Category Archives: Bourbon County

County Commission hears report of Garland Fire District

During their meeting Tuesday morning, the Bourbon County Commission met with Drywood and Scott township members who gave an update on what has occurred within the Garland Fire District in recent months.

4-27 County Commission

Scott Township clerk Don Banwart and Drywood Township trustee Darrel Bloomfield gave information on issues they said they have faced with the fire department of unincorporated Garland in recent months and even years.

“The situation in Garland has deteriorated,” Banwart said.

First created in 1968 by the county commission and a vote, the Garland Fire Department has responded to calls around the small town and the surrounding area since that time.

As townships lines were drawn in Bourbon County, it was determined that the district includes areas in the Scott and Drywood townships, leading to the Garland fire board including representatives from the two townships. As a result, a hierarchy of authority was created, with the fire board answering to the township boards that then are beneath the county commission if needed.

But most recently, Banwart and Bloomfield said townships have not been made aware of the state of the fire district concerning such information as how many board members or firefighters there are, who the treasurer is or how the money is being used. When those details and an audit were requested, the fire board refused.

Banwart said the department has also responded to emergency calls in an untimely manner of late, sometimes arriving with few volunteers or not at all, resulting in the Scott Township firefighters often responding. To resolve that risk, the townships made official their request to Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou that the Scott Township department always respond to Garland emergencies.

Enforcing a statute that states the townships have the right to form the fire board, citing insubordination of the current board as their reason for doing so, Banwart said the joint townships voted to make changes to the board by presenting new electors who would represent township members who do not live in the Garland district and so can not serve on the board directly. Some of the board positions are currently open since such electors have not been appointed while others have served beyond the three-year terms of elected township members they represented.

But prior to the meeting held Monday evening, when names of electors would have been proposed, Banwart said they received a restraining order that stated the actions to change the fire board were causing confusion and disorder.

Banwart said their goal is to have transparency between the fire board and townships, adding they have heard from numerous residents from within the Garland Fire District that have concerns about how it is run and how the taxpayers’ money is being spent.

“All that we want is for things to run smoothly and for people to get what they’re paying for,” Bloomfield said.

County Commissioners said they did not think they should step in with action at this time, but thanked Banwart and Bloomfield for the information and expressed their desire to be kept up to date on further issues.

State representatives hold panel discussion in Fort Scott

During a legislative breakfast hosted at Mercy Hospital Saturday morning, two state senators and two state representatives answered questions from members of the Fort Scott community on a number of topics.

4-19 Legislative Breakfast

“I’m always glad to come up here and participate in this forum,” Representative Adam Lusker said.

With Mark McCoy serving as moderator, the politicians answered questions from the floor as well as questions and comments that had been emailed in advance. Topics ranged from slot machines at dog and horse racing tracks to energy rates and state resources, but much of the time was spent discussing a property tax lid and state education funding.

The panel, which included Lusker with Rep. Marty Read, Sen. Jake LaTurner and Sen. Caryn Tyson, discussed a bill which ould allow property tax rates to be voted on by the citizens if the city or county leaders decide to increase the rates beyond that allowed by inflation and other exemptions.

The panelists pointed out that such a change would grant more rights to the citizens while making the market more competitive in bringing landowners and businesses to the county and the state, since Missouri rates are consistently lower than those in Kansas.

City and county leaders in attendance at the breakfast panel expressed their disagreement with the proposal since it would add restrictions on the leaders voted in by the citizens to represent them, and whom the citizens could vote out of office if they do not properly represent them. Another comment from the audience pointed out that such a change would force the community to pay for an election.

“I don’t think it ties their hands at all,” LaTurner said of the proposed bill and how it affects elected officials, while Tyson said it will help prevent high rates, such as agricultural property rates that went up an average of 15 percent in Bourbon County this year and as much as 40 percent in other areas.

Another key topic, referred to as the second elephant in the room, was education and house bills that have raised concerns for those involved in the schools.

One area concerned a senate bill passed in 2012 that provided a reimbursement for high school students completing technical college courses and even a $1,000 incentive to the students’ high schools. However, that incentive has been taken away as the budget decreases from more than $1 million to about $50,000 in the 2016-2017 year, only covering the testing done during the college courses.

Tyson explained the larger budget and incentives had been designed to only be temporary as the program kicked off. Area educators expressed their concern at that fact as area schools and colleges strive to start up such a program but need that financial support.

The panelists also discussed Kansas House bill 2741, which would prevent state education funding from being used for administrative, maintenance, construction, repairs, extra-curricular activities and food service costs. Tyson and LaTurner both pointed out this bill has not had a hearing yet and they doubt it will advance any further.

