Category Archives: Bourbon County

Bill for Bourbon County to go before state senate

After alleged violations in rural fire districts came to the attention of the Bourbon County Commission and the county attorney, the county leaders began to work with District 13 Kansas Senator Jacob LaTurner to create a bill that would help ease the process and create better transparency with the districts.

3-1 Fire District Bill

County Attorney Justin Meeks said they determined no violations had been made when records had first been requested from the fire district by the township as an open record and then through an audit, since the necessary funding had ever been paid.

However, the circumstance opened another issue since only the township can request such an audit. Currently the commission has no jurisdiction over the fire districts or townships other than to appoint or approve township board members.

The proposed bill, which is to go through a hearing Thursday, would provide another means for getting an audit through the commission, who could request the audit if residents of the township bring probable cause to their attention.

“I think we’ll get it done,” LaTurner said during a meeting with the commission Tuesday morning. “I don’t know why anyone would oppose it.”

The township would still be responsible for paying for the audit, which could already be the key issue in having one done in some townships. If a fire district is located in more than one township, than the cost of the audit could be divided among the townships.

The bill would only apply the new statute to Bourbon County, though LaTurner said he believed it could be beneficial to other Kansas counties as well. If passed, the bill would go into effect as soon as it becomes a statute.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that we’re the only ones who have run into this,” commission chairman Barbara Albright said.

County leaders will draft a letter of support for the bill prior to the hearing. A copy of the bill can be found at the following link: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/measures/documents/sb476_00_0000.pdf

Kansas voters prepare for Saturday Caucus

With the arrival of March and Super Tuesday, residents of Kansas can also look forward to showing their support for presidential nominees and other candidates by participating in the Democratic and Republican caucuses to be held on Saturday, March 5.

Stock Photo
Stock Photo

Those registered as Republicans can participate by traveling to the Linn County Fairgrounds in Mound City Saturday. The doors will open at 9 a.m. and close at 1 p.m., with votes being cast by secret ballots between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Representatives from the five, current candidates may be on hand to speak on behalf of their candidate in order to sway voters.

“It’s important to be there,” Bourbon County Republicans Vice-Chairperson Rhonda Dunn said, saying she hopes Bourbon County makes a good showing at the caucus. “This is our chance to vote for a presidential candidate.”

Registered Democratic voters in Bourbon County will caucus at two locations based on what district they reside in. Those in Senate District 12, which includes the northern part of Bourbon County, can participate at the Jayhawk-Linn High School in Mound City. Those of Senate District 13, including the southern part of Bourbon County, will caucus at S.E. High School in Cherokee. Those unsure of which district they live in can contact the county clerk.

Caucus registration will begin at 1 p.m. and will include everyone in line by 3 p.m., excluding any late arrivals. After registration, representatives from both Democratic candidates will have an opportunity to speak and the process will be explained to the caucus-goers by a master of ceremonies.

Participants will divide themselves into groups to show their support for a specific candidate. If one of those groups does not receive enough supporters, it will be considered nonviable and those supporters must join another group.

When all in attendance decide on which candidate they will support, the number of each group is tallied and their ballots gathered and counted.

“It is an opportunity for representatives of presidential candidates, democrat family, friends, neighbors and local candidates to meet and greet like-minded people,” said Shirley Palmer, Bourbon County Democrat Treasurer.  “It will be the largest gathering of Democrats in one place at one time probably since 2008.”

Palmer encouraged registered voters to participate in order to make a difference in Kansas in the 2016 elections.

Kansas Republican Party Announces Presidential Caucus

Submitted by Deb Martin, Feb. 22

Fort Scott, Kan., Bourbon County Republican Party Chairman Randall Readinger announced the March 5, 2016, Republican Presidential Caucus for Bourbon and Linn Counties.

Photo credit: Bourbon County Republican Party
Photo credit: Bourbon County Republican Party

“This year it looks like Kansas’ Caucus will play a major role in the presidential selection process,” Readinger says. “By all accounts the race will stay competitive for some time and Kansas’ Caucus is the first event after the first Super Tuesday on March 1 and before the second Super Tuesday on March 15.

