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About 10 community members attend service at Manhattan Free Methodist Church on Sunday morning. This is the second in-person service Pastor Lewis Smith Sr. has done since the coronavirus pandemic struck Kansas in March. “No longer a slave of fear. … Right now as we look around our nation, people, you see a lot of fear,” Smith Sr. said. “You see a lot of hearts that are broken. You see communities that are broken. And it breaks my heart to see everything that is going on in the communities around the United States, especially my hometown Atlanta, Georgia.” See more photo galleries of local church services during the pandemic at themercury.com.

Copple talks COVID-19 response at the hospital after patients placed on ventilators

Officials said Tuesday that two people are on ventilators at Ascension Via Christi Hospital for coronavirus-related issues.

Ascension Via Christi Hospital president Bob Copple said the hospital is prepared to take care of COVID-19 patients.

“We know how to handle one, two patients coming in who are now (COVID-19) positive,” Copple said.

As of Tuesday, two people are on ventilators: one patient with a confirmed case of the coronavirus and one person who is being tested for the virus, officials said. Another hospitalized person also is under investigation for the virus.

These are not the first patients placed on a ventilator at Ascension Via Christi, officials said. There has been at least one other person, who was not a Riley County resident, placed on a ventilator at the hospital earlier on in the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

Copple discussed the status of the Manhattan hospital during a meeting with the newly formed subcommittee of the Manhattan Area Recovery Task Force, which met Monday afternoon via Zoom. Members of the subcommittee emphasized the need to support businesses during the coronavirus outbreak and in the event the county sees an uptick in cases in the future.

The subcommittee is made up of some members of the original task force.

Riley County coronavirus numbers remained unchanged from Monday with the county staying steady at 66 cases, officials told The Mercury on Tuesday morning.

The health department announced two new cases Monday — a 44-year-old woman and a 46-year-old man who live in the same household. One of those people is a patient currently on a ventilator, although officials didn’t indicate which one.

As of Monday afternoon, seven of the 66 cases are active while 58 are recovered. One person died in May after testing positive for the coronavirus in April.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported 10,011 cases, 217 deaths and 862 hospitalizations statewide Monday. That is up 292 cases, 20 hospitalizations and nine deaths from Friday.

KDHE reported Pottawatomie County has 27 cases and Geary County has 17, as of Monday. Neither county changed from Friday.

KDHE is reporting data Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

OUR NEIGHBORS | Retired city finance director reflects on 20-plus years of service

Monday marked a new chapter in Bernie Hayen’s life.

Hayen, the former finance director for the city government, is now retired after 20-plus years of service with the city. Last week was his final week working for the city.

“It was way past time for me doing this,” Hayen said. “I finally decided that I would rather walk out vertically than to be carried out horizontally, so it was time.”

Overall, Hayen said it is bittersweet to retire.

“I don’t have any regrets and I didn’t have any remorse or anxiety about leaving,” he said. “But on the other side of the coin, obviously, it’s a bittersweet time because the city will be having a lot of challenges, both financial as well as the rest of the work force with having to deal with this COVID-19.”

One of Hayen’s beloved parts of the job were the people he worked with.

“I think it’s always the people that seem to draw you to a place and keep you there,” Hayen said.

City manager Ron Fehr said the city will miss him and his expertise.

“I think he’s got a good knack for communication and certainly explaining city budgeting, which can be rather complex from time to time,” Fehr said. “We just certainly wish him the best.”

Hayen, 76, was born on April 1, 1944, in a small doctor’s office on Main Street in Marion, but his birth date is listed as March 31. Hayen’s mother went into labor about 11:30 p.m. March 31, and he was born around 12:20 a.m. on April Fool’s Day.

“My grandmother did not want her first grandchild to be born on April Fool’s Day, so she convinced the doctor to back the birthdate up to 11:57 on the 31st of March,” Hayen said.

In addition to having two different birth dates, Hayen also had two stints at the city: one beginning in 1978 for about four years and another from 2000 through last week.

He helped when Manhattan Town Center was being built in the first stint and then started the city’s comprehensive annual report, among other initiatives.

In addition to working in Manhattan, Hayen has worked as a city manager in Hastings, Nebraska, and as a city administrator in Hesston. Hayen also worked at the League of Kansas Municipalities as an assistant director and business manager for about 15 years.

“I developed a whole bunch of different programs,” Hayen said. “In fact, I think all of them are still in place today. Everything from case studies to searches for city officials, whether it was city manager or a finance person or a utilities director. We did a lot of workshops across the state covering topics across the state from sexual harassment to team building.”

In addition to his work for the city of Manhattan and other cities, Hayen worked at Kansas State University for 30 years teaching political science and business classes. He recently retired from teaching as well, but said he is open to teaching again in spring 2021.