Tyson also pointed out that education funding from the state was last cut in 2009 and has only increased from there, although its distribution has left some areas with cuts.

City Manager Dave Martin expressed his appreciation to the four panelists for their representation of Bourbon County and for being willing to speak and work with local leaders, despite any differences in opinion.

All four encouraged residents in their districts to contact them with any questions, comments or concerns they might have on state or local issues.

YPL holds networking lunch

Just a day after two Young Professionals League members received awards at the Chamber of Commerce dinner, the group of young business people continued their goal of assisting its members by holding a networking lunch during their monthly meeting Friday.

4-5 YPL

The April meeting gave attendees an opportunity to mingle with other young business members of the community to learn about their personal and professional lives through a group activity. Participants expressed their appreciation at the opportunity to get to know each other better and build those networking ties.

With the April meeting completing the first cycle of meetings, the YPL will begin the new quarter in May, with their meeting focusing on leadership building exercises before hearing from a guest speaker on a relevant topic the following month.

The YPL also holds a monthly social gathering the third Friday of each month. On April 15, young professionals will be gathering at Nate’s Place after working hours to socialize in a more relaxed setting.

Members are also encouraged to be involved in the community, such as by volunteering to help with the Beacon Soup Line in the fall or the High School Career Day. Community service hours outside of work can be turned in to the YPL, which will keep a tally of the total number of hours for the individuals and the group as a whole.

Young professionals interested in joining the organization are encouraged to attend the meetings or social events. Yearly dues are currently being accepted from both new and returning members.

Bourbon County Landfill to host spring clean up event

With the arrival of spring, the Bourbon County Commission decided Tuesday to hold a spring cleaning event for the county, encouraging residents of Bourbon County to take their trash to the landfill at no cost on April 22-23.

3-31 Earth Day

County commissioners discussed with public works director Jim Harris the issue of trash and large items such as tires and even mattresses being abandoned along the sides of the road throughout the county. To try to counteract that problem, and in honor of Earth Day on April 22, Bourbon County residents will be able to drop items off for free at the dump.

Harris said the county used to work with the local schools on Earth Day when students would clean up areas of town, transporting the trash to the dump. But the county has not participated in recent years. Harris said emphasizing such an event might discourage residents from throwing items away on the side of the road instead.

Each day, Harris said employees of the road department have to spend time picking up trash when they should be working on the roads, costing the county and taxpayers money that could be put to better use.

All normal rules apply to the special event concerning dumping, such as not permitting paint, oil or batteries to be disposed of there. Other items such as tires, appliances and other objects, which normally are charged according to weight, will be accepted from residences, but not commercial businesses.

The landfill will be open Friday, April 22, all day and Saturday, April 23, until 2 p.m. The commissioners said they hope to hold such events more than once a year.

Commission discusses need for tornado sirens

With the busiest of the tornado and storm season ahead, Bourbon County commissioners and attorney Justin Meeks discussed the need for tornado sirens in areas of the county during their meeting Tuesday.

3-16 Lake

Emergency Director Will Wallis informed the commission that the city of Fort Scott has nine sirens while other areas such as Bronson has two, Uniontown has two, and others such as Fulton and Mapleton have one in their areas. Other areas such as Redfield, Hiattville and likely Garland do not have sirens, as well as Lake Fort Scott.

“We live in a very volatile area when it comes to storms,” Meeks said.

After the death of John Scott in May of 2015, a memorial fund was set up in his honor to raise funding to purchase a tornado siren for the Lake Fort Scott area. About two-thirds of the needed $17,000 has been raised, and residents of the area asked if the county could provide the remaining approximate $5,000.

Because Lake Fort Scott and other areas such as Hiattville and Garland are unincorporated, they are unable to seek grants to pay for the sirens, such as other areas like Bronson, who recently paid for sirens with grants.

Commission Chairman Barbara Albright said the county has an opportunity to assist a community that has a safety issue, but Meeks pointed out that, by doing so, the county would be setting a precedent they would need to follow consistently in future years when requests come in.

Meeks said they could create a budget line item annually that could be used to help other communities in a similar way in future years, focusing on safety issues such as sirens as opposed to other projects that fit in the current, parks and recreation item.

“I have some mixed feelings about that,” commissioner Harold Coleman said, saying he does not like the idea that the rest of the county is helping pay for a tornado siren for one area.

With such a tight budget already, the commissioners decided not to commit to an action at the moment that would require a budget item of about $5,000 each year.

“Once you start down that road you have to be consistent,” Meeks said.

