YEAR IN REVIEW: Top Stories of 2015

Selected stories from 2015, from the most popular and viral stories, to those that have the biggest impact on the residents of Osage County, presented in chronological order.


O’Bryhim’s ends 83-year legacy

OVERBROOK—The 83-year legacy of the O’Bryhim family grocers in Overbrook came to a close when Cliff O’Bryhim transferred ownership of O’Bryhim’s Thriftway to Jim O’Neil, of Horton.
O’Neil took full ownership on Jan. 5, and later renamed the business Overbrook Thriftway.

Meyer honored for 16 years of service

Carl Meyer was honored with a surprise reception Jan. 5 for his 16 years of service on the Osage County Commission. Family, friends, and various county and state officials overflowed the chambers with several commemorating his service.Meyer, who did not seek re-election, was replaced on the commission by Fred Diver.


Overbrook man charged with murder

TOPEKA—Kelsey Lee Fairchild, 21, Overbrook, was arrested 11:09 p.m. Jan. 6 by the Topeka Police Department in connection with a fatal shooting of Colton Christenson Jan. 5, in Topeka.

Fairchild allegedly shot Christenson while riding as a passenger in his car. He plead not guilty to six felonies on Aug. 27, including first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault and criminal discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle.

Fairchild’s pre-trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 19, 2016. His July trial is scheduled for March 21, 2016.

Conservative farmers honored at banquet

Silvers win Kansas Baker Award | Kline wins young farmer award

Silver Farms, Osage City, which was honored with the Kansas Banker Award, and Ryan Kline, who won the Young Farmer Award, were each honored at the 74th annual meeting of the Osage County Conservation District 6 p.m. Jan. 26 at Osage City High School.


Hinterweger a two-time spelling queen

SCRANTON—Carbondale Attendance Center sixth-grader Addison Hinterweger won the Osage County Spelling Bee Jan. 29 at Scranton Attendance Center, reclaiming the title from the previous year.

Ariana Delaney, a fourth-grader at Scranton Attendance Center, went 21 rounds with Addison to finish as the runner up.


K-31 continues road to improvement

OSAGE CITY—Regional representatives and state planners for the Kansas Department of Transportation met with Osage City and Osage County officials Feb. 5 to discuss plans for the improvement of K-31 Highway in Osage County.

The plans for the project call for 6.2 miles of new highway to be constructed parallel to the existing K-31 highway, tying into the old highway east of the Osage City limits and west of the newly constructed roundabout at the U.S. 75 Highway junction. The new highway is set to begin construction in 2017 and be completed in 2018.

Chargers earn medals at state wrestling

SALINA—The Santa Fe Trail Chargers took four wrestlers to the Class 4A State Tournament Sept. 28 in Salina. Ethan Dean led the team with a second place finish at 220 pounds. Bryce Erickson was third at 120 pounds and Jake Hastings was third at 285 pounds.

Municipalities award multi-million construction contracts

Within a week of each other, two north Osage County communities approved million-dollar municipal projects.

During a special meeting Feb. 24, the Scranton City Council awarded a $1,750,918.40 contract for the construction to upgrading the city’s water distribution system to Orr Wyatt Streetscapes of Raytown, Mo.

Carbondale City Council held a special meeting Feb. 26 and awarded a $2.2 sewer improvement project to Tri Star Utilities, Independence.

Burlingame Chamber dissolves, rebuilds

Members of the Burlingame Chamber of Commerce announced the break up of the organization during the March 2 meeting of the Burlingame City Council, citing lack of participation.

New members and organizers had a pair of organizational meetings March 4-5 to revive the Chamber of Commerce. More than 30 businesses committed to joining the new chamber, which meets at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the USD 454 Bus Barn.

Resident dies in nursing home fire

OSAGE CITY— Beverly Leeth, 59, formerly of Topeka, was killed in a small fire, which was contained to a designated smoking area in the north wing of Peterson Health Care nursing home March 12 at 630 Holiday St.


Sunday named Ms. Kansas Wheelchair

TOPEKA—Carrie Sunday, Overbrook area resident, was named Ms. Kansas Wheelchair at the 2015 Crowning Ceremony March 15 at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Topeka.

