BY ANDY TAYLOR
Montgomery County Chronicle
CANEY — Mayor Dale McBride was called upon to break a deadlocked vote of the Caney City Council Monday night concerning the council’s consideration of outsourcing the city’s ambulance service to a private firm.
After the council voted 4-4 to stop further discussions about privatizing the city’s ambulance service McBride cast his seldom-used, tie-breaking vote in favor of discontinuing the discussions concerning privatization.
“From what people have told me, they are comfortable with the present ambulance service, and the reason they are comfortable with it is that they know the people who run the service,” said the mayor. “These people (who run the ambulance) are well known in the community and they have a vested interest in this community. And, when you have a community with a lot of elderly residents, that’s an important of that service. The citizens don’t want strangers coming to their door.”
So, as of Monday’s meeting, consideration of privatizing the city’s ambulance service will not be pushed by members of the council. At the council’s October meeting, the council heard a proposal from Integrity EMS, based in Afton, Okla., to establish a private ambulance service in the community for a 60-day trial period. The issue of outsourcing the city’s ambulance service was first discussed by councilor Jason Moore at the council’s September meeting.
The decision to not seek any further information from private ambulance services did not sit well with one city councilor.
“I honestly cannot vote in favor of that motion,” said councilor Penny Coy concerning the motion to stop further discussions about a private ambulance service. “I feel like we’re shutting the door on getting more information.”
Prior to the council’s decision, the council received copies of an informal opinion poll produced by Caney resident Dan Johnston. Johnston said the opinion poll, similar to a petition, asked citizens if they agree or disagree with the council’s consideration of a private ambulance service. Johnston said he had received more than 251 responses — mostly from Caney city residents. Of the more than 251 responses, only five people indicated agreement with the council to consider a private ambulance firm.
“My opinion is why can’t we do something with our own ambulance service and try to get its level of service up,” said Johnston, after presenting the opinion poll to the council. “I also feel that if something needs to be decided, it ought to be up to a vote of the people.”
While councilor Penny Coy said she appreciated Johnston seeking the opinions of local residents, she questioned if the poll was premature.
“There has been absolutely nothing decided on this,” she said, adding that many citizens have been misinformed about the council’s discussions. “We want to look at our options, and that’s all we’re doing.”
The vote to stop discussions about outsourcing the city’s ambulance service came after a report was given by city administrator Don Whitman concerning bid specifications for prospective ambulance service firms. At the council’s special meeting on Dec. 1, the council directed Whitman to have bid specifications ready for the council’s consideration at its Dec. 15 meeting. However, Whitman said at Monday’s meeting that he still felt uncomfortable with the degree of some bid specifications that many cities have used. A group of three counties in Georgia collectively sought a private ambulance service with only a three-page document. Meanwhile, a California county sought private ambulance proposals through a 75-page bid specification document.
In many other cases, cities and counties have hired professional consultants to assist those governmental entities move into a transition of private emergency services and the preparation of bid documents.
With the information he had in hand on Monday night, Whitman said he felt uncomfortable seeking bids from private firms with little information to present to them.
“I think there are a lot of questions,” said Whitman referring to a short-document bid specification proposal. “It leaves a lot open to interpretation. It’s very basic, and it’s very generic.”
In a related matter Monday night, the council did vote unanimously to upgrade the city’s ambulance personnel training to a level of EMT-I (intermediate), which is a step above the EMT-B (basic). Whitman said the costs to upgrade the training level of ambulance personnel would be about $4,300, and the training would come via Coffeyville Community College beginning next February. Eight members of the city’s police/ambulance service would undergo the training, which takes two to three months to complete.
The city also will have to upgrade its stock of pharmaceutical drugs that EMT-I personnel can administer on ambulance runs. The price tag for those drugs is about $1,300, Whitman said.
City councilor Chad Bradford said he liked the idea of upgrading the personnel training level but that he would also like to see a contractual commitment from those employees to stay with the City of Caney for a period of time before seeking jobs elsewhere.
“I would like to see us have a contract with the employees so that we aren’t paying to train them to go to work in Independence, Coffeyville or elsewhere,” he said.
Police chief Rick Pell said he, too, would like to see a committment from each worker but that it would be difficult to bind those employees to a specified term-of-service contract.
The council did have a discussion as to whether the City of Caney could require workers to pay back the City for training should a worker accept a job elsewhere shortly after the completion of that training.
BY ANDY TAYLOR
This Is My Montgomery County
CHERRYVALE — For the past two weeks, Alvin Wood of Cherryvale has found himself back in the ranks of the U.S. Air Force.
