Year in Review - January through April
Tue, 12/23/2014 - 09:33 holtonadmin
By Brian Sanders
As the year 2014 draws to a close, The Holton Recorder takes its annual look back at the year that was in Holton and Jackson County. Highlights from the first four months are listed below, with the remainder of the year to be covered in two upcoming issues of The Recorder.
Some restrictions to the new conceal carry law regarding Kansas municipal buildings have been put in place for Jackson County employees. As of Jan. 1, any member of the public, as well as any county employee, with a concealed carry license is allowed to carry a gun throughout the first and second floors of the Courthouse.
Holton Community Hospital’s first baby born in the new year of 2014 arrived at 5:16 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 2. Weighing 8 pounds, one ounce and measuring 20 1/4 inches long, Harper Mildred Hawk was born to proud parents Lindsey and Ben Hawk of Effingham. This is the first child for the young couple.
The Holton USD 336 Board of Education continues to work toward determining a bond issue for a new elementary school building project. The board met early this month to review some ideas with members of the Hollis and Miller architectural firm regarding building options that have been discussed before finalizing a plan and preparing to approve a resolution for a bond issue election, to be held in May.
During their first meeting of 2014, members of the Holton City Commission were presented with several options for amending the city’s schedule of fines for traffic infractions and misdemeanors, showing some favor toward raising the city’s fines by 30 percent. But with concerns that raising the fines by 30 percent may still be too moderate an increase, commissioners opted to delay action on the matter.
A former Jackson County employee accused of embezzling more than $15,000 from the county was sentenced to four years probation. Janette Fund, charged with stealing $15,326.97 from the county’s noxious weed, landfill and recycling department between April 2011 and July 2013, was given a total underlying sentence of 40 months in combined prison and jail time, suspended in favor of probation by District Court Judge Micheal Ireland.
The Jackson County Commission petitioned state lawmakers to retain the state’s mortgage registration fees. Commissioners adopted a resolution in support of keeping the fees in place. Proposals to eliminate the registration fee are being discussed at the state level, but commissioners argued that the fee is “an important revenue source for counties and is one of a very few streams counties have to finance essential county services.”
For the second year in a row, the budget for the Jackson County jail is in the black. After operating in the red for several years, cuts and cost-saving measures have been put in place to make the department more efficient, according to Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse. The sheriff’s office and the jail were operated as separate entities beginning October 2004.
Walmart is “early in the planning process” of planning to build a new, larger facility in Holton, according to a company spokesperson. The Holton Planning Commission approved a preliminary plat for construction of a new facility on property located at the southern edge of the city despite protests from some who expressed concern that the new store would be detrimental to businesses on Holton’s Town Square.
After more than 30 rounds of spelling competition that included 92 words, Alyssa Henry, an eighth-grade student at Jackson Heights, was named champion of the Jackson County Spelling Bee. The bee lasted an hour and 40 minutes, the last hour of which saw Henry spelling head-to-head against Jackson Heights seventh-grader Alyssa Montgomery.
The Jackson County Commission is seeking a new contract with Heart of Jackson Humane Society for the handling of stray dogs picked up in the county. But in the new contract, county commissioners noted they would like to see the humane society’s services extended to county taxpayers who live in Holton’s city limits.
Local propane customers have been feeling a chill in recent days as supplies of the heating fuel have gone down while prices have skyrocketed from $2 per gallon earlier in the month to $3.50 later in the month, but some local propane suppliers are optimistic the high prices won’t last long. The shortage was attributed to the heavy use of propane in drying out wet fall harvest crops.
A Holton man charged with embezzling from Mayetta Rural Fire District 1 pleaded guilty to the charge in federal court. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Richard P. Bontrager, 67, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement in connection with the theft of $427,042 from the fire district over a five-year period. Bontrager had been the fire district’s treasurer between 2008 and 2013, over which time period the alleged embezzlement occurred.
Community HealthCare System of Onaga has offered to sell land to Holton USD 336 for construction of a new school if a bond issue for that construction passes in May, Holton Superintendent Nancy Meyer said. Meyer confirmed on Friday that CHCS, which owns and operates the Holton Family Practice clinic on the west side of Holton, has offered to sell land located south of the clinic to the school district at a cost of $65,000.
Jackson Heights High School alumnus Tyler Ahlgren was named as a preliminary contestant for the “American Idol” TV series, appearing on a couple of shows this month. Ahlgren, who also performed at the previous summer’s Country Stampede, was eliminated early in the competition after forgetting the lyrics to a song he was to perform, but he vowed to give the competition another shot.
