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Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley  

Andrea DeJesus, owner of A+H Farm, walks with Bruce Eskew, 5, holding a watermelon, and Isaac Eskew, 4, through the watermelon patch on Wednesday.

Investment, development company to upgrade homes at Fort Riley

A national development company has announced it will invest $325 million to upgrade and modernize housing at Fort Riley, as well as five other military installations across the country.

Corvias, which partners with higher education and government institutions to help address issues in their communities, said last week that the money will be put into its Department of Defense portfolio to fund modernization and resiliency improvements to its U.S. Army base housing infrastructure, upgrading about 16,000 homes.

Of the 26,000 homes Corvias manages across 13 installations, most are 40 to 60 years old, with some dating back to 1870.

Officials will start the project by assessing homes and prioritizing the ones that need the most work. Corvias said this will save an estimated $300 million over 30 years, mainly due to more efficiency from upgrading “critical” existing homes, technology upgrades that help with proactive maintenance and monitoring, and reduced energy use.

Corvias worked with partners to develop the direct capital investment structure in support of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative at no cost to the government. Congress enacted the initiative in 1996 to leverage private-sector capital to reverse the military’s backlog of deferred maintenance by expanding and modernizing housing.

Corvias founder John Picerne said in a statement that the investment will allow the company to better inform predictive maintenance needs and monitoring, as well as make improvements to the resiliency and sustainability of its housing and utility infrastructure.

“We have been working on this investment plan for more than 18 months, long recognizing that significant revitalization is necessary to provide high-quality military housing, and increased interest and visibility proved that we are on the right track,” Picerne said. “The failed status quo — repairing and maintaining aging and outdated facilities — must be replaced by innovation and modernization.”

Coffee shop to open at Manhattan Regional Airport

When Adrianne Meyer and her boyfriend, Frederick Ustoltseff, were stranded at Manhattan Regional Airport last December, they found themselves with a dilemma.

An ice storm delayed their flight to Dallas, which left them with no choice but to wait at the airport with growling stomachs and thirsts to quench.

The couple hatched the idea to solve this problem — no place to eat or drink at the airport — by opening Bandit Coffee + Café to serve hungry and thirsty travelers, as well as the general public. It is opening Monday.

“For us, we’re just kind of excited that this idea is just coming to life,” Meyer said. “It was something that we were planning to do and wanted to do. We didn’t plan on it being here at all.”

The couple started the business online three years ago, selling coffee beans and grounds. The Bandit location in the airport is the first physical space to open, Meyer said.

Bandit Coffee + Café will be open from 4:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Travelers can order after going through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint, and non-travelers can order drinks and food via an ordering station outside of the checkpoint.

The Manhattan City Commission approved a three-year lease with Bandit Coffee and Café in May. The company will pay $700 in rent and 2.5% of its sales to the city each month.

The airport had been seeking a food vendor since completing its terminal expansion in December 2016.

Bandit’s coffee is sourced from Peru, Meyer said. The beans are low-acid, roasted in small batches and are grown in high altitude.

“Our quality of coffee is really like the top-of-the-line coffee,” Meyer said.

Because of the beans’ low acidity, individuals with Crohn’s disease or those that experience acid reflux can enjoy a cup without unwanted side effects, Meyer said.

In addition to beverages, the café also will feature food from Mr. K’s Cafe, such as sandwiches and breakfast items. All dairy products used are from Hildebrand Farms Dairy in Junction City.

As a Hanover native, Meyer said it is important for Bandit to work with local businesses.

The couple relocated to Manhattan from Los Angeles to open Bandit Coffee + Café. Ustoltseff has a background in the medical field, Meyer said. The couple met in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Meyer said she has received questions about the origin of the café’s name.

“The Bandit is that person you become once you have that cup of coffee,” she said. “It’s that person that comes out when it’s game time.”

Court of Appeals finishes Constitution Day at K-State with two cases

The Kansas Court of Appeals heard cases on a drug arrest and teacher pay dispute Tuesday afternoon as part of its Constitution Day celebration at K-State’s Forum Hall.

The traveling court hears cases across the state but makes a special effort to hear cases at schools during September and particularly on Constitution Day. Tuesday’s three-judge panel consisted of Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger and judges Henry Green Jr. and Michael Buser. The panel heard two cases in the morning and two cases in the afternoon.

