Tuesday, December 31, 2013
•The Fulton Fire Department responded to a small fire 10 p.m. Jan. 21 in Fulton Nursing & Rehab, 1510 N. Bluff St., after staff reported smoke in the building and began to evacuate residents. Firefighters determined the cause of smoke was a water heater that had caught fire in a utility closet. Because the fire was extinguished quickly, fire officials reported it was not necessary to remove residents from the building due to the cold weather. No one was injured.
•In January, the Fulton City Council approved an ordinance to move forward with purchasing the historic rock barn on the Fulton State Hospital campus from the state. The barn was built in the 1800s when the hospital was self-sufficient to house its dairy operations. Since it has fallen into disuse and disrepair, causing Fulton’s historic preservation community to urge the city to purchase the barn for its preservation. In January, the city originally planned to partner with the Fulton Heritage Trust to cover half of the barn’s $18,000 price tag, but in March that plan fell through as the city could not agree with the historic organization over stipulations regarding the authority to “approve modifications and improvements to meet certain design and historical criteria,” Director of Administration Bill Johnson told the council at its March 26 meeting. Ultimately, the council voted to close the deal with the state on April 4 and cover the whole cost of the building in order for the council to “make sure they are the ones who get to decide how the building is disposed of,” Johnson said. It remains in city ownership, where council members say it risks being declared surplus property by April 2014 if no use for the barn can be found.
•Fulton’s Brick District Association had a big year in 2013, with several projects and initiatives kicking off. Though it did not officially “kick off” with a ribbon-cutting until September, the downtown business organization erected signs sporting a new logo around downtown in January, and hosted its inaugural “Morels and Microbrews” festival in April. In that same month the group also arranged to host the Fulton farmers market downtown on Saturday, which ended with a Harvest Festival in October. Vendors reported the venue change as increasing sales. The conclusion of the DREAM Initiative, a state five-year downtown revitalization program, identified the Brick District as its “number one goal (to be established) as the main downtown organization.” The annual Holiday Open House brought carriage rides and festivities to Fulton families, and the year ended with the announcement of the Art House, a new gallery and artistic business space on Court Street.
•After months of negotiations and planning, the city of Fulton reached an agreement in 2013 with the Environmental Protection Agency on mandated upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment facility. Though the process began prior to the start of the year, Fulton’s wastewater treatment plant plans were put on hold in March when the EPA objected to elements of Fulton’s permit to begin the $15 million project that would increase standards in the city’s effluence, or treated water returned to the water system. The EPA’s objection was over maximum daily load specifications; Bill Johnson said “some of those limits are unattainable at any price” with current technology. In August, after deliberation involving the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer, the city and the EPA agreed to a compromise on the improvement schedule. The city will have until 2016 to complete the first phase of the upgrades, before entering a testing period to see if more upgrades will be needed.
•In March, the Fulton School Board voted to change the way it recognizes academic achievement. Starting with the class of 2016, instead of honoring the top two students in the graduation class, the school will be switching to the cum laude system — seniors earning a GPA of 4.2 or above will be recognized as summa cum laude, seniors with a GPA of 4.0-4.19999 will be magna cum laude, and students with a GPA of 3.85-3.9999 will graduate cum laude. There will be no class ranking. Board member Rob Hunter argued against doing away with the valedictorian and salutatorian designation, and challenged the decision during the board’s August meeting. Hunter said he believed students who worked hard enough to be one of the top to should be recognized for those efforts, arguing that the district could do both the valedictorian and salutatorian and the cum laude honors. After much discussion, the board ultimately voted to stick with its March decision, on the basis that the cum laude system would allow the district to recognize more students.
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