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Eastside and Westside Markets to close

A longtime local fruit and vegetable market is closing after decades of service in the Manhattan community.

Eastside and Westside markets will close in November, retiring owner Terry Olson, 65, told The Mercury on Monday. She’d given thought to closing the businesses for some time.

But given the desire of the trust of the late Velma L. Kuhn to sell the Eastside Market property and the increasingly difficult logistics of obtaining product as a small retailer, she said the timing finally felt right when she made the decision last week.

“Independent retailers, small retailers like myself, in the produce business over time have found it increasingly challenging to find good produce to ship in to us,” Olson said. “It’s extremely difficult with trucking as well. We get peaches throughout the summer from California, and because of new regulations, it’s just a lot tougher to get those peaches. It’s a nail-biting process.”

Eastside Market’s history dates to the 1940s, when Edith and Bill Bush of St. George operated the produce stand. The McKeeman family then ran the business in the 1970s before Olson, an employee at the market, bought the business in 1976.

The Westside Market ran out of the former Dog ‘n Suds Building from 1979 to 1980 before its current building was built in 1981 at about the same time as the Manhattan Holidome (now Four Points by Sheraton), Olson said.

Since announcing the closure Monday, Olson said she’s been humbled by the community’s response.

“It’s been an overwhelming hug and congratulations,” Olson said. “It’s so humbling to see the affection this community has for our little business. It’s a testament to the dedication of our employees who have cultivated such a bond with our customers.”

In any case, Olson said she’s still set on closing the store.

“It’s the right time to do it, I’m completely convinced,” Olson said. “It’s better to go out on a high note, when I still have my health, than to work at something that’s beyond my capacity. I’m still working like a teenager, and I’m not.”

Her husband, Mike, retired 13 years ago, and Olson said it was about time for her to join him.

“The thing I’m going to miss most is the same things my customers will miss — shopping at my own store, shopping for produce,” Olson said. “I hate letting down my local customers, but I firmly believe that when a void happens, the market fills it.

“Bigger than my shopping, though, I hate disappointing my very dedicated staff,” Olson continued. “They’ve bought into this place as much as me, and they worry about it like I do. These were career people, and I cultivated such a high quality staff.

“As time went by, I felt like since I’d achieved financial success, I kept going because I didn’t want to interrupt the careers of my staff, and I was working for them. I told them last week, and they’ve kept the secret that long. That’s loyalty.”

Olson said that in retirement, she’ll look to spend more time with her children and grandchildren, who all still live within an hour’s drive of Manhattan. She holds the state record in the 1-mile run for women between 60 and 64, and she said she wants to keep that record in the 65-70 age bracket.

“I’m an adventurer, and I have a lot of things left to do,” Olson said. “A few years ago, someone gave me a book called ‘1000 Places to Go Before You Die.’ I’m going to start checking them off of the list.”

The stores’ last day of business is Nov. 23, Olson said, to give customers time to use any unexpired gift cards.

Altenhofen resigns from Pottawatomie County Commission

Travis Altenhofen resigned as Pottawatomie County commissioner Monday, citing added responsibilities at his place of business.

The resignation is effective Jan. 10, 2020, three years into his first four-year term as county commissioner.

Altenhofen has been promoted to chief financial officer at Manko Window Systems, Inc. in Manhattan, replacing the former CFO, William “Bill” Ulrich, who died last month after a battle with cancer.

“I am no longer able to provide the long-term time and attention that the citizens of Pottawatomie County need and expect from their elected officials going forward,” Altenhofen said in his letter of resignation.

A replacement to fill the final year of Altenhofen’s unexpired term will be determined by Republican precinct chairs of Commissioner District 3, the district he represents, according to Nancy McCarter, county election officer.

District 3 comprises 16 of the county’s 23 townships and includes most of the eastern and northern portions of the county.

In reading his letter of resignation, an emotional Altenhofen said he fully intended to complete his first term and was considering seeking a second.

