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Meth probationer faces new felony charge

A local felony probationer is in custody for an unrelated crime following his arrest Monday in connection with a domestic incident that occurred earlier this month.

Perez D. Smith, 34, faces one count of criminal threat, a felony, and domestic battery, a misdemeanor offense. Smith remains incarcerated on a $10,000 bond.

Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson said officers arrested Smith after investigating a domestic disturbance on June 7 in the 400 block of T Street that involved a 34-year-old female victim and a suspect, identified by authorities as Smith. Authorities said Smith struck the victim several times with his hands and threatened her with great bodily harm, then fled the scene.

Police located Smith after he returned to the residence, Wilson said, subsequently booking him into the Atchison County Jail. He is also currently held on an additional $10,000 bond in connection with two citations of aggravated failure to appear in 2017 judicial proceedings, according to the county jail log.

Smith is currently serving felony probation for a 2018 possession of methamphetamine conviction, a second offense. Atchison Globe news reports indicate Smith was also convicted for meth possession in 2017. Smith is scheduled for the 9 a.m. criminal docket Friday, June 21, in Atchison County District Court.

Atchison riders come BAK

Who feels relaxed in the middle of biking 500 miles in a matter of days with more than 800 people? Larissa Rice did.

“This is the first time ever and it’s a real challenge,” she said after arriving in Atchison on Saturday with the Biking Across Kansas peloton. “But in the last three days, my brain, which is always thinking about something or worried about some concern, was just chilling out and enjoying the moment. It was really nice.”

The trip that began on June 8 in Goodland, way over on the Colorado border, is the ultimate test for a local amateur cyclist, and is representative of the health-conscious, dedicated athletic lifestyle of those who closely follow the sport.

Riders ultimately made seven overnight stops in Colby, Hill City, Hays, Wilson, Minneapolis, Clay Center and Holton, with most staying in gyms and other public accommodations provided by the host cities; some, seeking flexibility on when and where to stop or just a more natural experience, slept in tents. Luggage trucks carried the gear they couldn’t support on their backs, but otherwise it was up to each rider to meet the challenge.

Atchison pulled out all the stops to honor and celebrate those who completed the challenge on Saturday, holding parties and gatherings along the banks of the Missouri River, at Veterans Memorial Park and in downtown Atchison.

Atchison Mayor Shawn Rizza, himself an avid cyclist, has worked since October on making Biking Across Kansas a success, following a campaign to get the event, which alternates between eastern Kansas final destinations, to return to Atchison for the 2019 finish line.

From a shot in the local economic arm to bringing all Kansans closer together, Rizza said the impacts of the event are hard to overstate. As a reward for his efforts, he ended up performing photography duties for essentially the entire peloton. Hundreds of riders assembled on the City of Atchison south boat ramp and dipped their tires into the water to mark the completion of their journey.

“That was fun, being able to talk with them, share their stories, being able to experience their experiences of coming across the length of the state,” Rizza said. “It’s awesome ... to see all of these riders come in, see what Atchison has to offer and hopefully go home and share what we’re all about.”

To welcome the riders to town, the city served as host for the 2019 Bike Rodeo, organized with the local nonprofit public health promotion agency, Live Well Live Atchison. Attractions include a bike agility course at the Riverfront Park that will permanently be in place for the enjoyment of future riders, helping cyclists try out their skills and to train young biker riders. Workers have also been installing new bike racks in town throughout the late spring.

Stefanie Weaver, BAK executive director, thanked Atchison for “extending the red carpet for our riders.”

“We’ve had parties in nearly every town,” she said. “Live music. Blocks and blocks of people lined up to cheer us on. Every community that we’ve been in this week has put their best foot forward to show the spirit of Kansas to show the hospitality, the generosity and the friendliness of our state.”

NEK counties plan for federal disaster aid

It’s called Atchison County Emergency Management, with “management” as the operative term, not prevention, for a reason: Weather emergencies often can’t be prevented.

“There’s no plan, or there’s no way to predict what Mother Nature is going to throw at us,” said Wes Lanter, the agency’s director. “And we had a large amount of snow this year as well as the people up north of us did. So, we have plans for flooding, but there’s no way to predict it.”

It came fast and furious, and local governments in Northeast Kansas quickly realized that the storms and flooding of 2019 are beyond them, and that they would need national aid. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly filed to receive that aid on Monday, asking President Donald Trump to issue a “major declaration” and trigger federal funding for 63 Kansas counties.

