Category Archives: Bourbon County

Gordon Parks Celebration – Oct 2-4, 2014

Fort Scott, KS – If you are interested in getting out and about this weekend, plan on stopping and spending time at the Gordon Parks Celebration of Culture and Diversity event this weekend. Many of you may know Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, but can you name the cultural impacts he made as an artist? He was mostly known for photography, but also was a writer, musician, film director and composer.

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Photo Courtesy Gordon Parks Center (FSCC)

This weekend’s events serve to honor Gordon Parks but also to hold further discussion of the issue of poverty and the many social implications within our communities. As a tribute to Gordon Park’s love of photography, a central theme of this weekend’s celebration is telling stories through pictures. The 26th annual Gordon Park’s Photography Competition finalist will be on display. You can view them by clicking here.

Here are two of the entries:

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Courtesy of Gordon Parks Center (FSCC)
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Courtesy of Gordon Parks Center (FSCC)

There are numerous events going on all weekend and most of them are free to attend. Certainly, you would benefit by participating all weekend, but if you need to pick and choose, you can click here for the entire weekend schedule. A few of the highlights include the “Poverty A-Z Exhibit,” a multi-media presentation incorporating photography and music. The display will be in the Ken & Charlotte Lunt lobby from September 19 – October 17th. Karen Haas, Curator of the Lane Collection of Photography at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts will discuss Gordon Parks photography, Friday 1:15-2:45pm, free event in the Ellis Fine Arts building (theatre). Friday closes with a “Celebration Tribute Dinner” with presentation of the 2014 “Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons Award.” Cost $30, Liberty Theatre, reservation required.

Saturday, “The Learning Tree,” Gordon Park’s biographical film will play in the Ellis Fine Arts Theatre at 9am. FREE. Finally, the weekend ends with “Picnic on the Patio” in the Ellis Center Geraldine and E.C. and Gordon Outdoor Patio – $8 (weather permitting).

For more information about this celebration or the life and work of Gordon Parks, please contact:

Jill Warford, Executive Director
Ft. Scott Community College
2108 S. Horton
Fort Scott, KS 66701
1-800-874-3722, ext. 5850 or
gordonparkscenter@fortscott.edu

Bourbon County Emergency Management

Fort Scott, KS –

Fort Scott is the county seat for Bourbon County, also comprising of the highest population density in the county. It only makes sense the Emergency Manager (EM) would be in the center of it all. William Wallace, a 12 years FEMA veteran, is at the helm of all disaster preparedness activities happening in the county.

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It’s easy for the EM position to go unnoticed during times of nice weather and everything going smoothly, much like most people live their lives. However, it’s the careful planning and mitigation of the EM that helps coordinate the emergency services during incidents that can expedite recovery efforts and more importantly save lives.

An important aspect of Wallace’s job is investigating the county and ensuring municipalities have taken important steps to mitigate against potential disaster that could occur in the county. Wallace’s office keeps close tabs with Topeka and FEMA Region 7 in assessing threats and solutions for Bourbon County. Mitigation may include fortifying current systems, such as electrical, to ensure a more expedited return of power. Another great example, just as this article is being written, the CDC has just announced the first case of the Ebola virus in the US. This is an issue where the EM may consult with the county health department to ensure we have a strategy should action need to be taken.

“Another big job in emergency management is the facilitation of all emergency services,” Wallace said. “I knew we had an excellent team after the tornado incident in April,” commented Wallace. Inter-agency cooperation during an incident is a critical component to ensure effective and efficient response and recovery. “Relationships and communication are a key component to ensure this happens,” Wallace said. During the relationship building process is something known in the emergency field as ‘exercises.’ These can range from simple discussion based “tabletop exercises” to a full scale disaster exercise. Wallace mentioned they try to have as many exercises during the year as possible without disrupting the daily responsibilities of the emergency service personnel.

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Wallace also has an interest in increased communication within the county during times of disaster. They are launching a new alert system called CodeRED, you can read more about it here. Just as the EM is responsible for mitigation on a county level, he is also concerned about families taking steps in preparedness within their home. The emergency service will work tirelessly during a disaster to reach families and ensure safety. However, Wallace highly recommended families take some basic steps to increase each family’s preparedness. His top three recommendations for preparedness are:

  1. Be ready to sustain your family for a minimum of 48 hours. This includes: water, food (not requiring heat), power (batteries) and adequate clothing and shelter
  2. Communication plan. This includes family, extended family, cell phones, phone chargers, etc. Make a plan on how you are going to be able to communicate and when, during a disaster. For example, during a disaster cell phones maybe tied up, but you can send text or try calling, but should only try calling at designated times to preserve cell battery. Or if you are close enough, arrange meeting places.
  3. Pay attention to media. It’s important to be able to access the latest communication the EM is sending out. This could be through radio, television or CodeRED. However you choose, it’s a good idea to have a back-up and check batteries periodically to make sure they are still working.

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Wallace also discussed the possibility of working with the Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. CERT is a nationally recognized program that aims to provide citizens with some basic preparedness and organizational training to respond to local disasters. There is a wealth of information online if community members are interested in learning more about preparedness and mitigating disasters, including FREE online FEMA courses.

For more information about Bourbon County Emergency Management:

210 S. National Ave.
Fort Scott, KS 66701
620-223-3800 x124
620-223-3234 fax
em1@bourboncountyks.org

Additional Links:
Bourbon County Fire District #3 FB
Hazard Risk Assessment for Bourbon County
Sign up for CodeRED
Ready.gov
Additional links from Bourbon County EM Site

 

Bourbon County Adds New Alert System

Bourbon County, KS – Communication during a potential time of disaster has proven to save peoples lives. Emergency personnel are always on the look for better ways to communicate to those living in their jurisdiction more effectively.

