Fort Scott Forensics students compete in Pittsburg

Submitted by Amber Toth, Feb. 8.

We began our weekend at Pittsburg with Friday night events.

In Novice House, Ethan Tatro was elected presiding officer. Rebekah Sweyko took first and Ethan Tatro took 4th. In House one, Sebastian Loyd was the presiding officer and took 5th. Garrett Tatro takes 4th. Seth Seth Cross took first. In House 2, Charlotte Hutchison took first. Darby Toth took third. Sara Al-Shawish took 5th. In Public Forum Debate, Joe Adams and Isabella Provence took first. Hunter Parker and Xavier Watkins took 6th. In Lincoln Douglas, Zach Humble took second.

On Saturday, we continued our success by taking first.

In international extemporaneous, Tayton Majors took 4th. Ethan Tatro took 6th and Joe Adams takes second. In domestic extemporaneous, Garrett Tatro took first. Rebekah Sweyko took second. Darby Toth took third. Sebastian Loyd took 4th. Autumn Warren-Rice took 5th. In Humorous Interpretation, Thomas Nighswonger took first. Hunter Parker took 5th. In Duo Interpretation, Charlotte Hutchison and Sebastian Loyd took first. Logan Hall and Dalton Womeldorff took second. Asia Farrington and Ashton Williams took 4th. In Informative Speaking, Rebekah Sweyko took third. Charlotte Hutchison took 4th. In impromptu speaking, Joe Adams took first, Seth Cross took second and Sara Al-Shawish took 5th. And in Poetry, Jake Province took first, Thomas Nighswonger took second and Seth Cross took 5th.

Whooo.  It was an amazing weekend. 24 medals!

We had our first middle school forensics tournament this weekend. The students did an amazing job competing for the first time against schools who have had middle school programs for a couple of years. I was very impressed with how hard they worked. Their professionalism was impeccable and we all had an amazing time.

Ashton Nave took 5th in poetry. Madi Toth took third in acting. Madi Toth and Levi Bin took second in acting. They had a great first weekend and they were a ton of fun!

Chamber members share Fort Scott events at Coffee event

During the weekly Chamber Coffee Thursday morning, hosted by the Five Corners Mini Mart, representatives from local businesses and organizations shared a series of events occurring in Fort Scott in upcoming weeks while Five Corners gave an update on their services.

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Owner and proprietor Darcy Smith said her family opened the gas station and convenience store located near the corner of Highway 69 and 12th Street in 2006 and have been developing their business ever since, including opening the Libation Station next door in 2010.

In just recent weeks, Smith said they made improvements to their gas pumps so it flowed better. The store also provides meals throughout the day, such as breakfast made fresh each morning and barbecue such as pulled pork, brisket and ribs prepared for later hours of the day.

“If you haven’t tried our barbecue, you really should,” Smith said, adding that they also have a loyalty program for drinks, which allows the eighth purchased to be free.

Events happening around town in the upcoming weeks include:

  • The Fort Scott National Historic Site will host a brown-bag lunch event Friday which will include a presentation from an author.
  • The Knights of Columbus will host a fish fry Friday evenings, 5-7 p.m., during Lent at the Kennedy Gym. The fried catfish, side dishes and desserts can be purchased for a freewill offering.
  • Friday evening, Nate’s Place will host a fundraiser meal of enchiladas to support two charities, Care to Share and the Neonatal Intensive-Care Unit.
  • Gunn Park will host the third annual Disc Golf Ice Bowl Saturday morning, with registration beginning at shelter house #3 at 8 a.m. and tee off at 10 a.m. All proceeds from the $20 registration fees will go towards the Beacon. The first 20 participants or visitors will receive a free disc.
  • Mercy Hospital is again partnering with Country Place Senior Living to offer another Virtual Dementia Tour Thursday, Feb. 18. Appointments should be made in advance.
  • Fort Scott Community College will host a Red Cross blood drive, Feb. 18-19. The drive will be held from 1-7 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.
  • The rotary will host the annual Dancing with our Stars event Feb. 20, at 7 p.m.
  • On Thursday, Feb. 25, Mercy Hospital will host a Go Red for Women luncheon, which will include a speaker on the topic of women and heart disease.
  • On March 5, Kansas residents will have the opportunity to participate in a caucus for the presidential nominees.
  • Tri-Valley Developmental Services continues to sell tickets for their June 24th drawing for a 2016 Ford F-150 Platinum Edition. About 1,000 tickets have already been purchased with 2,000 remaining. Tickets can be bought for $50 each or $350 for eight. Money raised will go towards homes they construct.
  • Those interested in participating in the Bourbon County Fair this summer, Jul 16-23, are encouraged to begin considering what contests they will participate in or what they might exhibit. New and returning contests include making table runners, baling, scarecrows and food items.

Fort Scott’s Sidewalk, Curb and Gutter Program extended

A program that has been available in Fort Scott but not used often most recently has been extended five more years with the approval of the city commission last week and the goal to spread the word more to help improve the city’s appearance.

