MIAMI COUNTY — It was a year of ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, farewells and new beginnings. It was a year that saw new leaders chosen in local elections and a heated presidential race. Here are some of the local stories that made the news in 2016 in Miami County:
School bus crash kills one, injures several
The driver of the car who crashed head-on with a school bus had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit, according to autopsy results.
Miami County Coroner Dr. William Ginn released the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office autopsy results in March. The coroner ruled the cause of death as multiple blunt-force trauma for Taylor Dickey, 21, of Troy, from the Jan. 28 head-on collision with a Milton-Union school bus.
The blood alcohol level of Dickey was listed as 0.293. The legal blood alcohol limit in Ohio is 0.08. The report also listed two antidepressants present in her system at the time of her death. No drugs were detected, according to results.
The Miami County Sheriff’s Office crash investigators completed a crash data retrieval (C.D.R.) from the on-board computer of Dickey’s Chevrolet Cavalier. According to the data, the vehicle, traveling westbound on State Route 55, had reached a speed of 101 mph and was showing acceleration immediately prior to the crash, in which Dickey went left of center and collided head-on with the eastbound bus. The data also shows that no braking occurred prior to the crash and that the seat belt was not engaged.
Several students on the bus suffered injuries and were taken to the hospital or to the school to be treated for minor injuries following the accident. All students — middle through high school age — were released the same day.
Veterans’ memorials dedicated
• The Veterans Monument at Miami Memorial Park near Covington was rededicated on May 21.
• The Troy-Miami County Public Library and the Miami Valley Veterans Museum partnered together, along with dozens of community members and businesses, to dedicate a Veterans Memorial on the north side of the library in November. Troy resident Jeff Schlarman donated his time and talents to create the new memorial, which includes a granite-style bench, a new flag pole and insignia of each military branch at its base.
• A newly opened section at Piqua Veteran’s Memorial at the corner of State Route 66 and Washington Avenue includes an additional 2,200 bricks available to add names of area veterans to the memorial walkway.
Treasure Island opens
Treasure Island Park had its grand opening and lighthouse dedication on June 12 in Troy. An open house and tours were held for the public to view the park and marina building’s renovations.
As part of the ceremony, an official dedication of the park’s lighthouse was held in honor of the gift from the Troy Foundation to commemorate the foundation’s 90th anniversary and the city of Troy’s 2014 Bicentennial celebration.
Treasure Island’s improvements include an amphitheater, concrete picnic shelter and walking paths. The paths also feature canal lock stones recovered from the demolition of the Hobart Manufacturing building.
The Hobart family built Treasure Island and the Boathouse as part of the post-war expansion of recreational facilities along the Miami River. The Boathouse opened in 1946 as a marina. The city spent $960,000 to renovate the marina, which now hosts the Smith’s Boathouse restaurant that opened in November. The restaurant offers grand views of the river, including seating on the patio overlooking the water.
Chris Jackson of Tipp City signed a three-year concession agreement with the city’s Community Improvement Corporation for seasonal canoe, kayak and other watercraft to be held at Treasure Island. Jackson has dubbed the business “Adventures on the Great Miami.”
Pleasant Hill’s Sesquicentennial
In June, the little village of Pleasant Hill put on a big party to celebrate the 150th birthday of the village. The event, held at Newton Local School, included a rededication of the village’s Civil War monument, period games, re-enactments, food, arts and crafts, competitions, a parade and more. The Pleasant Hill History Center also offered historical displays of early history, and there was a 40-foot display of Civil War artifacts at the celebration.
Orr Felt closes
Local manufacturer Orr Felt closed on the last day of June this year. Melody Weaver, president of the union at Orr Felt, attributed the closing to the tough competition of the paper industry.
Orr Felt traces its history to 1848, when Young and Yeager Textiles in Piqua, one of the first textile companies in the Midwest, began producing woolen fabrics, fleeces and coarse materials. In 1901, A.M. Orr and his father, Colonel W.P. Orr bought the company and reorganized it as the Orr Felt Company, manufacturing blankets and papermaker’s felt.
In 1964, under new owner Dimitri P. Nicholas, the company reorganized and replaced old machinery with modern production equipment. In 1990, Nicholas sold the company to his family. His son Dimitri M. Nicholas was president and retained sole ownership of the company until its closing.
Motorcade honors deceased soldier
A motorcade escorted the body of United States Army Specialist Kyle Gantt to Piqua after arriving at the Dayton International Airport in July.