Hayen said he loved teaching students and working with the faculty at K-State.

“They’re so darn smart,” Hayen said. “I always felt I learned as much from them as hopefully they learned.”

Hayen himself also has attended several schools throughout his life.

“I’ve been all over the place,” he said.

Although he graduated from the University of Kansas in 1966 with two degrees in political science and psychology and a minor in foreign languages, Hayen also played football and studied for one year at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina. He spent his sophomore year of college at Parsons Junior College in Parsons, which is now called Labette Community College.

After gaining his degrees at KU, Hayen also earned a master’s degree in business from Wichita State University and a master’s degree in public administration from K-State.

Hayen also served in the military for four years. He first started in the Army but switched to the Air Force. He served in Vietnam for a year. Hayen’s father also served in the Air Force, he said.

After serving in the military, he went back to the dairy farm owned by his family near Erie, the county seat of Neosho County in southeast Kansas, before starting with his career.

Looking to retirement, Hayen said he and his wife, Verna Lee, will wing it and see what happens. They have been married 53 years.

They have two daughters and one granddaughter.

“She’s the one that deserves all the credit,” Hayen said about his wife. “She’s been a great partner.”

Smith preaches from the altar at Manhattan Free Methodist Church on Sunday. “It’s been a hard week in the United States of America,” he said. Smith mentioned the killing of George Floyd and the shooting of police officers. “This should have never taken place, but it did unfortunately. We are dealing with the consequences of what took place by four selfish (Minneapolis) police officers,” Smith said. “And I’ll be the first to tell you, all police officers are not bad people. There’s always a bad apple in every batch. And may God’s will be done in the midst of it all.”

breaking featured
KBI investigating battery claim involving RCPD officer

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether a Riley County police officer battered a Puerto Rican man in the early hours of Monday morning.

According to the Riley County Police Department and KBI, a 27-year-old man approached a police officer around 10:45 a.m. Monday in the 1500 block of Poyntz Avenue, saying he had been battered at his home by an unidentified police officer at about 3:30 a.m.

Neither the KBI nor the RCPD identified the man nor the police officer. The Mercury requested the man’s name, which is public information.

According to the KBI, the man said he saw a police car outside his residence near 15th and Humboldt streets. He said that after he approached the car, the officer “committed battery” against him outside the residence and again at the apartment entrance, according to the KBI. The KBI didn’t provide any details on the nature of the battery.

According to Tuesday’s RCPD incident report, which lists calls to the Riley County Emergency Dispatch Center, there is no recorded log of an incident occurring around 3:30 a.m. Monday, but there is a log entry of the interaction the man had with police later in the morning. That log entry doesn’t list the name of the officer.

KBI Communication Director Melissa Underwood said investigators will review all related records in the case.

The man reported being injured and was taken to the hospital for assessment, where he was later treated and released. Officials did not describe the nature of his injuries.

RCPD officials contacted the KBI around noon and said they would cooperate fully with the investigation.

Underwood said officials would not speculate on whether the alleged incident was related to race.

RCPD Director Dennis Butler said he was relieved by the KBI’s quick response to look into the matter and said he looks forward to its findings. In response to recent events involving protests against police brutality, Butler said Friday that RCPD does not teach officers to arrest people by pinning them down with their knee, a tactic that resulted in the death of George Floyd.

“You should know that we do not teach that arrest tactic and we do not tolerate it,” he said. “We use an extensive review process for every use of force in response to resistance and every time we warn someone that we will use force. ... My officers and I know that and we never want to have happen here what has happened (around the country). We try to prevent it by the kind of people we hire, how we train them, and our expectations of how they treat people, including each other.”

KBI officials conducted interviews and a search warrant around the man’s residence during the investigation, but they have not identified any officers who were in the area at the time. Law enforcement officers on Monday had taped off a portion of the property at 1501 Humboldt St. that appeared to be an apartment at the back of the house.

The investigation is ongoing, and the KBI asks that anyone with related information contact it at 1-800-KS-CRIME or online at https://www.kbi.ks.gov/sar.

The reported incident comes as protests against police brutality and the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police have swept the nation over the past week. On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a black man, after he was accused of fraud.

Video footage of the incident shows officers, namely ex-officer Derek Chauvin, pinning Floyd down to the ground with a knee on his neck for several minutes, even after the man loses consciousness. Floyd died after the incident, reigniting protests against police brutality and the killing of black people by officers.

A local protest at Triangle Park took place Saturday morning. About 150 people peacefully marched along Bluemont Avenue during the event.

