Every year, the Dodge City Daily Globe counts down the Top 10 local news stories that have most affected our readership.


    Every year, the Dodge City Daily Globe counts down the Top 10 local news stories that have most affected our readership.
    Below, in no particular order, were the top newsmakers in 2008.
   
    1. After at least a decade of lobbying the Legislature, supporters of expanded gaming succeeded in bringing a casino to Ford County this year.
    The Dodge City nonprofit organization teamed up with the Olathe-based Butler National Service Corp. on the resort-style casino, which will include a hotel and other attractions when the complex is completed. The company broke ground on the casino in mid-December, and the first phase is expected to be completed by December 2009. Butler officials have said the second phase of the $87.5 million complex will be completed within 38 months after the first phase opens.
    Butler is the only casino developer left standing at the moment. Developers in the state's three other expanded gaming zones have pulled the plug on their proposals, citing the national economic turmoil and other reasons.
   
    2. Seven months after the Dodge City Commission decided to ban smoking in public places, the commission adopted an ordinance spelling out the details of the ban.
    The ban, which took effect in September, outlaws smoking in public places unless the owner creates a special room with solid impermeable walls or floor-to-ceiling windows. The room must maintain a negative air pressure, meaning that more air is exhausted from the area than is directly supplied by heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. In addition, the smoking room must include a ventilation system that exhausts air from the room directly to the outside.
    The city gave business owners until April 1 to decide whether they want to be completely smoke-free or create a special smoking room.

    3. A former Dodge City police officer will spend the rest of his life in prison, with no possibility of parole for at least 20 years, for killing his former girlfriend.
    Christopher Tahah was convicted in April of first-degree murder and criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied dwelling in the May 5, 2007, death of Erin Jones. The two had been dating, but Jones broke off the relationship earlier that spring.
    At trial, Tahah denied that he was at Jones' house the morning she died.
    More than a year after the killing, Tahah was sentenced to life in prison on the murder charge and an additional 102 months on the firearms charge. The two sentences will run consecutively.
    Tahah's attorney later asked the court for a new trial, contending that District Judge Leigh Hood had mistakenly excluded certain evidence from the first trial. But Hood denied the request, saying he had heard nothing in the defense's motion seeking a new trial that would change his mind.


    4. Ford County's new law enforcement center is becoming a reality, 15 years after county officials first started looking at replacing the current jail.
    The county broke ground in May for the law enforcement center, located next to the Ford County Fire/EMS station at 113 Road and Comanche Street. The project's cost has been capped at $21 million, and county officials are looking at ways to keep the project from going over budget without sacrificing essential features.
    The project is financed with revenues from a special sales tax, which Ford County voters approved in 2007.
   
    5. Dodge City police investigated two homicides involving children this year.
    The first death occurred July 2, when 3-month-old Juan C. Pablo-Tino died at his home in Dodge City. His father, Francisco Pablo-Bicente, is awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse.
    In an unrelated case, Pablo-Bicente is also facing charges that he committed identity fraud to get a job in Dodge City. He has pleaded not guilty to the identity fraud charge but has not had a contested preliminary hearing on the other charges.
    The second tragedy occurred Nov. 19, when 3-year-old Natalie V. Pickle died at a Wichita hospital of injuries she suffered in Dodge City.
    Police Chief John Ball said Tuesday that no arrests have been made in the Pickle case.

    6. Despite opposition from residents of north Dodge, the Dodge City Commission moved forward with plans to build a wastewater reclamation plant just outside the north city limits.
    The city bought about 312 acres of land about one mile north of town for the plant in August, then asked the Wichita-based company Professional Engineering Consultants to investigate other possible sites. After completing its research, PEC concluded that the north site was the best choice for the plant.
    In November, the city hired PEC to oversee design and construction of the plant.
    The company has said that the city's current wastewater treatment plant south of town is not large enough to accommodate additional demand from the upcoming casino and other developments in north Dodge.

    7. USD 443 officials spent much of the year deciding the best way to address the growing need for a second middle school.
    After exploring several options and conducting a patron survey, school board members decided that renovating Hennessy Hall on the former St. Mary of the Plains campus was a viable option that also fit many residents' desire to use the facility once again.
    Much public controversy led district officials to change floor plans so that Hennessy Hall could keep its place on the National Register of Historic Places and maintain its eligibility for various historical grants and tax credits.
    The district also wants to renovate Dodge City Middle School and expand Soule Intermediate Center to accommodate DCMS students during the expansion.
    The nearly $60 million bond proposal — with approximately $32 million for renovations to Hennessy alone — will be up for election Jan. 27, when Dodge City residents will decide if an additional middle school is worth the increase in property taxes.

    8. Dodge City residents gathered on Oct. 21 to celebrate the grand opening of Ross Elementary School, which opened in August.
    Fourth-graders served as student ambassadors and proudly showed visitors their completed campus and daily classroom activities. 
    The district's ninth kindergarten through fourth-grade school boasts 25 classrooms equipped with the latest technology, two computer labs, a library, a music room and a 5,000-square-foot gymnasium. Increased state funding after the Fair Funding for Schools lawsuit helped finance the $13.4 million project without raising taxes.
   
    9. The end of the biofuels boom arrived in Ford County in December, when a Los Angeles-based company filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Boot Hill Biofuels.
    Biofuel Venture 1 is seeking repayment of a $750,000 loan for start-up capital to Boot Hill Biofuels, which had proposed building an ethanol plant near Wright.
    The case has been converted to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows the debtor to postpone all payments on debts so he or she can reorganize the business.
    The first meeting of the creditors is set for Jan. 23.

    10. Strange things happened on Halloween night in what had become a one-sided high school football rivalry in southwestern Kansas.
    The Dodge City High School Red Demons beat the Garden City Buffaloes 22-16 in front of a packed house at Memorial Stadium, putting the hatchet to rest for at least a year at home in Dodge. The win also put DCHS back in the 6A playoffs for the first time since the 1994 season.
    Dodge was up 14-0 at halftime before Garden City roared back to make it a game in the second half. The Demons used a balanced offensive attack to sustain enough momentum to scrape out the biggest win of the season.