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Through the Sidewalk, Curb and Gutter Program, the city of Fort Scott will reimburse 50 percent of the cost of improvements residents make to their sidewalks or curbs on their property, up to $2,000 for each project.

“I think it would be huge,” Fire Chief Paul Ballou said of the impact the project could have on the city. “Because there’s a lot of need out there…It would be a benefit to a lot of property owners.”

Those interested in doing renovations and receiving a reimbursement must submit an application with the city by June 1, with projects being approved on a first come first serve basis according to Ballou, as the funding, at $20,000 annually, is limited to covering 10 projects at the maximum reimbursement.

Ballou said he hopes they will get at least 10 applications a year as there are several areas around Fort Scott that are in need of improvements, adding he has received positive feedback concerning the program.

Applicants for the program must submit two bids for the project to the city and must receive approval prior to construction in order to be granted the reimbursement. That approval is based on the contractor’s adherence to city specifications and inspections by city employees. Driveway renovations are not a part of the program.

Fort and Kansas Extension host prescribed burning class

Residents from Bourbon, Linn and Crawford counties attended a class Monday afternoon giving them information on how to properly burn on their property in a way that is safe, legal and beneficial to their land and wildlife.

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Christopher Petty of the Kansas State University extension office said he and Bourbon County Emergency Manager Will Wallis began planning for such a gathering almost a year ago to inform the public prior to the burning season, which begins to pick up in March.

Petty said their goals for the meeting were twofold: to teach ranchers, farmers and property owners how to burn properly and to support local fire departments.

“Burning taxes the small rural fire departments when they don’t know about it,” Petty said.

Wallis encouraged those present to call the local dispatch anytime they plan on burning. The dispatchers can then give them suggestions on whether it is safe to burn while also getting the location so the fire department is aware and can be prepared to help if needed.

Jason Hartman of the Kansas State Forest Service spoke about the regulations, permits and liability issues that go with burning as well as basic information such as the reasons for burning, which might include preparation for planting, better grazing, to improve or get rid of vegetation and reduce risk of wildfire.

“Every carefully prescribed fire is a wildfire prevented,” Hartman said.

Depending on the objective of the prescribed burnings, Hartman said burnings should be done at certain times throughout the year, with its effectiveness based on the season, weather, vegetation, management and size and intensity of the fire.

Deon Steinle of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service said those burning property also need to recognize that their burn will affect the wildlife of that area as well and is capable of either damaging or improving their habitat.

Drew Albert of the National Weather Service out of Springfield, Mo., reminded participants that weather plays a key role in deciding when to burn, since temperature, wind, humidity and drought conditions have an impact on the safety of burning as well as the direction the smoke will travel.

“We can be wrong,” Albert said of himself and others involved in forecasting the weather. “So you really have to keep getting updates.”

Joe Ludlum of the Bourbon County Conservation District provided a list of equipment available to rent while Dane Varney of the National Resources Conservation Service gave information on how to conduct a safe and controlled burn, including what equipment and crew is needed.

Fort Cinema celebrates 10 years in Fort Scott

Next week, the local movie theater will celebrate 10 years of existence, and throughout the month, the theater will provide specials to their customers to celebrate and thank them for their support.

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Fort Cinema owner Amanda Hale said it’s hard to believe the theater has been open that long, while at other times it feels longer as she and her husband handle the theater after they made the decision in the early 2000s to start their own business.

After making that decision, they came to the conclusion that a movie theater was a need in the community, since the nearest ones were in Pittsburg or Kansas City.

“Every town does need a movie theater,” Hale said, saying they thought Fort Scott especially could benefit from one since the local bowling alley and other areas of activity were no longer open or were in disrepair.

Over four years after reaching that conclusion, the Hales prepared for their endeavor by forming a business plan, doing feasibility studies, considering the area demographics, selecting a property and speaking with bankers for financial support. But few thought they could successfully open a theater while others were unable to support the business.

But finally, with the support of a federal grant, property given to them and a parking lot constructed by the city, the Hales moved forward with their plans to replace the two-screen, Liberty box theater that had closed in the 1990s and was in very poor condition.

Since the opening of the theater on Feb. 17, 2006, it has provided stadium seating for each of their three screens and other amenities that Hale said are often not even available at larger theaters. Other upgrades in recent years have added the technology needed to provide 3D viewings with the new digital films.

With only three screens, Hale said they have to carefully schedule what movies they show, trying to show the most popular movies as well as always keeping family-friendly movies showing. When they face a difficult choice in selecting which movies to show, Hale said they take polls on their Facebook page to see which movies Fort Scott residents would be most interested in.

While some movie studios require certain movies be shown for at least two to four weeks, others are shown only on limited screens across the United States, such as certain Christian films Hale tries to get for Fort Scott, including the movie “Risen” releasing Feb. 19.

“When people tell us they appreciate us, than that makes it all worthwhile,” Hale said of their theater, which she referred to as a busy undertaking.

