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Trail work proceed apace

Work is continuing along the banks of the Missouri River to extend the city’s most prominent walking path a mile north of town.

Assistant City Manager Justin Pregont estimates that the Riverfront Trail extension will be complete within a handful of months, sometime before the start of winter. Project general contractor Julius Kaaz Construction of Leavenworth will commence concrete pours on Wednesday to begin composing the 10-foot wide path from the Veterans Memorial Park from which it follows the course of River Road. At present, the trial terminates near the southern City of Atchison boat dock.

“We began to renovate the riverfront in the early 2000s ... the theory behind this project was just to expand on something that’s working really well,” Pregont said.

The trail project has seen a significant amount of public interest and continues a series of projects such as the recent Second Street Corridor sidewalk renovation that connects downtown Atchison to Benedictine College.

Pregont adopts the philosophy that it is an overriding priority for any municipality to develop the land near a major body of water as much as possible, and the Riverfront Trail is part and parcel of preparing what is effectively the face of Atchison for the future.

“Personally, for me, it’s just a piece of the puzzle,” he said. “If you want to build a more desirable puzzle you have to keep building on all of these things or you risk falling behind.”

Pregont thanked the Atchison Riverfront Development Foundation, which supplied $80,000 toward the project cost.

“This opportunity would not have presented without that group forming and putting a huge amount of resources into making the original Riverfront project happen and these new resources into the expanded trail project,” he said. “So, I think most credit goes to the foundation.”

A full interview with Pregont and some looks at the work in progress along the riverfront can be viewed at For more information and to provide feedback on the ongoing project, which is largely funded through a combination of $330,000 in federal and local grant money, call City Hall at 913-367-5500.

County takes road to resolution

County leaders are hopeful their creation of a new position and forthcoming hire will be on the road to fruition sometime this fall.

Commissioner Henry W. “Bill” Pohl and Vice-chairman Eric Noll agreed Tuesday commissioners have extended an offer to one of the recently interviewed candidate to be the first to lead the forthcoming creation of the Atchison County Public Works Administration. Noll and Pohl also agreed the plans are that the department will have administrative oversight of the road and bridge projects, grant endeavors and administration of funds, budgets and paperwork.

The candidate, who commissioners identified as a man, was extended an offer after commissioners interviewed him via Skype amid recent hurricane warnings in Florida, Pohl said. Because the employment is tentative, commissioners declined to announce his name. However, they agreed the tentative start date is Wednesday, Oct. 9.

The tentative hire is a current Florida resident, Pohl said, and he is an Oklahoma native.

Both Noll and Pohl agreed although the road and bridge department course will be evolving down the road the new hire’s task will be to concentrate on the road and bridge matters at hand, until a solid direction emerges.

Since the termination of the former superintendent on April 30, the Atchison County Road and Bridge Department has been without a permanent leader. Longtime road and bridge employee, Mark Gentry has been appointed to serve as the interim superintendent in the meantime, in place of Seth Howard.

In other matters,

Noll read a proclamation declaring September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The declaration unanimously approved and signed by both commissioners present. To commemorate the month, Tom Hefner, courthouse maintenance, will light the clock tower gold when he next winds the clock, Noll said.

Commissioners also signed off on an Emergency Management Performance Grant Application as presented by Director Wes Lanter, of Atchison County Emergency Management.

Chairman Jack Bower was absent from the meeting.

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Inquiry begins in shock death

The federal watchdog for workplace safety is engaged in an investigation of how and why an Indiana man died last week while working at a local grain processing plant.

A spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an office of the U.S. Department of Labor, confirmed that an investigation has been opened about the incident, which occurred a little before Noon on Friday, Sept. 6, at the CargillAg plant at S.W. 258th Rd. and U.S. Highway 59 in the Cummings area.

OSHA responds to all reported workplace fatalities in the United States. Federal law provides six months for such investigations to be complete, the spokesman said. This would involve a release of information at a time of around March 2020, if not before.

The spokesman said OSHA doesn’t comment on the cause of death in such incidents in the wake of an investigation being opened; the cause of death has been reported by the Atchison County Sheriff’s Office and the Atchison County Emergency Management office to have been electrocution.

Sheriff Jack Laurie communicated via email on Monday that the victim, Angel Silas-Deleon, 26, of Logansport, Indiana, died after an electric shock of unknown cause affected the grain bin he had been working on with a contractor crew retained by Cargill from CCSGroup of Seward, Nebraska. The shock also harmed another man on the crew; his employer says he is recovering from his injuries.

