Local Italian restaurant closes suddenly

Bella Roma, an Italian restaurant that came to Fort Scott less than a year ago and shared a building with Fort Scott Inn, closed its doors on Oct. 5, a move that came as a shock to some employees and the owners of the Fort Scott Inn.

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“We were actually surprised,” Fort Scott Inn owner Alex Desai said of the restaurant’s sudden closing.

Desai said he was out of town when the restaurant closed and he returned to find items from the building being packed up.

“I never got to truly speak to the owner himself,” Desai said, saying though his attempts to contact the restaurant owner Giovanni Elezi were unsuccessful, Desai was able to speak with the owner’s brother.

That brother said they had opened too many restaurants at one time, and slow business and not enough manpower led to their decision to close their Fort Scott, Iola and Nevada restaurant locations.

Desai said he has begun contacting others he believes may be interested in opening another restaurant at the same location.

SEK Financial Chamber Coffee discusses fall events

The weekly Chamber Coffee event hosted by SEK Financial Thursday morning gave representatives from businesses in Fort Scott as well as some high school students the opportunity to learn about SEK Financial and what other businesses in the community are doing in upcoming weeks.

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“We work with twenty-something different school districts,” representative Jim Sather said of SEK Financial located in the Industrial Park south of Fort Scott, but added they do much more than just working with schools, such as helping others through investments, insurance, IRAs, 401K plans, rollovers and other financial advice.

“We are able to stay plenty busy,” Sather said. “We love what we do.”

They have also held social security seminars, informing community members of Medicare and Medicaid facts. Businesses interested in inviting them to come speak on that or other financial topics can contact them.

“When we give advice, we just try to do the very best that we can here,” Sather said, saying their doors are open to those who would like to chat with one of their representatives.

Other announcements included:

  • The new Bleeding Kansas and Civil War exhibits at the Fort Scott National Historic Site are almost ready as final inspections are completed.
  • The Gordon Parks Celebration will begin next Thursday and will include videos, speakers, tours and other events such as a concert by a jazz band from Kansas City Friday evening.
  • The Halloween Parade will make its way through downtown Fort Scott Saturday Oct. 24, at 11 a.m. Families and businesses are invited to participate.
  • On Friday the 30th, the city will host a speaker who works with small businesses and will be discussing topics such as staying relevant to the changing customer and art as a business, giving business owners new ideas to help grow their company.
  • Tickets for the Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott event, which will be held Nov. 7, continue to be sold around the city.

Public Library provides reading time to toddlers

Each Tuesday morning, the Fort Scott Public Library invites families with toddlers not yet in school to come for a story time at 10 a.m., which includes books, songs, crafts and snacks for the children.

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“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for preschoolers and toddlers to get used to sitting down and listening,” youth librarian Valeta Cannon said, adding it also prepares them for learning to read themselves.

Cannon said it gives the children as well as the mothers an opportunity to meet each other and socialize.

Each week, Cannon selects children’s books according to themes the children said were their favorites. In recent weeks those themes have included whales, trains and cowboys. With each theme, “Miss Val” often dresses the part as well as plans crafts, songs and snacks that also fit the topic.

“It’s wonderful,” Cannon said of the time each week, though she admits it can also be a challenge because of how young some of the children are. “I really like it.”

Though the story time started off slowly with the beginning of the school year, in recent weeks Cannon said they have had more than 20 children come with their parents.

“The group keeps growing, which is nice,” Cannon said.

The story time continues each week throughout the school year before being suspended during the summer for the summer reading programs. Cannon said she does not hold to a specific age limit for the weekly gathering, having welcomed children as young as just a couple months old to older students.

USD 234 sets curriculum goals, gives construction update

During their October meeting, the USD 234 school board members received a report on the plan to create a district-wide curriculum, a project which began with the start of the new school year.

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Curriculum director Nicki Traul said it has been more than a decade since the district made an effort to create a curriculum for each of the Fort Scott schools, adding that those plans often fell short of their goal.

“There has been several times in the past that we’ve got started on processes,” Traul said. “I don’t know if we ever hit the ending in the last ten years or so.”