And, he’s got the dog tags to prove it.
That’s Alvin W. Wood, AF 17342093 — reporting for duty!
But, to know why Wood, a resident of the Cherryvale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, proudly sports his dogs tags around his neck, you’ve got to know how they got there — again.
Here’s the amazing tale . . .
Some eight months ago, Melinda Cannon, a member of the nursing center’s housekeeping department, was helping her boyfriend clean out a file cabinet that the boyfriend’s stepmother had purchased at a real estate auction.
The contents inside that metal file cabinet were insignificant; it was the file cabinet itself that the family was needing for use. The family cannot even recall which auction from where the file cabinet was bought.
So, some miscellaneous papers found at the bottom of the file cabinet drawers were thrown away, until Melinda’s boyfriend found a pair of military dog tags sitting in the bottom of the drawer.
Rather than throw the metal dog tags in the trash can, Melinda’s boyfriend thought that her kids might enjoy playing with them.
So, the dog tags found a new home in a toy box — amid a myriad of other kiddie toys.
Two weeks ago, while Melinda was picking up the toys and placing them in the toy box, she came across that old pair of dog tags that she thought had long been discarded or found sanctuary at the bottom of the toy bin. She had never paid any attention to them until she read the name stamped on the aging metal: “Wood, Alvin W.”
“I immediately told my boyfriend, ‘Hey, I think I know this guy’,” she said, recalling the conversation with her boyfriend. “He’s a new resident at the care center.”
Last Tuesday, Dec. 9, Cannon surprised Wood with the presentation of his long-lost dog tags. And, the longtime Cherryvale resident was almost moved to tears at the sight of his military identity tags dangling from a metal chain.
“My reaction was, ‘Where in the heck did you find those things?” said Wood. “I haven’t seen them for more than 50 years.”
Cannon explained how her boyfriend’s stepmother bought a file cabinet at an auction and how her kids had used them as a toy for several months.
Cannon thought it was fitting that the dog tags be returned to their rightful owner.
“I thought he deserved to have them back,” she said.
As if finding those old dog tags amid the unimportant clutter of auction fodder wasn’t a miracle enough, here’s another unique angle to this story . . .
Wood says he believes those dog tags may have made a long voyage that has come full circle to Cherryvale.
“To the best of my memory, I put those dog tags away after I left the Air Force and bought a newspaper in Orion, Illinois,” he said. “That was the last time I saw those dog tags. So, it could be that those dog tags fell in a file cabinet, and the file cabinet went from Illinois to Cherryvale.”
Wood says he forgot about those dog tags after he went into the newspaper business. He hadn’t thought about them until Cannon, the nursing center employee, gave them to him last week.
After attending schools in Cherryvale and being trained as a printer’s devil at the Cherryvale Daily Republican newspaper, Wood joined the U.S. Air Force in the years following World War II. He was bound for the Korean Conflict before a strange infection in his hand caused him several days of hospitalization in New York.
“I was in the hospital for about three or four days . . . during which time my orders got changed,” he said. “I was ready to go to Korea but ended up in Europe.”
Wood served as a service assistant to a U.S. Air Force chaplain during his four years of military service. Wood served in Germany, France and Luxembourg.
“I drove the chaplain everywhere, wrote all of his letters and said ‘Yes, sir’,” Wood said, laughingly.
Some 50 years later, Wood said he was proud of his years in the military, and getting his dog tags back has brought back a flood of memories of his brief contribution to Uncle Sam.
“I’ve got a lot of good memories of my years in the U.S. Air Force,” he said. “And, I’m glad to have the dog tags back. I can still tell you my serial number without looking at my tags: AF 17342093 . . . yes, sir!”
• Born and raised in Montgomery County, Andy Taylor is a fifth-generation newspaper editor who keeps the pulse of Montgomery County. If you have a story idea about a unique person or event in Montgomery County, let Taylor know by calling (620) 331-9178, or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
BY ANDY TAYLOR
Montgomery County Chronicle
CHERRYVALE — Current and former members of the Cherryvale City Council as well as city administrator Trey Cocking and former police chief Milton Gillespie are being sued in federal court by a former Cherryvale police officer who is claiming to be a victim of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination.
