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(Top Stories of 2011, Part I - May through August, click here.)
(Top Stories of 2011, Part 2 - May through August, click here.)

September

Osage City area drivers were told they might have to wait five years before construction begins on state Highway 31 east of the city. A Kansas Department of Transportation area engineer reported to the Osage City Council that bid letting for the project had been slated for 2017, although survey work will begin soon. The estimated $14 million project will widen the seven-mile stretch of highway to its intersection with U.S. Highway 75, where a roundabout is scheduled to be constructed.

James Kraig Kahler, convicted and facing a jury’s recommendation of a death sentence for killing members of his family, requested the court to appoint defense attorneys for the sentencing phase of his trial. Kahler said the murder trial had exhausted his assets and he could no longer pay his attorneys, whom he requested to be appointed by the court. Osage County’s chief judge denied the request, ruling the attorneys must complete the case regardless of Kahler’s ability to pay their fees.

Osage County cancer survivors and their friends and relatives gathered for the annual Relay for Life Sept. 10 at Lyndon High School track. The overnight event raised $57,000 for the American Cancer Society.

USD 454 approved renovation of the school’s track, at a cost of $100,000. Work will include refinishing the track’s surface, its chute and field event launch area. Partial funding from the Jones Foundation requires the track be available for use by members of the community.

The Osage County Planning and Zoning Board will be considering changes to the county’s zoning regulations to allow smaller tracts of land to be subdivided for residences. The consideration of possible changes resulted from county officials receiving numerous requests to split smaller tracts than allowed by county regulations.

Osage County commissioners directed the county attorney to begin researching the county’s legal authority to require local trail operators to post a bond to ensure maintenance along the Flint Hills Nature Trail that traverses the county.

Overbrook celebrated its 125th birthday and the Santa Fe Trail with an annual festival featuring a fun run, a historic saloon, historic re-enactors and presenters, and ham and bean feed.

A former sheriff’s narcotics investigator was charged with misuse of public funds. The charge alleged Shane B. Kirkpatrick unlawfully used public money less than $1,000 in a manner not authorized by law. Kirkpatrick resigned from the Osage County Sheriff’s Office in April.

Street repairs began on Osage City’s main street as a cooperative project between the city and Kansas Department of Transportation. The project that closed a portion of Market Street, which is also state Highway 31, was expected to take at least a month to complete.

A Lecompton man was found guilty of cruelty to animals after a two-day bench trial in Osage County District Court. Salah Ibrahim, who was also found guilty of unlawful disposal of dead animals and sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation, was also ordered to pay restitution of $70,191 to the county for boarding the 13 horses seized from his property near Melvern in April 2010.

Marais des Cygnes Valley High School’s FFA hosted a land and soil judging contest, which included 20 FFA chapters and more than 250 students. MdCV FFA chapter finished ninth in the contest.

Burlingame City Council considered how to handle an expense of almost $1 million to upgrade its power generating engines to comply with EPA regulations.

October

The USD 434 Board of Education approved installing new bleachers in the Santa Fe Trail High School gymnasium.

Leonard Jirak, of Hartford, retired from his 38-year job as a fisheries biologist for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Jirak was recognized for his efforts to improve fishing and fish habitat at Melvern Lake and others, and participated again in the lake’s annual walleye harvest from the 90-acre lake in the outlet park.

Osage City Council members agreed to refinance debt related to the original construction of the city’s medical arts building. Replacing the public building commission bonds with general obligation bonds allowed the city to market the building for purposes other than medical services.

Osage County District Court Chief Judge Phillip Fromme accepted a jury’s recommendation and sentenced James Kraig Kahler to death for the murders of Kahler’s wife, Karen Kahler, two teenage daughters, Lauren and Emily, and Karen Kahler’s grandmother, Dorothy Wight, of Burlingame. The four victims were shot in Wight’s Burlingame home during the Thanksgiving 2009 holiday.

Carbondale organized a citywide cleanup, rallying volunteers to eliminate eyesores in the city. At the urging of Carbondale City Council Member Alex Zerbe, citizens cleared grass from sidewalks, landscaped areas of the city park, and painted over graffiti.

A sewer renovation project in Scranton was targeted for completion on Nov. 1. Upgrade of the city’s lift station were included in plans for a second phase of renovations to the sanitary sewer system.

USD 434 Board of Education heard reports of continued vandalism at the district’s schools, and took steps to install security cameras and post signs limiting use of school grounds to daylight hours.

Overbrook City Council approved application for a community development block grant for $400,000 for renovations at the city’s library. The library had already been bequeathed $950,000 from the estate of Glen Norton for the improvements, but the additional money would be used to enhance the library’s functions.

The USD 421 Board of Education appointed Dave Brecheisen to fill a vacancy on the board from the resignation of Ken Kirsop in July.

Osage City Council members agreed to change the angle of parking in the downtown area in an effort to widen the driving lanes on Market Street. An ordinance was drafted that would allow police to ticket vehicles extending past any designated parking lines. Melvern and Vassar geared up for fall community events, which included costume parades, hayrides and other Halloween fun.

Osage County commissioners approved a contract with Kennedy Glass, Lawrence, to install indoor vestibules in two entrances of the Osage County Courthouse, as an effort to weatherproof those entrances.