But Traul said they recognize the magnitude of the project and are considering it to be a five-year plan, not one that could be utilized immediately. To achieve that goal, she said they will make sure teachers also understand that goal and are not discouraged by yet another attempt.

In just recent weeks, Traul and Superintendent Bob Beckham met to set goals for the curriculum as well as walk through the schools to witness different teaching methods to be encouraged in the curriculum.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am about that,” Beckham said of the walk-through and plan for school curriculum, which will include a committee, coaches and continued Literacy First training.

Traul said their curriculum will have horizontal goals in each classroom, making sure each grade finishes the school year at the same level, as well as vertical goals so each grade learns what is needed for the curriculum of the next grade.

“We want to make sure that each kid in every grade level is getting the material that they’re supposed to be taught,” Traul said.

Such a curriculum would provide that continuity among the schools as well as accountability between classes as they are held to specific standards.

Beckham also gave an update on the construction included in the $40.8 million school bond issue, saying the contractors have sought input from teachers and found ways to get projects done while remaining within the limits of the budget.

Beckham said the contractors will begin accepting bids for interior and exterior projects with those bids due in mid-November. Work will begin shortly after that decision is made

Beckham added the priority will be the high school, since some of those students have been displaced, but said they hope several areas of work can be done simultaneously by those awarded the bids for the projects.

“We’re all getting antsy,” Beckham said. “They hope to see dirt being moved the first of December.”

Runners, cyclists, kayakers take part in Triyakathon

For a third year, local and out-of-town athletes competed in the Triyakathon held at Gunn Park Saturday, featuring routes that forced participants to run, kayak and cycle through the park as individuals or members of a team.

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“We love doing it,” said Frank Halsey, who helped organize the event as well as create the bike trails at Gunn Park over recent years. “It’s a fun course.”

Halsey admitted they are still trying to find the best time of year to hold the event, going back in forth between the fall, when numerous other activities are going on, and summer when it is hard to rent enough kayaks.

This year, though with a smaller crowd that included about 20 individual participants and approximately eight teams, the participants got to experience the event with near-perfect weather with a backdrop of trees with leaves already changing.

Though Halsey said they had feared the river would be too low for the kayaks, recent rains and the opening of the river to let water in made conditions suitable for the event.

Each individual or team was timed, with the fastest coming in at less than two hours for all three portions, which included 3.8 miles of running, 2.5 miles by kayak and a 6.9 mile bike ride through the trails.

Participants ranged in age from 14 to 73 years. Volunteers from Fort Scott Community College and Christian Heights helped with the event.

Fort Scott crowns royalty at Homecoming

A large crowd from the community attended the 2015 Homecoming festivities Friday evening, which included the crowning of the Homecoming King and Queen, the Tigers’ football game against the Independence Bulldogs and performances from the band and dance team as well as young Tigers fans.

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Prior to the game, Marcus Stepps and Grace Willis were named the Homecoming King and Queen from among the 10 candidates. Other candidates included Karleigh Arndt, Katie Gorman, Emma Reeves, Cassidy Westhoff, Kaleb DeLaTorre, Josh Hudiburg, Brody Southwell and Wyatt Tourtillott.

“I’m in a lot of shock still,” Willis said after she was crowned, saying she was both surprised and excited when she was first named a candidate a couple weeks before. “But it’s great.”

After accepting the crown, Stepps went on to help the Tigers beat the Bulldogs, even credited with an interception with less than two minutes in the game, which would lead to the final touchdown of the 31-14 final score.

Both teams got off to a slow start, struggling with penalties, but the Tigers struck first with a touchdown with just over six minutes remaining in the first half. A field goal gave them a 10-0 lead at halftime.

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While the Bulldogs threatened to come back late in the game, completing a 49-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes to go in the game, the Tigers held on to give them a 5-1 record for the season.

Students and others in the community also provided a chili feed, face-painting, photo booth and other activities during the Homecoming evening. The Fort Scott High School graduating class of 1965, celebrating its 50th year since graduating, was also recognized.

G & W Foods holds ribbon-cutting ceremony

Formerly Gene’s Heartland Foods, G & W Foods continued its Grand Opening weeks with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon, despite being delayed briefly when power in the store and the neighborhood went out.

