Discussion on consolidating fire districts continues

A discussion that has continued for some time picked up again in recent weeks as the four Bourbon County fire districts consider the option of consolidating their efforts.

10-29 Fire districts

In the past month, county commissioners have worked with Emergency Manager Will Wallis, county attorney Justin Meeks and others involved in the fire districts to consider the pros and cons of combining the districts to make their responses to emergencies run more smoothly.

While meeting with the county commissioners Tuesday, Wallis said the chiefs of the fire districts met together Monday evening along with Commissioner Lynne Oharah to discuss the consolidation of the districts and to see what their concerns were.

Some questions raised included who would pay the bills if the districts were consolidated and would the districts be able to keep their individual identities.

Wallis and the commissioners said their goal is not to drastically change the way the districts currently run, but to improve aspects such as how they are dispatched to fires around the county and part of the budget process, letting the county do the audit of budgets approved and funded by the townships and fire districts.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel here,” Wallis said.

Dan Banwart, part of the Scott Township and involved in fire districts for more than 40 years, met with the commissioners as well to express his own concerns over the idea of consolidating the districts.

Banwart said he is worried, as a “concerned taxpayer,” that the districts will become too centralized a force instead of individual districts and that money will not be filtered to the districts properly. He also said if they become a county-wide district, they may be considered too large or too financially stable to be awarded grants such as the ones that have helped them in the past.

In the current fire district situation, the commissioners said some of the districts are struggling to get enough volunteers or to even keep their fire trucks fueled because they get so little funding from the county taxes.

District four, for example, or the Redfield district, only received about $8,000 in 2014 from taxes, while district three received more than $228,000. Those same districts are valued at $1.8 million and $27 million, respectively.

But though some of the more populated districts are valued higher than others and receive more tax money because of their population, other districts have to cover more ground because of their size, and struggle to do so.

“My number one concern with the whole situation is safety,” presiding commissioner Barbara Albright said, saying the change might help by making the dispatchers’ jobs easier and more efficient so volunteer fire departments can respond more quickly to emergencies.

Wallis will continue to discuss the move with other fire chiefs and other members of the community interested in the issue before a decision is made and plans drawn up. Banwart said if the taxes are not raised and they do not risk losing grants, than he believes the change could be positive for the county.

County Commissioners visit new rock quarry

After trying two other locations in a search for rock the county could use for road and other projects, a third attempt resulted in their discovery of a quarry that could last the county for decades.

10-28 Quarry 3

“This quarry is a big deal,” county commissioner Lynne Oharah said during their visit to the Thomas Quarry Tuesday morning, calling it the “best rock in the county.”

Located near the southern edge of the county, the location also allows the county to provide gravel and rock to that area more easily.

“The location is perfect for hauling in the south part of the county,” presiding commissioner Barbara Albright said.

The county blasted the rock two weeks ago and has since been working on crushing it and screening it into separate sizes as it is prepared for use. The quarry is found on about 160 acres of land and some of the rock stretches to about 26 feet deep or more.

Kenneth Keeney, who lives near the quarry, said he knew the rock was there when other companies came in to install lines or towers and found the hard rock. He now looks forward to having that gravel put on some of the roads in that area.

“You can puts some on mine anytime you want,” Keeney said.

Roads and bridges director Jim Harris said they are currently turning out about 215 tons of rock an hour. Next summer he said they plan to blast some more of the rock.

“This quarry should last our county quite a while,” Albright said.

The commissioners also visited the county landfill, where a new transfer station is being installed to replace the current one, which has grown old and rusty.

Fort Scott hosts 12th Annual Gordon Parks Celebration

Members of the community as well as visitors from out of town participated in the Gordon Parks Celebration, Oct. 22-24, hosted by the Gordon Parks Museum and the Fort Scott Community College and providing a variety of events, tours and competitions for participants of all ages.

10-26 Gordon Parks 19

Festivities kicked off with a luncheon Wednesday where elementary students read their winning poems of a contest. The Gordon Parks Museum hosted the Chamber of Commerce Chamber Coffee Thursday morning while other panel discussions and presentations were made throughout the weekend.