A 17-page complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., on Dec. 9 by attorneys representing Laurel K. Fauster, who served as a Cherryvale police officer before her termination in 2007. Fauster is bringing a sexual harassment and sexual discrimination lawsuit against city administrator Trey Cocking, former police chief Milton Gillespie, Mayor John Wright, current city councilors Chad Wickham, Kevin Crane, Jerry Wallace and Randy Wagoner, and former city councilors Rick Valverde and Ben Bellmore. Valverde and Bellmore were on the city council at the time when the sexual harassment and sexual discrimination incidents were alleged to have happened.
Fauster, now 39 and living in Mound Valley, claims that she was subjected to lewd and sexual advances by Gillespie during his tenure as police chief. One incident in particular took place on Jan. 24, 2007, when Fauster and Gillespie were en route to a law enforcement training seminar in Olathe, Kan. Following Gillespie’s alleged comments, which included comments about a woman’s vaginal area, Fauster refused to return to Cherryvale in the same vehicle as Gillespie.
Fauster brought the matter to her supervisor, assistant police chief Larry Blevins, who then reported the matter to Cocking. Fauster claims nothing was done immediately to stop the unwanted advances or to adequately investigate the matter.
Fauster also says in her complaint that she was subjected to lewd comments and sexual advances by members of the police department as retaliation for discussing her concerns about Gillespie with Blevins. One alleged incident took place later in the spring 2007 in which an unnamed Cherryvale police officer asked Fauster to engage in sex with the police officer and his wife. On that particular occasion, the unnamed officer made comments about a woman’s vagina in the present of other people.
When Fauster refused the unwanted advances, the officer then began to “publicly humiliate Plaintiff (Fauster) and ostracize her from the rest of the police force by making derogatory and belittling comments about Plaintiff’s character and professional competency . . .”, the complaint said.
Fauster also said in her complaint that she applied for the position of police chief but that she was denied the job because of her sex. The issue of her qualifications as police chief were discussed when she was hired by Gillespie for an open police position. During the interview, Gillespie allegedly claimed that Fauster was more qualified for the police chief position than he was.
When Fauster complained of the work environment to her superior, she felt nothing was being done to stop the culture of sexual harassment, the complaint says.
“Throughout Plaintiff’s employment with Cherryvale, Plaintiff made repeated complaints to her immediate supervisor concerning the continuing offensive sexual comments and harassment,” according to the complaint. “Plaintiff was repeatedly advised that her complaints had been related to Defendant Cocking and members of the Cherryvale City Council. Notwithstanding, Defendants failed and refused to take any action to remedy these acts of sexual harassment and humiliation. The extent of the sexual harassment and Defendants’ deliberate and/or reckless indifference to Plaintiff’s continued complaints created an intolerable and hostile work environment.”
Fauster also contends that she inquired about the termination of Gillespie (Gillespie was fired by the city council in spring 2007), Fauster said she was advised by assistant police chief Larry Blevins that the City of Cherryvale was unable to investigate her allegations. The reason? The complaint cites Blevins as saying the police department and city council were concerned that such an investigation might result in liability to the City of Cherryvale.
Fauster then submitted her application to the open position of police chief following Gillespie’s termination. Fauster was not afforded an interview with the council in the consideration of that job.
Fauster also contends that Cocking and the city council conspired “to take adverse employment” against her. On June 30, 2007, the Kansas Law Enforcement Center in Hutchinson, Kan., denied her request for reciprocity (prior to coming to Cherryvale, Fauster was a police officer in Texas). The complaint alleges that Cocking refused to sign the necessary documentation to grant Fauster with certification reciprocity and that Cocking ordered Blevins to forward a “false and defamatory” letter to the law enforcement center for the “express purpose of preventing Plaintiff from obtaining employment of any kind in the law enforcement community.”
When the issue of the police chief position was discussed with city administrator Trey Cocking, the city administrator was alleged to have said that Cherryvale would never have a female police chief, the complaint says.
The complaint cites four specific claims, that:
• Fauster was subjected to sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and unlawful retaliation.
• Fauster was denied her civil rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
• the City of Cherryvale — through its city council, city administrator and police chief conspired to reach a mutual understanding and acted together to “undertake a course of conduct violative of Plaintiffs (Fauster’s) civil rights by failing and refusing to take steps to stop the unlawful discrimination, workplace sexual harassment and discrimination based on sex and retaliated against Plaintiff by terminating her employment when she complained of the illegal and wrongful treatment committed against her in the workplace.”
• the alleged acts constitute a “tort of outrage in that the acts and conduct of the defendants individually and acting within the scope of their employment and on behalf of the City of Cherryvale were so willful, malicious, unjustified, capricious and extreme as to be beyond all bounds of decency. Such conduct was so extreme and outrageous as to be utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”
Fauster is seeking $75,000 plus punitive damages against each of the nine defendants. She is demanding that the case be heard in front of a federal jury.
