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Amelia Rose Earhart shares art in Atchison

Amelia Rose Earhart, contrary to popular belief, isn’t that difficult to find.

This is, of course, in reference to the Denver-based namesake of the famous aviatrix, whose fate is shrouded in mystery. Rose Earhart, a pilot herself as well as an established journalist and burgeoning artist, introduced her initial foray into expressionist painting on Saturday evening.

Five years ago, Rose Earhart, named for the heroic aviator Amelia Earhart, followed the path of the woman who inspired her, successfully navigating the treacherous Pacific airspace that is most commonly believed to have caused a fatal crash.

Her paintings, presented in a fundraiser held by the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation, are inspired by her journey and in the many adventures she’s had since her flight.

“It’s just an honor to have her here, but it’s very exciting for our airport,” said Angela Cairo, manager of the fixed-based operation at Amelia Earhart Airport, which served as the scene of Rose Earhart’s art presentation. “We have several pilots here that are represented ...

“We’re interested in her flight when she did it five years ago, but just to have this out here and generate this interest in the airport, again it’s just really come to life.”

With the backdrop of the famous Muriel, the last surviving Lockheed Electra Model 10-E aircraft of the same type the late Earhart flew in during her final fateful journey, Rose Earhart set up a display that is to last through the 24th Annual Amelia Earhart Festival. Events are set to commence in the third week of July, before a culmination on Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20, throughout the Atchison area.

Rose Earhart said her art is designed to have a “spacey feel.”

“Some people say it looks like looking at a Google Earth image,” she said. “You can see, imagine flying over a shoreline or flying over a choral reef or maybe looking up at the stars. And that’s the neat thing about flying is, you’re elevated, you’ve got that perspective from the ground, but you’re almost in between ground, hovering between space and Earth.”

Jacque Pregont, president of the Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce and Coordinator of the Amelia Earhart Festival, said she has been friends with Rose Earhart for years and considers her contributions to Atchison to be invaluable. The display of the paintings on Saturday at the Bottorff Family Hangar generated funds toward the under-construction Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum.

“She has a real soft spot in her heart for the new museum,” Pregont said. “It was a fun time for her to come see us, because we always love to have her visit. It was fun for me to see them for the first time for real, I’ve seen pictures, but the light coming into the hangar really showed the beauty of her art.”

Clarification: The event held on Saturday at the Amelia Earhart Airport was a presentation of the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation. 

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Court hammers hard time for distribution

A man recently convicted in the District Court of Atchison County learned on Monday of his probable 12-year prison fate, handed down for five felony offenses.

Dedrick R. Haley, 43, of Atchison, is currently subject to an appeal his court-appointed defense attorney Kevin Reardon immediately filed on his behalf after the sentence was announced. A $100,000 appeal bond was set as jailers prepared to escort Haley from the courtroom for booking into the county jail.

For one count distribution of methamphetamine, Judge Robert Bednar sentenced Haley to serve 104 months in state prison, along with an additional 36 months of post-release supervision. Bednar told Haley he is eligible for 15 percent good time credit.

A 49-month order of additional prison time is also on tap for distribution of marijuana, and 12 months post-release supervision to run consecutive. Haley is eligible for 20 percent of good time credit.

Bednar told Haley he is required to register as a drug offender for 15 years after his parole or post-release supervision commences, in accordance with Kansas statutory guidelines concerning distribution convictions. The two distribution convictions are to run consecutive to one another.

Haley’s three remaining sentences are to run concurrent to those involving distributions. The concurrent sentences and respective penalties include:

For felony possession of drug paraphernalia, an underlying prison sentence of 11 months with 20 percent good time credit.

For failure to obtain a drug tax stamp, two six-month sentences.

For these felonies, Haley is eligible for 20 percent good time credit and is subject to 12 months of supervised release.

A jury panel convicted Haley on May 15 after a trial proceeding lasting a day and a half. The meth conviction stemmed from an Atchison County Sheriff’s Office investigation lasting four months. Some evidence presented centered on an alleged 2018 transaction that resulted in Haley’s arrest March 29, 2018. The other convictions culminated from alleged activities connected to February 2016 activities.

Bednar handed down the sentences after two motions Reardon filed within recent days were considered. It was 20 to 30 seconds of audio evidence presented during the trial that was at the crux of Reardon’s motion for a new trial.

Both Reardon and Haley contended that they were unaware of that particular discovery before trial that featured recorded dialogue of an alleged conversation between Haley and an informant. Bednar denied the motion, based on its lack of evidence in support a finding that the recorded conversation was from the defendant and Haley.

Bednar also denied Reardon’s motion to depart from presumptive prison time for Haley because it failed to meet the criteria to show how probation for Haley would better serve the best interest of the community.

Throughout the time soon after Haley’s arrest, he was out of jail on his initial $25,000 bond. The appeal bond was set after sentencing, and Reardon’s announcement of his intent to file an appeal within 14 days in accordance with Kansas statutory sentencing guidelines.

Atchison County Attorney Sherri Becker prosecuted the case throughout its trial phase, which resulted in conviction by jury.

Becker credited the Atchison County Sheriff’s Office for investigating the case that she described as a large scale investigation throughout a two-month time period. The investigation involved the use of a confidential informant, Becker said. At times other agencies were enlisted that the included the Atchison Police Department, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The Atchison community should be proud of the work that Jack Laurie’s Sheriff’s Office did in this case,” Becker said. “I am very proud of them (all investigative agencies involved) and happy with outcome in this case.”