Sunday, who has been in a wheelchair since a car accident in 2003 left her with a spinal chord injury, advocates “changing the definition of disabled.”

“I want people to know people with disabilities are accomplished, and we shouldn’t be judged by our wheelchairs,” Sunday said.

Body recovered from Pomona Lake

OVERBROOK—The Osage County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responded to a report of a body found March 29 at Pomona Lake.

The body of Cynthia Steward, 44, Ottawa, was discovered at 110-Mile Park. Steward was reported missing and was later revealed to have drowned while kayaking in the lake.

Low turnout approves Lyndon sales tax

LYNDON—Just one in five Osage County voters turned out for the municipal and school board elections April 7, where half the local city and school board representatives were selected.

In Lyndon, less than 14 percent of the city’s population voted on a half-cent sales tax, which passed 97-45.

Burlingame, which had 10 applicants competing for three city council positions, had the strongest turnout in the county.

Harris gets 50 months in plea agreement

LYNDON—James P. Harris, 31, Carbondale, was sentenced to 50 months for involuntary manslaughter in the death of James Gerety.

The April 6 sentencing was the result of a plea deal entered Dec. 15, 2014, striking down the original charge of first-degree murder.

Gerety’s skull was found March 24, 2012, in rural Carbondale by a woman hunting for mushrooms, later identified as the residence of Harris’ father. The victim’s death is estimated to have happened in the spring of 2011.


12th annual Smoke in the Spring

OSAGE CITY—The Smoke in the Spring State Barbecue Competition turned in its biggest year yet. The contest featured entertainment and record-breaking barbecue sales April 10, followed by a topnotch competition from nearly 100 teams, which were turned in and judged Saturday morning.

The Taste of Osage City brought in $16,252 in BBQ Buck sales, a big jump from last year. The content boasts top-notch competition with 97 teams in 2015. According to organizer Corey Linton, 20 of those won a 2015 KCBS contest, and the field included four of the top five finishers at the American Royal Invitational, including the grand champion, The Smoking Hills.

The event is held the same weekend as the Cruis’n & Cook’n Car Show in downtown Osage City, which drew nearly 300 registered vehicles for the third straight year.

The contest looks to break the century mark, with goals to register 102 teams for its April 2016 event.

Mock accident addresses texting

MELVERN—Prom season usually comes with several warnings of impaired driving. In addition to those called by alcohol and drugs, a mock accident held April 15 for Marais des Cygnes Valley High School students focused specifically on distracted driving as a result of texting.

“Sometimes that’s the best way to get their attention is to show them the actual results,” said Kenen Martinez, former Melvern city marshal.

The event included talks from state troopers and featured classmates as victims.


Garrett’s Fireworks moves in with a bang

OSAGE CITY—Garrett’s Fireworks is completing its move from the former location north of Lyndon, to its new warehouse in Osage City. The business settled into the new location with an April product display for top clients - also known as a fireworks show.

“We have wholesale customers that come from all parts of the country,” said Eric Garrett, owner. “We had people from California, Pennsylvania and everywhere in between.”

The display included introductions, descriptions and demonstrations of Garrett’s top-tier items. Each item was fired off individually, followed by a three-minute finale.

Burlingame man dies following Taser incident

Martin Bayless, Burlingame, died on May 9 after being hospitalized from a Taser incident on May 1.

The standard offense report described Martin as fleeing or attempting to elude Burlingame Police Department Officer James Lovett at 227 E. Freemont Ave., Burlingame.

Martin’s death is being investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. No updates have been released on the incident.

Rodeo Days rides in the rain

BURLINGAME—A variety of downtown events helped rejuvenate the Burlingame Rodeo Days event May 15-16 in Burlingame.

The downtown events were sandwiched by a pair of evenings or rodeo events at the Burlingame Saddle Club Arena. The weekend was challenged by weather, which rained out many of the car show participants, and soaked the arena during the second night of the rodeo.

Area lakes, ponds refilled by rains

Heavy rains during the first part of May helped replenish area reservoirs, many of which had been low for several years. Osage City Lake, which was recently dredged to increase capacity, went from nearly drained to running over its dam, fully filling the 162-million gallon reservoir.