The motorcade involved over 750 motorcyclists and representatives from numerous law enforcement agencies to honor the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment soldier, who recently passed away. Area residents also lined the street at the intersection of Ash and Main streets to pay tribute to the 30-year-old Gantt.
Hope Over Heroin
On July 8 and 9, Miami County’s Hope Over Heroin event drew a crowd of several hundred to the Miami County Fairgrounds over the weekend. The faith-based outreach also included a “City of Resources” for addicts and family members to connect them to social and faith-based services.
PCS hits a ‘double header’
With professional and personal lives that have taken similar trajectories, it seems fitting that Dwayne Thompson and Tony Lyons now are working side by side to lead Piqua City Schools. Both are Piqua natives who began their careers as teachers, though Lyons taught in a different school district before returning to PCS; both eventually became school principals; and perhaps most significantly, both recently appointed in 2016 to the top of the district’s administrative ladder — Thompson as superintendent and Lyons as assistant superintendent.
Covington schools ‘living the dream’
Covington Schools dedicated a new school building this year, bringing forth to their educational fleet a campus that now houses both elementary and middle school students in Covington.
The new K-8 school building project was co-funded by the the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). Its total cost — including its multiple phases, such as engineering and construction — was approximately $19 million. The Covington school district approved a 3.89-mill levy and a 0.25 percent income tax in May 2013 in order to fund the $9 million portion of the project for which the district was responsible. That portion included $8 million for the newly constructed PK-8 school and $1 million for the renovations at the high school.
York murder trial
Hope Earnshaw-York recalled details of the final moments of 88-year-old William York’s life as she watched her boyfriend Richard Terrel strike her grandfather in the back of the head with a baseball bat in York Sr.’s garage on May 26, 2015.
The investigation files were made public following Earnshaw-York and Terrel’s sentencing hearings with Judge Christopher Gee presiding on Nov. 29.
Terrel, 37, of Troy, was sentenced to serve 15 years for voluntary manslaughter, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse, and two counts of receiving stolen property for the theft and sale of York’s guns before his death. The felonious assault charged merged with the voluntary manslaughter charge, according to the plea agreement with the state. He received 545 days of jail credit. He entered a plea of guilty to the charges in October, admitting he killed York.
Earnshaw-York, 25, was sentenced to serve three years in prison for her role in York’s death. Her charges included tampering with evidence, gross abuse of a corpse, possession of heroin and three counts of receiving stolen property. She faced up to nine years in prison, but the court was unable to impose consecutive sentences due to the lack of evidence in the case. She entered a plea of no contest to all the charges. She received 547 days of jail credit. She will be released in approximately a year and a half due to time already served. She could serve up to three years of post-release control at the discretion of the parole board upon her release.
Earnshaw-York told investigators she was carrying her 3-year-old son’s toys into York Sr.’s garage on Evanston Road, Tipp City, along with her grandfather on May 26, 2015. Her boyfriend, often referred to as her husband, Terrel, was also in the garage working on the brakes of his car. Hope stated her grandfather was frustrated and “nitpicking her about things around the house.”
The pair moved the body to the home’s basement, then to a storage unit in Dayton before dumping York’s body in a river in Union, Ky., where it was recovered by officials on June 3, 2015.
Miami County Fair and festivals
• Miami County Food Truck Rally and Competition — Despite gray skies and cool weather, crowds flocked to the county fairgrounds for the second annual Miami County Food Truck Rally and Competition in May. Building on the success of the inaugural event, the 2016 rally drew 43 food trucks from all over the area — about a dozen more than the first year — and thousands of hungry visitors. The event was deemed a success, with some food trucks running out of food hours prior to the event’s end. The top three food trucks that chose to compete were awarded prizes — first, second and People’s Choice.
• Strawberry Festival — Approximately 70 non-profits benefited from 2016 Troy Strawberry Festival, held June 3-5, selling many kinds or foods and drinks — many of them built around the strawberry theme. Business manager Corie Schweser deemed the festival a success, with the non-profits more than recovering on Sunday from a bit of rain on Saturday. Chairman Nathan Walters said he was honored to have served during the 40th anniversary year of the festival, saying his favorite part of the festival was bringing two of his loves — his love of barbershop singing and the festival — together for one theme “A Capella Berries.”
