Category Archives: Fort Scott

Library Reopens after Improvement Project

After months of work that began in September, the Fort Scott Public Library reopened its doors April 3, and held a grand opening event Thursday when they had a ribbon-cutting ceremony to recognize the accomplishments.

“The library is a great asset to our historic downtown and the services and programs are essential to our community,” Mayor JoLynne Mitchell said, adding she believes the youth programs are especially important.

Director Lisa Walther said the library began saving money in 1992 when they started the capitol improvement fund. Though tax dollars funded the project, it was funding gathered over two decades so they did not have to ask the city for more money or a large sum at once.

“We are just thrilled that people seem to be quite happy with how it looks,” Director Lisa Walther said of the completed project. “We couldn’t be happier.”

The improvements include new floors, walls, lights, restroom and ADA compliance as well as new office areas and conference room.

Walther expressed appreciation to city staff as well as library staff and board members, who remained patient throughout the process and helped make decisions as well as other volunteers who moved books and cleaned.

City Manager Dave Martin said it was refreshing working with those involved in the library project and said he is glad to see it complete as he appreciates having hard copies of books.

Library hours and programs, including the children’s reading time on Tuesdays, now continues as normal.

School Board Approves Contract for New Eugene Ware Principal

During the executive session of their April meeting Monday evening, the Unified School District 234 Board of Education approved a contract with Stephanie Witt, naming her the principal for Eugene Ware for the 2017-18 school year.

Formerly a middle school instructional coach, Witt will take over the principal responsibilities in July, while current principal Dave Elliott’s contract expires in June.

“We’re excited to partner with her to help in every way possible to make that a great situation for our staff and students,” Superintendent Bob Beckham said of Witt’s upcoming year with the school district.

In February, the school board voted not to extend Elliott’s contract with the district. A number of parents and other members of the district spoke on his behalf during the March meeting.

Beckham expressed his fondness for Elliott and his years with the district, but had no comment on his upcoming departure after the current school year.

Witt’s brother-in-law and school board member, Jordan Witt, abstained from voting on the employment decision Monday evening.

Beckham also announced that the bond project continues to move forward at a good pace and is scheduled to be complete by July 4.

Kiwanis Host Easter Egg Hunt

The Fort Scott Kiwanis hosted their annual Easter egg hunt at Gunn Park Saturday, drawing a large number of children of a variety of ages who were able to leave with Easter eggs, candy and other prizes.

The event was sponsored by a number of local businesses including Marsha’s Deli, Fort Cinema, Walmart, Iron Star, McDonald’s, Landmark Bank and a number of others. The Easter bunny also made an appearance.

Further Easter event will be held this weekend, including the Eggstravaganza event to be held at Buck Run Community Center Saturday, April 15, providing a variety of games and activities. Those interested in participating are encouraged to register early with a $1 fee to make sure there will be sufficient supplies. Walgreens will also provide an opportunity for children to have their photos taken with the Easter bunny, with participants receiving a free 4×5 print.

Home and Garden Show Draws Crowds

The annual Home, Sport, Farm and Garden Show hosted by KOMB-FM drew in large numbers of people to visit booths set up by more than 60 vendors at the Arnold Arena at Fort Scott Community College.

Visitors were able to gather information of local businesses and organizations, such as The Butcher Block, the City of Fort Scott, Redbud Nurseries and Skitch’s Hauling and Excavation, among a large number of others. Drawings for prizes were also held throughout the day.

Simultaneously, FSCC held a children’s fair on campus, with students as well as others such as the Fort Scott police and fire departments participating in games and other events for the children.

Gazaway to be Fort Scott Tourism Manager

During the Fort Scott City Commission meeting Tuesday evening, the city introduced the new tourism manager, Larry Gazaway.

Economic Development Director Rachel Pruitt said Gazaway, known as “The Voice of Fort Scott” through his local broadcasting career, described himself as a passionate person about arts and sports with extensive knowledge about the city and the county.

“We would be really hard-pressed to find anyone to match his skill set as well as his determination and knowledge for the county and city,” Pruitt said, adding he brings marketing experience as well. “We look forward to him being the voice of tourism and the face of Fort Scott, to lead us in a very important endeavor for the city.”

“I’m excited,” Gazaway said. “I just made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make—leaving a job that I love, one that I had a great passion for—but I look forward to taking the passion that I have for this town, this community, and getting to market that to a very much larger area and hopefully bring some excitement to that.”

City Manager Dave Martin said Gazaway has a good relationship with the Fort Scott Area of Commerce and said he is a welcome addition to the city staff.

“Thank you very much for the opportunity and I promise I won’t disappoint you,” Gazaway said.

