Category Archives: Fort Scott

Chamber Coffee – VFW

The weekly Chamber Coffee was held at the VFW Post 1165 this morning. VFW Chairman Clint Walker told a little about what the VFW is doing in the community and thanked the businesses for their support.  The VFW sponsors a Voice of Democracy scholarship contest where high school students make an audio essay. Theresa Schafer won for the state of Kansas. (You can listen to her audio essay here.)  The VFW also sponsors a contest for middle school age children called Patriot Pen.

The flags that line the road to the National Cemetery are done by the VFW. Most of them are given in honor of someone. You can buy a flag in honor of a loved one for $35 through the VFW.  Mr. Walker said he would be setting up the flags at 7am tomorrow morning if anyone would like to come out and help.

Mr. Walker told the story of when he was working as a recruiter at the beginning of the first Gulf War. He said a 70 year old woman came in to show him a bag of medals and a newspaper clipping from her son who had died in World War II. The woman said that if she had it all to do over, she would give her son for America again.

A few other announcements that were made at the meeting:

  • There two veteran’s programs tomorrow at 11am and 2pm at the National Cemetery.
  • Jamie Armstrong announced that her Edward D. Jones office is going to be opening next to Subway on Thursday.
  • Everything Pets will be opening on Saturday.
  • The downtown Christmas open house (pdf) is tonight and many businesses will be staying open until 8.
  • Life + Style will have a number of food samples available downtown tonight.
  • The Kiwanis chili feed is tonight.
  • Mercy has a chili cookoff on the 15th.
  • The Citizen’s Bank Bowl will be played in Pittsburg on December 4th.
  • The Chamber Community Guide is looking for content about local businesses.

 

 

Job Fair

There will be a job fair held at the FSCC Danny & Willa Ellis Fine Arts Center on Thursday, November 10th from 10am to 2pm. If you are looking for a job, put it on your calendar. If you know of anyone looking for a job, please let them know about it.

The flyer lists six companies that will be at the fair:

  • Atkinson Industries from Pittsburg
  • Carlisle Transportation Products
  • The Epoch Group
  • H&H Publishing
  • Klein Products
  • Peerless Products

There are over 20 positions listed. You can download the flyer from here: Job Fair Flyer – Fall 2011

Disc Gunners Take Advantage Of Nice Weather

Members of Fort Scott Disc Gunners took advantage of the warmer weather late Friday afternoon to play some disc golf in Gunn Park.The Gunn Park disc golf course was originally installed with 9 “holes” in 1999 and in more recent years has been upgraded to 18 holes. Most have a regular and alternate location and they are regularly shifted between these positions to add variety. The course length varies between 4908 ft. and 6375 ft. depending on the configuration.

 

Internet Access In Fort Scott

Fort Scott has a reasonable number of choices for internet access.  Here is a list of what is available depending on exactly where you live.

  • AT&T – DSL services provided over phone lines. Your lines can be further than 14,000 feet from the central office and some of the older lines won’t work.
  • Suddenlink – Provided over cable connections. If you can get cable, you can probably gett this.
  • RTS – Local wireless provider.
  • Valnet – A wireless provider from Independence.
  • Alpha Wireless – A new wireless provider in town. It isn’t clear if they are up and running yet or not.

That looks like quite a few options, but they all have one thing in common. They all get their bandwidth to Fort Scott from AT&T. So while there can be a certain amount of competition in how to connect your home, there is no competition in the underlying resource–access to the Internet.

Does this lack of competition drive the price up in Fort Scott? For comparison, I have a server in downtown Kansas City. For $50 per month I can get a 100 Mbps connection to the Internet. This would be enough bandwidth to let a local ISP supply reasonable service to a large number of customers. Now we’d expect that it would cost more to get a connection like that in Fort Scott than in Kansas City, but how much more? If it would cost 20 times more that would be $1,000 per month. Obviously that is more than what you’d want to put in your house, but it wouldn’t be out of reach for a business–particularly an ISP.

