OTTAWA — A fire stoked by heavy north winds heavily damaged one house in the 700 block of North Mulberry Street Monday night and caused light damage to a neighboring house. When firefighters arrived, a house at 752 N. Mulberry was heavily involved in flames and were fueled by the heavy wind, said Ottawa Fire Chief Jeff Carner. The wind also caused a fire on the exterior of a house to the south at 721 N. Mulberry, he said. The house at 752 N. Mulberry was heavily damaged and experienced an estimated $66,000 in damage, Carner said. The other house had approximately $1,000 in damage, he said. No one was at home when the fire broke out and there were no injuries, he said. Ottawa fire investigators and the state fire marshal’s office were on the scene this morning. The fire appears to have originated in a carport attached to the house. Ottawa police said the woman who lived in the house told them she believed someone set the fire deliberately. However, Carner declined comment on that report, saying investigators were still trying to determine the cause.
Tuesday, Dec. 16, 1 p.m.
OTTAWA–The State of Kansas has one way to improve its financial crisis—take the money saved up by cities and school districts. During the Ottawa City Commission study session, Commissioner Blake Jorgensen noted there seems to be increasing talk of the state seizing reserves…Jorgensen says if the state resorts to that, school districts will probably the first victims.
Monday, Dec. 15, 9:45 pm
DURHAM, N.C. — Former Ottawa High School standout Semi Ojeleye is leaving Duke. The school said Sunday that that Ojeleye received a full release and is expected to transfer to another Division I school. There are reports that Kansas University, Missouri and Wisconsin have expressed interest in him. He said he hasn’t been approached by Kansas State, where his older brother Victor played after walking on. Ojeleye said he’ll decide where to enroll early next year. The 6-8 Ojeleye set most state high school records while he played for the Cyclones, who went undefeated and won the state 4-A championship when he was a senior. He played as a reserve for Duke, who averaged three points and two rebounds for the second-ranked Blue Devils.
Monday, Dec. 15, 2 p.m.; updated Tuesday, Dec. 16, 7 a.m.
TOPEKA — The shoe dropped. This morning, Gov. Sam Brownback announced a series of immediate spending cuts called allotments and fund shifts to help the state avoid finishing this fiscal year in the red. The state has faced budget black hole caused by a series of income tax cuts pushed by Brownback. The allotments involve a 4 percent cut for all state departments, and universities and community colleges. Brownback would also cut the state’s employer’s contribution to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System by nearly 10 percent or nearly $41 million. Brownback also seeks to generate more than $200 million to cover the budget gap by shifting money around. However, those transfers would have to be approved by legislators. Among the shifts, Brownback seeks to take $96 million out of the transportation fund, and take $55 million from inspection and permit fees paid to the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment. He also seeks to take $15 million from the state’s tobacco fund, which has been used for preschool and children’s health programs. The allotments and shifts would only deal with this fiscal year. They don’t address the even larger shortfall already projected for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. Nor do they address an even larger shortfall that would occur when additional income tax cuts are scheduled to take effect July 1.
Tuesday, Dec. 9, 11 a.m.
OTTAWA–Apparently the bus drivers in the Ottawa School District are so unhappy with their current situation that they want to join the Teamsters Union. That’s the word at the regular School Board meeting. Several bus drivers complained at the meeting that they are taken for granted and not valued.
Monday, Dec. 8, 11:30 pm
OTTAWA–One theme that keeps coming up at each meeting concerning the Ottawa School Bond Election is the need for upgrading security. At one community meeting, Eugene Field Elementary School was cited as the school most in need of better security.
Thursday, Dec. 4, 9pm
OTTAWA–The Ottawa City Commission has approved sending a sales tax renewal proposal to the voters for hoped-for approval next June. If approved, the city half cent sales tax would be renewed, plus another half cent would be imposed to finance economic development.
Wednesday, Dec. 3, 11:10 pm
OTTAWA — The Ottawa city and Franklin County commissioners finalized an agreement this morning to buy 303 acres for a new industrial park south of I-35 and east of U.S. 59 On the southeast edge of Ottawa. The $1.61 million deal is expected to be closed before the end of the year. The cost will shared by Ottawa and Franklin County. The city will extend water, wastewater, electric and broadband utility services to the site and Franklin County will improve Montana Road on the east side of the site and Kingman Road on the south side of the site and make bridge improvements on Kingman Road, Ottawa Mayor Linda Reed and Franklin County Commission Chair Steve Harris said. The utilities and I-35 are the keys to the future success of the new industrial park, Franklin County Development Council’s David Lee told the commissioners during a joint meeting this morning at city hall to wrap up the final details. “As a city and as a county, we have explored ways to keep our community progressive,” Reed said. “We have looked at what we are contributing and building that our children and the next generations will find important enough to fight to keep. This is one of those important and big, bold dreams.” Officials looked at more than 100 sites in the county for a new industrial park. The process began eight years ago after Hill’s Pet Nutrition couldn’t find a suitable site in Ottawa and built in Emporia, City Commissioner Blake Jorgensen said. “Although we still have a few small tracts available in our current industrial park, companies are looking for much larger tracts upon which to build now.” Work on the new site announced this morning took about four years. “Multiple landowners were needed to create a land acquisition of this size and each of those partners willingly participated in this process,” said Blaine Finch, a former president of the Franklin County Development Council and who did much of the legal work and negotiations for the project. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the vision that each of the landowners has for their community and their willingness to help move the community in the right direction.”
Wednesday, Dec. 3, noon
OTTAWA–One of the most deadly effects of the Kansas Budget Crisis is the cut in mental health spending. Franklin County Steve Harris says people with untreated mental health problems are showing up in the local area, with law enforcement making arrests and jailing some of these people.
Tuesday, Dec. 2, 10:45 pm
POMONA — A fire destroyed a garage and damaged a house in the 300 block of Hoover Street in Pomona Monday afternoon. when firefighters arrived, the garage was fully engulfed and the fire had spread to the rest of the house, the Franklin County Sheriff’s office said. The house was heavily damaged. The fire is believed to have started in the garage due to undetermined causes, the sheriff’s office said. There was no immediate estimate on the amount of damage.
Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1 p.m.