In 2011, Bourbon County joined Allen and Neosha counties to become a part of the Kansas State Research and Extension Southwind District, which has provided information and services on a number of topics to residents since that time.
“We are here to serve you guys,” local district agent Christopher Petty said during a Chamber Coffee Thursday.
Petty pointed out Kansas State University is a land grant institution, meaning it was created using federal funds, and now has offices in each county so it can serve residents around the state. Before the Southwind District was formed, the three counties held separate offices that were funded by county commission general fund budgets, but in 2010 it instead became its own tax entity.
District Director Carla Nemecek of Iola said joining into one district allowed the agents to specialize in specific fields instead of merely providing general information on several topics. The agents now focus on fields such as horticulture, health and wellness, food and nutrition, health insurance, agriculture, and 4-H programs for youth.
Throughout the year, the district provides informational programs on a variety of topics from a number of speakers. Other programs include the Walk Kansas health initiative encouraging exercise and the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy class held at the Buck Run Community Center for older members of the community.
“We’ve been grateful and humbled by folks receiving us into your communities,” Nemecek said, adding they enjoy meeting and serving people in the three counties.
Most of the services provided are offered for free, although there could be small fees if samples have to be sent to Kansas State.
The extension agents answer to a locally elected board of officers. The Southwind District has offices in Erie, Iola and Fort Scott. The Fort Scott office is located on the first floor of the Bourbon County courthouse.
During the Bourbon County Commission meeting Thursday morning, the commissioners unanimously voted that First District Commissioner Lynne Oharah would serve as the chairperson beginning January 9.
“I’m one of three,” Oharah pointed out, saying his vote is equal to the other commissioners and cooperation and the input of the different ideas and opinions of all three members are key to their success in serving the county. “Everybody has an equal say and that’s how I like to run things.”
Current chairperson Barbara Albright nominated Oharah while outgoing, District Three Commissioner Harold Coleman seconded the motion. That appointment will go into effect Monday, January 9, the same day incoming commissioners Nick Ruhl and Jeff Fischer are sworn into office.
Albright said the newly elected commissioners also had a say in appointing Oharah as the new commission chairman.
“It’s a privilege to do it,” Oharah said.
Oharah is beginning his second term on the county commission.
Eight new homes are expected to be added in the county after a plat for a new residential area near 235th Street and Jayhawk Road and the current Marco Estates was approved by the Bourbon County Commission Thursday morning.
Glen Pearson submitted the plat for the Pearson Addition, which includes eight lots of about three acres each where homes are planned to be constructed. One of those lots has already been requested by a future homeowner.
Register of deeds Lora Holdridge said the paperwork for the plat will likely be completed by the end of the year or early 2017. Because the area is within three miles of Fort Scott city limits, the plat had to be approved by both the county and the city.
During Thursday’s meeting, Sheriff Bill Martin also asked the county commission if the courthouse has an automated external defibrillator (AED) on hand in case of emergency. While the jail has one, the commissioners discovered the courthouse itself does not have such a device, and may need one as the jail moves location in the future.
“They’re good to have,” commission chairperson Barbara Albright said. “They can save lives.”
Research revealed that the purchase of an AED had been turned down by county commissioners in the past for fear of misuse and liability. Martin said that may have been because the devices were still only recently put to use.
The commission said they would consider looking into getting an AED, which could cost about $2,000. Grants may be available to offset or even cover the entire cost. The commission plans to bring the county emergency management director and the health department into the discussion as well.
Albright and Martin both pointed out training with the device for all county employees would be helpful, though Martin added there is a good faith clause in a state statute that prevents a person using the device from being held liable.
During their meeting Tuesday, the Bourbon County Commission decided to look over the current vicious dog policy for the county and consider how they might update it.
“It comes to the issue of what a vicious dog is,” county attorney Justin Meeks said, saying that term needs to be defined more specifically and not just by breed.
Meeks said the need for an update to the policy was brought up about a year ago and again more recently due to a current criminal case involving the policy.