“The Caucus gives all registered Republicans the opportunity to cast their ballot for the Republican Presidential nominee of their choice and help determine which candidate receives the votes of Kansas’ 40 delegates at the Republican National Convention.

“The Caucus is free, fast, and open to all registered Republican voters in Kansas.

“Our Caucus will be held at the Linn County Fairgrounds, 4­H Building, Mound City, Kan. The doors will open at 9:00 a.m. and close at 1:00 p.m. We will caucus, or vote, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Ballots will be counted immediately after voting is over.

“In order to participate in the caucus, participants must have been registered as a Republican by February 4, 2016, and must provide a photo ID at the caucus location. The Caucus process is free, fast and simple. After checking in, voters may hear short presentations by representatives of each candidate and then receive a ballot to vote.”

Additional information such as frequently asked questions and all caucus locations can be found at www.kansas.gop.

Sheriff’s Office plans to bring K9 Unit to Bourbon County

Bourbon County Sheriff Bill Martin informed the County Commission Tuesday morning of the department’s plans to add a K9 Unit to the Sheriff’s Office.

2-16 K9 unit

Martin said it has been about nine years since the Fort Scott Police Department had such a unit with a trained dog and they have recognized a need for that service in Bourbon County. When Martin brought the idea to the department, two deputies stepped forward and said they were willing to be trained as handlers and care for the dogs.

The deputies would have had to find a way to raise the money for the dog or receive funding from the county’s budget, but instead, a resident of the county stepped up and said they would provide the funding for two trained dogs and training for the deputies.

The handlers, which will also include the sheriff in case one of the others is unavailable, will go through three-week training sessions in Longford, Kan., in March and in May. The two dogs—about two years old and already trained with a guarantee of five years of service—will cost about $28,000 even after a $5,000 grant.

“These are dual-purpose dogs,” Martin said, saying they can sniff out drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines, as well as help law enforcement search for wanted or missing persons.

Martin said the unit would be available not just to the sheriff’s office, but the police department and the highway patrol if they need it as well, adding he thinks it would be a great benefit as he recalled a time when law enforcement had to wait for four hours for dogs to be brought to them.

“That was four hours of law enforcement twiddling their thumbs,” Martin said, saying having their own K9 unit would solve that problem.

“I think it’s a good deal,” commission chairperson Barbara Albright said, expressing gratitude to the individuals who donated the funds.

Fort and Kansas Extension host prescribed burning class

Residents from Bourbon, Linn and Crawford counties attended a class Monday afternoon giving them information on how to properly burn on their property in a way that is safe, legal and beneficial to their land and wildlife.

2-10 Burning

Christopher Petty of the Kansas State University extension office said he and Bourbon County Emergency Manager Will Wallis began planning for such a gathering almost a year ago to inform the public prior to the burning season, which begins to pick up in March.

Petty said their goals for the meeting were twofold: to teach ranchers, farmers and property owners how to burn properly and to support local fire departments.

“Burning taxes the small rural fire departments when they don’t know about it,” Petty said.

Wallis encouraged those present to call the local dispatch anytime they plan on burning. The dispatchers can then give them suggestions on whether it is safe to burn while also getting the location so the fire department is aware and can be prepared to help if needed.

Jason Hartman of the Kansas State Forest Service spoke about the regulations, permits and liability issues that go with burning as well as basic information such as the reasons for burning, which might include preparation for planting, better grazing, to improve or get rid of vegetation and reduce risk of wildfire.

“Every carefully prescribed fire is a wildfire prevented,” Hartman said.

Depending on the objective of the prescribed burnings, Hartman said burnings should be done at certain times throughout the year, with its effectiveness based on the season, weather, vegetation, management and size and intensity of the fire.

Deon Steinle of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service said those burning property also need to recognize that their burn will affect the wildlife of that area as well and is capable of either damaging or improving their habitat.

