2005 -- a Year in Review

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It was a year to remember, a year to lay in preparations for the future, and a year to honor those who served the community in many ways, from the soldiers toiling in the war-torn Middle East, to those here at home, keeping Nevada a great place to live, both for today and for tomorrow. In the last three issues of the year, we'll present a month-by-month recap of 2005's news and newsmakers.


January

By Steve Moyer

Nevada Daily Mail

What if an anti-government terrorist group set off an explosion in a barn in rural Vernon County that may have released an unknown chemical into the area? This was one mock scenario that the emergency response teams for our area had to discuss at a table top exercise in January.

Police, fire and emergency medical personnel from three counties were at the 3M clubhouse for the exercise, which was designed to evaluate our area's readiness to respond to a variety of emergency situations. The exercise was conducted by the Missouri Department of Public Safety with the help of the Titan Corporation, a consulting firm.

According to Allen Lehmen, MDPS state exercise officer, since the Sept. 11 attacks, our nation has had a heightened concern about terrorism and the Department of Homeland Security has provided funds to all the states to develop teams to respond to possible threats and incidents. There are 28 teams within Missouri that have been formed to meet this need; the local team encompasses a six county area, with the core of the team members coming from the emergency response departments of Vernon, Barton and Bates counties.

The Nevada Regional Medical Center unveiled plans to implement an industrial medicine program named the Tri-County Industrial Medicine Program, at the hospital.

Board members said they hope that such a unit would benefit everyone involved by saving money for companies, reducing the hassle for injured employees and providing extra income for the hospital and the community.

"We want to work within the system to keep costs down and keep patients in Nevada," Dr. William Turner said. "We want to work with companies to save them money and provide a consistent high quality service to them."

One of the innovations suggested for the program is the way a patient accesses care. For example, after a patient who has suffered a joint injury or broken bone would be seen by the contracted doctor or in the Emergency Room he might be sent directly to an orthopedic surgeon without seeing a general practitioner first, streamlining the process.

Local companies have been contacted and the process is underway to begin serving their needs.

January saw the Nevada R-5 School District face a deep budget deficit.

"We'll be facing massive cuts," if little or no additional funds come to the district, during a plea to voters to support the district's proposed 39-cent property tax levy on the Feb. 8 ballot, Nevada R-5 Superintendent Ted Davis said.

He pulled no punches as he outlined the school districts budgetary outlook if nothing is done to replace the funds lost through the state's budget crunch.

There'll be a loss of "programs and people. Eighty-seven percent of our programs are the people," Davis said.

During the past few years, school board members have cut a few programs and trimmed fat, eliminating some jobs along the way -- but if the budget shortfalls continue, there'll be little choice but to cut into programs and to reduce the size of the staff.

"The state is shifting the burden to the local districts," said board member Dr. Warren Lovinger, so it's up to the district's patrons to support the level of education provided.

"The children are the single most important thing in this community, and education is the best thing that we can do for them," Lovinger said.

This year's budget is approaching $1.4 million in the red. In a budget of nearly 19 million, that's almost six percent of the budget.

The primary culprit, Davis said, is the state's funding formula for schools, and the money available to support it. Although the levy increase failed the state legislature changed the foundation formula which increased the amount of money the district received from the state.


February

By Steve Moyer

Nevada Daily Mail

It was a busy February for Nevada and the surrounding area, and it started out with the end of an era as the Hornbeck home was dismantled.

"It's ironic that a building built in a time when the main mode of transportation was the horse and buggy is being dismantled by a group of people for whom the horse and buggy is still the norm."

So said Terry Ramsey, director of the Vernon County Historical Society, as she dug through files of documentation about the old Hornback House named for Dr. Joseph Hornback, who purchased the house in 1905.

The 109-year-old house was demolished by a group of Mennonite workers who recycled the material from the house.

In the days before specialists, Dr. Hornback, as all doctors of the time, had to be versatile in his skills; he was an obstetrician and a mortician, a dentist and an optometrist, a physician and pharmacist. According to an article in "Scenes From the Past," Hornback also took X-rays for Nevada's 27 doctors -- he owned the only X-ray machine in town.

Hornback also had a strong sense of civic responsibility, during his life he headed nearly every board in Nevada, including the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Selective Service and many other worthy causes.

