Year In Review - September through December
A number of hot topics made their way to The Holton Recorder’s front pages in the last third of the year. Some of those are featured below.
The proposed 2015 county budget has been approved and includes a.795-mill increase to 73.664 mills for 2015. Included in the proposed budget is a five percent raise for all county employees. The last raise for full-time employees was approved in January 2014 and was $50 a month. The year before, in 2013, the commissioners approved a $100 raise per month for full-time employees, which was their first pay raise in four years.
The livestock barns at the old Jackson County Fairgrounds at the intersection of U.S. Highway 75 and Kansas Highway 16 were recently demolished, but through the efforts of the local Meadowlark Extension District office and area 4-H families, wood from the livestock barns has been refashioned into memorial plaques that have been decorated with other parts of the barns, or with horseshoes or older fair ribbons.
An old gasoline service station in Whiting is now listed on the Kansas Register of Historic Places because of its unique architectural style and the commercial impact it had in the small community located in the northeast corner of Jackson County. Members of the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review approved the nomination of the service station, located at 204 Whiting St., for the state historic registry during their meeting on Aug. 9.
Two men charged in the recent death of a Topeka police officer, Ross Lane and Randy Ridens Jr., had lived in Holton and served time in the Jackson County Jail this past year. Lane was charged with capital murder of a law enforcement officer in the Sept. 7 shooting death of Topeka police officer Jason Harwood; Ridens was charged with helping Lane escape. Meanwhile, the Holton City Commission approved a policy sending police officers to nearby funerals of slain officers such as Harwood.
Stray dogs in Jackson County will have a new temporary home while they wait to be adopted. Jackson County has entered into an agreement with Dan Degenhardt, owner and veterinarian at Banner Creek Animal Hospital in Holton, to shelter stray dogs dropped off at the clinic by any Jackson County resident. County commissioners signed a contract late this month to pay Banner Creek Animal Hospital $600 a month to house and adopt out stray dogs in the county.
Two Jackson County postmasters have announced their upcoming retirement. Elaine Stephenson, Soldier postmaster, said she would retire after 29 years with the U.S. Postal Service at the end of this month. Farrell Holthaus, Hoyt postmaster, announced his retirement after 32 years with the Postal Service at about the same time as the Hoyt Post Office announced it was cutting its customer service window hours.
Jackson County is in a “good” cash position and has no outstanding debt, according to an audit report presented to the Jackson County Commission. Mike Peroo of Overland Park, the county’s auditor, met with the commissioners to present a summary of the county’s financial report for 2013. On Dec. 31, 2013, the county had a cash position of $13,425,316, which is a nine percent increase from $12,341,178 in 2012.
Some Holton Main Street-sponsored activities such as Jazz on the Square and Cruise Night may be taken over by the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce in 2015 after Main Street disbands, members of the Main Street board of directors noted this month. With 2014 and the end of the downtown promotion group approaching, Main Street board members decided earlier this year to stick to a schedule of events planned out for this calendar year.
A Topeka teen accused of abusing a 7-month-old Holton boy pleaded not guilty to child abuse charges in Jackson County District Court this month. As a result, District Court Judge Micheal Ireland set a three-day trial in January for 18-year-old Koylen McKinney, who has been charged with aggravated battery, abuse of a child and aggravated endangerment of a child related to an April incident in Holton. McKinney waived his preliminary hearing and right to a speedy trial.
The Holton school district is looking at turning the Jackson County Fair Building into a bus storage facility across from the soon-to-be-built Colorado Elementary School. During a special meeting, the USD 336 Board of Education approved the purchase of the Fair Building and five plots of land owned by the Jackson County Fair Association for a total of $255,000. The five plots include land directly north of the Fair Building.
The Holton school district has finalized the purchase of all houses on the west side of the 500 block of Colorado Avenue, where a new school will be built over the next two years. Superintendent Dennis Stones has given area contractors and others an invitation to salvage materials from the houses on that block. School board members later noted that hazardous materials testing was needed before what was left of the houses could be demolished sometime next year.
Misconceptions about utility bills are fueling internet rumors, the Holton City Commission noted, adding that the best way to quash misconceptions and rumors is to keep the public better educated about how bills are calculated. Commissioner Twila White this month relayed concerns from Holton residents whose recently received utility bills they thought were too high and asked if the city could explain the billing process better to city utility customers with such concerns.
