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.

Deb Madison to retire after 20 years with Medicalodges

After working at Medicalodges in Fort Scott for 20 years in a variety of positions, current marketing manager Deb Madison will officially retire from the facility after Sept. 30.

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Born and raised in Fort Scott, Madison first worked at Medicalodges as a high school student not long after it opened in 1966. She returned in April of 1995 when the administrator, a former classmate of hers, asked her to consider taking a position there.

“I took it hesitantly,” Madison says of that decision. “I just didn’t know whether I would actually like this kind of work. But after you work here a few days, you realize it’s something you love.”

First working as a housekeeping supervisor, Madison eventually served in several departments including social services, human resources and eventually community relations and marketing. Madison said that latter position has been one of her favorites, saying she gets to be a part of both worlds as she works with Medicalodges but also interacts with the community.

But Madison says her favorite part of the job has been her fellow staff members and the residents she sees each day.

“Residents become your family,” Madison says. “A lot of them you’re around them as much as you are your own family…It will be hard not to see them every day.”

Madison says it has been an honor working for Medicalodges over the last two decades, as she saw changes come to the facility such as seven different administrators and also different regulations enforced at the state and federal level. Overall, Madison says they have changed the atmosphere from that of an institution to that of a home for their residents.

“It’s all about teamwork here,” Madison says, adding the staff helps each other out when needed, even if it is outside of their own area of expertise. “We’ve got a good staff.”

But Madison says she looks forward to retirement and spending more time with her seven children and nine grandchildren, ranging from two to 14 years old. All of her children live in or near Fort Scott.

Madison and her husband will also continue working at their ranch, Madison Cattle, located about six miles north of Fort Scott and says she plans to remain active in the community.

“I’m sure I’ll be plenty busy,” Madison says of her retirement. “It will be a different chapter in my life.”

Construction begins on new assisted living residence in Fort Scott

With construction beginning off Horton Street near the water treatment plant, Country Place Living residences will be available to the Fort Scott community possibly in approximately the next year with weather permitting.

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A sketch of the Country Place Memory Care center coming to Fort Scott.

“Truly, what we have to offer is a home-like residence,” marketing director Marie Jensen said of the residences.

The first one to be built is the Country Place Memory Care residence, which will provide 12 suites with the entire facility built with the goal of taking care of residents with dementia. The suites, activities, food and even flooring will all be structured around the residents to provide them a safe and comfortable place to stay.

A second building, the Country Place Senior Living center, will offer 26 suites for those who can not care for themselves on their own. But at the same time, Jensen said they encourage their members to remain active and consider the center their home.

“Everyone knows that a big part of aging and aging well is still being active,” Jensen said.

The suites in that center are each connected to a central social activity area for the residents. Jensen said some of their residents in other areas still drive their own vehicles and are able to get out and run errands.

With work beginning at the site just last week, Jensen said the memory care center should take five months to complete if the winter months are not too harsh. Work on the senior living center will begin shortly after that.

“We’re excited to be a part of Fort Scott,” Jensen said, saying they have worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce and the city of Fort Scott in preparing to bring Country Place Living to the area.

There are 10 other such residences around the state of Kansas. Jensen said they consider the population demographics and the already available assisted living centers when considering locations for their residences.

The local residence will also provide jobs to about 10 staff members, including a director, head nurse, lead dietician, activities director and other caregivers.

Those interested in learning more about the residences can visit their office at 118 S. Main Street, next to the Common Grounds coffee shop.

Fort Scott site hosts naturalization ceremony

Fort Scott National Historic Site and the city of Fort Scott welcomed 91 new United States citizens Friday morning with the naturalization ceremony for the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.

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“Participating in ceremonies such as this is one of the best parts of my job as magistrate judge,” said the Honorable Teresa James, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

Forty different countries were represented by the new citizens, including Mexico, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, China, Thailand, South Africa, Kenya, India and others. Their careers included homemakers, students, software engineers, painters, concrete workers, professors, pastors, bakers and even a member of the United States military among others.