• Miami County Fair — The barn doors closed on the Miami County Fair in mid-August, and despite weather issues, organizers had a sunny attitude on a soggy situation. While several events had to be cancelled due to the seemingly never-ending rain, residents from throughout the county grabbed their umbrellas and rain boots and headed out to support the 4-H kids and fair board. Chris Janson, Carter Winter and Jameson Rodgers brought a huge crowd to the stadium for the annual concert.
• Festival of Nations — Despite some rainy weather, people from around the area came to experience the cultural diversity offered at the 2016 Festival of Nations in August. Booths representing countries from all across the globe featured arts and crafts, music, and food central to the cultures represented. The festival’s featured country was France.
• Fort Rowdy — Covington’s annual Fort Rowdy Gathering on Labor Day weekend allowed local residents to take a step back in time and experience life from the pioneers’ perspective. The weekend included food booths, entertainment and a mountain man encampment accessible by crossing a wooden bridge constructed specifically for the festival. Merchants in period dress set tents up alongside camping tents, and people dressed in both pioneer garb and 21 century fashion mingled, traded, and bought goods.
• Mum Festival — Fall weather made an appearance just in time for the 58th annual Tipp City Mum Festival in September, and the good weather made for big crowds this year. The annual event includes a cruise-in, parade, food, entertainment, arts and crafts and more. This year’s festival theme was “Revving Up the Mums.”
• Piqua BikeFest 2016 — The sounds of motorcycles and music filled the air in mid-September as the third annual Piqua BikeFest took place in the downtown area and at Piqua Harley-Davidson. Despite the rainy weather, thousands of motorcycles and enthusiasts came out to attend the weekend-long event that featured vintage and custom bikes, live music, food, stunts and others demonstrations, vendors, and even a wedding. Proceeds from BikeFest are donated to local businesses and organizations.
• Pumpkin Show — Pumpkin was the reigning flavor for the month of October, when the Bradford Pumpkin Show came to town. The village streets are the backdrop for one of the most popular festivals in Miami County, which offers a midway featuring games, rides, crafts, concessions and merchandise. During this five-day event, visitors enjoyed several parades and indulged their taste buds with pumpkin ice cream, corn on the cob, and many other tasty treats.
• Miami County Park District’s Fall Farm Fest — Every year, among the tree-lined lanes and colorful foliage at Lost Creek Reserve, the Miami County Park District hosts its biggest event of the year, Fall Farm Fest. The historic Knoop Homestead at the Reserve was a hub of activity for the thousands who attended the two-day festival celebrating Miami County’s agricultural heritage. The annual event offers a 6-acre corn maze, corn cannon, live music, food, hayrides, a scarecrow contest, children’s activities, demonstrations, vendors, display booths, farm animals, kiddie tractor pulls, a pumpkin patch and more.
West Milton development announced
In November, the village of West Milton announced plans to develop a new housing and commercial development to be called Stillwater Crossing.
This $65 million investment is projected to create 250 jobs, 150 new homes, and add new businesses and senior living options to the community. Stillwater Crossing is planned to include a nursing facility, Randall House, surrounded by 17 senior cottages. The development would also include a healthcare facility, commercial spaces, and a projected 150 single-family residential homes.
The village has a signed letter of intent from Ryan Homes to build in the development. Those single-family homes are estimated to be in the low- to mid-$200,000 range.
In June, council approved an option to purchase a $1.1 million, 97-acre parcel of land located across the river on State Route 571 and Iddings Road, south of the Stillwater Golf Course. About $12 million in public improvements to the property will be financed through a TIF, or tax increment financing.
Historic Tipp City buildings damaged in fire
After the June fire that shut down two downtown businesses and displaced several residents, Merchant31 has reopened and Browse Awhile Books is on target to reopen in the new year.
Fire crews were called to Browse Awhile Books in the Old Tippecanoe Main Street Historic District twice, the first time around 10 p.m. on June 20. The fire rekindled, and crews were called out again early the next morning.
Owner Bill Jones told the fire department that an estimated $1 million in inventory was damaged or destroyed in the blaze. The store specialized in hard-to-find, out-of-print, used and rare books. Residents of the upstairs apartments lost all of their belongings, as well as a pet cat.
Volunteers immediately came together to raise funds for the businesses and residents, and to salvage books from the store.
Over the course of the next several months, the 1871 building was stripped down to the studs, receiving all new siding, floors, roofing, and more.
