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Staff photo by Matt Lunsford  

The sun starts to sink below the horizon over Konza Prairie from the scenic overlook on Pillsbury Drive on Monday.

Pott County prepares building codes for Blue Township

Building codes for the southwestern portion of Pottawatomie County are expected to be in place effective Jan. 1.

The Pott County Commission Monday reviewed a proposed resolution enacting building codes for the rapidly-growing Blue Township Sewer District, as well as an agreement with the city of Manhattan to provide inspection services for those codes.

The proposed resolution dovetails with recently updated Manhattan codes, identifying 2018 international standards for building, electrical, plumbing, fuel gas, mechanical, residential and fire.

Under the agreement, the city of Manhattan will perform the codes inspections and collect the fees. Pott County will be responsible for enforcement of any code violations, according to County Counselor John Watt.

“The process makes sense to me to have the city of Manhattan doing that (inspection), so you are not establishing a bureaucracy with staff, and I have seen no desire from the county commission to have countywide building codes,” Watt told commissioners.

“The cost to the county is lowered substantially by going this route,” Watt said. “As of Jan. 1, hopefully we’re going to have a seamless transition into a new codes process.”

Watt and other county officials have been collaborating on the process with Manhattan officials for about a year.

Brad Claussen, Manhattan code and fire services, and Brad Hartenstein of the Flint Hills Area Builders Association, with more than 200 members in a six-county area, also attended Monday’s meeting.

Officials said initiating the building codes process six months before the proposed implementation allows all stakeholders time to prepare for the transition — from city inspectors to contractors who may need to acquire proper licensing.

The process continues next month when Peter Clark, Pott County public works director, begins gathering public input on the proposed codes by meeting with various groups, including the public-at-large.

The commission scheduled a required public hearing on the proposed resolution for 10 a.m. Sept. 9 after which it is expected to act on the resolution.

“I think it’s a process that’s definitely needed,” said Commissioner Pat Weixelman. “There are going to be some hiccups, but I think it’ll be a smooth transition.”

“I appreciate the work that everyone’s done,” said Commissioner Dee McKee via telephone. “I think it’s moving in the right direction.”

In other business Monday:

• Clark said the design of improvements to Dyer Road are 90% complete, and construction could begin late this year, depending on approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dyer Road runs south from Kansas Highway 13 across Tuttle Creek Lake Dam, east of the River Pond Area and Rocky Ford.

Improvements are to include adding shoulders, improving the sight distance at one point, and adding a pedestrian crosswalk, according to Clark.

Although it wasn’t designated as an official detour, traffic along Dyer Road almost doubled over recent months while improvements to K-13 over the Tuttle Creek spillway were underway.

Noting the increased traffic — including heavy trucks — Commission Chair Travis Altenhofen questioned if the county should seek financial assistance from the Corps for the Dyer Road improvements.

• Health Director Lisa Kenworthy reported that services provided and clients served by her department increased this fiscal year. State grants awarded for fiscal year 2020, however, were down slightly from the current fiscal year.

• Robert Reece, county administrator, said he is finalizing the budget document for fiscal year 2020, and hopes to have a proposed general fund budget for the commission’s consideration at the Monday meeting.

• Larry Sharp, representing KCAMP (Kansas County Association Multilane Pool), gave an annual review of the county’s property, casualty and liability insurance.

KCAMP insures 74 counties in Kansas, Sharp said.

• The commission set a public hearing for 10 a.m. July 29 to consider vacating Cedar Bluff Road near Havensville.

Area landowners have petitioned for the roadway vacation. The road extends into Jackson County, whose commissioners are also considering similar action, according to John Keller, county planner.

OUR NEIGHBORS | Longtime director of Ogden Friendship House of Hope to retire

After having served the Manhattan and Ogden communities for nearly 20 years through ministry, Diana Chapel is preparing to take some time for herself.

Since 2010, Chapel, 62, Ogden, has served as the director of the Ogden Friendship House of Hope, a thrift shop that sells clothes and home goods, as well as runs a food pantry for families in need. She also pastors at the Ogden Friendship United Methodist Church. While she plans to retire Monday, Chapel said she wants to get back into volunteering after a break.

Chapel said faith and helping others have been ingrained into her since she was a child. She said although her family experienced some financial issues growing up, her father taught her and her five siblings that there were people who didn’t have as much and they should help others.

“We didn’t have a lot,” Chapel said. “(My father was) a milkman, and he’d get tips at Christmas and he’d always give his tips to a family in need. Us kids, we thought, ‘Wow why are you doing that? We could’ve used that.’ But it gave us that example that you share.”

Before she worked in ministry, Chapel served in the U.S. Army for 22 years, rising to the ranks of lieutenant colonel. She retired in 2000 as a logistics officer. She joined a year into her college studies to pay for her education, eventually receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business marketing at Texas Tech University and Northwestern State University of Louisiana, respectively.

Chapel said she was one of the first women to join the 5th Infantry Division and becoming an officer was a bit of an experiment to see how well the integration would work.

Chapel said she felt pressure to do well, but she wanted to prove she could handle the responsibility not just to the Army but herself as well.

“I had the mentality I wasn’t going to fail,” Chapel said. “I was going to come up to be just as good as the guys. … There’s a saying in the Army, ‘Watch your lane.’ It’s mostly about where you’re shooting and I took care of my soldiers. I thought, ‘I cannot control what’s happening up here (on a higher level), but I’m going to take care of mine the best way I can. I’m going to watch my lane and take care of my soldiers.’”