“I know you have worked very hard to accomplish this goal,” James said, saying they earned their citizenship with all the work they went through to reach this point. “It is a lengthy and rigorous process.”

The Honorable Mark Ward, District Judge of the 6th Judicial District, said those new citizens had to go through several steps including studying English and taking a 100-question, U.S. history and government test, which Ward pointed out many natural-born citizens would struggle to pass.

“I congratulate each and every one of you,” Mark Ward said. “You should be proud of your accomplishments.”

Ward, whose father-in-law emigrated from Italy at the age of 11 years, said that accomplishment has earned them the right to vote, practice their own religion and many other freedoms which they should hold on to.

“Many of us don’t realize how lucky we are,” Ward said. “It’s easy to take our rights and freedoms for granted.”

Betty Boyko of the historic site encouraged the new citizens to visit their site again. Boyko said the site has hosted the event four times and the fort and the entire community enjoy providing a venue for the ceremony.

“This is a great day, a great memory, and we thank you for allowing Fort Scott to be the place where this memory takes place,” Fort Scott City Manager Dave Martin said.

The Fort Scott High School band and orchestra provided music throughout the ceremony while the Pittsburg State University Army ROTC presented the colors.

SmartAsset study names Fort Scott Community College top in the nation

Fort Scott Community College was named the top-ranked community college in the nation in a second annual study done by SmartAsset, a personal-financial advice platform which used data from 565 public, two-year colleges for the study.

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“Community colleges are getting a lot of attention lately,” managing editor A.J. Smith said, saying she and others did the study to provide information to those considering college and student loans. “So we’re happy to look at what some of our great community colleges are providing.”

In 2014, FSCC was ranked at ninth in the nation, but their 12:1, student-teacher ratio, reasonable tuition rates and 87 percent graduation or transfer rate led to their earning that top position for 2015. A fourth area the study looked at was the ratio of the median starting salary for graduates to the cost of attendance.

Smith said FSCC’s increase in graduate or transfer rate and the only slight in-state tuition increase compared to more drastic rises for other colleges led to their move into first place in the study.

SmartAsset pointed out that FSCC is also one of the oldest of its kind, founded in 1919 as the first community college in Kansas.

Other top 10 community colleges were located in Missouri, Illinois, Arizona, Mississippi, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. Labette Community College in Parsons was ranked fifth.

Gordon Parks Photography Competition still accepting photos

For a 27th year, the Gordon Parks Center in Fort Scott is facilitating the Gordon Parks Photography Competition, encouraging both local and international amateur photographers to submit photographs before the Oct. 1, deadline.

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The 2014 winner, Water Crisis in Dhaka. Photographer: GMB Akash, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“The goal is to honor Gordon Parks through the medium he is most well-known for – photography,” said Jill Warford, executive director of the Gordon Parks Museum. “Another goal is to encourage and recognize photographers in Gordon’s name.”

Conducted by the Fort Scott Community College since 1990, the competition has had more than 4,000 people participate.

Individuals can submit up to five photographs, without any digital alteration, taken within the last two years. Each entry costs $10 and must follow the 2015 theme of “The Learning Tree” Years – taken from Parks’ novel of the same name which followed characters through different life transitions and influences.

Participants can use that theme for a photograph from any perspective, their own or someone else’s, as they capture scenes from life.

The competition will provide $500 in winnings, giving $200 to the first place winner, $100 to the second place, $75 to the third place photo and $25 apiece to five honorable mention photographs.

The first round of judging will be complete by Oct. 30, with 15-18 photos being selected for the finalists’ round, with finalist photographers notified by email. Winners will be named on the 103rd anniversary of Parks’ birthday, Nov. 30.

This year, only amateur photographers will be allowed to participate, excluding those who have a full-time job or make a living in photography.

Photo Credit: Gordon Parks Museum/Center for Culture and Diversity