Monday, June 27, 2022

Top Local Stories in the Second Quarter of 2021

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

This week, Hotty Toddy News will be covering the top stories of 2021 for each quarter of the year, ending on Friday with the Top Story of the Year. Today is the second story in the series with the top stories from April, May and June.

County Road 224 was just one of many flooded due to heavy rains in June. Photo provided by the Lafayette County Fire Department

During the second quarter of 2021, life in Oxford continued to slowly return to the “normal” of pre-pandemic days.

There was a city election, new public artwork and lots of rain. There were people to say goodbye to and others to greet and welcome to the community.

April

In early April, the Mississippi State Legislature announced it is providing $2 million in state bond funding toward the completion of the West Oxford Loop extension. The extension will connect College Hill Road to Industrial Park Road, which connects to Highway 7 North.

The funding will help Lafayette County complete the West Oxford Loop extension, connecting West Oxford to North Oxford in 2023.

Former Oxford Film Director Melanie Addington announced she would be leaving Oxford and the OFF at the end of April to start a new journey as the Executive Director of Wichita’s Tallgrass Film Festival.

The Oxford Film Festival was founded in 2003 to bring independent films – and the people who create them – to north Mississippi. The annual five-day festival screens short and feature-length films in both showcase and competition settings.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen voted in April to remove the hoods from the parking meters that were covered up last year when the pandemic hit Oxford.

The hoods were placed on the meters to reserve free parking spots for customers picking up food when restaurants closed their dining rooms and offered curbside pick-up for food.

The South Lamar/Belk boulevard roundabout became the home of a new public art piece by Oxford artist Earl Dismuke at the end of April.

Ward 1 Alderman Rick Addy won the democratic primary election in April against Billy Crews to retain his seat on the Board of Aldermen for another four years. Since there was no Republican candidate, the election for Ward 1 was decided in the primary.

Oxford Middle School mourned the loss of Alyssah Renee Rosas, a seventh-grader who died suddenly. Alyssah moved to Oxford with her two sisters and mother, Christina Rosas, two years before her death. The family moved from El Paso, Texas to “start a new life.” The Oxford and El Paso communities rallied and raised more than $20,000 to help send Alyssah’s body back to Texas for burial in her home state.

The South Lamar/Belk boulevard roundabout became the home of a new public art piece by Oxford artist Earl Dismuke at the end of April.

The sculpture is about 16-feet tall and consists of several, large rings that are connected together. It’s an abstract sculpture of someone dancing in celebration and entitled, “Victory Dance.”

Lafayette County School District Adam Pugh announced he would be retiring at the end of June. In May, the School Board announced that Jay Foster would replace Pugh as superintendent.

May

May started off with a celebration at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church with its topping-out ceremony.

Church members and administration and community leaders gathered under the steal framing of the 8,700-square feet building, located behind the main church in the former parking lot. The church is adding a new parish hall, kitchen and education building.

Area restaurants and other businesses struggled to find employees after opening back up from the pandemic, causing the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Foundation and the Oxford School District’s College and Career Readiness Department to team up and host a Job Fair to help those businesses find the employees they need. More than 40 businesses participated.

A Mother’s Day storm knocked down several trees, taking down power lines with them in Lafayette County.

The sheriff’s department reported trees down on county roads 204, 249, 263, 251, 215, 229, 421, 287, 271 and on Highways 30, 34, 315, and 328.

Three trees fell on homes and about 49 roads were blocked, according to the sheriff’s department. At one point during the night, around 7,000 people were without power in Lafayette County, according to the North East Mississippi Electric Power Association.

Known as the “Price Street Pig,” Oxford’s newest celebrity “Francis Bacon” became the main attraction on Price Street.

Price Street Pig, “Francis Bacon.” File photo

The large, realistic-looking pink pig, named after the artist Francis Bacon, is owned by Ryan Byers and they both moved to Oxford from California last year. Francis was used as a movie prop before Byers “adopted” him.

He can still be seen daily outside his home and people are welcome to stop by and pose with him for a photo.

In November, Francis was stolen from his home at night; however, he was returned about three weeks later when his owner received a message from someone on Instagram who left a clue where to find the pig. The Instagram account was deleted afterward.

The parents of a 9-week-old baby girl who died in November while at Mother Goose Daycare in Oxford filed a lawsuit against the daycare center that has since closed its doors.

The lawsuit, filed by Jackson law firm Forman, Watkins and Krutz on behalf of Joe and Jenna Hastings and their infant daughter, Brynlee, named Mother Goose owners Mike and Alicia Valle, employees Renee Hoover, Susan McCollum and Amy Rogers as defendants.

Rogers was arrested and charged with culpable negligence manslaughter in the infant’s death and is awaiting trial.

June

Oxford and Lafayette County had a very wet June after more than 11 inches of rain over two days in the middle of the month.

The deluge has wreaked havoc on Oxford and Lafayette County roads with flash flooding and soaked trees falling and blocking roads. The heavy rain cause dozens of College Hill area residents were asked to voluntarily evacuate after the Lake Tara Dam threatened to breach. The breach was contained and the dam was later fixed.

Hathorn Road near Jackson Avenue was shut down during the June rain storm. Photo via OPD.

Earlier in June, University Police Chief Ray Hawkins announced he was retiring after 30 years in law enforcement. The university hired Daniel Sanford to replace Hawkins in August.

Early U.S. Census number released in June showed Lafayette County’s population increased by 14.36 percent since the 2010 Census. The county is tied with Lamar County for having the second-highest growth in the state.

Oxford held its Municipal Election on June 8. Mayor Robyn Tannehill and all incumbent aldermen retained their seats.

Anteeatta “Tee” Archie Swims, 36, a Lafayette County resident and teacher with the South Panola School District was found dead on June 11. Her husband, David Lee Swims Jr., 41, was arrested and charged with murder. He is awaiting trial.

At the end of June, the Oxford School District announced that the district would return in-person learning as its primary teaching mode for the 2021-2022 school year.


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