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City Commission approves inspection agreement for bike project
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The City Commission unanimously approved the KDOT Inspection Agreement for Kaw Valley Engineering to inspect the Bike Boulevard project in Junction City for $93,553 last Tuesday. Live Well Geary County funds the full cost of the inspection.

In October 2019, the Flint Hills Metropolitan Planning Organization, which provides regional transportation planning and programming services across portions of Geary County and other counties, partnered with Live Well Geary County and the City of Junction City to create a plan for a bicycle path on Seventh Street to help Junction City become more walkable and bikeable.

The groups chose Seventh Street because it connects to trails and key assets like downtown, the library and Dillons. It also parallels Sixth and Eighth Streets, which are major vehicle corridors.

The bike route will go from Seventh and Jefferson Streets to Eighth and Eisenhower Streets. Vehicles will still have access, but the street will have lower speeds, traffic calming and restricted turns, encouraging vehicles to use the major vehicle corridors instead and allowing a safer environment for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The City Commission approved the KDOT Transportation Alternative Program in April, an 80/20 grant for the project. Through the agreement, KDOT funds 80% of the cost to build a bicycle route on Seventh Street in Junction City, and Live Well Geary County pays the other 20%.

The total estimated cost of the project is $393,037. KDOT’s share is $249,949, and Live Well Geary County’s share is 95,089.

Before any permanent changes were made, Flint Hills Metropolitan Planning Organization created a temporary demonstration project to test several traffic calming features to gauge public perception and vehicle compliance and speeds.

The demonstration projects with reusable materials allowed the group to determine costs, test ideas and experiment with options to improve safety. According to the plan on their website, flinthillsmpo.org/bikewalkjc, it did not use city taxes or funds. Rather, the demonstration projects were funded by the America Walks Grant, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas Pathways to Healthiness Grant and Metropolitan Planning Organization Consolidated Planning Grant funding.


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Grandview plaza families receive gifts from Santa

Four Grandview Plaza families and a total of 11 children received gifts from Santa Claus this year.

The city partnered with Grandview Plaza Police Department and Volunteer Fire Department, as well as Santa, of course, to buy meals and gifts for families picked with help from local school teachers and the police department.

City Clerk Janet Young said the partnership typically happens annually, but they could not do it last year because of the pandemic. She said this year was a little different than recent years past, as they went to the houses instead of having the families come to them. She said they did this reduce the risk of contracting illness and make people more comfortable after the pandemic.

The city donated the money for the meals and gifts. Each family received precooked Christmas meal and $100 toward their water bills. The children, ages 5-11, received $50 Walmart gift cards to buy toys with and also received candy and bathtub finger paint.

Young said the children were very excited to see Santa riding in a fire truck to meet with them. Police vehicles rode along with the fire truck.

“The little ones are very thrilled to see Santa. We have shy ones sometimes,” she said. They were big smiles this year, and one of them went and grabbed a little elf hat to take a picture with Santa. … several of them were very happy to give Santa their lists of what they would like for Christmas.”


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City Commissioner Brown retires, recognized for service

City Commissioner Tim Brown, who served the city in multiple capacities for more than 37 years, received a plaque for his service at the Dec. 21 Junction City Commission meeting – his last meeting on the commission.

Brown said he has loved serving the city, whether as the former chief of police or a commissioner, but he said it is time for him to step back.

“I’m not getting around like I used to, and I’ve got a lot of grandkids I’ve got to take care of,” he said. “Every day with the city has been exceptional. … I very much appreciate how the city treated me and my wife.”

Brown said his main goals going forward are to continue his part-time job with St. Francis Ministries and spend more time with his wife and grandchildren. He does not plan to become involved in government in the future, other than expressing his opinion on his city on occasion.

“For public service, 45 years is enough. Military, police and then commission,” he said.

At the commission meeting, city officials presented Brown with a glass clock with a plaque, honoring his time on the city commission.

“He has been a fine public servant to all of us here, and I’d like to say a good friend, as well,” Allen Dinkel, city manager, said at the meeting, as Mayor Jeff Underhill presented Brown with the clock plaque.

“It has been an honor to serve with you, and I look forward to continuing to just see you around the community and being a part of it,” Underhill added.