Rains later led to flooding, with water from Osage City Lake flooding fourth Street south of Osage City, and running across K-68 Highway north of Quenemo.

Tightwad Bank closes doors

OSAGE CITY—Tightwad Bank released a notice of closure to customers that the business, located at 131 W. Market, Suite A, in Osage City, was to close permanently on June 29.

The bank, which once had assets of more than $57 million, had just $2,911,000 when it announced its closing. The bank dispersed remaining funds to customers through transfers and checks from an escrow bank.

Hoch Road bridge repaired, reopened

The Hoch Road bridge, which was closed in February for resurfacing, was reopened June 12. Prior to closing, the bridges surface had begun to crack and fall a part, prompting officials to reduce the weight capacity and speed limit to 25 mph. The restrictions were removed when the bridge was reopened.

“It is an excellent bridge,” said Glen Tyson, county road and bridge supervisor. “I feel really confident in the work that was done.”


Mud run hits stride in third year

OSAGE CITY—With a wetter that normal spring, the course at Perry Thompson’s farm had more than enough water and mud. What Thompson sought in the weeks leading up to Cross Country Chaos 5K mud run event were more runners.

“We had 213 people register,” Thompson said. “That’s down about 10 from last year.”

The June 13 event raised funds and awareness for the Osage County Community Foundation.

Davies recognized for 53 years of service

OSAGE CITY—The USD 420 Board of Education preceded its June 10 meeting with a reception for Brian Davies, who served his final meeting with the board June 10.

Davies spent 53 years in education, as principal at Osage City Elementary School for 28 years; a board members for 20 years, serving several years as president; and a teacher for five years, at Osage City and Quenemo

Osage City, Melvern fairs run at once

June ended with a plethora of events, including two of the three county fairs and Scranton’s annual Saturday in the Park celebration, all taking place on the final weekend of June.

The two fairs spaced out 4-H activities between the preceding weekends. The Osage City Fair included a successful parade and fireworks show, and Melvern’s Sunflower Days brought a unique aspect with the addition of a meet and greet with Liz “Gator Queen” Cavalier and Justin “Gator King” Choate from the popular History Channel show Swamp People.


Peterson becomes youngest elected official in state

OSAGE CITY—Sarah Peterson couldn’t wait to continue the family tradition of serving on the Osage City USD 420 Board of Education.

Peterson was a senior at Osage City High School when she was elected. She filed for the position just two months after her 18th birthday, and began her first term on the board July 8.

By all accounts, Peterson is still currently the youngest elected official in Kansas.

Carbondale, Scranton awarded six-figure recreation grants

The City of Carbondale completed a narrow application window and was notified July 20 that it had been awarded a $349,518 Community Development Block Grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce.

The grant will be used for new park equipment; sidewalk additions or improvements; a new concrete parking lot at the existing city park; an open shelter house; bathroom additions at the park; and lighting around the new parking lot, shelter house and bathrooms.

The City of Scranton was also successful in securing a 90 percent matching grant for park improvements for $384,426.25. The city was informed of the grant during its July 21 meeting. The city is responsible for 10 percent of the funds, $38,442.63, of the project, designed to upgrade and improve the city parks.

Melvern discusses city hall replacement


MELVERN—The Melvern City Council hosted a town hall Aug. 3 at the Melvern Community Center to discuss options for either repairing of replacing a poorly aging city building which houses city offices and council chambers.

The council continued discussion at its December council meeting, and plans to continue talks in January of 2016.

Osage City library expansion approved

OSAGE CITY—The Osage City Library Board approached the Osage City Council, seeking permission to move forward with plans to construct an addition to the city-owned library building.

The expansion was anticipated to cost between $250,000 and $275,000 to design and build. Funding for the project was provided by two private donations.


44,000 pounds of pork ruined in rollover

LYNDON—A semi and trailer carrying 44,000 pounds of pork loin lost control and tipped over at the U.S. 75 and K-31/K-268 roundabout at 12:38 p.m. Aug. 5, two miles north of Lyndon.

According to the accident report, the driver entered the roundabout with too much speed, panicked and struck the curb.

