Top stories of the McPherson Sentinel for the year 2012.
1. Tabor murder
Brandon Brown, 26, a former Tabor College football player from California, died in September from critical injuries sustained while in McPherson.
In response to Brown’s death, a memorial service for Brown was later conducted in Hillsboro and a vigil in McPherson. The Tabor College vs. McPherson College football game, which was scheduled for about a month after his death, was canceled.
A former McPherson College football player, 19-year-old Alton Franklin of Dallas, was arrested and has been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder in relation to this case. Franklin was on the 2011 McPherson College football roster, but was not on the 2012 football roster.
Dequinte Oshea Flournoy, 19, of Dallas, was also arrested on a similar charge.
The preliminary hearings for these individuals have been continued several times and are currently scheduled for January.
2. Race for McPherson County Attorney
McPherson County Attorney David Page won his reelection in November after a hard-fought battle against local attorney Brian Bina.
Page defeated Bina in the Republican primary, and was the only candidate on the ballot for county attorney. But Bina supporters mounted an aggressive write-in campaign for the
November elections, which Page later called “dirty.”
Page won the race with 6,462 votes, but there were 3,963 write-ins, which was 38 percent of the vote.
Page’s opposition criticized Page for what they called a lack of communication with law enforcement.
Page said tensions had increased between the McPherson Police Department and the county attorney’s office since March. He said department leadership instituted a policy stating officers were not to communicate with the county attorney’s office directly, and this caused problems.
After winning retaining his position, the incumbent said he will focus on improving communication with law enforcement.
3. April tornado outbreak
A series of long-track tornadoes ripped through central Kansas April 14, threatening Moundridge and Salina and causing an estimated $400,000 of damage to rural parts of McPherson.
Two separate tornadoes crossed through McPherson County, one in late afternoon and another just before night fell across the area. Those tornadoes were carried by multiple waves of supercell thunderstorms that brought destruction but no injuries into McPherson County.
The first cell, which McPherson County Emergency Manager Dillard Webster reported to be an EF-4 storm with winds from 207 to 260 miles per hour, damaged at least one homestead in Rice County before briefly passing into McPherson County.
Trees and power poles were snapped by the storm’s winds, forcing the closure of several roads.
The tornado had been traveling at an estimated 50 miles per hour in Rice, McPherson and Ellsworth counties.
A second tornado, which touched down in Harvey County, crossed into McPherson County near 24th Avenue and Old Highway 81 and passed only 1.5 miles south of Moundridge. That tornado did the most damage in McPherson County, striking about five homesteads in southern parts of the county.
The storms were part of an extreme severe weather event predicted days before by the National Weather Service that included 97 confirmed tornadoes.
4. Police chaplaincy program begins, challenged by group
Large strides were made this year in developing a partnership between the McPherson Police Department and two McPherson pastors for a chaplaincy program. It has a two-fold purpose: to provide support for officers in their daily grind, as well as counseling for individuals in difficult situations. The program is based on similar police chaplaincy programs across the state and standards created by the International Police and Fire Chaplain's Association and Homeland Terror Chaplaincy Network.
In December, the Freedom from Religion Foundation contacted those involved, requesting they cease the program after receiving a complaint. A letter from the Foundation suggests the chaplaincy program would infringe on non-believers' rights by exposing both police officers and civilians to unwanted interactions with the police chaplains.
In a phone interview, Seidel said the Wisconsin-based foundation would not rule out litigation to resolve the issue, but said foundation officials hope to resolve the issue amicably through communication and education.
After considering the situation, the city of McPherson announced it would continue to pursue a police chaplaincy program. Mayor Tom Brown said he did not fear a law suit, and added the program meets the Constitutional requirements under three main criteria known as the “Lemon” test.
5. Mac College student killed
A former McPherson College student, Paul Ziegler, 19, of Pennsylvania, was killed in the McPherson area while on his bicycle Sept. 23.
Reports said a 17-year-old rural McPherson male swerved into Ziegler's path as he was reaching for something he dropped. Ziegler was declared dead at the scene.
Ziegler was a freshman majoring in business, was on the tennis team, and also worked in the sports information office.
6. Drought continues in region
While the drought was the talk of the year in agriculture 2011, the conversation only continued into 2012. Precipitation levels remained about 12 inches below normal for most of the year, forcing ranchers to sell cattle and grain producers to collect high amounts of insurance. Although temperatures were slightly more forgiving this summer, the parched land piggybacked on a similarly worrisome past twelve months, leaving producers wondering if the pattern could continue into the future.
The drought also affected the area in other ways, resulting in water main breaks, dying trees and brown lawns.
7. Three-lane street converted back to four
In summer of 2011, city commissioners decided to convert Main Street north of First Street from four lanes to three. The change was an attempt to lower vehicle speeds and collisions along the stretch of road.
But immediately after the overlay was completed, comments began trickling back to the commission that residents were not pleased with the change. The intersection at First and Main streets did not seem to line up right, and patrons of stores along the street complained of long waiting times when trying to leave parking lots.
A special task force was appointed by Mayor Tom Brown, and after careful consideration, the group recommended that the street be converted back to a four-lane road in March. This was later approved. Crews then scraped off the freshly painted yellow lines and reverted back to two north-bound and two south-bound lanes.
8. USD 418 impliments drug testing
The McPherson USD 418 Board of Education voted in favor of random drug testing for students with a 4-1 vote June 11. The testing began in fall.
The tests detect 16 substances in seventh- through 12th-grade students in Kansas State High School Activities Association activities.
The initial tests, which are administered up to two times a month, will cost about $30. This will translate to about $5,000 a year.
USD 418 KSHSAA coaches and sponsors have expressed support, but a number of parents have approached the board with their concerns, often citing privacy as the reason.
9. County schools persue bonds
Three McPherson County schools moved forward on bond issues this year.
The McPherson school board voted to move forward with a $13.25 million bond issue Dec. 10. If passed, the 20-year bond would replace the district’s current bond. However, under the new bond, the tax rate would drop from 6.497 mills to 5.5 mills. Four of the district’s six buildings — including McPherson High School, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Washington Elementary School — would undergo renovation if the bond issue is passed.
The Inman USD 448 residents voted in favor of a $4.535 million bond in May. The high school will gain improvements and the elementary school gain additions.
Canton and Galva residents voted in favor of an $8.55 million bond issue May 22. The USD 419 bond will fund a district reconstruction, moving students from three buildings—two in Canton and one in Galva—to one in each town. Students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade will be in Galva and those in seventh through 12th grade will be in Canton.
10. McPherson Museum begins construction
Construction progresses at what will be the new McPherson Museum on East Kansas. The groundbreaking ceremony took place June 15. Dirt work was done in July, and construction began in August. Crews spent months tearing down the old Cedars building for the construction.
The final $4 million project will be a 26,888-square-foot metal building, with a brick and stucco facade replicating prairie style architecure.
The new museum is planning for an open house by Labor Day of next year. Membership fees will go up at this time.
The 24,000-square- foot building will have a permanent exhibit hall, temporary exhibit hall, art gallery, theater, catering kitchen, a research room, an oral history room, offices, storage, terrace and a meeting room.