By all accounts, it was a newsy year. A contentious election, a spate of celebrity deaths, and civil unrest marked national news. But there were no shortage of headlines in Brownfield and Terry County either. Here is a look at our Top 10 stories of 2016…
NUMBER 1…Cubs win State Title
For the first four months of 2016, the community lived and breathed with the Brownfield Cubs basketball team, culminating in March with the program’s first ever State Title.
Prior to that, the Cubs and Head Coach Dustin Faught won their second consecutive Caprock Classic title, then cruised through District play with double-digit wins every time they took the court.
Their closest contest of the year was a heart-stopping victory over Kermit in the Area round.
Two wins at the Regional tournament set the Cubs and their legion of fans headed to San Antonio for three days of championship basketball.
On the opening day of the tournament, the Cubs topped the Aransas Pass Panthers, 70-54, to advance to the championship round.
Then on Saturday morning, they took the court on the biggest stage in high school sports.
By the final buzzer, the Brownfield Cubs defeated Winnie East Chambers, 80-54, to claim the State Title.
Fans, officials, reporters, and television commentators watched in awe as the Cubs’ unmatched speed wore the Bucs down, particularly the career-defining performance of Jezreel Griffin.
Of the Cubs’ 80 points in the final game, 39 of them belonged to Griffin, along with 15 rebounds — enough to make him the obvious choice for the tournament’s 3A Most Valuable Player, announced following the game.
Three Cubs — Jezreel Griffin, Alex McCrary, and Jaelyn Nolan, were named to the 3A All Tournament Team, an honor reserved for the five top performing players in state tournament.
The team was welcomed back to Brownfield with a police escort and dozens of cars lining the highway with waving fans and honking horns.
The Cubs enjoyed celebrity status for a few weeks and were presented with a special honor by Congressman Randy Neugebauer at a ceremony in Cub Gym. Each player also received a commemorative ring over the summer.
NUMBER 2…Walmart announces closure
In October, the community was shocked and disheartened to learn that Walmart would close its doors after the new year.
Company officials notified store employees, city administrators, and the Brownfield News of the decision on a Friday morning and word spread like wildfire on social media.
The announcement garnered more than 20,000 views on the Brownfield News’ Facebook page, drew hundreds of comments and was shared by more than 400 people.
Comments on the Facebook feed ranged from dispair to outrage, but most just asked why?
A company spokesperson told the News that the current location didn’t meet Walmart’s future needs, but she would not say whether the national retail chain would open a different location at a later date.
In recent weeks, customers have seen the local Walmart’s inventory dwindle and the store’s footprint shrink as shelves are rearranged to block off portions of the building.
Walmart opened at its current location at 1405 Tahoka Road in 1986 and is scheduled to close for the final time at midnight, January 31.
The closure effects the jobs of 80 people in the community, some of whom were offered severance packages or transfer options.
City officials have begun negotiations for a replacement retail chain to fill the void left by Walmart’s closure, but no official deals have been announced.
NUMBER 3…Blizzard cleanup
This time last year, the entire county was reeling with the aftereffects of a historic snowstorm. A snowstorm of the like that most of us had never before experienced.
The storm blew in on the day after Christmas and continued to blow. And blow. And blow. Cars were covered in snow. Streets were impassable. Churches canceled Sunday services. Businesses were forced to close due to the weather and cabin fever set in on everyone.
By New Year’s Day the storm was over, but the cost was far from over. Most businesses lost at least three or four days of revenue. Churches that had to close lost a week’s worth of giving.
United ran low on groceries as trucks were unable to run to restock. And United, which traditionally only closes two days a year had to make the decision to open later and close earlier for employee safety.
Loss of revenue was high for the week. Some businesses reported losses in the neighborhood of $5,000 due to the blizzard.
The cost of the overtime hours for Lyntegar lineman, Texas Highway Department and city crews, both street and electrical was high.
The county was out much the same expense for overtime hours for county precinct workers, not too mention the extra diesel and extra repairs.
The loss on the farm was huge, as well. Cattlemen lost livestock, both to exposure and to downed fences. Cattle roamed freely about the area as the fences were blown down.
Cotton modules sat in the fields in snow banks waiting for it to dry enough for trucks to get in. All the while, going down in quality due to the exposure. And, there was still some cotton left on the stalk. Stalks that were buried in snow.
Goliath 2015 translated into Huge Expense 2016 in a big way.
NUMBER 4…City inks power deal
In June, the City inked a deal to ensure Brownfield residents would have electricity after the looming 2019 switch from Xcel Energy.
By unanimous vote, the City Council authorized administrators to negotiate a contract with American Electric Power for wholesale electric services.
The resolution was the beginning of the end of a years-long ordeal concerning the city’s power source.
Brownfield residents have purchased their electric power from their home city for decades, but the source of that power has been in doubt since 2010 when Xcel announced that its wholesale contract with the West Texas Municipal Power Agency would not be renewed in 2019.
For the better part of 40 years, Brownfield has been a member of the WTMPA, along with Floydada, Tulia, and Lubbock, however numerous moves by the City of Lubbock and its electric subsidiary, Lubbock Power and Light, have made the future of the WTMPA less than crystal clear.
LP&L annoucned in 2015 that Lubbock would join the marjority of Texans on the ERCOT grid in 2019, but the City’s move in June indicated that Brownfield will not follow that move.
The cities of Floydada and Tulia passed identical resolutions at the same time as Brownfield to contract with American Electric Power and it is anticipated that the three cities will combine their purchasing power to negotiate better rates.
In August, the council made the deal with American Electric Power official, ensuring the lights will come on for Brownfield residents in 2019.
NUMBER 5…Click announces retirement, new CEO hired
In August, Brownfield Regional Medical Center CEO Mike Click signaled the end of an era when he announced his intent to retire after a four decade career with the city’s premier healthcare facility.
Click agreed to stay on for the duration of the search for his replacement, which began immediately with the formation of a CEO Search Committee made up of three board members, two doctors, and a community member.
The hospital board authorized funds to hire a consultant to assist with the search and the committee met numerous times with the professional to outline what BRMC was looking for.
More than 50 applications poured in from across the state and nation, which were paired down to five finalists who traveled to Brownfield for interviews with the committee.
In December, the committee presented Jerry Jasper of Amarillo as the lone finalist and he was approved.
Jasper has an impressive resume and career in healthcare management, most recently operating two private hospitals in Amarillo.
Jasper is set to begin his tenure at BRMC at the end of January. He will move to Brownfield with his wife and family.
The hospital board welcomed Jasper, while thanking Click for his many years of service in seeing the local hospital through numerous ups and downs over the years.
NUMBER 6…BISD earns “Met Standard” status
After months of hard work and long hours, it was announced in August that BISD had officially Met Standard on all campus. This news was a long time in coming and the staff and faculty, as well as students of BISD were commended for this distinction.
In this area, “Below Standard” and “Met Standard” are the only categories.
BISD met all four indexes after just missing our on Index 4 last year. Assistant Superintendant of Curriculum and Instruction Ray Vasquez stated, “We are very excited about our accountability ratings. This is a huge plus for our district.”
According to Vasquez, the district made great strides on Index 2, which measures the academic growth of the students from one year to the next.
BISD was also honored with a “Distinction Designation in Fifth Grade Science.” There were also huge growths earned in Math at BMS.