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Fire destroys unattached garage

A blaze on Sunday damaged an out building serving as an unattached garage, before the Atchison Fire Department put it out.

Two firefighters suffered symptoms indicative of heat exhaustion during the extinguishing of the fire, which didn’t spread to any other structure, but caused light smoke and water damage to the nearby home.

Capt. Pat Weishaar said that upon arrival, firefighters encountered a structure engulfed in flame.

“Crews quickly began efforts to protect the home while attempting to battle the fire that has consumed the garage structure,” he said.

Weishaar said Atchison County EMS crews treated the firefighters at the scene, and that they didn’t require any further medical care.

The fire in the 700 block of Spruce Street, Weishaar said on Tuesday, resulted in a total loss of the garage, which contained an all-terrain vehicle, a motorcycle, tools and vehicle maintenance related equipment.

“Because of the extent of the damage, the cause remains under investigation by our investigators,” Weishaar said. “A dollar amount is yet to be determined by insurance adjusters. Kim Bottorff with the local Salvation Army has provided assistance to the occupants.”

Highway may see path clear The key U.S. Highway 59 corridor to Missouri Highway 45 remained covered by floodwaters on Tuesday, but authorities anticipate an opportunity to get the highway open in the coming weeks. The Missouri River is expected to recede below flood stage on Thursday, July 4, and Friday, July 5.

At present, traffic headed to St. Joseph, Missouri, from Atchison primarily uses Kansas Highway 7 north to U.S. Highway 36 east and across the Pony Express Bridge. Traffic headed to downtown Kansas City primarily uses U.S. Highway 73 south to Leavenworth and across the Centennial Bridge (aka the Blue Bridge). The Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge (aka MoKan Bridge) near Atchison currently transports traffic to the Winthrop, Missouri, area only.

If a clearing of floodwaters comes to pass as expected, work will be necessary to clear the highway of sediment and other debris before it can re-open. In previous flood situations, a temporary stoplight has been necessary to restrict traffic to one lane in alternating directions while workers finished repairs.

The Atchison County Emergency Management office will continue to monitor the situation and post updates on when the highway might re-open. For more information, call 913-273-6976.

City makes progress on roads Steps forward have been made on various street projects around town.

Workers completed repair work on the 14th Street viaduct earlier this week and the city opened the passageway on Tuesday morning, while sidewalk expansion work on North Second Street saw significant progress.

The Second Street Corridor Project is expected to continue through the month of July. Curbs, gutters and sidewalks are being replaced and expanded to significantly improve pedestrian access between downtown Atchison and the Benedictine Bluffs area.

The project is managed by general contractor Julius Kaaz Construction at a cost of $920,000, with $525,000 funded by Transportation Alternatives grant via the federal government.

City plans for shifting finances

An annual balancing act looms in passing a municipal budget that meets the costs of City of Atchison needs while avoiding tax increases.

Becky Berger, city manager, is set to present a budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2020 on July 15 to the five elected city commission members, at which point the city commission will have four business days set aside to offer amendment proposals.

Otherwise, final adoption is scheduled for August. The city tentatively forecasts the availability of a little under $30.7 million in revenue and other resources, against a little more than $24.4 million in expenditures, leaving just under $6.25 million in the cash balance.

During a budget workshop discussion that lasted about two and a half hours on Monday at City Hall, Mike Stec, utilities manager, told Mayor Shawn Rizza, Vice Mayor Allen Reavis and commissioners Dave Butler, David Hausmann and Charlie Perdue that his department is reflective of how local government needs are becoming more complex.

Much of the city’s water infrastructure is decades old and requires more expertise and man hours to maintain than in years past, he said, but staff availability is not as high as it used to be. Stec joked with commissioners that despite their earnest desire for him to take vacation every once in a while, he is continually wary of new projects arising the moment he gets away.

“Some stuff has to be done today,” Stec said. “Too much of what the utilities department does is absolutely time critical.”

The city is looking at a roughly even-keel financial picture for FY 2020, with a slight dip in the mill levy to 59.590 at the same time that property valuations have increased.

City leaders reached agreement that only modest adjustments would be necessary this year to each budget line item, with the situation reflective of the city’s strong financial health and its ability to avoid significant budget cuts and deficit spending.

An example of relative uncertainty exists in the city’s commitment to contribute to countywide solid waste processing needs via revenues generated through a 1 percent sales tax enacted via referendum in 1993. At present, explained Joe Warren, the city’s director of administrative services, residences “pay” a solid waste fee of zero dollars and zero cents; the sales tax covers the city’s contributions to countywide solid waste expenses.

However, the city is anticipating the possibility that it will be required to make higher payments into the countywide solid waste fund, and will need to account for just over $500,000 in new expenses to that end.

This money would have to be cut out of the budget, or a fee of up to $9.60 per residence, per month, would have to be assessed, based on the total number of “residences” amounting to between 3,300 and 3,500 within the city’s incorporated limits. The implementation of the fee remains a hypothetical and the timeline for a permanent resolution of disagreements on city-county joint financial concerns such as this is, as ever, undefined.

During the official meeting that took place before the budget workshop, Pastor Marshall Turner of the Community of Christ Church delivered an invocation before normal business, which constituted solely of an approval of the minutes from the last city meeting and an approval of alcohol sales during the 24th Amelia Earhart Festival, set for Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20.

Both votes carried unanimously.