Fort Scott welcomes Soleil Tan with ribbon-cutting

On New Year’s Eve, Fort Scott and the Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Soleil Tan, a tanning salon bringing its services to Fort Scott after opening a similar location in Nevada.

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“I feel like we’re going to do really well here,” general manager Devin Miller said, saying their presence was requested by some of Nevada’s customers who had been traveling from Fort Scott, so they began working to bring it to the area more than a year ago. “We felt there was a need.”

The business offers a range of tanning levels on different beds manufactured in Kansas City, some sessions lasting about six minutes and going up to 15 minutes. It also provides teeth whitening and tanning lotions and moisturizers that Miller said can help tans last longest. Miller said they hope to add more services in the future.

“Our mission has always been to dispel the myths about sun beds and explain the science behind UV tanning,” Miller said, saying they use a controlled environment of UV exposure in moderation. “Our goal is to earn our customers’ business with a well-trained staff, a clean environment and a relaxing experience that gives great results.”

To go with their grand opening, Miller said they are offering specials including 12 tanning sessions for the price of 10 and 20 percent off lotions. The first tan is also always free.

Soleil Tan will be open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Miller said those hours may change based on demand. Appointments can be made via their text line, sending those messages to 620-215-0176.

“The place looks beautiful,” Chamber of Commerce director Lindsay Madison said of the building they renovated and cleaned up. “And we’re just glad you’re here.”

Other announcements concerned New Year’s Eve events being held at Vinedo del Alamo Winery and the Liberty Theatre at 8:30 p.m., and music and a champagne toast at Sharkey’s.

On Feb. 9, at 1 p.m., the Fort Scott National Historic Site will host a program concerning pasture burning for the cost of $10. The 10-month LEAD Bourbon County program is also still accepting applicants.

County Commission reviews 2015 budget

In preparing for the new year, the Bourbon County Commission went over the 2015 budget to make sure the financial numbers lined up and to see where changes could be made to make the 2016 budget more accurate.

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Attorney Justin Meeks, county treasurer Rhonda Dunn and Jim Harris of the road and bridge department met with the commission Tuesday to discuss the revenue, expenditures and totals from the 2015 budget.

Out of the approximate $11 million annual budget for Bourbon County, the totals up through just last week showed $72,635.97 cash remaining in the general fund, with the few remaining days left in 2015 to go. That is the sum after more than $396,000 was set aside to carry over into the 2016 budget, though some cash reserves from previous years were also used.

Dunn shared that the general fund’s total revenue was down by about $185,000, coming from specific areas such as the motor vehicle tax, mortgage reimbursements and other taxes. But while the budgeted revenues did not come in as predicted, the expenditures were also down, helping even out the totals.

“We anticipated this,” commission chairman Barbara Albright said, saying they expected it to be a tight year and are planning for similar budget restrictions in 2016.

Dunn said she believes they collected much of the budgeted revenue and is not sure why the numbers were down across the different departments. Dunn will look at the previous five years to see if the totals follow a trend or if it could possibly be an accounting and budgeting issue.

The main discrepancy was found in the employee benefits department—including the social security, workman’s compensation and life insurance—which had a revenue of more than $2.3 million when it was only budgeted for $1.3 million, leaving a surplus that could not be put in the cash fund since it was not budgeted.

The road and bridge department also suffered a shortfall, but Dunn and Harris worked hard and found a way to transfer funds once bond money comes in to reimburse the department, resulting in $33,492.85 left in its balance.

While the budget is tight, Albright said it definitely could have been worse. Moving forward, she said they will try not to be too optimistic in their budgeting and remain careful in their spending.

The commission approved some amendments in the budget, including the road and bridge transfers as well as other changes to the employee benefits, noxious weed and landfill departments. Any other significant changes will not be made until about February of the new year, after the data is further analyzed.