At an open house held at Osage City, Kansas Department of Transportation officials announced a roundabout project at the intersection of state Highway 31 and U.S. Highway 75 would be let for bids in spring 2012.

The first phase of a sewer renovation project in Burlingame, estimated to cost $855,000, neared completion, as the council was informed the project was expected to be under budget. Grant administrators said the $31,700 savings could be used in the second phase of the project.

November

Members of the Grace Community Church, Overbrook, hosted their second Honor Flight. Honor Flights provide transportation to World War II veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. About two dozen area veterans participated in the trip.

Lyndon City Council continued discussion about parking issues along Sixth Street near its intersection with Topeka Avenue or U.S. Highway 75. Cars parked along both sides of the street reportedly blocked lanes of traffic and the sight of motorists at the intersection and a nearby alley.

Osage City Council was informed the city could be eligible for state grants for possible work on a section of state Highway 31 that is also a city street in the east part of town. A Kansas Department of Transportation area engineer said if the city acted quick enough to inform KDOT of its intent, improvements on Laing Street could possibly piggyback on planned renovations of K-31 east of town.

A majority of the Carbondale City Council voted down a proposal by a city council member to require city employees to fill out time sheets.

On Veterans Day, Burlingame Elementary School classes each received flags flown on helicopter missions in Iraq. The flags were presented to students by Major Joshua Berryhill, who had served tours of duty in Iraq in 2003, 2005 and 2010.

Overbrook completed its street projects, coming up with funds left over from the $684,364 project that upgraded 24,360 feet of streets.

USD 454 Board of Education approved adding softball and baseball to its extracurricular activities.

Osage City officially opened its Christmas season the Saturday before Thanksgiving, with an annual lighted parade that featured Santa Claus’ trip down Market Street in a horse-drawn wagon.

Melvern PRIDE served its annual Thanksgiving meal to about 500 people at the city’s community center, with a backdrop of live music.

Osage City Council hired an interim city manager following a months-long search for a city manager. John Carter, formerly of Western Grove, Ark., was hired to temporarily fill the position left vacant by Nick Hernandez, who had resigned in July. City officials said the search for a city manager was expected to continue in January.

A man who was in the U.S. illegally and arrested after a raid in a marijuana field in northern Osage County was sentenced to three years in federal prison. Marcelo Parra-Ocmo, 42, of Mexico, pleaded guilty to cultivating more than 6,000 marijuana plants. Law enforcement officials raided the field in June, arresting Parra-Ocmo, his 15-year-old son, and Ernest Duenas-Aceon. Duenas-Aceon’s sentencing was set for Jan. 23.

The Burlingame City Council agreed to condemn building at 127 W. Santa Fe Ave, after the city’s building inspector reported the structure was a hazard since its roof had caved in.

A fire destroyed an unoccupied trailer house in Osage City. The vacant home at 15 Lakin Street was completely destroyed; the cause was found to be an electrical short.

December

Santa Claus made his rounds in the county, riding in parades in Lyndon and Burlingame the first weekend in December, with plans to make appearances in other towns prior to his annual Christmas trek around the world.

Osage County EMS, a new arm of TECHS Inc., finalized plans to take over the county’s ambulance services as of Jan. 1. Company officials met with county commissioners to show a new ambulance that will be stationed in the county at one of two locations, and to tell of preparations being made to serve the county.

Burlingame City Council continued its investigation into whether the city could attract and sustain a grocery store.

Carbondale has a new logo and slogan after a contest recognized Shellanne Thompson and Alice Smith as the creators. “Small town comforts, big city connections” on a blue building skyline will be the new image on city vehicles, letterhead and business cards.

Osage County moved from a drought watch to a drought warning. The warning triggers a volunteer mandate and notice to all water user to begin conserving water.

Melvern City Council agreed to implement a curfew, with the ordinance to be considered at a January meeting.

A rural Carbondale resident fired shots at would-be intruders. The Osage County Sheriff’s Office reported Derrick Wilson fired two shots at the suspects as they tried to enter a door at the residence located just outside Carbondale’s city limit. It was unknown if the suspects were hit, and a search failed to locate them.

Kathy Slattery, Osage City, has scheduled the first meeting of a local cancer support group, as a way to help those with cancer and their families.

Quenemo was brightened by the spirit of giving, after volunteers offered a Christmas shopping store in which all merchandise was free to anyone who wanted it. The volunteers gathered new and used items from the community to offer in the free store. Although no official count was taken, it was thought that up to 100 people were served at the store set up in the town’s community building.

Julie Powell and Jeri Spicer, both of Osage City, had their names drawn as lucky winners of $1,000 each in the annual Christmas on Us celebration hosted by The Osage County Herald-Chronicle and sponsored by 37 Osage County businesses. The shop at home promotion filled the auditorium at Osage City High School with ticket holders hoping to win the grand prizes.

Roland DeSoignie proposed opening a library at Scranton with a collection of 3,500 book and other items. He said he proposed the idea in his wife’s memory and to fulfill her wishes.

The USD 454 Board of Education officially accepted a grant of $67,020 from the W.S. & E.C. Jones Testmentary Trust, to partially fund resurfacing the school district’s track and building a surrounding fence.