According to the court complaint, Fauster is being represented by John C. Frieden and Clinton E. Patty of the Frieden & Forbes law firm in Topeka and William J. Fitzpatrick, an Independence attorney.
What happens now in the federal lawsuit? The nine defendants will be asked to provide a response to the allegations, after which a federal judge will determine a time and location for a jury trial.
As in all cases, a person is innocent of all charges unless convicted by a jury or an admission of guilt.
Trey Cocking, city administrator, said he could not comment on any aspect of the lawsuit at the request of the city’s insurance carrier. He said the lawsuit deals with personnel matters, which are considered confidential.
Caney resident Dennis Ernest will find take his Kansas cowboy boots, dusty cowboy hat and a passion for country gospel music to California in January.
Ernest will be among the performers at the International Cowboy Ministers Conference in San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 7-11, 2009. The event is organized by Coy Huffman, founder of the Cowboy Church International and Pro Rodeo Ministries.
Ernest will be among the many performers to present country gospel and cowboy gospel music to the conferences attendees.
“It will be an honor for me to share this ministry with others,” said Ernest, when asked about his performance at the national conference.
Ernest has dabbled in country music in the area for many years, and he is also known for his fun-paced delivery as the announcer at the annual Caney Christmas Parade.
When asked if he will let the California sunshine and beaches ruin his Kansas cowboy ways, Ernest said, laughingly, “I don’t think so . . . but then again I might return to Kansas as a cowboy surfer dude.”
Ernest is currently raising funds to offset his trip to San Diego. Members of the Wanna Be A Cowboy (WBC) Ministry Church in Caney, 221 W. Fourth, are gathering donations for the trip. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to WBC Music Ministry, PO Box 182, Caney, KS 67333. Or, donors can call Ernest at (620) 879-5753 or (918) 214-6797.
BY RUDY TAYLOR
Montgomery County Chronicle
CANEY — Tom and Allie Harvey, owners of the Safari Zoological Park in Caney, will be featured on the Animal Planet program “2008 The Year in Animals” on Saturday, Dec. 13.
An Animal Planet crew shot their video footage and interviewed the Harveys in October. Tom and Allie became overnight television celebrities when their Golden Retriever, “Isabella,” took over nursing three baby tiger cubs after their mother rejected them. Isabella, who was still lactating after recently giving birth to puppies, became the darling of shows like “NBC Today,” Fox News, “The Early Show on CBS,” and even the Oprah show.
Isabella drew additional press coverage from numerous radio stations, newspapers and magazines throughout the world, all of them prominently mentioning Caney, Kan., as the home site of Safari Zoological Park.
But the TV network which Tom and Allie really wanted to come to Caney and do a feature segment was the Animal Planet, and it happened in October, with next Saturday as the official viewing day. Tom Harvey said the show will be repeated several times over the coming weeks.
What makes the story even more significant for the Harveys is their belief that the cubs and Isabella came along in the nick of time, just before they were ready to close the gates at the park.
“We literally were praying for a miracle,” said Tom. “My wife and I said August the first if God doesn’t do something, we’re going to close her down and do something else.”
On August 1, they both were interviewed live on the NBC Today Show, and one TV satellite truck after another came to the park to do interviews.
The Harveys made a trip to New York City two months ago to appear on the television programs mentioned above.
A book deal was signed giving the Harveys sufficient funds to exist for a while longer and, hopefully, sign more contracts with media and public relation companies.
Tom Harvey said he has seen the final proofs on the book and it looks good. They are hoping to have the book printed and on the shelves of stores by next summer.
The book will feature 52 photos taken in Caney at the park, including 29 which Tom and Allie took themselves.
The program “2008: The Year In Animals” is scheduled to air at 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13. The Animal Network appears on channel 67 for Cox Communications subscribers in Montgomery County (Caney, Cherryvale and Coffeyville) and on channel 48 for Cable One subscribers (Independence). The show will be rebroadcast at various times throughout the weekend.
BY ANDY TAYLOR
This Is My Montgomery County: a regular series
CHERRYVALE — Cherryvale is glowing with Christmas cheer this week, and local residents can thank a group of families in the vicinity of East First Street for having the Christmas magic radiating through the skies.