Fort Scott NHS volunteer to be in New Year’s Parade

One of Fort Scott National Historic Site’s volunteers will have the opportunity this weekend to ride in the 127th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., which will feature the National Parks Service’s Find Your Adventure theme in honor of its centennial celebration in 2016.

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Barrett Young, a resident of Paola and Fort Scott Community College student, began volunteering at the local historic site in 2007, participating in numerous reenactments and other events at the fort since then.

Young was invited to ride in the opening theme banner float of the parade in recent months by Mike Matthiessen, president of the Tournament of Roses, who met Young in May of 2012 when he and his parents visited the Tournament House in Pasadena. Young will be representing the more than 220,000 volunteers in the National Park Service.

“When I got the email inviting me to ride the theme float in the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade, I felt undeserving,” Young said. “At first I did not want to do it because I felt others deserved the honor more than I did.”

But Young said he accepted the invitation when he realized it would give him the opportunity to represent Fort Scott National Historic Site and other Kansas NPS sites.

Young was selected as a result of his support of and passion for the NPS, which has led him to visit all 50 states and 379 of the 409 NPS sites as well as 49 other NPS affiliated sites. He has also completed more than 390 junior and senior ranger programs and promotes the NPS by speaking at community events or organizations and setting up displays, such as at libraries, senior citizen meetings and rotary club meetings.

Young said he hopes to have a career in the NPS, and has ever since he began volunteering and reenacting with his parents.

Debate Team finds success in regional debate tournament

Submitted by Amber Toth, USD 234 debate coach, Dec. 20

We started Christmas vacation with the regional debate tournament in Parsons. There were six schools in our 4A regional. We competed against Coffeyville, Independence, Chanute, Wellington, Mulvane and Parsons.

Photo Credit: Amber Toth
Photo Credit: Amber Toth

The team of Joe Adams and Isabella Provence were the Affirmative and went undefeated. The negative team of Zach Humble and Seth Cross only dropped two rounds. Our alternates were Breana Mooney and Hunter Parker.

We walked away with a regional championship. Mulvane came in second. These students, along with the two-speaker teams of Sebastian Loyd/Charlotte Hutchison, Garrett Tatro/Darby Toth, Tayton Majors/Sara Al-Shawish, and Jake Province/Suzi Owen will be representing us at state. Rebekah Sweyko and Ethan Tatro also qualify for state as novices. Unfortunately, due to the cap on entries, the younger team will not be competing at state.

I am so proud of this team. They are strong across the board. State will be in Independence on January 15th and 16th. The very next weekend we will begin our forensics season. Enjoy your break. I know we will.

Grain Elevator to go through improvements, changes

In recent weeks, equipment has been spotted at the old grain elevator located at Wall Street and Highway 69 as crews begin work to repair the old concrete in preparation for other improvements and changes.

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Neil Burkhardt, who is overseeing the Wall Street Properties and is assisting in the project plans for the building on behalf of its owner, said the goal is to turn the building into a facility for entertainment and recreation, such as repelling or other physical activities.

“It’s to try to create some activities for local people and bring people from out of town,” Burkhardt said, saying they are researching what would work with the building and what the city allows. “That’s in the process of being thought out and checked out.”

Burkhardt said those involved in the project are still kicking around ideas, but while doing that the building is being cleaned, repaired and painted. The goal is to have a plan in place by late spring.

“Just keep an eye on it,” Burkhardt said of the project.

Tigers fall in final 2015 basketball games

In the last basketball games of the 2015 calendar year, neither the varsity boys nor girls teams could hold off the Chanute Blue Comets Friday evening, despite hard-fought games and loud support from their fans.

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The Tigers boys’ team just narrowly missed ending the year with a win after leading by seven points at half time, only to score a total of nine more points the remainder of the game, which included four minutes of overtime.

The Tigers lost the lead before the end of the third quarter, but managed to tie the game twice in the fourth quarter to take it into overtime. But with one second left in overtime, trailing by just one point, the Tigers lost possession and then the game to the Comets, 37-35.

