A1 A1
Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley  

Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez sits on a bench at Fairmont Dog Park with her twin dogs, Kumar, in the blue vest, and Louie, in the red vest, on Friday. “You don’t rescue a dog, they rescue you from being a human. I’ve learned a lot from these dogs,” said Broyles-Gonzalez, who leads the American Ethnic Studies department at K-State.

I WONDER | What happened to the new concept for CiCo Park's playground?

Q: What happened to the new concept for CiCo Park’s playground? What about the tennis courts across from Manhattan Area Technical College?

A: Riley County’s park division is waiting on potential sources of funding before moving forward with remodeling CiCo Park’s playground.

David Willis, parks manager for the county, hopes to gain funding from grants or donations from outside entities before moving forward.

The plan offers the possibility of remodeled bathrooms, a zipline and new playground equipment, among other proposed initiatives. The project cost is around $1.3 million, Willis said.

The county developed a plan back in 2012. Officials don’t yet have a timeline for the playground updates.

“It’s really solely up to funding,” Willis said.

The parking lot near the playground is undergoing construction for a new curb and gutter this fall, depending on other projects, Willis said. Asphalt surfacing will follow, he said. The county surveyed the public earlier this year about the topic. Willis said many people are in favor of a new playground.

In regard to the tennis courts at the park, Alfonso Leyva, park planner for the city of Manhattan, said the project will start after the recreation centers at Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools are completed.

The tennis courts are owned by the city. The proceeds of a voter-approved bond issue are paying for the improvements. The plan is to install 12 courts for $1.2 million instead of the three dilapidated courts currently there. USD 383 suggested 12 courts so it could host state-level tournaments.

The tennis courts remain in the same spot in the park as the current courts, Leyva said. CiCo Park is co-owned by Riley County and the city of Manhattan.

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

Experts: Injuries on baby caused by multiple impacts

The external and internal damage observed during the autopsy of a 12-week-old boy was caused by at least three separate blunt-force impacts, a forensic pathologist said Friday at the Riley County Courthouse.

Ransom Ellis, a forensic pathologist at Frontier Forensics Midwest, described to the jury the injuries he noted on the infant, Michael Calvert Jr., during the trial of D’Khari Lyons.

Lyons, who is charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a child, is accused of killing Michael, his former girlfriend’s infant son, who was left in Lyons’ care for a short while in November 2018.

Michael’s injuries included bleeding around the brain and spinal cord, damage to the spinal cord itself, a skull fracture that stretched across two cranial bones, bleeding in the eyes, and bruising and swelling across his body, neck and face. An autopsy listed the death as a homicide, stemming from blunt force or abusive head trauma.

On the scalp itself, Ellis said there were three distinct areas of separate trauma and bleeding, caused by non-penetrating, blunt-force trauma. Ellis said this sort of damage could not be explained by a simple fall.

“I cannot think of a single event that would cause trauma on all sides of the head,” he said.

Ellis also said a “whiplash-like energy” would be needed to cause the distinct damage seen on Michael’s upper spinal cord and supporting tissue, as well as the hemorrhaging around his eyes.

Terra Frazier, a child abuse pediatrician with Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, examined Michael after he’d been brought to the hospital.

Frazier said Thursday that his injuries were so severe when he arrived that even surgery was not a helpful option. Ultimately, she said, his brain had swelled so much it could no longer function normally.

“There was no one surgery (doctors) could do that would help make anything better,” she said.

Frazier said she looked at Michael’s medical records, reports and spoke to his parents and other officials in the case. She said his mother, Jessica Hudson, told her that his behavior leading up to the incident had been “normal” — he had been making eye contact, eating and cooing like usual.

Frazier said based on her exams and studies, she would not expect Michael to behave normally after sustaining these injuries, and he would be immediately symptomatic. Thus, she said, the injuries would have happened after the time period people reported he’d been acting “normal.”

Upon cross-examination, Frazier said a diagnosis of blunt force or abusive head trauma does not indicate whether the damage is done intentionally, but she was not given a history of accidental injuries.

Defense attorney Cole Hawver pulled studies of real examples of infants experiencing abusive head trauma. In most of the 29 cases Hawver cited, the incidents were caused by parents, and the study said people who confessed to be the perpetrators admitted experiencing fatigue, stress and frustration.

Frazier said in prior statements, Hudson had told her about having a history of depression and anxiety. Hudson had also noted Michael had a bruise on his face a few days before the incident but other witnesses Thursday, including Hudson’s mother and a pediatrician, said they did not notice any unusual marks on Michael the day before.

The trial was still going on at press time and will reconvene Monday.

Regents request $95.3 million in new funding

The Kansas Board of Regents will ask Gov. Laura Kelly for $95.3 million in new state support for higher education as part of its 2021 budget request.

The request includes $50 million in new base funding for state universities that would go toward operational costs. The Regents said that the state legislature’s $34 million partial restoration of cut funding from prior years helped them vote to keep tuition flat at each state university this year.

The state appropriations request also includes support for community and technical colleges and funding for the Excel in Career Technical Education program that supports state-funded tuition reimbursements for high school students who take approved technical courses. The Regents also seek funding for a new need-based student financial aid program, deferred maintenance on campus buildings and a concurrent enrollment partnership pilot project for high school students to earn college credit.

It was not immediately clear how much of the money would go to K-State. The request now heads to Kelly’s budget office, which will review the request and work with the legislature to pass an overall state budget in the spring.

The board also approved K-State’s request to change the 2021 and 2022 spring breaks. Spring break in 2021 will come a week later than it had been scheduled. It will start on March 15 and ending March 21. In 2022, the break is now a week earlier than planned, starting March 14 and ending March 20.

K-State officials said they sought the change to better align the mid-semester break with the ninth week of classes, which they said creates a semester center point and results in a more balanced class format.

In other business, the board approved K-State’s previously announced changes to the capital improvement plan to include the expansion project at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The project will add new seating, restrooms, concession stands and office space above the stadium’s south end zone, in addition to other infrastructure improvements. The estimated $49.9 million project will be funded by private donations.

The board approved K-State’s request to name its Center for Community College Leadership after John Roueche, a national leader in higher education.

The university also received approval to award an honorary doctorate to U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Chris King, the dean emeritus of the Command General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. King will receive the degree at the Graduate School commencement in December.

MFD Assistant Chief Brad Claussen to retire

A longtime Manhattan Fire Department official is set to retire Monday.

Brad Claussen, assistant chief of risk reduction and code services, publicly announced his retirement Thursday. Deputy Fire Marshal Ryan Courtright will take his place, overseeing the division that handles building permits and inspections, contractor licensing, property maintenance and fire inspections, public education and fire investigations.

Claussen has worked with the city of Manhattan since June 1989 and served as the building official for more than 20 years.

While working with the city, Claussen has seen the code division move from City Hall to become a part of the fire department, led 10 new code adoptions and watched staff grow from 6 to 14 full-time personnel. The International Code Council appointed him with the Master Code Professional designation, making Claussen one of 800 individuals to attain this level across the world.

Courtright has worked with the city since 2005 and the fire department since 2008.

“Brad’s knowledge, experience and leadership provided to the Risk Reduction and Code Services Division will be sorely missed, and we wish him nothing but the best in his retirement,” Fire Chief Scott French said in a statement. “There is no question housing in Manhattan is safer because of Brad. We are also excited to promote Ryan Courtright to fill the position. Ryan has been preparing for this role for quite some time, and we are confident he will maintain the high level of service our community has come to expect.”

A retirement ceremony, which is open to the public, will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at 2000 Denison Ave.