Riverfront Park trail, road given official names

Areas of the new Riverfront Park have been given official titles after the Fort Scott City Commission approved of names for the road and walking trail running through the park during their meeting Tuesday evening.

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Jerry Witt, chairman of the Riverfront Authority, said near the end of 2015, local law enforcement and emergency services requested that the road and trail be named so they can respond to the correct location of the park in the event of an emergency.

Since that time, Witt and others involved in the Marmaton Riverfront Project accepted suggestions for names from the community. Witt said they received between 25 and 30 names that the committee considered.

During the meeting, the commission approved of naming the half-mile, north walking trail Bell Town Trail, named after what that land had been known as in earlier years in honor of John Bell, an early Fort Scott resident, business owner and school board member for 13 years who died prior to 1920.

The south loop road will be named the River Loop Road to continue the theme of the river theme in the new park.

“That will always be significant to the people who donated to the park and donated the land, who knew it was a riverfront project,” Witt said of the naming of the road.

Mayor Cindy Bartelsmeyer said she liked the names and also appreciated Witt’s work on that project, which also includes seeking a grant to continue adding to the park.

Witt said they are considering building an event center near the Bell Town Trail area for concerts and a lookout pavilion that would be seen from the highway if the funding comes in. The committee will likely find out in March if they will receive that first grant, but in the meantime, Witt said they will continue developing the park.

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FSHS Forensics Teams return from Frontenac with awards

Submitted by Amber Toth, Feb. 1.

This weekend, we started Friday night together at Frontenac.

Photo Credit: Amber Toth
Photo Credit: Amber Toth

[A] great opening Friday night. Isabella Provence and Joe Adams took first in public forum debate. Darby Toth and Sebastian Loyd took second. Hunter Parker and Xavier Watkins took third. Georgia Loyd and Breana Mooney took 4th. In Lincoln Douglas debate, Tristan Watkins took 5th. Ashton Williams took 6th. In House 1, Charlotte Hutchison was the poetry and took second. Tayton Majors took 5th. In House 2, Garrett Tatro was the poetry and took 3rd. Jake Province took 6th and Seth Cross took first. And in Novice house, Chloe Studyvin took 5th. Rebekah Sweyko took third and Ethan Tatro took first.

On Saturday we split up and went to two different locations. Half of the team went to  Neodesha.  We took third as a team.

Charlotte Hutchison and Sebastian Loyd took second in duo. Charlotte took first in informative. Sebastian took second in impromptu and second in extemporaneous. Joe Adams took third in informative, first in extemporaneous and first in impromptu. Georgia Loyd and Breana Mooney took 6th in duo. Darby Toth took 6th in oration, third in extemporaneous and 4th in impromptu. Sara Al-Shawish took 5th in impromptu. And Autumn Warren-Rice took 5th in extemporaneous.

The other half of the team went to Frontenac. We took second place by four points with all first and second year students…..and Garrett Tatro. Nice work kids!!!

Garrett Tatro took 1st in oration and domestic extemporaneous. Tayton Majors took second in international extemporaneous. Ethan Tatro took 6th in international extemporaneous. Rebekah Sweyko took 6th in domestic extemporaneous and third in informative. Seth Cross took 4th in impromptu. Tristan Watkins took third in poetry. Jake Province placed 4th in poetry and 5th in informative. Asia Farrington placed 4th in humorous interpretation. Isabella Provence took first in humorous interpretation.

The Beacon gives update, accepts gift

During a recent Chamber Coffee event, Fort Scott’s local food pantry of more than 30 years gave an update on their services as well as their current needs.

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“We try to face the fact that we have poverty in Bourbon County and Fort Scott,” said Bob Eckles of the Beacon, saying they confront that fact with the help of volunteers and donations from the community. “We have a lot of people that we help.”

Eckles said the Beacon helps about 19 families a day and thousands of individuals each year, adding that about 15 percent of Fort Scott residents have come to the Beacon for help, including the elderly, disabled, and the working poor.

Those eligible for assistance receive food cards that allow families to come twice a month to collect groceries, donated by people and businesses in the community. Clothing is also available.

The Beacon often has an excess of clothing that they have to spend time sorting, but Eckles said they are always accepting food items and monetary gifts, such as a check presented by Ralph Reed and the Fort Scott Pioneer Kiwanis Thursday. But Eckles said their greatest need is for more volunteers.

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“In the old days, we used to have an army of volunteers,” Eckles said. “It gives you a good feeling and you’re helping people out.”