The third case of the day, State of Kansas v. Erika Yazmin Arceo-Rojas, involved a Fourth Amendment question relating to a drug-enforcement traffic stop on I-70 in Geary County in 2016.

Arceo-Rojas and a passenger were driving in the left-hand lane of the highway for approximately three miles when Geary County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Justin Stopper stopped her for driving in the passing lane too long.

At the traffic stop, Stopper issued Arceo-Rojas a warning, but he claimed to have noticed that Arceo-Rojas was acting nervous and that a strong fragrance was coming from the car. Arceo-Rojas also claimed to have been traveling from Washington state to Columbus, Ohio, and Stopper said he found those travel plans inconsistent, especially since they were traveling in a five-day rental car.

After he issued the warning, Stopper took a few steps back to his car before turning around and explaining that he was a drug interdiction officer, and he asked Arceo-Rojas if he could search her car. Arceo-Rojas refused but was detained anyway, and a drug dog found marijuana in the car. She was later convicted of two felonies, despite her motion to suppress the evidence.

Arceo-Rojas’ lawyer, Randall Hodgkinson, argued that the stop was unconstitutional and amounted to an unreasonable search and seizure. He said Stopper’s reason for pulling Arceo-Rojas over — driving too long in the passing lane — was a not a legitimate reason to start questioning her.

Hodgkinson’s second point of contention was that even though Arceo-Rojas had declined to Hopper’s search, he continued to detain her after he had already told her she was free to go. Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger called Hopper’s actions a “Columbo pivot” — referring to the titular character of the 1970s police procedural “Columbo.”

Tony Cruz, representing the state, argued that Hopper had both reasonable grounds to initiate the stop and continue it based on his observations in speaking with Arceo-Rojas. Cruz said that it didn’t matter that Hopper had already told Arceo-Rojas she could leave, as he was lying and had already established reasonable enough suspicion to search her car even without her consent.

The fourth case the court heard centered around a contractual dispute between the Geary County Board of Education and the Junction City Education Association.

In 2017, administrators at Junction City High School required several English teachers to teach a remedial reading class twice per week during their seminar periods, which teachers Dustin Delehanty and William Gies Jr. believed entitled them to additional compensation per their contracts.

Vincent Cox, appearing on behalf of Delehanty, Gies and the Junction City Education Association, argued that the reading assignment amounted to duties beyond their agreed upon responsibilities. He said that although the teachers were English teachers, they were not reading specialists and had to take additional training to prepare for the work. The teachers initially appealed through the contract-mandated hearing process with the school board, then appealed to district court, which sided with the school board.

The school board, represented by Mark Edwards, argued that since the teachers were only given the additional responsibilities twice a week, that didn’t amount to a regular, additional and daily class as defined in the contract’s definition of circumstances, which result in additional compensation.

Additionally, the board argued that the board properly acted as a quasi-judicial entity in reviewing the case, and that the district court should not have heard the original appeal because the appellants abandoned their original reason for appeal.

The panel will deliberate on all four cases from Tuesday and will likely issue opinions in the next few weeks.

City OKs e-scooter ordinance

People won’t be allowed to ride electric scooters on sidewalks in Aggieville and downtown, according to an ordinance passed Tuesday by Manhattan city commissioners.

The ordinance defines the rules for using electric scooters (e-scooters) and other micromobility devices such as electric bicycles, electric skateboards and hoverboards.

The ordinance the commission approved prohibits riding these devices on sidewalks or plaza areas in downtown Manhattan and Aggieville. The ordinance does not allow the devices in city-owned parking garages or lots.

People can ride them on sidewalks elsewhere in town as long as they yield to pedestrians. They can also ride them on the streets; the rules are the same as they are for bicycles.

The commission addressed this issue after the Kansas Legislature amended the state’s traffic ordinance this year to include e-scooter usage.

Gina Scroggs, executive director of Downtown Manhattan, wondered how the city will enforce the regulations.

She said there are “common occurrences” of bikes colliding with pedestrians on sidewalks when leaving stores.

“We have signs on all of our corners,” she said. “People just continue to use their wheels on the sidewalks.”

Scroggs said business owners can self-police, but they rely on ordinances and enforcement.

