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Staff photo by Matt Lunsford  

Crews from L&S Electric of Salina talk about how to block traffic for the next lift as they finish hanging a crossbar for the traffic signal at the corner of Poyntz Avenue and 11th Street on Wednesday. Crews hope to have the signal fully operational by July 24.

Mikey Needleman Band, K-State movie night and more

This band has been described as “all your favorite songs on shuffle,” and they will be coming home to Manhattan for this week’s Arts in the Park concert.

The Mikey Needleman Band, formed in the summer of 2006 in Manhattan, performs the classics of the 50s, 60s and 70s, but will throw in some energetic tunes from the 80s and 90s, as well as some throwback country hits, poppy hip-hop jams or catchy fresh originals.

The band will play a free concert at 8 p.m. Friday at the Larry Norvell Band Shell in City Park.

Bring a blanket or chair, but seating is also provided.

Since its first Aggieville show in 2006, the Mikey Needleman Band has played more than 1,000 performances throughout the country. Now in Kansas City, the Mikey Needleman Band continues to be a staple in the Midwest music scene with their high-energy, sing-along/dance-along style of musical performances.

For information about the band, visit

Here’s a look at other area events.


Pre-K Storytime Stars, 10 a.m.

Family Fun Storytime, 11 a.m. Saturday.

For a complete list of storytimes and events, visit

Manhattan Public Library.

Gallery Opening and Reception for “Prairie Perspective: Two Journeys” featuring Kelly Yarbrough Frasier and Marsha Jensen, 5-7 p.m.

Artists Yarbrough Frasier and Jensen explore their prairie home in this exhibit of mixed media drawings and hand woven baskets. Exhibit runs through August 10, with a Gallery Talk at 6 p.m. August 7.

Manhattan Arts Center.

Paint & Sip: Kayak on the Kansas, 6:30 p.m.

Also Howl at the Moon, 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Tuttle Falls, 4 p.m. Sunday.

For information and to register, visit

Uncorked Inspiration.

Sheldon Edelman One Act Play Festival, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Featuring five plays by Kansas playwrights.

For tickets, visit or call 785-537-4420.

Manhattan Arts Center.

Astronomy Night, 8-11 p.m.

Join the Flint Hills Discovery Center off-site for exploration of the night sky with high-powered telescopes. Make fun crafts and learn about the universe.

For information, visit

Landshark Music Series: Slow Burn, 8 p.m.

Coco Bolos.


Downtown Farmers Market, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. in Dillard’s parking lot.

Also 4-7 p.m. in the Via Christi parking lot.

Featuring homegrown vegetables, local meat, home baked goodies, local arts and crafts and much more.

Westmoreland Summer Bash, all day.

Featuring games, activities, food, entertainment, street dance, and more.

For information, visit


Couples Canvas: Sunset of Love, 6 p.m.

For information and to register, visit

Straight Upp Creative Studio.

Aggieville’s Summer Olympics, 6 p.m.

For tickets and information, search for the event on Facebook.

Redd & Blue, 9 p.m.

Auntie Mae’s.


K-State Athletics Movie Night: “Incredibles 2,” 7 p.m.

Free, hosted by the Junior Wildcats Club.

Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Riley County to publish budget with 5.7% property tax increase

One Riley County commissioner still isn’t satisfied with it, but the 2020 budget is in its final stages with a 5.7% increase in the average homeowner’s property taxes.

The budget calls for $28.3 million in property tax revenues in 2020, with an increase of 2.148 mills to 43.062 mills in the property tax rate.

A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property.

Based on a 0.4% increase in the average value of a house in Riley County, the 2.148-mill increase means that a homeowner paying $470.55 in 2019 county taxes for a $100,000 house in 2019 would pay $497.23 for a $100,400 home in 2020. This is an increase of $26.68 or 5.67%.

Tami Robison, budget officer, said most of the increase is due to nearly $1 million in emergency radio network infrastructure costs and $638,000 in an extra payroll period the county has to pay in 2020 due to the timing of how the county pays its employees.

Commission chairman Ron Wells said although the radio infrastructure costs and the extra payroll pose a financial difficulty for the commission’s budgeting process, he considered them legitimate reasons for a budget increase.