Drew Albert of the National Weather Service out of Springfield, Mo., reminded participants that weather plays a key role in deciding when to burn, since temperature, wind, humidity and drought conditions have an impact on the safety of burning as well as the direction the smoke will travel.

“We can be wrong,” Albert said of himself and others involved in forecasting the weather. “So you really have to keep getting updates.”

Joe Ludlum of the Bourbon County Conservation District provided a list of equipment available to rent while Dane Varney of the National Resources Conservation Service gave information on how to conduct a safe and controlled burn, including what equipment and crew is needed.

Early estimates predict jail project to exceed budget

The Bourbon County Commission, project architects and construction teams discussed the new jail project’s budget Tuesday morning to clarify issues and answer questions about process made.

1-6 Jail Budget

Initially, the county decided on the 74-bed jail costing $6.8 million, but as architects from the Goldberg Group Architects began creating designs for the building and looking at costs for materials, their estimated cost rose to 15 percent higher than that projected cost.

Kevin Rost of the Goldberg Group said part of the reasons for the higher estimates concerned the increase in square footage of the building, the fluctuating costs for materials such as steel and the high demand for contractors at the moment because of other projects being worked on around the area.

Rost said he has not participated in a project that came in at budget just as planned initially, since they begin with very conservative estimates while the designs are formed. He explained those estimates should come down as the plans are refined, more information is gathered and bids are eventually accepted.

“We’re just not to that point in the process yet,” Rost said, saying as they move further in the design process they will be able to share more information with the commission.

Commission chairman Barbara Albright said they have received numerous questions from the public asking about why the project is over budget and what their plans are to resolve the issue. Recently, the commission was able to give Goldberg Group and Universal Construction a plan including about $300,000 in cost savings through the road and bridge department and other areas.

Rost said they also will continue to look at ways to cut costs as the project continues, such as by encouraging the county to recycle the concrete removed from the selected site and selling the existing structure.

“We want to get the best value for the county that we can,” Rost said.

Each month, those involved in the project will meet with at least one commission member to keep them up to date on progress being made as they begin phase two of checking the site to make sure there is nothing underground that could prevent or damage the project. Geotechnicians will also be called in to test the soil.

“We just want to get it moving forward,” Rost said of the project. “I think we’ve got a good site.”

County Commission reviews 2015 budget

In preparing for the new year, the Bourbon County Commission went over the 2015 budget to make sure the financial numbers lined up and to see where changes could be made to make the 2016 budget more accurate.

12-29 County Budget

Attorney Justin Meeks, county treasurer Rhonda Dunn and Jim Harris of the road and bridge department met with the commission Tuesday to discuss the revenue, expenditures and totals from the 2015 budget.

Out of the approximate $11 million annual budget for Bourbon County, the totals up through just last week showed $72,635.97 cash remaining in the general fund, with the few remaining days left in 2015 to go. That is the sum after more than $396,000 was set aside to carry over into the 2016 budget, though some cash reserves from previous years were also used.

Dunn shared that the general fund’s total revenue was down by about $185,000, coming from specific areas such as the motor vehicle tax, mortgage reimbursements and other taxes. But while the budgeted revenues did not come in as predicted, the expenditures were also down, helping even out the totals.

“We anticipated this,” commission chairman Barbara Albright said, saying they expected it to be a tight year and are planning for similar budget restrictions in 2016.

Dunn said she believes they collected much of the budgeted revenue and is not sure why the numbers were down across the different departments. Dunn will look at the previous five years to see if the totals follow a trend or if it could possibly be an accounting and budgeting issue.

The main discrepancy was found in the employee benefits department—including the social security, workman’s compensation and life insurance—which had a revenue of more than $2.3 million when it was only budgeted for $1.3 million, leaving a surplus that could not be put in the cash fund since it was not budgeted.

The road and bridge department also suffered a shortfall, but Dunn and Harris worked hard and found a way to transfer funds once bond money comes in to reimburse the department, resulting in $33,492.85 left in its balance.

