The St. Clair Regional Airport closure, flooding, street projects, the solar eclipse and more dominated the news in St. Clair for 2017.

Here is a look back at some of the top news stories over the past year.

Airport Closure

St. Clair Regional Airport officially closed Nov. 13.

The airport closing had been in the works since 2006, when city officials started pushing for legislation that would allow them to close it.

Sen. Claire McCaskill sponsored SB 2759, which she introduced to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 31, 2014, during the 113th session of Congress.

The Senate approved the legislation in early December of 2014, and the House of Representatives approved it Dec. 9, 2014. In both chambers, the measure passed on a voice vote. U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer worked the bill through the House.

SB 2759 states that it is “a bill to release the city of St. Clair from all restrictions, conditions and limitations on the use, encumbrance, conveyance and closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.”

The legislation is a stand-alone bill, meaning there is nothing else attached to it. Former President Barack Obama signed the bill Dec. 12, 2014.

“This is a classic example of government bureaucracy and red tape getting in the way of common sense—red tape I was happy to help cut,” McCaskill said in a November statement regarding the airport closure.

“For years now there’s been near-universal agreement to close this airport—but this community had been stopped at nearly every turn.

“Three years ago, my bipartisan legislation began untangling that red tape, and today (Nov. 13) St. Clair gets to cut it altogether. The airport closure will free the community to pursue new development in a prime location.”

Spring Flooding

Heavy rainfall during the weekend of April 28 resulted in the flooding of several area roads surrounding St. Clair.

Highway 30, Highway K, parts of Mill Hill and roads connecting to it, were submerged or impassable.

In the city, it was estimated that 8 inches of rain fell on the area over the weekend.

The flooding also stranded the communities of Lonedell, Robertsville and Catawissa — all part of a 20-square-mile portion of Franklin County.

Five flood-related incidents were reported as a result. Out of the five incidents, only two were water rescues, which happened near the Bruns bridge area. No injuries were reported.

St. Clair R-XIII and Lonedell R-XIV school districts were closed May 1-3.

Solar Eclipse

Thousands of travelers from across the country and from around the world came to the St. Clair area to watch the anticipated solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21.

Local authorities reported that Eclipse Day, as well as the weekend, went smoother than expected.

The eclipse celebration started Friday, Aug. 18, with a parade and fireworks followed by a bluegrass festival Saturday, Aug. 19, and car show Sunday, Aug. 20.

St. Clair’s population was predicted to triple in size and police and first responders prepared for traffic pile-ups and an increased number of calls for service.

According to City Administrator Travis Dierker, an estimated 75,000 visitors came to the St. Clair area. That number is based on the number of cars counted by area officials.

No arrests were made that weekend or that Monday, according to Police Chief Bill Hammack.

That weekend and Monday were slow for the fire district with minimal calls related to medical needs, according to Fire Capt. Dan Cooley.

Additionally, there were only two heat-related illnesses on that Sunday, and one accidental injury and heat related-illness that Monday, according to St. Clair Ambulance District Chief Nick Tepleman.

Bardot Street Project

The Bardot Street project began in mid-July and it was scheduled for completion in mid-October.

City officials are waiting for final approval from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) on two left turn signals. One signal is for cars to turn left on Highway 30 from Neff Road and the other left signal is for cars to turn left from Bardot Street onto Highway 30.

The project consisted of widening the street to make way for a center turn lane that will extend from Highway 30 south through the Edgar Murray Elementary entrance, as well as 6- to 8-foot-wide sidewalks and street lighting.

In June, the city hired West Contracting to do the work in the amount of $650,104. In May, the city was approved to receive $400,000 in federal funds from East-West Gateway that will help pay for the project.

The city and the St. Clair R-XIII School District have entered into a cost-sharing agreement where they will split the remaining $150,000 balance.

Not Guilty Verdict

A judge in Quintana Roo, Mexico, found St. Clair attorney and businessman John Loveless not guilty in the murder of Tamra Turpin, 36, Union. The court rendered the verdict Tuesday, March 14, at 3 p.m.

Loveless was held since March 2016 in a jail in Quintana Roo, awaiting the trial.

Student Threat

A St. Clair teen was arrested and charged with allegedly making a terrorist threat against St. Clair High School.

St. Clair police received a report from a resident stating that Dalton C. Wilson, 17, made threats Oct. 29 to shoot students at St. Clair High School, according to Police Chief Bill Hammack.

According to the probable cause statement filed by St. Clair police with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office, witnesses stated Wilson said he planned the shooting for graduation day or senior day.

Superintendent Kyle Kruse told The Missourian that after district officials were made aware of the situation and credible witnesses were interviewed regarding his threats, Wilson was removed from school.

Library Expansion

The construction for the St. Clair Scenic Regional Library expansion began in early December.

Preparations for the construction took place earlier this fall. Some tasks included the removal of the house and print shop, clearing brush and the installation plumbing and gas lines, according to Kara Bell, branch manager.

Additionally, a ramp at the back of the building is being renovated and the library’s internet is being updated.

The expansion will include meeting and study rooms, a children’s area, a larger teen space, an adult space equipped with an electric fireplace and a coffee bar, a community garden, and an outside patio.

The completion date is tentatively scheduled for August.

ACT Testing

St. Clair R-XIII School District will provide the ACT to juniors at the district’s expense.

The state of Missouri will no longer pay for students to take the ACT starting in 2018 due to a $4 million assessment budget cut. Missouri had paid for 11th-grade students to take the ACT since 2015.

It will cost the school district $8,000 to $9,000 for students to continue taking the ACT.

If students do not want to take the ACT, they may have the option to take the WorkKeys test or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, Kruse said. It would be required for students to take one of the three tests.

District Plan

The St. Clair R-XIII School Board hired an architectural firm to develop the district’s facility improvement plan.

The board voted unanimously for FGM Architects to do the project.

The firm will develop several items including a districtwide facility assessment, a districtwide mechanical systems assessment, a long-term facility plan, community engagement pieces and a detailed assessment report – totaling $37,000.

The firm gave the school board members a preliminary time line for each assessment and design phase of the project. Each of the five items are scheduled to be completed in 2020.

During that time, the board will decide if it is appropriate to ask voters to finance the construction part of the project through a no- tax-increase bond issue.

Moving forward with construction will depend if a no-tax increase bond issue is passed by voters.

Increased Rates

St. Clair residents will see another raise in water and sewer fee rates, which started Jan. 1, 2018.

The St. Clair Board of Aldermen approved a 5 percent water rate increase and a 15 percent sewage rate increase.

The increased rates come as a result of a new disinfection process for the wastewater treatment plant required by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

The disinfection process involves adding ultraviolet rays into the wastewater treatment system, with engineering and other upgrades needed to do the disinfection. Dierker said the project could cost $4 to $5 million.

In the water and sewer fund, $100,000 is budgeted for the disinfection process.

The city will apply for a certificate of participation that will pay for some of the project. The city will use the money from the increased rates to pay back the certificate.