Two school districts held elections in February seeking funding solutions and both failed. Sheldon voters were asked to pass a $200,000 bond issue to build an agricultural education center and Nevada voters were asked to approve a 37 cent levy increase.

The Nevada levy question, which was proposed in an effort to make up for a $1.3 million budget shortfall, failed to pass by only 27 votes. There were 1,184 votes cast in favor and 1,210 opposed, according to results provided by the Vernon County Clerk.

According to R-5 school board members, the levy increase would have raised $500,000 locally and brought in an additional $1 million from the state.

Sheldon voters cast 115 votes in support of its tax measure and 117 in opposition. In November, when the issue was first addressed, the issue received a majority of the vote but not the four-sevenths majority required for passage.

"Of course, we're disappointed," said Phyllis Sprenkle, superintendent of the Sheldon R-8 schools. "We knew the facility would provide a lot of opportunities for our kids and we're still going to look at options to expand the (agricultural education) program."

By mid-February, more than 350 quilts collected by the Bushwhacker Quilt Guild's Quilted Hugs project were sent on their way in February.

Volunteers gathered Feb. 10 and Feb. 17 at the National Guard armory in Nevada to help separate and ship the quilts. Each quilt was carefully folded, bagged and shipped in its own box, to ensure that each guardsman from the 735th support battalion gets mail from home.

Workers carefully marked off the names as the boxes were filled, assembly-line style, and prepared for the post office. The men and women involved were all smiles but clearly took the business of shipping the special cargo quite seriously.

Bailey Jones, Ann Jones' daughter, was the youngest at the packing event on Feb. 17, but she expertly managed the packing supplies, deftly opening plastic bags that stuck stubbornly to one another with static electricity.

"They're almost as big as me, but I know a way to do it," she said, dragging the bag quickly through the air, letting the air force the bag open, eager to help with the process.

The quilts went to members of the 735th support battalion, Company A and Company D.

Because the number of quilts received surpassed the number of Nevada-based troops already deployed, a few went to members of the 203rd Engineers, Joplin, and a few went to local people who went with other groups from throughout Missouri.

A petition audit of city finances ended but a separate investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, relating to an earlier audit, was ongoing in February.

Two audits were performed.

One was a general audit, requested by citizens who collected signatures on a petition, and one at the request of the city relating to missing funds. The report for the audit relating to missing funds was released in September 2004, and a lengthy criminal investigation ensued, eventually closing with no charges filed.

"It's kind of unusual to issue two reports for a petition audit," Donna Christian told the 75 people who came to the community center in February to hear the findings of the State Auditor's office on the petition audit as well as an update relating to misappropriated funds. She said that it is not unusual to issue a report on misappropriated money as soon as possible so the investigation can proceed.

Christian said that between January 2002 and April 2004 at least $39,701 was collected by the city and was not deposited. The misappropriation of money was done in two ways: exchanging unrecorded checks for recorded cash and taking money from money bags that had been left overnight in the bank's night deposit and then taken to the city hall the next morning, where they would lay unattended on a desk until someone could take of them.

According to the Sept. 2, 2004, audit report, this occurred and was not detected because of a "lack of internal control and little or no independent review."

Christian said that the city should have balanced its cash and check receipts separately.

"It wouldn't necessarily prevent this from happening, but it would catch it. It wouldn't have gone on for years," she said.

Some concerns were also outlined in the petition audit report, and numerous changes in accounting processes were made by the city.


March

By Steve Moyer

Nevada Daily Mail

An old saying says March either comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb or comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion. March 2005 was a pretty even-tempered month that started off with an article about a local business inventing a way to improve safety when lifting long trusses and ended with an article about a local woman whose horse lifted spirits all over Vernon County.

Clancy Nowak, Nowak Industries has invented a method of lifting long span wooden trusses safer and in less time than traditional methods. Andy McCullough of APlus Metals is working with Nowak to make the RijidTruss lifting system and market it nationwide.

Nowak said he had been in the business of making trusses at a facility located in Compton Junction for many years and had witnessed the problems associated with lifting trusses into place and often thought there should be a better way.

"We've fought this for 20 years," Nowak said. "I knew there had to be a better, safer way to handle the trusses but it took me quite a while to figure it out."

Nowak said that raising trusses is dangerous work and that he had lost a worker during the process.

"I personally had a man die lifting trusses," Nowak said. "In the construction business you're all family. If this system saves one life, it's a gain and well worth the effort it took to make it."

