Year In Review: September through December

Important action at the city, county and school levels in Jackson County and an election with a surprise outcome were the important topics locally in the last four months of 2016. The following recounts important events as noted by The Holton Recorder.

* September

After a hearing for the proposed 2017 Jackson County budget, which includes a 3.783-mill increase, county commissioners approved the budget as presented by a 2-1 vote. Commissioners Janet Zwonitzer and Bill Elmer voted in favor of the proposed budget while Commissioner Rob Ladner voted against it, saying he “thought we could have reduced it by half a mill and could have gotten by.”

A condensed version of the Jackson County Relay For Life will be held Saturday, Oct. 15, inside Jackson Heights High School at the gym, it was announced this month. The Jackson County Relay For Life was originally scheduled for Aug. 6, but due to a lack of volunteers, it was pushed back until October.

Construction of a new, pressurized-sand water treatment plant for the City of Holton and spillway repairs at two city-owned lakes would likely be costly, engineer Don Hellar told the Holton City Commission. Hellar did not present commissioners with cost estimates for work options, but noted some of the options could have million-dollar price tags attached and agreed to discuss pricing options for possible future projects later.

The date for the ribbon-cutting and public open house at the new Holton Elementary School, originally planned for Sept. 18, was reset for Oct. 23 following a report from Nabholz Construction that there are still a few weeks of finish work to go. District officials also mourned the passing of former Holton High School Principal Ron Folk this month.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation has pledged its support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as it protests the Dakota Access Pipeline. Members of the PBPN have collected donations, sent tribal members to North Dakota to stand in protest of the pipeline and have sent an official letter of support to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The PBPN has also drafted a resolution declaring its opposition to the pipeline.

For more than six decades, former Holton High School music teacher Robert Brown has provided organ music for services at Holton’s First United Methodist Church, and for more than half a century, Brown has directed the church’s chancel choir. Now, because of “health and stress,” Brown has decided to step down from both posts, it was reported in advance of a retirement reception for him.

Members of New Life Church of the Nazarene are moving forward with the purchase of the former nursing center at 100 Topeka Ave. in Holton. An environmental study is being conducted on the Medicalodges-owned building that formerly served as Holton Manor and Merry Manor Nursing Center and has remained vacant since 2007.

A year has passed since Jackson County resident Joan Rebar went missing, and members of a special task force investigating her disappearance still have no answers as to what happened to the 71-year-old woman after she left the VFW Post in Meriden late one evening in September 2015. Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse said most people interviewed about the case have been cooperative.

Joshua Myers of Ozawkie was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of aggravated assault and criminal discharge of a firearm in connection with an October 2015 incident. However, Jackson County District Court Judge Norbert Marek, noting Myers’ efforts to get his life back on track since the incident, delayed the start of his sentence until after his current semester of college was complete.

Holton Community Hospital was honored at the National Rural Health Association conference as one of the 2016 Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals in the country, it was reported. The Best Practice Designation award, as determined by iVantage Analytics, was given for success in achieving high rankings on the patient perspective index.


An open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to dedicate the new Holton Elementary School this month, and several hundred northeast Kansans attended the 30-minute ceremony. In other USD 336 news, Superintendent Dennis Stones announced this month that he would retire from his position at the end of the 2016-17 school year; board members announced later this month that a search for Stones’ replacement would begin soon.

An American nurse and missionary who saved the lives of thousands of Armenian children is finally being recognized for her life-saving efforts thanks to three eighth-grade students at Royal Valley Middle School. A documentary on Emma Darling Cushman by RVMS students Luke Boyden, Colin Everts and Colin Caviness has won the international Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes 2016 Discovery Award, which includes a $7,500 cash prize.

With some interior painting and electrical wiring left to do before the new press box at the Jackson Heights High School football field is done, Larry Amon, who led the project that saw the construction of a new press box and concession stand, is pleased with what he’s seen so far. Amon said the total project cost is likely to come in under its initial $74,000 budget.

Registered voters in Holton’s city voting wards will cast their votes in the Nov. 8 general election at Holton’s First Baptist Church. This is a new polling location for these voters, who previously voted at the Veterans Club, where limited parking and available space necessitated a move for the polls, Jackson County Election Clerk Kathy Mick said.