“Nobody’s totally against this,” Scroggs said. “It’s just how is this going to be regulated? How are these things going to be enforced? Are we going to remain the walking district that we’ve worked so hard to become?”

The ordinance passed by the commission doesn’t affect the K-State campus, but university officials spoke about using the city’s policy to guide their own.

Linda Cook, chief of staff and director of community relations at Kansas State University, spoke on behalf of the university, stating that she already sees e-scooters and e-skateboards on campus.

“So they’re coming. And it’s an attraction for young people,” Cook said. “And maybe some not so young people. We have some faculty that want this as well.”

Cook acknowledged that the devices are environmentally friendly.

“But it does help with that short trip when you don’t have parking places,” Cook said. “It’s an environmentally efficient type of device to get around the one-mile trip that you need to make.”

Cook also raised concerns about safety and parking on campus.

“But where we are, and we want to get behind this, and work with the city, allow them on campus, but we want to work out the ordinances or regulations that we would have on campus that would really focus on pedestrian and rider safety, particularly head injuries,” Cook said.

The Associated Press reported in June that there have been at least 11 e-scooter deaths in the United States since 2018.

Cook said the university needs to provide the correct parking for the devices, which depends on the specific company, she said. She said the university does not want electric devices in congested areas of campus, and also wants to regulate speeds.

She also stated the university will not enter into any contracts with any of the device companies, and let the city do that work.

K-State Student Body President Jansen Penny said a survey was recently sent out to students, and 75% of the 400 respondents supported implementation of a policy. He said 16% were indifferent to the idea.

He said over 50% of respondents said they would use an e-scooter multiple times a week.

Commissioner Usha Reddi expressed interest in gathering feedback from other universities and cities that have implemented electric device policies to learn from their experiences.

In other action Tuesday, commissioners:

  • Adopted the state’s Standard Traffic Ordinance. This ordinance maintains that traffic regulations are the same across Kansas, no matter what city a person is in.

Wes Garrison, assistant city attorney, said the Riley County Police Department and other city departments reviewed the ordinance. No entities expressed negative feedback about the ordinance, Garrison said.

  • Approved adding a construction manager at-risk to work with the Aggieville parking garage. This position assists with streamlining the building process with all entities, said Jason Hilgers, deputy city manager.

In order to select a person to fill that position, commissioner Wynn Butler is serving on the selection committee.

Hilgers said the public can discuss the garage at a meeting planned for the third week of October. Officials haven’t determined a date and location for the meeting.

Driver in Ogden wreck that injured 2 arrested

Troopers arrested a Manhattan man on driving under the influence and other charges after he fled the scene of a three-vehicle crash on Kansas Highway 18 near Ogden on Sunday.

The Kansas Highway Patrol arrested Denilson Acosta Rodriguez, 20, on charges of driving the wrong direction on a one-way road, failure to stop at an accident, DUI, obstructing apprehension of prosecution and four counts of aggravated battery.

Acosta Rodriguez is confined at the Geary County Detention Center without bond.

According to a Kansas Highway Patrol report, Acosta Rodriguez was driving the opposite direction in the westbound lane of K-18 shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday. Acosta Rodriguez then hit two vehicles heading west straight-on and later fled the scene without his passengers.

Emergency responders flew one of the two passengers in Acosta Rodriguez’s car, David Lopez, as well as a passenger in the second vehicle, Hannah Burkhart, 17, Fort Riley, to the University of Kansas Medical Center for treatment of suspected serious injuries.

According to the KHP, both Lopez and Burkhart are hospitalized as of Wednesday. Lopez sustained serious injuries, had his spleen removed and was on a breathing tube.

A GoFundMe page raising money for medical expenses for Burkhart says she is also being treated for injuries including a broken femur, fibula and ankle. She also has a bruised lung, a broken rib, a broken wrist, spinal trauma, a broken nose and a cut under her eye.

Acosta Rodriguez and his other passenger, Odalis Castaneda Carranza, 19, La Puente, California, were uninjured. The other drivers, Christina Tanguay, 17, Junction City, and Tori Lamb, 19, Ellsworth, also did not have any apparent injuries.

All people on scene at the crash had been wearing seatbelts.

The highway was closed for about four hours as crews worked in the area.