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“The store looks fabulous,” Chamber of Commerce executive director Lindsay Madison said. “So thank you already for your investment in the community. We are very excited.”

Chris O’Hara said this is the 24th G & W Foods branch and the 10th in Kansas, with others located in Arkansas and Missouri. O’Hara said they are appreciative of the “wide open arms” the community has put forward in welcoming the new store to the area.

O’Hara said most of the employees are the same from when it was Heartlands except for the addition of the new manager, Will Rayburn. Each of the employees introduced themselves as well as noting how long they had been with the store, ranging from a few weeks to 20 years.

“I’m looking forward to a lot of great years here,” Rayburn said.

The store provides United States Department of Agriculture choice beef, a wide variety of organic foods as well as custom meat smoking and cake decorating. Starting next week, store ads will include coupons and fuel gas-savers cards will be available within the next 10 days.

They also have the Partners for Education program which allows customers to give their G & W receipts to their school, who can then return them to the store for one percent of those sales.

“It can be a very good thing for the community,” O’Hara said.

The ribbon-cutting event also included free hot dogs and refreshments for participants. The store continues its training for employees and organization of the store itself.

Fort Scott kindergarteners visit Shead Farm

For a third year, Larry and Vickie Shead invited students from the Fort Scott public schools to come and visit their farm located south of the city, where the children got to experience different aspects of farm life.

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More than 150 students, visiting the farm in two shifts Thursday, got to feed animals including goats, a pig and a donkey, learn how to milk a cow, taste homemade butter and take a hayride while also participating in other interactive activities.

Vickie Shead said they were not sure at first what they would do with the farm after their four children grew up and moved out, but decided to continue using it to help others in the community and even from out of town.

“We just gave it back to God,” Vickie said. “Whatever you give to God, you don’t know what He’s going to do.”

Starting in 1994, the Sheads began welcoming college students who could bunk at the farm as a retreat, often helping with some of the work. Since then, thousands of similar students, including international students, have visited as well as others for occasions such as weddings, reunions, birthday parties and holidays, usually at no cost.

Vickie said they hope to continue inviting students and other guests to visit the farm as long as they can.

“What would we do with the farm if it wasn’t used for others?” Vickie said.

Family Dental hosts Chamber Coffee

During the weekly Chamber Coffee, the Fort Scott Family Dental hosts introduced themselves to other business leaders and also gave a vision for their goal in the community.

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“It’s a great group of people here at Fort Scott Dental, which makes it worthwhile,” Dr. Tim Crawford said of his team, which has been offering services to Fort Scott for the past four years with Crawford living in the city for the past year.

Crawford said they hope to expand their current building, adding about 800 square feet, in the near future so they can see more patients. They currently offer a variety of services including dental implants, orthodontics, root canals, whitening and extractions.

“There’s very little that you can’t get done in our office,” Crawford said, adding they are always accepting new patients.

Other announcements included:

  • G & W Foods will offer free hot dogs and refreshments Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with their ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12:15.
  • The third annual Triyakathon will start at 10 a.m. Saturday, with individuals or teams participating in running, kayaking and biking different portions of the trails at Gunn Park.
  • The Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott event, to be held Nov. 7, continues to look for live auction items, food vendors who would like to participate and  entries for the salsa contest.
  • The Lowell Milken Center’s new building had its final cleaning done Thursday as it officially nears completion. Its doors will not open for a few months still as they now begin placing exhibits.
  • The Highlands Apartments will hold an open house Tuesday, 5-8 p.m., welcoming those interested in seeing the apartments.
  • Fort Scott’s Halloween Parade will make its way through downtown Oct. 24, with downtown businesses, and even those not located downtown, encouraged to participate.

City Commission approves agreement with fiber network

In their first meeting of the month, the Fort Scott City Commission decided to enter into an agreement with Kansas Fiber Network, allowing the company to lay fiber optic cable through the city to provide internet access for local businesses.

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The Kansas-based company with 25 employees and headquartered in Wichita will lay the cable along Indian Road from the west and then north on Horton Street and east on 18th Street before again running north on Judson Street.

Debbie Edwards, the company’s business development executive, said right now they will not provide their services to residential areas, but instead target customers such as government, education, medical, anchor institutions and similar entities.