While the budget is tight, Albright said it definitely could have been worse. Moving forward, she said they will try not to be too optimistic in their budgeting and remain careful in their spending.

The commission approved some amendments in the budget, including the road and bridge transfers as well as other changes to the employee benefits, noxious weed and landfill departments. Any other significant changes will not be made until about February of the new year, after the data is further analyzed.

Young Professionals League elects 2016 officials

During their December meeting held Friday at Papa Don’s, members of the Bourbon County Young Professionals League voted to elect officers and board members for the new year, also discussing what new things they might like to see in 2016.

12-4 YPL

Bailey Lyons of the Fort Scott Community College was named the new president of the YPL while 2015 president Heather Smith will serve as the treasurer. Chris Petty is the new vice president and Alex Horttor the secretary.

New executive board members include Anna Allen, Jared Leek, Clayton Whitson, Jessica Cook and Melissa Wise. Returning board members are Mark Shead and Jamie Armstrong.

During their final meeting of the year, participants also had a chance to write down what they valued about the YPL as well as something they might like to see changed or added. Smith also shared information about the goals of the YPL.

“The vision of YPL is to be a catalyst for a better community,” Smith said.

Lyons said they follow a quarterly format, with monthly meetings focusing on personal or professional development, a presentation on a business or topic that is relevant to YPL members and the third meeting each quarter focusing on networking.

“We really are trying to make it to where everyone who comes gets something out of it,” Lyons said, adding it is also a way for young professionals to build relationships and realize they are not the only ones in town.

The group also received an update on how the soup line fundraiser held a couple weeks ago on behalf of the Beacon went. The event raised about $3,300.

The meeting also included announcements such as concerning the YPL Christmas social that will be held on December 18, at 6:30 p.m. at Lyons’ home. Guests are encouraged to bring a $10 gift for a gift exchange as well as a snack to share.

The YPL board will hold a strategic planning meeting January 8, from 5 to 8 p.m., others interested in giving their input can also attend.

December events announced during Chamber Coffee

During the first December Chamber Coffee, hosted by Bartelsmeyer Jewelry on South National, area businesses and organizations announced upcoming December events coming prior to Christmas.

12-3 Chamber Coffee 1

Cindy Bartelsmeyer said in upcoming weeks, they are holding a sale that will allow participants to purchase specific earrings for $5. That money will then be donated straight to the Beacon, Bourbon County’s food closet that provides food, clothing and other items to those in need.

“Shop local and support our local businesses,” encouraged Rita Baker, hostess of the December Chamber Coffees. “Because if we don’t, they won’t be here either.”

Bartelsmeyer said most of their customers are residents of the Bourbon County area such as from Fort Scott, Mound City, Prescott, Uniontown and Pleasanton.

Other upcoming events included:

  • The Historic Preservation Association’s annual Home for the Holidays Tours will be held this weekend for those with tickets. There will also be an art and bake sale at the Kennedy Gym and a Stocking Stuffer sale at the Fort Scott Middle School.
  • Tickets are still available for the Fort Scott National Historic Site’s Candlelight Tour Friday and Saturday evening.
  • The Young Professionals League will host their annual meeting at Papa Don’s Friday at noon, when the 2016 officers will be elected.
  • My Father’s House is holding a gift drive on behalf of 25 families this Christmas and is looking for businesses, families and other members of the community who would like to participate. They also need volunteers to help with the kettle drive at certain area businesses over the next few weeks.
  • The Common Ground Coffee Co. will host artists for musical events Friday evenings, Dec. 4 and Dec. 12.
  • With the progress of the Marmaton Riverfront project, the project committee is now asking for suggestions for naming the roads to the north and south of the river. Suggestions can be sent to P.O. Box 901 or to Marmatonriver@gmail.com.
  • Next Thursday, the area Kiwanis Club will host a pancake feed event at the Buck Run Community Center.
  • The LEAD Bourbon County program will start in January, meeting the second Thursday of every month for 10 months. The cost for the entire 10 months including free lunches and a graduation celebration is $300.