When I talked to AT&T about getting a connection like that, the initial price started out at around $39,266 per month. With a long contract and a special they were running, the price would come down to $31,333. After talking with a few different people, it sounded like there might be a way to cut that in half and get down to the $15,000 range. Still that is 300 times what bandwidth costs in downtown Kansas City. Could you imagine if your electric or telephone bill cost 300 times more than it costs in a larger city? Instead of a $90 per month electric bill, it would cost you $27,000 pre month. Instead of a $32 per month phone bill, it would cost $9,600.

If you were starting a business that required a reliable high speed connection to the Internet, would you go to the town where it costs $50 per month or the town where it costs $15,000? The future of small towns like Fort Scott is going to be very closely tied to their ability to tap into reliable inexpensive bandwidth. As long as everything comes through a single provider, there is no competition to drive the price down. Right now, no matter how many new ISPs start up in town, they are are all going to be reselling bandwidth from the same expensive source.

If Fort Scott wants to be competitive in the future, we are going to need to find ways to get competitively priced bandwidth into the city.

Progress On New Pool

Construction is proceeding rapidly on the new pool.  In three weeks the old structure has been removed and workers are currently digging out additional dirt for the new pool. As expected they have hit rock and are using a jack hammer on a backhoe to break it up.

Construction workers said that once they get everything dug out, they will lay in the drain line and then start pouring concrete. So far everything is on schedule. Weather is the biggest unknown and a large rain could significantly slow things down.

 

Old Middle School Vandalized

When Paul Feeney and his wife got to town last week to begin their project of turning the old middle school into a family entertainment location they found that the building wasn’t in the same condition they had left it. Vandals had broken in and gone through smashing most of the glass and spraying graffiti all over the walls. The floors were covered with broken glass and broken light bulbs.

There were quite a few things stolen as well including a nice weight machine and various equipment and tools. Many of the kitchen appliances were damaged and broken.  The vandals located some of the paint that had been stored by the previous owners and poured it out on the floor. A toilet had been pulled out of one of the rooms and thrown from the balcony in the auditorium.

Security cameras captured video of many of the miscreants and the police department is working on locating them.

All in all, it was a less than idea welcome to Fort Scott. Mr. Feeney said he briefly wondered if buying the building had been a big mistake, but after a few days of cleaning up the damage he is excited about the plans for the electric go-carts and other entertainment for the citizens of Fort Scott.

He still anticipates that the initial attractions should be opening in 2 or 3 years. The go carts will probably be put on the ground floor and the gym is the likely location for a climbing wall and possibly an indoor skateboard half-pipe.

He and his wife plan to live in the building and the tower in the center will be turned into an apartment with roof access and a great view of the city. Mr. Feeney said once he gets the glass cleaned up, his first priority is making sure the building is ready for winter and fixing any leaks in the roof that might lead to bigger problems later on. He said over all, the structure of the building seems pretty sound, but the roof has some leaks that need addressed–particularly in the center tower.

Another thing he is working on is getting a good inventory of what is actually in the building. He has found some unexpected surprises. There are a great number of what appears to be ceramic molds in what was once the cafeteria. It isn’t clear if those were put there by a previous owner or if they were part of the school. In a dark corner of the basement there are a number of canisters that appear to be rations and supplies from the cold war era.

The go carts that are planned for the building run on electric rechargeable batteries. Mr. Feeney expects the carts alone will cost somewhere around $200,000. He said his goal for the carts is to bring in enough to cover their operational costs and he is expecting to have a very hefty electric bill once things get going. He is less concerned about them bringing in enough to make money or even recover his initial investment.

Beyond the vandalism, there building has been left sitting for quite some time and is going to take some significant work. It appears that some previous owner may have removed much of the wiring to sell for scrap metal and the sump pumps in the boiler room haven’t been working so there is several feet of water in that area. There are many areas where the paint is peeling from the walls and plaster is falling off.

Despite all the work that is needed, Mr. Feeney’s enthusiasm is contagious and it is hard not to fall in love with the old building. Their goal of turning the school into an entertainment venue is going to require a lot of work, but it will be a great asset to the Fort Scott area and hopefully can serve as a model of what other communities can do with their large old buildings.