The current policy was published in the 1980s and specifically states that “any vicious dog which has a tendency or propensity to attack or otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals without provocation” would be prohibited in the county. The policy goes on to state that any pit bull dog would also be banned, and violators could be fined $100-$500.
“I never did think it was right to have a genocide on one specific breed,” Commissioner Harold Coleman said of prohibiting pit bulls in general. “It doesn’t sound fair to me.”
If specific breeds are banned, Meeks pointed out the difficulty involved with proving a dog is of that breed, which can include extensive testing. Instead, Meeks advised the commission define what is considered vicious actions that can be easily determined.
“You know it when you see it,” Meeks said of recognizing a vicious dog, saying that feature is not limited by the size or breed of a dog.
But at the same time, Meeks said several scenarios have to be considered. For example, what if a dog does harm to someone that was trespassing on its owner’s property? Or what if a dog attacked another dog or animal and not a human? Other issues include who would pay for the harboring or termination of a dog that is deemed vicious.
Currently, the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Department responds to dog bite calls and is responsible for the quarantine of the dog and filling out a report.
The commission plans to discuss updates to the policy Tuesday, December 6, at 11 a.m.
Local engineer Greg Schick approached the Bourbon County Commission Thursday morning to ask about the process of property appraisals and point out his experience of appraisals that do not seem to match the true value of that property.
“I think there’s a blatant problem in the county,” Schick said, giving examples of a 100-acre piece of property with just $130 in property taxes, while a home he purchased for $5,200 was later appraised at $25,000. “There’s a big disparity.”
County appraiser Clint Anderson said his office is always looking for ways to improve their assessments and that improvements have been made. The state looks at appraisals to make sure they are within 10 percent of what the property is sold for. Anderson said in recent years Bourbon County has been around the 97 percentile, and in the past year was right at 100 percent in that comparison.
But while the total appraisals seem to be right on the proper value, Anderson said that ratio can be skewed by higher-valued properties being appraised lower than their worth, while lower-valued properties are appraised too high.
Anderson said properly appraising those lower-valued properties is a specific goal for him in the upcoming year, but said that can be difficult since, when appraising any structure, they can only make an estimate based on the exterior. Anderson said sometimes they come across a home that may look well-kept on the outside, but then sells for a lower price because the inside may be gutted, and vice versa.
Property is assessed much differently, according to Anderson, with the appraisal not just coming from the size or location of the land, but from its production. That production can include crops, timber, irrigation or just natural grass. Acreage used solely for hunting often leads to much lower property taxes because there is not a measurable production.
“We have no ability whatsoever to change those values,” Anderson said of such properties, saying the state constitution defines it. “We say what it is and they tell us how much.”
But for those appraisals determined locally, Anderson said they are making a conscious effort to make them as accurate as possible to prevent property taxes from being any higher than necessary for Bourbon County residents.
The Bourbon County Commission met with historian Arnold Schofield and resident Barbara Piene Tuesday morning to discuss the historical significance of an old iron bridge located over Indian Creek near Yale Road.
Recently, Piene has expressed a desire to spend some time working around the bridge and taking the necessary steps to nominate the bridge as a historical site on the National Register of Historic Places.
Currently, Bourbon County has two historic bridges, called the Military Bridge and the Long Shoals Bridge, but Schofield said the Indian Creek Bridge is unique even from those bridges in how it was constructed.
“It’s a beautiful setting,” Schofield said of the bridge, constructed in 1898 and closed to traffic except for walkers for the past few decades. “The bridge itself has excellent historical integrity.”
Schofield said some of the things considered are whether the bridge is damaged and if it still includes the original materials from its construction. Other than the damaged deck, he said the bridge is in excellent condition and even still has the original sign describing its construction.
For the bridge to be nominated as a historical bridge, the commission must send a letter of recommendation. Schofield said letters of support, which the Historic Preservation Association has offered to write, also help with the process, which can take 10-12 months before approval is given. In that time the site would likely be visited and must be evaluated by engineers.