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Starting this October, Bourbon County is launching a new alert system. This alert system is named “CodeRED.” Bourbon County Emergency Manager, William Wallace is enthusiastic about the possibilities of this system. “Not only can you receive alerts about potential dangers, but the user can choose to receive notifications about county wide events and news,” Wallace said.

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CodeRED is a high-speed mass notification system that can deliver alerts to your land line or texts to your cell phone or email. Registration for the alerts is free and simple.  Click here to go to the Bourbon County web page to register.  There is also an app you can download for smart phones by clicking here.

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For more information or questions:
620-223-3800 or em1@bouroncountyks.org

 

Legislative Update at Common Ground Coffee Shop

Saturday at 9 am there was a legislative update at the Common Ground Coffee shop on Main street. Legislature members who were present were, Bob Grant, Marty Read, Caryn Tyson, and Jake LaTurner.

a_leg-up Marty Read talked about working on bills that would protect the rights of gun votes and mentioned that he was disappointed with recent legislation that will allow sexually oriented businesses within 1000 feet of a school.

Bob Grant represents the second district which includes a small piece of Bourbon County. He is on the appropriation and transportation committees. He mentioned that he is disappointed with the way that KDOT and KTA were being combined in a way that seems to be designed to allow the state to take money from KTA through KDOT.

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Grant also mentioned that he doesn’t feel Kansas should model itself after Texas and Florida who have done away with their income tax.

Jake LaTurner said that he pledged not to raise taxes. He feels that the current legislative session is on of responsibility and of trying to fix problems that have been building up over the years. He also has been supporting drug testing for people receiving unemployment benefits. He has introduced a bill to reform Kansas Open Meetings Act to require people to take minutes of meetings and cap prices on requests.

Caryn Tyson said this has been an interesting session because the dynamics of both chambers are different because there are so many new members and it is hard to anticipate what is going to happen with new bills. She said lobbyists and special interests are trying to push through bills that wouldn’t have passed before.

She talked about the bill drug testing for welfare recipients. It will require testing if there is suspicion of drug use. She is fighting to keep from losing the mortgage tax deduction. She is also excited about a bill that will allow veterans to note this on their drivers licence.

Susan Brown from USD 234 asked about the bills that will effect education. In particular she asked about cuts to at risk funding. Caryn Tyson said that the current At Risk Funding is based on the free lunches in a district. She said they are concerned that the free lunch program isn’t being audited very well and may be keeping money from going to the schools that need it. That is why they are looking at changing the formulas  that determine this.

Jake LaTurner said he doesn’t support the bill in its current form because he wants more money for education in the districts he supports.  He went on to talk about how there have been many schools suing the state for not properly funding education. He talked about a recent case that said the funding was unconstitutional. He feels this is a legislative issue and the courts shouldn’t be legislating from the bench. He pointed out that if people don’t like the funding they should “fire” their representatives and elect someone else.

Bob Grant said that the legislature “in it’s wisdom” gave the courts some oversite to how much money is spent on education.

Marty Read talked about how there is a big difference between the way that money is getting distributed between wealthy and poor school districts. He said he would like to see the money going right into the classroom. He would like to see good teachers getting paid more money.

Mayor Adams said that he felt the bill that would require partisanship in local elections was a bad idea. Grant said he opposed the measure. Read said he wasn’t excited about it, but he did feel that moving the election to November would be better. Tyson said she would like to move it to the odd year November for local government.

Alan Warren asked to hear some updates about changes to the way taxes are being applied to fixtures. Tyson talked about a business in Montgomery county that had a $400,000 tax bill that suddenly jumped to $10 million dollars, sued the county and won. She said there is a bill to try to balance this to fix problems in two counties without messing up businesses in a bunch of other counties that aren’t having a problem. She said that the bill the passed in the house had some language that could hurt small counties. She said that the confusion has to do with whether property is real or trade and gave the example of whether a washer and dryer should be considered property or personal because it is attached to the building.

Bob Grant said this is kind of a hot issue but not really because it only impacts to counties at this point.  He said they need to balance in order to keep these businesses from moving without hurting all the other counties.

There was some discussion about a bill that would either people at colleges to carry guns or require schools to have metal detectors in order to make sure that no one has guns on campus. Bob Grant said he would like to see campuses have the flexibility to vote and make their own decisions regarding guns.

Caryn Tyson talked about how they feel like they are working on a lot of issues just to counter the federal government. She pointed out that the federal government wanted to prevent anyone under 16 from working on a farm and through the efforts of the state legislature the federal government backed off on what they were trying to do.

Candidates Forum

Advanced voting for this election begins on March 19th and the actual election is Tuesday April 2nd.

USD 234

  • Michelle Parker – unopposed
  • Gary Billionis – unopposed
  • Jamie Armstrong
  • Belynda Davenport
  • Kevin Allen
Jamie Armstrong – Born and raised in Fort Scott. Hopes to bring a well rounded view of what we need to move Fort Scott to the top of the list of school districts in Kansas.

Kevin Allen – Known as Skitch. Lives in the county, but owns property in town. Has a lot invested in the school system with his kids. Conservative with his business and would bring that to the school board. Keeps an open mind–open to change.