Those volunteers could help sort clothing into usable items and those they will not accept as well as by size and then put them on display. Eckles encourages volunteers to pair up or volunteer in teams and schedule times they could help.

Current volunteers and donations often come from church groups or businesses and other organizations such as the Young Professionals League, Wal-Mart and Ward/Kraft, Inc.

Kansas School Districts could face changes with proposed bill

Recently proposed Kansas House Bill 2504, proposed by John Bradford, R-Lansing, includes a plan that would consolidate school districts into single, county-wide district in less-populated counties.

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Counties with fewer than 10,000 students would be required to have just one district under the proposed bill, while those with more than 10,000 students in the county could not have districts with fewer than 1,500 students enrolled.

If passed, more than 80 percent of Kansas school districts would be realigned, with only about 50 remaining untouched, according to a study by the Kansas Association of School Boards. The same study showed the change would decrease the number of school districts from about 286 to 132, while increasing the average number of students per school district from 1,719 to 3,724.

USD 234 Superintendent Bob Beckham said already he has heard people around town talking about the proposition, and said he thinks the consolidation would create issues instead of solve problems.

“I have looked at that bill and I think that there are so many unanswered questions that the legislature hasn’t even considered,” Beckham said, saying he thinks those unknowns may prevent it from being passed.

If the bill passed, Fort Scott and Uniontown school districts would be consolidated. While Beckham said he understands the students will attend classes at the same buildings with the same teachers, the school boards would have to be reorganized into a central governing entity.

“I can’t even imagine what kind of impact it would have,” Beckham said.

Bradford is quoted in other news sources as saying $170 million could be saved by the changes over 10 years, and few changes would be made at the school level other than combining school boards and creating a central administration, leading to an increase in efficiency.

The House Education Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 3. The complete bill can be found at the following link: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/measures/documents/hb2504_00_0000.pdf.

Fort Scott businesses to participate in Kansas Day

Downtown businesses in Fort Scott will donate a portion of their sales Friday toward the purchase of a new trolley for the city in honor of Kansas Day, celebrating the 155th birthday of when Kansas became the 34th state of the union.

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During a recent, quarterly meet-and-greet of local businesses in Fort Scott, certain business owners proposed donating five percent of their sales toward that fund during the annual event, which in the past has provided discounts at certain stores in Fort Scott.

Participating stores include Papa Don’s, Crooner’s Lounge, Shirt Shack, Iron Star Antiques, Sharkey’s Pub & Grub, Main Street Gallery & Gifts, Courtland Hotel & Spa, Common Grounds Coffee Co., Bids & Dibs, J & W Sports and Country Cupboard. Those stores will have a sunflower placed in front of their store.

In recent weeks, the local Chamber of Commerce has also posted facts about Kansas on their Facebook page, sharing information about its history, tourist attractions, economy and physical attributes.

FSHS hosts talent show and Mr. FSHS pageant

Fort Scott High School students competed and displayed their skills Tuesday evening with a talent show and Mr. FSHS pageant which featured students representing their school organizations.

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But the pageant participants, from groups such as Future Farmers of America, Student Council, forensics and numerous athletics organization, did not participate in the typical male pageant way. Instead, the contestants wore formal gowns, wigs and makeup while impersonating female voices and using girl names.

In the sportswear and talents portion of the pageant, the participants displayed skills such as playing catch, dancing, lip-synching, weight-lifting and riding scooters or bikes. While modeling their formals, they answered questions such as how they would change the world or solve world hunger, as well as who they want to win the Superbowl and who their favorite musical artist is.

Based on the response from the full audience, the field of nine participants was narrowed to five and then the final two before Devonte “Devonna” Robison of the baseball team was crowned the winner. Other participants included Brandon Owenby, Sebastian Loyd, Brody Southwell, Jordan Phillips, Dalton Weddle, Thomas Nighswonger and Wyatt Tourtillot.

Other students participated in the talent show with talents such as singing, playing instruments, dancing, quoting original poetry and showing a video they created. The FSHS Thespian Troupe, who benefited from the fundraiser event, also performed improvisation comedy.

After consideration by judges Jared Martin, Janet Braun and Shawn LaSota, Greg Lorenz was awarded third place for his dance routine, Clare Gorman and Grace Willis second place for their duet and Alex King first place for singing and playing guitar.

Students Blaine Thompson and Nate Mead served as the masters of ceremonies for the evening while other students helped with the sound, lights and stage set-up.

Virtual Dementia Tour puts participants in their world

Mercy Hospital and Country Place Senior Living partnered together Monday and Tuesday to provide members of the community an opportunity to learn about the effects of dementia and experience what it could feel like to have such a disease.

