Some interesting ideas have shown up for making downtown Iola more walkable. For instance, bulb-outs. An ugly name for a feature that's not only safer but can be rather pretty. It simply means extending the curb line out from the sidewalk at a crosswalk, to the depth of a parked car on both sides of the street. That makes the crosswalks shorter and tends to slow traffic a little, making crossing safer. Because they give a little space for landscaping, the bulb-outs can be used as part of the overall beautification plan, which includes storefront benches, trees that would serve as ideal gathering points and sidewalk pavers that would create a durable, attractive walking surface. It's still an idea at this point, presented last week at the Vision Iola update meeting.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The Allen Community College Endowment Association Dinner and Auction is this Saturday at the American Legion Building in Iola. The group says the silent Auction starts at 5:00, followed by dinner at 6:30 and the live auction at 8:00. Tickets are $12.50 per person and can be purchased at the door or by calling the Endowment Office. Auction items include KSU football tickets, Kansas Speedway tickets, KSU basketball signed by 2010 Elite Eight Team, KU basketball signed by 2010 team, Dale Earnhardt Jr. autographed photo and many other items donated by local and area businesses and individuals.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
One area school district is close to making administrative cuts as it prepares for the bad news from Topeka about next year's school funding. Marmaton Valley has only three administrators, and board members have not decided which of the three will go. However, the plan is to eliminate the position of superintendent, and have the two building principals jointly handle superintendent duties. One would be designated the superintendent and the other would be the assistant, at least as far as the district's org chart is concerned. Whether both principals will be retained or one will be let go to keep Superintendent Nancy Myer on board is a decision the board is holding off making. The board says it's the only way they see to cut enough money from the budget to match what they'll be getting form the state.
Community Blood Center’s is holding a blod drive in Iola today from noon to 6 at the North Community Building. Officials with Community Blood Center, which supplies Allen County Hospital's blood needs, say donations are always needed to keep the supply up. Blood donors must provide identification, be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Walk-ins are welcome.
The declining student trend that's hurting Iola is helping Humboldt, where some new students moving into the district after school started are giving school board members a little cushion in the budget for the current year. By the time of the official count date last fall, Humboldt's enrollment was 528 full-time students. The budget was built based on 495. That means the district will receive, in the form of those school-aid payments the state has deposited late the last six months, and extra 84-thousand dollars it had not budgeted for. Using that money requires a formal amendment to the budget, which has two months left. That amendment is to be published this week and ready for approval by the May board meeting or a special meeting before then.
When legislators return to Topeka in two weeks, USD 257 board members will be holding their breath just like other districts across the state, waiting on final budget decisions until the Legislature decides how badly the budget damage will affect schools. In Iola's case, it's somewhere between $330-thousand, which the district will lose through a combination of lower enrollment and increased costs. and just over 900-thousand dollars in a worst-case scenario. The district has lost 1.1-million dollars in state aid the past two school years.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Area law enforcement agencies are on the lookout for a man who led Allen county authorities on a high-speed chase after they tried to apprehend him on a Neosho county warrant. 25-year old Garrett Cleaver is facing arrest on a charge he of involuntary manslaughter from a traffic accident in which a person was killed. When local officers raided his South Kentucky street home early Tuesday, he fled to his pickup truck and sped off, leading officers on a chase eventually called off near Elsmore due to excessive speed. Undersheriff Bryan Murphy says Cleaver’s truck is a black Dodge quad cab with a 30-day license tag. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is encouraged to call the sheriff’s office, 365-1400.
Allen County's unemployment picture improved from January to February, but like other area counties, is still worse than last year. County-by-county numbers from the Kansas Department of Labor show Allen, Neosho and Wilson counties all above the statewide average, and all improving from January to February. In Allen county, 7.6-percent of people were unemployed, down from 7.9-percent in January and up from 7.3-percent a year ago. In Neosho County, the jobless rate fell to 8.9 percent, down from 9 percent in January. It was 8.5 percent in February 2009. In Wilson county, the unemployment rate stood at 9.8 percent in February, down from 10.3 percent in January but up from 9.2 percent in February 2009. Statewide, the unemployment rate in February was 6.8 percent.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The Chanute Aquatic Center will cost somewhat bit less to run this year, after city commission members approve a new contract for pool management. Total costs in the contract are a bit over 147-thousand dollars, compared to the 216-thousand dollars they thought they'd have to spend. The reduced costs are in labor, the most expensive portion of the contract. By adjusting the original hours, which were to have been noon to 8pm daily, to start later and end earlier, the costs of the contract through August 15th were pared. The new hours will be 1pm to 7:30pm daily.