Belynda Davenport – Lived here all her life. RN who teaches for the college. Been on the school board for the last two years. Says it has been a learning experience.

Kevin Allen was asked “What is the most important role you’ll fill if you are elected?” Said he will be a good listener and feels his record on the city commission  shows that. Feels he is open minded to change. Works hard to make sure he doesn’t become resistent to change.

Belynda Davenport was asked the same question. She feels her most important role is to support the new superintendent and making major decisions and policies with the school district.

Jamie Armstrong believes the most important role on the school board is being an advocate for the district and applying business expertise and experience to move the district forward.

“What would you do in this district to improve student access to computers and technology that they need?”

Belynda Davenport feels we need to find ways to meet all their needs in education.

Jamie Armstrong feels it is a two part issue. She feels we need more technology in general to let kids learn. She feels they need a curriculum that is geared toward modern skills. She feels the career pathways program needs revamped to match todays workers.

Kevin Allen said you need to be involved to know what can be done with the money that is available.

“What would you like to accomplish if you had to pick one thing in this position?”

Jamie Armstrong wants to make Fort Scott a model for what a district can be.

Kevin Allen wants to address the lack of interscholastic sports in the middle schools. He feels they have a plan that was put together that will save the school money and develop the program.

Belynda Davenport – Biggest goal would be to follow the pathway set by the new superintendent and focus on student achievement to find what is going to help each and every student.

Belynda Davenport closed by talking about her experience on the school board and pointed out that there are many things that are very positive in the district. She is excited about the new superintendent and Susan Brown heading up the finances.

Kevin Allen  closed by saying that he has been involved with the school system for some time as a volunteer. Talked about the need to repair the highschool and feels he can bring bluecollar thinking to look for ways to repair things efficiently. His main goal is to listen to everyone’s ideas and problems.

Jamie Armstrong closed by asking people to take home the fact that she feels the school system is at the crossroads. She feels the leadership of Dr. Gross is the right thing for this time. She feels she brings management experience to the table. She feels that the decisions made by the school board are important for the school, but also for the community.

 

Fort Scott Community College Board of Trustees

  • John Bartelsmeyer
  • Myrtle Anne Colum
  • David Conradt
  • James Fewins
  • Richard Hedges
  • John Kerr
  • Randall Readinger
  • Stephen Stanton
  • John Townsend

Readinger opened by detailing his history and education in accounting and business.

Townsend said he has lived here all his live other than the 4 years he was in the Navy.  Said he is fortunate to live in a town that is a great place to live. Now that he is retired he feels he has the time to do the job and a willingness to learn.

Hedges said he has been a part of the community since 1968 and involved in a number of different positions and wants to give back to the community that has been so good to his family.

Fewins has been in this area fo 42 years. Is currently on the board of trustees and seeing another four years.

Bartelsmeyer said he grew up working at his fathers jewelry store. He has previously been on the board and is running again to give back to the community. He values education.

Colum is currently on the board and running again. She feels the college provides a number of opportunities to young people.

Kerr was raised and educated here and decided to move back here to raise a family. He wants to restore the balance between the fiscal needs of the college and the financial needs of the families in the community. He said that a family’s purchasing power has gone down by 60% while the college has increased the tax burden on families by 35%.

Conradt is new to the community having taken a job at the hospital. Has a background in accounting as a CPA. Was looking for a place that he could use his background to help the community.

Stanton here to run for the board to better serve the communities vision and promote financial stability.

“Recently a decision was made by the board to allow limited consumption of alcohol on the FSCC campus.”

Colum said she supports it because it wont happen very often.

Kerr felt it was a reasonable decision, but doesn’t feel he has the input from all the public input that the trustees would receive. He feels it is limited enough and thinks it is critical to have real oversight and that if it is abused they need to get rid of it.

Conradt said that alcohol is being served already so it was just a matter of changing the location and said that his experience is that serving alcohol can loosen the purse strings at fundraisers.

Stanton said he has no objections and knows whoever is in charge of the events will make it a positive event.

Bartelsmeyer doesn’t have a problem with it and things most other colleges have a similar policy and can help with fundraising.

Fewins said they originally tabled the decision in order to look at it more closely. He eventually voted for it because he felt it is a good economic decision and felt it will be adult supervised.

Hedges said that in the past the board voted it down but feels that with the additional buildings it isn’t a problem.

Townsend said it shouldn’t be a problem.

Readinger feels there are economic benefits and it can be used to earn revenue for the college.

“Is the funding that is currently supplied to FSCC through mill levies adequate or should it be raised or lowered?”

Stanton said the levy is adequate. It isn’ the mill levy that is the issue–it is the budget. We need to look at how the money is spent and he doesn’t support any increase and FSCC needs to refocus on the programs that are working the best and that have public support.

Conradt said there is a balance that needs to be achieved and feels the economy is making this more of an issue than it should be right now and feels that the internet is going to make it easier to deliver education at a lower cost.

Kerr said it is important to to look at the property valuations of the community. He said valuations have gone up 22%. He feels that since the college is bringing in more money, they were wrong to vote for an increase from taxpayers who were already struggling. He would not support an increase and will not vote to do so.

Colum said they didn’t raise the mill levy last year. She said that the mill levy also supports jails and city commissioners. She said that the mill levy brings in a lot of revenue.

Readinger said the college brought in over $100,000 more in taxes based on the increase of property values last year. He said that money is coming out of people’s pockets and feels it doesn’t need to go up.