Jackson County received a monstrous amount of snowfall on Feb. 4, with Holton’s 12-inch snow total just three inches short of the city’s all-time record, set in 1955. Hoyt reported a total snowfall of 13.5 inches, it was reported. The storm, accompanied by gusty winds and subzero wind chills, shuttered schools and many businesses in the county.
When the Holton Main Street program first started here, both the City of Holton and Jackson County pledged five years of $10,000 in financial support each to the downtown economic development group. Both the city and the county have made good on that pledge, but with Jackson County’s reduction of financial support, program leaders asked the Holton City Commission to consider increasing its funding of the program.
Casey’s General Store, which has been in business in Holton since 1986, is planning to open a second store on part of the existing Jackson County Fairgrounds, a spokesperson for the Ankeny, Iowa-based convenience store chain said. Plans and a timeline for construction of the new store will not be finalized until after this year’s Jackson County Fair, the spokesperson said.
In school news, the Jackson Heights school board took action to bring the high school building into compliance with a state fire marshal’s recommendation to replace the fire alarm control panel in the high school office and install new doors separating the gym from the high school’s industrial education area. Also, the Jackson County Commission agreed to allow county workers to haul several loads of clay dirt to the Holton High School football field in exchange for dirt for an upcoming bridge replacement project.
A telephone survey on the upcoming Holton elementary school bond issue revealed a 50/50 split between supporters and non-supporters, Holton board members noted this month. The board also voted to approve a $21.5 million bond resolution for construction of a new elementary school on land adjacent to the current Colorado Elementary School site.
During the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Legislative Breakfast, Kansas Reps. Richard Carlson and Randy Garber and Kansas Sen. Dennis Pyle updated area residents on a controversial Kansas House of Representatives bill authored with the intent of preserving the rights of business owners to exercise their religious convictions, but interpreted by many as an attack on the state’s gay and lesbian population.
The Jackson County Commission expressed concern with the Heart of Jackson County Humane Society’s dog adoption policy, as well as the county’s current contract with the agency. At present, the local humane society will only shelter homeless dogs from rural areas of the county, not from the cities, unless each city has a contract with the humane society. A few cities have individual contracts with the society for its services.
The Holton High School wrestling team earned the Kansas Class 4A State Team Wrestling Championship at Salina over the weekend for the second year in a row. Lucas Lovvorn also won an individual state title in the 152-pound category of competition.
The Royal Valley High School FFA Chapter received a $2,500 grant from Monsanto during its chapter re-chartering ceremony this month. The club was reinstated this year after it was disbanded in 2005. Kim Mitchell serves as the club’s advisor. Mitchell also teaches agricultural and plant science courses that were added to the district’s curriculum this school year.
Holton resident Carolyn McKee has been named the new executive director of the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. An employment contract was extended to McKee by the Chamber board for the open position. McKee has lived in Holton since 1978 and has worked for USD 336 for the past 15 years in a variety of roles, including paraprofessional, tutor and substitute teacher.
Plans for the new road behind Holton Community Hospital are moving forward after concerns from landowners were addressed by Jackson County Commission. A hearing was held on the proposed road that will run west and east off P Road to the rear entrance parking lot of the Family Practice Associates clinic. Frank Gilliland has donated land to HCH in order for the county to build a road that would serve as a second entrance to the hospital.
Jackson County property owners who are delinquent on their taxes may be subject to the county’s upcoming tax sale. Documents on the tax sale were filed and presented to real estate property owners who have not paid their taxes in three years. Lienholders and other lenders were also notified. A total of 38 tracts in Jackson County, representing about $102,000 in back taxes, were listed in a public notice.
Improvements to Mayetta’s city park will continue thanks to a $5,000 Jackson County donation. Commissioners met with Mayetta Mayor Jonathan Wimer and Mayetta residents Darrel Chapman and Dan Whiteman, who requested $10,000 to make several improvements to the city’s park.
Eligibility requirements for health insurance will not change for Royal Valley faculty and staff members after the USD 337 school board took action on the issue. Throughout the school year, board members have discussed the financial impact the Affordable Care Act could have on the district next year and in the future.
Holton resident Trent LeDoux, a former member of the Kansas House of Representatives, is being charged with bank fraud, it has been reported. A federal grand jury reportedly handed down an indictment that charges LeDoux with money laundering, alleging he placed $27,000 in loan monies into his personal campaign account.
Even though the Kansas Department of Transportation had yet to issue a ruling on how access from U.S. Highway 75 to a proposed new Walmart store in Holton would be granted, the Holton City Commission voted to approve a final plat for construction of the store and an adjoining gas station. Commissioner Erich Campbell asked fellow commissioners to wait on a vote since KDOT had not yet given developers the green light on an access point off U.S. 75.
