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Nickolas Oatley / Staff photos by Nickolas Oatley  

Brittni Carpenter and her husband, who declined to be named, walk with their three sons, Maverick Carpenter, 6, Granger Carpenter, 3, and Wyatt Carpenter, 1, in front of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School on the first day of school Wednesday.

City working to fix 40-foot sinkhole near Walmart

The Manhattan city government is repairing a 40-foot-wide sinkhole in the Walmart parking lot near Hayes Drive and Bluemont Avenue.

The hole developed over the last couple of weeks above a 36-inch sewer interceptor main carrying sanitary sewer and wastewater flows for more than a third of the city, according to Randy DeWitt, assistant director of public works.

“It’s a pretty important piece of infrastructure,” DeWitt said.

Walmart owns the property where the sinkhole is. The sewer system is still functioning.

“We’re not 100% certain what the exact cause is, but we’re fairly certain there’s a failure in the sanitary sewer system in the area,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt said the sinkhole drops is 3 feet deep in some areas. He estimates it is 40 feet wide.

The majority of the work begins next week, DeWitt said, and city workers plan to dig into the pavement later this week.

“Basically, we’re going into kind of an exploratory phase where we’re going to start pulling up the pavement that’s failed and try to get down to the sanitary sewer that we think has failed, and expose it,” he said. “And then from there, it’s really about fact-finding right now at this point, investigating what’s underground.”

DeWitt estimated the project cost at about $100,000.

“It could potentially be much more,” he said. “No way really to know at this point.”

The Manhattan city government pays for the repairs.

“We’ll accrue the cost through our wastewater fund,” he said.

The area was designated as a FEMA disaster area with potential flooding, DeWitt said, which could provide reimbursements through FEMA assistance.

“At this point, nobody knows if we’ll get a lot of assistance for that because even though we’re in this disaster area, we didn’t actually have any flooding here, so it’s not certain if we’ll get any assistance with that or not,” he said.

DeWitt estimates a time period of 30-60 days to restore the site.

“We don’t anticipate it’s going to be a fast process,” he said.

A local contractor is assisting with the project, DeWitt said. DeWitt did not specify the contractor.

The sinkhole is only affecting the Walmart parking lot area, but DeWitt said the city wants to prevent it affecting other lots.

“What we’re basically trying to do is make sure it doesn’t impact the property south, which would be the Staples and the Hobby Lobby property,” he said.

DeWitt learned about the sinkhole at the end of July.

“It got brought to our attention, and some street department staff went out and put some cones and barriers around it,” he said.

K-State saw record donations last year

Donors gave more than $212 million, a record amount, to K-State during the 2019 fiscal year, the KSU Foundation announced Wednesday.

“This was the most successful fundraising year in K-State history,” said Greg Willems, president and CEO of the foundation. “These exceptional fundraising results are fueled by the extraordinary commitment of our donors, whose generosity grows with each passing year. We at the KSU Foundation are proud to inspire and guide that philanthropy to boldly advance the K-State family.”

The donations last year beat out the $211 million in donations in 2014.

A little over half of the $212 million came through endowed gifts, pledges and deferred gifts, which the foundation said ensures the university’s long-term prosperity. The university’s endowment also grew to $613.4 million following the largest amount of contributions to the endowment in five years.

In that same period, donors also established 208 new scholarships and gave $47.7 million for scholarships, compared to 170 new scholarships and $37 million the previous year. Gifts or commitments of more than $1 million also reached a high of 39.

Gifts for academic purposes totaled more than $156 million, and commitments through estate planning reached $72 million.

The foundation also reported that it had passed its $1.4 billion target for the Innovation and Inspiration Campaign, which is part of the university’s strategy to become a top 50 public research university by 2025.

The campaign passed its original goal in April 2017, and it is set to end on June 30.

In Riley County, 6,443 donors gave $14.1 million to the university, and in Pottawatomie County, 1,119 donors gave $605,000.

Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley 

Holly Klein takes photos of her two daughters, Maggie Klein (6) and Alex Klein (8), in front of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School on the first day of school in Manhattan, Kansas on Wednesday.

With the start of the school year, USD 383 looks ahead to four years of construction

Classes in the Manhattan-Ogden school district started Wednesday morning, and the 2019-20 school year also marks the beginning of four years of construction on $129.5 million in bonded school projects.

While many of the projects are still in preliminary design stages, one project — a parking lot addition at Amanda Arnold Elementary — is 90% complete, said Trisha Brooke-Fruendt, the district owners’ representative through the bond process.

