Commission faces courthouse security decisions

After the recent passing of a state house bill, which allows city, county and state employees to carry concealed weapons while they are on the job in the community, the Bourbon County Commission and other Kansas county leaders have less than a month to prepare for such a change to employee policy.

5-20 Security

The bill will come into effect on July 1, allowing government employees to carry weapons while they are on duty outside the public buildings, such as in vehicles and when visiting sites around the county, in addition to being allowed to carry within public buildings.

After July 1, 2017, another law will be enforced which allows the public to carry concealed weapons inside those public buildings as well. The only way the county could prevent employees or the public from carrying weapons inside those public buildings would be if they could guarantee the safety of the building by providing security that would prevent anyone from carrying a weapon inside.

The commissioners in a meeting with department heads Tuesday morning expressed their desire to prevent any weapons from being carried into the courthouse, just as the third floor is weapons-free because of the location of the courtroom.

But in order to make sure that floor and possibly the entire courthouse remains secure against weapons, the county would have to provide security through guards, whether deputies or other contracted security officers, as well as equipment such as wands, metal detectors or x-ray equipment.

“I think there are some good options out there, we’re kind of relieved to know,” commission chairman Barbara Albright said, saying at first they had thought they would have to purchase complete metal detectors and other equipment when personnel with wands would be sufficient and cost the county less.

But Shane Walker, involved in emergency management as well as information and technology, said the equipment is not what will cost the county the most to provide the security, but the additional employees’ salaries and benefits. To secure the entire courthouse, Walker said the manpower and the equipment and changes to make sure the single entrance is accessible to everyone could add up to more than $350,000 initially.

“There’s nothing that we can put into place in 30 days,” Walker said.

Walker said he has heard that other counties also are struggling to find the budget money needed to make changes to make sure their administrative buildings and courthouses are secure.

“Money’s an issue,” County Attorney Justin Meeks said, referring to that fact as the 1,000 pound gorilla in the room and saying they may have to consider cuts in departments or raising mill levies.

But because the only change coming this July is allowing employees to carry while on duty outside the building and are allowed to carry in the building already, the commission said they do not have to decide on a plan of action in immediate weeks. The commission did agree to consider forming a committee to continue looking at options as they prepare for when the public would be allowed to bring weapons into the courthouse.

“I don’t believe our risk changes July 1,” tax assessor Rhonda Dunn said, but expressed her concern for the time when any visitor to the courthouse could potentially be carrying a weapon legally.

Fort Scott kicks off 35th Good Ol’ Days

Thursday evening marks the beginning of the 35th annual Good Ol’ Days Festival in downtown Fort Scott, as local businesses, organizations and other participants prepare for the wide range of events and attractions that will be held Thursday through Saturday.

6-2 Good Ol' Days

Celebrating the 100th birthday of the National Parks Service, the Fort Scott National Historic Site will play a role in the weekend activities as eight different national parks will be represented and will provide tours, artillery and other demonstrations, a variety of historic presentations as well as a performance by Native American Dancers at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Entertainment will be provided throughout the weekend at stages located at 1st and 3rd streets intersecting with Main Street, including local bands such as the Hemphill Family Band, Danny Brown, BJ Pruitt and Close to Nowhere, as well as visiting artists such as the Vogt Sisters. The Red Garter Show will also be performed Friday evening and throughout the day on Saturday. Street dances will be held Friday and Saturday evening.

Activities will kick off Thursday evening with the 11th Annual Fort Scott Idol Contest at Memorial Hall, featuring contestants divided into groups ranging from 5 years to adults and group performances. From 7-11 p.m., visitors can then enjoy the carnival located at the west end of Skubitz Plaza.

The Good Ol’ Days Parade will begin at 6 p.m. Friday and will travel north on Main Street and then turn at Wall Street and head south on National. A chicken dinner will be provided for $7 between 5 and 7 p.m.

For the first time, visitors will also be able to shop the street fair on North Main Street Friday between 5 and 10 p.m. as well as 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. A total of about 115 vendors will be on hand for the street fair.

Other activities and events throughout the weekend will include races at Frary Field, a human foosball tournament, dueling pianos show, a petting zoo, baby judging contest, motorcycle and car show, the farmer’s market, guided shuttle tours and food vendors.

Visitors should prepare for road closures throughout the weekend in downtown Fort Scott. A full schedule of events and map brochure can be found at:

Fort Scott holds groundbreaking ceremony for Dog Park

In upcoming months, a new feature will be available at Gunn Park as work begins on the Bark in the Park dog park, which will provide a fenced-in, dog run area in the field located near Shelter House #7.

5-31 Dog Park

Those involved in initiating the planning for the dog park as well as the city leaders and Gunn Park crews who helped in the process participated in a groundbreaking ceremony Friday evening while other members of the community attended with their dogs.

“With the leash laws, our doggies need exercise,” organizer Jim Scott said, saying he and his wife first Martha considered the idea of a dog park when they saw one while visiting another city park five years ago. “What a great opportunity for them to get out. And I think it will be used far more than people anticipate.”

The dog run will cover under an acre of fenced-in land, where dog owners can enter the gate and then choose whether to take their dog into an area for large dogs or small dogs.

“It should be a lot of fun,” Scott said.

After about a year of planning and receiving approval from city leaders, whom Scott said were very supportive of the idea, the team of organizers was able to raise the needed funding for the fence from the community without having to ask the city for financial support from taxpayers’ dollars.

“Things don’t get done unless you have citizens that step up and raise money to make things happen,” City Manager Dave Martin said, saying the city can accomplish projects such as the dog park only through that partnership with the community.

Recent rains have prevented work from beginning as the ground has been too damp to begin digging post-holes for the four-foot fences, which have already been purchased. But once work begins, it will likely only take about a month to complete the project.

Though funding for the fences have already been raised, the group will continue to accept donations in order to purchase additional features such as toys for the dog park.

A fundraiser that will help that purpose will be held on June 12, with today being the deadline for signing up. That event will allow participants to submit photos of their pets which will then be made into a sketch that the participants can paint themselves on canvases during the event.

Those interested in registering for that fundraising event can visit