Quenemo raises budget to hire police department

QUENEMO—The Quenemo City Council raised city tax rates 30 mills in its 2016 budget to allow for law and code enforcement in the city.

Overbrook hosts final fair

OVERBROOK—The Overbrook Osage County Fair completed the summer’s fair schedule with a week of events Aug. 8-16, including a four-day carnival with activities and rides, six arena events, a variety of 4-H events and the largest county parade of the year.

9-year-old killed in ATV accident

MILLER—Three Reading area boys were injured, one fatally, in an ATV accident three miles north of Miller Aug. 22.

Ryan Lane, 9, of Reading, was fatally injured in the accident. Ryan received head injuries and was transported by air ambulance to Stormont-Vail HealthCare in Topeka, where he died that evening.
Garett Fager, 11, and Logan Fager, 9, both of Reading, were also injured in the accident.


Monolithic domes completed at SFTHS

CARBONDALE—The two large monolithic domes on the Santa Fe Trail High School Campus were opened to students in September.

Crews wrapped up work on the fine arts facility, which houses a 500-person theater, along with band and choir rooms. The theater is inside the smaller of the two domes.
The second dome, which houses an auxiliary gym, wrestling room and locker rooms, opened Sept. 21.

Commissioners seek AG’s opinion on trails

Osage County Commissioners expressed interest in seeking clarification in responsibility for maintaining fences along the Flint Hills and Landon nature trails, which are operated by the to Kanza Rails-Trail Conservatory.

Commissioners were also interested in answers to the county’s specific duty toward the trails, private landowner’s duties, and ability for parties to bring action when a party fails to fulfill those duties.

Relay for Life brings in $30,000

OSAGE CITY—Relay for Life of Osage County wrapped up a summer of planning with a successful event Sept. 12, raising $30,067.84 for the fight against cancer. The teams and organizers raised around 75 percent of the total funds prior to the event. The remaining $7,000 was collected during the event.

Mayor discusses delinquent taxes

LYNDON—Overbrook Mayor Don Shultz visited with Osage County Commissioners Sept. 14 to discuss ongoing issues with delinquent taxes.
Shultz cited one business, which owes more than $220,000 in property taxes.

“Just our portion is over $50,000,” Shultz said. “That’s a huge portion of our budget.”


Wind farm breaches horizon

WAVERLY—The Ad Astra Wind Farm near Waverly is starting to take shape, with the first of 95 turbines completely assembled on Saturday. The project was expected to go online by the end of the year.

The first completed turbine was erected Sept. 12. The turbines can be seen from several points around the county, as far away as Overbrook.


Osage City cleans up after storm

OSAGE CITY—A destructive storm caused widespread damage throughout Osage City Friday morning.

The city received tornado like damage when a column of collapsing air hit the area, resulting in 70 mph winds around 5:45 a.m. in and around Osage City. The area received warning of a severe thunderstorm moments before dime-sized hail and high winds struck the city.

“We’re lucky no one was seriously injured,” said Rod Willis, Osage City manager. “It could have been a lot worse.

Lyndon man killed in rollover

LYNDON—A Lyndon man was killed in a one-vehicle accident Saturday evening after being ejected from his truck around 8:30 p.m. south of Melvern Lake.

Cory J. Sprecker, 26, Lyndon, was killed in the accident. Sprecker was in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and was not wearing a seat belt.

Carbondale police chief suspended

CARBONDALE—Carbondale Police Chief Chris Edin was suspended, as of Sept. 23.

Edin was suspended following a meeting between Carbondale Mayor Mike Fulton, Carbondale City Attorney Sue Devoe and Carbondale City Council Member Larry Hinck.

After three week’s paid suspension, Edin terminated on Oct. 21. No reason was given.

Sunset Stroll event raises $7,000

OVERBROOK—Overbrook residents revived the annual Sunset Stroll after a year off to continue the mission of raising funds to support local cancer sufferers.

“We’ve always wanted ours to be kept and used locally,” said Cala Hazen, co-organizer. “The first three years, we gave it to Race Against Breast Cancer. The fourth year, we established the fund at Santa Fe Trail High School in honor of two local ladies who died of cancer. This is the fifth year we’ve done it.”