Attorney General Meets with Fort Scott Citizens

Derek Schmidt, the Attorney General for Kansas, met with around 30 to 35 locals in the lobby of Citizen’s National Bank this afternoon. He is trying to visit all the counties in Kansas. He mentioned that they hired a police officer from the City of Fort Scott to do criminal investigations and she has been doing an excellent job.

Mr. Schmidt is from Independence and has a wife and two girls ages 6 and 8. He is very glad to be done with campaigning so he can focus on his job and not spending so much time away from his family.

Consumer Protection

Most of the cases the Attorney General’s office gets involved with are at the request of local government. The one area where the AG’s office does get involved is in consumer protection cases.

Mr Schmidt said that they pursue 7,000 to 8,000 consumer protection cases per year. They recently recovered $1.2 million dollars for Kansans from a pharmaceutical company. They try to weigh which cases to pursue based on protecting customers, not on the amount that can be recovered.

The Attorney General said that one of the recent scams they have seen happening is done over the phone when someone gets a call purported to be from their grandchild who lives far away. The person on the phone claims to be traveling and says they were mugged and need a couple hundred dollars wired to them to get back home. The person making the call isn’t the grandchild and is just someone who has researched enough information about the kid online in order to sound plausible on the phone.

He also cautioned against telemarketing calls raising money fro charitable organizations. While they often are legal, many times the telemarketer gets 85% of the donations and the charity only gets 15%.

Bourbon County Treasurer Investigation

Melvin Antrim said that many people in the county are paying more than they should in taxes because the Treasurer is “giving a good deal to some of her friends.” He felt the laws on the books didn’t cover accounting and pointed out that when people don’t pay their share of the taxes, the mill levy goes up, but pretty much never comes back down. Mr. Antrim also mentioned that the interest on late taxes should be distributed to the city as well as the county because they are suffering from uncollected taxes as well.

Susan Porter asked if she could present to the Attorney General or KBI before a final decision was made regarding whether or not to pursue an investigation against the Bourbon County Treasurer.

Mr. Schmidt said that he can’t confirm whether they are investigating or not and would only confirm that he was aware of the local news coverage.

As far as general procedure, he said that they do get asked to look at local cases. This year his office has sent a police chief to prison and convicted the Treasurer of another county of theft. He said that the Attorney General’s office has to look at whether a crime was committed–not whether an elected official meets the community standards for job performance. He stressed that they don’t want to second guess the voters unless they are certain criminal conduct has occurred.

An individual asked whether or not breaking a statute is breaking a law. The Attorney General explained that it is possible to break a law without being guilty of a crime and just because something is not criminal doesn’t mean it is right. He elaborated that a number of laws have no penalty attached to them and that crime is a very specific concept.

Cecelia Kramer asked what happens when they get a complaint against an elected official. Mr. Schmidt said that for them to investigate something, they would normally need to receive a request from the County Attorney.

Healthcare

Karen Endicott-Coyan asked about the healthcare law and the Attorney General’s efforts to have at least part of it overturned. Mr. Schmidt felt that it was likely that the case would be heard by the Supreme Court–possible as soon as early next year. He said that in addition to the health insurance mandate, another part of the law that he was concerned about is the way that the federal government could with hold all funding for Medicare/Medicaid programs if a state does not meet new conditions.

EPA

The Attorney General mentioned another case where Kansas is suing the federal government regarding EPA regulations. There are new stipulations saying that Kansas power plants are damaging cities in Michigan and Dallas and that they need to be fixed by January. The power plant operates have said that even if money was not a concern, they could not make changes on that timeline. If the regulations stand, a number of power plants will need to shut down or operate at partial capacity. Mr. Schmidt said that if other states have excess power, Kansas may be able to buy more power at higher rates. Otherwise someone would try to turn on their furnace in February and it might not have the power to operate. He said that the original report listed several other cities that were being hurt by Kansas power plants, but the Kansas scientists looked at it and said that the data didn’t support those conclusions. Rather than changing the demands, the EPA switched the report to different cities.