Think your bills are complicated? How about an electric bill that measures in inches, not pages? Moran officials say that's been what they've been receiving since Westar's latest rate calculation change for how it bills municipalities for purchased power. They also believe there are discrepancies, but the bill is so complex they can't track them down. So the council has approved hiring a consultant who specializes in untangling the spaghetti bowl and making it understandable for local officials. Then, maybe, Moran officials can decide how to pass their increased costs on to power users in the community.
More than 600 voters turned out yesterday to make known their position on how many people should be on Iola's governing body. The overwhelming choice: four council members and a mayor, which received 291 votes, or 45-percent of all ballots cast. The other options -- a 7-member council including the mayor and a nine-member body including the mayor -- each received 179 votes, or a bit over 27-percent. While the election was advisory, several commission members have said they will follow the will of the voters expressed yesterday. Balloting for Iola Mayor: Bill Maness received 353 votes and there were 60 write-ins for various candidates. In Moran, Jerry Jackman was the highest vote-getter in the council race, with 52 votes. Michael Holman received 50 votes, and Jerry Wallace was chosen by 32 voters. 14 write-ins for various candidates were recorded. Results will be official following the vote canvass on Friday.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
A little bit of work will create a bit larger traffic headache in Yates Center starting next week. Concrete reconstruction work on one block of U.S. 75 in Yates Center will include traffic signals at both ends so cars can be let through one direction at a time. The project, to be one by Beachner Construction Company of St. Paul, will cost about 295-thousand dollars. It starts next Monday and should be complete in July. During that time the concrete pavement, curb and gutters will be removed, the roadbed stabilized, and new concrete poured. The cost is being paid by the federal stimulus act.
By last Friday afternoon, many people were already putting out piles of limbs and branches felled by the severe windstorm. The city announced yesterday it will combine pickup of the storm debris with spring cleanup week, coincidentally scheduled this week. You do have to pile the limbs and other greenery separately, as landfill regulations require them to be handled separately for other waste. Because of the storm timing, you'll have until the end of the week, when the pickup is supposed to end, to make separate piles for pickup.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Don't forget, tomorrow when you go to the polls you have two stops to make. Separate voting places are being used for the regular city election and for the special question concerning the size of the Iola City Commission. The special location for that non-binding question is the First Baptist Church. The options are five members, seven members or nine members, including the mayor. You won't be deciding whether the body is a commission or a council, only the number of representatives. Vote at your regular polling places for the election for city offices.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Heavy weather rolled through the area this morning, causing quite a bit of damage from straight-line winds. Allen county was under a severe thunderstorm warning for about 30 minutes, as the leading edge of an area of storms moved through packing 50-70 mile per hour measured winds. Allen county Emergency Management reports numerous homes with roof damage and trees damaged, along with a chimney collapsing on a home just south of Iola. At least one person was trapped in a car after a tree fell on it. But no one was hurt. It appears that the storms were dying out as they passed over Iola and the damaging winds may have come from a downburst, caused when cold air aloft in a storm falls to the ground as the storm collapses.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
To try and win Google's favor in the ultra-high speed broadband race, Topeka changed its name. Now, as an April Fools joke, Google has turned the tables. Visitors to google.com are greeted by the single word Topeka, stylized in Google's trademark color scheme. On a document linked from the page, Google GEO Eric Schmidt continues the ruse, while giving readers what appears to be a largely-truthful account of Topeka's history. Of course, a link near the bottom of that page lets readers in on the joke. Google has played an annual April Fools joke of this type for several years, and even services such as GMail are getting into the game, with a farce report of a "vowel outage" earlier today. Google says -- we can't tell if they're serious -- that Topeka should not think its selection as April Fools fodder means anything at all about whether the name-change stunt is working to get the city chosen for high-speed broadband.
You'll be getting something in the mail soon that you may not want, but will be important nonetheless. The annual property valuation notices will be mailed today, according to Allen county officials. Appraiser Sandy Drake says you can look for a small increase in appraised values, averaging 2.8 percent. However, the county's total property value might not increase, even with the small appreciation in individual parcels. Taken together, the land and other real property in Allen county is appraised at 91-million dollars.