March's primary municipal election saw four men advance to the April general election; Van CeLaya, Larry Delaney, Bill Edmonds and Tim Moore. The two men who did not advance were Joe Kraft and Richard Meyers.

Nevada received some good news in March.

Hard work, determination and tenacity were paying off for the city and its citizens, according to City Manager Craig Hubler. The economic outlook seemed to indicate the next few years will see Nevada's economy expand and in 20 years it is expected that the population will grow by 50 percent. Manufacturing jobs were up as well as retail positions, and in the previous year more than 300 new jobs were added to the local economy. Job growth is expected to continue for the next several years.

The expected growth requires the city to work with businesses and individuals to make sure the growth happens in a controlled manner.

"The thing I worry about with the housing is the timing," Hubler said. "There has to be a market for new housing to make it worth the developer's effort, you don't want people building housing there's no market for. On the other hand you don't want the market to wait too long before beginning new construction because that will drive up housing prices on existing homes and could cause other problems as well."

Hubler tempered the good news with some somber facts about Nevada's efforts to to be prepared in case of attack.

"Despite our growth and good fortune, we have not forgotten that our nation's war on terror continues to affect all Americans, and Nevada is no exception," Hubler said. "Last year we were focused upon the Nevada Forward Regional Response Team's hazardous materials (and biohazards) equipment and training. This year we are moving forward with updated E-911 emergency dispatch equipment, a new rescue/haz-mat vehicle, and expanded mutual aid agreements with our region's many city, county and district emergency service providers and volunteers."

Firefighters gathered at the Nevada Fire Department for the department's annual firefighter awards dinner in March. Chief Bill Gillette told the assembled firefighters they were appreciated for their work and dedication to helping the citizens of Vernon County.

"We try to do this every year in recognition and appreciation for the effort put in by both the part-time and full-time firefighters," Gillette said. "Both groups put in a lot of time training and becoming prepared to handle whatever situation might come up. I think we need to let them know how much it is appreciated," Gillette said.

Gillette told the firefighters the figures help illustrate the success of the department. "Of the total of $5 million involved we only lost $655,000 in value," Gillette said. "We had $90,000 value of vehicles involved and lost $16,000 in value."

Gillette said, "We're a lot better trained than we were 10 years ago, we're a lot more aggressive than we were 10 years ago, and we're better equipped than we were 10 years ago."

March also saw the announcement of a new program for the Nevada R-5 School District -- a Junior Police Academy.

"Officer (Pat) McCarty will be the instructor, it's his idea," R-5 Superintendent Ted Davis said. "I think it has good potential for being a great educational opportunity for our students."

The program is a police academy for young people.

While graduates will not be police officers the program is intended to instill an appreciation and respect for law enforcers and their role in society.

Nevada Police Chief Christine Keim said that she is glad that the department is participating in the program and that Officer McCarty is the right person to do the training.

"We're going to try to give everyone a leg up on what we do," Keim said. "Pat McCarty is going to present the program and he does a great job."

An additional benefit of the program is that it helps transform police officers from simply responders to crime to being a powerful, pro-active force in creating a safe, crime-free learning environment.

"The J.P.A. transforms the traditional role of the police officer into one of mentor and friend, while encouraging our young citizens to be partners, not adversaries, in building safer schools and communities," Keim said.

The Wonderful Animals Giving Support program has existed in Nevada for several years now and residential care facility supervisors say that their residents really enjoy getting the chance to interact with the animals. Until now, dogs were about the only type of animal that has been involved in the program -- along with a few cats.

However, thanks to Carol Parmenter, those same care facilities can now request to have a horse come and visit them.

"Cookie," a 34-inch miniature horse owned by Parmenter, received her WAGS and Delta certification and is now available for visits -- Delta is a national organization that offers insurance, promotion and support for pet-assisted therapy.

In order to be certified, Cookie had to be put through the same tests as the other animals. She was tested for how she reacted to handling by strangers and obedience -- though sitting and laying down were not among the things she was asked to do. She was also tested on her behavior in a crowd and how she responded to loud noises.

Cookie passed with flying colors so residents in care facilities can expect to see her soon. "It's great to have a horse in the program," said Parmenter. "Some of these people grew up on farms and seeing a horse can really open up doors to their childhood and get them talking."