Townsend feels they are not high enough and says they will go up again eventually because things go up and not down. He feels the college is important and that the administration needs to be able to prove how important it is.

Hedges said the cost per student is the lowest amount 19 other community colleges. He said that he would like to work with the board to come to a decision that makes sense and is transparent.

Fewins said we didn’t raise the mill levy this year and they raised it in the past because the assessment had dropped and they didn’t get any more money and they were just trying to equalize it. He said local funding makes up 20% of the total funding.

Bartelsmeyer said he can’t say if he would say to raise or lower it because it depends on why.

“What are the major issues regarding the community college?”

Readinger said the government is spending money in ways that they can’t continue funding hirer education and expects that some sources of revenue will go away and the county won’t be able to replace all those funds.

Townsend said the budget is an issue and it will be harder right now. He feels our grandkids will see a day where kids are not going to be able to step on a four year college campus until they have gone to a community college.

Hedges feels there needs to be an emphasis on technical skills so students can support a family.

Fewins said that over 40% of the hours here are vocational and those are more expensive than general education. He said they are looking at partnerships to keep costs down and that they are running about as efficent as they can.

Bartelsmeyer feels vocation programs are important and need to be grown and that it is difficult to get and keep good faculty.

Colum said students should come first and that they need to convince the community that they are good and doing the best they can for the students.

Kerr said the community needs to understand how they are being good stewards of the community and feels they need to make better use of technology to reduce the cost of bricks and mortar.

Conradt said that there is a prediction that 50% of colleges will fail in the next decade. He believes that FSCC needs to work hard to create internet based courses.

Stanton feels the budget is the biggest issue and we need to take a closer look at what is working well and build on that.

Bartelsmeyer closed by saying that the board needs to know the community needs, listen to concerns, support the college president, work as a team, look to the future, establish standards for the work, adopt fiscal policies for wise use of funds.

Fewins thanked everyone and said the curent board of trustees has been trying to get people on campus. Says the next four years will be very challenging and is unsettled by what is happening on the state level. Feels FSCC is a bargain because students pay so little each semester.

Hedges pointed out that 9 people running for 3 slots give votes some choices. He pointed out that the fine arts center was build from donors. Feels FSCC needs to be agressive in online education. Looking forward to serving this community on the board of trustees.

Townsend said he might get confused by the number floating around. He said FSCC is a brightspot and the only thing that will keep the community afloat and attract work. He said we need more manual work jobs but technology is better of big cities. Said he has the time and willingness to help.

Readinger said there are a lot of difference opinion about what the board should do. Feels the board needs to protect all the stakeholders. Said the cost of getting a degree has grown double the rate of inflation over the last 35 years. Said he has worked with a lot of budget and good management principles from business will help the college.

Colum says she is a product of FSCC back when it was part of the Fort Scott public schools. Said she is impressed with the president and staff and that we should be proud of them. Proud to serve and contribute to FSCC.

Kerr wants to be part of the Fort Scott community and feels FSCC plays an important role his kids education and the education of others. His purpose in running is making sure that the college is careful in how it spends money, pointed out that since 2003 the income to the college has gone up from 12 million to 23 million. Pointed out that when the valuation went down the board raised the mill levy, but didn’t lower it when the valuations went back up.

Conradt said he’d be happy to meet with anyone to discuss the college. Pointed out that the college brings people to the area, provides students for the rental housing market in Fort Scott. His goal will be to make sure that education remains affordable for everyone. Would push for more online educational opportunities and to partner with other colleges.

Stanton said he writes better than he speaks because of his FSCC English teacher. He wants to be a board member that is better connected with faculty and staff. Would like to see an increase in transparency by putting budget and monthly expenses on the website. Says the college needs to live within its means and keep the mill levy where it is att.

Fort Scott City Commission

  • Jim Adams
  • Lucas Cosens, Sr.
  • Samuel Mason
  • JoLynne Stainbrook

Lucas Cosens wants to upgrade the downtown area. Feels our city can be great place to work, but only if we act now.

Jim Adams is the current city major. He is up for re-election. He feels that there have been positive changes over the last four years and that the city is more transparent. He pointed out that the meeting times have been changed to let more people attend.

JoLynne Stainbrook has been her for 45 years. Thinks community service is very important and has served on many other boards.

Samuel Mason is a retired judge and wants to further the progress of the future of this community. Feels that progress is slow but sure to develop for the future.

“Do you agree with letting the commission set policy and the city manager to oversee the day to day activities?”

Samuel Mason agrees with this approach.

JoLynne Stainbrook also agrees.

Jim Adams feels the process works very well.

Lucas Cosens feels it is a good way to go for our community.

“What were the issues that compelled you to run for commission?”

Lucas Cosens said he had a desire to give back to the community and serve the citizens of the town. He wants to help the city prosper.

Jim Adams said he was originally frustrated with the lack of openness of the city government when he originally ran four years ago. He now wants to help continue the path that the city is on.

JoLynne Stainbrook said that community service is her main reason for running, but that it is also important for everyone to work together and she wants to be part of that.

Samuel Mason said he has no issues, but that the commission is working for the people and that they can answer people’s questions. Pointed out that they haven’t raised the mill levy in four years and hope to keep that flat.

“How do you propose to grow economic development in Fort Scott?”

Samuel Mason said that is why they hired a city manager and economic development director. He said the four line highway will help.

Jolynne Stainbrook said it is important for people to work together and to have incentives for people to work together and hopefully attract people to move back to Fort Scott.

