Throughout 2009, the Fort Scott Tribune covered a wide range of events. From the passing of local icons to the community coming together for a common cause, The Tribune was there to tell the story. The staff of The Tribune has put together these summaries of the top 10 stories of 2009 in Fort Scott and Bourbon County.
No. 10: City's attempt to purchase golf course
April -- In the middle of a recession, the City of Fort Scott raised the eyebrows of the community when it came close to purchasing the Fort Scott Country Club.
The banks, club members, and the city had reached an agreement to purchase the facility for $400,000 and were working on the details of the contract when Pat Carney and his son Travis stepped in to purchase the facility for about twice the amount the city agreed to pay.
Adding to the controversy was the city's sudden decision to make such a substantial purchase. City officials said the deal had been in the works for weeks and that a short deadline was being enforced by the banks involved.
The facility was eventually purchased by Pat Carney and his son Travis who are now operating it as a semi-private country club in which the golf course is open to the public and the amenities such as the swimming pool, cart sheds, and tennis courts are available to members.
No. 9: Hallmark movie premiere
April 14 -- Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood was replaced with Liberty Theatre for the world premiere of the Hallmark movie "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler."
More than 400 people were in attendance to view the Hallmark Hall of Fame film premiere including the film's writer, director, executive producers, and members of group of Uniontown High School students who began the "Life in a Jar" project based on Sendler's story in 1999. A special guest at the event was Renata Zajdman, one of the 2,500 Jewish children rescued by Sendler.
Jessica Ripper, co-founder of "Life in a Jar" said it is rare for Hallmark to premiere their movies in the location where the idea was conceived.
Oct. 5 -- One year after being arrested for beating Carol Keele nearly to death in her Bronson home, Fred Thornton was found guilty of attempted murder in the first degree.
Thornton's daughter, Laura, was arrested on Oct. 21, 2008 -- the same day her father was -- for her involvement in the assault. She pleaded no contest to aiding and abetting aggravated battery, and received a 36-month probation sentence for the crime rather than the original 32-month jail sentence, which was suspended.
As a result of the conviction, Fred Thornton later received two consecutive sentences of 165 months in prison for attempted murder in the first degree and 43 months in prison for aggravated assault. He is also serving two concurrent sentences of 12 months for violation of a court order and six months for criminal trespass. His total sentence will be 208 months within the Kansas Department of Corrections. In addition, Thornton was also required to register as a violent person which will also reflect that the crime committed involved a deadly weapon.
Sept.-Nov. -- The Fort Scott City Commission made a surprising decision on Sept. 15, when it voted to ask Fort Scott City Manager Joe Turner to eliminate the Fort Scott Director of Human Resources position held by Robert Johnson.
Citing budget issues, the commissioners passed the vote which put Turner and Johnson, who held the position for more than 16 years, on the hot seat. After nearly two months of silence, Johnson sent an e-mail to The Tribune, along with other members of the community, an invitation to a good-bye party.
The day after the e-mail was released, Turner formally announced that the position had been eliminated and the duties would be assumed by other individuals within the city staff.
On Nov. 27, a celebration was held in Johnson's honor to thank him for his service to the city. About 50 friends and family attended the celebration which would mark the end of Johnson's tenure with the city.
No. 6: Two local figures laid to rest
Jan., March -- The Fort Scott community laid to rest two of its most well known local figures in 2009.
Shepherd, who founded Ray Shepherd Motors in 1952, was involved in several area groups and organizations and served two terms as a Kansas State Highway Commissioner.
About 400 people, including law enforcement officers and emergency personnel from Allen, Linn, Neosho, Crawford and Bourbon counties attended Taylor's memorial service. The Bourbon County Courthouse also closed part of the day to allow all county employees to attend the funeral.
Taylor began his law enforcement career in 1989. He died just four days before he and his wife's 26th wedding anniversary.
No. 5: H1N1 in Bourbon County
In late July, the first case of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus in Bourbon County was confirmed.
The virus had been moving closer to Bourbon County during the few weeks prior to the diagnosis of the first local case, which was in a young adult living in Bourbon County.
