Archive for Wednesday, January 7, 2004

2003: Year in review

A look back at final months of 2003

January 7, 2004

Editor's note: This is a review of stories that appeared in The Mirror during the last six months of 2003.


As the year passed the halfway mark, area farmers wondered what kind of a harvest the season would bring. Although it was too early to predict, corn and wheat crops looked promising.

Leon Stites took over as Leavenworth County Extension Services agriculture and natural resources agent. Stites replaced Sy Nyhart, who retired after holding the position for 16 years.

The Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce recognized Himpel Lumber and Building, owned by Charlie and Sheri Ussery, at the Leavenworth Area Development meeting for expanding the company's showroom and storage space. LAD honored Overland Park developer Steve Kelly, who owns Highland Ridge Business Park, near Stone Creek subdivision in Tonganoxie. The Basehor Chamber of Commerce presented awards to: Kelley's Grill and Bar, owned by Bill and Diane Buchholz; Holy Field Vineyard and Winery, owned by Les and Michelle Meyer; Dennis and Debbie Breuer, owners of Town Square retail center; and Basehor Field of Dreams, operated by Basehor Athletic Association.

LAD also presented an award to John and Debbie Bonee for their work on Parkway Place business park, north of Parallel Road in Basehor.

Lana Howe and Kathy Owens opened Vintage Soap and Bath at 626 E. Fourth St. The women make soap from goat milk which is produced at Howe's farm.

Developer Greg Ward withdrew a proposal to construct townhouses on five acres on the west side of Smiley Road, north of Hatchell. Ward said he would build single-family homes instead of townhouses.

Alex Bartels, a 10-year-old Tonganoxie girl, was selected as a junior board member of BellyWashers, a brand of juice drinks popular with children.

The second-annual community band concert and old-fashioned ice cream social was held at VFW Park.

At Tonganoxie High School, workers refurbished the floors of the 40-year-old gymnasium and painted the gym's walls, railings and bleachers.

According to U.S. Census figures, Tonganoxie is the third-fastest growing city in Kansas, behind Goddard, in the Wichita area, and Spring Hill, south of Olathe. Basehor and Eudora came in fifth and sixth among Kansas towns seeing growth.

David Lovvorn of Victory Baptist Church gave away coffee and doughnuts to passersby along U.S. Highway 24-40 on Friday mornings.

The Community Blood Center's blood drive, held at the Methodist Church, netted 51 units of blood.

A Tonganoxie couple, Dawn and Jimmy Creten, were featured in The Mirror for their "monster truck" driving careers. In monster truck circles, Dawn is known as "Scarlet Bandit," and Jimmy is known as "Bounty Hunter." The married couple travel across the country, competing in shows.

Workers were at Chieftain Park, building public restrooms near the playground area.

In Linwood, Lions Club members and their spouses held another successful barbecue chicken supper. Those who attended ate beneath a parachute set up for shade.

Leavenworth County Sheriff Herb Nye said the department was in need of new officers. However, he said, the $12.06 hourly starting wage is often less than the officers can get elsewhere.

Area electricity customers of Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative set records for summer electrical usage.

Tonganoxie banker Kent

Needham was elected chairman-elect of Kansas Bankers Association. Needham is president and CEO at First State Bank and Trust of Tonganoxie.

Brothers Bob Edwards and Ron Purinton moved their cabinet shop business, Twins Custom Wood, from Kansas City, Kan., to Tonganoxie. The men purchased property in the 800 block of East Fourth Street.

Gertrude Miller, a Bonner Springs resident who has many relatives in the Tonganoxie area, celebrated her 100th birthday. A special guest at her party was her great-grandson Daniel Monahan. The 9-year-old boy was born on Miller's 91st birthday.

Creeping across the county were the sad signs of a summer's drought. Corn that looked promising just weeks ago was now sporting stalks and leaves that were quickly turning from green to white.

Linwood's Pioneer Festival provided fun and games for children of all ages. The events coincided with the annual Lions Club Barbecue.


Once again, the annual McLouth Threshing Bee provided a weekend of entertainment. The 46-year-old festival is centered on antique steam engines.

Leavenworth County's tax rate was slated to increase to 41.18 mills in 2004. This is 1.04 mill more than the 2003 levy of 40.137 mills.

Workers installed new playground equipment at Tonganoxie Elementary School. The equipment was purchased with about $19,500 which was raised by the PTA.

Nebraska Furniture Mart opened near Kansas Speedway, about 12 miles east of Tonganoxie.

Brandon Thomas Jr., the 8-month-old son of Brandon and Sarah Thomas, Tonganoxie, was crowned the national winner of the new Star Discovery Most Beautiful Baby Contest.

