2017 top stories: A year of transformation and tragedy in Dayton

The economy helped spark new development in Dayton region, but grim news of opioid overdoses remained in headlines.

2017 was the best of times in Dayton and the worst of times, it was the year of huge development growth and a grim reminder of the opioid crisis that has ravaged our community.

Downtown Dayton continued its development renaissance in 2017 with more than $428 million in new buildings opening or starting construction.

Construction was started on the first new hotel in years and on a six-story office tower for CareSource, the largest downtown employer. Taylor Communications said it was keeping high-paying jobs in downtown. And the thriving Water Street District, which has helped fuel downtown’s growth with nearly 350 housing units and new office and commercial spaces, announced plans for new condos near Fifth Third Field.

The Water Street District has helped make downtown one of the hottest destinations and places to live in the region. The district started off with an office building and 215 apartments along the Mad River. But this year, developers opened 133 new apartments in the new Delco Lofts building next to Fifth Third Field, which is also home to the very popular Lock 27 Brewing. STAFF (Staff Writer)

South of Dayton, the Austin Landing area near Intestate 75 continued to grow with bold plans for 2018. And national retail stores continued to open up shop at the popular Cornerstone of Centerville close to I-675.

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The development headlines that dominated local news brought a bright spotlight to Dayton in a year when shocking news about the opioid crisis continued its grip on the region and led to the most overdose deaths recorded in Montgomery County’s history.

The Dayton Daily News published theses stories and thousands of others during the year. Here are some of the stories that had the biggest impact on our community:

Dayton redevelopment projects boom

The city of Dayton had good news on several development fronts as downtown became a hotspot for housing development and plans progressed on redeveloping the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and the Dayton Arcade.

RELATED: Firm envisions fairgrounds with unique neighborhood identity

The long-stalled Arcade redevelopment is expected to cost $90 million and include a mix of uses, including housing and an innovation hub.

CareSource announced plans to build at six-story building in downtown Dayton. Taylor Communications plans to move 600 jobs downtown in early 2018, while retaining some at its Albany Street headquarters.

A 2017 view of Fifth Third Field and the Delco Lofts in the Water Street District of Dayton. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The $4 million River Run water attraction for kayaks and other paddle boats opened at Riverscape and the new $64 million main Dayton Metro Library reopened downtown.

Funding was found for the downtown Levitt Dayton Pavilion, and construction on the music pavilion is to begin early next year on Dave Hall Plaza.

RELATED: Music city: Ampitheather coming to downtown Dayton

Suburban projects grow

Austin Landing and the Cornerstone of Centerville continued to grow in 2017 and added millions of dollars in spending to the local economies.

Austin Landing and its surrounding area near Interstate 75 continued to attract new development and is poised for more growth in 2018. Developer VisCap working on a $350 million plan to stretch south into Springboro for the next phase of Austin Landing and is still attracting new businesses and retail to the original 142-acre Miami Twp. development.

At Cornerstone, several major retailers, including Kroger, opened new stores in the Centerville development near Interstate 675. Developers also announced several million-dollar housing projects for seniors and upstarters in the area surrounding Cornerstone.

Three area politicians announce bids for governor

The race for Ohio governor in 2018 includes more local faces than usual, with Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Ohio Attorney General DeWine all in the race. It means the contenders not only know their way around town but would bring to Columbus a pretty good knowledge of the people and issues that are important in the Dayton region.

Mike DeWine

RELATED: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley running for Ohio governor in 2018

Republican DeWine of Cedarville teamed up with Husted, who formerly represented Kettering in the statehouse and was running for governor until DeWine tapped him as his choice for lieutenant governor.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (Staff Writer)

RELATED: DeWine-Husted ticket called governor’s race ‘dream team’ by GOP state senator

The other candidates on the Republican side are U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

Democrat Whaley faces Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a former Ohio treasurer and attorney general, former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron, and Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill.

Opioid crisis grips the region

Spirit Airlines Captain Brian K. Halye and his wife, Courtney, were found dead of overdoses of cocaine and the powerful synthetic opioid carfentanil by their four children in their Centerville home on March 16.

RELATED: Centerville couple’s death drew attention to opioid crisis, airline safety

They were two of the tens of thousands Americans who died of opioid overdoses as the addiction crisis swept the nation. Montgomery County saw a welcome dip in deaths for the month of July, but it was in a year when the county lost more people to accidental drug overdoses than ever before.

Brian Hayle, 36, and Courtney Halye, 34, who lived at this home in Centerville, died by overdoses on Thursday, March 16, 2017. JAROD THRUSH / STAFF (Staff Writer)

RELATED: Overdose deaths tick down, but will it last?

The crisis is also blamed for increasing the number of children born to women in jail and prison as well as a flood of children of addicts sent to foster care.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle have made the addiction crisis a campaign issue with calls for stopping drugs from coming into the country, educating people to not use drugs, providing treatment to those who are addicted and suing opioid manufacturers.

