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Teacher, BC alumna dies in crash

A local woman died in a crash on a state highway Wednesday morning in a collision with a semi, along with her unborn child.

”We received the sad and tragic news that Hannah was killed in a traffic accident (on Wednesday),” reads a statement on behalf of Hannah Lager, 24, of Atchison, posted to social media by Benedictine College.

Lager graduated from BC in 2017 along with her husband, Austin Lager, who works for the college. She studied education, theology and Spanish, and had been working for Valley Falls USD 338 as a Spanish teacher for grades 6 through 12. Volora Hanzlicek, superintendent for USD 338, told WIBW-TV Channel 13 of Topeka that Lager was a “great teacher and will be greatly missed.”

According to an online report published by the Kansas Highway Patrol, Lager, while at the wheel of a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, attempted to pass a 2004 Western Star semi-trailer truck on Kansas Highway 4, about 2 miles north of Valley Falls.

The KHP report indicates that during the pass attempt, the semi-trailer truck attempted to merge into the inside passing lane. The Impala swerved into the opposing northbound highway, over-corrected and went out of control, the KHP report indicates. It then skidded in such a way that the semi-truck collided into its passenger side.

Semi driver Warren E. Hollis, 75, of Valley Falls, suffered a possible injury in the collision, the report indicates. First responders transported him to Stormont Vail Health in Topeka for examination of reported pains he suffered in the collision. Lager and Hollis each wore a seat belt while driving at the time of the crash, the KHP report indicates.

According to an email distributed to certain Benedictine College constituents, Lager is the wife of Austin Lager, who works in the IT department at the college. According to the announcement, the pair married in 2018 after graduating from the college in 2017.

”Making the situation even sadder ... they were expecting their first child in a few months,” the email reads. “Please keep Austin and the families in your prayers during this very difficult time. And please pray for the repose of the souls of Hannah and their unborn child.”

A vigil and saying of the Rosary took place on behalf of friends and family on Wednesday night at the church of St. Benedict’s Abbey, located on the college campus, 1020 North Second St. in Atchison.

”As you can imagine, there are a lot of broken hearts here, for Hannah and her unborn son, Matthias, and for Austin,” said Abbot James Albers.

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Corps looks to river basin's future

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has extensively relied on aerial photos of damaged levees, as many of the 64 breached structures in the Missouri River Basin remain submerged or have no ground access due to floodwaters.

Jud Kneuvean, chief of the Readiness and Contingency Operations Office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, speaks on Thursday to the Missouri Regional Advisory Committee of the Kansas Water Office in Atchison.

Darcy Nightingale, a member of the Missouri Regional Advisory Committee to the Kansas Water Office, speaks Thursday in Atchison.

While officials have been consumed with studies of how and why last month’s flooding occurred, the Kansas Water Office is preparing for what comes next.

Speaking on Thursday morning in Atchison, representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) sought to emphasize the point that members of the community can expect the levees in their area to be eventually repaired to the status they were at, prior to the flooding they experienced this spring.

Consequently, any future events on the scale the area has experienced could lead to future levee problems. Like the Corps, the Kansas Water Office is focused on flooding at the moment.

“The Corps is covering the entire country, so they’re faced with tremendous problems everywhere as a result of the waterways getting flooded,” said John Bishop, a member of the Missouri Regional Advisory Committee for the Kansas Water Office.

Jud Kneuvean, chief of the Readiness and Contingency Operations Office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, outlined the timeline on coming levee repairs. At present, the Corps expects survey work on dozens of miles of damaged levees to take until July, though some repair work can begin now.

“Our only choice is to rebuild the levees within our program back to their original condition. It’s very expensive to just go out and construct a federal levee wherever you want. You can’t just go out and build ‘em bigger, higher, better,” said Mike Dulin, a USACE emergency manager who accompanied Kneuvean to the presentation.

A key point of emphasis on Thursday morning: The Corps is pleased that although they had 64 levees breached throughout the Missouri River Basin, none of the levees breached before being overtopped, at which point a breach becomes virtually inevitable.

There is something of a $100 million infrastructure question: When and how the levees that breached can be rebuilt. The Corps plans to rebuild federal levees over time at no additional cost to local constituents, as soon as it can. According to Dulin, much of the river basin’s levees remain completely inaccessible on foot. Those still immersed in water have been surveyed with sonar to allow USACE to proceed with a partial picture of what needs to be fixed.