Under state law, once the county publishes notice of public hearing in the newspaper, the commission is bound to the published figure as the maximum budget they can pass that year. They can still make further cuts, however, at the public hearing and before the budget is due to the county clerk on Aug. 25. The public hearing is scheduled for July 29.

Commissioner John Ford said he still wasn’t satisfied with the budget, saying he wanted to see less of an increase, if any, in the budget. Wells challenged Ford to specify areas of the budget to cut, and county clerk Rich Vargo pointed out that any further cuts would come at a loss of public services the county could provide.

Ford ultimately voted to publish the budget along with the other commissioners after Vargo explained that the commission can make further cuts after publication.

Ford said he would take the next couple of weeks to analyze the budget to find more potential cuts.

The commission also voted to dispose of its four wind turbines at the county public works facility. BlueSky Wind will dismantle all four turbines at no cost the county and remove three of them. The fourth turbine’s materials will be left onsite for Airstream Renewables to pick up and use as part of its education program at Fort Riley.

The county first installed the turbines at its public works facility in 2011 using a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

But ever since the turbines’ warranties and maintenance contracts expired a few years ago, the wind turbines and their repair costs have collectively cost the county more than what they’ve saved, and county officials estimate the combined value of the turbines is now under $50,000.

In 2018, the county explored keeping at least one of the turbines and selling the others, but that option would have required paying someone else to remove them.

I WONDER | Why did the rain totals last week vary so much?

Q: I checked my rain gauge after the storm on the Fourth of July, and it said we’d gotten more than 4 inches, but when I checked the paper, it said Manhattan had only gotten 2 inches. How can there be such a big difference?

A: Based on anecdotal reports from Facebook, there were huge differences in the amount of rain that fell in different parts of town early on Independence Day.

Some people said their gauges indicated more than 6 inches, while official reports said it was only 2 inches.

According to the Kansas Weather Data Library, the gauge on campus had 2.07 inches between 7 p.m. July 3 and 7 a.m. July 4. Some places had 3, 3.5 or 3.7 inches for the same period. North of Riley, an official gauge showed 1.8 inches, and near the dam the total was 2.73.

K-State climatologist Mary Knapp said that kind of variance actually isn’t terribly unusual.

“Oh yeah, all it takes is one storm blowing up over an area, and it doesn’t move much,” she said. “When that happens, one spot gets very heavy rains and another doesn’t. You could be literally on the other side of the street and get very different amounts.”

She said such disparities are especially common with “convective” storms.

“That’s where the heating of the day increases the evapotranspiration, so you get these clouds bubbling up over one area,” she said. “If you’re in one area, you might get a bunch of different rain totals.”

Another thing that contributes to apparent differences in precipitation is the type of gauge people use. Different types can give different results. And if people don’t empty them, it can skew results.

She said the weather data library uses CoCoRaHS gauges. CoCoRaHS stands for Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Knapp said people can join the network and get their own gauge (

To submit a question, send by email to, or by regular mail to Questions, P.O. Box 787 Manhattan, KS 66505.

Staff photo by Morgan Clarke  

Jim Sherow, distinguished professor of history at K-State and former Manhattan mayor, speaks to a group of people about his new book, “The Chisholm Trail,” at the Riley County Seniors’ Service Center in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Former Kansas State WR Hunter Rison enters guilty plea in battery case

Former Kansas State wide receiver Hunter Rison pleaded guilty to one count of battery Wednesday in Riley County District Court.

Judge Grant Bannister imposed a 30-day jail sentence and immediate probation, scheduled to end Dec. 19 should Rison meet the terms of the agreement.

Bannister ordered Rison to have no contact with the victim or the victim’s family. Further, Rison is not permitted to follow the victim on any social media platform, nor use any of his personal social media accounts to deny or attempt to mitigate responsibility for his guilt in the matter.

Rison was assessed court costs of $158 and a supervision fee of $60. His plea agreement Wednesday meant Rison waived his right to a jury trial, which was slated for July 30.

Riley County Deputy Attorney Barry Disney said on or about April 15 to 16, Rison went to the victim’s apartment and struck her with an open hand. Rison pleaded guilty and did not object to what was stated.

