Little Luxuries, LLC to offer knitting classes

Starting in September, Lynn Chaney of Little Luxuries, LLC will offer knitting classes to the public. According to Chaney, the classes will cost $20 per person for a 6-week session, and the classes will meet once per week. Chaney mentioned that students will need to bring their own materials. When asked about the inexpensive price for the classes, Chaney said, “I like to keep my prices down here,” and explained that she wanted to keep the classes affordable to anyone in the area who had a desire to learn. Chaney will be closing her shop downtown, but Common Ground Coffee Co. has offered to allow the knitting classes to meet in their building.

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Lynn Chaney works on a special order.

When asked about the beginnings of her knitting work, Chaney said that she took up the hobby in 1999. Chaney said, “I taught myself to knit . . . and it went from there.” Chaney said that she had several people ask her to teach them to knit, and from those queries came the idea to hold knitting classes in the area.

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In addition to her knitting courses, Chaney takes special orders for knitted goods. During the interview, she was working on a beautiful pastel yellow baby blanket.

While her store at 13 N. Main is still open, Chaney also has several antiques to sell, including a unique writing desk made in 1919.

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County collects on back taxes

As a result of the August 12th tax sale, several property owners were prompted to pay back taxes. County Treasurer Susan Quick presented numbers she had tallied at today’s County Commissioners’ meeting. According to Quick, $262,104.17 was collected on tax sale properties after charges were filed in court. According to county officials, the number of properties redeemed by payment of back taxes came to a total of 16. The addition of $46,075.57 in penalties brought the total amount of revenue from back taxes to $304,317.34 before expenses were taken out. Those expenses include a $60 per parcel charge from Security 1st Title. Collected fees equaled $5,472.

“The real benefit in having these sales . . . we had some properties that were $25,000 in taxes paid up this time. We need to pursue delinquent taxes. By the time it gets to where we can sell it, taxes have not been paid for 4 years,” said Commission Chairman Allen Warren. “The 16 that were redeemed brought in a lot of money.” County Attorney Terri Johnson agreed. “A lot of properties were redeemed after the process started,” Johnson said. Warren explained that last year, the county started an “aggressive program” to deal with delinquent properties.

  •  After a 15 minute executive session, Commissioner Barbara Albright moved to transfer Bobby Reed to the title of Jail Administrator at a salary of $37,205 per year, and that Julie Miller step into the Director of Security position at a salary of $32,205.89. Commissioner Harold Coleman seconded the motion. Both positions are exempt from overtime, according to county officials. According to County Attorney Terri Johnson, both Reed and Miller had been doing extra duties to fill these positions even before their job titles changed at today’s meetings. The position of Program Director formerly held by Miller will remain unfilled. In addition, Reed reported that a joint effort between departments had brought the number of jail occupants and number of inmates housed out to 49 and 6, respectively. According to Assistant County Attorney Valorie LeBlanc, one of the 6 inmates currently being housed out will be released August 24th. Reed said that he thought the department was “doing very well” at preventing overcrowding.
  • Hubert Thomas came to the meeting with County Road and Bridge Director Jim Harris to discuss repairs on Grand Road. “Looking at the project, it’s a big project,” said Commission Chairman Warren. “The landowner should be commended for calling it to our attention.” Warren explained that Brad Blythe, the landowner, had offered to work with the county by moving both of his fences in order to give the county room to work. The commission asked Thomas to come up with an estimate for the project. Thomas gave a preliminary rough estimate of $21-22,000 to repair the road and install a new culvert. Thomas explained that the 1,600 acres of rocky ground that drains into the current culverts sends an overwhelming amount of water toward the road. “No wonder it went over,” Warren said. The commission and Harris are looking into making the project a T-Works project, in which case the county would be reimbursed for the cost of the repair work. “That’s where we’d like to get the financing for it if possible,” Warren said. Commissioner Barbara Albright asked if the road were safe in the meantime. “It’s passable,” Thomas said, explaining that the damaged area of the road had been blocked off.
  • Bids have come in on repairs to the A/C units on the courthouse. Design Mechanical put in a bid of $25,998.00, while CDL put in a bid of $37,061.80. However, after looking over the specifications for work to be done on each bid, Warren said that he would like County Custodial Supervisor David Neville to review the bids to make sure that the two bids were comparable in scope of work. Warren said that he wanted to make sure the commission would be “comparing apples to apples.”
  • Richard Perry brought a road concern to the meeting. “We had so much rain that it tried to take [a culvert] out,” Perry said. “It wouldn’t take too much to fix it.” Perry said that lots of gravel had been washed out around the culvert, and that he would have semis hauling his corn harvest through the area around 160th soon.
  • Public Works Director Jim Harris brought an update on road work done in the past week. “We did a lot of rock hauling this week,” Harris said. Harris said that the plan for work on paving roads was to start paving the second lane on 18th Street/Kansas Road on Monday. Harris expected that the job would be finished in as little as 2 days. Commissioners also discussed with Harris the reclamation work to be done at the Blake Quarry. The project will include the construction of a 5-wire fence.