Brown said even though he was well aware of the workings of the city before he was a commissioner because of his experience as police chief starting in 2010, becoming a city commissioner allowed him to see the bigger picture.

He said being able to help bring the city to where it is today is his biggest accomplishment on the commission.

“There’s been a number of hot topics, and I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. I think just being able to have some input as to the welfare of my city has been a great accomplishment for me,” he said. “To be able to involve myself in some of the decisions as to the direction the city was going has been really positive for me.”

Brown said the improvements that have occurred in the city, since before he was on the commission through today, are like “night and day.”

“Our debt load has been cut by maybe three quarters. The city is in much better condition than it was in 2010,” he said. “It has a bright shining outlook in 2021.”

Brown accepted the plaque at the meeting and thanked the community for the last few years. All who were present at the meeting – city employees as well as community members – gave Brown a standing ovation.

“It’s been a pleasure. I’ve known you for a long time, but in the last few years, it’s been great sitting beside you and learning from you,” City Commissioner Ronna Larson said to him.


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Fresh Start Emergency Shelter closes temporarily

The Fresh Start Emergency Shelter at 136 W. 3rd St. closed their doors temporarily to the public Dec. 17.

Shanea Bea, president of the Board of Directors for Fresh Start Emergency Shelter, said the board voted 5-1 on Dec. 6 to close the shelter because of financial concerns and for the safety of shelter guests.

“The Fresh Start Emergency Shelter is facing ongoing safety, financial and legal barriers that are preventing the shelter from operating safely to the public,” Bea said.

Bea said the board is working to address the issues properly so the shelter can reopen and resume services as soon as possible. She said the board does not have a re-opening date as of yet.

The guests staying at the shelter were relocated to other housing and shelters by the closing date, including permanent housing in the community and temporary housing within hotels or other area shelters.

Board members relayed they contacted other area shelters to let them know of the closure so staff could prepare for more guests. Bea said she doesn’t know whether the closure will cause an overflow at other shelters.

The shelter staffed one full-time volunteer, the director, and other people volunteered on occasion. The board said the director will continue to work on a volunteer basis, so no loss of pay will occur in conjunction with the temporary closing of the shelter.

“The Fresh Start Emergency Shelter Board understands the important need of a shelter for our community and will continue to work diligently to resolve these legal barriers that the shelter is facing to reopen the shelter to the community as soon as possible,” Bea said.

The board did not reveal what sort of “legal barriers” the shelter is facing. Bea said questions may be directed to freshstartshelter@outlook.com.


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Community members publicly comment on hot issues at city commission meeting

Two community members made public comments during the last Junction City Commission meeting on two hot button issues: a proposed meatpacking plant and the water plant flooding earlier this month.

Kelsey Mann, of Liberty Hall Road, said she and her husband recently purchased the seven acres they live on now partially because they cannot afford city taxes. She told the commission she is concerned about her children’s quality of life because the proposed location of a meatpacking plant is less than a mile from their new home.

“We feel blindsided because you’ve been working on this project for about a year,” she said. “I am very upset because this is going to affect my kids’ quality of life, it’s going to cost the city a ridiculous amount of money and potentially make us residents of the city, which is exactly what we did not want to do.”

Mann said every neighbor she has spoken to is “100% against this,” but they feel that their elected officials are not looking out for them.

“You have signed a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to protect this company, but your job is to represent us citizens,” she said.

She asked the commission what steps she can take to stop the meatpacking plant, who is protecting the citizens and where the city is in bringing the business to the city.

Mayor Jeff Underhill said he would speak on the issue because he has known about the proposed meat packing plant for longer than any of the other commissioners and most citizens.

“Nothing is coming to town yet. Nothing could still come to town,” he said. “We are doing our due diligence on behalf of the community and citizens and the neighbors too.”

Underhill said he doesn’t want a “smelly slaughterhouse” either, but it is the commissioners’ job to look at options to grow the community.

“We’re not at the point where we’re announcing or we’re bringing the slaughterhouse or anything like that,” he said. “We’re just doing due diligence to see are there other opportunities for growth in Junction City.”

