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.

County continues search for new jail site, asks community for suggestions

Bourbon County’s journey to building a new jail stalled briefly when the county commissioners decided earlier this week not to purchase property they had previously selected for the site, located just south of the city limits on the east side of Interstate 69.

The current jail is located near the Sheriff's Office and county courthouse.
The current jail is located near the Sheriff’s Office and county courthouse.

Sheriff Bill Martin said this is a process that has carried on for six years as he and others in the sheriff’s office advocated for the construction of a new jail, replacing the current one with several structural problems, that could house inmates from outside of Bourbon County as well, offering an extra means of revenue for the county.

“There has been a setback,” Martin said of the decision made Tuesday that forced him to return to the drawing board in searching for a site.

About 30 members of the community attended the commissioners’ meeting Tuesday about the site, expressing their concern since the location of the proposed property was only about 1,000 feet from the Christian Learning Center.

Representatives from the school and others of the community brought signed petitions opposing that location of the jail.

Angela Simon, owner of the Bids and Dibs store downtown, was one such member of the community who opposed the location, even having a petition for shop visitors to sign in opposition of it.

“I’m a child advocate first,” said Simon, a former public school teacher. “I feel that with a little more looking we could do better.”

Commissioner Barbara Albright and the other commissioners agreed Tuesday to continue the search when they heard how much that location concerned members of the community as well as a business located in that area.

“It was apparent that there was going to be quite a bit of discontent over the location,” Albright said.

Martin and the commissioners continue that search for property, a minimum of five acres in size although the sheriff said they would prefer more than that so there is space for potential expansions in the future, such as bringing other criminal justice departments to the same location.

Some members of the community have come forward with suggestions, and Martin said they are looking through them to find a plot that is suitable, saying some mentioned to them have been in the flood plain, which their insurance could not cover.

“We really appreciate the input we’re getting,” Albright said, saying they continue to look at suggested sites. “We really appreciate people’s interest in it. We’re just working together to find a spot for the new jail.”

Both Albright and Martin said they want to find a location as soon as possible, preferably one with utilities available and without buildings that would need torn down, though neither is required.

“The longer we put this off, the more it’s going to cost us,” Martin said.

Originally, Martin had proposed a jail with 110 beds so the county could house inmates from other counties, but with the delay and the rise in construction fees, that number is now down to 70 beds. If it goes much lower, Martin said the project may soon cost more than it is worth.

Martin said any residents with questions, suggestions or concerns about the project can visit with him, saying he has an open-door policy on the topic. Each Tuesday, the commissioners also set aside 9:45-10:30 a.m. for members of the community who might have questions about the project.

Some of the misconceptions Martin said he has heard include the idea that the inmates would have an open yard where they will be outdoors and in line of sight with the surrounding residents, but Martin assures that it will be completely enclosed with inmates unable to see outside the structure.

“Wherever the jail is going to be, it’s going to be the safest place you can be,” Martin says, saying the added security around the perimeter of the jail will also guarantee extra coverage of neighboring areas of the community.

Fort Scott businesses, community participate in Manufacturing Day

Numerous local manufacturing businesses gave tours of their plants to members of the community Friday as part of the Manufacturing Day recognized in Fort Scott on Oct. 2, after a city proclamation earlier this month.

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Extrusions, Inc., Labconco, Niece Products, Carlisle Belts and the Water Treatment Plant of Fort Scott opened their doors and their manufacturing areas for guests to see how their products are made and how employees from the Fort Scott community help create items that are used around the world.

Visitors to the businesses, including groups of students from Fort Scott and surrounding areas, learned about the 40,000 belts produce by Carlisle Belts each day, with the business making its billionth belt earlier this year. Labconco makes units used for experiments, forensics and other laboratory procedures, using parts built at Extrusions, Inc., to help make the units shipped around the world. Meanwhile, the water treatment plant processes at least two million gallons of water from the Marmaton River each day as well as storing almost two million gallons of water on site at any given point and testing the quality of the water every two hours. Other participating manufacturers also shared details of the work they do.

Other local businesses had exhibits and demonstrations at the east campus of Fort Scott Community College, including Osage Cabinets and Furniture, Peerless Products, Inc., Ward/Kraft, Inc., and other FSCC groups with John Deere and Harley Davidson.

The city commissioners declared Oct. 2, Manufacturing Day during their most recent meeting in September to honor those manufacturers and give the community a chance to learn about the local manufacturing plants.

Fort Scott welcomes home new business owners

Fort Scott and the Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony during their weekly Chamber Coffee event Thursday for one of the newest businesses in the community, Hartman Spine and Joint.