 

 

USD 234 gears up for school year

As school starts, students are getting ready for another year of learning. However, most teachers, school administrators and support staff have been preparing all summer for several changes.

One change students will notice immediately is the addition of 14 new faces. “There are 14 new-to-the-district teachers,” USD 234 Superintendent Diane Gross said. “That’s a larger number than most years.” Gross mentioned that the district does have a “pretty veteran staff,” but that the district is “excited about the possibilities and the enthusiasm” that new teachers bring with them.

Another change students will see in the coming year is a change in state standards. Kansas  adopted the Common Core standards on October 12, 2010, and full implementation is expected during the 2013-2014 school year, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Of the standards, Gross said that teachers in the district had spent “quite a bit” or in-service time in the past year working with the standards in grade level teams or departments. Gross said that the teachers had worked toward a grasp of what the standards ask the students to do, and that the next step is to identify what teachers need to do in delivering content to help students succeed according to those standards. “It’s really about asking students to engage in higher level thinking and processing skills,” Gross said. Gross said that once teachers are comfortable with the standards, they will have greater latitude to teach depth of knowledge in their subject area. “I think it’s a positive thing for teachers as well as students,” Gross said.

In addition to work related to Common Core, Gross said that the district is training teachers in a Literacy First program. Because only 40 teachers can go through the program at a time, Gross explained that half of the Fort Scott Middle School and half of the Fort Scott High School teachers are going through the intensive, year-long training at the moment. “We’re establishing a consistent, coherent instructional framework,” Gross said. Gross indicated that though teachers may already be using some of the strategies outlined by the training, the conversations among teachers that occur may allow for sharing of ideas and a greater awareness of instructional practices.

A third change for the district comes in the form of changing extracurricular activities at Fort Scott Middle School. “This year we’re going to be adding interscholastic sports at the Middle School,” Gross said. Gross explained that the middle school will still offer some intramural activities for students who do not wish to compete outside of their own school.

A final change students, parents and the community will see in the school calendar during 8 months of the school year is an early release day. “We have some very focused time that is built into our calendar,” Gross said, to allow teachers collaborative time to work on instructional practices.

When asked about budget cuts from the state, Gross indicated that the school would find ways to keep the quality of education in the district high. However, as a result of a steady decline in enrollment, Gross said that the district had analyzed the staffing needs of each school. Through number crunching and discussions involving the staff and administrators, the district has determined what adjustments need to be made in staffing. “We lost two positions in each building, if my calculations are correct. They all ended up being people who were retiring or looking for a job elsewhere,” Gross said. In addition to evaluation regarding numbers of staff, Gross said that district buildings were slated for analysis by engineers. According to Gross, the district refinanced bonds and has set aside the funds to do a “major engineering analysis” of the school buildings. The school should get that report during the second semester, Gross said.

 

City ups codes work, remains within budget

Just as Fort Scott citizens are becoming creative with ways to stay within their budgets, the City of Fort Scott is doing the same. City Manager Dave Martin explained at this morning’s Chamber Coffee the challenges the city faced as a result of the destructive April hailstorm. As a result of increased workload in the Codes Department, the department needed more help to keep up with notifying homeowners of the need to clean up their properties, and  keeping track of licensing for the numerous roofing contractors coming into town. “I’m real proud of our codes department,” Martin said. Martin said that the “extra hours and the extra money” resulting from the storm have been successfully absorbed by the city. Part of these money-saving strategies was the transfer of Bruce Swank from Streets to the Codes Department.

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Codes Manager Brent Crays, Police Chief Travis Shelton, and Codes assistant Bruce Swank listen as local businessman Mark McCoy conducts the “Dollars for Dolly” announcements.

Codes assistant Bruce Swank said of the situation, “Since the hailstorm . . . we’ve just been swamped.” Swank described operations at the codes department as a “three-tiered cake” of goings on with repairs, cleanup and daily operations. Of progress on home repairs in the city, Swank said, “We’re only about halfway through.” Codes Manager Brent Crays reported that of the 183 occupational licenses issued to contractors, only “two or three” have been problematic. When asked how long work on storm-damaged homes would continue, Crays said that work would likely continue into next year.

In other storm-related news, Tim Emmerson Jr. reported that for residents 62 years old and older whose homes have been damaged, an income-based grant of $7,500 may be available. Emmerson said that the application is easy to fill out, and that County Emergency Manager Terri Coop is the person to see about getting an application.