Jim Adams feels we are doing a pretty good job considering the economic downturn from the past years. He pointed out a number of businesses have been coming to town.

Lucas Cosens feels the highway will be an improvement. He pointed out that the lack of highspeed internet is making it harder for some businesses to come to town. He spoke of issues with the airport because he feels some businesses look at the airport.

Jim Adams closed by saying he would be happy to sit down and talk to anyone one on one about any issues. He pointed out that we now have fiber running into town that can help with the highspeed internet and another company is coming. He feels we have made great strides toward bringing people in with great ideas to help move things forward.

JoLynne Stainbrook said she is up to the challenge of the city commission role and feels that economic development is very important. She pointed to her work to keep the the public transportation.

Samuel Mason said that in the 60s three people from the town went to KU to talk about city manager type government. It originally failed, but several years later it passed. Asked people to vote for him again, said he has the time to work with anyone on any issue to help Fort Scott.

Lucas Cosens said his roots run deep in the historical foundations of the community. Said he is at least a fourth generation FortScotian. Wants to be an advocate for the people. Wants the city to grow because he loves Fort Scott.

Candidates’ Forum

Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce and KOMB Sponsored a Candidates’ Forum at the Fort Scott Community College on Monday evening at 6pm.

U.S. House of Representatives, District 2

Kansas Senate – Karen Tyson vs. Denise Cassells

Karen Tyson talked about her experience working with NASA and how that prompted her to want to get involved in reducing government waste.

Denise Cassells says she has lived on a farm for her whole live so she is familiar with the rural area. She talked about her experience working with managing businesses.

KanCare

Ms. Cassells said that her understanding of KanCare was that there were three insurances working to provide the contract to Kansas. She said that the state of Kentucky did the same thing, but they are now being sued over it. She isn’t sure that the plan will save money overall. She is open to looking at the program and hopes it works for the state.

Ms. Tyson says she previously voted on this legistlation and she was one of the people who voted for an oversight committee for KanCare. She doesn’t feel that the legistlature had any oversight over how KanCare would work. She said that the representative that carried the bill was killed in a car accident later that day, so “it was a trying case for him.”

Small Business Tax Rate Change

Ms. Tyson was asked about the projected deficit from the change that will help lower the taxes on small businesses. She said that businesses that are able to keep more money will allow them to create jobs and spend the money in other ways that will help generate more revenues. She said that Missouri is worried that businesses and individuals will move to Kansas to take advantage of this business environment.

Ms. Cassells feel that the projections are accurate. She feels that the property taxes should be lowered in order to put money back in people’s pockets and generate jobs. She doesn’t think people will see much benefit from it.

Cassells asked Tyson about an ammendment she proposed that would have eliminated the earned income credit. Asked how she could justify voting “against children” and for “businesses”.  Tyson said the information was inaccurate and she had worked with someone to keep the rate the same. She also tried to make all tax programs “non-refundable” in order to keep people from getting back more than they paid in taxes. She said this would save Kansas $97.5 million per year.

Tyson asked Cassells how she came up with a number of 38% for property tax. Cassells said it came from the legislative research office.

Tyson said that the number was wrong. She also said that she had worked on a school supply tax holiday.  She said that the numbers that were calculated were extremely high implying that the business tax rate change may similarly overstated.  She talked about the effort of keeping the SRS office open.  She read the following quote:

America is great because she is good. If American ceases to be good America will cease to be great.

Cassells said that the SRS spent $200,000 to change the name of the SRS.  She feels that many of the tax deductions will hurt voters. She said we need to look at what it will cost us at the local level. She called on her experience as a Republican, Independent and now a Democrat as an indicator of her ability to vote for the people.

Kansas Sente District 13

Jake LaTurner’s opponent was not present so he was given two minutes to speak. He said he is in this race to make a difference in South East Kansas and thinks we can grow our economy by becoming more competitive with neighboring states. He supports “worth infrastructure projects” and “equality in school funding.” He said the next few years are going to be difficult for Kansas financially but he feels that the state can offset those deficits with new revenue streams.

Kansas House of Representatives District 2.

Bob Grant  thanked the Chamber for putting on the event. He told a little about his family. He talked about his roots in the area and his experience.

Jeff Locke said he is doing this for his children and grandchildren. He said he wants to make sure that property taxes aren’t the results of people leaving the area. He said he was happy to be in a $10 Million dollar auditorium build by contributions. He said he is pro-life.

Amendment to classify boats differently than other property

Jeff Locke said he does support the ammendment because it will get more people to tage their boats here. He said that a $30,000 boat would spend $10,000 over five years. He said that currently the boat tax doesn’t even bring in enough to pay for collecting the tax as it stands now.

Bob Grant said he doesn’t feel you can justify taking property taxes off boats. He doesn’t know if bringing them back in because of the amount of money it would cost to bring them back in. He feels that lowering tax on food would help elderly and give people a break as the property taxes go up.

Mandated healthcare coverage

Bob Grant feels that legistlature should look into whether Kansas should create an insurance exchange. He said he hasn’t read the affordable care act because it is “this thick”. He said there are some good things in it. He wants to start with the “good things that are in there.”

Jeff Locke said it is another layer of bureaucracy. He feels we should have created a healthcare amendment and let people vote on it. He suggests that health insurance be sold across state lines. He also suggested that businesses and organizations be allowed to pool together to get better rates.  He said that creating thousands of pages of regulations is wrong.

Sales tax on food

Jeff Locke said that an exemption on food sales tax would give a bigger benefit to people who buy lobster. He suggests giving people a “pre-bate” for basic necessities. He said we can lower sales tax by removing special exemptions.