Holton resident Becky Hutchins has announced that she will run for the 61st District seat in the Kansas House of Representatives in the coming fall elections. Hutchins, a Republican, served as the state representative for the 50th District from 1994 to 2006 and said she would seek the 61st District seat after Rep. Richard Carlson announced that he would not seek re-election.
It’s a piece of Holton’s history that has undergone several changes, hosted a U.S. president and several other famous people, and it’s about to celebrate its 125th anniversary. An anniversary celebration is coming up for Hotel Josephine, which was built in 1889, opened in January of 1890 and is now owned and operated by John Chiles and Lori Ford, who are planning a wide variety of celebratory activities.
Royal Valley High School FFA officers broke ground on a new greenhouse after receiving a $10,000 grant from America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund. The greenhouse is being built for ag students at RVHS and will allow them to grow vegetable crops and bedding plants, calculate fertilizer applications, plan layouts for maximum yield, perform propagation practices and experience many aspects of running a horticulture business.
A Mayetta teen charged with three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child will not be tried as an adult in Jackson County District Court. Magistrate Judge Blaine Carter denied a motion to try Weston Hasty, 16, as an adult on the three charges based on incidents that reportedly occurred at a Mayetta day care center in June. Hasty’s case, filed as a juvenile, will return to district court on Nov. 20 for a status hearing.
Brad Stauffer, Mike Ford, Bill and Debra Brown and the late Jim Potter have been selected as the 10th round of inductees into the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame, it was announced this month. They will be honored at the annual Hall of Fame Banquet, tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015.
Jackson County farmers are finishing up this year’s fall harvest, and yields for both corn and soybeans are said to be average or above, according to David Hallauer, Meadowlark Extension District crops and soils specialist, who said some areas of the county have received more moisture than others. Cooler temperatures and rains have prevailed this spring and summer, helping this year’s crop to flourish.
Members of Holton High School's FFA chapter scored well at this year's national FFA convention, with its horse judging team taking national champion honors and its parliamentary procedure teams also ranking among the nation's best. Back home, Royal Valley High School's volleyball team captured the third-place trophy at the state volleyball tournament, the first such tournament the school's team has attended.
Holton High School alumni Lynn Jenkins and Pat Roberts were re-elected to their respective U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate posts, while Becky Hutchins returned to the Kansas House in the fall election. The election also saw Sam Brownback returning to the Kansas governor's position in spite of poll predictions that opponent Paul Davis would unseat Brownback.
After nearly a year of negotiating with the Holton City Commission and dealing with the Kansas Department of Transportation’s road safety issues, Walmart has been given the go-ahead to build a new, larger store at the south city limits. The commission approved the final plat for an approximately 70,000-square foot store and gas station at the intersection of U.S. Highway 75 and Banner Road after the retailer learned from KDOT that a traffic signal would be put at that location.
Although the results of a study on whether the trial of a Topeka resident charged with the December 2013 rape and attempted murder of a Holton woman should be held in a different location are not yet complete, Jackson County District Court Judge Micheal Ireland tentatively set the trial for March 2015. Chase Rosario’s trial had been set for mid-September in district court, but Ireland agreed to continue action based on a change-of-venue motion by Rosario’s attorney.
The Holton school board is asking patrons for approval of a “continuous’’ mill levy for the school district’s capital outlay fund, instead of a “renewable’’ one. The board approved a motion to seek a “continuous and permanent annual tax levy (for capital outlay) in an amount not to exceed 8 mills.” The board’s practice up to this time has been to seek approval for the capital outlay mill levy for five-year increments.
Same-sex couples can now apply for a marriage license in Jackson County, it was reported after the Kansas Supreme Court issued an order lifting a ban on the practice approved by voters in the 2005 general election. As of yet, no same-sex couples have sought a marriage license in the county, District Court Clerk Colleen Reamer noted.
Holton residents are responsible for the maintenance of sidewalks in front of their homes, and as the Holton City Commission noted this month, that includes restoring sidewalks that have been removed due to construction or demolition. Commissioner Tim Morris asked for clarification of that responsibility after a December 2013 fire that destroyed a house in the 700 block of New York Avenue, the sidewalk in front of the house was removed while the lot was cleared.
