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Our look back at the best and worst of the past year

By The Gazette

As we look back on 2010, two long-standing disasters remain poised on the threshold of being resolved.
Jobs — at least some — appear to be returning to the Twin Counties, and Carroll County appears to be getting along with Hillsville.
It boggles the mind.
As everything is now hunky dory between Hillsville and Carroll County, a state commission is expected to approve the town boundary adjustment and water and sewer billing settlement.
They're playing so well together, we think the two can share our Peace Prize, which gives us hope for other archenemies. If they can do it, why not Israel and Palestine? Or Coke and Pepsi. Or Ford and Chevy.
But before we declare 2010 "The Year of Acting Sensibly," let's all acknowledge that the lucidness has been punctuated by the unknowable and the unexplainable.
For example — Virginia built a prison in Grayson County and then decided to not keep any prisoners there.
The hundreds of locals hoping to get jobs there had their hopes shanked like a snitch in a jailhouse shower.
Plus, the state is wasting money by having to pay utility bills on an empty building.
For this upending of conventional wisdom, we bestow the “If You Build It, Not Only Will They Not Come But You Also Created an Institutional Money Pit Award,” a carton of cigarettes to use as currency in the Big House.
(Too bad that only works in prison, or you could fund the facility with Marlboro Lights.)
The non-prison would make a perfect bunker for 2010's “Favorite Human Targets,” the Grayson County Board of Supervisors. We could turn the prison into a fortified compound where the supervisors can hole up until Election Day.
It seemed the supervisors, in the eyes of many Grayson residents, could do nothing right this year — and citizens turned out by the dozens to protest a tax hike, garbage fees, fluoridated water and — depending on how you felt about the Oracle Institute — practicing religious persecution.
The supes could have cured cancer and given every citizen a free puppy and still have been vilified.
For this reputation — earned or unearned is a matter of opinion — each supervisor receives a body double and a change of address.
(It's the next logical step — at least one Grayson supervisor is now using a fake name in the phone book.)
The supes weren't the only villains of 2010. Appalachian Power once again earned the ire of locals for yet another rate increase. But, that bad news — and rising gas prices — was offset by a growing environmental movement.
The “It's Easy Being Green” award goes to all those efforts  —  Grayson “green” courthouse renovations, Guardian Industries' job-creating solar panel initiative, federal funds to teach energy efficient building techniques, Wytheville Community College's ongoing course to teach how to build solar panels, a tire recycling operation that opened in Carroll County, Red Hill Store in Hillsville putting up a prototype windmill, Twin County Tire which started filling tires with nitrogen to improve fuel efficiency and Carroll County schools using biodiesel fuel.
The old Carrico bridge closed in Grayson this year, due to it being built when dinosaurs still walked the earth. But when one road closes, another opens.
In Hillsville, the long-dreaded U.S. 58 bypass south of town half-opened in 2010 to a serious lack of traffic.
The number of vehicles will probably stay low for the foreseeable future, but this venture earns the “Why Did We Build This, Again?” award, in the shape of an orange-and-white road closed barrier. Was this the Hillsville business killer people were worried about?
You'd think people would protest this sort of thing — as they did everything else in 2010.
The “Mob Rule” award — a group discount coupon on torches and pitchforks — goes to citizens who organized to protest a tax hike in Grayson County and religious leaders who started a veritable witch hunt against a “spiritual retreat” in Grayson.
What's worse is that the supervisors actually listened to the anti-Oracle Institute group and may have breached zoning rules. A pending lawsuit contends the county violated Oracle's First Amendment rights.
For this, the supervisors are forced to watch a bad community theater version of Arthur Miller's witch trial play, “The Crucible.”
Some grassroots movements, though, were thoroughly inspiring, like the “Backpack Buddies” program to feed needy students and a Grayson County teacher's “Million Dollar Miracle” crusade to raise money for her school. To them, we present the “People Power” award.
The City of Galax stayed under the radar this year, hoping to escape unnoticed as its neighbors to the east and west hogged the headlines.
Still, it deserves at least one trophy — the “Operation: Overkill” award for getting a Homeland Security grant to buy an armored car.
Speeders will think twice when its .50-caliber cannon blows a crater in East Stuart Drive in front of them, and the optional attachment should come in handy when plowing through throngs of hippies at the fiddlers' convention.
Might we also say what lovely alleys Galax now has, since the downtown revitalization project is finished. The flowers and picket fences really divert the eye from the ever-growing number of vacant stores on Main Street. Kudos!
VDOT probably created the most unanimity in Carroll County since... well, ever. It must have generated some kind of harmonic resonance by getting everybody shaking their heads in disbelief at the same time when the department decided to close its residency office at Hillsville.
For the loss of service and jobs and the paltriness of the savings — just a few million in a budget with a few billion dollar deficit — VDOT wins the “Not Getting Any Traction Award,” a set of bald tires.
Just as bad — and perhaps worse — an effort to reduce government bloat happened in Carroll County, where a wild impulse led officials to cut the grant writer who had brought in millions of dollars in funds.
They took the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and made an omelet. For that, they get the “Empty Treasure Chest Award,” the one prize in this list that's more vacant than Al Capone's vault, or a prison in Grayson County.
Carroll needs to come up with better ideas to make money than its ill-fated plan to charge dogs and their owners with trespassing rather than impose a leash law. Talk about collaring a criminal!
How were they going to enforce this? Stick a ticket under the dog's collar and send it home to the owner? DNA testing of dog poop?
Speaking of bad smells, Woodlawn residents raised a stink this year about a noxious odor coming from their sewers. The Golden Noseplug award goes to residents who put up with the stench until the county could fix it.
In all seriousness, there was much to celebrate in 2010, amid the nonsense.
Galax's long-awaited Chestnut Creek School of the Arts opened, Vaughan-Bassett Furniture expanded, Love's truck stop brought 100 jobs, there were numerous small businesses opened, Nautilus was sold instead of closing and three new employment announcements — with more than 100 jobs — capped off the year.
The “Year of Acting Sensibly?” Maybe not. But it was a year of taking action, nonetheless.
The citizens who were motivated to turn out at council and county board meetings may have been loud, a little misinformed on some issues and somewhat unruly at times.
But they were passionate, and took part in local government on behalf of issues that meant something to them.
And — let's face it — they made for some entertaining reading.
We don't have enough awards to go around, but for that, the vocal citizens of the Twin Counties receive our highest praise.