While their defense kept Chanute to well below their average points per game for the season, their own offense ultimately kept them from ending the night with a win, despite 16 points including three three-pointers from senior Kaleb DeLaTorre and six points apiece from seniors Josh Hudiburg and Austin Cook.

The girls also struggled with offense as they faced a taller team in the Lady Comets, with a 3-2 lead in the early minutes of the game being their only lead of the evening. Despite holding Chanute to only seven free throws and no field goals in the fourth quarter, the Lady Tigers fell 59-35.

Senior Ashley Cook led the team with 11 points, including three three-pointers, while junior Emily Hale added seven points. The Tigers play again in Fort Scott on January 8.

A portion of the student section in attendance came dressed in Star Wars costumes in honor of the movie’s recent release and bearing signs with words of encouragement along the same theme, including ‘May the Fort be with you.’

Public Library provides Christmas party for local children

During a Christmas party Saturday, the Fort Scott Public Library gave children an opportunity to decorate Christmas cookies, wrap gifts, make crafts, hunt for candy canes, earn prizes and even have a “snowball” fight.

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Youth librarian Valeta Cannon and other library staff and volunteers from the community helped organize and run the event that split the children up into separate groups in order to participate in age-appropriate activities.

Throughout the year the library has provided a reading time each Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. for those children not in school yet, reading stories on specific themes, singing songs and doing crafts before ending with a snack time. A holiday story time will be held Tuesday morning for families with children before taking a break for the holidays.

Star Wars fans enjoy opening premier at Fort Cinema

With the new, Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie premiering in theaters across the nation Thursday evening, local fans got in on the excitement as well by dressing up for an event at Fort Cinema prior to the first showing at 7 p.m.

Star Wars Premier
Photo Credit: Amanda Hale

Fans of all ages came to the movie theater in Star Wars costumes, ranging from Jedi to Princess Leia and even Queen Amidala. Others came in Star Wars t-shirts or carrying lightsabers.

A local radio station reported directly from the theater during the event, involving participants in on-air Star Wars trivia games and competitions on who could impersonate Chewbacca, Yoda or even R2-D2 the best. Awards were given to winners as well as costume contest participants.

Theater owner Amanda Hale said she grew up watching the original Star Wars movies in theaters with her father, and is glad that the tradition can continue for families now as the series continues.

“There’s a lot of Star Wars fans out there,” Hale said, saying they were happy to provide the event and showing that included all three screens, with two showing it in 3-D. “It’s really awesome that we get to do this at our theater.”

Hale was able to watch the movie before its release and admitted she got emotional when the opening story information began to scroll upward as it had in previous films. Admitting she herself is a “nerd” when it comes to Star Wars, Hale said she enjoyed getting to celebrate the movie release with other fans Friday night.

“It was fun,” Hale said. “We enjoyed it.”

Over the next four weeks, Hale said the Star Wars movie will be showing on at least one of the theater’s three screens, while the first week or two it will be showing on two screens. Unfortunately, she said rumors have led people to believe that tickets are unavailable, when in fact some showings on Friday did not have any sales.

“There are rumors going around that we’re completely sold out for the next two weeks,” Hale said, admitting that is frustrating for her and emphasizing it is completely untrue.

Tickets remain available for the remainder of the opening weekend, which has the potential to break box office records nation-wide. Times for weekend showings are available at Fort Cinema’s website and Facebook page.


City Commission receives reports, approves budget changes

During their final meeting of 2015, the Fort Scott City Commission received reports from different organizations supported by the city as well as approved different budget changes and improvements to be made in different areas of the city.