“Our CCS family lost a special coworker, and we are praying for another, as he recovers from his injuries due to an accident this past Friday,” the company said in a statement. “We wish their families peace and comfort during this difficult time. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to the Atchison County EMS, Atchison County Rescue and the Atchison Fire Department who were the first responders at the scene. Our company focus at this time is to care for those affected and ensure that our employees’ future is safe.”

Atchison County EMS and a LifeNet medical helicopter evacuated the two victims, who each received CPR after being hoisted out of the grain bin, to regional medical facilities. Laurie said that further information on the survivor’s condition and identity isn’t available.

“The exact cause of the accident is uncertain at this time, but there is nothing to suspect foul play,” Laurie said. “It is apparent that it is accidental.”

Calls to a CargillAg spokesperson on Friday and Monday didn’t obtain a reply by press time on Tuesday. The company, a family-run enterprise, is the largest non-publicly-traded corporation in the country. It is based in Wayzata, Minnesota, part of the greater Minneapolis area.

District makes progress on suicide awareness

Concern for the whole well-being for students of Atchison Public Schools USD 409 continues amid an awareness campaign that stems from the deaths of two students within a month of one another in 2018.

Jacque Coleman, director of curriculum and instruction, and Assistant Principal Lindsey Hansen of Atchison High School say that the phrase “Why I Matter” is reflective of their vision for an enriched educational culture of inclusion for all students. Coleman and Hansen spoke on Monday at the regular meeting of the USD 409 Board of Education at the district office in downtown to board members, administrators, counselors and teachers.

Board President Herb Gwaltney asked what, if any, activities are happening in accordance with Suicide Prevention Week, which has been declared for Sept. 8 through Sept. 14 by the State of Kansas. Throughout recent school years, administrators agreed, the “Why I Matter” campaign has been initiated at Atchison High School and was subsequently implemented at Atchison Middle School. A mental health professional is currently in the district, and rigorous training on the Signs of Suicide is underway for all faculty and staff, including an 8-hour course. Trinity Lutheran School personnel have also taken the course, Coleman said.

There are steps for increasing awareness which are being taught to students from grades 6 through 12, Hansen said. “See something, say something,” is an intrinsic part of the lessons being taught. The “Act, Care, and Tell” prevention measure is another part of this education.

Coleman also reported about the district’s strategic plan, goals and state assessment rankings.

Board members unanimously voted to approve the following supplemental contracts:

  • The position of Nicholas Rebant, assistant football coach;
  • The new position of Valissa VanWey, head girls basketball coach (VanWey steps down as assistant coach Aug. 31)
  • The new position of Lottie Lee, teacher mentor at Atchison Elementary;
  • And the new position of Sara Tschauder, AHS lunchroom supervisor.

Board members unanimously voted to approve the following employment actions:

  • The hiring of Ashton Herring, certified nurse assistant, set to serve at AES;
  • The hiring of Kaytlynne Norris, paraeducator
  • The hiring of Jay Meyers, science teacher, set to serve at Central School;
  • And the resignation of Earl Threet, paraeducator, effective Aug. 23.

Board members also heard from Superintendent Renee Scott about the following policy proposed revisions, set for action in October, and recent legislative changes:

  • Scott encouraged board members to closely review the proposed revision to Policy CGK, which has an additional clause addressing filing of criminal complaints against employees and added verbage to indicate such action could result in suspension without pay.
  • Policy CN regarding public records has a proposed revision that would allow the district to reasonable fees assessment to cover costs associated with the labor associated with the production of the requested information. Scott referred to a recent request that required 40 to 60 hours of legwork from district employees to make the information available, Scott said.
  • Policy EBBE, is the third revision Scott urged board members to thoroughly read about legislative changes to the number of safety drills in Kansas schools serving kindergarten to 12th grade.
  • Senate Bill 109, signed into law April 10, lessens the requirement from 16 safety drills within the school year to nine. As of 2018, schools had to conduct nine crisis drill, four fire drills and three tornado dills, according to a release from the Office of the State Fire Marshal. SB 128, effective July 1 for the new schoolyear, requires schools to conduct one tornado drill in September and one in March; three crisis drills to reflect potential events like water main breaks, earthquakes, missing students, hazardous spills, intruders, active shooters or medical emergencies.

Board members also heard from Technology Center Director Lucas Hunziger of Highland Community College. There are 47 AHS students attending classes at the Tech Center, which is the largest number Hunziger has overseen in his tenure. These AHS students are enrolled in auto collision repair, business technology, building trades, computer aided drafting, diesel technology, industrial welding and other courses that includes the block course in early childhood care.