After that, only three other projects will be bid out by the end of 2019, if the design and approval processes go smoothly. A project to renovate and build onto the Keith Noll Maintenance Center will likely be bid out in September.

Brooke-Fruendt said that the maintenance center project is the only project that has conceptually changed since voters approved the $129.5 million in bond projects last November. Using the project’s $960,000 in bonded funds and an additional $480,000 in capital outlay funds, the project will improve the building’s crumbling foundation, Brooke-Fruendt said, with construction set to start in November.

“I thought, why are we putting lipstick on a pig?” Brooke-Fruendt said of the changed plans. “Why can’t we be more financially responsible to the taxpayers, and use some capital outlay funding and raze the two buildings and build one new energy-efficient building for the maintenance folks that also will include a tornado shelter?”

During construction, the district’s maintenance staff will work out of job trailers to be delivered in early September.

Next, the district will complete design on and bid out the College Hill Early Learning Center in September, with construction starting in the last half of October. That project will add a storm shelter, expand the parking area, make the playground more age-appropriate, bring the center’s classrooms to 11 total and consolidate the district’s early learning offices onto one campus. The center would open in November 2020.

The district will also bid out the project for a new elementary school in Blue Township in October, with construction scheduled to start in December. That project would build a 475-student elementary school in Pottawatomie County, with an expected opening in August 2021.

Several other projects are already in the design phase but won’t start construction until next year. Building additions to Eisenhower and Anthony middle schools will be bid out in early 2020, with construction starting in May.

The middle school projects will add wings to each building to accommodate the district’s move of sixth graders to the schools. The projects will also add storm-rated multipurpose rooms to each building, in addition to general renovations.

Expected completion is August 2021.

Projects at Lee and Marlatt elementary schools will start construction in April. The projects will focus on renovations and modernization of the schools’ infrastructure, as well as a new dedicated kindergarten playground at Lee. Those projects wrap up in fall 2020.

The district’s projects at other schools will be staggered throughout the rest of the four-year construction process, Brooke-Fruendt said.

“We don’t want to have 10 or 12 projects going on in one summer, because that’s a lot of work, and it’s also a lot of responsibility on the district, because we’d have to find a lot of new homes for projects,” Brooke-Fruendt said. “Typically, in the summers, we have several types of programs, be they childcare, feeding, Boys and Girls Club, that we have to figure out how to maneuver. This summer was fairly easy, as we only had one project, but next summer will be a little more difficult.”

Brooke-Fruendt, who also worked on Manhattan-Ogden’s 2008 bond issue as well as bond issues at the Lawrence school district, said although this bond campaign’s dollar amount is higher, most of the additions at the elementary schools are smaller scale.

“This time it’s a little different, because most of the elementaries are getting a multi-purpose room to serve as their storm shelters, and the middle schools are getting additions, with some renovations as well,” Brooke-Fruendt said. “The high school is getting a huge addition for classrooms and their gym and storm shelter.”

The project schedule is subject to change, she said, especially as the district’s new principals get settled into their buildings.

“I think this is a great opportunity,” Brooke-Fruendt said.

“Parents and taxpayers can feel more comfortable that each site is going to have a true storm shelter.

“Obviously, our storm seasons are getting longer and more intense, so for folks to know their kids can go to a safe place in one spot, it’s a huge benefit for the district and city as well. I think they can rest assured that their taxpayer dollars are being spent really wisely.”

Riley County Health Department director moving to North Carolina

Riley County Health Department director Jennifer Green said she resigned from her position last week because she and her husband are moving to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Green’s husband, a member of the military, received orders to move there, she said.

“We’re a military family,” Green said. “We are being moved to North Carolina, and I really have appreciated my time here. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Green has been the director since August 2016, and her last day in Manhattan is Nov. 7, she said.

“This is a wonderful community, and we’ve been very pleased to be a part of the Manhattan and Fort Riley community for the last three years,” Green said.

Green said she is going to miss the community and health department staff.

“I think the people here ... are really passionate about the work that we do to improve the health of our community, to make this a better place, a safer place, a healthier place,” she said.

Green is going to be a part of the hiring committee for her replacement, Riley County commissioners decided Monday.

“Of course when you leave a position, it’s always a little bit nerve-wracking too,” Green said, “because you don’t know who is coming in after you; but, I really hope I can help lend that public heath expertise to the role, and hopefully a vision in continuing the work that we’ve done over the last several years at the health department.”

Green plans to be present at the accreditation site visit by the Public Health Accreditation Board planned for Nov. 4 and 5.

The health department applied for the accreditation in spring 2018.

“I felt really strongly that we needed to be here to support the health department through our site visit,” Green said.