There are some special considerations that Parmenter has to be aware of when taking Cookie out for a visit, she is getting special slip-on shoes, much like the kind worn over shoes in hospitals, for Cookie's hooves, and she also must carefully clean and groom the horse before going on a visit.

"Cookie is 6 years old and she is very inquisitive," said Parmenter. "She loves people but I don't think she's ever been ridden -- except by a 10-month-old."

Parmenter said that the WAGS program is open to all kinds of animals and that if there is anyone in the Nevada area who has an animal that would enjoy participating in the program, they are welcome to join. "Obviously, there are some types of animals that aren't suited to this type of thing but any animal that enjoys human interaction and is well behaved can potentially participate," she said.


April

By Afton Bugg

Nevada Daily Mail

April was an eventful month for Nevada. The month consisted of buildings being remolded, new church congregations, students presenting science programs and new sales taxes. There were also awards presented, parades, a treasurer sworn in, new historical books, and a new president at Cottey. The area also re-elected councilmen and a new mayor. A high speed police chase took place, ending in tragedy three counties away. A fashion show was presented at a school, historical churches announced special occasions, and a school carnival was held. Old signs were taken down and National Crime Victims Rights' Week took place.

Nevada Parks and Recreation Department personnel resealed and repainted the east side of the parks maintenance barn.

The United Methodist Church, constructed in 1961, on the west side of south College Street in Nevada, houses a new congregation, the result of several mergers over the years. The Moundville United Methodist Church was recognized as a 2005 Welcoming Congregation in an announcement to the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Nevada Middle School eighth grade accelerated science class, presented a special program. "Science City," as it was called, was created to give students a new and inventive way to study science and share what they have learned with other students.

Cottey College alumnae held the college's traditional alumnae parade, part of Founder's Day Weekend activities. Founder's Day is celebrated each year in late March or early April. Alumnae return to visit their alma mater, attend special events and renew friendships.

Retired military personnel and others gathered at Camp Clark for a change of command ceremony. A small crowd gathered to send off an outgoing commander and welcome a new one at the training facility outside Nevada.

Vernon County Clerk Tammi Beach officiated as Phil Couch was sworn in to a new term of service as Vernon County Treasurer, during a brief ceremony.

The Nevada Parks and Recreation sales tax passed with more than 60 percent of the votes cast in favor of the measure.

Living history interpreter Dakota Russell presented a special program about the lives of Daniel and Nathan Boone during the Vernon County Historical Society's quarterly meeting at the Bushwhacker Museum.

In the aftermath of what is now referred to as the Great Fire of 2005 in Fort Scott, city officials moved ahead with recovery plans. On March 11, the downtown district was ravaged by fire in which 10 buildings were destroyed.

The two-volume set of Nevada and Vernon County's Heritage book was released. The subtitle, 1855-2005, "Pass It On," made us want to do exactly that.

On the eve of the inauguration of Dr. Judy Robinson Rogers as the new president of Cottey College, a crowd of well-wishers and supporters gathered for a keynote speech delivered by Peggy Miller, Ed.D., president of South Dakota State University.

Julie Stumpff, Nevada city clerk, swore in re-elected councilmen Bill Edmonds and Tim Moore during a special city council meeting, and Brian Leonard as the new mayor with a 3-2 vote.

A 16-year-old girl ran from police in a chase called off in Nevada but resumed in Lee's Summit in April. The youth was one of two people who were on Commercial Street and attracted the attention of residents. When Officer Mark Burger attempted to speak to her she fled in a car, which she later abandoned. She then drove a pickup north on U.S. Highway 71, crashing it in the Lee's Summit area. She died after spending several days in a Kansas City hospital.

Models presented a fashion show in the auditorium at Nevada High School. The event, presented by Nevada High School Action gifted program students, was a benefit for the Children's Center. Students conceived and coordinated the event.

The show featured 15 models, most of whom were Nevada High School students.

The First Baptist Church in Nevada was recognized as having a long history.

The church was founded in 1858 with 14 members, however no one is sure where that first church building was located.

Juvenile authorities reported that Since the Children's Center branch in Nevada opened in January 2004, 89 children who may have suffered some sort of abuse or witnessed a violent crime had been interviewed.

Although the weather was damp and chilly, about 50 people turned out for the 25th annual Crime Victim's Walk, an event meant to call attention to the rights and needs of the victims of violent crimes. The event is traditionally held in conjunction with National Crime Victims Rights Week in April.

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