A cellular phone call to 911 may have saved the life of Russell Haring, 79, who was trapped between his pickup truck and a farm gate about eight miles southwest of Tonganoxie. Haring was flown by air ambulance to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition the next day.

At VFW Mem-orial Park, members of Tongan-oxie High School's band kicked off the upcoming school year by holding a concert in the park.

Maggie Bailey, a Kansas State University student majoring in journalism, helped at The Mirror by writing stories and taking pictures of area 4-H youth for the annual fair section.

Melinda Craig became director of nursing at Tonganoxie Nursing Center.

Tonganoxie's acting chief of police, Mark Williams, 44, died Aug. 16, after suffering a heart attack.

Ashley Hicklin, a kindergarten student at Basehor-Linwood Elementary School, was pictured visiting Ted and Kris Grinter's sunflower fields. Three years ago, when Ashley was 2, she also made the front page of The Mirror during a visit to a Grinter sunflower field.

Chuck Magaha, a volunteer firefighter who also is director of the county's emergency management office, asked county residents to refrain from burning until the area received rainfall.

Pam Phillips and Susie Snapp, both former cooks at Tonganoxie Elementary School, opened Pammy Sue's Baked Goods and Gifts at the corner of Fourth and Main.


Tonganoxie High School's average ACT scores increased to 21.9, topping the state's average. This is the first time in about seven years that THS students had beat the state average.

Rain turned new tar along U.S. Highway 24-40 to muck, and drivers traveling that route during evening hours found their cars to be filthy. The construction company that did the road work set up a cleaning station at the intersection of 24-40 and Kansas Highway 7, and cleaned the cars for free.

Tonganoxie police Lt. John Putthoff was appointed as Tonganoxie's acting chief of police until the city's police chief, Ken Carpenter, returns from active military duty. Until recently, Mark Williams, who died of a heart attack in August, was serving as acting chief of police.

A softball tournament in memory of Andy Robbins raised more than $2,000. Robbins died from complications with bone cancer in 2002.

On a 4-2 vote, Tonganoxie city council members approved a charter ordinance allowing Sunday liquor sales. If no protest petition is filed within 61 days of the final publication date, the ordinance will become law.

Tonganoxie school board members began looking closer at one option regarding school construction. This plan could use the existing grade school for kindergartners through fourth-graders; build a middle school for fifth- through eighth-graders on the district's 80 acres; revamp the junior high/high school campus into a high school for ninth- through 12th-graders.

A Gambino's restaurant was slated to open in a new retail center and convenience store building near Stone Creek residential subdivision.

The THS band marched in the annual Kansas University Band Day Parade. Pictured leading the band was Heather Melchior, a senior.

Tonganoxie's school enrollment spiked another rise. The tentative count showed the district with 26 more students than a year ago. According to school superintendent Richard Erickson, that will amount to about $86,000 more state funding for the district. The unofficial count at this time shows a full-time equivalent of 1,502.5 students.

Members of Tonganoxie's VFW auxiliary sought help with a project to collect pull tabs from aluminum cans. The tabs would be turned in to benefit the Ronald McDonald houses in the Kansas City area.

About 500 guests came to Tonganoxie Elementary School to participate in the annual Grandparents' Day celebration.

Jarbalo residents Shirley and Lester Koch were left without a home after a lightning strike sparked a fire that burned their home to the ground. The residents were away from home when the fire started, but their daughter drove by, saw the fire and arrived in time to let the family's 13-year-old poodle, Nikki, outside.

Sherman Township Fire Department held its annual turkey shoot at Tri-County Rod and Gun Club, northeast of Linwood.

Town meetings sponsored by the First Baptist Church examined needs of Tonganoxie residents. As the city grows, said The Rev. Weldon Jolly, a community's needs also grow and change. One of the areas the group discussed was the need for transportation for the elderly.

A new retail store, Dollar General, opened on the intersection of U.S. Highway 24-40 and Main Street.

Ninth-grade students at TJHS Jeremy Dame and Valerie Hoffsett were recognized by the national CHOICES Youth Outreach Program, for improving their grades.

Continental Equipment Company, a Tonganoxie firm that specializes in rebuilding sterilizers to resell, draws visitors to Tonganoxie through its training courses offered at the company.

Jeff Schwinn, a Kansas State University football player from McLouth, was a K-State starting quarterback against UMass.


