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Voters deny sales tax measure

Manhattan voters rejected the 0.3% sales tax initiative Tuesday.

Fifty-five percent or 4,187 people voted against the measure while 3,359 people voted in favor of it.

Now, the city has to look for alternative ways to fund six different project improvements: the Manhattan levee, Aggieville, North Campus corridor, Douglass Recreation Center, Manhattan Regional Airport runway and the city’s proposed maintenance facility.

Officials estimated the permanent sales tax would have generated $3.3 million annually to help pay for those projects.

“Without that source, we’ll have those discussions with the governing body and see what direction they’d like to go,” said Jason Hilgers, deputy city manager.

“It’s a matter of reprioritizing (those projects),” he continued.

The city will look at funding these projects through other avenues, potentially looking at property tax or other areas to fund them, such as through revenue from stormwater fees and utilities, Hilgers said.

He also said the city can decide to not pursue certain projects if it comes to that point. He said officials would seek direction from the new city commission on how to proceed.

However, some of the projects must be completed because of “aging infrastructure,” Hilgers said.

“At some point, they’ll have to be pursued,” he said.

Constitutional amendment

Riley County voters agreed with the rest of Kansas, passing a constitutional amendment to end a census practice that counts non-resident military personnel and college students residing in Kansas as living in somewhere else.

About 60% of Kansas voters approved the amendment. In Riley County, about 68% or 6,136 people voted for the measure while 2,893 voted against it.

This issue was of particular relevance to Manhattan because of Kansas State University and Fort Riley.

State alleges 130 counts of sex crimes against Bob's Diner owner

The number of crimes alleged against Bob’s Diner owner has ballooned from three to 130, according to prosecutors.

Robert Iacobellis, 60, of Manhattan, appeared via video from the Riley County Jail at a status hearing Tuesday in Riley County District Court. An attorney representing the state said that an amended complaint lists 130 offenses.

He is charged with 125 counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, three counts of aggravated criminal sodomy, one count of rape and one count of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child.

Each count is a separate alleged incident with three different victims, which are said to have occurred between 2012 to 2018. Ninety-three of the charges stem from incidents with a then 9- or 10-year-old girl, 25 counts from incidents with a then 15-year-old girl, and 12 counts from incidents with a then 11-year-old girl.

Attorney Phylemon Yau, who had been representing Iacobellis, also said the area public defenders office had submitted a motion to withdraw from representing Iacobellis because it had a conflict of interest with the new charges being filed.

Judge William Malcolm appointed attorneys Brenda Jordan and Lora Ingels to represent Iacobellis.

Malcolm continued the status hearing to 1 p.m. Nov. 12 at the courthouse.

Iacobellis remains confined in jail on a $500,000 bond.

Iacobellis’ daughter, Jamie, took out a paid ad on the front page of The Mercury on Wednesday claiming her father’s innocence. She declined to be interviewed.

The Riley County Police Department said Tuesday the case is an ongoing investigation, and anyone with information is encouraged to contact lead detective Brian Johnson at 785-473-2323.

Finding no evidence, USD 383 says it’s accusers’ burden to prove racial allegations

Nearly a month after a football game between Manhattan High School and Junction City High School, when racial slurs were allegedly made toward the Junction City cheerleaders, Manhattan-Ogden district superintendent Marvin Wade said the district’s investigation has not found any evidence to substantiate the claims.

Wade told The Mercury in an email interview Tuesday that district personnel, including Manhattan High principal Michael Dorst and athletic director Mike Marsh, have sought out and investigated every lead they’ve been given on the alleged incident but have been unsuccessful.

“They have reviewed videotape from the time and location of the alleged incident, contacted numerous eyewitnesses present in the videotape, and worked jointly with administrators from Junction City High School to ask for assistance from students, parents and staff,” Wade said. “Despite their best efforts, there has been no evidence to support claims made immediately following the game.

“While I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Dorst, Mr. Marsh and others, it is time to halt their attempts to prove innocence,” he continued. “It is time to let the burden of proof shift where it belongs — on the accusers.”

The allegations first came to light at the Geary County school board’s Oct. 21 meeting, when board member Jim Schmidt said that he had heard that Manhattan fans had hurled insults, including racial slurs, at the cheerleaders as the team was leaving the field after the game.

Schmidt also said he had heard that a referee had inappropriately told a black Junction City player, “Imagine that, another black kid complaining about something.” He also said that there were reports of a “F*** JC” chant in the parking lot after the game.

The Geary County school board voted to condemn the incidents at the Oct. 21 meeting and called on the Manhattan-Ogden school board to do the same. Members of the Manhattan-Ogden school board declined to make any statements on the incident until district administrators completed an investigation and presented them with the findings.

Dorst said on Oct. 24 that the high school was able to confirm that there were chants of “F*** JC” after the football game, and he would meet with student leadership to develop a plan to work with their Junction City counterparts to stop the chant.

At the Geary County school board meeting Monday, Junction City parent Mari Edwards tearfully told the board that she was concerned that the board and district had gone silent on the issue. While the board had briefly discussed and voted to condemn the alleged incidents, Edwards said the school district has not communicated clearly with parents about the allegations and how the district is responding.