Fifteen high school and middle school students from local and surrounding communities also read or showed their poems, essays and photo that were chosen as finalists from 82 competitors who competed in the contest, which used photos as inspiration.

Area high school and middle school students also got to display their projects in the form of a documentary and two performances they put together for the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes and which gave them the opportunity to compete in a national competition earlier this year.

The Kansas City Lights jazz trio provided an evening of jazz Friday for members of the community as well as members of Gordon Parks’ family who were in town for the celebration.

10-26 Gordon Parks 6

Children were again given an opportunity to participate through the ArtCreation Workshop hosted by the museum and art teachers who helped participating children create a piece of art similar to how Gordon Parks did.

The weekend ended Saturday evening with the Celebration Tribute Dinner, when the 2015 Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons Award was presented to Genevieve Young.

“The event went very well and it was so nice to have so many Parks family members here this year,” museum director Jill Warford said of the weekend’s event.  “Also, the kids’ events were wonderful and show that we have a lot of young talented writers and artists.”

Fort Scott Community College hosts Dan VandeWynkel Alumni Rodeo

Fort Scott Community College alumni and students participated in the annual Dan VandeWynkel Alumni Rodeo Saturday afternoon and evening, with area and returning contestants from out of town and state taking part.

10-27 Rodeo 7

VandeWynkel, who died in 2006, was himself an alumnus and had been part of the college’s staff for almost 30 years. He was also very involved in the rodeo program, which led to the event being dedicated to him starting in 2005.

This year’s rodeo included events such as bareback and saddle bronco riding, team roping, goat tying, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding. Some of the team events included fathers and sons competing together.

Contestants varied in age, including high school students as well as riders who had been involved in rodeos for several years. Current and past professional rodeo circuit competitors also participated.

A silent and live auction was held, with some rodeo athletes being auctioned off for labor prior to the evening event. Proceeds benefited the rodeo scholarships at FSCC.

Fort Scott Community College crowns royalty, falls late to Independence

Fort Scott Community College hosted its 2015 Homecoming activities Saturday, inviting the community to free tailgating snacks, their football game, coronation, band performance and recognition of the sophomore football players.

10-26 Homecoming 21

 

During halftime of the Greyhounds’ game against the Independence Pirates, the college presented the 12 king and queen candidates who were nominated and voted for by their peers and then vetted through an interview process. Candidates represented different areas of the college including athletics such as volleyball, baseball, softball and football as well as theater and cosmetology.

Jamain Lang was named Homecoming King while Julia Stringer was crowned Homecoming Queen. Other king candidates included K.J. Miller, Jacob Biller, Jeremiah Fleming, David Hall and Onyx Yasuhara and queen candidates Payton Coyan, Emily Bowman, Alex Perez, Kourtney Harper and Taylor Schilling.

Sophomore players were recognized prior to the game along with their family or foster families who adopted them during the school year.

But while the FSCC Greyhounds fought hard throughout the Homecoming game, trading touchdowns with the Pirates the entire game, the Hounds fell late when the Pirates scored a touchdown with just seconds remaining in the game, for a final score of 49-42.

While the Hounds had nearly 500 yards in the game, 13 penalties and four fumbles hurt their cause as they fell late. Player Gabe Loyd finished the game with eight tackles however, enough to pass the all-time FSCC tackles record previously held by Lavonte David, currently playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at 218.

Halloween festivities begin a week early

Scores of families participated in Halloween activities over the weekend as Buck Run Community Center, the Chamber of Commerce, city of Fort Scott and area churches hosted festivities.

10-26 Halloween 15

Saturday morning activities began with crafts and a pumpkin carving contest at the Buck Run Community Center,  with volunteer students and adults hosting the activities.

From there, children and their families could then be a part of the Halloween Parade through downtown Fort Scott. Face painting, photos from Walgreens and free hot dogs were provided to those who trick-or-treated up and down Main Street, where downtown businesses and others handed out candy.

Area churches also held Trunk or Treat events over the weekend, inviting community families to take part.

Shepherd Team Auto Plaza to sell after 62 years in the family

The business of car sales has impacted the Shepherd family for generations, with current owner David Shepherd’s father, grandfather and great-uncle each being involved in the business.

