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Community progresses onward despite COVID in 2021
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Throughout 2021 there have been some notable occurrences and events that have impacted our area in one way or another according to the Atchison Globe archives for the year.

COVID-19 continues to leave its imprint, as the community seemingly copes in an effort to mitigate the infection. There were 1,727 new cases in 2021 documented in Atchison County, according to data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; NEK Multi-County Health Departments, Inc., and the Atchison County Health Department. The total since the pandemic began in 2019 is more than 3,000 with a total of 30 deaths attributed to COVID. Throughout the course of the pandemic, the case count has there have been some highs and lows in the number of active cases. As of the month of December in 2021, the data indicates a total of 373 that averaged about 41 new cases for each 3-day reporting period. The trend appears to be continuing in the New Year.

Deaths publicly attributed to COVID reached the dozen mark, the Globe reported in its Jan. 22 edition. Availability of vaccination for adults through the Shot of Hope Vaccine Clinics and pharmacies were announced in late January.

In March, Atchison County commissioners rescinded the mass gathering restrictions that had been in place for about a year. The mass gathering restriction was lifted in time for Easter and graduations. However, recommendations for mask-wearing, hand hygiene, sanitizing, and social distancing remained in effect until further notice. Schools, businesses, and organizations were allowed to implement their own guidelines.

USD 409 Board of Education members have opted to leave the district’s COVID protocols and mask requirement in place, with intentions to review the matter into the second semester. USD 377 started the school year with a mask requirement at Atchison County Community Elementary School and optional at Atchison County Community Junior-Senior High School. Within the first few months after the start of classes, the majority of USD 377 Board members voted to make masks optional at ACCES. Both districts have implanted COVID testing at the schools.

Despite COVID interruptions, some activities and popular event planners prevail

For the second consecutive year due to the threatening presence of coronavirus some community highlights were canceled: the Amelia Earhart Festival and Lakefest; and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In mid-December, the AE event organizers announced LakeFest 2022 has been scheduled for Friday, July 15 at Warnock Lake. There are plans in the works for Gabby Barret, the ACM New Female Artist of the Year and three-time Billboard Music Award winner who has been booked to headline an outdoor concert. Michael Ray will also bring his musical stylings to the stage.

Muscotah native, Erik Dylan a singer and songwriter are also scheduled to take the stage. Dylan is a frequent collaborator with Luke Combs and Riley Green.

Even though some popular events were canceled in advance, a break in the COVID infectious spread did allow some activities to proceed with caution like the longstanding annual Atchison County Fair in Effingham, Atchison Juneteenth Celebration, and the Halloween Parade.

As part of the Juneteenth, the Atchison United group organized the Memorial Walk and Community Soil Collection event acknowledged George Johnson, a black man lynched by a mob in 1870 as researched by Dr. Joshua Wolf, Benedictine History professor. The Memorial Walk re-traced Johnson’s last steps from the old jail site at Sixth and Santa Fe streets to a viaduct near Fifth and Commercial streets where the hanging occurred. Along the way, the group collected soil samples for delivery to the Equal Justice Initiative Museum and Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. A marker was dedicated and is in place in the 400 block of Commercial Street. For more information check out #georgejohnsonrembranceproject on Facebook.

During mid-October, the first phase of the Reisner Park Skatepark Project in cooperation with the Skate High with Hope Joshua Kinsman Foundation was dedicated in mid-October, 2021.

A year of change, 2021 marked an end to familiar icons and their new beginnings in the community

The removal of the 500 and 600 blocks of Commercial Street began in late February. By mid-March, the canopies were gone and the pillars were struck down to ground level, and then all was gone. Infrastructure was installed, updated and street paving was completed. The 500 and 600 blocks of Commercial Street were paved and for the first time in several decades, it opened for traffic and parking along the storefronts by mid-July. Façade’s work is ongoing to refresh storefronts.

While plans were in the works to say good-bye to the Mall, the time to say hello to Main Street came when Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on March 2 to announce Atchison was one of three cities accepted into the renewed Kansas Main Street Program that had been inactive since 2012. Since its organization the Atchison Main Street Program is progressing along its course to develop commercial and retail vitality in the community.

Beginning in the early part of the year, UD 409 leaders decided it might be more economically feasible for stakeholders to close Central School and relocate students to the Roosevelt Building attached to Atchison Middle School. Discussions about the matter ensued. At the same time, Wolf representing Atchison United addressed school board members in an open session at the February board meeting. Wolf read a letter requesting they reconsider changing the Redman mascot. Throughout the next few months, board members discussed the matter that led to the vote for change. Board members decided to form a committee in an effort to build consensus for mascot options to consider and have in place for the 2021-22 school year. In July, the Phoenix became the mascot to represent all schools in the district, and it was in place and introduced to students when classes started in August.

During the spring and summer, bids were let and accepted on June 14 for the sale of the former Central School building. The sale contract was approved was for $40,000 and plans for its future were announced. The Central School Apartments, LLC Manager and Pomeroy Development LLC owner Justin Pregont indicated his expectations are to renovate the facility into apartments.