In recent months, the city leaders made the decision to move the tourism department away from the chamber of commerce and put it under the city’s direction. Gazaway is expected to begin working in the newly created position April 17, and is expected to move to an office at the chamber building after completing training at city hall.

K-State Extension Provides Gardening and Preserving Courses

With the arrival of spring and the growing season, the Kansas State Southwind Extension District Office is providing a number of workshops focusing on gardening and food preservation in order to educate those interested in learning about the subject.

Monday evening, the extension office hosted a workshop at the Bourbon County Fairgrounds on herbs. Hostesses of the event discussed the different types of herbs, how to grow them, the benefits of eating them and how to cook with them.

“You really can get creative with them,” extension district agent Kathy McEwan said of cooking with herbs.

Starting Thursday, the extension office will begin a series of classes called “Grow it, Prepare it.” Those seven workshops will be held in April, May and June and will include topics such as gardening 101, food preservation 101, jams and jellies, pressure canning, growing berries, container gardening and salsa.

A list of the class descriptions and registration deadlines can be found at

Other events will be offered by the K-State Southwind Extension District as well, including a course on controlling weeds on April 26, at the Neosho County Courthouse. The date was printed incorrectly in a recent release. Registrations are required by April 18.

Gunn Park Invites Community Members and Events

With the arrival of spring and even warmer months to come, the city of Fort Scott encourages residents and visitors to take advantage of the amenities provided at Gunn Park.

“What an awesome park we have here,” City Manager Dave Martin said during the Chamber Coffee Thursday morning, when codes enforcement manager Rhonda Dunn spoke of the history of the park.

Dunn said she has heard that Gunn Park is the largest, city-owned park in the state of Kansas, with 155 acres that include two lakes, seven shelter houses, a number of playgrounds, a disc golf course, dog park, trails and the Marmatton River.

In the early 1900s, Gunn Park was privately owned land and only Fern Lake existed, with a wooden pavilion building and the remainder of the current park property being used as farmland. According to records, the park was frequently used by the community who came for swimming, diving, boat rentals and five cent trolley rides.

William Gunn, who found success in real estate and invested greatly in Fort Scott in the early 1900s, purchased the land and gave it to the city, with records quoting him as saying he believed the park should belong to the city and should always be free to visitors.

“We are the benefactors of an incredible gift,” Dunn said of Gunn’s gift more than a century ago.

Since accepting that gift, the city has maintained the park as well as made a number of changes. Dunn encourages businesses and residents to consider Gunn Park when planning for events such as parties or family reunions, adding she would like to see the community present at the park more frequently.

Those interested in reserving one of the shelter houses, two of which now have heating and air, can contact city hall.

City Moves Forward with Redevelopment Plan for Woods Building

During the Fort Scott City Commission meeting Tuesday evening, the commissioners agreed to create a redevelopment district at the former Woods building, allowing developers to move forward with their plans for the structure.

Economic Development Director Rachel Pruitt said she has been working to bring in a grocery store and is now working on a deal with Queen’s Price Chopper, a family business since 1974 that has five other locations.

Joel Riggs, real estate director for Associated Wholesale Grocers and part of Super Market Developers, said the groups involved are moving as quickly as possible in order to have the grocery and retail store open by November.

“This is kind of the first step in a pretty long process in moving forward to try to redevelop the property that was formerly Woods Grocery Store,” Riggs said, saying the physical redevelopment is scheduled to begin in July.

With the city’s approval, a public hearing was set for the community to be involved and voice any concerns they have in the planning process. The first public hearing is set for May 2, with another to follow on June 20.

“It is a big project,” Riggs said. “It’s important to us…We are going to do everything in our power to move this forward as quickly as we can, but following all the rules and regulations that we need to.”

Riggs said it is a complex financing plan, utilizing Tax Increment Financing bonds, a public financing method that could waive the impact of certain taxes on the zone for a period of time as an incentive. Pruitt said the city will be working with the county and Unified School District 234, as the three taxing entities must come to an agreement on the TIF Redevelopment District.

Dr. Rick Kellenberger, owner of the Dairy Queen located near the Woods building, said they are looking forward to having new neighbors invested in that area.

“It looks pretty desolate up there right now,” Kellenberger said. “So we’re looking forward to that whole area blossoming and hopefully developing and being a one-stop area with all the retail that we have there.”

Other News:

  • The city gave an update on Memorial Hall, with Pruitt saying they may be nearing a sales agreement with Last Farmhouse Films, Inc.
  • A representative from 4-State Sanitation said they will begin providing a drop-off point for recycling beginning on April 3.
  • The commission gave their approval to allow alcohol sales during the Independence Day event to be held at the LaRoche Baseball Complex this summer.