10-23 Shepherd

But that heritage will change in the upcoming weeks as Shepherd completes the sale of the Shepherd Team Auto Plaza in Fort Scott to the Briggs Auto Group and begins a different stage in his own life.

“I’m looking forward to really being able to move on to the next chapter,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd’s father bought the Fort Scott Ford dealership in 1952 when there were 13 car dealerships in the community. But that number decreased as the business changed over the years with consolidation and the addition of internet sales.

Shepherd said he first started helping his father’s business as a 10-year-old washing and cleaning the vehicles there.

After going through the Fort Scott education system and attending McPherson College, Shepherd turned down the opportunity to join the Peace Corps as well as an offer from the Ford Motor Company in order to stay closer to home and a woman he met at college, a decision he does not regret now after 43 years of marriage. Shepherd worked at a dealership in McPherson for a year before returning to Fort Scott in 1972, the same year he married his wife.

“My father was very happy when I came back,” Shepherd said of that move, which also allowed him to again work in the family business.

Working as a sales person and then a sales manager, Shepherd continued to learn about the business as he trained to become his father’s successor.

“As time went by I was given more and more responsibility,” Shepherd said, saying he was even given the task of improving the sales of certain areas of the dealership as it continued to expand to include other manufacturers’ vehicles.

Shepherd eventually took over the business from his father, having now run it for about the past 30 years. Shepherd’s father continued to visit the business however until Alzheimer’s prevented those visits.

In 1981 the dealership added Buick, GMC and Pontiac vehicles to those already on sale, including Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth. In 1988, they added Chrysler and also became one of just two dealerships in the country that year that were asked to add Toyota vehicles to their dealership.

“That was a big year for us,” Shepherd said. “We felt real honored.”

While the dealership continued to expand to include four manufacturers and employ about 50 employees, Shepherd said he never found the one employee that could be his successor. His two sons never showed an interest in the business and Shepherd said he never pressured them to follow his own profession.

“It takes a special kind of person to be a dealer in a small city,” Shepherd said, saying he has had great employees but none that were the perfect fit.

After searching for that right person for the past seven or eight years, Shepherd said a combination of his age, time in the business, no growth in the dealership and tiring of working six days a week for 43 years led him to the decision to sell the company.

After beginning the process before Christmas of last year, Shepherd said he came to an agreement with dealership owner Russell Briggs, who started in auto repair 40 years ago and currently owns nine other dealerships in Kansas. With the months-long process finally reaching an end, the dealership will switch hands within the next two to six weeks.

“He’s a hard worker and has been very successful,” Shepherd said of Briggs, who he said is known for taking good care of his customers and employees and having a high volume of vehicles. “I think that’ll be very good for the people in this area…We’re leaving the store in good hands, I believe.”

Despite selling that dealership, Shepherd said he will continue to own Bourbon County Cars, but looks forward to having more time available to be a part of the community through programs such as Circles and the Fort Scott Area Community Foundation.

“I don’t really think of myself as retiring,” Shepherd said, but doing something different.

Shepherd said the same employees will continue to work at the dealership and it will continue to service vehicles purchased there while it was Shepherd’s.

Since announcing the sale, Shepherd says he has heard from customers and friends who congratulated him but also said they were sorry he was selling.

“We appreciate greatly their support,” Shepherd said of those customers, saying because of them and his employees the dealership lasted 63 years instead of the average 10 years and sold about 100,000 vehicles.

Local Circles program gives update after one year

A year after the process of the Fort Scott Circles program began as a result of the Gordon Parks Celebration  in 2014, those currently involved in that program used that same celebration as a chance to give an update on its impact during a panel discussion Thursday afternoon.

10-23 Circles

The program provides resources, assistance and training to those in the community who want to improve their way of life.

Volunteer coordinator Jan Hedges quoted a Kansas State University study released earlier this year that ranked Bourbon County as 104th out of 105 Kansas counties when it comes to the number of children living below the poverty level.

“There are barriers in every community that make it hard to get out of poverty,” Hedges said, mentioning some barriers such as lack of transportation and child care as well as a lack in financial knowledge.