Refinancing bonds issued nearly a decade ago for construction of the middle and high school classroom addition at Jackson Heights, as well as energy system upgrades for the district, will result in nearly $350,000 in savings for the district, the USD 335 Board of Education learned this month. Board members approved agreements with two banks for refinancing bonds.

An Atchison man convicted of the March 2015 assault of a law enforcement officer following a three-county chase received a 39-month prison sentence in Jackson County District Court. Ryan Brownfield was sentenced by Judge Norbert Marek to 34 months on a charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and five months on a charge of fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.

Because a sewage manhole area has backed up and failed, sending raw sewage into Elk Creek before it was discovered, city crews have been required to rig a system to bypass the failed manhole with a temporary line above ground, powered by two pumps on generators. An engineer is working with the city to alleviate the problem, it was noted.

A new eight-foot wide sidewalk will be installed along the curb on a portion of the east side of the Jackson County Courtyard in Holton. The Jackson County Commission approved a $5,380 bid from KC Concrete of Delia to install an eight-foot wide by four-inch thick sidewalk on the far southeast corner of the courtyard. 

Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame inductees for 2017 include Drs. Ernest and Roy Moser, founders of the Holton Community Hospital; Lenamaye Williams, former Whiting city clerk and community advocate; Mike McManigal, for his work with the Banner Creek Science Center and the Purple Heart monument project; and Emily Jane Stoll and Margaret Utz, honored jointly for their work with the Jackson County Historical Society.

Members of the Royal Valley USD 337 Board of Education clarified the board’s position on political endorsements after a recent radio advertisement aired in which board members Ann Kelly and Jeff Stithem identified themselves as USD 337 board members and endorsed Sen. Dennis Pyle for re-election. Board members said the endorsements of Kelly and Stithem did not reflect the board as a whole and that school boards and districts are prohibited from making such endorsements.

Jackson County’s gravel roads need more crowning, according to Norm Bowers, road engineer for the Kansas Association of Counties. Bowers was invited to view the roads in order for the Jackson County Commission to get an “outsider’s view” of the condition of the county roads. Bowers noted the importance of replacing the blades on county motor graders often.

A former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office detective has filed suit in federal court alleging that he was wrongly fired by Sheriff Tim Morse for his involvement in the Jacob Ewing case — a charge Morse called “a complete lie.” Al Dunn, who worked for the sheriff’s office from 2000 until this past July, accused Morse of terminating Dunn’s employment with the sheriff’s office for political reasons surrounding Ewing.


Nearly three-quarters of Jackson County’s registered voters cast their ballots in the November general election, which saw Republican Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency in an electoral college upset over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Jackson Countians favored Trump at the polls, as well as incumbents including U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas Sen. Dennis Pyle and Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse.

Due to a drop in the county’s valuation, the recently passed mill levy for the county will collect $17,698 less in taxes than planned for next year. County Clerk Kathy Mick said the county’s valuation has dropped since July and that the newly-built Prairie View Senior Residences in Holton recently became tax exempt, which caused the county’s valuation to drop by about $200,000.

As part of its current contract with the county, Jackson County EMS provides blood draws at the county jail on those suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Jackson County EMS owners Jay Watkins and Brent Teter expressed their concern Monday with the increasing number of subpoenas their employees are receiving to testify in court regarding those services.

The owners of an Atchison grain elevator will not face criminal charges in the October 2011 explosion that killed six people, including Darrek Klahr of Wetmore, who was working there as a grain inspector, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said this month. However, Bartlett Grain Co. is still facing an investigation into the explosion by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Holton school board approved a resolution to explore whether the district should refinance a portion of the district’s outstanding Series 2014-B general obligation bonds to realize substantial savings for the district. A bond underwriter for the new Holton Elementary School bonds told the board this month that refinancing the bonds could save the district $2.5 million.

The suspected presence of blue-green algae at Elkhorn Lake at Rafter’s Park has prompted the City of Holton to warn fishers who visit the lake and close the lake’s pump station to protect livestock who drink pumped water from the lake. The advisory was issued jointly by city officials and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment after the presence of blue-green algae was suspected in Elkhorn Lake.