RELATED: Sen. Brown wants to use high-tech to stop fentanyl at U.S. border

Airport changes

It’s been a year of changes for the Dayton International Airport — from fluctuating passenger traffic to new, discount flight destinations and a mix-up in air carriers. The Dayton International Airport saw a steady decline in passenger traffic in 2017 after Southwest Airlines abruptly announced it was pulling its services from the airport. Flights halted during the summer, and officials and business leaders said Thursday there’s not much that could have been done to keep the carrier.

Aviation director Terrence Slaybaugh is hoping a major face-lift in the next few years will boost the notoriety of this hometown hub. The airport launched at least $35 million in new construction projects, work that could last up to 18 months, fueled mostly by federal funds.

The airport also expanded its development — including Spectrum Brands 570,000-square-foot facility. Hundreds of more jobs are expected to land at the airport next year related to two projects that are estimated to exceed $56 million in new investment.

“The city and our partners have worked for over a decade to position the airport for this type of development — logistics, light manufacturing and warehouse space,” Slaybaugh said.

State Issue 2 fails

State Issue 2, an initiative that supporters said would lower prescription drug prices, failed spectacularly on Nov. 7, with 79 percent of voters saying “no” to an issue that opponents said would not do as promised and could make things worse.

Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices promoted the ballot issue that would have capped what the state of Ohio pays for prescription drugs at the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,

RELATED: ISSUE 2: Helping you understand the hottest issue on Ohio’s ballot

The issue was a boon to the state as the campaigns spent a record $74 million, much of it on advertising. Most of the money — $57 million — was raised and spent by the pharmaceutical industry-funded opposition, Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue.

The previous record for spending was during the 2009 battle over casinos in Ohio, when nearly $73 million was spent, the majority of it by supporters of the successful effort to legalize casinos.

RELATED: Issue 2 trouncing won’t end debate over high drug prices

Wright State budget troubles

Wright State University inaugurated a new president, Cheryl Schrader, but continued to struggle with budget troubles and a lingering federal immigration investigation. In June the board of trustees approved more than $30.8 million in budget cuts.

The budget hole had deepened over the years even as trustees were told things were fine, a Dayton Daily News analysis found.

Wright State University. (Staff Writer)

RELATED: WSU budgets portrayed finances as ‘strong’ while school lost millions

The university is now considering employee furloughs in addition to the jobs eliminated and layoffs approved in the fiscal year 2018 budget. Several top administrators also stepped down, resuming teaching jobs or leaving Wright State.

The Ohio Inspector General also questioned the university’s payment of $1.8 million to consultant Ron Wine, who is suing Wright State for breach of contract for suspending his contract as the state investigated multiple issues.

RELATED: Report questions $1.8 million paid by WSU to consultant

Arun Aggarwal convicted

A Dayton Daily News investigation shed a spotlight on a case involving Arun Aggarwal, 40, a former Dayton Children’s Hospital doctor and Wright State employee, who plead guilty on Dec. 21 to four counts of gross sexual imposition after being accused of improperly touching the breasts of two teenage female patients.

Officials at the hospital were criticized for not immediately reporting to police the complaints received in 2014 about Aggarwal’s behavior with the girls.

RELATED: Records reveal hospital debate over sexual misconduct allegations

Dayton Children’s Chief Executive Deb Feldman released a statement this month acknowledging mistakes were made in handling the allegations.

Medical marijuana moves forward

The state moved forward with the sale of legal medical marijuana, which is expected to begin next year. Some area cities banned marijuana facilities and local residents and businesses were among those applying to cultivate and process medical marijuana.

RELATED: Ohio announces first set of medical marijuana growers

Medical marijuana was legalized by the state legislature in 2016 a year after Ohio voters soundly rejected a constitutional amendment allowing recreational use of marijuana.

The law does not allow the smoking or home-growing of marijuana but permits edibles, oils and other forms to be used by people with doctor’s prescriptions for a limited set of illnesses, including cancer and chronic pain.

County jail operations under scrutiny

The amount of taxpayer money spent defending and settling a spate of lawsuits against the Montgomery County Jail soared above a million dollars during 2017 when county commissioners approved a $380,000 payout to Emily Evans.

SPECIAL REPORT: Justice in the Jailhouse — Lawsuits, accusations plague county jails in the region

Montomery County Jail surveillance video obtained by a local attorney shows then Sgt. Judith Sealey pepper-spraying inmate Amber Swink, who was in a restraint chair. FILE/Staff (Staff Writer)

Evans, then 27, was brought to the jail in 2014 on a drunk driving charge. The lawsuit claimed Evans was threatened by a deputy who had a Taser pointed at her and was then slammed to the floor by a sergeant, causing facial fractures.

Evans was the fourth former inmate to receive a settlement over alleged mistreatment in the jail. Others include Darryl Wallace , Marsha Pate-Strickland and Amber Swink, whose videotaped pepper spaying by then-Sgt. Judith Sealey was covered up, alleges a retired jail sergeant.

RELATED: Former jail sergeant alleges cover-up in interview

A Justice Advisory Committee for the Montgomery County Jail was formed in March to provide a report to commissioners that will identify best practices around programming, staffing levels, training, policies and procedures, as well as “bricks and mortar investments” the county might make in the facility which saw its last major renovation in 1994.

Five firms submitted proposals this month to study jail operations for the independent Justice Advisory Committee.

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