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  • Jan Hedges, the volunteer coordinator of the Fort Scott Circles program, now into its second year of existence in the area, gave an update on the program whose license fees are paid by the city of Fort Scott. Hedges said the goal of the program is to help those in the community in poverty or who would like to improve their way of living. Divided into two phases, a second group of participants graduated from the first phase Wednesday evening and will begin the second, 18-month phase in January. For that phase, Hedges said they are looking for volunteers from the community who would partner with members of the program, attending monthly meetings with them and providing extra support.
  • Historic Preservation Association chairman Rhonda Dunn also gave an update on recent events, after accepting a one-time gift of $5,000 from the city. During the Moonlight and Mistletoe tour of the LaRoche property the first weekend of December, the HPA raised about $9,000 from the more than 180 participants. The entire weekend Holiday Homes tour had about 300 participate in touring the five buildings. The HPA also donated $1,000 to the city during the event to go towards purchasing a new trolley. Dunn also gave an update on the changes made to the county courthouse, which now includes different historical artifacts donated to be put on display.
  • The city decided to turn the maintenance of a road to Peerless Products, Inc., located next to the road that is just paved property by the end of it. The company, which in recent months became the top employer in Fort Scott, is planning to expand their business with a new building. With the property running just a few feet from the road, and wanting to make improvements to the roadway and its drainage, Peerless agreed to take care of the costs associated with it as the city agreed to transfer that responsibility to them.
  • Work will continue on the golf course clubhouse after the city agreed to accept a bid from a construction company that will complete the job by March 1 for a total of about $53,000. That amount will be funded by the remaining $23,000 received because of previous hail damage as well as another $30,000 from the golf course endowment fund, made up of donations from the community. City Manager Dave Martin emphasized that none of it will come from taxpayers’ dollars.
  • Other year-end business included amending the budget to allow the city to spend excess revenue from 2015 as well as adding a three percent increase in water and other utility rates such as sewer and storm water rates. They will also begin looking at options to trade in the Waste Water Treatment Plant’s tractor for a newer one and accept bids in order to replace the city’s oldest sewer lift station.

City reviews 2015 successes, looks ahead to 2016

During the final Chamber Coffee of 2015 Thursday morning, members of the community were introduced to city employees and leaders as well as given a report on the accomplishments of the city in 2015.

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City Manager Dave Martin listed a number of additions and improvements to Fort Scott in 2015, including the completion of the Lowell Milken Center building, the LaRoche Baseball Complex, the Marmaton Riverfront trails, the National Historic Site’s new exhibit, the expansion of a number of businesses as well as the opening of different venues for community events.

Other changes include the addition of the new Fort Scott Community College president and the approval of the school and jail bonds. It was also determined that Mercy Hospital would remain in Fort Scott while the demolition of the Western Insurance building will likely be complete by the end of the year.

Martin expressed gratitude to the Chamber of Commerce and the Historic Preservation Association for their work with the city to continue to improve the community.

In 2016, Martin said residents can look forward to the completion of the National Avenue project and possibly the quiet zone where the railroad tracks intersect with Wall Street. Work will also begin on widening Highway 69 for a turning lane, improving Maple Road, constructing the Western building apartments and creating a new entrance for the Industrial Park.

Kansas Fiber will also arrive in Fort Scott as well as the new assisted living facilities being built on Horton. Grants will be used such as the safe routes to school grant and another grant that will permit the city to put sidewalks in place on Wall Street.

“We just really appreciate our jobs,” Martin said on behalf of the city. “We appreciate serving in the community. And when I say that, we couldn’t do that without everyone in this room—the hospital, the college, the school district, the county and everybody working together. We have to work together to move forward.”

Other announcements concerning upcoming events included:

  • The Fort Scott Community College will host a Red Cross Blood Drive Thursday 1-7 p.m., and Friday until noon.
  • The Young Professionals League of Bourbon County will hold a Christmas social Friday evening at 6:30. Further details can be found on their Facebook page.
  • The Fort Scott Public Library will hold a Christmas party for children Saturday at 11 a.m., with activities and snacks provided. They are also looking for volunteers who might help with the event.
  • The Common Ground Coffee Co. will host a Christmas concert by Nine Mile March Saturday evening at 7 p.m., using the event as a fundraiser for a barista who will leave for Uganda in January.
  • The Salvation Army Kettle Drive is still looking for volunteers to help with the drive through December 24. The money raised will remain in Bourbon County to be used to assist those in need.
  • The Leadership, Exploration and Development program beginning in 2016 continues to look for participants for the 10-month program, which will meet the second Thursday of each month. Deb Needleman and Robert Uhler will facilitate the sessions which will include curriculum from the Kansas Leadership Center.