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Monday fire claims modern home
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A couple is displaced and has lost all their belongings and home as the result of early morning house fire west along the western outskirts of Atchison city limits.

Fire Chief David Shell, Atchison County Fire District No. 1, Shannon Township, said the volunteer firefighters were dispatched at 7:30 a.m. to the report of a structure fire at 16032 286th Road.

In addition to the Shannon Fire Department, firefighters from Lancaster, Mt. Pleasant, Effingham, and Walnut fire districts also responded in accordance with the mutual aid agreements. Atchison Fire Department also responded with air bottles to refresh firefighters’ air tanks.

Kansas State Fire Marshal authorities have not pinpointed the cause but determined it originated near the fireplace.

“The couple has lost everything,” Shell said. There were no injuries reported.

Firefighters arrived to find only smoke instead of flames, but all were aware there was a burning source to extinguish, following the burning source they could not see the source reached the ceiling, and flames erupted, which engulfed the roof.

Firefighters were on the scene all day, Shell said.

Atchison County EMS responders, and Atchison County Sheriff’s Office authorities were also responded to the scene.

Atchison County Sheriff Jack Laurie said the initial dispatch indicated that the fire has possibly spread from the fireplace.

According to a Facebook post by Kim Grippin Bottorff, the Salvation Army was present to aid the responders with hot chocolate, coffee, and breakfast burritos provided by Quick Stop West and McDonald’s.

The owner of the home is Andy Servaes, Shell said, and added that his understanding is the couple was in the process of buying the home.

Throughout the active response to the fire a segment of 286th Road was closed from Pratt Road to Neosho Road was closed to accommodate emergency responders’ traffic to the fire scene, according to an Atchison County Road and Bridge Department Facebook post.

Shell said Monday’s fire was the second structure that area volunteer firefighters have responded to within a few days apart that resulted in a total loss. During the weekend Shannon and Mount Pleasant fire departments responded to a garage fire owned by Danny Wilson in rural Cummings as part of a mutual aid agreement with the Nortonville-based Jefferson County Fire District 12.

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County unveils updated road and bridge policy
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EFFINGHAM — The Atchison County Road and Bridge Department officials recently unveiled its updated documents to ensure all loose ends are in check with the modern standards in check with current statutes in hand with the laws of the land.

The new Atchison County Road Policy was introduced on Dec. 28 township officials. They were also made aware of issues, codes, and resources. The gathering also served as a time to gather some input and concerns from the township representatives.

The meeting was in the Blue Building in Effingham. Seven of the eight townships were represented by 13 officials.

GIS Coordinator Roger Denton was on hand to discuss the web-based maps. Denton explained the function of each and showed how to use the maps online and the meaning of the legends, from the color-coded Atchison County Commission Districts to the icons pictured on the road maps that represent road types, culverts, and bridges. The culvert maps show where each and their known locations. The culvert and bridge maps show the structures, the locations, and what entities, county, township, or Kansas Department of Transportation are responsible for maintenance and construction. There is also information about the structures regarding conditions and sizes.

Joe Snyder, the county’s public works superintendent, explained through a PowerPoint presentation and discussion the recently established and updated policy. Some policies have been outdated and not in compliance with modern safety and environmental standards. Some policies like the one concerning field entrances had not been updated since 1903. Dust control was another topic discussed.

“The goal is to treat everybody the same,” Snyder said.

Drive-ways and culverts location placements are subject to state standards for safety and drainage and jurisdictions.

“We are not trying to control people it is just to make it safe,” Snyder said. “We are not trying to police townships.”

Address applications required for new residential or commercial properties, flood plain management, and septic systems. Obtain these applications and more information about the potential development from Denton’s office in the courthouse. Denton recommended if persons are interested in the development of their property one of the first needs is to present their letter from Northeast Kansas Environmental Services.

Afternoon rollover sends one by ambulance for emergency care
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Shortly after 4:00PM on Monday first responders were sent to the 1000 block North River Road for an injury accident. A 2002 Ford pickup truck driven by Terry Wall, 68, Atchison, had been southbound on River Road when the driver lost control and slid on the icy road, struck an embankment, and rolled over on its side. Atchison County Rescue had responded to the scene and removed the windshield so the driver could be removed from the vehicle. He was transported to Amberwell Atchison for emergency care by Atchison County EMS ambulance for treatment of his injury. The accident remains under investigation.

Riverfront pavilion crash sends one to emergency treatment
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At 9:10AM on Wednesday, Jan. 5 officers responded to an injury accident at Commercial and River Road. A 2000 Chevrolet pick up truck driven by Francis Wiltz, 74, Atchison, had been headed east on Commercial when it left the roadway at River Road and struck the Veteran’s Park pavilion. It is believed the driver was suffering a medical episode that caused the accident. He was transported to Amberwell Atchison by Atchison County EMS for treatment of injuries.