With 2018 behind us, the Lake Sun looks back at the stories that we believe had the biggest impact on the Lake of the Ozarks region.
1. The changing face of law and order continues
Here we are again. The Top Story of 2017 was major changes occurring in our 26th Judicial Circuit, and at the end of the 2018, the changing face of “Law & Order” in our community continues to top our most important stories of the year gone by. More familiar faces took new positions in the circuit — a welcome to Judge Michael Gilley and Camden County Prosecutor Heather Miller as well as a new position for a domestic violence/sexual assault investigator within the Camden County Sheriff’s Office — but evolving strategies for countering crime sent this category to a new level in 2018. The circuit implemented two special new dockets at the end of 2017 and early 2018, DWI Court and Drug Court, in an effort to deal more proactively with some of these offenders before they hurt the community more seriously, offering them a help out of destructive lifestyles rather than just punishment. In a shifting landscape in drug enforcement, the Missouri State Highway Patrol ended field-testing of drugs while a prescription drug monitoring program, aimed at chipping away at opioid abuse but controversial for its impact on privacy and effectiveness, did not end up being passed by the Camden County Commission. At the state level, voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana. On the waters of Lake of the Ozarks, there were also some significant changes to boating laws and an unofficial crackdown on illegal charters by the US Coast Guard.
2. Fire fatalities
The Year of 2018 was a year of major fires at Lake of the Ozarks, and we saw the tragic death of nine people to multiple residential structure fires throughout the year. Fires in the Richland, Laurie and Eldon areas saw one death each, and the Sunrise Beach area had two deaths in two separate fires. But one of the more horrific incidences we have seen in the area was the death of four children, the Otto brothers, in a fire Lake Ozark in April. There were also some miraculous saves this year though. First responders managed to pull a disabled woman from her burning home through a window. A Camdenton woman barely escaped an explosion and subsequent fire at her her home, running out of the home with her young child despite serious burns to her body. And in the Roach area, a man saved his neighbor from a house fire after the neighbor had become trapped inside when he fell through the floor of his living room. Just Friday morning, Dec. 28, an occupant escaped a house fire in the Gravois Mills area and was taken to the hospital for treatment of possible smoke inhalation and a small burn. On one up note perhaps, a few key fire protection districts received property tax levy increases this year and last to start addressing record volumes of calls for service. Mid County Fire most notably recently began full-time staffing of its Greenview area station house.