Four families have combined efforts to not only festoon their properties with Christmas lights and inflatable images but also make the event a fun contest for all area residents. Rodney and Julie Blasor along with Rick and Cheryl Valverde, Jack Blasor and Saundra Leonard, are asking local residents to guess the number of lights that are involved in the four-family lighting display, which stretches over several blocks.
Julie said she and Cheryl Valverde got the idea for a neighborhood light display after remembering the light displays at Candy Cane Lane in Coffeyville. Blasor said she wanted to recreate that same imagery and passion that Candy Cane Lane residents used to create every yuletide season.
“It all began with illuminated candy canes, and we started lining our yards with those candy canes,” said Blasor. “But, it grew from there.”
Now, the neighbors have dozens of inflatable characters including some that dance to holiday tunes. Roof lines, sheds, dog houses, garages, fences, trees and anything else standing erect has been wrapped in holiday lights.
“We all do our own lights, but after someone is done, they usually go to the next yard and help the other person out,” said Blasor.
Blasor said traffic in the neighborhood of East First Street has grown in recent nights when the displays are fully lit.
“It’s amazing to hear the motorists stop and roll down the windows,” she said. “I’ll hear a little kid in the car squeal and say, ‘Hey, mom, do you see those lights?’ And, then, that’s when I realize that this whole effort is worth it.”
As an added bonus, Santa Claus will make an appearance in the neighborhood from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12-13 and 19-20. Bring a camera for a free picture with Santa Claus.
Area residents can guess the number of lights used in the displays. The person who guesses the closest number without going over the actual number will win a $25.00 gift certificate from Newton’s Hardware. The person closest to guessting the most lights going over the actual number of lights will receive a free dinner for two from Pam’s Place in Cherryvale.
The contest began on Nov. 28 and will continue through Dec. 31. Contestants can drop off their guesses at Newton’s Hardware, Pam’s Place or at the Blasor home at 509 E. First.
The East First Street light display includes four properties starting at First and Summit streets.
• Born and raised in Montgomery County, Andy Taylor is a fifth-generation newspaper editor who keeps his ear on the pulse of Montgomery County. If you have a story idea about a unique person or event in Montgomery County, let Taylor know by calling (620) 331-9178, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY ANDY TAYLOR
Montgomery County Chronicle
INDEPENDENCE — An Independence Community College official said Tuesday night that recent enrollment trends show the college is lagging in its recruitment efforts compared to Coffeyville Community College.
At the ICC’s board of trustee meeting Tuesday, Max VanLaningham, ICC’s dean of student services, presented officials with a monthly enrollment report showing an overall student headcount gain of 16 students as of Dec. 8 (compared to the same date in 2007). However, full-time equivalency enrollment, or FTE enrollment, is down 2.54 percent. The report said FTE enrollment, which is used to determine the extent of state assistance to community colleges, was down among local, in-state and international enrollees but up among out-of-state students.
While a 2.54 percent decline in FTE enrollment combined with an actual increase in student headcount might not be a cause for worry for many college officials, VanLaningham said the college is taking a hit because of the recruiting techniques from CCC. For example, on a recent trip to Chanute High School to talk to interested students, VanLaningham said CCC had already spoken to most of the interested students and offered them a scholarship of some level.
ICC needs to follow suit with a more aggressive recruiting style, he said.
“We need to be more aggressive,” said VanLaningham, adding that he was not trying to spread a gloomy picture over ICC. “I’m a competitive person by nature, and I don’t like to be beaten and not be able to fight.”
The ICC official said that after conferring with a CCC faculty member, he discovered that CCC officials require faculty members to fill a student quota. Departmental scholarships — ranging from theatre to sports to livestock judging — often are used as a way to recruit students.
“Everyone at CCC has a quota to fill,” he said. “That’s how they are getting students to come to their campus. It was asked of me this morning by our own faculty why we don’t provide a tuition scholarship to any Kansas resident. That’s a good question that we need to answer.”
Spending money on recruiting and scholarships will need to be addressed soon, he said.
“We’re going to have to spend money,” he said. “When you spend the money, you’ll see the results through more enrollment. We’ve got to find ways to be competitive. We’re going to innovate or evaporate.”
College trustees did not provide any comment following VanLaningham’s report.
In other business transacted at Tuesday’s meeting of the ICC trustees, trustees:
• heard a report from Peggy Forsberg, dean of instruction, regarding the first classes to be established in the newly-formed Halsey Institute. Forsberg said a class in music entertainment business management will be offered during the spring 2009 semester and will be made available to other community colleges in Kansas.
The institute is named after Jim Halsey, an Independence native who has spent his adult career as a successful music manager of some of country music’s top performers.