The federal government will also pay up to 80 percent of reconstruction costs for most private levees. That still leaves some uncertainty; the funds are only available to levees which have been routinely inspected and found in compliance with federal regulations. The size and extent of some levees means that the 20 percent cost to be accounted for locally, a best case scenario, is still significant.

“I think that there does need to be a broader study authorized by the Corps of Engineers to look at these issues going forward,” said Earl Lewis, acting director of the Kansas Water Office, who attended Thursday’s meeting.

The Missouri Regional Advisory Committee of the Kansas Water Office plans to continue talks on this issue in July in Atchison.

United Way clears goal at breakfast

Andrea Clements of Live Well Live Atchison celebrates the presentation of the Kindest Atchison Countian awards with area students on Friday morning at the Atchison Area United Way Community Leadership Breakfast.

The Atchison Area United Way almost didn’t make goal this year, before the breakfast club came through.

The local leaders and constituents who attended the 2019 Community Leadership Breakfast on Friday morning, that is. Terry Knopke, executive director of the local United Way, said that had contributors who attended the breakfast at the Atchison Event Center not stepped up at the last minute, the $205,000 goal for the previous year wouldn’t have been realized.

“We will profit around $12,000 from this day, and that’s how me made our goal this year,” said Knopke, the only paid local United Way contributor. “Keep in mind, there’s no extra money. From everything we bring in, we pay our rent, we cover my payroll and everything else is distributed out.”

Knopke said a failure to meet the goal would’ve meant that the 20 local agencies that depend on United Way distributions would have had to cut costs at the expense of their charitable causes. All in all, the United Way will close the chapter of 2018 with $210,000 taken in.

For this year’s breakfast, the United Way invited Phil Baniewicz, who is in his ninth year as president, headmaster and head baseball coach of Maur Hill-Mount Academy, who also works worldwide as a Catholic evangelist and speaker on youth leadership.

Delivering the keynote address themed to the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5, which urges the faithful to “let your light shine before others” in the worship of God and the service of those in need, Baniewicz said some have come under great hardship in today’s world. He said the media convey news of global tragedies, such as the Easter Sunday bombing in Sri Lanka — which largely targeted Catholics — that can seem too daunting to grasp, never mind resolve.

“We know that amid these brutal facts, as bad as they might be, that we will prevail,” he said. “And it is that sense of optimism that we can succeed with whatever we do.”

To learn more about the Atchison Area United Way, call 913-367-6510.

Sheriff books 2019 tax sale to history

The 2019 Atchison County Tax Sale is done and it might be one of the most successful to date.

Atchison County Sheriff Jack Laurie auctioned off 29 of the 43 listed tracts printed on the list presented to bidders Wednesday, April 24. The parcels sold fetched a collective total in excess of $103,000. A dozen delinquent parcels had been redeemed the day prior to the sale.

County Clerk Michelle Phillips said there were 38 registered bidders.

County Treasurer Connie Ellerman’s unofficial tabulations show there were nine properties that only mustered $38, the required minimum bid. Less than five parcels failed to garner a bid from potential bidders.

Although the best deal of the day might remain to be seen at this time, the top seller was the lean-to warehouse structure attached to Kautz Electric, a downtown row store located at 922 Commercial Street. The building extends from the original store building 21 feet to the western edge of the lot, and is a minimum of 100 feet long.

The parcel that sold was actually one of two headed for the auction block; the brick Kautz building on the adjoining parcel addressed as 920 Commercial Street was redeemed the previous day and removed from the list, said County Counselor Patrick Henderson.

The sale this week marked the inaugural year some new home rules concerning tax sales were implement. Henderson crafted the resolution pursuant to Kansas statute that Atchison County commissioners adopted.

Atchison city officials were on hand the day of the sale with handouts to make buyers aware what properties listed within Atchison city limits and what special assessment fees and/or codes the properties might be subject to.

Before the start of the sale, Henderson announced purchasers are required to sign an affidavit that they are the party responsible for the property. The responsibilities include payment of the 2019 taxes and all going forward as well as special assessments.

“Do not bid if don’t understand the tax sale rules,” Henderson urged. “The risk is at your own peril.”

Following the sale, the successful buyers signed off on their respective deals, then settled up and made payment by one check to Atchison County Sheriff’s Office to cover the costs associated with deeds. From that point, the proceeds will be distributed accordingly.