What would you rank as the top local story of the decade?

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Two weeks into the 2020s the News-Register is looking back over the past 10 years and asking readers to help decide what stands out as the biggest story of the decade.
So much has happened in that span it’s hard to remember all the headlines. We’ve simplified the research process by compiling a list of the top stories of the individual years, which was determined by local readers.
As you may recall, the list includes local debates about ambulance service, building a new swimming pool and tearing down the Hamilton Manor. Agriculture made the list as well with the boom years early in the decade and construction of the largest single economic development project in the county’s history -- a $250 million ethanol plant which stalled mid-way through construction.
Mother Nature also made the list, thankfully not due to storm damage, but instead by turning day into night during a rare total eclipse.
Here is a quick review of the 10 candidates. Please select your top three by year, with the biggest story getting the No. 1 ranking, etc. Selection can be based on overall impact on the community or whatever you think people will look back on as the most significant event of the decade.
* 2010 -- Aurora’s western skyline was transformed from a massive pile of steel to a completed ethanol plant in about eight months time, topping the charts as the No. 1 story of the year in 2010. Though Aventine Renewable Energy’s new plant was not operating at year’s end, construction picked up where it had left off 16 months earlier in a furious effort to get the job completed.

* 2011 -- Net farm income in Hamilton County soared by 35 percent to $5.4 billion, creating a banner year for the area’s No. 1 industry. Ideal weather conditions helped farmers get a good, though not a record, crop in from the fields. That, combined with high commodity prices, drought and flood conditions in other parts of the country, created a boom year for farmers large and small.
* 2012 -- A piece of prime, irrigated farm ground sold for $14,500 an acre in September 2012, one of many sales which sent local land values skyrocketing into unchartered territory. The county’s valuation also shot up, rising $168 million in a single year to $1.73 billion.
* 2013 -- A project talked about for years in Aurora made a big splash in 2013 with plans for a new aquatic center getting the thumbs up and construction beginning for a new $3.5 million facility in Streeter Park. By year’s end, the old pool had been demolished and work was well under way just to the west on the new swimming pool.
* 2014 --   The long-awaited construction and debut of a new swimming pool in Aurora made by far the biggest splash of 2014. Years of debate on if, how and where to build a new pool ended in May when the new Aurora Aquatic Facility opened, just in time for the summer swim season.
* 2015 -- Two massive ethanol plants on Aurora’s western edge were both up and running in 2015, grabbing headlines again with the July 1 sale of the plants to Pacific Ethanol and the dismissal of litigation which opened the door to a partnership with the Aurora Cooperative. That fall, the full board and senior management team for Pacific Ethanol visited the Aurora site, reporting that the transition went well and that both plants were running at near capacity, employing a total of 81 people
* 2016 -- A nearly year-long effort to build a new nursing home and get the Hamilton Manor off the tax rolls took a giant leap forward in 2016 with a private investment group announcing plans in November to construct a $9 million long-term care facility on the west edge of Aurora. The year’s top story involved several local entities and was announced as a win-win-win partnership by Hamilton County commissioners, the Hamilton Manor Board of Trustees and the newly formed Quality Care Solutions, LLC.
* 2017 -- Mother Nature turned day into night, if only for a few minutes. A rare total solar eclipse created a memorable scientific spectacle on Aug. 21, rated hands down as the top news story of 2017. The Great American Eclipse brought an exorbitant amount of people to a 70-mile strip across the entire United States Aug. 21 and the weekend prior, with Hamilton County seeing its own influx of visitors by the thousands.
* 2018 --   An emotional debate about how, if and why the county’s ambulance service should be revamped dominated board meetings and headlines throughout 2018, earning distinction as the top story of that year.A conversation that actually began years ago ramped up considerably in January when the county board voted to discontinue its ownership/management role. As the year came to a close, the county board voted 3-2 to work with the City of Aurora on an interlocal agreement to form a new fire-based EMS.
* 2019 -- An emotional community debate focused on local ambulance service earned distinction as the top local news story for the second year in a row, concluding with a mid-year transition from a county owned and operated service to a fire-based EMS now under the city’s umbrella of services.
So what stands out as No. 1, 2 or 3? No ballots necessary. Just pick your top three, by year, and submit by Friday at noon. The results will be published in the Jan. 22 edition.
You can submit your choices in person at the News-Register, by FAX at 694-2133, or by email to kjohnson@hamilton.net

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