FSCC professor biography available during signing event

In the past eight months, former Fort Scott Community College professor Marcel Normand completed a biography on the life and impact of fellow teacher Lucile James and how she influenced not just the community, but his own family’s lives.

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That book, The Lucile James Story: Portrait of a Remarkable Teacher, will be available at the Fort Scott Community College Thursday December 3, for a book signing event.

Normand said he first met James, raised in Pleasanton, when they both started teaching at the Fort Scott High School when he was just 25 years old and she was 52. Their offices were located near each other, they taught on the same floor and they often shared lunch breaks.

“We just kind of hit it off,” Normand said of when they met, saying theater and deciding who would direct the school play that year became the foundation of their friendship that would last for decades.

Normand married his wife in the next year after meeting James, and their families grew close to one another, with the couples often going dancing together over the weekends.

“We had a family friendship,” Normand described the couples’ bond. “It was much more than a school relationship.”

Normand and James would go on to teach at FSCC and, by the early 1970s, Normand said he knew he would write a book about James one day, as he was inspired by her life and teaching method. Normand said she had a flamboyant and fun attitude that seemed to match her red hair, but could also be disciplined and professional in the classroom.

After James’ husband died in 1974, she would spend about every other weekend with Normand’s family, often enough that their three children would begin to consider her a grandmother. Two of those three children would later take English classes from James at FSCC.

In the 1970s, James had heart surgery as a result of heart disease. In 1985, just months after FSCC hosted an appreciation dinner for James, doctors discovered a malignant tumor on her brain, leading to her death later that year.

Normand referred to the book, which took him about 16 months to write, as a 30th anniversary edition as it was printed about 30 years after James’ death. Normand encourages family, friends and students of James to read the book as well as those who have only heard about her.

Fort Scott Circles receives donation, seeks volunteers

During a meeting last Tuesday, leaders and volunteers in the Fort Scott Circles program received an update of the program, a report on current and upcoming needs and a check from a local family.

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Siblings Robert Irby, Mary Rio and Janette Braun attended the meeting and presented a check of $1,694 to the program from the Dr. Pratt and Pauline Irby Endowment Fund, which they had set up in honor of their parents and use to help local charities they believe their parents would have supported.

Irby said he first heard about the program’s needs when he heard a report on the program during the Gordon Parks Celebration in October. Prior to that time, he said Circles was just a name to him.

“I was most struck when you said there was a need for transportation,” Irby said.

Braun, who is a member of the Circles resource team, said she and her siblings decided that need would be a good cause for the fund, recalling when their own father needed help with transportation when he could no longer drive.

“We understood that need,” Braun said, adding she believes her parents would have also supported that cause. “We’d like for it to be used for emergency transportation funding for Circles leaders.”

Those Circle leaders are members of the community who want to improve their way of life and join the program for training and assistance to help them towards that goal.

The current group has eight Circle leaders who will graduate to the next level of the program on Dec. 16. Beginning in the new year, those participants will each need one or two accountability partners who will provide support for them as they strive to reach their goals.

“It’s about being a friend,” Hedges said of the role of those allies. “There aren’t a lot of rules to it.”

The allies are required to attend monthly meetings but can decide how involved they are between those meetings, whether they want to meet with or call the Circle leaders on a more regular basis.

“We do need more allies,” director Jan Hedges said, saying they have about seven or eight signed up right now but need 16. “That is the greatest need right at this minute.”

For those interested in helping, a training session for allies will be held Dec. 8. They are also looking for members of the community who might have an expertise or knowledge they can share with the Circle leaders, such as concerning budgeting, renting homes or other areas.

Commission approves additional funding for courthouse renovations

Despite differing opinions on the timing and cost of the project, the county commissioners approved of a plan and funding Tuesday afternoon that will continue the painting project of the first floor of the courthouse.

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Painting began on the first floor in recent weeks with a $1,500 donation from the Historic Preservation Association and assistance in labor from local inmates. But as work went on, tax assessor and HPA president Rhonda Dunn said they realized some of the more detailed painting near the ceiling would have to be done by a contractor.

The contractor will complete a portion of the work in time for the Homes for the Holidays tour the first weekend of December, which will feature the courthouse, and will then finish the remaining painting after the new year, when he will charge the county $1,810 for the entire task.

Because fewer coats of paint have been needed on the first floor than expected, Dunn said they still have money left over from the HPA which will be used to cover part of the extra cost, with the county paying the difference.

“I think it will look wonderful,” presiding commissioner Barbara Albright said. “I just think right now’s not a good time to do it.”

Albright said she thought the basic painting could be complete while the trim work, which would have to be done by hand, could be left to a later time when they could more easily commit that funding.

“The history of this courthouse is that we don’t do much upkeep on it,” Dunn said, saying her own office went about 30 years without any new painting or carpeting. “I have a lot of pride in this courthouse, so investments need to be made.”

Once the project is done, GIS/IT director and HPA member Shane Walker said it probably would not have to be done again for at least 25 years.

“It looks nice,” commissioner Harold Coleman said. “And the nicer it looks the better…Why leave it halfway?”