After Chapel retired from the Army, she went on to graduate from seminary and became ordained as a minister. Chapel joined the First United Methodist Church in Manhattan and became its minister of outreach.

During that time, Chapel also helped found Sheperd’s Crossing, a nondenominational ministry that offers financial support and services to area residents, and worked with several other organizations that give back to the community.

Donna Miller said she got to know Chapel when they worked together on the First United Methodist Church’s mission committee, a group that delegated funds to mission trips.

“When Diana became our ministry liaison, we really started doing things,” Miller said. “We made baby bags for single mothers, we just got involved in all sorts of action things.

“We figured out how to raise some money. The thing about Diana, she was always with us with her sleeves rolled up. She never asked us to do something that she wasn’t already knee-deep in, and she certainly led by example.”

Throughout the 19 years she has known Chapel, Miller said she has always seen Chapel find new ways to help people or find practical uses and homes for donations. With Chapel’s help, Miller said the Ogden church feeds teachers during parent-teacher conferences, packs hundreds of Christmas boxes for children in need around the world and more.

“Diana’s mentality is so ‘A hand up instead of a hand out,’” Miller said. “She’s a very down-to-earth, common sense person.”

As she worked in the Manhattan community, Chapel said her mind always thought back to Ogden, a place she said she was curious about when she passed through while she was stationed at Fort Riley.

“I saw Ogden as another place that could maybe use something similar,” she said.

“I educated myself about what was available out there to help people and I felt I could get to Ogden, having that knowledge base. To be able to help people was something I really wanted to do.”

Although she has been at the forefront of the community for several years, Chapel said she knows the the House of Hope will be in good hands.

“I am going to miss the volunteers; they’re very dedicated,” Chapel said. “I’m going to miss the the clients, but I know my replacement (Cathy Austin) is going to do great.”

Rain bringing Tuttle Creek back to flood stage

Storms across the region this weekend are causing the water level at Tuttle Creek Lake to rise again.

The lake level on Tuesday morning was 1,132.34 feet above sea level, and the reservoir now stands at 88.2 percent full. That’s up more than 2 feet from Sunday.

Just under 3 inches of rain fell in Manhattan in the 24 hours between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, according to the K-State Weather Data Library, and another quarter inch fell Sunday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cut lake outflow from 10,000 cubic feet per second to the minimum of 200 cfs on Monday due to downstream flooding.

However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to increase outflow to 5,000 cfs Tuesday, 8,000 cfs on Wednesday and back to 10,000 on Thursday, said Tuttle Creek Lake park manager Melissa Bean of the Corps of Engineers. The outflow remained at 200 cfs Tuesday morning, but Bean said the water release from “the tubes” would increase gradually throughout the day.

Bean said because of more rainfall in the Nebraska basin last week, inflow will still be greater than outflow for those days. On Monday, Bean said the lake level was expected to rise to 1,134.72 feet by Thursday, about a foot and a half below the “magic number” of 1,136 feet.

However, the Corps updated its three-day forecast on Tuesday morning, predicting the lake would reach 1,132.8 feet on Thursday before declining slightly to 1,132.65 feet by Friday.

The intensity of the rain increased inflow into the lake to 48,200 cfs on Monday, up from 5,500 cfs a week before. On Tuesday, that inflow decreased to 18,000 cfs.

During the historic flood of 1993, inflows were at 100,000 cfs, so “this is not that same situation,” said Bean, who’s in her third year at Tuttle Creek and 15th overall with the Corps.

Waverly, Missouri, which is a key downstream gauge for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Tuttle Creek, was 9.75 feet above flood stage Tuesday, with a flow of 235,000 cfs.

The maximum height for the flood control pool at Tuttle is 1,136 feet.

The weekend rain brings the total monthly precipitation to 6.45 inches, 1.62 inches above normal for this time of year.

The total precipitation for the year is 26.29 inches, which is 9 inches above normal.

Riley County mulls 5.75% property tax hike

Riley County commissioners on Monday contemplated a 2020 budget proposal that increases taxes for the average homeowner by 5.75%.

The commissioners examined a 2.182-mill increase from the 2019 property tax rate. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value.

Riley County Budget and Finance Officer Tami Robison said the total mills proposed for 2020 are 43.098, up from 40.917 mills in 2019.

Based on a 0.4% increase in the average value of a Riley County home, the 2.182-mill increase means that a homeowner paying $470.55 in county taxes for a $100,000 home in 2019 would pay $497.61 for a $100,400 home in 2020. That’s an increase of $27.06 or 5.75%.

“You can’t continue to operate if you don’t go up. … Everything’s going up,” commissioner Marvin Rodriguez said. “We can’t do anything about the prices going up.”

The 2020 budget is $1,384 under the state-imposed tax lid of $28.32 million.

Before making a decision, the commissioners opted to view finalized budget numbers prepared by Robison at the next meeting, which is planned for Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

Additionally, commissioners approved a 242-day extension of the contract pertaining to the garage addition at the Riley County Police Department at 1001 Seth Child Road. Riley Construction Co., the contractor of the project, experienced weather delays, which sidetracked completion of the project. At this time, the project is “substantially complete,” according to the Riley County Public Works Change Order,

Also during the meeting, commissioners approved a design contract between Riley County Emergency Services Station and Cheney Construction in the amount of $72,213, which is for a new emergency services substation at the public works complex within the county.