Police officer cleared in death of woman
A West Milton police officer was cleared of wrongdoing in a fatal traffic crash in West Milton on Nov. 6. Officer Jason Stevens, 38, had just gotten off-duty on the night of Nov. 6, and was traveling in his personal vehicle south on Miami Street when he struck Tina L. Miller, 45, and her dog, who were crossing the highway on foot. Both Miller and her dog died at the scene. The crash was investigated by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who sent a crash reconstruction team to the scene that night. Lt. Joe Gephart of the Piqua Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said that investigation findings indicated, “The pedestrian was found to be the ‘at fault’ unit in the crash.”
Biggest drug bust in county history
The Miami County Sheriff’s Office incarcerated three family members and another subject — with ties to the Mexican drug cartel — with active warrants connected to an alleged large-scale drug ring.
The Miami County Sheriff’s Office arrested three subjects at 109 N. First St., Tipp City, on indictments stemming from the alleged drug ring, which was first uncovered 18 months ago. Charges range from possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, money laundering and various other charges involving patterns of corrupt activity and conspiracy.
Brothers Mario Segura, 33, and Erick Segura, 24, along with Aleesha Segura, 22, were served warrants for their arrest related to the drug ring at the Tipp City residence on Sept. 1.
Another subject Jose Barajas was arrested a few days later in Dayton in connection with the incident. The Seguras are U.S. citizens. Four of the eight are still at-large with nationwide pick-ups. U.S. Marshal’s Service and I.C.E. have been contacted about the ones at large.
Approximately 248 charges have been filed against the Seguras, including 30 first-degree felonies, with possible lifetime prison sentences for all three.
According to Major Steve Lord, the eight subjects all are tied to the alleged drug ring and have connections to at least 36 kilos — or nearly 80 pounds — of heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine that has been distributed in the Miami Valley in the last two years.
“This a large scale organization that tracks back into Mexico — big money,” Lord said. “This is probably the biggest (drug bust) in my career. For a county our size, this is a massive amount of drugs.”
At a press conference, officials displayed 4 kilos each of heroin and four bricks of methamphetamine, that were seized in the drug bust conducted 18 months ago in Tipp City.
The seized drugs have a street value of more than $1 million.
Hobart Arena expansion
Hobart Arena’s $9.6 million renovation project is adding 50 percent to the current square footage of the arena. The expansion will include new restrooms, a kitchen, concessions, multi-purpose room ticketing, locker room and “back of house” space where acts can meet-and-greets before they perform, and includes a new main entrance on the south end of the facility.
The target end date for the project’s completion is February.
Trotwood’s Hara Arena announced it was closing its doors this August. Hobart Arena Director Ken Siler said several ice hockey groups and other organizations that used the Hara conference center have reached out to Hobart Arena since the announcement of Hara’s closing this year.
Warren Davidson, who finished former Rep. John Boehner’s unexpired term, will return to Washington, D.C. for a full term, following the November elections. Miami County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dave Duchak beat his opponent, Joe Mahan, to replace seven-term sheriff Charles Cox. Greg Simmons also beat longtime Miami County Commissioner Richard Cultice for his seat on the commission.
Troy City Council ultimately passed and ordinance to withdraw its 2.01-mill recreational levy from the Nov. 8 election due to potentially conflicting language that was included on the ballot. Upon review, it was determined that the calculations and the valuation amounts are accurate. However, the millage amount had a misplaced decimal.
Piqua voters approved two charter amendments, including one that allows the Piqua City Commission to appoint the mayor themselves.
A host of fire, EMS and school levies also were decided throughout the county.
Sheriff Cox dies
The longest-running sheriff in county history, Sheriff Charles Cox made his final patrol around the Miami County Safety Building, where public officials, deputies, and county employees lined the street to bid the sheriff farewell on Nov. 10.
Cox, who served as Miami County Sheriff for seven terms and more than 28 years, died at 5:15 a.m. Nov. 10, at Hospice of Dayton. Law enforcement officials from multiple jurisdictions escorted Cox’s body through the city of Troy around 10:30 a.m. before heading to Piqua, where arrangements were handled by Jamieson and Yannucci Funeral Home. A memorial service was held on Nov. 22 at Ginghamsburg Methodist Church.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave a speech inside a hanger at the Dayton International Airport Saturday, March 12, 2016, during a campaign stop.
Army veteran and Miami County businessman Warren Davidson won a special election in June for Boehner’s unfinished term, winning with more than 75 percent of the vote. He was challenged in November by Steve Fought, a Democrat from Clark County.