The project also includes a Christmas tree with old photos of the county put up for the holidays and other antique items that will be displayed at the courthouse throughout the year.

Ministerial Alliance hosts Community Thanksgiving Service

Members of the community and area churches gathered Tuesday evening with the Ministerial Alliance for a service of music and testimonies in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

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“Thanksgiving is not about stuff,” Life Point Assembly of God pastor Steve Bell said, saying, even without that stuff, there is still much one can find to be thankful for. “It’s about redemption.”

Participants of all ages attended and also performed during the service, which included instrumental and vocal performances. First Baptist Church youth pastor Sam George and Fort Scott city manager David Martin also shared testimonies from their lives and what they are thankful for, including their jobs and families.

“I want to be thankful tonight for what God did in my life,” George said after speaking of a time in his life before he decided to become a pastor.

The event drew a group large enough that more chairs had to be added to have sufficient seating.

“What a blessing it is that we can come together and worship him together,” FBC pastor Marvin George said, saying that is why they gather prior to Thanksgiving.

Extravaganza gives community opportunity for Christmas shopping

The Fort Scott Middle School hosted the seventh annual VIP Fall Extravaganza Monday evening, with almost 60 local and out-of-town vendors participating to provide a one-stop shopping experience for those getting a head start on their Christmas shopping.

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“It’s our biggest year,” organizer Stephanie George said, saying 10 new vendors joined the event this year. “I think the turnout’s been pretty good.”

George said each of the vendors paid a flat fee for their space in the middle school’s gym or commons area and the money raised could be used for building improvements or supplies for the students.

Some vendors provided food such as barbecue, enchiladas, sugar cookies, pies or other dishes and treats that could be consumed during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Others had handmade items that were sewn, crocheted or carved. Businesses including Essential Oils, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Miller Feed and Farm and Scentsy were also on hand as well as other organizations such as Care to Share and Relay for Life.

Some vendors held drawings for donated giveaways. Meals and live music were also part of the event along with childcare provided by the Fort Scott Community College volleyball team.

Quiet Zone a step closer for Fort Scott

With a railroad track running through the city, it is hard for residents of Fort Scott to get away from the noise of trains going by, but a process which began years ago has come a step closer to diminishing some of that noise.

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More than a year ago, when the Sleep Inn Hotel was in the process of coming to the area, the city told them they would look into working with the Kansas Department of Transportation and the railroad to put in a quiet zone that would prevent trains from blowing their horns within specified areas.

“The quiet zone has always been on the radar for the city,” City Manager Dave Martin said, saying they looked into it even before he took his position with the city.

Since then, the city of Fort Scott has gotten the approval needed for a quiet zone to be put in place where the tracks intersect with Wall Street. With architects and contractors already employed for the task, the project could be done by next summer.

The zone would forbid trains from blowing their horns within a quarter of a mile in either direction of the intersection. Since the area near the Wall Street intersection is also a pick-up and drop-off point for railroad crews, the trains will still have to blow their horns when they start up.

Eventually, the city hopes to have similar zones at 10th and 6th streets, though that could take some time because of other KDOT projects in that area.

The first quiet zone will cost a total of $128,182.40, with the city using the transient guest tax and some other city funds since they had not budgeted for their portion of that expenditure.

The project will include demolishing certain roads near the track, redoing the sidewalks and building a 100-foot concrete median on the east and west side of the tracks. In preparation for that project, some roads have been abandoned with the city commission’s approval at recent meetings while Hill Street was moved over since it was too close to the tracks.

Martin said that construction work should begin by the end of the year and says they do not anticipate ever closing the road completely as work is done.

“I think it will be a good impact for the citizens and the hotels on the north end of town,” Martin said. “It will quiet that area.”

The Olsson Associates have served as the engineers for the city for the project. Marbery Concrete in Fort Scott has been contracted for the project.

National Avenue to have sections closed into new year

The project along National Avenue continues as crews put in new water lines as well as install storm drains and curbs.

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While the current, closed section between 9th and 11th streets should open in upcoming weeks, City Manager Dave Martin said the work crews will then move on to another section, likely to the north, resulting in more road closures.

“I know it’s very frustrating for everybody,” Martin said of the road closures, but said that was the only safe way to do it. “When it gets all said and done, it will be very nice.”

Martin said he realized going into the project that it would likely span into the new year, but that the wait would be worth it as water pressure is improved in that area and the storm drains help prevent flooding along National.

“The project’s going pretty well,” said Bob Grissith with Amino Brothers Co., saying they have already put in a 12-inch water line from the south end of the project to 8th Street and the storm sewer for drainage from 9th to 11th Street.

With that part complete, Grissith said they will now finish grading and putting in curbing before moving on to the next section. Because of the upcoming holiday and current weather forecasts, Grissith said it will likely be another two weeks before that portion opens once more.

“I don’t think the citizens realized the magnitude of what we have going there,” Martin said. “It’s not just a simple overlay of the road.”

Work goes slowly as crews come across hard rock they have to break through, a common problem for such projects in Fort Scott, Martin says. The crews will work until the weather gets too cold and will pick it up again in 2016.