All posts by Michelle Workman

County Commission Accepts 2018 Budget

The Bourbon County Commission accepted the budget for the fiscal year of 2018 Tuesday, giving raises to employees without raising the mill levy.

“I think it’s a good budget,” said Terry Sercer, certified public accountant for Diehl Banwart Bolton. “You guys worked hard on it this year.”

The commissioners spent the past couple months accepting budget requests from county departments, trying to see where money could be saved while also trying to provide competitive wages for their employees.

The commissioners settled on giving all hourly employees a 75 cents per hour raise, while officers of the Sheriff’s Office received a $1.75 per hour raise. These raises will go into effect in January.

“We’ve raised it to where it’s competitive,” commissioner Lynne Ohara said, specifically of the sheriff’s department wages, which he said are now caught up to the average wages of surrounding counties as recorded as recently as 2015.

With the higher wages, the commissioners said they hope to save money in the long run through the retention of employees, preventing the need to train new officers or pay for overtime if they become shorthanded.

Overall, the county has fewer employees than in past years, which has also allowed the commissioners to save funds. The county also did not include potential revenue from the new law enforcement center such as if cells are leased for inmates from other counties.

The commissioners said the county continues to have a need for new industry and jobs, though the current focus on economic development and the positive housing market has had a positive impact.

“A lot of good things are happening,” commissioner Jeff Fischer said.

Total Eclipse of Fort Scott

Mostly clear skies gave Fort Scott residents an opportunity to view the total solar eclipse Monday, as the American eclipse made its way across the entire continental United States.

The last time such an eclipse was seen in the U.S. was in 1918. Fort Scott was able to view the eclipse Monday at 96 percent, as the path of totality passed by only about 100 miles north of the county. That percentage was enough to cause the normal daylight to dim as the eclipse reached its peak just after 1 p.m.

The Fort Scott National Historic Site provided eclipse information and activities for visitors Monday, showing them how to safely view the eclipse with special glasses or through other safe means.

New Pickleball Courts Provide Recreation for Fort Scott

A new sport is gaining traction in Fort Scott, as participants take advantage of new pickleball courts as well as an upcoming tournament to be hosted by the city.

During a meeting in November of 2016, the Fort Scott City Commission gave City Manager Dave Martin permission to move forward in repairing the tennis courts near the water treatment plant on Burke Street in order to build courts designed for pickleball, a sport similar to tennis but with slightly different rules while using a smaller paddle instead of a racket and a ball similar to a heavy waffle ball.

At the time of the decision last fall, Martin said he thought the request and the name of the sport was a joke, but upon research of the sport and requests from local players for an outdoor court to be built, the city and the Recreation Department worked together with help from private donors to fund the project, which was completed earlier this summer.

“It was in bad shape,” Fort Scott Parks Supervisor Todd Farrell said of the old tennis courts during a June city commission meeting. “And we’ve turned it into something great.”

Despite the odd name, pickleball is indeed a sport that is gaining players of all ages in Fort Scott and around the nation. Participants include young families as well as retired couples, playing outdoors at the new courts or indoors at Buck Run.

“I think it’s a nice family event,” Buck Run and Recreation Department Director Tom Robertson said of the sport, adding his own family uses the new courts frequently. “I think we’re fortunate that we were able to get that project…Those are really nice courts up there.”

The city will use those courts for a tournament Sept. 16-17, hosting events such as doubles, mixed doubles and men’s and women’s singles. Registry is required by Sept. 12, at $10 for the first event and $5 for any additional events. T-shirts will be given to participants and medals to the top three of each event.

“It’s an exciting thing to have something new in Fort Scott,” Robertson said.

Some of the local players have participated in, and even won, such tournaments in other towns such as Nevada. But with the new courts, Fort Scott is able to bring that event and other players into Fort Scott instead.

The tournament will host doubles events the Saturday of the tournament, beginning at 9 a.m. Singles events will be held starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Further information can be found in Buck Run’s fall brochure, to be released Friday.

Currently, groups most commonly play weekly at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Thursday evenings at about 7 p.m. and about 8 a.m. on Saturdays. Smaller groups often organize to play at other times during the week at their own convenience and according to their own skill level.

Residents interested in learning about the sport are encouraged to visit the new courts during one of those playing times.

5 Corners Complex Celebrates Reopening after Storms

The 5 Corners complex celebrated their grand reopening Saturday morning after a March thunderstorm blew the roof off the building, leaving the businesses in need of repairs before they could return to their normal level of service.

Residents of the complex—which include the 5 Corners convenience store, Libation Station, State Farm offices, Car Help Mobile Mechanic, Nitro Promo and Haneline Products—told of their reactions to hearing the roof had blown off the building, most of it ending up in the parking lot. But despite the damage, 5 Corners and Libation Station owner Darcy Smith said the community turned out to help in the recovery process.

“The next day, we had all sorts of people here to help,” Smith said.

Since the complex never lost electricity entirely, 5 Corners was able to open the next day, but the Libation Station remained closed for two months while State Farm agent Kale Nelson was forced to change locations until the building was repaired.

Smith said some of those repairs included the new roof as well as ceilings, lighting, insulation and paint. But after more than five months of work, all the businesses are repaired and are fully open to the public once again.

“We are very excited for the complex to be reopened,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lindsay Madison said.

The Saturday festivities included food and drawings provided by the businesses and demonstrations by the State Highway Patrol.

Country Place Living Provides Care in Assisted Living

Since their opening in January, Country Place Living continues to provide an assisted living place for individuals or couples that need assistance in day-to-day life.