Overbrook man wounded following break-in, shooting

OVERBROOK—An Overbrook man received critical injuries from a shooting which happened at a residence in the 900 block of Oak Street at 12:35 a.m. Oct. 8 in Overbrook.

According to a press release from the Osage County Sheriff’s Office, Osage County 911 was notified by a resident of Overbrook who had an intruder who had forced entry into her home.

Jolly was taken to Stormont Vail HealthCare, in Topeka, where he was initially listed in critical condition. He was arrested the evening of Oct. 20, shortly after he was released from the hospital.

He is being held on a $105,000 bond.

Topeka man dies after Taser incident

WAKARUSA—Kenneth Schick, 48, Topeka, died following local law enforcement’s response to a domestic disturbance call Oct. 20 in rural Osage County.

The Osage County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call of a possible domestic disturbance at 11651 S. Jordan Road, two miles north of Carbondale.

According to a press release from the department, officers arrived on scene at 1:35 a.m. and found an ongoing domestic disturbance with a hostage situation.

Lady Chargers fourth in state

SALINA—The Santa Fe Trail Lady Chargers weren’t a ranked team for most of the season. The Lady Chargers crept into top 10 this final week, and it was that kind of year for much of the state’s top talent.

The Lady Chargers beat the fourth seed in their home sub-state championship Oct. 24 to reach state, and others around the state followed suit. Three of the eight state-qualifiers weren’t ranked in the top 10, including the teams that went on to finish second and third.

Four of county’s five teams enter football playoffs

Osage County teams made an impressive district run, with four of the county’s five school earning a spot in the playoffs.

Burlingame went on to advance to the sub-state, Santa Fe Trail and Lyndon reached the sectional round, and Marais des Cygnes Valley fell in the first round.

Missouri man killed in Osage City skydiving accident

OSAGE CITY—A Missouri man was killed Saturday following a mid-air collision with another jumper while skydiving at Osage City Airport.

Mark Jungk, 54, of St. Joseph, Mo., was fatally injured following a mid-air collision with another skydiver around 4:30 p.m. at the SkyDive Kansas drop zone.

“Shortly after opening their parachutes, he and another experienced jumper collided under canopy and entangled,” said Jen Sharp, owner of SkyDive Kansas. “The other jumper was able to cutaway and open his reserve parachute, landing safely without injury.”

Chairman asks county treasurer to resign

LYNDON—Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall asked Shari Weber, Osage County treasurer, to resign Nov. 16 during, following a laundry list of allegations.

“What I would like to do is fire you, but I can’t,” Kuykendall said. “You’re an appointed instead of an elected person. You are considered elected, so it’s not within my power to fire you.”
Shari responded with a petition for mandamus on Dec. 17, seeking damages, back pay and legal fees.

Property owners contend trail ownership

LYNDON—The Osage County Commission continued discussion of Rails to Trails property with three land owners at it’s regular meeting Monday morning.

Jim Foster, rural Overbrook landowner, brought an update on the charter, which applied to the property used for the trail. Foster said he had discovered a copy of the charter, which said it was revoked in 1984

USD 434 plans more reorganization

CARBONDALE—The Santa Fe Trail USD 434 Board of Education offered comments and guidance following the presentation of the second draft of district reorganization plans for the 2016-17 school year.

“I think it’s a win-win for the kids,” said Clayton Lee, board member. “I’d rather see that than us lose a building. I think we need to pursue everything we can do to keep a building open in Scranton.”

The tenants of the plan would be to move third grade classes to join kindergarten through second-grade students at Overbrook Attendance Center; the fourth grade to join fifth through eighth-grade students at Carbondale Attendance Center; and establish a district-wide preschool at Scranton Attendance Center.

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The Osage County Herald-Chronicle

The official newspaper of Osage County; the cities of Burlingame, Carbondale, Lyndon, Melvern, Olivet, Osage City, Overbrook, Quenemo and Scranton; Burlingame USD 454, Lyndon USD 421, Marais des Cygnes Valley USD 456, Osage City USD 420 and Santa Fe Trail USD 434.

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