2016: A year of changes in Tonganoxie
Another year has come and gone, but it was one of noticeable change in Tonganoxie.
Here’s a look at our selections for the top five stories of 2016:
Army Reserve Center, other projects
Planning has been a long time in the making, but a groundbreaking finally took place in December for the Army Reserve Center south of Tonganoxie. The $12.5 million center, which will be constructed along U.S. Highway 24-40, will cover nearly 30,000 square feet with an additional 1,600 square-foot storage facility on 19.5 acres of land.
U.S. Army Col. Kurt F. Wagner, Directorate of Public Works director for the 88th Regional Support Command, said the location was selected because it was close to Kansas City, a major recruiting area.
But it also was far enough away that the rural setting allows for plenty of room to maneuver large military equipment.
The ARC is slated for completion in 2019. Once finished, it’s expected to employ a mix of 12 full-time military and civilian employees.
It’s also expected to bring in 250 military personnel for training two weekends out of the month.
The ARC is one of many projects happening in Tonganoxie.
Optometrists Richard Dean and Katie Volk have moved from the downtown area to the northwest corner of Fourth and U.S. Highway 24-40, but a slew of other new businesses are popping up as well, or in the process of being constructed:
• Unilock, a landscape paver company, will be moving into the Tonganoxie Business Park. That company will be at Leavenworth County Road 1 and 222nd Street just south of Kansas Avenue.
• Brunswick Ballroom, an event space for weddings and other celebrations, has opened in the former Bichelmeyer’s Steakhouse at Fourth and Bury streets.
• Magdalenas Venue and Salon, 304 E. Fourth St., is in the former Good Shepherd building.
• Kathy’s Kottage, a craft boutique at 120 Hatchell Road, offers craft classes and merchandise. Retired teacher Kathy Link runs it.
• The Beauty Bar, 414 E. Fourth St.
• Blush Salon and Spa and Melissa Rieke Photography, will be opening in the former Lenahan Hardware in the 500 block of Fourth Street.
City of Tonganoxie and USD 464 both had their top administrators step down.
Lyn Rantz resigned in February, effective in June, as 464 superintendent, while Nathan McCommon resigned as city manager a few months ago to take a similar position in the Seattle area.
Rantz now is head of school at Topeka Collegiate. She came to Tonganoxie in 2014, while McCommon was hired on in 2012.
Chris Kleidosty, originally from Valley Falls, became Tonganoxie’s latest 464 superintendent. Jamie Shockley is serving as acting city manager.
A new city manager likely will be hired in the coming weeks, as the City Council has started the finalist process.
Longtime county employee Doug Smith won the Leavenworth County Commission Third District primary, while Jim Karleskint won the Kansas House District 42 race in the Aug. 2 primary.
Smith, Leavenworth County’s roads and bridges superintendent, won a four-person race with 42 percent. He had 1,020 votes, more than 400 votes ahead of his closest opponent and incumbent Dennis Bixby (617 votes, 25 percent) in the Republican primary.
Basehor’s John Matthews came in fourth (532 votes, 29 percent) and Tonganoxie’s Bev Hill fourth (282, 11 percent).
Incumbent Connie O’Brien, R-Tonganoxie, first elected in 2008, had staved off re-election challenges in past general elections. But last week, a Republican challenger unseated her in the Kansas House 42nd District primary by just more than 50 votes.
Karleskint defeated Tonganoxie City Council member Kara Reed in the general election with 62 percent of the vote.
Other notable state races in Leavenworth County saw Democratic challenger Jeff Pittman oust Republican incumbent Tony Barton in the House 41st District and Democrat Debbie Deere beating Republican incumbent John Bradford in the House 40th District.
Republican incumbent Steve Fitzgerald, meanwhile, won by just 500 votes in the Senate’s 5th District race against challenger Bill Hutton.
Willie Dove won re-election in the 38th district with 58 percent ahead of Democrat and Tonganoxie High School graduate Mike Fonkert (35 percent) and Libertarian Frederick Caleb Christopher (7 percent).
Tonganoxie turned 150 with a legitimate community-wide celebration.
Bands, vendors, food and more entertainment filled the downtown area and made Gallagher Park a hub of activity. The city now is looking to continue with a Tongaonxie Days festival and a sunflower festival in the current plans moving forward.
Tonganoxie now has a new City Hall building and police station in former buildings.
The former Tan Time in the 500 block of Fourth Street was transformed into city offices in the former Post Office.
The police, meanwhile, moved into the former Cornerstone Family Worship church at Sixth and Church streets. The police decision came after years of discussion and other possibilities that fell through, including repurposing another building in Urban Hess that became the new Leavenworth County Annex earlier this year.
Options to build new and share with other city agencies never materialized, and the city eventually settled on the church.
In February, the Tonganoxie School Board approved, 6-1, the sale of the former elementary school for $76,000 to Pat Sudler of Kansas City, Kan.
Since then, a group of Tonganoxie investors came together and is looking to purchase the property. Part of those plans also are to utilize some of the property for a new library.