During the month of February, the theater will offer specials to those who come to Fort Cinema, such as offering $1 nachos and $2 pretzels this week. Details on show times and special offers can be found at their Facebook page and their website,

Fort shows documentary, holds discussion on civil rights case

The Fort Scott National Historic Site gave members of the community an opportunity to learn about a portion of history Saturday that many of the participants admitted they had never heard of before.

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The fort hosted a showing of a documentary, the first of three videos to be shown at the site this year in honor of its centennial celebration, highlighting the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who lived in Virginia during the late 1950s.

The Loving Story told of how the young couple was arrested a short while after they got married in 1958. The couple was charged with a felony and was given a suspended sentence that banished them from the state of Virginia, even being arrested again when they returned to visit their families.

About five years later, the couple from a rural area of Virginia took their case to the justice system until it came before the United States Supreme Court in 1967. The justices unanimously decided that marriage is a fundamental right and should be the right of the individual and not infringed on by the state when it comes to race.

“I think it very impressive that two simple people…had the backbone to see this through,” park ranger Bill Fischer said.

After watching the documentary on the Loving v. Virginia case, which led to other states removing bans on interracial marriages, the participants at the fort took part in a discussion guided by University of Kansas professor Joo Ok Kim.

Some of the discussion points included how they personally connected with the story—including one college student who said he was born of an interracial marriage, why the case is so little known and how the case impacts current events and lives.

The next video at the fort will be shown Saturday, April 23, on the topic of the freedom riders during the civil rights movement.

YPL starts new year with goals

The Young Professionals League began its 2016 year Friday with an opportunity for the members to get to know each other, hear about what events will be held throughout the year and set goals for themselves.

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Recently elected YPL president Bailey Lyons said the group, which currently includes about 40 members, plans to participate in such community events as the career day at Fort Scott High School, the Beacon Soup Line and the Historic Preservation Association’s Home for the Holidays and Moonlight and Mistletoe tours. They will also consider participating in local parades.

“We wanted to make sure our events align with our mission,” Lyons said, saying for that reason they decided not to participate in other events.

That mission and vision of the YPL is to use the organization to be a catalyst for a better community through progressive partnerships and networking, which Lyons said is one of the foundations of the YPL.

The YPL leaders also decided to organize their monthly business meetings, held the first Friday of each month at noon at Papa Don’s, into quarters, with each quarter including a meeting focused on networking, leadership training and professional development and a week to hear from community leaders.

The young professionals will also hold social gatherings the third Friday of each month for the members to gather in a more informal setting. Members are also encouraged to keep track of their volunteer hours throughout the year, and at the end of the year a community service award will be presented to one of the members.

Those attending the first meeting also had a chance to set personal and professional goals, as well as list new things they might like to try this year, what they’re most looking forward to and how they want to better Fort Scott.

The annual YPL dues of $35 are due by April 1, for those wanting to join.

Blue Valley Trailers celebrates first year in Fort Scott

About 14 months ago, Terry and Alice Roepke returned to Fort Scott and opened the Blue Valley Trailers near the south end of National Avenue, where they renovated the building and now provide to the community sales and services.

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The Roepke couple moved to Fort Scott in 1987 after they were married, with their children also being born in the city.

“We are just thrilled to be back in Fort Scott,” Alice said of their return to the area after moving away in the early 1990s. “We’ve always felt like this was home.”

The couple moved to Waterville, Kan., where they started a trailer business in 2001, that grew to include other services such as other items and even storage. But at the encouragement of local friends in Fort Scott, the Roepkes decided to bring those services to Fort Scott.

“We hope to expand this facility as well,” Alice said.

Terry said Fort Scott has offered great support, which lead to a great first year for their business, whose reach has stretched into Oklahoma, Missouri and other Kansas counties.

JD Collins—who was born and raised in Kentucky but attended college at Fort Scott Community College and then started his family in Fort Scott—manages the Fort Scott location and says he helps customers through sales, but also with other services on trailers such as with brakes, lights, bearings and occasionally with welding.

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Other Fort Scott announcements made during the weekly Chamber Coffee hosted by the Blue Valley Trailers included:

  • The Young Professionals League will host their first, monthly business meeting of the year Friday at noon at Papa Don’s. New and returning members are welcome to come as well as those interested in learning about the group.
  • Fort Scott National Historic Site will host a documentary showing and guided discussion Saturday at 1 p.m. about the Loving story, an interracial marriage case that made its way to the Supreme Court and impacted history.
  • Lent begins Wednesday, and throughout that time, the Knights of Columbus will host fish fries each Friday at the Kennedy Gym, 5-7 p.m.
  • City officials recently viewed the type of apartments that will be installed at the old Western Insurance building, and announced that work should begin in upcoming weeks.
  • Dates have been set in July for the Marmaton Massacre bike race at Gunn Park, with approval from the city remaining. The event is now seeking sponsors from local businesses and organizations.
  • Fort Scott Community College will soon be evaluated as part of the accreditation process, which allows students to receive transferable credit hours and federal financial aid. The college will host a meeting Monday, Feb. 29, at 6:30 p.m., with the Higher Learning Commission on hand to answer any questions about the process.

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: