Opera house re-opens

After 45 years of disuse, and 24 years of fundraising and repair, the McPherson Opera House held its grand re-opening on Jan. 28.
“The 1890s were all about a pioneer town trying to show it was more than just a spot on the trail,” said Opera House Board President Troy Wiens at the opening gala. “Tonight, we begin a new chapter.”
At one point the historic structure was scheduled for demolition. However, citizens banded together to save it. The renovation was funded, in part, by a 2009 ballot initiative dedicating the city’s 1/2 cent sales tax to the opera house.

Inman police chief arrested

Inman Police Chief Michael Akins ?Jr. was arrested on Jan. 12, on 12 counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, one count of indecent solicitation of a child, two counts of battery, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior and two counts of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child. The arrest stemmed from an investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. The arrest shocked the Inman community and generated statewide coverage. Akins was freed on $250,000 bond, and was terminated from his position. He pled not guilty to all charges and will stand trial in January.

Teams finish record season

The McPherson High School Bullpups finished a 9-2 season, one victory shy of the school record, capping one of the best seasons in school history. The McPherson College Bulldogs went on to have a perfect season as well, going 10-0, finishing the best season ever for the college. Both teams went on to their respective finals. However, sadly, the Bullpups were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, and the Bulldogs fell in the first round. Yet, McPherson came together behind both teams, packing the stadium for their games.

Republicans sweep seats

On Nov. 2, Republicans swept all statewide offices, with former Kansas Senator Sam Brownback taking the governor’s mansion. Republicans Derek Schmidt, Kris Kobach and Ron Estes were elected as Kansas Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Treasurer respectively, as well. In the 1st Congressional District, Republican State Senator Tim Huelskamp was elected to succeed Congressman Jerry Moran, who, in turn, was elected to succeed Sam Brownback in the U.S. Senate.

Portion of new K-61 opens

In December, two lanes of the newly expanded K-61 highway opened, and the closure of the old highway began. Southbound lanes were opened on Dec. 16, as the old lanes were closed off in McPherson and Hutchinson. Once traffic has been successfully transferred work can begin on the creation of the north bound lanes of the new K-61. All work is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2011. Once the new K-61 is completed north bound traffic will be transferred onto the new lanes. The project has been under construction for well over a year.

New sales tax

On Aug. 3, McPherson voters approved a new half-cent city sales tax to pay for roads and infrastructure improvements. Earlier in the year, Mayor Tom Brown undertook a campaign to convince voters that the tax was needed, and without it the city would not be able to improve or maintain several roads. The tax was approved 61.26 percent to 38.74 percent, with exactly 2,700 votes cast. The new tax will go into effect Jan. 1.

Mosquitos invade McPherson

June and July were the months of the mosquito in McPherson. The city, because of budget difficulties, did not have enough chemicals for constant spraying, and a series of summer storms caused the numbers of the little pests to multiply. Eventually, NCRA donated enough mosquito chemicals to the city to take care of the problem, and McPherson residents could enjoy the outdoors again.

MHS teacher arrested

On Feb. 18, McPherson High School soccer coach, journalism teacher and High Life advisor Todd Brittingham was arrested on charges of unlawful sexual relations with a student.
He was later suspended without pay by the USD 418 school board, and his contract was not renewed. Brittingham pled not guilty and will stand trial in February.

Cemetery Changes Cause Uproar

In June, a series of newly passed regulations for the McPherson City Cemetery which caused several pots and planters to be removed from graves. Citizens who felt there was not enough public consultation about the new regulations filled city commission meetings and several town halls were held. The uproar caused the creation of the Cemetery Advisory Board, which undertook a review of the regulations, which will be voted on by the city commission on Jan 3.

Group Works to Elminate Poverty

Steps to End Poverty in McPherson County (STEPMC) formed in 2010 to lend a hand to the less-fortunate in McPherson County, holding information meetings throughout the summer and fall. The group, with its established goal of eliminating poverty throughout the county, is working with the Circles Campaign and the Move the Mountain Leadership Center, held its first classes in September, and is still actively looking for volunteers and Allies. For more information, contact the McPherson County Community Foundation at 245-9070