Bob Grant does support an exemption on food sales tax to help elderly and people on fixed incomes. He said the current tax plan passed by the governor is “Robin Hood in reverse.”

Locke asked Grant said he is going to take a pledge to fulfill the full term if elected and asked if Bob Grant would take a pledge to do the same. Bob Grant said he would finish the term.

Bob Grant said he had no questions for Jeff Locke.

Bob Grant again thanked the chamber and people from coming out. He appealed to his track record of working with Democrats and Republicans which he feels is important in “these trying times.” He said he is pro-life with the voting record to prove it.

Jeff Locke said he has worked for 25 years as a teacher and as a negotiator for the faculty. He feels that state solutions are better than federal mandates. He once again pointed out that the building was build without taking tax money from people and that it is much better to have a choice how you spend your money.

Kansas House of Representative District 4

Shirley Palmer opened by calling on her 40 years experience as a classroom teacher and her 4 years in government  She said she has four degrees including one from FSCC and three from Pittstate.

Marty Read said he is pro-life, pro 2nd amendment and pro-small business. He thanked the chamber for creating the forum.

State Base Aid Per Pupil has Declined. Would you support increasing it.

Marty Read said the public sector is supported by the private sector.

Palmer said she would support increasing the dollars spent per student. She said that our constitution allows us to spend up to 65%, but we aren’t doing that. She feels the schools are suffering because of that.

Smoking is banned in most public places. What do you think about banning it in casinos.

Palmer said she has lost relatives to cancer and feels second hand smoke is destrimental to our health. She voted for the ban and said she lost a lot of votes. She feels that what is “good for one ought to be good for the other.”

Read said he is against smoking. He said he would vote against smoking in casinos.

Do you support the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas

Marty Read said he doesn’t know enough about it and would have to study it.

Shirley Palmer said she does support it because she feels that a lot of other states do it and if we don’t do it Kansas “would not equal what they would be deserving to have.”

Read asked Palmer if there is anything in the platform of the democatic party that she would change. She said there are. She said she is a Christian and she feels that the stance on pro-choice vs. pro-life isn’t something she agrees with. She is pro-life. She believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. She said there are many that positions that she does not agree with.

Palmer asked Read about a statement when he stated that he was running for “extreme conservatism and no compromise.” She asked how he plans to avoid gridlock. He said he can’t compromise. He is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. He feels that liberalism has attacked the family and that is why he stated that and that he will “stick to his guns”. He feels he can get along with the “other side of the aisle.”

Read closed with pointing out that he is not a career politician and doesn’t want to be one. He feels that states are in a competitive position regarding jobs. He feels lower taxes will attract jobs. He pointed out that people go to Missouri to buy tax and with lower taxes we could attract them to Kansas. He stressed that he is pro-life, pro-second amendment.

Palmer closed by saying that she really loves people and wants to help them. She asked for voters support. She wants to keep people informed and communicate with people. Her priorities will be job creation, bringing businesses to Kansas. She disagrees with the the current tax strategy. She feels compromise is very important and there is a need to reach across party lines.

Bourbon County Clerk

Evelyn Taylor said she has worked in the medical field. She has worked with the public and feels she has a great way of working with people.

Kendall Mason said she worked for Great West and the Bourbon County office. She listed a number of duties she performed there and said she is back working as Clerk because she was appointed to finish the term.

How would you increase voter turnout

She said she encourages people to vote, but is more interested in free advertising. She pointed out that we’ve had over 700 people vote already. She feels the current turnout is good.

Taylor said she would have to access the situation, but felt there has been a lot of turn out.

Extended voting hours

Taylor said she would continue offering extended voting hours.

Mason said if the voter turnout is good and justifies the cost, it should be kept.

Technology in clerks office

Mason said she feels it is adequate from what she has seen.

Taylor said she’d have to assess it when she gets into office.

Taylor and Mason said they had no questions for each other.

Mason closed by thanking the current office help in the clerk’s office and everyone who has supported her.

Taylor thanked all her supporters and the people who believed in her. She feels the transition into the clerks office won’t be as hard as if she had no clerical experience. She said she is a person of good moral character.

Bourbon County Commission

Barbara Albright says she has always wanted to serve the public and started looking at the position when she heard Endicott wasn’t going to run again.

Clyde Killion said he has worked with commissioners in the past so he knows what they do.

Important issue in Bourbon County

Albright said the declining tax base is probably the most important issue. She said she is very interested in building the tax base and being efficient.

Killion said we need jobs to get our tax base up or we are going to have to pay more taxes.

New detention facility

Albright said there was a study where they looked at building a new detention facility and said she’d need to research that study before she could form an opinion.

Killion said he’d be willing to build one, but paying for it might be another problem. He thinks it would pay for itself.

Harold Coleman is running un-opposed for his seat on the commission.

Bourbon County Treasurer

Rhonda Dunn wants to put her experience in big oil and small family business to work in the county.

Susan Quick started in the treasurer’s office in 91 and ran when the treasurer she worked under retired. She appreciates the job and asked for people’s vote.

Public perception and how can it be improved

Quick said the public probably thinks that the office collects taxes and distributes the tax dollars and all of this has to balance. She said the office balances every day and at the end of each month and they do the best job they can.

Dunn said that looking back over the last 12 to 18 months the perception is one of mistrust and there is not confidence there. She said she would be open and fair and that she tends to overcommunicate. She feels the policies of the county should be very public with no “shroud of mystery”. She said the website can be improved to make things open.

