It was January of 2015 when Fayetteville-Lincoln County was left reeling as Daikin Industries, Ltd., announced it would be closing its Goodman plant here in Fayetteville in two years — that story tops the list of headlines over the last decade.
For much of the last 50 years, the manufacturing facility has served as the county’s leading employer, boasting a workforce of 1,800 people at the peak of its annual operations. And while operations have continued well beyond its anticipated 2017 shutdown, the vast majority of its employees have now been permanently laid off.
Company officials said Texas simply provided the best option for consolidated operations. There, in the Houston suburb of Waller, Texas, the company opened the Daikin Texas Technology Park in 2017, a $417 million campus that includes manufacturing, engineering, logistics, marketing and sales for Goodman and other product lines.
No. 2: Tornadoes
April tornadoes that left a path of destruction and killed two residents came in at number two in The Times’ decade review.
Moments of chaos and sheer terror enveloped Lincoln County on Monday, April 28, 2014, as two tornadoes – an F2 and an F3 – swept the eastern half of the county, devastating South Lincoln Elementary and leaving hundreds of structures impacted in its wake.
The first of the tornadoes, the F2 that touched down at 6:09 p.m., had estimated peak winds of 115 miles per hour and was the ground 9.5 miles, with a maximum width of 250 yards. Damage was reported in the Lincoln, Vanntown, Flintville, and Elora areas.
The second, an F3 that touched down two hours later at 8:09 p.m., was the worst of the two, proving to be fatal for one couple here, John and Karen Prince, who had taken shelter at South Lincoln School during the first tornado before heading to their Tipton Road home not far away. That tornado had peak winds of 160 mph and was on the ground for 15.7 miles, traveling a more northward path from the state line to South Lincoln toward Kelso and Champ. It had a maximum width of 500 yards.
Early assessments put the damage of the deadly tornadoes at $24.3 million. According to the Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency, 327 structures were impacted, including 51 homes destroyed, 36 sustaining major damage, 90 with minor damage, and another 150 impacted in some other way.
In the final few weeks of the school year, South Lincoln and Flintville students split time in classrooms at Flintville School. Despite the extensive damage at South Lincoln, the school reopened just four months later.
No. 3: Sir’s Fabrics
The massive fire in February of 2018 that destroyed Sir’s Fabrics, an iconic business that helped shape Fayetteville over the preceding 70 years, is ranked at number three in the decade’s top news.
The blaze that engulfed Sir’s Fabrics and its sister store, Sir’s Marketplace, on North Elk Avenue in Fayetteville had gotten its start Saturday evening, Feb. 10, 2018, and then rekindled in the early morning hours Sunday, Feb. 11. Despite valiant efforts by the Fayetteville Fire Department, assisted by crews from the Lincoln County Volunteer Fire and Rescue, and Tullahoma Fire Department, by dawn only smoke and ashes remained of the store that had drawn folks from across the southeast to Fayetteville for decades.
Investigators later determined that the cause of the fire was likely electrical in nature.
The far-reaching effect of Sir’s Fabrics was evidenced in the response to The Times’ Facebook posts over that weekend with news of the devastating fire. Social media exploded as news broke that the store had been lost. Within the first day, The Times’ posts about the fire had over 5,500 shares and reached over 600,000 people who posted thousands of comments. Those posting were folks from across the nation who had visited the store or at least were familiar with it, many sharing childhood memories of days spent with multiple generations shopping at Sir’s.
No. 4: City high school
It was in December of 2010 when the Fayetteville City School Board voted unanimously to embark on a building program that would relieve overcrowding in its schools and launch a new city high school, earning the number four spot in the decade’s top news.
Five months later, in May of 2012, a referendum vote failed on whether the city should be allowed to issue up to $10 million in general obligation bonds to fund the building program, which included a new wing addition to Fayetteville Junior High, which became Fayetteville High School that fall.
Then a few months later, that August, Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen gave its unanimous approval to issuing up to $6 million in capital outlay notes to fund improvements at Askins and Fayetteville Middle School only.
Fayetteville High School opened its doors in the fall of 2012, the first year of a high school program in the city school system.
No. 5: Valley View fire
An early morning fire in June of 2017 destroyed a portion of Valley View Apartments and injured two, bringing to the forefront fire flow and pressure concerns that led to a lawsuit being filed by a neighboring church against the City of Fayetteville and Fayetteville Public Utilities. The fire and subsequent fallout led to this story being ranked at number five for the decade.
While the cause of the fire at Valley View Apartments remains unknown, it did reveal that flow and pressure needed to adequately fight fires in the area were lacking, sparking a joint meeting among city leaders, FPU officials and fire department personnel to address the issues. Already, FPU had begun a water line redundancy project which eventually provided adequate flows.
No. 6: Camp Blount
Efforts to preserve the Camp Blount Historic Site continued to move forward with a groundbreaking ceremony being held Aug. 16, 2019, signaling the start of Phase I of the project.
A crowd of over a hundred gathered at the site just off the Huntsville Highway to the south of the Elk River Bridge to hear state and local leaders instrumental in the project speak and watch as ground was broken. The 39-acre site is where thousands of Tennessee soldiers mustered more than 200 years ago under the leadership of Gen. Andrew Jackson against the Creek Indians in the War of 1812.