In other news:

  • The Santana family, owners of La Hacienda, hosted chamber members and guests for this morning’s Chamber Coffee. “We are very happy to have everybody here,” said Mirna Santana. According to Santana, the restaurant is now in its 3rd year of serving Fort Scott. Mark McCoy, announcer for today’s Chamber Coffee, added that La Hacienda is run by “wonderful, accommodating people.”
  • City Economic Development Director Heather Griffith announced that the city is working with officials in Lawrence to discuss options for other internet service providers in town. “The city is working hard . . . to expand our internet offerings in Fort Scott,” Griffith said.
  • Chamber Executive Director Lindsey Madison announced the Chamber After Hours event to be held next Thursday from 5:15PM-7:30PM at the Fort Scott Professional Building, formerly Newman-Young Clinic. Madison also announced that next Friday an Art Crawl event will be held downtown from 5Pm-8PM. Madison said that booths are free, and encouraged local artists to participate in the event. According to Madison, Ralph Carlson has organized musical entertainment for the 3 hour event.

Edward Jones Financial Advisor Jamie K. Armstrong Wins Spirit of Partnership Award

Jamie K. Armstrong of the financial services firm Edward Jones in Fort Scott, Kansas recently won the firm’s exclusive Spirit of Partnership Award for outstanding performance during 2012.

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Jim Weddle, the firm’s managing partner, calls Armstrong a leader in the firm and an example of what a dedicated Edward Jones financial advisor can achieve.

“Jamie has demonstrated unyielding dedication and enthusiasm for her business of serving individual investors,” Weddle said. “Jamie has reached a benchmark in her career that deserves recognition, and the Spirit of Partnership Award provides that recognition. I am proud to call her an Edward Jones financial advisor.”

Armstrong said she is honored to receive the award.

“Edward Jones is a partnership. That structure is not just financial, it’s a philosophy,” Armstrong said. “We work together, help each other and all share in the rewards of working with long-term individual investors. That brings out the best in everyone.”

Armstrong was one of only 1,061 financial advisors out of the firm’s more than 12,000 to receive the award.

Edward Jones provides financial services for individual investors in the United States and, through its affiliate, in Canada. Every aspect of the firm’s business, from the types of investment options offered to the location of branch offices, is designed to cater to individual investors in the communities in which they live and work. The firm’s 12,000-plus financial advisors work directly with nearly 7 million clients to understand their personal goals — from college savings to retirement — and create long-term investment solutions that emphasize a well-balanced portfolio and a buy-and-hold strategy. Edward Jones embraces the importance of building long-term, face-to-face relationships with clients, helping them to understand and make sense of the investment options available today.

In January 2013, for the 14th year, Edward Jones was named one of the best companies to work for by FORTUNE Magazine in its annual listing. The firm ranked No. 8 overall. These 14 FORTUNE rankings include 10 top-10 finishes, consecutive No. 1 rankings in 2002 and 2003, and consecutive No. 2 rankings in 2009 and 2010. FORTUNE and Time Inc. are not affiliated with and do not endorse products or services of Edward Jones.

Edward Jones is headquartered in St. Louis. The Edward Jones website is located at www.edwardjones.com, and its recruiting website is www.careers.edwardjones.com. Member SIPC.

Friends of Mercy Kickoff to be held Saturday

This Saturday, August 17th at Crooner’s Lounge a 6PM, Mercy will be holding a Friends of Mercy Kickoff event, including a  happy hour, dinner and auction to raise support for the Telemedicine Initiative at Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott. The cost to attend the event is $25, and registration for the event is available online. “Telemedicine is a wonderful new form of medicine where a patient is able to have a physician visit via a computer,” said Tina Rockhold, Regional Marketing/Communications Manager. Rockhold said that telemedicine holds great opportunities for increased care in rural communities. “The beauty of that in rural communities . . . is that it gives access to our patients who need care quickly and we may not have that specialist in that community,” Rockhold said.

Rockhold explained that telemedicine has been very effective and had great results for stroke victims in other areas where telemedicine has been used. “We don’t have those specialists like neurologists face to face,” Rockhold said. Rockhold said that through telemedicine, a local practitioner works with the specialist to treat and assess the patient. Rockhold said that in the case of a stroke victim, prompt treatment can help reverse potential damage. “That time is precious,” Rockhold said. Through telemedicine, Rockhold explained, a stroke patient could potentially be treated faster than if that patient had to travel to see a neurologist.

“The goal of the event on Saturday night is to raise funds to have the equipment and the necessary components in place,” Rockhold said. Rockhold explained that Mercy would like to have the equipment set up so that when specialists are in place for the program, Mercy will be able to serve patients as soon as possible.

For more information about the event, please contact Tina Rockhold at (620)-223-8094.