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The approximate 60 participants in the tours were given a list of tasks to complete in a patient’s room at the hospital, including assignments such as folding towels, taking ‘pills,’ setting the table, putting clothes away, picking up trash or even just plugging a phone into its charger.

But while doing these tasks, they had to wear specific sunglasses that impaired their vision, inserts for their shoes that caused discomfort, gloves that limited dexterity and headphones that blocked their hearing while adding other sounds such as traffic or other everyday noises. Those items allowed them to experience what someone with dementia could suffer from, such as macular degeneration, arthritis or neuropathy.

“We’ve given you the sense of what it would feel like to have dementia,” said Cheri Bauer, director of operations at Country Place, whose memory care facility should be complete in March.

While no two cases are the same, Bauer said such physical ailments can be a common result, as well as problems with memory that can cause people to forget their own loved ones or suddenly not recognize the places they frequent regularly.

Sisters Barbara Freer and Cecelia Kramer participated in the tour, saying they have had family members who died of Alzheimer’s as well as their sister who is currently facing later stages of the disease.

“It made me feel so sad that people have to live with this,” Kramer said after going through the tour, while Freer said the tour was very worthwhile for them.

Darcy Sims, director of the Country Place facilities, said several family members of those with dementia participated in the tour as well as caregivers who help care for people with the disease regularly.

“The families are so desperate for health and advice,” Bauer said, saying music therapy has often helped while doctors should also be asked for assistance for decisions such as preventing them from driving.

Because of the level of interest in the tour and limited number of spots, the hospital will again host the virtual tours Feb. 18, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“You get to walk out,” Bauer said when the participants finished the tour after about five minutes in the simulation, expressing the anxiety and confusion the experience caused. “Our loved ones don’t.”

Fort Scott students find success at first forensics tournament of the season

Submitted by Amber Toth, Jan. 25

[The Fort Scott High School Forensics Team] took first at Girard; a great opening weekend of forensics.

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Photo Credit: Amber Toth

Seth Cross took second in impromptu and poetry. Garrett Tatro took second in Domestic extemporaneous and original oration.  Autumn Warren-Rice took 5th in domestic extemporaneous. Joe Adams took 4th in international extemporaneous and 4th in informative. Tayton Majors took 5th in international extemporaneous. Xavier Watkins took 6th in poetry. Tristan Watkins took third in poetry. Thomas Nighswonger took 5th in poetry and second in humorous interpretation. Suzi Owen took first on oration and 5th in dramatic interpretation. Charlotte Hutchison took first in duo with Sebastian Loyd and third in informative speaking. Asia Ferrington and Ashton Williams took second in duo. Logan Hall and Dalton Womeldorff took third in duo. Bella Isabella Provence took first in humorous interpretation. Mary Grace Schick took 4th in humorous interpretation. Hunter Parker took 5th in humorous interpretation.

Also competing today were students who ranged from one speaker point from finals to one point from finals: Jake Province, Hannah Reel, Darby Toth, Breana Mooney, Sara Al-Shawish, Nick Shelton, Georgia Loyd and Caitlyn Killion. Due to being limited on entries, novices had to observe this weekend. Zach Humble was a great team manager.

It’s hard to come off of state debate weekend and be ready to go. I have to say you guys rocked and came through like always. We had 21 out of 30 events in finals.

Mentor Program looks for more participants

For a third year, Fort Scott High School has partnered with leaders and other members of the community in a mentor program that allows upper-classmen to meet with adult mentors throughout their school year.

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This school year, 12 students have been paired with adults, including some who work at Mercy Hospital, the Medicalodges, area banks and restaurants and other places of business. But Jessica Cook, marketing, relations and events coordinator for the Chamber of Commerce, said they still have students who would like to participate, but the program is short on mentors.

“We’re always looking for more people to be mentors,” Cook said, saying their requirements are that the mentors have time to meet with the students at least twice a month though they are encouraged to interact further if possible, such as by bringing the student to their place of business.

On Thursday, mentors and high school students gathered during a lunch break at the high school to hear Colleen Quick, human resources manager at Carlisle Belts, share advice about how to apply for a job and write a resume.

Students, some of whom said they had never held a job previously, were given tips such as to dress appropriately for an interview, be courteous, turn off cell phones, research the company, come prepared to ask and answer questions and send a thank you note or email after an interview. She also said resumes should be written carefully and include experiences such as school, church and community activities, even if the students had never had a job.

“That’s your opportunity to sell yourself,” Quick said of the resume.