The cause of a Nov. 24 fire that destroyed a mobile home southeast of Denison and claimed the life of a person reportedly inside it — tentatively identified as Timothy W. Michael — is still under investigation, according to Sheriff Tim Morse. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department received a report from a motorist of a fire in a mobile home belonging to Michael approximately 5 1/2 miles southwest of Denison that evening.
House fires were also noted this month at the homes of Andrew and Breann Hinman of rural Holton and at the home of the Bill Simmons family in Holton. Family members and friends have begun recovery efforts in earnest for the two families, it was reported.
Attendance at the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner was down again, according to dinner organizer Freda Galer, but those who came to the dinner were thankful for the food and hospitality. This year’s total was below last year’s count of 255 diners, which Galer said at that time was “the smallest turnout I think we’ve ever had.” It was also below the total of 262 diners at the 2012 dinner and well below the average of 300 dinners served at the community Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
The Holton Optimist Club has disbanded after serving the community’s youth for 41 years. The club’s absence has especially been noted this holiday season as members are not selling fresh Christmas trees at the former Jackson County Fairgrounds. The sales have served as a fund-raiser for youth sports for more than 30 years. “It was not one thing that caused the club to disband, it was a myriad of things,” said club member Becky Hutchins.
Jackson County has fewer “deficient” bridges than most other northeast Kansas counties, according to information released by Norm Bowers, Kansas Association of Counties local road engineer. Bowers outlined the number of deficient bridges in the state and discussed the “off-system bridge replacement program” available to help replace some of the bridges. “Deficient” bridges are unable to handle their original legal load limits because of outdated design or deterioration.
Crewmembers from the Jackson County road and bridge department have completed several projects this year with funds from the special .4 percent sales tax, it was reported. The Jackson County Commission reviewed road and bridge projects completed this year with funds from the special countywide retailers’ sales tax approved by voters in August 2012. Upon first approval in 2005, the special seven-year tax was split between economic development and road and bridge repairs.
Alcohol poisoning is being suspected as the cause of death for a Valley Falls man who was discovered Dec. 11 in a hotel room in Holton, according to Patrol Sgt. Steve Frederick of the Holton Police Department. Sam Barrow, 43, was found dead by police in a room at the Super 8 Motel in Holton after police were called to the hotel at 8:30 a.m. that day for a welfare check, Frederick said.
Jackson County’s most wanted fugitive, Roy Hector Wahquahboshkuk Jr., was captured by Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies in the early morning hours of Dec. 15 in Holton, according to Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office received numerous tips concerning the whereabouts of Wahquahboshkuk, wanted on various drug charges, over the last several months.
The Holton VFW Post 1367 Riders organized its first "Toys for Tots" campaign and was able to collect toys and other items that helped 63 families in a five-county area, it was reported this month. It was also reported that the annual Jackson County Ministerial Alliance Christmas Store helped 762 families during this holiday season.
In Jackson County District Court, Jason Seematter of Wetmore pleaded no contest to two charges of lewd and lascivious behavior in connection with a September incident in Hoyt, and Koylen McKinney of Topeka pleaded guilty to child abuse charges in connection with an April incident involving a 7-month-old boy. Both Seematter and McKinney face sentencing on Jan. 23.
Whether streets in Holton’s industrial park should be rebuilt with asphalt or concrete should be left to the engineering firm chosen by the city to handle the street reconstruction project, Holton Street Superintendent Rex Cameron told the Holton City Commission. The commission agreed to start requesting proposals from area engineering firms interested in creating plans for the street reconstruction project at the industrial park; the project could get under way this coming spring.
The Jackson County Commission has adopted a resolution to raise the county’s bed tax rate from three to five percent. Earlier this fall, members of the Jackson County Tourism Council, which directly benefits from the tax collected, asked the commissioners to consider increasing the rate. Since 1997, an ongoing bed tax has been collected in the county from all hotels, motels and “tourist courts” with more than two bedrooms.
Once again, the Community Christmas Dinner was a huge success, with more than 400 dinners served, according to dinner organizer Freda Galer. Approximately 401 people were served at the annual dinner, which was in its second year at the Evangel United Methodist Family Life Center after being held for several years at St. Dominic Parish Hall. Galer said an additional 10 dinners were delivered to people who were unable to make it to the dinner, totaling 411.