Two file for Kansas House prior to candidate deadline

Two area residents have filed to run for the Kansas House just ahead of the Monday filing deadline for candidates.

Cheryl Arthur, D-Manhattan, filed Thursday to run for the 67th district seat. She will face former Manhattan mayor Mike Dodson, a Republican, in the general election. They seek to replace Rep. Tom Phillips, R-Manhattan, who said he would not seek another term.

The retired longterm educator said education is closely tied to economic development, two issues she is passionate about.

“Manhattan is such a nice place to live and even though we’re small, we’re small and mighty,” she said. “We are one of the leaders in economic development in the state of Kansas. ... For me, knowing that we have that going on in our community, that stresses even more how important education is. To say that we are going to provide an adequate education for students in Kansas, to me that’s not good enough. If we (want to have) economic development and good business growth here, we have to have our people educated.”

Arthur said she also would like to see Medicaid expansion and abolishment of the death penalty passed.

Arthur worked as a secondary school teacher, teaching physics, chemistry and math, for 15 years, before becoming a high school principal for 10 years, throughout Kansas, Missouri and Australia.

She has bachelor’s, master’s and specialist’s degrees in secondary education and administration.

“When you’re the go-to person for a building with 1,200 adults and teenagers, you have to know what you’re doing and you have to be passionate about what you’re doing,” she said. “So I think that was tremendous training for any kind of leadership position.”

The 67th District seat represents generally the western part of Manhattan, parts of Ogden and some rural areas.

Gary Schuetz, R-Paxico, filed Monday to run against incumbent Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, for the 51st district seat.

The recently-retired Paxico native served as a treasurer for Newbury township in Wabaunsee County for 12 years and worked as a delivery driver for UPS for 36 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history at K-State in 1986.

Shuetz said he is an advocate for the public education system and is concerned about state spending, as well as agricultural issues after having lived most of his life at his family’s farm.

He described himself as a moderate Republican and said he is running to give constituents another option to represent their views.

“I believe there are valid points from both sides of the aisle,” Schuetz said. “I like to think I’m a good listener that can work with others while still having the courage to say ‘no’ to one side or say ‘yes’ to another. I like to think when an issue comes up that I would have to look at each issue individually and judge it on its own merits.”

The 51st district seat includes Wabaunsee and Lyon counties, as well as parts of Pottawatomie, Riley and Shawnee counties.

The filing deadline was noon Monday. The primary election will be Aug. 4. The general election is Nov. 3.

In the Kansas Senate 22nd District race, incumbent Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, will run against the winner of the Republican primary between Craig Bowser, the chief executive officer of SAVE Farm, a Manhattan organization that aims to assist members of the military transitioning into the agribusiness field, and Bryan Pruitt, a former political consultant and conservative commentator.

In the Kansas House 66th District, incumbent Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan is running unopposed.

In the Kansas House 64th District, Rep. Suzi Carlson, R-Clay Center, will run against Democrat Jim Vathauer, a farmer and businessman from Clay Center, in the general election.

Riley County races

In the Riley County Commission District 2 race, incumbent Marvin Rodriguez will face off against Philip Mattox, retired brigadier general and Barton Community College professor, and Greg McKinley, a Riley City Council member, in the Republican primary. Fanny Fang, a partner with the Asian Market international grocery store, is running as a Democrat.

In the Riley County Commission District 3 race, incumbent Ron Wells will run against John Matta, former Manhattan city commissioner, in the Republican primary. Kathryn Focke, local businesswoman and former Riley Riley County Democratic party chair, is running as a Democrat.

In other positions, county attorney Barry Wilkerson, county clerk Rich Vargo and county treasurer Shilo Heger are running unopposed.

Amy Manges, the county’s deeds supervisor/deputy, is also running unopposed in the register of deeds race. Debbie Regester, the current register of deeds, announced in April that she wouldn’t run for re-election.

Congressional races

Despite a push by GOP leaders, the filing deadline has passed without Secretary of State Mike Pompeo entering the U.S. Senate race.

On the Republican side, 11 candidates are vying to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas. Those candidates include U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Two Democrats — state Sen. Barbara Bollier, D-Mission Hills, and Robert Tillman, a Wichita businessman — are also running.

With Marshall running for Senate, a group of candidates are seeking to replace him in the U.S. House as the 1st Congressional District representative.

The Republicans candidates are former Kansas lieutenant governor Tracey Mann, Finney County commissioner Bill Clifford, Jerry Molstad, a recently retired Army colonel from La Crosse, and Michael Soetaert, a reverend from Council Grove.

The Democrats in the race are Kali Barnett, a music teacher from Garden City, and Christy Davis, former executive director of the Symphony in the Flint Hills from Cottonwood Falls.