“To ignore it is to approve of it,” she said.

Edwards said she plans to attend the Manhattan-Ogden school board’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Brighton, Santos join incumbents Edie, Herrman on USD 383 board

Two new faces and two incumbents were elected to four spots on the Manhattan-Ogden school board in Tuesday’s election.

Winners of the four open spots were newcomers Kristin Brighton, co-owner of New Boston Creative, and Brandy Santos, a stay-at-home mom and former CEO of the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association, and incumbents Curt Herrman and Darell Edie.

According to the unofficial results, Brighton led the candidates with 5,783 votes, followed by Herrman with 4,604 votes, Edie with 4,319 votes, and Santos with 3,742 votes. Candidate Joseph Dasenbrock came in fifth with 2,155 votes and was defeated in the election.

Brighton said she has prepared for the board position by attending all of the board’s meetings this year and touring the district’s schools, and she’ll start her tenure on the board in much of the same “learning and listening tour” mode, she said.

She pointed to the school board’s upcoming redistricting process, new elementary school and other bond issues as future priorities for the board, although she anticipates working with the rest of the board to start setting goals and assessing the district’s priorities.

Brighton also said she wants to make sure the board addresses the need to stay competitive in the salaries it offers its employees, especially when compared to other districts in the region. As part of her school tour, Brighton said she’d seen that every school has open positions they’ve had trouble filing.

“We have to think about being employers and making sure we provide a good place to work,” she said.

Santos said after months of anticipation before the election, she’s anxious to get started.

“We got past one hurdle, but now it’s time to get started on all the work,” she said. “I want to get in there, and not being on the board previously, I don’t know all the ins and outs. I want to spend the first few months learning and finding out core issues are being worked on and how to contribute.”

Edie said as a continuing board member, he’ll keep working on some of the board’s current issues, such as diversity, the Native American curriculum, and vaping, which he called a pressing issue ahead of the board’s planned conversation Wednesday evening on whether the district will join a lawsuit against Juul.

“We’ll continue to listen to those who voted us into office and keep everything within the correct financial lines, spend money when we have to, but make sure we don’t blow money just to blow money,” Edie said. “We want our students to graduate ready to work and ready to go on to college, and we’ll continue to work on that.”

Herrman, the board’s current president, said he expects the new board to continue to work together smoothly, and he’s appreciated the teachable moments he’s shared with the new board members in the 2017 election.

“They came to the board with new board member lenses and brought new ideas and perspectives to the district,” he said. I appreciate their hard work and it has only made us better. I think Kristin and Brandy will continue the trend of fresh perspectives yet respecting the solid foundation we have on the board.”

He said as a continuing board member, he wants to ensure the district’s students have post-graduation success, but that doesn’t necessarily mean college.

The newcomers will join the incumbents for four-year terms on the board in January alongside current members Jurdene Coleman, Karla Hagemeister and Katrina Lewison. Current board members Dave Colburn and Leah Fliter did not seek reelection.

Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley  

A fire burns Tuesday afternoon in the field at K-State’s Department of Animal Sciences and Industry.

Morse tops city race; Hatesohl, Estabrook also in

The three elected Manhattan city commissioners said they are looking forward to serving their constituents following the 2019 municipal election.

“I have worked hard and plan to keep working hard,” said incumbent Linda Morse.

Mark Hatesohl and Aaron Estabrook join Morse on the commission along with Usha Reddi and Wynn Butler. Morse and Hatesohl have four-year terms as the top two finishers. Estabrook gained a two-year term on the commission for his third-place finish.

Morse received the most votes with 3,649 (18.7% of the vote) while Hatesohl trailed behind at 3,606 votes (18.4%). Estabrook garnered 2,906 (14.8%).

“I think we had a very strong field of candidates, and I am looking forward to making Manhattan stronger,” said Estabrook, who previously served on the Manhattan-Ogden school board from 2013 to 2018.

Estabrook edged out Sarah Siders by 130 votes. Siders garnered 2,776 votes (14.2%). Kaleb James received 1,899 votes (9.7%). Maureen Sheahan trailed closely behind James at 1,895 votes (9.7%).

Mary Renee Shirk received 1,614 votes (8.2%). Vincent Tracey garnered 1,059 votes (5.4%).

All election results are unofficial.

With the 0.3% sales tax measure failing, Hatesohl, who previously served on the commission from 2003-2009, said the commission has some tough decisions to make moving forward.

“Some people are going to be upset and that comes with the territory,” he said.

He said he hopes the gap between serving as a commissioner previously and now helps him.

“Hopefully, some of that 10 years of pondering the issues will come in handy with some good ideas and good perspectives that we can bring,” Hatesohl said.

The unofficial voter turnout is up just over 5 percentage points from the 2017 municipal election as 9,699 out of 34,262 registered voters participated in this election. That is a voter turnout of 28.31%.

In the 2017 election, 8,083 out of 35,373 registered voters participated, a voter turnout of 22.84%.

Morse said she was pleased with the voter turnout during this year’s election.