Cook said they plan to hold such meetings in the future, as more group gatherings was one of the requests from past students involved in the program.

G & W Foods provides variety of services to community

During the weekly Chamber Coffee, G & W Foods informed visitors of the numerous services they provide to their customers.

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“We do just about everything,” said Shawn O’Brien of G & W Foods, listing options such as fresh meat daily, organic foods, catering, cake decorating and a full-service deli.

Each day of the week, the grocery store provides specials such as senior discounts or sales on specific food items such as bananas and chicken. For those who follow their Facebook page, further deals are offered weekly. Those with fuel cards can also save 2 cents per gallon at the gas station or 12 cents off per gallon for those who spend $100 in the store.

O’Brien said customer service is especially important to the 40 employees of the store, which was Gene’s Heartlands before being purchased by G & W Foods in August.

“We’re here to help you guys as our customers,” O’Brien said, saying they would not be open without the support of their customers.

G & W Foods also participates in Partners in Education, which allows customers to save receipts and give them to their schools, which will then receive a percentage of the total purchase cost.

Other announcements include:

  • Mercy Hospital will be partnering with Country Place Living to provide a Virtual Dementia Tour Monday and Tuesday to help those who may be caring for loved ones with dementia.
  • To celebrate Kansas Day on Jan. 29, certain Chamber of Commerce businesses will donate five percent of their sales to the Dolly the Trolley fundraiser.
  • The Dancing with our Stars Rotary Club fundraiser will be held Feb. 20, featuring 10 couples. The Lyons couple is currently holding a fundraiser in advance, selling homemade enchiladas through Jan. 29.
  • Skitch’s Hauling and Excavation continues to provide services for those in need of ice-melting or snow-plowing.

Community honors Martin Luther King Day with panel discussion on racism

During a panel discussion held at the Fort Scott Community College Monday, members of the community were able to hear comments from and ask questions of panelists who had each suffered from racism in different areas of life over the years.

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“One way to honor Martin Luther King is to have good, honest conversations,” moderator Jared Witt said, saying it is an especially crucial time to hold such discussions because of recent events inspired by racism.

Dr. Larry Seals of Mercy Hospital, FSCC basketball coach Michael Cook and Fort Scott High School graduate and military member Carol Bakke shared of times when they were called racial slurs or treated poorly because of their skin color or country they were raised in.

“A lot of times, when you talk about racism, people don’t want to be honest,” Seals said, saying that fact almost discouraged him from being a part of the panel. “Racism as a whole, it’s still in existence.”

Cook recalled a time when he was the only African-American coach in his conference and had to deal with other coaches mistreating or ignoring him. Bakke said her first year of school in the United States after returning from Mexico as a teenager was difficult as others called her names or assumed she was an illegal immigrant. While deployed overseas, however, Bakke said she was looked down on instead for being a woman and an American by those from other countries.

When asked how he thought people could move beyond racism, Seals said that is difficult for many people since they were raised with that mindset and judge people based solely on the color of their skin.

“If you can treat people with respect and dignity, you’ll find out they’re so much more,” Seals said, saying it is important for people to treat others the way they want to be treated.

Cook said he encourages his players to get to know each other and their different cultures so they can accept them, even if it is uncomfortable at times. Panelists also agreed it is important to begin teaching children in the home that racism is unacceptable.

USD 234 Superintendent Bob Beckham asked the panelists what they thought Martin Luther King would think if he saw the current state of the United States, and they readily agreed that they believed he would be pleased with what he saw.

“I think he would be happy with the progress we’ve made,” Seals said—pointing out achievements such as the acceptance of biracial marriages, the election of an African-American as president and a general decrease in violence—but adding there is still a long way to go.

Cook said he believed King would say that the holiday named after him is for all people, not just African-Americans, just as racism is not just a one-sided issue, but one that needs to be dealt with by all people.

“My heart’s heavy,” Witt said at the close of the panel discussion, saying he was saddened by some of the experiences the panelists shared and other tragedies that have happened around the country. “But I’m also inspired.”

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Cold weather affects local business

Weekend temperatures dipped well below the freezing point, even bringing some snow flurries to Fort Scott Sunday morning, having an impact on a local business that cannot provide their services with such cold weather.

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The Typhoon Bay car wash on National Avenue has had cones blocking their bays in recent days because the weather has been too cold, someone at the place of business explained Monday, adding some of the equipment only works when temperatures are at least about 27 or 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Temperatures are forecast to reach above freezing once again this week, but Tuesday and Thursday also hold chances for snow and ice, which could potentially lead to adverse conditions on the roads.