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High gusts cause truck with over-sized load to overturn in Wabaunsee County

A truck carrying part of a mobile home trailer overturned on Interstate 70 in Wabaunsee County Sunday morning, blocking traffic for hours.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, a vehicle was traveling west on I-70 at Kansas Highway 99 and overturned due to high wind speeds, blocking both lanes, just before 10:30 a.m. Area forecasts reported wind gusts as high as 50 miles per hour on Sunday.

Authorities closed the westbound lanes on the interstate for a few hours, and the Kansas Department of Transportation helped direct traffic during that time.

Officials did not report any injuries.

Riley County to handle Pott County childcare licensing

The Riley County Commission on Monday approved a child care licensing contract for one year with Pottawatomie County.

The Kansas Department of Health asked Riley County to provide child care licensing program services in Pottawatomie County for a year, starting Jan. 2, because a few employees recently quit in Pottawatomie County.

KDHE is funding the work in Pottawatomie County, said Julie Gibbs, director of the Riley County Health Department, with no financial impact on Riley County.

The commission approved funding for the contract in the amount of $70,513, which helps provide a full-time surveyor and extra equipment in Pottawatomie County.

Although commissioners approved the measure, they raised concerns about taking on the services in Pottawatomie County. The commission expressed they didn’t want the state or KDHE to take advantage of Riley County and put Riley County tax dollars into Pottawatomie County services. The commission will re-evaluate after a year.

“I just want to be cautious,” said chair Ron Wells.

In other action Monday, commissioners:

  • Approved changing Lakeside Drive in the Bridge View Heights subdivision near Randolph to Lake Ridge Road.

There are two Lakeside Drive roads in Riley County, so officials said changing the name of this road will help emergency medical services reach the correct destination and alleviate confusion, said Monty Wedel, county planning and special projects director.

The public works department will install new street signs.

  • Discussed Toys for Manhattan. Commissioner Marvin Rodriguez said the organization is still looking for a building to distribute donated gifts during this holiday season. However, there are still locations throughout Manhattan where people can drop off toys and gifts to donate to the organization, said Gina Scroggs, executive director of Downtown Manhattan, Inc.
  • Listened to an update from Scroggs. She said recent events like Small Business Saturday were successful.

“Our store owners are just grateful,” she said.

Scroggs said Downtown Manhattan is preparing for the Mayor’s Spirit of the Holidays Lighted parade on Friday, which starts at 5:30 p.m. The parade starts in the downtown district and ends at Triangle Park, where Mayor Mike Dodson will light the tree.

Downtown Manhattan is also offering free horse carriage rides from Dec. 7-Dec. 22 (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only) from 5-8 p.m. this holiday season.

  • Approved Cox Communication circuit contracts for county departments, such as the noxious weed and public works departments. The county will have faster speeds and spend $1,056 less per month, said Kevin Howser, county IT/GIS director. The county must pay a one-time $500 upgrade fee.
  • Held two executive sessions, one for 15 minutes and the other for about three minutes, both on pending litigation for purpose of consultation with Clancy Holeman, county counselor and director of administrative services.

The commission did not take any formal, binding action after either of the executive sessions.

Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley  

Delegates and members of the Kansas Farm Bureau pray Tuesday before the bureau’s 101st annual meeting.

USD 383 to vote on suing e-cigarette manufacturer Juul

The Manhattan-Ogden school board will vote on suing e-cigarette manufacturer Juul for its alleged role in the national teen vaping epidemic.

The board meets 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Robinson Education Center.

The board began considering a lawsuit in early November when Eric Barton, a lawyer with Kansas City law firm Wagstaff and Carmel, LLP, and a Manhattan High School alumnus, presented the board with the option to sue the e-cigarette manufacturer.

Barton said the company’s aggressive marketing strategies have targeted minors, and the nicotine products are more efficient and addictive than regular cigarettes. Public health officials have cautioned that e-cigarette use, or vaping, carries many of the same health risks as regular cigarette use, and the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are still unknown, given the products’ recent prominence.

At Manhattan-Ogden schools, e-cigarette use has surged in the past three years, according to the Kansas Communities That Care survey, an anonymous survey administered to the district’s 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders. E-cigarette use was up to 18% at Manhattan High School in 2019, more than triple the 5.4% of high schoolers who had reported using e-cigarettes in the 30 days prior to the survey in 2017, the first year the survey was administered.

Any lawsuit against Juul would seek to recoup the district’s costs in dealing with the epidemic, including additional staff time spent on monitoring, investigating and disciplining teens who vape. Using the public nuisance legal theory, which courts have previously accepted in suits against opioid manufacturers, the district could hold Juul responsible for the negative effects resulting from their use of deceptive practices to promote addictive products that create negative impacts in the district.

With a vote to sue Juul, the school board would join several other school districts across the country in stand-alone lawsuits against the manufacturer, although the courts could grant the collective lawsuits class action status in the future, Barton said in November.

The board also will consider purchasing a 2019 Chevy Equinox for $21,636 and a 10-passenger Ford Transit van for $26,451 to transport students when using a bus isn’t feasible.

Ogden man to serve 18 months probation for drug possession, firing gun near school

An Ogden man was granted a year-and-a-half of probation on Monday after pleading to possessing methamphetamine and firing a gun near a school.

Riley County District Judge Kendra Lewison granted Justin Bauer, 41, 18 months of probation per an agreement between defense and state attorneys after he pleaded no contest to possession of a controlled substance, criminal use of a weapon and unlawful discharge of a firearm.

Lewison sentenced Bauer to underlying sentences of 10 months for the possession charge and six months each for the weapon-related charges. He will serve the remainder of his time in jail only if he violates probation terms. All sentences are running concurrently.