“Personally, I think we’d be making a mistake not to try to get it on [the register],” said commissioner Harold Coleman.
But the commissioners said they needed to know the pros and cons of such an attempt and what the county would be responsible for before giving their recommendation.
Schofield said the county would have to keep the bridge in good repair and well-maintained, but that there are grants available such as through the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund that pays 80 percent of such costs. He added fundraisers and donations can also be used to pay such fees instead of the county if that is available.
The commission gave their unanimous approval for Piene to move forward with the application.
The Bourbon County Commission canvassed the final election results Monday by counting the provisional ballots, deciding which ones could be included in the total count and which ones had to be discarded.
Provisional ballots were cast by voters whose names or other information did not match the information in their voter registration, as well as those who faced other issues at the voting stations.
Voters who had failed to register in time or did not have a photo identification when they voted were immediately rejected, but others such as those whose name or address had changed since their registration, who had filled out the incorrect ballot or had faced some clerical issue were often accepted at least in part.
The county commissioners went through 231 provisional ballots Monday, with commission chairperson Barbara Albright commenting she does not remember having so many at previous elections. County clerk Kendell Mason said this election brought out a large number of voters in Bourbon County.
“Our poll-workers did a great job,” Mason said of Election Day. “The voters were great to work with.”
Mason said she was frequently in contact with the different poll places in the county to make sure the process went smoothly. Prior to the election, Mason said the post office was helpful as well in making sure everyone received what they needed for mail-in votes.
The number of provisional ballots counted did not affect the end results of the local elections, though the commissioners did have to draw names for a couple positions in the Franklin township to break the ties.
Some of the official results locally included County Commissioner District 3 candidate Nick Ruhl receiving 982 votes to incumbent Harold Coleman’s 600 and Bourbon County Sheriff candidate Bill Martin receiving 3,629 votes to opponent Mike Feagins’ 2,425. A tie between Ed Murrow and Tom Ridge for the Franklin Township trustee was decided by a drawing, with Murrow being named the trustee. A similar tie for the Franklin Township treasurer between Lynda Murrow, Theresa Burke and Tom Ridge was determined to be won by Murrow.
Fort Scott and other parts of Bourbon County took part in honoring Veterans Day Friday with a series of events held at local schools, the college and the national cemetery as well as other places in order to show gratitude to veterans.
Fort Scott Community College recognized veterans by holding their first Veterans Day Walk around their lake beginning at 10 a.m. FSCC President’s Ambassadors walked the trail for an hour while members of the community were encouraged to participate when they could.
“We’re here to celebrate and to commemorate those who have committed their services to our country,” FSCC student services assistant Francis Schafer said prior to the walk. “We honor them today.”
FSCC office assistant Karri Johnson, whose husband is buried in the Fort Scott National Cemetery, said even footsteps in honor of the veterans can show support.
“We just wanted to make sure to honor everyone who has served and show our appreciation,” Johnson said. “We are walking for our veterans who are no longer with us and who are with us.”
The college also had a wall of photos honoring veterans inside Bailey Hall.
The local national cemetery also held a memorial service Friday, with Cmdr. Matthew Jones, United States Coast Guard, giving the address and using it as an opportunity to thank those who served abroad or at home, those involved in administrative duties, maintenance of vehicles and equipment, food and fuel providers and chaplains.
“Thank you for sacrificing your peaceful dreams and your daytime wonderings to remembering the terror of war,” Jones said, saying those in the service had to learn to die to themselves for the good of the team and their mission to protect their country.
Jones also thanked those who did not serve in the military but have expressed gratitude and encouragement to veterans.
“We thank you for your support and your encouragement,” Jones addressed those in attendance. “It makes service worth it… Thank you for being a nation that we are proud to have served.”
Others in Fort Scott also held services, such as the Fort Scott Middle School, Winfield Scott and St. Mary’s Catholic School. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post held a lunch for veterans after the national cemetery ceremony.