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Dr. Grant Hartman was born and raised in Fort Scott, receiving his bachelor’s degree in biology from Pittsburg State University and then getting his doctor of chiropractic degree from Logan University in St. Louis. But he and his wife, Dr. Heather Davis, have since returned to Fort Scott and opened their chiropractor office.

Hartman admitted that he always enjoyed Fort Scott but did not truly appreciate it until he left for four years. But Hartman said he is now happy to bring this service to the city, where his and his wife’s family still live.

“Family is what it’s all about,” Hartman said.

Hartman said their goal with their practice is to redefine what it means to offer chiropractic care, not just treating the results of an issue but addressing the cause of the problem. Hartman said he wants to give patients a diagnosis and a treatment plan in order to help fix that problem, saying he does not want a patient to come in for the same problem twice.

“We’re so excited that you came back home,” chamber director Lindsay Madison said.

Other business owners made announcements concerning upcoming events including:

  • Fort Scott will participate in Manufacturing Day Friday, with booths set up at the east campus of Fort Scott Community College as well as tours offered at different participating businesses in town.
  • The Pioneer Kiwanis are looking for advertisers for their placemat fundraiser, one of the biggest they hold annually.
  • G & W Foods will hold their grand opening event next Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., providing free hot dogs as well as deals the entire week. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will also be held during that time.
  • Fort Scott Community College will host the annual Gordon Parks Celebration Oct. 22-24.
  • The senior class of Fort Scott High School will hold a chili feed before their homecoming football game Oct. 9, with proceeds going toward their activities through the school year. Tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for children.
  • The Chamber of Commerce’s Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott fundraiser will be held Nov. 7, at Memorial Hall. About 10-15 different food vendors will be on hand as well as numerous drink options.
  • The bike trails of Gunn Park will host a bike skills workshop Oct. 3, at 10 a.m. at shelter house #6, for anyone interested in becoming more skilled riders. The 3rd annual Triyakathon will be held on Oct. 10, with individual participants or teams running, kayaking and biking different sections of the event. Hot dogs will be served after both weekend events at Gunn Park.

Velocity Tactics set to open doors by spring

The building that once housed Key Industries, Inc., near the railroad tracks on Wall Street, is now used by a new business to manufacture ammunition and sell other tactical clothing and gear, currently through online sales.

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“It’s going to be a cool place for people who are outdoor people,” Greg Fess said of Velocity Tactics, which could open in the next few months.

Fess, who oversees the work site, said the idea for Velocity Tactics began about three years ago as a side project started by Ryan Kraft, son of Roger Kraft of Ward Kraft in Fort Scott. Kraft wanted to find a way to make improvements to bullets, which Fess said have seen little change since World War I.

With those three years of research and development, which continues even today, Kraft and others have been able to create a lead-free bullet, using solid copper instead of a copper jacket and lead, making it lighter and more precise as well as able to cause more damage to a soft target.

“It needs to perform better than what’s out there,” Fess said of the viability of their business, saying it has been a team effort to find a way to achieve that.

But so far they have found success with their products, continuing to develop their manufacturing methods, making sure they test a high percentage of the bullets to make sure they are of the best quality. While they originally wanted to start selling earlier, the team instead focused on becoming experts on their product as well as the business first.

Fess said their products – which currently includes ammunition as well as firearms, gear, knives, targets and tactical gear and accessories – have been available for purchase online for about a year and are being used around the nation.

But on a more local level, Fess said local law enforcement officers have tried out the different bullets in comparison to those they currently use. Velocity Tactics will also sell other gear the local sheriff’s office and police department use, allowing them to buy locally instead of from out of town.

“That will be cool to keep all that in the community,” Fess said.

With their brand name spreading, Fess and others involved in the rising company have already been on hunts with others who purchased or use their bullets. The store in Fort Scott will include a trophy room displaying some of those animals, which currently will include a hog, buffalo, elk as well as an alligator that broke state records in Florida for its size of more than 13 feet in length and weighing almost 1,000 pounds.

Velocity Tactics continues to focus on letting others know of their product through online marketing, improving their website and manufacturing the product while also getting the store in Fort Scott ready to open its doors.

Fess said they have had to do a lot of work on the building to make it fit with their plans for it, adding they could continue projects and expansions on it for the next five years. But already, the first floor of the Velocity Tactics location is nearly complete, with a third of that space to be used for the store while the remaining two thirds are reserved for manufacturing.

Work continues on the second floor, where Fess said they hope to eventually have 100 machines in operations to make the bullets.

The store location is set to open within the next few months or by spring of 2016 at the latest. Those interested in purchasing online can do so today through their website.