Disney noted he had been in contact with the victim — who The Mercury isn’t identifying because of the nature of the crime — and the victim’s family earlier Wednesday, and they gave their blessing for Bannister to forge ahead with Rison’s sentencing without them being in attendance.

Rison’s defense attorney, Barry Clark, said Rison’s mother had planned to be at her son’s next hearing, but that the plea agreement came together so quickly it was impossible to make it to Manhattan in time.

“My client’s mother would tell you she’s proud of her son for taking responsibility for his action here,” Clark said, adding that part of the punishment that wasn’t written in the plea deal “cost him his ability to play football at K-State” and hindered his future in the sport, at least in the short term.

“He’s learning from the past,” Clark said.

Rison apologized to the victim and the victim’s family, Bannister, the prosecutor and “everyone else” affected by his actions. He did not go into further detail about his prior relationship, other than deeming it “toxic.”

“But it doesn’t excuse what I did,” said Rison, who arrived wearing a K-State blazer with the Powercat logo, glasses and dyed-blond hair.

Rison was arrested by the Riley County Police Department at 1:56 p.m. April 19 in the 2200 block of College Avenue. He was charged with one count of domestic battery/knowing or reckless bodily harm to family/person in dating relationship. Rison was freed after posting his $1,000 bond.

One day after the arrest, K-State head football coach Chris Klieman announced Rison’s indefinite suspension from the team. Klieman cited the reason for the suspension as a “violation of team and departmental policy,” and did not mention the arrest.

“Our program will be one that is built on hard work and integrity and doing things the right way,” Klieman said in a release. “We have extremely high expectations for our players on and off the field.”

Rison entered his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal June 18.

On June 30, Rison announced he was transferring to Fullerton College, a community college in Fullerton, California.

“I appreciate everyone that has reached out to me during this process,” Rison tweeted. “I will be attending Fullerton CC to play for the Hornets this upcoming fall semester.”

A rising third-year sophomore, Rison was expected to be a key cog in the Wildcats’ aerial attack this fall.

He joined K-State as a transfer last year after starting his college career at Michigan State. In his only season with the Spartans in 2017, Rison played in 12 games, logging 18 receptions for 223 yards. His signature performance at Michigan State came against Notre Dame, when he set career highs for receptions (four) and receiving yards (73).

The son of former first-round NFL draft pick and five-time Pro Bowl receiver Andre Rison, Hunter Rison had earned praise from Klieman after the Wildcats’ final spring practice session at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on April 13.

“He has a world of ability, and I am excited to see, just like everybody else, when we reinstall all of this stuff when we get to August, how much retention everybody has so that they just play faster,” Klieman said. “It is sometimes difficult to tell how talented a young man is if they do not know what they are doing. Now they are starting to get the understanding of our schemes, offensively and defensively. They will continue to do that themselves with practices this spring and summer, but when we get into August and we reinstall it as coaches, I will look for really quantum leaps from a lot of guys.”

As Rison moves forward, Bannister imparted some advice in his concluding comments.

“I recognize that there may be certain things that cannot be undone,” he said. “But the best way to address (this) is going forward and not repeating, in any fashion, the type of actions you’ve acknowledged here today.”

Riley County purchases new shooting range location

The Riley County Commission on Thursday approved buying 170 acres of an old dump for a new shooting range for the Riley County Police Department.

The $374,000 acquisition from Tarkio CD Disposal puts to bed the county’s difficulties over the past five years to find a new site for the range.

The site of the land, near the intersection of Zeandale and Tabor Valley roads, is also adjacent to the current firing range, Clancy Holeman, county counselor, said. The new site is directly north of the current range.

“It gives us more property, since the current site is about 90 acres,” Holeman said. “We’re leaving the current lease in place while the new site is made ready, whenever that happens. We anticipate it might be close to the end of the term of the lease (on the current range), but it just depends on the weather.”

The new property is described as a closed construction and demolition landfill in the purchase agreement.

The county had pursued several options, including keeping its current range, which it has leased for the past 25 years. In November, the county had considered using eminent domain to force the current range’s land owner to sell the land, but opted instead to push off any action by extending the lease through June 30, 2020.

In May, the commission approved $1.5 million in funding for the range, but that funding did not include any specific land purchases or construction costs.