During their meeting Tuesday morning, the Bourbon County Commission approved a request for $9,400 from Schwab-Eaton engineers to complete a study on a bridge just south of Fulton in need of repairs.
The money, which public works director Jim Harris said will come from the special road and bridges budget, will include a site visit, a cost estimate for replacing the bridge, investigation of a grant opportunity, the possibility of repairs instead of replacement and the alternate routes available for during bridge closure.
“I don’t believe we have much choice, do we?” commissioner Harold Coleman asked.
Harris said the bridge, which goes over the railroad tracks and was built in 1939, is on the critical list along with about four other bridges in the county. For those bridges, Harris said it is likely fruitless to spend a couple thousand dollars just to refurbish them when they are in need of a more drastic overhaul.
“You can’t just go in and do some repairs,” Harris said.
Schwab-Eaton has said they are prepared to begin immediately, which commissioner Lynne Oharah agreed “the sooner the better,” so decisions can be made concerning how to react to the study.
The commissioners also voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to approve the sale of certificates of participation for the equipment lease purchase for the new law enforcement center.
The certificates cover $1,753,000 of the $1,788,000 needed to purchase the jail cells, including an interest rate of 3.42 percent. Oharah pointed out they will probably not get a lower interest rate since those rates have begun to move upward again after months of record lows.
The county will not make their first payment until March 1, 2018. The remaining $34,000 not covered by the certificates will be paid for by the county, likely from the revenue generated by the sales tax approved for the project.
During the weekly Chamber Coffee held Thursday morning, the Fort Scott Area Community Foundation gave a total of $21,000 to local organizations to support their causes in Bourbon County.
Chairperson of the foundation Blake Hudson and member Patty LaRoche distributed the checks, which went to organizations including the Mercy Health Foundation, the Gordon Parks Museum, the Riverfront authority, Friends of the Fort, Bourbon County Inter-agency Coalition, Fort Scott Middle School, CASA, Bourbon County Senior Citizens, Care to Share, Partners in Change, USD 234 and the Lowell Milken Center.
The foundation has been in existence since 2007 and continues to give grants to non-profit organizations each year, using a selection process to decide who will receive funding. This year the money was given specifically for causes such as the hospital’s new mammography equipment, fares for Pitt-Taxi for the senior citizens, the schools’ art and mentor programs and even for Buck Run Community Center and pool passes for low income families.
Hudson said they are constantly seeking donations toward the endowment fund that provides the money they distribute. Currently they are nearing the end of a fundraising campaign which is trying to take advantage of a $75,000 matching gift. About $10,000 more is needed by early December.
After months of campaigning on the local as well as the state and national level, new leadership as well as incumbents were again voted into office after Bourbon County residents turned out to vote.
The non-official results were slow in coming Tuesday evening as votes from nine different poll stations in Bourbon County were brought to the courthouse, with a group of people watching local and national election news together at the courthouse waiting until almost 9 p.m. before local results were announced.
While many of the candidates for Bourbon County positions ran unopposed, the sheriff’s position and 3rd District County Commissioner were decided, with Sheriff Bill Martin being reelected, receiving 3,552 votes to opponent Mike Feagins’ 2,352, and Nick Ruhl being selected over incumbent Harold Coleman for the commission seat, receiving 961 votes to Coleman’s 577.
More than 6,000 of the 11,643 registered voters in Bourbon County cast votes, more than 1,000 taking advantage of early voting while more than 4,000 voted on Election Day. Results will become official after canvassing, which will likely be accomplished by the end of the week.
Other approximate results from Bourbon County included presidential nominee Donald Trump receiving 71 percent of the votes, United States Senate incumbent Jerry Moran receiving 72 percent, United States House of Representatives incumbent Lynn Jenkins receiving 76 percent, Kansas Senate District 12 incumbent Caryn Tyson receiving 76 percent and Kansas Senate District 13 incumbent Jake LaTurner receiving 63 percent of the vote.