The request follows Trump’s decision in late May to grant a disaster declaration covering 18 Kansas counties, with an emphasis on repairs in southeast Kansas. A federal affirmation of the most recent 63-county request remained pending as of Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Office of the Adjutant General of Kansas announced, the governor is adding Brown County in northeast Kansas and Ness and Osborne counties in western Kansas to the major declaration list, bringing the total to 66 counties. 

Doniphan County Emergency Management coordinator Julie Meng said the data compares with 1993, but the human experience reveals that the region hasn’t seen anything like this before.

“In some ways, yes, this is an unprecedented event,” she said. “Especially up north in Nebraska, I mean, it came faster than anyone expected. The rain melted the snowpack faster than anyone expected. Our eyes are always on the north. Yes, if it rains here it will make conditions wet here, but it is the north that determines how high the river will rise.”

It is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ task to regulate this as much as possible, and it is the federal government’s task now to respond.

Meng emphasized that the time of greatest urgency has passed, and that continual surveys reflect confidence in Doniphan County levees, which make the most difference between a flood-protected lowland area at the state’s northeast corner and a waterlogged mess.

Yet in Doniphan County, pumps must run on a continual basis to keep water that normally flows into the river from ruining yet more property; the floodgates along the Mighty Mo’s eastern banks are closed and must remain that way for now. This is an expensive operation over time.

“When we shut the flood gates, the eastern portion of the county becomes like a fishbowl,” Meng said.

Atchison County’s bluffs protect the city of Atchison, holding about two-thirds of the county’s population, and most private property. Yet Lake Perry flooding is affecting the southwest, Lanter said, and a tornado tore up rural areas during a May severe thunderstorm outbreak.

The timeline is not yet certain, but Lanter and Meng have been coordinating with multiple levels of government all spring on receiving aid distributions. Lanter expects a Federal Emergency Management Team to arrive later this year to check his homework, in a way, before the county government can get paid back for the aid it is distributing to local residents.

“We are jumping on board to try to get some federal assistance,” he said.

Buses keep roaring to haul Tigers

The wheels on the buses in the USD 377 vehicle fleet might be at rest for the summer, but school leaders expect they’ll be ready to roll in time for the start of school in August.

Transportation Director Dwight Myer presented the bus and vehicle report to board members during the school board meeting on June 13. The buses and other vehicles in the district’s fleet collectively logged in a total of 271,872 miles throughout the 2018-19 school year. Myers said the total mileage for the previous year exceeded the 300,000-mile mark.

Activities Director Cy Wallisch, who also serves as Atchison County Community High School assistant principal, was quick to attribute the decrease in miles traveled was due to the district’s change in athletics/activities from the Big Seven League to the North East Kansas League with school memberships within a closer proximity of 377.

This summer marked the hire of a person to clean out and wax the buses while the mechanic tends to the mechanical work and routine maintenance.

“I’m certain everything will pass inspection,” Myer said.

Dr. Andrew Gaddis, superintendent of schools, told board members he and Myer are working to develop a rotation plan for bus and vehicle purchases.

A 2004 International 59-passenger bus is the oldest in the fleet. The bus, referred to as No. 40, has racked up more than 200,000 miles since it was put into service on March 15, 2004. It’s used as a spare, and is scheduled for replacement in 2020.

A 2012 nine-passenger Chevrolet Suburban and a six-passenger 2009 Chevrolet Impala car are also tagged for replacement. A 2008 International 54-passenger bus is equipped with a wheelchair lift and in use as a spare, but is slated for replacement. Fifteen full-sized buses, 3 cars, a transit vehicle, a few vans and an Ford F-250 pickup also comprise the fleet, according to report as presented.

Board members unanimously adopted numerous handbooks for the upcoming school year. Among them was the transportation handbook. USD 377 bus drivers are required to be 21 years of age and have one full year of driving experience to be eligible to apply for a bus driver position.

Bus drivers are required to complete a First Aid and CPR course, vehicle accident prevention classes and a refresher course every three years.

Bus drivers need to attend 10 monthly safety meetings a year and keep informed on safety updates as they arise. Bus drivers are also required to inspect the buses at the end of each route to ensure all passengers have exited the bus.

Related: USD 377 business

Related: USD 377 business

Learn more about Atchison County Community Schools USD 377 business on Page A3 and at