Are you in favor of a payment plan

Dunn said she would be in favor of a plan that lets people pay their taxes on time. She said that getting $50 rather than $0 that is an improvement. She said with this economy this will become a bigger and bigger issue and wants the county to collect every dollar that we can.

Quick said there already is a payment plan. There was a problem with the interest rates on the previous software. She said they couldn’t advertise the payment plan or the county wouldn’t have any revenue. She said you can now pay any amount you want at any time and the new software will keep track of everything. She said the Attorney General’s office found that there was nothing done wrong in the office.

Checks and balances

Quick felt the checks and balances are adequate.

Dunn cited instances where accounts were out of balance for a few weeks while $3,000 was located. She said that payments to prisoners did not have two signatures. (Quick interjected that those did not come from the Treasurer’s office.) She said clearly there is not enough internal control.

Dunn asked Quick what she would do differently over the last 18 months while citing the missing $3,000 and the claim against Quick’s surety bond. Quick said there was no money missing and much of the problems were caused by disgruntled employees.

Quick asked Dunn how she would collect taxes differently and how she would serve the public since she is always “so rude”. Dunn said she was rude in the Treasurer’s office because her name was printed in the paper and nothing printed matched what the person behind the desk told her and that Quick always hides behind the desk and doesn’t help anyone.

Quick closed by saying that she wants to be elected again and that the vehicle office is going to improve.  She said she works for everyone and at the time Ms. Dunn was in the office she was working with someone else in the back.

Dunn closed by saying that over the last two months it has been crystal clear that the county needs a new treasurer. She read from a letter to the editor by Edward Keating supporting that position. She cited her work ethic and integrity to do the position.

Bourbon County Register of Deeds

Number one issue to address

Lora Holdridge said that taxes and revenue are the biggest issue. She pointed out that her office is fee based and they take in about twice of what they spend.

Ann Clarkson said technology is her biggest issue. She said the current system could allow for electronic filing.

Public records available on line

Holdridge said she has mixed feelings because computers are only as good as what they put in. She said the stuff online is only available for businesses that show their business license. She said you can come into the office to get anything but having them online would make information available to everyone.

Clarkson said she agrees with making the records available online and that we should make everything available and things that shouldn’t be made available can be redacted.

Holdridge asked Clarkson how she feels that she doesn’t have integrity. Holdridge said that the public mistrusts elected officials and that as a whole that can be re-established.

Holdridge closed by saying that there are over 400,000 acres in Bourbon County. She said that her office is the protector of those records and that the things they do today are being done so someone can find what has been done 100 years from now.

Clarkson said she wanted to leave everyone with the question about what education is required for the office. She said the office should be striving to use better technology. She feels leadership experience is about what you will do in the future. She questioned what the current register of deeds has added to the office.

 Bourbon County Sheriff

Ron Gray was not in attendance so Bob Jackson spoke for two minutes rather than the question answer period. He gave his history of having worked at the police department. After he retired he tried selling cars and then went back to being a road deputy. He says there are many problems in the sheriff’s department and he is taking a big risk running against his boss. He believes the community needs better law enforcement in the county.  He said “It’s not safe out there. One of these days this county is going to wake up and we’ll be paying for a deputy’s hospital bills or attending a funeral.”

 Bourbon County Attorney

Terri Johnson is running unopposed. She talked about her background and family. Her staff is committed to holding people accountable for crimes they have committed. She feels she has the experience and integrity to continue to do that. She said she appreciates the support she has had and she is committed to doing the best job she can as county attorney.

 

USD234 Votes Against Mill Levy Increase

The school board was voting on a proposed mill levy that would increase taxes to raise approximately $20,000 in taxes that would be matched by another $20,000 by the state vs. an amended budget that would keep the mill levy flat. The budget was completed previously, but due to an error in calculating the property tax, they were $40,000 short.

The proposed levy would raise the taxes on a home valued at $100,000 by about $5.50 per year.

Superintendent Dr. Diane Gross said that she is still assessing the needs of the school system. She mentioned some foundations that needed fixed, vehicles to be replaced, and the cost of professional development in order to prepare staff to create curriculum for new state standards. She said there were a lot of needs she hasn’t found yet, but said the money “would not be unspent”.

A number of people expressed concern for the students and that education would suffer if the mill levy wasn’t increased.

Some individuals pointed out that taking money away from the families would hurt the children.

Jamie Armstrong said if the school board felt they needed to raise taxes for the school district she supported their decision.

Joe Barr said that he is retired, but has taken a part time job to help offset the tax levies and high cost of living. He pointed out that he needs to replace his car just like the school system, but he can’t afford it. He also asked if there was a system in place to reward people who come up with cost savings ideas.

Chris Maycumber said that spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean the school system will achieve there goals, but it does make it harder for small businesses. He said that they can’t continue in business if every time the school system needs money they simply raise taxes. He pointed out that the $40,000 can be cut from the school’s budget without making major changes and urged them o keep the mill levy flat.

Janet Braun (President of the School Board) said that the school system has made all the cuts they could that wouldn’t effect students and that she was appreciative of all the feedback she was getting. She said that it was quite a shock to find out that the amount of money had decreased due to the tax error.

Jordan Witt (Vice President of the School Board) said he appreciated the time people took to come and voice their opinion. He was glad to see that there could be a community conversation without tearing the community apart. Justin Meeks (Board Member) said he was glad to see people involved and hopes that people will continue to be engaged in the budgeting process. Ken Rienbolt (Board Member) said that he is very familiar with the schools needs because he still has a junior in high-school.