“However, little did I know that God would have other plans for me,” he said. “Over the past year, I have been contemplating running for a second term, watching my friend and colleague at my primary job battle cancer. On Sept. 19, he passed away, and I was asked if I could fill his position as the chief financial officer.

“It has been a great privilege and honor to serve the citizens of Pottawatomie County over the last three years,” Altenhofen went on. “I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with my fellow commissioners, elected officials and county staff, as we worked together as a team to do the work of the county by serving the citizens of Pottawatomie County.”

In other business Monday:

• The commission voted 2-1 to adopt the Green Valley Neighborhood Plan, a companion piece to the recently-approved update of the comprehensive plan.

The Green Valley area is a part of Blue Township along Green Valley, Excel and Lake Elbo roads in Pottawatomie County between Manhattan and Wamego.

“The comprehensive plan is a look at the county from 50,000 feet,” said Stephan Metzger, assistant county planner. “This is a look at that area from 10,000 feet.”

Altenhofen voted against the plan, saying he couldn’t justify supporting the 10,000-foot plan since he didn’t vote for the 50,000-foot plan.

“One sentence should sum it up for us,” he said. “It’s (Green Valley) at the size that it should have its own representation. That goes to the very heart that government closest to the people is best.”

• Jared Barnes, fire supervisor, said two county fire stations — Station 10 at St. George and Station 6 at Olsburg — gave public demonstration during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12.

• Director Hal Bumgarner said the new EMS station in Blue Township is on schedule and should be “dried-in” by the end of this month.

Pott County EMS also received a thank-you note and a box of cookies from Wamego Study Club in appreciation of the ambulance service.

“It’s always nice to receive these,” Bumgarner said. “My crews have been hit with some pretty significant calls and they’ve responded well. I’m really proud of them.”

• Ebert Construction, Wamego, was apparent low bidder to replace a bridge on Calhoun Road. Ebert’s bid of $219,082 was below the engineer’s estimate of $225,047.

Reece Construction, Salina, also submitted a bid for the project.

Peter Clark, public works director, said he would review the bids and make a recommendation for awarding the contract at next Monday’s meeting.

• The commission held public hearings and adopted resolutions establishing benefit districts for Unit 1 of Willow Glen Subdivision.

The total estimated cost for sewer, street and water improvements for the subdivision is $1.31 million, or $45,198 for each of the 29 lots.

• Administrator Chad Kinsley announced times for the visitation and funeral service for Bruce Brazzle, a longtime firefighter and former Pott County fire supervisor.

Brazzle died Oct. 16. Visitation was scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the funeral service at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, both in St. Bernard Catholic Church, Wamego.

• Deanna Barnes, during the public comments portion of the agenda, said the commission should reduce property taxes on land inundated by Tuttle Creek this spring.

“You expect us to pay taxes on that land? Sorry, I don’t believe it should happen,” Barnes said, noting that land at the north end of the lake has been flooded since March.

Commissioners took no action on the request and noted that the land, due to soil type, is taxed at a discounted rate.

RCPD: Sexual assault investigation policy gives more agency to victims

LEONARDVILLE — The Riley County Law Enforcement Agency Board approved a new policy Monday regarding how the police handles sexual assault investigations, which officials said gives more control to victims over the process.

Riley County Police Department Capt. Tim Hegarty said at the law board meeting that the policy is a culmination of points officials have been discussing over the last two years. It is designed to break down barriers for reporting, identify serial perpetrators and eventually prosecute and incarcerate those perpetrators.

Hegarty said if the policy works as planned, the department expects to see the number of reported rapes, a crime that has historically been under reported, to increase over the course of a year.

“The main thing here is to give control over to the victim regarding exactly what they want done, what steps they want, what steps they don’t, whether they want to prosecute, whether they don’t, with the full understanding that they were involved in an incident over which they had little to no control,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is give control back over to them. We may not always agree with the choices they make, but they are their choice and we want to support their choices as much as we can.”

The policy outlines three options for reporting sexual assault. The first option is an information only report, where no investigative process beyond an interview of the victim and/or partial Inquiry into Serial Sexual Assault is done. The inquiry can document: how a suspect’s behavior made the victim vulnerable and identifying people who can corroborate the behavior; identifying witnesses; identifying information that can reveal motive, premeditation or other victims; and database and/or social media searches.