Located on Horton Street, right next to the Country Place Memory Care living facility, Country Place Living has 26, 1-bedroom studio apartments, and currently houses seven individuals as the facility continues to grow and publicize its services in the community.

“We can provide high levels of care,” Director Amanda Downing said during Thursday’s Chamber Coffee event, adding some people conclude that they are able to provide only limited attention.

Downing said they can provide temporary care as well as help continue rehabilitation for those who need that attention after a procedure. Meals are prepared on-site and staff provides close care for residents, who can enjoy being outside on the porch or visiting with others in a community room.

“Most of our people, once they have come and toured and really seen the difference…it really sells itself,” Downing said.

Fort Scott Airport Faces Growth Opportunity

With the rise of a special opportunity, the Fort Scott Municipal Airport may see an increase in traffic as well as in the size of the airport in upcoming years.

For some time, airport director Kenny Howard has made efforts to grow the local airport in order to attract more traffic and bring new revenue to the city and county, but was always forced to wait because of lack of city funding and not meeting Federal Aviation Administration requirements for FAA grants.

But during the Fort Scott City Commission’s meeting Tuesday night, City Manager Dave Martin, Economic Development Direct Rachel Pruitt and Howard presented what Martin referred to as an “exciting” and “scary” opportunity for the city.

Pruitt said a key part of aviation is maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services, an industry growing in size and importance in the country as such companies work with airports to provide repairs for jets such as those that fly into Fort Scott.

One of those companies, Spectra jet, Inc., out of Springfield, Ohio, has expressed interest in expanding their company to include a station at Fort Scott. But for that to be a possibility, Fort Scott would have to commit to a runway expansion in order to be able to house the Learjet and Challenger models Spectra services.

“It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for us,” Pruitt said, saying already they have heard of individuals interested in bringing a restaurant to the airport, while additional hangars and a pilot’s lounge could also be added.

“This would be a great opportunity for our community,” Howard said of the expansion and the attraction it would be to other businesses.

Pruitt said she is already looking into state and federal grants the city could pursue since the expansion would bring about an economic impact on the city as well as the airport.

During the meeting, the commission approved a master agreement with Olsson Associates and a work order of $43,000 for the initial steps of allowing them to complete topographical and other surveys to determine what will need to be done at the airport in preparation for such an expansion.

Diane Hofer, airport program leader for Olsson Associates, said they have done many other airport projects such as this.

“It’s definitely a good industry to bring into town,” Hofer said of the possible expansion and addition.

If the city commits to the runway expansion, Spectra could bring their business to the area even before the project is complete, servicing jets currently able to use the runway.

KOMB-FM Welcomes New Personality

With the beginning of high school and college athletics approaching, Fort Scott residents will soon hear a new voice broadcasting the sports over the radio as Brandon Tadtman continues to transition into his position with KOMB-FM radio.

In April, Tadtman sought part-time work with the local radio station, in large part because his father was now living in Fort Scott after completing his first season as the Fort Scott Community College’s womens’ basketball coach. But instead of getting those part-time hours, Tadtman was given a full-time job due to the departure of personality Larry Gazaway, who took on the city’s director of tourism position.

After having spent the previous six months working outside of the radio business in Kansas City, Tadtman quickly transitioned into working the morning shift for KOMB-FM of Fort Scott, being on the air 6 to 9 a.m.

“I was thrown in pretty quickly into the fire,” Tadtman says, saying he only had a few days to shadow Gazaway. “But now everything’s pretty smooth. It’s been good.”

Tadtman first became aware of his interest in radio commentary as a sophomore high school student in his hometown of Winfield, a town of similar size to Fort Scott southeast of Wichita. When the high school hosted the 5A state softball tournament, Tadtman was asked by a friend to help provide color commentary. That opportunity and his fondness for sports led to his interest in pursuing that as a career.

While attending Kansas State University, Tadtman participated in the student-run radio station as the sports broadcaster, often traveling with the teams to call their games.

“I thought that was very beneficial to me,” Tadtman says of that opportunity, which allowed him to learn the ins and outs of radio as a student. “It was a really awesome experience.”

Upon his graduation, Tadtman continued to work in radio in Manhattan before taking on a more logistical job in Kansas City. But Tadtman realized he missed being on the radio and pursued a position in Fort Scott.

While used to being on air, Tadtman says his new position is different from his usual sports broadcasting as he now provides other news and frequently interviews guests to the station.

“It is a little bit different here,” Tadtman says. “I wasn’t used to being on the air as much as the DJ because I was strictly doing sports in Manhattan.”

While he has enjoyed the chance to gain experience in the station, Tadtman says he is especially looking forward to the upcoming sports activities and says he hopes the community will enjoy his sports broadcasting, where he has the most experience.

Because he spent much of his earlier years in a small town, Tadtman says that the transition to Fort Scott has not been difficult as he tries to familiarize himself with the town and its residents. He added that he is grateful for the positive feedback he has received.

“I appreciate the community taking me in and letting me be their person that provides the information that they need every day,” Tadtman says, adding he has enjoyed living in Fort Scott these first few months. “I appreciate the people of Fort Scott. They’ve welcomed me with open arms.”

Tadtman also says he has been grateful for an easy transition while working with the KOMB staff, and their acceptance of him and willingness to help him as he grew accustomed to the job and tried to add his own personality.

“Everyone here is nice and they have accepted me,” Tadtman says. “I couldn’t be more happy with how easy the transition was.”