County Commission signs agreement for Revitalization Program

Fort Scott’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program came one step closer to getting the approval needed for a renewal for five years when the Bourbon County Commission approved the program, joining the Fort Scott City Commission, who approved it at a recent meeting.

12-2 County commission

Director of Economic Development Heather Smith shared information with the county commissioners Tuesday morning, seeking their signature for the inter-local agreement between the area tax entities, including the county, city of Fort Scott, USD 234 and the Fort Scott Community College. Signatures from the latter two are still needed.

“The goal of this program is to basically encourage rehabilitation and development for residential and commercial properties that may not otherwise occur,” Smith said.

NRP offers incentives to Fort Scott residents who would like to improve the value of their homes, property or commercial buildings without paying the extra taxes. Those involved in the program who increase the value by 15 percent receive a rebate on the extra taxes resulting from the improvements.

Those living along the Wall Street corridor are exempt from that 15 percent requirement and will receive the rebate on any increase in value.

In the first four years of the program, with 2015 data pending, Smith said 15 commercial and 14 residential properties participated, increasing their valuations by a combined $3.6 million, more than a 265 percent return on the money rebated to the participants.

“It’s a good idea for anyone wanting to improve their property,” commission chairman Barbara Albright said of NRP.

Since its beginning, changes have been made to the program, such as giving the county tax assessor control over the procedure instead of the city.

“Last year we made a lot of procedural changes,” Smith said, saying those adjustments made the process more efficient.

Those wanting to participate in 2016 must apply before the end of the year and can then receive rebates for five-year terms for residential areas and 10 years for commercial properties.

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.

11-24 Courthouse 3

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.

Arts Council gives art auction preview during Chamber Coffee

During the weekly Chamber Coffee Thursday morning, members of the Chamber of Commerce and the community were able to get a glimpse of art created by participants in the Bad Art by Good People Auction hosted by the Bourbon County Arts Council.

11-18 Chamber Coffee 2

Thursday evening, those pieces of art were auctioned off during the 3rd annual auction of its kind in Bourbon County, whose name council vice president Danny Magee said is a misnomer since he considered the art “outstanding.”

“They’ve been working on these pieces quite a while,” Magee said, saying participants received coaching in recent months.

During the Chamber Coffee, those present voted on their favorite piece of art and the winning artist received a $50 certificate from the Bourbon County Arts Council.

Magee said the art council has remained active in the community with events throughout the year such as through programs at the high school, the fine arts competition, contests during the Gordon Parks Celebration, events in the downtown area and also by providing scholarships to the middle school students for them to see plays outside of Fort Scott.

Magee said the mission statement of the council, which was founded in 1973, is to “foster, promote and increase the knowledge and appreciation and practice of the arts in Bourbon County.”

Other community announcements included:

  • Members of the community can now participate in the adopt-a-child program, buying Christmas presents for one or more of the 150-200 children from low income families participating. Those interested can contact the Beacon.
  • The Beacon, partnering with the Young Professionals League and area churches, will hold its Soup Line fundraiser Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kennedy Gym, with meals costing $5.
  • The Fort Scott downtown Christmas Parade will be held Dec. 1. Businesses and organizations are encouraged to sign up to participate.
  • On Thursday, Dec. 3, Marcel Normand will hold a book-signing event for his biography on Lucile James, a former professor at Fort Scott Community College, at the college, 2-6 p.m.
  • Tickets are still for sale for $20 in advance for the trolley fundraiser dinner the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Beaux Arts Centre.
  • The Frozen Five and Dime run will be held at Gunn Park Dec. 12, with participants running 5k, one-mile or 10-mile trails.
  • The Fort Scott city commissioners voted to renew the Neighborhood Revitalization Program for five more years, leaving the remaining tax entities to approve of it as well.
  • The road and trail of the Marmaton Riverfront Project is complete and those involved in the project are now asking for suggestions for names for the road and trail. The committee will choose in December and the names will be placed on rock signs.