The program starts with a 12-week class that goes through curriculum, training participants in areas such as how to set a budget as well as goals for themselves.

“We talk about what’s your dream in circle,” Hedges said. “You have a dream but there are some things you have to do to get to that dream.”

Diana Endicott, facilitator for that phase one of the program, said their first step is to recruit people to participate and keep them in the program, but added some find that they are not yet willing to make the necessary changes.

“In order to have things come out differently, they’re going to have to make some changes,” Endicott said.

Phase two of the program partners each circle participant, called a circle leader, with two other members of the community, called allies, who will hold the circle leader accountable and meet with them regularly, helping them set and keep goals.

Phase two facilitator David Goodyear said their goal is to help residents go from merely surviving  to thriving.

The first group involved in the program started with five participants and had three of those graduate to the next phase. A second group started with 12 and now has seven on track to graduate in December.

Already, the program leaders said they have seen participants go from homeless to finding housing, had a mother be granted custody of her children once again and another is about to take the GED test.

With the upcoming graduation, the program is looking for allies to get involved as well as participants for the program. Training will be provided to those interested in being an ally on Nov. 11.

They also invite professionals in the community to participate by training circle leaders in areas such as finances, renters’ rights, baking or other areas. The program also accepts monetary donations or other assistance such as in transportation and child care during their weekly meetings on Wednesdays.

“Circles is not a handout program,” Hedges said. “It’s a hand up…It’s a program for people who want to improve their life.”

Gordon Parks Celebration continues with Chamber Coffee

The Gordon Parks Museum used the weekly Chamber Coffee gathering as an opportunity to share information about this weekend’s 12th Annual Gordon Parks Celebration events with local business representatives Thursday morning.

10-22 Chamber Coffee 6

“I think this is one of Fort Scott’s hidden gems,” USD 234 business manager and Chamber Coffee moderator Gina Shelton said of the museum and the annual celebration.

Museum Executive Director Jill Warford described new exhibits and books the museum has to offer this year, including an exhibit featuring an interactive children’s area as well as one highlighting African American ancestry in Fort Scott.

“It’s about [Parks’] heritage and history,” Warford said of the new exhibit, which portrays segregation in Fort Scott including in schools, parks, pools and churches and also features early African American doctors, businessmen and law enforcement in the community.

Members of the community are invited to see the museum located at Fort Scott Community College during the weekend’s celebration event, which also includes tours of Fort Scott, a jazz concert Friday evening, reading of Parks’ narrative “Back to Fort Scott” and other events throughout the weekend.

Already county elementary students were able to participate in a poetry contest Wednesday evening.

“We have a lot of things going on this weekend,” Warford said, saying it is available to anyone and is a good opportunity for people to meet others in the community they might not meet otherwise.

Other announcements from local businesses and organizations included:

  • The Forks and Corks: Taste of Fort Scott event still has spaces open for food vendors who would like to participate. People are also still able to enter their salsa into the salsa contest. Live and silent auctions will also be held during the Nov. 7 event at Memorial Hall. Tickets are available for $20 or $25 at the door.
  • The Beacon organization in Fort Scott will again provide the opportunity for people to “adopt” a low income family from the area, purchasing Christmas gifts for the elementary-aged children. It will be made available the week before Thanksgiving.
  • Fort Scott Community College will be holding their homecoming event Saturday during the halftime of their football game against Independence at Frary Field. A tailgating event will provide free hot dogs and snacks starting at 11 a.m.
  • Members of the Young Professionals League of Bourbon County are encouraged to visit Fort Wise pumpkin patch, located six miles west of Fort Scott on Highway 54, with their families Sunday afternoon, 4-6 p.m.
  • New Wave Broadband will soon begin putting up a new tower near the Fort Scott Lake, which will help them provide better broadband and internet services to residents in that area.
  • The Halloween Parade will make its way through downtown Fort Scott Saturday morning beginning at 11 a.m. Other activities such as face-painting and photos at Walgreens will begin at about 10 a.m. while the Buck Run Community Center will hold a pumpkin carving contest earlier that morning.
  • A workshop sponsored by Union State Bank will be held Friday, Oct. 30, at the Empress Event Center, 9-11 a.m., with guest speaker Marc Willson sharing information for businesses concerning areas such as customer service and the use of social media.
  • Fort Scott Family Dental will be offering continuing education classes over the next couple months as well as offer six-month smiles, braces that work more quickly in less severe cases.

