Other top stories from 2017
Here are some of the other top storylines from 2017 in Douglas County.
Voters reject Brandon-Evansville school plan
The Brandon-Evansville School District operates in two aging buildings. The state Department of Education recommends building one school for all grades in one town or the other.
A piece of land near the existing school in Brandon was donated by farmer Wayne Lund, but it was evident early on that the proposed $38.75 million school was going to be a tough sell with voters who needed to approve a bond referendum and be willing to pay higher property taxes. In August, the building plan would get rejected soundly, especially in Evansville but even in the Brandon area voting precincts.
As the year drew to a close, a new round of conversations in the communities began, with the possibility of another bond referendum in November.
It will be a story the Echo Press will continue to follow in 2018.
Julio Escobar's immigration case
He says he left Guatemala because he feared he would be killed by agents of a loan shark.
Julio Estrada Escobar entered the United States illegally, eventually marrying Nancy Estrada from Minnesota and starting a family in Evansville.
He worked on a farm and was known by his employer and others in Evansville as a hard-working and caring family man. But he was pulled over while driving without a license and faces deportation back to Guatemala.
Now the family must decide what to do next. He could appeal his case while he remains in custody or the family could accompany him back to Guatemala.
Hospital opens surgical center expansion
While the addition of a new surgical wing was many months in the making, work progressed quickly.
At the groundbreaking in September 2016, hospital CEO Carl Vaagenes set a tentative completion date of February 2018.
The $15 million project went along so smoothly that it opened in October, adding four new operating rooms to the six existing operating rooms and adding eight pre-op and post-op rooms.
The project on the county-owned hospital was done to satisfy demand for more surgical services for patients in Douglas and surrounding counties.
County stung by two deaths in August
Tragedy hit Douglas County doubly hard in August.
First, longtime community leader Arlene Bosek died when her car rolled east of Brandon.
She spent more than 50 years helping others in the health care field and supported youth sports and outdoor activities and was a leader in her church and civic groups.
She received the Douglas County Outstanding Senior Citizen Award in 2014 and the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award in 2009.
Just a couple of weeks later, Jon Dingwall, 9, of Brandon, was taken in a tragic accident but saved his 10-year-old sister, Taylor.
Jon was driving a utility vehicle north of Millerville when it rolled on the slope of a hayfield, pinning them. Taylor told Douglas County sheriff's deputies that Jon was able to shift the UTV and free her, but in the process it fell and trapped Jon underneath.
Tragedy along the trail
While Jasmine Block's story had a happy ending, the story of another young girl in Alexandria did not.
JaLysa Ann Cook was longboarding, riding a type of skateboard, along the Central Lakes Trail when she went into a channel between Lakes Cowdry and Darling in late April.
The strong spring current and water still cold from the winter melt apparently overwhelmed her after she entered the water.
The body of the girl, a Discovery Middle School student, was found in about 3 feet of water.