Steve Floyd (Board Member) said he had made a list of the pros and cons for each side and said they came out pretty even. He said that the first area that would be cut would be buildings and facilities. He pointed out that since it is a small dollar amount it is more of a principle thing than a cost issue. He said they will possibly be looking at much larger needs next year to meet the district’s goals. He said he would be more comfortable looking at a plan with dollar amounts and voting on that based on what is best for the kids. He pointed out that the district will not fail if they don’t pass it and that the tax base isn’t going to fail if they do.

Belynda Davenport (Board Member) said that when she ran for office she told everyone that she wanted what was best for the children as well as the parents and community. She said her emails were half for the increase and half were against it. She said that the district had made a lot of cuts already. She said it was very positive that people were discussing and trying to come up with creative solutions. She also expressed a desire to support the new superintendent.

There was a motion to keep mill levy the same and lower the budgeted expenditure by Ken Rienbolt. Steve Floyd seconded the motion:

  • Jordan Witt – Y
  • Michelle Hudiburg – N
  • Justin Meeks – Y
  • Janet Braun – N
  • Ken Rienbolt – Y
  • Steve Floyd – Y
  • Belynda Davenport – Y

Budget will be as amended with the loss of $40k to the school system and a savings of about $20k in local taxes.

 

USD-234 Meeting About Possible Tax Increase

Thursday August 23rd at 12 noon, there will be a special meeting at the USD-234 offices where the school district is expected to ask the board to vote for a tax increase. The public is invited to voice their opinion, but they will need to fill out a form at the meeting.

If you would like to be heard on the issue, but can’t attend the meeting, you can contact one of the board members. The current board members as listed on the USD 234 website are:

  • Janet Braun , President
  • Jordan Witt, Vice President
  • Belynda Davenport
  • Steve Floyd
  • Michelle Hudiburg
  • Justin Meeks
  • Ken Rienbolt

Tax Valuation Error May Increase Taxes

The Tribune is reporting that there was a $1.5 million error made in the way the taxes were valued. This will require taxing entities to either raise the mill levy or tighten their budgets.

If you want to be at the meetings where the changes are going to be discussed here is a list of times:

  • FSCC — 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15 Heritage Room
  • USD 234 — 12 noon Thursday, Aug. 23.
  • City of Fort Scott — 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15 City Hall

Election Results

The unofficial election results are posted at the Bourbon County website. Here are the results of the interesting races as I understand the unofficial counts.

Interview with Evelyn Taylor – Candidate for County Clerk

Evelyn Taylor is a Democrat running for Bourbon County Clerk in the upcoming election. Here are a few interview questions with her answers.

1. Please tell readers a little bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Evelyn Taylor and I have lived in Bourbon County for the past 30 years. I have 2 children and 3 grandchildren. My children were born in Fort Scott and attended the public schools here, and attended FSCC as well. My grandchildren will attend public schools here as well. I have a very strong relationship with my children. I remarried 2 years ago after the death of my husband of 26 years. Cancer took his life. He worked for Bourbon County for approximately 20 years as a Deputy with the Sheriff’s Dept. I started my career in the medical field working at a local nursing home before starting at Mercy hospital. I am a certified nurses aide, as well as an activity director and social service designee. I worked as a ward clerk and then a pharmacy tech. In 1993 I went to work for Newman Young Clinic in the OB/GYN office. In 1997 I left Mercy to work at another nursing home here in town. I obtained experience as receptionist, payroll clerk, and employee benefits and accounts payable. I advanced to office manager where my duties included Medicare, Medicaid, co-insurance billing, accounts receiveable, trust accounts, bank deposits, petty cash, order of supplies, maintain resident financial records, posting payments and helped with the budget. I have some experience with marketing as well. In 2006 I went back to Mercy as a pharmacy tech and then eventually ended up working in the Mercy Clinic where I presently work. I have always worked with the public.

 2. Why are you running for office?

For the past 15 years or so I have had an interest in working for the county. I have wanted to know how things work, and as a tax payer, where my money is spent and what is it being spent on. I knew that any office job with the county would be very interesting and challenging. I feel that with the experience I have obtained over the years that I would be an asset to the county.

 3. What do you feel is the single most important issue facing the county?

 I feel the most important issue we are facing is the economy.

 4. Why do you think you are a better choice for the voters than the incumbent?

I feel that there needs to be a change. I have good background in office experience. I am willing and able to learn every aspect of the clerk’s office. I deal very well with the public and feel that I am very capable of doing the job.

 5. What is the single most important skill you would bring to the office?

 Organizational skills, public relations and professionalism.

 6. If elected, what would your top priority be during your first 90 days?

 Education – learning every aspect of the job.

 7. Health insurance is one of the fastest growing expenses the county is facing. What are some ways you’d recommend the county deal with this issue?

Well, with the past employers I have worked for, the employees have always paid a portion of their insurance and the employer paid their portion and it has always been with a large company where you have the most benefits possible at a reasonable price. I would suggest thoroughly investigating insurance companies and not taking the first one that comes along.

A Candidate Forum will be held on July 31 in the Theater of the Ellis Fine Arts Center on the Campus of Fort Scott Community College.  Forum begins at 6 pm. Doors open at 5:30.  The Public is encouraged to attend.  This event is sponsored by the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce.

Be sure to vote on August 7!