The Kansas Fiber Network currently serves more than 400 communities and continues to expand, but without becoming exclusive or impersonal as some other major providers might.

“What I really like…is that we have a really big network but a small-town feel,” Edwards said of the company, which she said is staffed by Kansans.

Fort Scott’s director of information technology Slayden Davis said he has been working with the company over recent months and said he would call their services a “major backbone for our neck of the woods.”

The quorum of commissioners, with Mayor Cindy Bartelsmeyer and commissioner Lucas Cosens absent, approved the agreement unanimously.

The commission also heard a report from Rebecca Brubaker, executive director of the Safehouse Crisis Center in Pittsburg, which provides refuge for battered women who may have suffered from domestic abuse or stalking.

The center serves seven Kansas counties, housing about 40 from Bourbon County each year while serving about 750 in total annually, helping them with immediate needs as well as trying to help them become self-sufficient.

The commission decided to donate $1,000 toward Safehouse’s $1.2 million campaign for a larger facility.

In executive session, the commissioners decided to extend their contract with city manager Dave Martin another five years while also giving him a two percent raise.


Local firefighters participate in Fire Prevention Week at area schools

The Fort Scott Fire Department joined other departments around the nation in Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 4-10, by visiting local public and private schools to inform students of the dangers of a fire in their home.

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Chief Paul Ballou said they use the entire month to visit area schools with a fire engine and their Fire Safety House, which simulates a house fire with artificial smoke and a smoke detector going off.

“We really put our focus on fire safety in the home,” Ballou said, saying they want to make sure the children know to leave the house quickly and meet the rest of their family at a predetermined point outside.

The firefighters also teach the children the difference between their own toys and tools which are only to be used by adults, including matches.

The Fire Safety House, which has been in the Fort Scott Fire Department’s possession since they built it around the year 1997, gives the fire department personnel an opportunity to teach the children to stay low, how to climb down a ladder and even what information to tell dispatchers if they have to call 911 in the case of a fire.

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Captain Dale Bollinger said the fire house has greatly helped them in training students since it is easier to teach them in a hands-on demonstration than just by telling them. After practicing and hearing the information each year, Bollinger said some of the older students are able to quote it back to them.

When the department completes this month’s fire prevention focus, they would have spoken to approximately 1,200 students, sometimes seeing about 240 a day.

“It’s a big month for us,” Ballou said. “We really enjoy it.”

Bollinger said the community also enjoys the theme and is receptive to it, with schools often planning their schedule around the visits and even including the topic in other teaching periods.

Throughout the rest of this week, the fire department will visit different preschools and next week will make an appearance at Eugene Ware Elementary.

Fort Scott takes part in Life Chain

Once again, members of the Fort Scott community and surrounding areas participated in a statewide effort to protest against abortion through the Kansans for Life annual Life Chain event held Sunday afternoon.

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This year’s event was led by volunteer director Joe Barr and included scores of participants who formed a line on the east side of Interstate 69, stretching from about National to Jayhawk Road, with participants of all ages and religious denominations holding signs expressing their support for life and against abortion.

“You have a legal right to assemble and to express your conviction peaceably on public property,” a slideshow at First Southern Baptist Church told participants in the event before they took their places by the highway.

The participants took advantage of that right, occasionally receiving positive feedback from drivers in the form of a honk, wave or thumbs up gesture. But they also came prepared to accept negative responses and respond in kindness.

“You have chosen to do the Lord’s work today,” Barr said, saying he realized their event competed with major sporting events such as Nascar and Kansas City Royals and Chiefs games. “This is Christians working together against the scourge of abortion.”

Participants were encouraged to consider the rally as a solemn event in remembrance of the approximately 53 million unborn children aborted since 1973 when the Roe vs. Wade court case legalized abortion.

“We want to stand boldly to say that’s not right,” said Paul Martin, children’s minister at Community Christian Church, during his prayer before the event.

Barr also said if anyone wanted to get involved in the Kansans for Life committee to help plan the event for next year, they should let him know. Those committee members are only required to attend four meetings during the year, bringing new ideas to the table as they plan the Life Chain for 2016.