Local and state fire investigators began working on finding a cause for a house fire that occurred Sept. 30. The fire, officials said, appeared to be suspicious, and by December reports had been sent to the Leavenworth County attorney's office for review. No charges had been filed as of Jan. 2. The fire occurred in a home at 303 E. Third, when no one was at home. Hours after the blaze completely engulfed the house, Fire Chief David Bennett said he was amazed at the intensity. "For the first time in my 17 years, we could not do an interior attack," Bennett said. "We didn't even have a chance when we got here. It was gone when we got here."

A mediator helped settle a federal lawsuit that owners of three downtown Tonganoxie businesses had filed against the city. The settlement called for the city's insurance company to pay the businesses $2,500 each, for a total of $7,500. The business owners -- Don Pelzl, John Lenahan and Phyllis and Roger Shilling -- filed suit in November 2002 in U.S. District Court alleging the city had violated the owners' civil rights by boycotting their companies. The owners had said the boycott began because the owners were outspoken critics of some aspects of a recent downtown improvement project.

There's no place like home. Members of Tonganoxie's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9271 celebrated the completion of their new post home. About 200 people attended a ceremony dedicating the new building, just east of VFW Park.

A local woman was accused by the state's insurance commissioner's office of operating a pyramid scheme involving the sale of securities. Carla Jean Meyer Senger was charged with illegally selling securities in 1999 and 2000 and selling securities as an unregistered broker. She also was charged with 31 counts of using false or misleading statements to sell stocks, limited partnership interests and investment contracts to eight northeast Kansas residents. The investors allegedly lost about $358,000. A trial is set for April 12.

A high-speed chase that started in Basehor ended near Stranger Creek with an accident. A young man, driving a stolen car, topped speeds of 100 mph, according to Basehor police, as he fled along Leavenworth County Road. The vehicle ran off the road just west of 187th Street, and the man fled on foot, but soon was found.

The city is the target of a lawsuit over a rezoning decision on 27 acres of land that city council members made in August. The suit will go to trial on April 7 in Leavenworth County District Court. The crux of the suit -- filed against the city by local residents Ernest L. and Ruth A. Edmonds -- is whether the city council acted properly in August when it approved rezoning for 27.5 acres of land owned by developer Greg Ward. The council OK'd a change from rural residential district to single-family district. Rural residential zoning allows for lots that are a minimum of one acre in size, while single-family district allows for lots as small as 6,000 square feet in size. The land is on the west side of Smiley Road, north of Hatchell Road. In their suit, the Edmonds cited what they say were procedural errors by the city, and their lawsuit said development of Ward's land at the new zoning density would adversely affect the area and would drive down property values.

Ward, who has said he plans single-family garden homes for empty-nesters and senior citizens, was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit in an effort to protect his interests.

A Basehor man died from injuries he received in a hit-and-run accident on Oct. 8 on Kansas Highway 32 at 166th Street. Kevin Criswell Swope, 22, was critically injured and died the following day at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. The alleged driver of the other vehicle was not tracked down for several weeks. A 34-year-old man, Brett Bidnick, was later cited for driving with a suspended license, failure to report an injury accident, failure to report an accident by quickest means and failure to render assistance to a person injured in an accident -- all misdemeanors.

Tonganoxie's recreation commission director announced he was taking another job -- as unit administrator for a U.S. Army Reserve unit in Topeka. Mark Zerrer, who began work as Tonganoxie's first full-time recreation director in 1994, has been an Army Reserve member for about 15 years. He and his family will continue to live in Tonganoxie. The recreation commission's board began a search to replace Zerrer, and in November hired Gayle Parker of El Dorado as the commission's director.

Parishioners and priests broke ground on Oct. 18 for the new Sacred Heart Catholic Church parish center. The church, which counts 365 families among its members, must expand because of growth. The new church building, which will serve many purposes, will be constructed on the west side of U.S. Highway 24-40, just south of Washington Street. The $2.1 million building is the first of three planned phases of new construction for the parish.

Residents on Rogers Road in south Tonganoxie aren't interested in paying city taxes -- while not receiving city services and being forced to drive on a sub-standard road. So they asked the Tonganoxie City Council on Oct. 27 if the council would approve a de-annexation plan. In December, city council members approved the de-annexation of four tracts of land on Rogers Road.

A Leavenworth County District Court judge ordered a full audit of the financial books at Tonganoxie Public Library. The audit should reveal the amount of money that former director Beckie Borella converted to her personal use. Borella has admitted she used library funds to purchase personal items -- about $725 worth of library money. But library board members contend the missing money is closer to $17,000. Another court hearing for Borella is set for Jan. 9.

The executive director of Leavenworth Area Development left the organization in late October with no job on the horizon. Bill Schulte, who had worked at LAD for nearly a year, said he and the group "didn't meld."

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