Fort Scott hosts Little Britches Rodeo

A number of families came to Fort Scott Saturday and Sunday for a round of the Southeast Kansas Little Britches Rodeo, with 85 young contestants vying for points to help them move closer to the national finals in Oklahoma later this year.

3-14 Rodeo 3

Both local and out of state participants between the ages of 5 and 18 years of age competed in three age groups—little wranglers and junior and senior boys and girls—in a total of 27 events such as bull riding, bronco riding, barrel racing, flag racing, team roping, goat tying and others.

Though overcast with some showers, the weather stayed clear enough for the event to be held outside at the Bourbon County Fairgrounds both days.

The mission statement of the SEKLBR states its intent is to “provide a safe, fair and rewarding rodeo opportunity for the youth in the SE Kansas region.”

Sheriff completes training in Colorado

Submitted by Sheriff Bill Martin, March 8

Sheriff William K. Martin of the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office completed participation in the 109th session of the national Sheriffs’ Institute (NSI) held in Aurora, Col., Feb. 22-26. The NSI is the only national executive development program designed for sheriffs. This no-cost program is co-sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) and the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA).

Submitted Photo
Submitted Photo

Sheriff Martin joined 20 other sheriffs from across the country for training on contemporary challenges facing America’s sheriffs today. In light of those challenges, the sheriffs explored the role of the local sheriff in providing effective leadership for the public good in such areas as public safety, criminal justice system policy, community relations and organization effectiveness and efficiency.

Hilary Burgess, NSA Manager of Training, said, “Sheriff Martin is a leader with vision for the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office. It is an honor to have Sheriff Martin join the more than 2,700 graduates of the NSI since 1973.”

The NIC is a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons. It is the primary federal source of technical assistance, training and information services for state and local corrections. NIC provides a wide variety of services to the nation’s jails, most of which are the responsibility of sheriffs.

The NSA is a non-profit professional association located in Alexandria, Va. NSA represents the nearly 3,100 elected sheriffs across the nation and has more than 20,000 members, including law enforcement professionals, state and federal government employees, concerned citizens, students and others. Since 1940, NSA has served as an information clearinghouse for law enforcement professionals. NSA also provides management training for sheriffs and their personnel in court security, crime victim services, domestic violence, homeland security initiatives, jail operations and traffic safety. Additionally, NSA administers the highly successful National Neighborhood Watch and Triad programs.

Fine Arts Exhibit kicks off for 24th year

The Bourbon County Arts Council’s 24th Annual Fine Arts Exhibit began Wednesday evening with a reception and continued Thursday morning during the weekly Chamber Coffee at the Ellis Family Fine Arts Center at the Fort Scott Community College.

3-10 Arts Council 4

“Overall, we think this is one of the finest exhibits that we’ve had with the number of artists participating, and we just hope that it continues to grow,” Danny Magee of the arts council said.

Those attending the Chamber Coffee got an early glimpse of more than 100 pieces of art on display from 47 artists—including 14 local artists and participants from other state such as Missouri, Vermont and Rhode Island. The exhibit will be open to the remainder of the community to view or purchase Thursday and Friday from noon to 7 p.m.

“There’s a tremendous variety of art,” Magee said, listing different mediums such as painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry, watercolor, ceramics and mixed media.

Prizes for the first place pieces in each category were provided by individuals and corporate sponsors including Landmark Bank, McDonald’s Restaurant, H & R Block, Ward Kraft, City State Bank, Union State Bank, H & H Realty and Fort Scott Broadcasting.

Coinciding with the event, pianist Sonny Leyland of England will also be at the venue Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m., for a free concert featuring his specialties of ragtime, boogie woogie and blues music.

Magee also mentioned the council is accepting applications and renewal forms for those interested in being members, saying the council remains active in the community.

“We’re constantly looking for new ways to support Bourbon County,” Magee said.

Deb Anderson of the arts council pointed out that there are only six such arts organizations in the state of Kansas.

“We are so fortunate to have such community support,” Anderson said, saying the artists have been very appreciative.

Other announcements during the Chamber Coffee event included:

  • Fort Scott Community College will host the opening night of their play “The Odd Couple” Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m., with showings at the same time Friday and Saturday.
  • A ribbon-cutting event will be held at the Country Place Living Memory Care facility Thursday evening at 5:45 p.m. Drinks and snacks will be available.
  • Bids & Dibs will hold a drawing March 17, for a Coach purse and Chicago Cutlery set. Tickets for $1 each will be available for the next week with the money raised going towards the new trolley.
  • Fort Scott Kiwanis will host an Easter egg hunt at shelter #2 of Gunn Park on March 19, at 11 a.m.
  • Tickets remain for the Branford Marsalis concert hosted at the Fort Scott Community College April 7.

