Top Local Stories of 2016

President Albrecht is USU's 15th president and assumed his position in 2005. 

The editorial staff of Cache Valley Daily and KVNU 610 AM/102.1 FM voted on what they felt were the top stories of 2016. Politics, sexual assaults and violence frequently captured headlines, but there were also stories of new beginnings, retirement and an improving economic climate for our area. What do <em>you</em> think were the top local stories of 2016?

<ol><li><strong>Sexual assaults at Utah State University.</strong> Sadly, these were far too frequent in 2016. Without question, the highest profile case has involved former USU football player Torrey Green. Green is <a href=”” target=”_blank”>accused of multiple cases of rape</a>, and those cases will be tried in 2017. Former Sigma Chi fraternity member <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Jason Relopez was sentenced</a> to 1 year in jail for raping two women. Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity member Griffin Ford was arrested in the spring for taping a sexual encounter. Earlier this month a judge determined <a href=”” target=”_blank”>his case will go to trial</a> in February. The university has <a href=”” target=”_blank”>come under criticism</a> for the way it has handled some of these cases and has set out to <a href=”” target=”_blank”>correct some of its deficiencies</a>. </li><li><strong>Presidential politics.</strong> Not only did they dominate national headlines but they also affected local headlines this year. There was a <a href=”” target=”_blank”>higher-than-normal caucus turnout</a> in the spring, the <a href=”” target=”_blank”>emergence of Evan McMullin</a> as a viable third party candidate in Utah (including <a href=”” target=”_blank”>a visit to Logan</a> and causing <a href=”” target=”_blank”>controversy within the Cache County GOP</a>), troubled members of the GOP who <a href=”” target=”_blank”>couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Donald Trump</a>, and <a href=”” target=”_blank”>record turnout for the November election.</a></li><li><strong>Stan Albrecht retirement/Noelle Cockett named as his successor.</strong> In early February Utah State University president <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Stan Albrecht announced that he would be retiring</a>. Albrecht served as an executive vice president and provost at USU before replacing Kermit Hall as president in 2005. Albrecht oversaw many significant gains while he was president of the university. In October, the Utah Board of Regents announced that <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Noelle Cockett would succeed Albrecht</a> as the 16th president of USU and become its first female president.</li><li><strong>Water Conservancy District</strong>. After several other failed attempts in the past, in 2016 voters approved a Water Conservancy District for Cache County. Many <a href=”” target=”_blank”>politicians</a> and <a href=”” target=”_blank”>those in agriculture</a> spoke out in favor of the district over the past year, while other sides <a href=”” target=”_blank”>spoke out against it</a>. In the end, Cache County voters overwhelmingly <a href=”” target=”_blank”>voted in favor of creating the district</a>, which is intended to secure water for the region for the foreseeable future.</li><li><strong>Teen suicide because of cyber bullying.</strong> As a result of cyber-bullying, teenager <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Cassandra “Cecci” Porter committed suicide</a>. The West Side High School senior was active in many extra-curricular activities but was viciously attacked on Facebook. In late February she took her own life and the Dayton, Idaho community mourned her death.</li><li>A <strong>fight between two sophomores at Sky View High School</strong> sent <a href=”” target=”_blank”>one to the hospital and the other to juvenile detention</a>. One teen struck the other, sending him to the ground and causing him to convulse. The boy was <a href=”” target=”_blank”>transported to Primary Children’s Medical Center</a> via a medical helicopter. Though a video of the fight was shared on social media, Cache Valley Daily made an editorial decision not to publish it because of its graphic nature and because it depicted two minors.</li><li><strong>Andrew Lesky trial.</strong> After a long, drawn-out legal battle, Andrew Lewsky was <a href=”” target=”_blank”>found guilty of aggravated assault</a> and <a href=”” target=”_blank”>sentenced to serve 30 years in prison</a>. In 2014 Lesky <a href=”” target=”_blank”>attempted to shoot his ex-girlfriend</a>. Since that time his legal battle in court was a roller coaster that included <a href=”” target=”_blank”>gag orders</a>, additional <a href=”” target=”_blank”>motions and attempts to delay</a> the trial, and ultimately resulted in Lesky firing his attorneys so he could <a href=”” target=”_blank”>represent himself in court</a>.</li><li><strong>The local economy made a signifiant improvement</strong> in 2016 and saw multiple local businesses expand, notably Conservice, Malouf, and JBS Swift. The <a href=”” target=”_blank”>largest solar array in Cache Valley</a> was unveiled at the Sports Academy and Racquet Club, unemployment remains at extremely <a href=”” target=”_blank”>low levels throughout the state</a> (the latest figures report unemployment in Cache County is at 2.7%), multiple <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Maverik convenience stores</a> opened throughout the valley, and the six year <a href=”” target=”_blank”>renovation of the Utah Theatre</a> was finally completed. Two banks in Logan also saw significant improvements. <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Cache Valley Bank completed their renovation</a> and expansion on the corner of 100 North Main and <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Zions Bank opened their new building</a> at 500 North Main. There were, however, some businesses who shut their doors in 2016, including <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Hastings</a> and <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Kmart</a>.</li><li><strong>Hallstrom murder.</strong> Murders are not commonplace in Cache Valley, so when there is one it makes major headlines. In April, <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Shane Hallstrom murdered his father</a>, Calvin, in the driveway of Shane’s home in Smithfield. In August, Hallstrom was <a href=”” target=”_blank”>determined to be competent</a> but in October made a <a href=”” target=”_blank”>plea deal</a> to avoid a trial. This troubled family made headlines in 2015 when Shane’s transgender sister <a href=”” target=”_blank”>committed suicide</a>. </li><li><strong>Ridgeline High School officially opened</strong> its doors to students this fall. The first public, non-charter high school to open in Cache County since Mountain Crest was <a href=”” target=”_blank”>met with excitement</a> from those who live within its new boundaries, but also <a href=”” target=”_blank”>concern from those who do not</a>. Its opening not only affected students attending a new school, but also affected Mountain Crest, road construction, and traffic in Millville and Nibley.</li></ol>

There were also a few notable honorable mention stories that did not make our top 10. They include the passing of former Logan Mayor Newel Daines, an air ambulance accident that claimed the life of a Cache Valley pilot, the death of a USU student pilot, wildfires near Beaver Mountain and near Plymouth in Box Elder County, the expansion of the Huntsman School of Business and the death of Dr. Bradley Summers.

Do you agree with our assessment of the top stories of 2016? Let us know in the comments below.

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