Officers arrested Bauer in April after they received a report of shots fired by a man with a gun walking in the 300 block of 11th Street in Ogden. Police said the man entered an occupied business and acted “erratically.” Police detained him without incident. Authorities reported no injuries.

Police closed the 200 block of Riley Avenue and locked down Ogden Elementary school temporarily because of the incident.

Authorities issued a warrant for Bauer’s arrest for drug possession after the gun arrest. The warrant indicated the drug incident in March.

Bauer also will be required to complete a drug treatment program though Bauer’s attorney said he has already started the process.

“I put myself through rehab and drug counseling before I even knew that was going to be an option,” Bauer said before his sentencing. “I knew I needed help. … I’m ultimately glad it happened because I’m drug free, and I’m just trying to be a better man.”

Lewison granted Bauer up to 20% good-behavior credit for time spent in jail, set his post-release supervision duration for 12 months, and ordered him to repay $720 in fees and court costs.

OUR NEIGHBORS | Couple aims to fight food insecurity through Manhattan Soup Kitchen

After seeing how much food is wasted in restaurants on a daily basis and nearly living in poverty themselves, Shelly and Sande Williams are fighting food insecurity in Manhattan.

The Manhattan couple recently co-founded Manhattan Soup Kitchen, an organization aiming to recover uneaten food from restaurants that would otherwise be thrown away and distributing it to existing organizations that can give it to those in need.

The Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life.

According to 2017 data from Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks, about 17.5% of Riley County’s population experiences food insecurity, which is about 5% higher than the state average. The National Resources Defense Council says 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten, equating to about 400 pounds of food thrown out per person per year.

Manhattan Soup Kitchen is a small operation as it began making weekly deliveries in mid-September, and the food handling process is essentially managed by Shelly and one other volunteer.

“We’ve seen lots and lots of trash cans fill up with leftover food, and it’s heartbreaking,” 32-year-old Shelly, an administrator at Varney & Associates, said.

“(Some of it) nobody’s ever touched it, it’s never been exposed to a customer,” 35-year-old Sande, the executive chef at K-State’s Union Station by JP’s, said. “I mean there’s just no good operations set in place for the restaurant industry and catering businesses to recycle, rescue and recover that food for a purpose.”

Part of the reason for that waste, Shelly said, is because it’s cheaper and easier to throw away food than to put more work on employees to find resources and deliver to places like food pantries when some chefs are working up to 80 hours a week.

They said there’s a disconnect between places like the local food bank, the Flint Hills Breadbasket, and groups that serve meals to people in need, such as Common Table.

“If we need to be the go-between from the Breadbasket, the Common Table, all of these nonprofits in town that are working really hard to do good things, if that go-between from the food to the table is what’s missing, then Manhattan Soup Kitchen is ready to do that,” Sande said. “Something’s broken somewhere, but we have an idea and we’re trying to fix it.”

Every Monday, Shelly and a volunteer pick up donations from two to three restaurants and bring them back to University Christian Church, where they repackage the food and sometimes cook meals.

They then deliver donations to organizations that can give out the food, most often to Pawnee Mental Health’s crisis stabilization center and the Manhattan Emergency Shelter.

Sande said even more restaurants have expressed interest in donating food, but the soup kitchen operation is still growing and has limited space and resources to store food.

Shelly said many people also have expressed interest in volunteering, but the couple wanted to get a clear handle on how they operate before bringing in others. She said the couple has never before started a business or a nonprofit, so they are learning as they go.

Sande said they are a nonprofit under the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation and can now learn how to do some of those things through its Young Trustees program.

Before, he said he would compare the experience to the puzzle game Minesweeper because they’ve explored so many leads, some of which have led to dead ends.

“You’re just walking through a minefield and boom — end of the road. Start over,” he said. “It’s like one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back.”

While the endeavor is an uphill battle, the Williamses are no stranger to overcoming struggles in their lives.

The couple, both of whom had lived in Manhattan while they were growing up, met when Shelly considered joining the U.S. Marine Corps after high school and Sande worked at the recruiting office. However, they didn’t become a couple until after Sande returned from a deployment in Iraq in 2006.

They married a year later, and moved to Chicago so Sande could attend Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, fulfilling a longtime dream of making a profession out of cooking.

It was a difficult time though, Shelly said, as they moved to the city just before the 2008 recession.

They lived in a small basement apartment, working three jobs each, and often ate beans and rice dinners on a cardboard box in their living room lit by strings of Christmas lights.

“I was working in kitchens with a couple years of experience, and the guy next to me was a 30-year executive chef who just lost his restaurant, and he’s working there as a favor because he’s an executive chef,” Sande said. “He was doing the same job I did, making $8 an hour. I didn’t stand a chance, and every place was like that.”

After they had their daughter Scarlett, now 11, Shelly said they had to rethink their life. They wanted a better future for their family, so they moved back to the Manhattan area to attend K-State. Shelly went on to receive a degree in family studies and human services and Sande a degree in business.

With the addition of their son, Seidon, 5, the Williamses said they try to spend as much time as they can together, whether that’s relaxing at home or even backpacking through Zion National Park.

“We’ve truly been blessed,” Shelly said. “We’ve had a lot of things get thrown in our path that were disastrous, but somehow, some way, we’ve made it through. We’ve just been blessed with a lot of great people in our lives.”

The Williamses said their work with the soup kitchen ultimately fulfills them, and they hope they can make an impact in tackling food insecurity.

“The food supply chain is broken,” Shelly said. “It’s from farm to fork, but there’s so many steps in the way. If we can help provide those missing links, even just in our area, that would change the structure of the food supply chain and food insecurity systems… (With Manhattan Soup Kitchen) I feel like we can actually make a difference and help real people, and that’s special to me.”