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Ellis Foundation scholarships bolster student opportunities

The bright blue metal roof of the Ellis Foundation building is quite visible on the downtown Fort Scott skyline. In contrast, the work that the Ellis Foundation does is quiet and behind the scenes, but that work makes a priceless difference in the lives of students all over the United States.

We caught up with Chris Ellis, President of the Ellis Foundation, to ask a few questions about the mission of the Ellis Foundation, its impact, and the daily operations of the foundation.

Ellis started by giving a bit of background on the beginnings of the foundation. “My sister, Kathy, grew up here,” Ellis said. Ellis explained that his sister, a beloved English educator at Blue Valley High School, passed away from cancer in 1997. Ellis said that students held a ceremony for the family and “said things that were just amazing” about Kathy and how she had encouraged and supported her students. “That was an inspiration for everything we do here,” Ellis said.

In 1998, the Ellis family gave out 3 scholarships funded with their own money. “That was the beginning,” Ellis said. After about 5 years, positive feedback from recipients and a desire to expand and continue the work prompted Danny and Willia Ellis to ask their son, Chris, to take over the running of the foundation.

Ellis said that the foundation has grown from its initial few family-funded scholarships to 185 new scholarships this year. Ellis added that the foundation now has over 100 partners that fund scholarships, including the Helzberg family of Helzberg Diamonds fame. The first year of Ellis’ involvement, the foundation raised $13,000 from donors for scholarships. This year donations jumped to over $3 million. “It’s grown like you wouldn’t believe,” Ellis said.

Ellis said that the foundation attracts donors for two reasons. The first is that the foundation requires students to be accountable, and the second is that 100% of the donors’ money goes directly to paying tuition and fees for students.

Ellis explained that the mentoring program begun by his’ wife, Cathy, helps students succeed throughout all 4 years of college. Cathy Ellis identified an Ellis Scholar, Alexandria Horttor, whom the foundation hired as Mentoring Coordinator. Horttor travels to every university where Ellis Scholars are enrolled to hold mentoring meetings. In addition, each student is given a student-created “survival guide” specific to the college they attend. According to Ellis, this guide includes not only information geared toward academic success, but also the best place in town to get pizza. “We try to take the mystery out . . . and make them part of a family,” Ellis said.

Ellis also mentioned that donors appreciate the way the foundation operates financially. Not a cent of donors’ funds go to running the foundation. Ellis said of the donors that many are wealthy people in the Kansas City area who took it upon themselves to give back. “Our list of donors is impressive,” Ellis said. “When you have that kind of people . . . you can do a lot.” And the foundation does, indeed, do a lot. This year, according to Ellis, the foundation has offered scholarships of $1,000 per semester for 8 semesters to about 600 students. In addition, students send a personal letter to their respective donors each semester keeping the donor up-to-date on the progress of their education. Ellis said that at least one donor was moved to tears after reading a letter from a student.

The foundation not only looks to metropolitan areas for funding, but also looks locally to generate opportunities for scholars. The foundation involves the community of Fort Scott to offer a Community Scholarship funded by local donations. “It’s the cumulative total of masses of people that create an opportunity,” Ellis said. According to Ellis, $6-10,000 is the amount usually raised by the annual campaign the foundation holds every year in Fort Scott.

Regarding the process of selecting scholarship recipients, Ellis and his wife interview every candidate personally. This is quite a task, considering the foundation works with about 75 different high schools in 19 different states, and an additional 105 colleges and universities, according to Ellis. “We interview every kid face to face,” Ellis said, except for a few in remote areas that the foundation interviews through telecommunication. “That’s powerful.” The approach has, indeed, been a successful one. The retention rate for returning freshmen is 95.41%, and Ellis expects that percentage to rise. “Our overall percentage of students retained is 81%,” Ellis said. “The national average is 47%. We’re almost double the national average.” So far, the foundation has “given 2,140 scholarships and graduated 823 students out of college,” Ellis said.

Of the students the foundation works with, Ellis said the foundation likes to work not only with students who are at the top, academically, but also with those “gap kids” who may be hardworking and possess a decent GPA, but have been overlooked by colleges.

The foundation also does valuable work in connecting industry with prospective workers. According to Ellis, the foundation works with Westar Energy as well as Delta Dental to identify students these companies would eventually want to hire, and in some cases, the company will pay the entirety of the student’s tuition through college. Ellis used as an example the program through which Delta Dental funds a student’s education on the agreement that a dental student will go to work in a “dental desert,” an area that is in desperate need of a dentist or dental hygienist.

Aside from the daily work the foundation already does, Ellis said that foundation is planning for the future. “Absolutely, we’re big thinkers,” Ellis said. “We’ve already met with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation twice.” Ellis said that he hopes to build the foundation until it has a national reach and a “$100 million endowment.” “I think that’s realistic,” Ellis said. There’s need out there.”