Underhill said the meatpacking plant could bring 300 jobs to the area but the economic development project is moving slowly because they are researching and “looking out for people.”

“It needs to not smell, which I believe is the stance of everybody up here and everybody working on this project,” he said.

Blanchard Brown, of Tall Grass Drive, then commented on the city engineering and the water issue.

Brown said he has been in the area for around 15 years and used to work with the city from 2014 to 2018 as an engineering technician. In his position, he worked underneath the city engineer and assistant city engineer, positions he said do not exist anymore. He said his responsibilities were to be a liaison for projects within the city, maintenance and the water treatment plant.

Brown said a previous city employee said it costs about $500,000 a year to hire Kaw Valley Engineering to run the engineering aspects of the city. Brown said by hiring a city engineer and engineer technician, the city could save around $360,000 a year.

Later in the meeting, City Manager Allen Dinkel said in response that the city commission approved the decision to use Kaw Valley Engineering and said without hiring a firm, there are additional costs involved than just the two positions Brown mentioned, so the savings estimate Brown made is inaccurate.

Brown said during public comment that because Dinkel is not an engineer, he cannot collaborate with other engineers about what needs done.

“The (water) plant has flooded before,” Brown said. “I mentioned that the plant will flood again, and I was laughed at. I was laughed at in those meetings because there was no way it was going to flood again. And it did. Five years later, it flooded.”

Brown said he is tired of bad leadership from Dinkel and said Dinkel acts like a dictator and not a leader. He also stated that Dinkel is responsible for the water plant flooding because he makes the final decisions for the city.

“I’m asking for immediate resignation from Mr. Dinkel,” Brown said to the city commissioners at the meeting. “If Mr. Dinkel does not resign by the next city council meeting, I’m asking you guys to do your due diligence and vote amongst yourselves to have him removed as the city manager.”

In response to Browns comments, Dinkel explained later in the meeting that the decisions on the water plant and who runs it are voted on by the city commission. Additionally, the water plant is in phase two of improvements which started long before the water plant flooded this month.

Underhill said if it weren’t for Dinkel and his staff’s quick work after the water plant flooded, the city may not have had clean water for a much longer amount of time. He commended Dinkel and his staff for their work at the meeting.


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Geary Community Hospital resumes normal activity after no water issue
  • Updated

Although the boil water advisory was lifted for Geary County last week, Geary Community Hospital received the results of its water samples this week and is only now back to normal after an issue at the water plant that shut down water for the city prevented its operations earlier this month.

Once the city was off the boil advisory, Ashley King, director of communications at the hospital, said the hospital had to send water samples of its own to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Staff took the samples Thursday, and the hospital received the all-clear Monday morning.

King said the heat in the building requires water in the boilers, and many other aspects of the hospital’s operation require water, so after the building lost water Dec. 16, it could no longer house patients. She said the staff worked with EMS to discharge and transfer patients to another facility.

Staff continued to operate the Emergency Room, which was continuously busy during the water outage, she said. At least three surgeries were rescheduled since the humidity in the operation room could not be regulated without water.

The hospital had water again late on Saturday, Dec. 18. King said the hospital turned on the boilers once the water pressure was high enough early on Dec. 20 and was able to open services again at 3 p.m. the same day.

With the boil water advisory still in effect for the hospital, the staff worked with water they received from outside sources.

King said the hospital received two pallets of water from a business in Manhattan – a pallet of drinking water and a pallet of distilled water, which the hospital uses for its lab machines. She said the City of Milford donated a pallet of water. The hospital purchased more pallets of water.

“We had graciously received 1-gallon and 5-gallon jugs of water from various businesses in Manhattan and Junction City, and we also purchased some so we were able to provide water for our patients and for cooking and those types of things,” King said.

King said the hospital staff are not aware of any residual effects currently, but they have a board meeting this week to discuss the costs associated with the hospital losing water and its plans moving forward.

“We just appreciate the community support ensuring that we were able to operate still with our ER with water,” she said. “Our local EMS department did a fabulous job helping transfer patients out, and if patients needed to be hospitalized when they were in the ER, they would them transfer them to another facility, so it was really a great collaboration effort between Junction City Fire Department and Geary County Emergency Management.”


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