The county’s burn policy is being modified by the Jackson County Commission in hopes of giving residents more time to burn if conditions are permissible. Commissioner Ed Kathrens said he was contacted by a resident who said he was frustrated that property owners aren’t allowed to burn their land or brush after the winds have died down in the evenings.
Jackson County’s assessed valuation is up $3 million, according to information recently released by the Jackson County Appraiser’s Office. Valuation notices for 2014 were mailed on Feb. 28 to Jackson County land and property owners. The assessed value of all land and buildings in the county was set at $84,419,115 for 2014, which includes $24,924,354 in assessed value for land and $59,494,761 in assessed value for buildings.
The superintendent search continues for Holton USD 336 and the school board may now consider the possibility of promoting a current school administrator to that district leadership position. Superintendent Nancy Meyer, who announced her retirement effective at the end of the current school term, said there had been about 10 applicants for the Holton superintendent position. The school board, however, had chosen not to interview any of the applicants.
An accident involving a tractor north of Holton claimed the life of a Holton man, according to Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse. Alan H. Schlodder, 64, sustained fatal injuries when the tractor he was operating on land near his home about four miles north of Holton “rolled down a terrace,” Morse said. Schlodder was found by a family member after the accident had happened, it was reported.
Twila White defeated incumbent Hal Cochren for position five on the Holton City Commission by a 12-vote margin during Tuesday’s spring election. A total of 202 Holton registered voters out of 2,159 (about 9.35 percent) voted in the election, it was noted. It was White’s second candidacy for a commission position. Bob Dieckmann ran unopposed for position three.
A Topeka man charged with the December rape and attempted murder of a Holton woman is set to stand trial in September after pleading not guilty to charges against him in Jackson County District Court. Filip Chase Joseph Rosario, 35, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted capital murder, two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy, two counts of rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery and criminal threat, all felonies.
Springtime finds many Jackson County property owners burning grassland and brush, and recent weeks have kept local fire department personnel very busy. According to Holton Fire Chief Kevin Ingels, 250 controlled burns occurred simultaneously on March 29, which is a new record for the county. During that weekend, county firefighters were dispatched to a total of 35 fires in the county.
The Holton City Commission approved an update to its municipal water conservation plan that clarifies action for the city and its water customers to take if and when water supplies begin to dwindle. Commissioners noted the updated plan clearly defines the three stages where conservation measures are necessary and adds a recommendation to better educate the city’s water customers on what to do when the city is under one of the three water conservation stages.
Holton is about to become the second Kansas city to be recognized as a “Purple Heart Community,” and Jackson County will become the first county in Kansas to receive the same designation, it has been reported. A special ceremony has been scheduled for April 21 at the Jackson County Courthouse to note proclamations of the city and county as “Purple Heart Communities,” a recognition of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
After multiple special meetings and interviews with several candidates, the Holton school board’s search for a superintendent has come to an end. The board unanimously decided to hire former Sabetha superintendent
Dennis Stones as superintendent starting in the 2014-15 school year. Stones will take over for Nancy Meyer, who is retiring, on July 1.
If the $21.5-million bond issue for the Holton school district passes in the May 6 election, it would be about two years before a new school for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grades would be ready for those students, according to USD 336 Superintendent Nancy Meyer. The bond issue would ultimately be offset by the state covering 55 percent of construction costs on a new building to replace the existing Colorado Elementary School, Meyer said.
Plans to build a new Walmart at the southern edge of Holton remain on hold until the retailer responds to a request from the Kansas Department of Transportation to access the store’s proposed site from Banner Road, it was reported. Kimberly Qualls, public affairs manager for KDOT, said Walmart’s initial plan to access property south of Taco Bell from U.S. Highway 75 poses safety concerns.
More than 100 area residents turned out to continue to show their support for former U.S. Senator Robert Dole, regardless of whether they voted for him as a Congressman, a Senator or a presidential candidate. In return, Dole showed his gratitude — and his sense of humor. He was accompanied by Congresswoman and Holton native Lynn Jenkins in his visit to the Jackson County Senior Citizens Center.
The Jackson County Commissioners have allocated $2,500 in county funds to a summer bookmobile program planned for the northern part of the county. Ange Allen and Luke Schreiber, members of the non-profit organization CommunityCORE, met with commissioners to explain the summer project and to request financial support. Recently, a 33-foot camper/trailer was purchased and donated to CommunityCORE for use as a bookmobile.
Prices for student meals will increase by five cents next year at Royal Valley USD 337. School board members unanimously agreed to raise both breakfast and lunch meal rates for students, as well as increase adult breakfast meals by 55 cents and adult lunches by 25 cents. The increases will enable the district to meet all the requirements from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Paid Lunch Equity tool.