Commission discusses extra jail footage, budget

Law Enforcement Center

After a recent, public meeting raised questions concerning the law enforcement center project and the reason for added square footage, the commission met with representatives from the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Director Will Wallis Tuesday to clarify the issue.

3-8 Commission

During the meeting last Thursday, architect Larry Goldberg said the reason for the added 2,000 square feet to the design was to make room for the Emergency Operations Center to be located onsite. County commissioners said they had not been informed of that detail.

Wallis explained Tuesday that the area is not the county’s EOC, which is located in the basement of the courthouse, but is an alternate location that could be used as a headquarters during an emergency or disaster. It will, however, serve as the Continuity of Operations (COOP) location, a national effort that ensures that individual departments and agencies continue to perform their services in any emergency.

Wallis and Sheriff Bill Martin both emphasized that this multi-purpose area—which will also be used for training and administrative purposes—has been in the jail plan since it was initiated, so does not account for the addition to the design.

Though Wallis said he hopes the area would never have to be used as an EOC, he said it is important to plan ahead and have an area large enough with sufficient resources for communication.

Martin said in the meantime it would still be put to use such as for in-service training that is required annually, allowing deputies to complete the training locally instead of travelling.

But while Wallis said they would like to stick to their original plan of including the multi-purpose area, he said if the budget does not allow it than, “so be it.”

Commission chairman Barbara Albright said she wanted to make sure voters know they are getting what they voted for in the project.

“We’re trying to be as open and transparent as possible on the project,” Albright said.


The commissioners also wrapped up the 2015 budget with Certified Public Accountant Terry Sercer, who explained their funds will likely be tight entering the new fiscal year, with little left over for reserves.

However, Sercer said most of the county departments came in below budget for the 2015 fiscal year, leaving enough for the carryover the commission had already budgeted for in 2016, allowing them to not start the year off in the negative.

Sercer said the audit on the county will be complete by late April or early May, and encouraged the commissioners to begin looking at the next annual budget right away so they can plan ahead for any expected expenditures.

The commissioners said they do face an upcoming expense in fiscal year 2017 because of a new law requiring the county provide security. With the budget so tight, the county could face a decision to raise taxes or adjust the cost of living.

County treasurer Rhonda Dunn also requested that reserves be put in place for the appraiser’s and election funds in preparation for upcoming expenses to purchase new equipment and a vehicle.

Bourbon County has good turnout for caucuses

Both the Democratic and Republican caucuses held Saturday had good turnouts from Bourbon County as residents participated in choosing their preferred presidential candidates for the general election in November.

3-7 Caucus

Registered Democratic voters of Bourbon County were divided between different locations according to which state senate district they lived in. District 13, the southern portion of Bourbon County, caucused in Cherokee and had a total of 684 voters, with 456 voting for candidate Bernie Sanders while the remaining 228 voted for Hillary Clinton.

Those local results coincided with the rest of the state, with Sanders winning with almost 68 percent of the votes, receiving 23 delegates.

The Republican voters also turned out Saturday to vote in conjunction with Linn County at the Linn County fairgrounds.

Rhonda Dunn, vice chairman of the Bourbon County Republicans said the two counties combined turned in about 350 ballots during the 2012 caucus, but this year Bourbon County alone had 351 votes while the location had a total of 846 ballots cast. Because of the large turnout, the location ran out of ballots and had to use index cards instead.

Ted Cruz received the majority of Bourbon County votes at 187, and would go on to win the state with 48 percent. Donald Trump received 87 votes, Marco Rubio 43 and candidate John Kasich 33 votes.

3-7 Caucus 2

Architect answers questions concerning jail project

During a special meeting called by the Bourbon County Commission Thursday morning, architect Larry Goldberg fielded questions concerning the jail project and eased concerns about surpassing the budgeted amount of $6.85 million.

3-5 Jail Project

“There have been questions surfacing around our community,” commission chairperson Barbara Albright said, assuring county residents they need not worry about having to pay more for the project. “Our intent is for the jail to be completed at the amount we voted on.”

Goldberg, president of Goldberg Group Architects, explained that initially they are the bearers of bad news when it comes to projects such as the Law Enforcement Center of Bourbon County. Early in the design process, Goldberg said their estimates are very conservative. But as designs are finalized and bids are accepted, those estimates come down.

“I have a duty to tell you all the bad news,” Goldberg said. “When you start a project, you’re always looking at your highest, most conservative estimate.”

Currently, that estimate is more than $600,000 over the budgeted amount approved by voters. But Goldberg assured those at the meeting that if the project is still over budget when the plans and contractors are finalized, then they will modify the plans to ensure that the project remains within budget.