With the local, state and national elections just a few weeks away, the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum Thursday evening for any candidates interested in sharing their ideas and goals with the Fort Scott community.
Local candidates running for positions such as county offices participated as well as candidates running for places in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Each participant was given the opportunity to give a statement and to answer questions if they are not running unopposed.
Questions submitted by the public covered a wide range of topics including second amendment rights, the national debt, education in Kansas, Guantanamo Bay, the local law enforcement center project, immigration, county budgets and the Affordable Care Act among others.
Early voting began Monday and will continue through noon on November 7. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
See below for some of the statements from different candidates and their opponents:
Patrick Wiesner (D), U.S. Senate:
“I am the ‘get us out of debt’ candidate…My mission is paying off our national debt.”
“They need to apply for citizenship.” [On letting undocumented immigrants receive welfare, adding children and emergencies should be exceptions.]
Joshua Berg, on behalf of Jerry Moran (R), U.S. Senate:
“Jerry believes that the number one thing that the federal government must do is protect us and keep us safe.” [Through military spending, immigration control and caring for veterans.]
Britani Potter (D), U.S. House of Representatives:
“My goal is to put people before politics.”
“Healthcare’s a huge passion of mine… The Affordable Care Act did not make healthcare affordable…One of the big things that we can do to address this is by getting special interest money out of our politicians’ pockets.”
“Debt is a terrible, terrible burden and I would work in any way possible to reduce that debt and not incur any future charges. I think we have to address our tax system. It isn’t working. There are far too many loopholes.”
Lynn Jenkins (R), U.S. House of Representatives:
“Many people in Washington don’t share our Kansas values.”
“Obamacare has been a disaster. It’s not working. It’s time the Democrats on Capitol Hill recognize that.”
“Our tax code is broken…we need to throw it out and start over. We have a plan to do just that, it grows the economy. You can’t cut your way out of 19.5 trillion dollar’s debt, you have to grow your way out of it. So fix the revenue side and then fix the spending side.”
Caryn Tyson (R), Kansas Senate District 12:
“I am tied to my constituents, not the governor, not the lobbyists.”
“You can count on me to work hard, to know the issues and to work with both sides to come to a solid conclusion for the state. I will continue to fight for limited government, individual freedom, traditional values and economic development.”
“I think we need to protect our schools. I fought very hard for our rural schools.”
“We have a budget process that promotes wasteful spending.”
Lynn Grant (D), Kansas Senate District 13:
“The Medicaid expansion will actually end up paying for itself… There’s money to be made by creating jobs.” [On her statement that she will increase spending on education and Medicaid.]
Jake LaTurner (R), Kansas Senate District 13:
“We didn’t have a lot of good alternatives looking at us… We were looking at a situation where we could cut K-12 schools, higher education, community colleges, or we could vote for a tax plan.” [On tax increase that put Kansas at a disadvantage to Missouri.]
“I’m clearly open to revisiting the 2012 tax cut, I think we must in Kansas, but I will not do that on the backs of the middle class and the working poor.”
Harold Coleman (D), County Commission District 3:
“The county is limited. We have taxes and fees, that’s the only income that we receive.”
Nick Ruhl (R), County Commission District 3:
“We need to cut back on some of our spending to grow the budget back.”
Mike Feagins (D), Bourbon County Sheriff:
“I want to make a change to the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office. I want there to be integrity brought back, dedication and honesty. I want to keep the budget low.”
“The policy needs attention and it should’ve been changed a long time ago instead of now.” [On recent ride-along policy questions.]
“I would implement a hiring process.” [On the issue of employee attrition.]
Bill Martin (R), Bourbon County Sheriff:
“I believe in working for you. As I’ve said before, performances not promises.”
“I can assure you that there is nobody that is in that patrol car that’s going to bring harm to anybody in this community as they ride around with the deputies.” [On recent ride-along policy questions.]
“It’s one of the lowest paying jobs in the county [referring to correctional officers]… We have to be more competitive in our pay.” [On the issue of employee attrition.]