After the first case was diagnosed, area schools and businesses began preparing for the possibility of an outbreak of the virus. Local health officials and agencies such as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment offered tips for people to help curb the spread of the virus. The first cases of the virus were reported in Kansas in late April.
A second local case of the virus was confirmed in early August. The new case was diagnosed in a child living in Bourbon County and was not related to the first local case of the virus. Local health officials said both of those individuals recovered.
The H1N1 vaccine became available in Bourbon County in October.
No. 4: Tynce Joles murdered
A 37-year-old rural Fort Scott man was found murdered on Dec. 12.
Shortly before 9:30 p.m., the Fort Scott Police Department responded to the 300 block of North Ford Street in reference to a call of a disturbance in which it was reported that gun shots had been fired. Upon arrival, officers located a vehicle off the road at Elm and Mineral streets. Tynce Joles, of rural Fort Scott, was found unresponsive in the driver's seat of the vehicle. He was transported by ambulance to Mercy Health Center where he later died.
Robert Miller, 24, Fort Scott, was later arrested and booked into the Southeast Kansas Regional Correctional Center on a first-degree murder charge in connection with the incident. Police said the suspect is innocent until proven guilty by law. Miller is still being held in lieu of $1 million bond.
No. 3: Mercy makes cuts
On Jan. 7, 2009, Mercy Health System of Kansas, Inc., announced cost-containment measures that included staff reductions and modifications to services.
Measures implemented included the elimination of 56 positions across the Kansas organization, which operates hospitals in both Independence and Fort Scott. Twelve of those positions were vacant, leaving a total of 44 coworkers affected by the layoff, including 30 in Fort Scott and 14 in Independence.
Mercy officials said the cuts were made in an effort to conserve resources amid a weakened economy and continue the provision of quality healthcare to its communities. Part of the reduction involved the elimination of paid positions to operate Mercy Health Center's courtesy transportation service in Fort Scott. Mercy Health Center in Fort Scott also discontinued its weekend cafeteria service. Another change involved the provision of physician services for the emergency rooms at both hospitals.
Mercy was originally going to close its rural health clinic in Arma, but it remained open due to much support from the Arma community.
The Fort Scott Community College Greyhound football team concluded its best season since 1973 with an appearance in the National Championship Game.
The Greyhounds finished the season as champions of Region VI and the Jayhawk Conference with an 11-1 record. It was the team's first national championship appearance in 37 years and one of the best seasons in the history of the FSCC football program. FSCC ended the season ranked No. 2 by NJCAA voters after entering the championship game as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. FSCC head coach Jeff Sims was voted the Jayhawk Conference Coach of the Year in 2009.
In the inaugural Citizens Bank Bowl at Carnie Smith Stadium on Dec. 6, the No. 2-ranked Blinn Buccaneers scored 21 points in the game's final 21 minutes to claim its fourth NJCAA championship with a 31-26 victory over the Greyhounds. Despite the loss, FSCC Running back Jasmin Hopkins was named the game's Most Outstanding Offensive Player while linebacker LaVonte David was named the game's Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
Nov. 7 -- After more than a year of preparation, the Ropin' & Rockin' for Pennies for the Park went off better than expected.
The Youth Activities Team sold 7,408 tickets for the Ropin' & Rockin' for Pennies for the Park event, which featured a roping competition in the morning followed by a concert with Kevin Blake Weldon and Jason Aldean performing. The event was sponsored by Adam LaRoche as a way to help promote the Ellis Park Project as well as give back to the community.
With the combination of thousands of individuals and alcohol, violent incidents were surprisingly avoided during the concert. The presence of alcohol was one of the concerns when the event was brought to the Bourbon County Fair Board in July 2008.
The excitement and enthusiasm generated by the event is expected to help the progress of the Ellis Park Project, in which the YAT is attempting to raise money to build a $4 million park which consists of baseball diamonds, soccer fields, batting cages, miniature golf course, walking trail and other family oriented activities. The excitement is also expected to give the other Community Visioning Action Teams a boost.