The second option, a partial investigation, also includes these steps but may involve interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence.

A complete investigation, the last option, includes reports where all investigative procedures have been done to determine if there is probable cause.

The victim can later ask to change the report to a partial or complete investigation if they choose, and police will not arrest or make a referral to the county attorney’s office without the victim’s consent.

Victims, as well as third parties such as friends or an advocate, can anonymously report sexual assault in person, online or by phone. All information will be documented to help identify serial perpetrators and other investigations. Officers also will respect if the victim or reporting party does not want to be contacted further.

Reporting parties can give as much or as little information during interviews as they’d like, and they will be interviewed by an officer or detective formally trained in conducting trauma-informed interviews. If the the latter is not possible, they will be able to give minimal information to “limit the number of times the victim is interviewed regarding specific details of the sexual assault.”

Hegarty said the department will be participating in educational programs around the community to raise awareness of its new policy. He said one of the barriers officers will have to overcome is ensuring people understand that the department will not pursue cases beyond what the victim wants.

“We can say one thing, but until we can establish that that’s a fact what we’re doing, there’s going to be some hesitancy,” Hegarty said.

OUR NEIGHBORS | Community a focal point for Acme Gift store manager

Combining creativity and her adoration for Manhattan makes for a perfect occupation for April Wagnon, 52.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s the best job ever. I get to listen to people laugh all day long. … And I get to make flowers. I get to play with flowers. I’ve got a pretty good gig.”

She’s the store manager at Acme Gift, at 1227 Moro St., which is a speciality gift store selling coasters, apparel, and other trinkets and items.

Because of this, Wagnon is able to tap into her creative outlets daily with making special gifts, like flower bouquets and cards.

Wagnon began her job after her significant other, Brad Benco, had an impromptu interview one day with Diane Meredith, Acme Gift owner.

“For years she’s been saying, ‘Come apply, come apply,’” Wagnon said. “I thought she was just being nice.”

Wagnon has been in her position for the past three years.

She left her hometown of Great Bend to study cultural anthropology at Kansas State University in 1991, but did not graduate.

She got married and had two daughters, and later divorced. But, she loved the community so much that she decided to stay and raise her daughters.

She started making jewelry to save money on gifts during this time.

She specializes in trade beads, which refers to decorative glass beads used as a form of currency between the 16th and 20th centuries, in her Red Yard Originals business.

“Some are just a couple hundred, but they’re what I like,” she said.

In her jewelry making, she uses natural stones and no chemicals. Wagnon said she likes to support cottage industry, which are businesses run by people out of their homes.

Since she started as Acme store manager, Wagnon has collaborated with the public and other businesses in Manhattan.

“We work hard, we play hard,” Wagnon said. “We do it together, and we’ve got a real family. We really do have a real family feel. We really do have each other’s backs, and we care about what happens to not just one store; we have our eye on the big picture, all of us.”

She loves being a local and enjoys experiencing the farmers market, Aggieville, downtown and the USD 383 school system, among other aspects.

“Just the caring. I love that the city is embracing the LGBTQ community,” Wagnon said. “I love that we’re active politically.”

In addition to serving customers, Wagnon does things for her employees. This past weekend, Wagnon made what she called “master tonic,” an immune system-boosting drink.

She said the tonic would help keep her staff healthy.

“Once that’s fermented, I’m going to pass it out at work. It’ll keep my staff healthy and my labor budget healthy,” she said with a laugh.

Laura Rouw, Acme employee, said Wagnon is “unapologetically herself.”

Rouw said she enjoys working with Wagnon, and thinks of her as a mentor.

“I love April. She’s one of my favorite people,” Rouw said.

Rouw said Wagnon would do anything for her employees.

When Wagnon is not making jewelry or working, she enjoys reading and spending time with her two daughters, Grace, 17, and Jillian, 15.

“I chose to spend as much [time] as I can with them,” she said.