Young Professionals League provides Career Fair for students

For a fourth year, the Young Professionals League of Bourbon County hosted a career fair at the Fort Scott High School, giving junior and senior students a chance to learn about area businesses and other entities.

10-21 YPL Fair 7

Jason Hogue of Fort Scott Community College and Angela Meyer of Reynolds Law Firm helped organize this year’s event, which students attended in a rotation between classes.

“It’s a great event for juniors and seniors,” Meyer said.

Although some of those students have already decided on where they will attend college or what career field they will pursue, Meyer said the fair still gives them a glimpse of where they can be after finishing their college education.

Local and out-of-town entities were present to provide information of their businesses, including FSCC, Peerless, Medicalodges, Mercy Hospital, Fort Cinema, Pittsburg State University, Ward/Kraft, the city of Fort Scott, the Fort Scott fire and police departments, the United States Marine Corps and Army as well as other organizations and businesses.

City Commission honors City Attorney, receives project updates

The Fort Scott City Commissioners presented a framed certificate to City Attorney Bob Farmer for his 40 years of service to the community during their final October meeting Tuesday evening.

10-21 City Commission

“Thank you, Bob, for all you’ve done,” mayor Cindy Bartelsmeyer said.

The commission also approved New Wave Broadband’s tower to be built near the lake, on property leased to the Kansas Parks and Wildlife, in order to provide internet coverage to that area.

Commissioner Jim Adams said he has heard from residents who live near the lake that they are excited about the tower coming to their area.

Already, New Wave Broadband is using Fort Scott’s three water tower locations to provide internet services to area businesses and residents within line of sight of those towers. The new tower will allow them to broaden their reach.

“One of our concerns has always been reliability,” Harry Lee of New Wave Broadband said, saying they frequently have backup systems in place in case something goes wrong and also strive to “over-provide” their services rather than not provide a strong enough signal.

Work on the tower will begin in the near future.

Director of Finance Jon Garrison also gave an update on the clubhouse being built at the golf course, asking that the commissioners allow him to look for a contractor to help complete the interior of the building so it could be ready by March.

“I think we need to speed that up,” Garrison said of the project, which would not be complete by the spring without other assistance. “I think it very critical to get the clubhouse done.”

With the exterior of the building complete, Garrison said it could serve as a winter project for a contractor. Projects remaining include the wiring, plumbing, insulation, sheetrock and painting.

The commission agreed that Garrison should meet with contractors to discuss what the remaining work would cost.

Bourbon County Courthouse to be renovated

By the Homes for the Holidays Tour in early December, the first floor of the Bourbon County Courthouse will have a different appearance as it receives a new coats of paint and new additions over the next couple months.

10-20 Courthouse

County Treasurer Rhonda Dunn described to the county commissioners their goal to put in historical items and photos on each of the courthouse floors so it would become a museum featuring the history of Fort Scott, Bourbon County and the courthouse itself.

“It’s going to be really neat,” Dunn said of the plans for the courthouse.

Instead of using county dollars to complete the project, the commissioners voted Tuesday morning to accept the offer of $1,500 from the Historic Preservation Commission.

Because of an unused closet discovered in the courthouse that had not been repainted, the new colors will match those used when the courthouse was first built more than a century ago.

The first floor will likely include 4×16 foot murals of historical photos of Forts Scott and other historical items while other cities and communities of Bourbon County will be featured on the second floor and the courthouse itself on the third floor. One hall will also be reserved for honoring Bourbon County veterans.

“It’s our plan to complete a floor before we move on to something else,” Dunn said.

Some items to be featured will include historical ledgers and blueprints, a tommy gun, wagon, desk, bookshelves, china and photographs. The HPA and county would gladly accept other donated items from members of the community to put on display.

“That’s exciting,” commissioner chairman Barbara Albright said of the project, expressing her gratitude to the HPA for their donation.