• accepted the resignation of David Ward, ICC football coach, who recently completed his fifth season as the Pirates’ head coach. During his five season, Ward compiled a 13-32 record.
• appointed Max VanLaningham from interim status to full-time dean of student services at an annual salary of $62,500.
• hired Tammie Geldenhuys to the position of ICC athletic director at an annual salary of $50,000. Geldenhuys also serves as ICC volleyball coach. Tony Turner, who had served as interim athletic director, will return to his role as head women’s basketball coach and assistant athletic director.
• heard reports from students in the ICC Phi Theta Kappa chapter.
CHERRYVALE — The Christmas season will be filled with several activities in Cherryvale this week.
On Friday night, Dec. 12, Hometown Holidays will be held in downtown Cherryvale from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with several stores offering holiday bargains. At Newton’s Hardware, Santa Claus will make an appearance at the store, and the Lincoln-Central Select Choir will sing carols beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Cherryvale Middle-High School Band will also perform during the evening.
Warm chili will be served to hungry shoppers.
On Saturday, Dec. 13, the Cherryvale Chamber of Commerce will sponsor its annual Christmas parade beginning at 11 a.m. The parade route will begin at Lincoln-Central Elementary School and conclude at the Cherryvale Nursing and Rehabiliation Center.
Parade entries scheduled to be in the event include the Cherryvale MIddle-High School Band, Cherryvale Police Department, Cherryvale Fire-EMS Department, Cherryvale Division of the Montgomery County Rural Fire Department, Coffeyville Regional Medical Center and more.
Also on Saturday morning, members of the Catholic Youth Organization from St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church will hold a bake sale and quilt display.
Events on Saturday also include the first-ever Holiday Extravaganza sponsored by the Cherryvale Band Boosters. The event held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Kansas Army National Guard.
Numerous arts and crafts items as well as homemade foods will be for sale to holiday shoppers, and many commercial items will also be available.
Child care will be available at the Holiday Extravaganza event, and a Kids’ Corner will be set up for children to enjoy coloring or creating other small crafts.
Door drawings will be announced each hour during the Holiday Extravaganza.
BY ANDY TAYLOR
Montgomery County Chronicle
CANEY — The tax status of the Caney Early Care and Education Center, which closed its doors last Friday, is a key issue in determining whether USD 436 will make an offer to lease the property, school board members said Monday.
At the USD 436 Board of Education monthly meeting on Monday, Superintendent Danny Fulton informed the board that he had received an offer from the Washington County Child Care Foundation to use the facility, which was built in 2004, on a lease basis. The foundation had been operating the facility on behalf of the Delaware Tribe of Oklahoma. The facility closed its program on Dec. 5 due to funding shortfalls. However, the foundation will continue to operate a preschool for 4-year-old youths for the remainder of the 2008-09 school year.
Fulton said that school board had made it a goal to expand its preschool offerings in USD 436 and that the facility may be a prime location to expand its early care education program.
However, he said one issue that could determine the cost effectiveness of leasing the facility is whether the property can receive a tax-exempt status by the State of Kansas. Currently, the facility is not considered tax-exempt, and Fulton said the annual property taxes amount to more than $24,000.
“That facility is classified at the highest property tax rate in Kansas: 33 percent,” he said. “That makes it rather cost prohibitive if we have to pay that kind of tax.”
Fulton presented a draft report showing anticipated costs if USD 436 were to locate its current At-Risk Preschool at the site and create a new program for regular preschool-aged pupils. The estimated costs will be about $142,000 with revenue amounting to $91,850. That would leave a positive difference of about $50,000, Fulton said.
Emphasizing that the cost/revenue figures were only estimates, he said one of the goals of expanding the preschool in USD 436 would be to generate more enrollment in local schools for the long-term future.
“If we can get the facility at a very reasonable cost to us, we coud provide some great opportunities for early child education in our school district,” said Fulton, adding that another goal would be to create a daycare for school employees to leave their children during school hours.
However, obtaining the facility through a lease contract will hinge on whether the property can receive a property tax abatement because of its use as a non-profit educational center, Fulton said.
“I would liek to see that in writing before we sign any contract,” said board member Jack Kopfman about the tax status.
The Washington County Child Care Foundation would have to seek the non-profit tax status on behalf of the lessee, which, in this case, would be USD 436, Fulton said.
More details about the tax status and other plans for the facility will be discussed at the school board’s January meeting, which is planned for Monday, Jan. 12.
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