There was little doubt on what the top news story of 2020 would be.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a worldwide disaster.

It reached us in March and the number of cases has continued to grow through the fall and into the early winter.

Already, more than one person in 20 has had the virus and more than 80 have died in Daviess County alone.

In March, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the closure of non-life sustaining businesses in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Thousands of area workers were furloughed or laid off, and a record number of jobless claims bogged down the state unemployment system.

Restaurants and bars were closed again in November for 18 days.

Schools have been online most of the time since March.

Masks and social distancing have become a way of life.

Both readers and the newsroom staff at the Messenger-Inquirer rated the pandemic as the top story of the year.

But readers gave second place to the debate over moving the 120-year-old statue of a Confederate soldier from the Daviess County Courthouse lawn.

The newsroom staff put it at No. 5.

Daviess Fiscal Court decided last summer after protests that it would remove the statue from the courthouse lawn.

A committee was appointed to decide where to put it.

In November, the committee, selected by members of Fiscal Court, recommended that it go to either the Owensboro Museum of Science and History or the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art.

Readers put a spike in violent crime in the community at No. 3.

The newsroom staff put it at No. 4.

Owensboro had six fatal shooting incidents and a fatal stabbing in 2020.

They included a fatal shooting on Hanning Lane, a murder-suicide on Possum Trot Road, the unsolved shooting of Corbin Henry, who was killed on West Fifth Street and a homicide Wednesday on McCulloch Avenue.

Big Rivers Electric Corp’s decision to move its headquarters from Henderson to Owensboro ranked No. 4 with readers.

The newsroom staff put it at No. 6.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Big Rivers announced that it plans to move its headquarters to Owensboro, a move that will create a $100 million-plus impact on the community.

The new $10 million corporate headquarters will be built at 700 W. Second St. — just west of the Boardwalk Pipeline Partners headquarters — adding 125 high-paying jobs to downtown.

Readers said the state’s decision to allow early voting and mail-in votes this year because of the pandemic was No. 5.

The newsroom staff put it at No. 2.

Although some objected to the change, the state decided the risk of lines of people at the polls was too risky.

So, polls opened early across the state and voters had the option of mailing — or hand-delivering — their ballots.

Readers rated the death of local developer Jack Wells at No. 6.

The newsroom staff put it at No. 9.

Wells, 65, a major player in Owensboro’s economy for decades, died in August.

Among other things, he and Matt Hayden built the new Boardwalk Pipeline Partners Building, the Holiday Inn Riverfront, Alorica Building and Enclave at Riverfront Living downtown, bought Towne Square Mall and the old Texas Gas property at 3800 Frederica St. and began redeveloping them.

The demolition of Gabe’s Tower ranked No. 7 with both readers and staff.

When Gabe’s Tower Motor Inn opened on Nov. 16, 1963, it was the talk of Kentucky and southern Indiana.

But the 13-story hotel, a community landmark, had been empty for years and became an eyesore.

It was razed in July.

Readers said Owensboro getting two breweries after 117 years of having none was the eighth most important story.

It didn’t make the list of the newsroom staff.

Brew Bridge Brewery, the city’s first brewery since 1903, opened July 10 in a former nightclub at 800 W. Second St.

And Mile Wide Beer Company, a Louisville-based brewery, opened its Owensboro Taproom, 119 E. Second St., on Nov. 13.

Readers ranked schools going virtual for most of the year at No. 9.

The newsroom staff put it at No. 3.

Public schools in Owensboro and Daviess County switched from in-person instruction to NTI/distance learning in March because of the coronavirus.

In-person classes resumed briefly for two days a week in the fall, but rising cases of coronavirus sent them back online in November.

Readers ranked economic development at No. 9.

It didn’t make the staff’s list.

Site Selection magazine, an international business publication, ranked the Owensboro metropolitan area, which includes Hancock and McLean counties, as the third best for economic development in its Ohio River Corridor Rankings for 2020.

Brittaney Johnson, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., said the seven projects here created 238 jobs and saw an investment of $154 million.

Owensboro Municipal Utilities stopping the production of electricity just missed on the readers’ list, coming in at No. 11.

The staff put it at No. 8.

On Jan. 1, 1901, what’s now OMU began producing electricity from coal.

That era ended in May, when the Elmer Smith Power Plant, 4301 E. Fourth St., used up its final supply of coal. And electricity from Big Rivers Electric Corp. began powering the city.

Daviess Fiscal Court’s decision not to adopt a proposed fairness ordinance ranked No. 12 with readers.

The staff put it at No. 10.

In April, the hopes of the local LGBTQ community fell on a 2-2 split vote in Daviess Fiscal Court, effectively ending the possibility of a Daviess County non-discrimination ordinance.

There is a possibility that it could go before the Owensboro City Commission in 2021.

The newsroom ranked the closing of two anchor stores in Towne Square Mall at No. 11 — just out of the Top 10.

It didn’t make the readers’ list.

Macy’s and J.C. Penney both closed their stores in Towne Square Mall this year.

They were the last two anchor stores in the mall.

Sears had closed earlier and Burkes Outlet moved to Gateway Commons.

The staff ranked Mayor Tom Watson’s winning a third term in office at No. 12.

It didn’t make the readers’ list.

Watson first said he planned to retire when his term ended on Jan. 1.

Later, he decided to run again and, in November, he won his third term in office.

Readers’ Top 10

1) COVID-19 pandemic

2) Confederate statue debate

3) Violent crime spikes

4) Big Rivers moves headquarters to Owensboro

5) Early voting approved

6) Jack Wells passes away

7) Gabe’s Tower comes down

8) Breweries come to town

9) Schools go virtual

10) Economic development boom

Just missed:

11) OMU power plant shuts down

12) Fairness ordinance dies

Newsroom Top 10

1) COVID-19 pandemic

2) Early voting approved

3) Schools go virtual

4) Violent crime spikes

5) Confederate statue debate

6) Big Rivers headquarters to Owensboro

7) Gabe’s Tower comes down

8) OMU power plant shuts down

9) Jack Wells passes away

10) Fairness ordinance dies

Just missed:

11) Towne Square Mall closings

12) Watson wins 3rd term as mayor

(1) comment

Randall Head

The #1 story worldwide is COVID-19.

Almost every shopping mall and multi-tenant office building is owned by a REIT, and pretty much all of those REITs have mortgages on that real estate.

Those mortgages are based on an assumption of 80-90% occupancy.

The banks and hedge funds who hold these mortgages did the calculations and decided that the mortgagors could make the payments if they had 80-90% occupancy.

VERY few, if any, malls have 90% occupancy right now.

Almost all of those loans will be in default soon.

And then you have office buildings.

You go downtown in any big or mid-sized city now (Owensboro is a small city), and you'll see multi-tenant office towers.

ALL of those towers have mortgages.

All of those mortgages are based on an assumption of 60-80% occupancy.

The lenders figure as long as the towers are 60% occupied, the owners will make their mortgage payments even if they lose money by doing so.

As long as the towers are 80% occupied, the borrower can make the payments from cash flow.

And then we got the #TrumpPlague.

Most of the tenants of those office buildings sent most of their employees home.

They gave them a cable modem and firewall access.

Come to find out, a very large percentage of those employees don't HAVE to come downtown to do their jobs!

All the employer has to do is give them a cable modem and a laptop and set up a VPN and they don't have to rent thousands of square feet of downtown office tower!

Yes, this is a boost to those companies' bottom line, but what about those REITs??

I see a Bad Moon Rising.

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