USD 234 board approves bids for bond project packages

During their last meeting of the year Tuesday evening, the USD 234 school board received a report on the bids received for the bond project  and approved the bids selected, allowing them to take a step closer to construction.

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In recent weeks, working in conjunction with Nabholz Construction and Hollis and Miller, the school district accepted more than 300 bids from more than 100 entities, some local businesses and others from out of town and state. Since accepting them, Superintendent Bob Beckham said they carefully scrutinized each bid, looking for the best options.

“We were very pleased with the outpouring of bids,” Steve Bennett of Nabholtz said, saying it was likely the most they had received for a specific project. “There’s been a lot of dialogue behind the scenes to bring you the best package.”

Bennett said they needed approval from the board so they could begin discussing contracts with the bidders selected so they can then move forward with construction, first at the high school and Winfield Scott and then moving on to other areas.

Packages bid on in the overall project included building and pre-cast concrete, carpentry, steel metal panels, door frames and hardware, glass and glazing, framing and drywall, utilities, paving and other areas.

The initial bids for the projects added up to more than $24.7 million. Bennett said bids were about five percent above budget but they have negotiated that down to about one or two percent over, and he believes they could get that even lower until they are within budget parameters.

“I know you all are anxious and we’re anxious to get started,” Bennett said, adding that finalizing the contracts will take a couple weeks, but some drawings and planning can be done simultaneously.

With contracts completed, Bennett said they could begin moving dirt in the next two weeks, preparing for laying concrete.

“I’m looking forward to seeing some dirt move,” school board member Janette Braun said, while other members said they look forward to physical evidence that work is being done after receiving numerous questions from members of the community wanting to know why work is not being done.

While a couple months behind their initial, conservative timeline, Bennett said work will begin soon and, though the schedule will be tight, there is still a possibility they will complete work on time.

“Let’s build,” Beckham closed the discussion with as the present board members approved the bids.

Fort Scott National Cemetery joins in Wreaths Across America

For an eighth year, Fort Scott National Cemetery participated in a nation-wide effort to place wreaths at the gravestones in each of the national cemeteries in the United States through the Wreaths Across America effort.

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“This means a lot to me that you came out to support this mission,” said Kevin Wagner, who helped organize the event Saturday and fundraisers throughout the year.

The motto and goal of the program is to “Remember, Honor, Teach.” Keynote speaker Brett Houk, a retired major and part of the United States Air Force reserves, said it is important to pass that tradition on to the next generation.

“The importance of days like this cannot be overemphasized,” Houk said. “If we don’t remember, honor and teach, we’re destined to make the same mistakes that other countries have made throughout history.”

Houk reminded his audience that the freedoms enjoyed in the United States came at a very high price, paid by soldiers and fellow Americans over the years, and it is up to Americans today to continue to defend those rights.

A large number of Fort Scott residents as well as visitors from out of town and state came to place wreaths on about half the gravestones located at the cemetery after the ceremony, with some taking time to read the names of those buried there.

“This is so much larger than last year,” said Dav Mohler, who gave the invocation and benediction during the ceremony.

In 2014, about 800 wreaths were placed at the cemetery. But this year, after success in fundraising such as through the Wreath Ride in August, 2,581 wreaths were purchased through individual and corporate donations.

Those wreaths were escorted to Fort Scott National Cemetery by about 50 motorcyclists who rode with the semi-truck from Missouri. The ceremony also included the pledge of allegiance led by Cub Scout Pack 95 of Anderson, Mo., a rifle volley from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1165, TAPS played by Steve Harry and the recognition of two gold star families.