3-5 Jail project 2

Some of the reasons it has come in above budget so far is due to a shortage of skilled labor available because of other large projects occurring in the Midwest, leading to fewer and higher bids, and a rise in the cost of steel from $2,100 per ton to about $3,500 a ton.

Goldberg said they have seen that price level out some and they hope the other projects will near completion before the local jail project begins, helping bring down the cost further.

The price also went up when the architects added 2,000 square feet so the jail would not just house the Sheriff’s department, but provide space for an emergency operations center that could serve as a secure control center for the community in a time of disaster or emergency. The area would also be used as an added squad room and training area.

The commissioners said they had not been aware that was the reason for the added square feet and said they would revisit the plan to make sure they believe it is necessary.

Other questions answered included why the sheriff’s office had to be moved into the new facility at all. Goldberg explained that is required by law in smaller jurisdictions. He also explained to questioners that his own company’s payments are included in the $6.85 million budget and will not go beyond that.

The high price to purchase the property was also discussed, with Goldberg saying they had estimated $150,000 for the purchase of land but it ended up costing $200,000. But with deals for other areas of land falling through, few options had remained to the commissioners as the project was delayed.

The county will be responsible for removing existing structures from the property, but the commissioners also pointed out that some utilities are already available on the property because it had been a commercial area. Just this past week the results of an environmental test also came back clean, continuing to clear the path to construction.

Another issue raised concerned whether the Sheriff’s Department would have to hire further personnel to cover the transport of prisoners, but members of the department said the project was planned with the current number of personnel in mind and said they should not have to hire any others.

With designs likely taking another couple months to be finalized and bids having to be accepted, construction is scheduled to begin in July if all goes well, with the project being completed approximately 13 months later.

County leaders give update to Chamber members, events announced

During the first Chamber Coffee of the month of March, Bourbon County leaders gave an update to Chamber of Commerce members of current projects and services provided and other changes happening at the courthouse.

3-4 Chamber Coffee 3

“We are very proud of the services and the people that are resources in this county,” county commission chairperson Barbara Albright said Thursday, taking time to introduce each of the county’s department leaders. “They’re here to serve you.”

Information provided included items such as a move by the register of deeds to a new office, real estate appraisal notices being sent with the deadline approaching, emergency exercises to be conducted in upcoming months, newly appointed department leaders as well as changes in appearance to bring the courthouse back to its original look.

The county leaders also reminded members of the community of services they offer such as offering election information, providing hunting, fishing and boating licenses and taking care of the approximately 1,000 miles of road in the county. Representatives from the different departments said anyone with questions or concerns should reach out to them.

Sheriff Bill Martin also gave an update on the department’s new K-9 unit program, which received its first of two dogs this week. The dog will begin getting acquainted with the county and his handler during the next month while his handler also begins training.

Other chamber members were given the opportunity to announce upcoming events including:

  • The Young Professionals League will hold their monthly meeting at Papa Don’s Friday at noon, with Sheriff Bill Martin and USD 234 Superintendent Bob Beckham being on hand to provide information and answer questions about their areas of service in the community.
  • Fort Scott Community College will hold their 35th annual spring rodeo Friday through Sunday.
  • Mercy Hospital will hold a Save a Life event Saturday, providing mammograms between 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. Those interested should contact the hospital to schedule a time.
  • Registered voters can cast their ballots Saturday, March 5, for a presidential candidate. Information on where to go can be found at the County Clerk’s office.
  • The Fort Scott National Historic Site will host the Lift Every Voice: The Black Experience in the Heartland play Tuesday, March 8, at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
  • Country Place Living Senior Center will hold their ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, March 10, with festivities beginning at 5:15 p.m.
  • On March 13, during their Sunday service, the First United Methodist Church will celebrate 150 years of existence. Members of the community are welcome to attend.
  • During the month of March, participants can register for the Kansas State Extension Office’s Walk Across Kansas health initiative, a state-wide program that involves teams of six people in challenges to walk far enough in their own community during the months of April and May to cross the state of Kansas.
  • Later this month, local churches will come together for a Good Friday service at Life Point Assembly of God while an Easter sunrise service will be held at the downtown gazebo on Main Street. Anyone is welcome to attend.
  • The Chamber of Commerce will host the annual Chamber Banquet on March 31. Members of the chamber are encouraged to begin nominating businesses and individuals for awards such as for a new business, business person and best community spirit awards.
  • The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes is holding a fundraiser for the new Unsung Hero Park, allowing participants to purchase bricks for $100 each to be engraved and placed at the park. Those interested in sponsoring a brick can contact the center for request forms.