A sign marking the park’s entrance off the Huntsville Highway, not far south of the Elk River crossing, will soon be erected, and in March, the statue of The Volunteer should be placed – the form is in Montana at the foundry now, according to officials, noting that they are hoping for an unveiling on March 21, 2020.
No. 7: Parks City sewer in 2013
After three years of study, an agreement paving the way for the extension of sewer service in Parks City gained approval from the Lincoln County Commission late in 2013, ranking at number seven in the decade’s top ten.
That November, the Lincoln County Commission and Fayetteville Public Utilities agreed to enter into a contract for FPU to provide operations, maintenance and management services for the wastewater collection system in Park City. In May of 2018, though, that would change, as county’s legislative body authorized the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities to take on responsibility for the system.
No. 8: New industries
Announcements in early 2016 of new industries locating in Fayetteville-Lincoln County, the top story of that year, ranked at number eight in top stories of the decade.
That January, then Gov. Bill Haslam and state economic development officials joined local leaders in announcing that Toledo Molding Die, Inc., would invest $20 million and create 250 jobs in a new 126,000-square-foot facility to be located in the Winchester Highway industrial park.
On the heels of completing that facility, the company announced in February of 2018 it would proceed with a major expansion, doubling the plant’s size and adding between 150 and 200 more jobs to the company’s workforce here. That expansion was completed this past year.
In December of 2018, Hirotec America, a member of the Japan-based Hirotec Group, announced it would invest $40 million and create more than 100 jobs in Lincoln County over the next three years. Construction is underway at Runway Centre in Parks City and should be completed and operational in the third quarter of this year.
In May of 2019, Hematite, Inc., announced it would invest $11.5 million and create nearly 70 jobs over the next five years here, retrofitting a vacant industrial building at 49 East Park Drive in Fayetteville. Hematite plans to be operational in the third quarter of this year.
Earlier in the decade, Frito-Lay completed a $70 million, 125,000-square-foot warehouse expansion.
No. 9: Growth
Announcements of growth in 2011, voted that year’s top story, came in at number nine in the decade’s top ten.
There were several new construction projects that year, including construction of two large apartment complexes, a new Zaxby’s, and the Hampton Inn. Plans for the addition of a new Marvin’s Building Materials and Home Center were also announced.
As the year came to a close, the Lincoln County Commission also voted to sell the 110-acre Runway Centre to the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Industrial Development Board.
No. 10: Tax proposals, budget woes
The property and wheel tax proposals of 2012, which brought out protestors, along with a city sales tax referendum that failed at the polls, was ranked at number 10 in the decade’s list of top stories.
With a sluggish economy continuing throughout 2012, budget woes were a theme for local government, with the Lincoln County Commission operating on a continuing budget resolution while debating property and wheel tax increases.
The commission originally considered a 77-cent property tax increase; however, that effort failed in a vote which saw nearly 200 taxpayers watching from the gallery and a second courtroom filled to maximum capacity. The protests were led by a local group, “We the People of Lincoln County”, which mounted a heated campaign against the proposal to raise the wheel tax by $50 and implement the 77-cent increase in the county’s property tax rate.
The following month, the commission approved new recommendations to raise the county’s property tax rate by 20 cents, instead of 77 cents, and wheel tax by $50.
A petition drive aimed at having the $50 increase in the wheel tax put before voters in a referendum followed but failed after election officials confirmed that an insufficient number of qualifying signatures had been gathered on petitions. The wheel tax increase took effect Jan. 1 of the following year.
There were other notable stories throughout the last decade.
Among them, Lincoln County Schools began construction in September of 2019 for a new school in the Blanche community and a new STEM wing on the campus of Lincoln County High School.
The community was shocked when the bodies of three – two women and a child – were discovered in a Parks City home in October of 2012, only to find out as the investigation continued that the case involved six murders at four crime scenes spanning both Tennessee and Alabama. Two years later, the multiple murder trial of Zakkawanda Moss and the plea agreement by Henry Burrell was among the top stories of the year. Moss was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences, and Burrell accepted a sentence of 120 years.
Another horrendous multiple murder case, which occurred in the summer of 2009, came to a close in 2011 as Jacob Shaffer avoided the death penalty, accepting five concurrent life sentences without the possibility of parole. His acts of July 18, 2009, left five people dead in Tennessee and a sixth individual dead in Alabama.
The six-year sewer connection moratorium was lifted for Fayetteville Public Utilities in 2012, thanks to major improvements in its sewer infrastructure.
In 2016, the newly expanded Lincoln County Jail passed its first 483-point inspection and regained Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) certification. Construction of $7.1 million renovation and expansion of the jail had gotten underway a year earlier.
Long considered a vital infrastructure need, the proposed bridge over the Elk River along Bearden Mill Road was greenlighted in 2018 by the state Department of Transportation. With an estimated price tag of $14.2 million, the new bridge will provide a second crossing over the river in the city. Construction is estimated to come in the next four years.