Effingham native Lori Banks was named the new director of the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce this month. Banks said one of her goals is to boost the community’s involvement with the chamber. Ashlee York was also hired by the Chamber this month as an administrative assistant.

A Berryton man drowned in a fishing boat accident at a farm pond near Mayetta on the afternoon of Nov. 16, Sheriff Tim Morse said. John H. Johnson, 92, and two others were fishing from a boat when the boat began to capsize; the other two in the boat made it safely to land, but Johnson drowned while attempting to swim to shore, Morse said. It was noted that no one in the boat was wearing a life preserver at the time of the accident.

A contract between Jackson County and Developmental Services of Jackson County has been signed that will give individuals with disabilities an opportunity to work at the county’s recycling center. The contract was signed after the terms had been discussed by both parties in recent months. DSJC clients will work three days a week at the recycling center at a rate of $8 per hour, it was reported.

Organizers of the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner were pleased with the turnout for this year’s event, where the total number of dinners served well exceeded the average for the dinner, it was reported. Dinner organizer Freda Galer noted that a total of 375 dinners were served during the annual dinner event at the Evangel United Methodist Church Family Life Center. Of that total, Galer said 80 were carry-out dinners.

The 2017 budget for the Jackson County Tourism Council was recently approved by the Jackson County Commission. The $44,450 budget includes funds for a billboard and administrative services through the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. Funds for the Tourism Council’s budget come solely from the county’s “bed tax,” which generated more than $50,000 this year, it was reported.

The possibility of starting a voucher program to allow rural, senior adults to eat a nutritional meal from their local café at a discounted price was discussed by the Jackson County Commission this month. Commissioner Rob Ladner asked Amanda Spalding, county senior services director, if she had heard of such a program and what the requirements would be.


Repair work on a “problematic” sewer interceptor line on the north side of Holton and stabilization of an eroded section of Elk Creek’s bank in the area of the line was completed this month. Work crews from a Goddard firm repaired the sewer interceptor and stablization of the south bank of the creek, resolving the problem of a “failure” in the line that required sewage to be pumped above ground from one manhole into another manhole nearby.

Plans to build a spray park in Mayetta continue to move forward as members of the project committee are seeking donations from area businesses, individuals and Jackson County government. Spray park committee members Liz Long, Delaina Miller and Dan Whiteman, as well as Mayetta mayor Jonathan Wimer, presented information on the project to the Jackson County Commission and requested $30,000 in county tax funds for the project.

Holton’s electric customers may see a reduction in their monthly energy bills next year as the result of a new five-year contract between the city and the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency, approved by the Holton City Commission. Commissioners also approved a resolution authorizing the purchase of power from NextEra Energy Resources through KMEA, effective for five years starting Jan. 1, 2017. 

Brentwood, Tenn.-based retailer Tractor Supply Company (TSC) has confirmed that it will open a new store in Holton’s former Walmart building in early 2017. It was reported that the former Walmart building at 209 Arizona Ave. will be split by TSC and Dollar Tree.

Despite student and patron interest in the formation of baseball and softball teams at Jackson Heights High School, the Jackson Heights USD 335 Board of Education announced this month that the district would not start up teams for the time being. Board members voted not to initiate baseball and softball programs in the district due to concerns with enrollment sustainability, available facilities and available resources.

Holton attorney Alex Morrissey will return as county counselor for the Jackson County Commission in 2017, it was reported. J. Richard Lake has served as county counselor for the past six months, but commissioners agreed that as of Jan. 1, Morrissey will again serve as the county counselor. She previously served in that role for six years, resigning at the end of 2015.

Jackson County and Jackson County EMS approved a new contract for ambulance services that includes an additional $50,000 per year for the next three years. County commissioners and Jackson County EMS owner/operators Brent Teter and Jay Watkins signed the new contract that takes effect Jan. 1 and enables EMS to continue to provide ambulance service to all of Jackson County, including the Potawatomi reservation.

The Jackson County Christmas Store served 126 families and 83 senior citizens or disabled adults during its 2016 Christmas campaign, it was reported. The annual event, held on Dec. 16, saw a total of 209 family and individual applications received, which is up from the 153 received last year. It was also reported that the annual Community Christmas Dinner served a record 470 dinners this year.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141


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