been working its way westward in the months prior. Since then several additional cases of the virus were confirmed in the region, with a couple confirmed deaths in the St. Louis area as a result of humans contracting the deadly virus.
For the flatboard and in-line enthusiasts, August marked the month the Farmington City Council finally approved construction of a skate park downtown. The city gave the nod for construction crews to begin demolition and rebuilding of the former city pool site to be made into a 3,000-square-foot skater’s paradise. The park is set to open later this month.
The end of the summer month brought the unfortunate new of the passing of a well-liked businessman and farmer in Farmington. William Detring, 81, had spent his life serving the area on several key boards and positions. He died as the result of a farming accident.
With September came auto accidents and the deaths of students in the Farmington R-7 district. Two weeks in a row brought news of the death of a student as the result of an auto crash. Counselors were made available in the district to talk with students working through their grief.
It was “No Wynonna …” as the headline on Sept. 6. The country crooner reportedly said she didn’t want to come to Farmington after her co-performer on other stops of her tour, Willie Nelson, apparently canceled tour dates due to illness.
Burcham announced he would be withdrawing from the race for a second term as 106th district state representative. In a matter of days Farmington Mayor Kevin Engler announced he would be seeking the position on the ballot. With the approval of local Republican Committee members, Engler would win the nomination and go on to defeat City Councilman Dennis Smith and independent Albert Bohnert for the seat. Engler would resign and mayor and was sworn in as state representative during ceremonies at the state capitol on Wednesday.
The month would end with the downtown Fall Festival being held on a picturesque weekend. Thousands visited downtown for games, activities, contests and music as downtown merchants rolled out the red carpet to show off their wares.
The three month period of 2002 would end just as it started. This time Department of Corrections Director Gary B. Kempker would be announcing that FCC Assistant Superintendent Donald P. Roper would be leaving the prison to go to work as superintendent at the maximum security Potosi Correctional Center.