Archive for Wednesday, January 2, 2002

A year to remember

January 2, 2002

News came calling to Baldwin City in 2001 big time. Whether it was a police scandal, a shooting, elections, weather or the never-ending electrical woes that plague the city, there never was a lack of a headline during the year that just came to a close.

Of course it's pretty easy to choose the top story of the year for the Signal's annual year in review. That would be the ongoing problems with the Baldwin City Police Department. It started in July when allegations of misconduct were brought against former officer G.H. Rhea, who resigned several days later.

But, as it turned out, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Topeka attorney Mark Bennett was hired as special counsel to conduct an unbiased, third-party probe of the entire department. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas Highway Patrol were also brought into the investigation.

What resulted was the "Bennett Report," which as of yet hasn't been released, but details a wide array of problems in the department, most notably "administrative lack of control." Police Chief Steve Butell received a three-day suspension and three officers were suspended for a day based on the report. All four have appealed the suspensions and the matter remains unresolved.

Then there was the shooting. It occurred on Oct. 14 in West Baldwin and was the result of a long-standing neighborhood dispute, according to testimony in the preliminary hearing held in December to determine if Steven Meeker, 34, should be bound over for trial for the alleged shooting of neighbor Steven Swafford, 31. Meeker was bound over for trial. Swafford is recovering from the injuries he received.

But, the shooting also created another black mark for the Baldwin police force. Instead of handling the biggest crime in the city in decades, Butell handed the investigation of the incident over to the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. Further complicating the matter was the delay in bringing charges against Meeker by the District Attorney because of a lack of information concerning the alleged crime as a result of the confusion between the two departments.

Of course if it hadn't been for all the police matters, the biggest stories of the year in Baldwin would have probably come from its voters. In overwhelming fashion, Baldwin voter said yes to a new city council and to a multi-million dollar school bond issue.

In April, Baldwin City voters voted in a new mayor, Ken Hayes, and three new councilmen Ken Wagner, George McCrary and Todd Cohen. Those same voters ousted incumbent mayor Stan Krysztof and councilmen Lee Whaley and Eugene Nelson. Incumbent Joe Salb did not seek re-election.

There were two major reasons why and both involved land. The incumbents had turned down an offer by Baker University for free land, plus money to build a new recreation complex, north of Baldwin. Instead they chose to buy land at a premium price southwest of Baldwin that had a host of geographical and financial problems. Voters showed that democracy, once overlooked by the previous council, indeed did live in Baldwin.

But, again, those weren't all the stories in Baldwin in 2001. Electrical outages again cropped up and the new council conducted a "Town Meeting" to address those needs. School violence looked like it made an appearance at Baldwin High in the spring when Anthony McClintock was seriously injured by another student. But, it turned out to be horse play that got out of hand.

Of course weather also brought headlines. There was freezing cold in January, a near tornado and plenty of days of high wind in the spring and another hot and dry summer. Two major water line breaks in the Baker Wetlands cost the city thousands of dollars.

And Baker was in the news, as always, too. The highest enrollment 900 students in two decades was recorded this fall. Construction began on the university's most ambitious project in years refurbishing the library to the tune of $6 million. There were also allegations of date rape resulting from underage drinking which proved to be mostly that allegations.

Oh, but there was more. Of course the Sept. 11 tragedies struck Baldwin, too. There was a gasoline scare the day of the attacks. Cars were lined up at Baldwin's two gas stations for blocks. But, one of the most touching events of the city's year also occurred as a result of the terrorist's bombings. It occurred at Baldwin's premiere event the Maple Leaf Festival when Baldwin Elementary School's vocal teacher, Jocelyn Leonard, sang the National Anthem to start this year's Maple Leaf Parade. It was absolutely spell bounding and quieted the normally boisterous crowd for the festival's main event.

Still, there was more. There were the double fatality accidents to the west at Baldwin Junction and to the east near Wellsville on U.S. Highway 56 in April. Thankfully, none of the victims were from Baldwin. There's the news that, finally, it appears McDonald's is coming to town at U.S. 56 and Sixth Street. That rumor has been going around for years.

But what about newspaper news, too? The Signal won the sweepstakes award in the Kansas Press Association's annual awards ceremony in April. That showed the Signal to be the best newspaper in the state in its division. Not surprisingly, the Signal's competition in Baldwin, the Ledger, ceased to exist in July after a two-year battle for the city's readership. The Ledger was "merged" with the Signal and the upstart newspaper suddenly became 150 years old as a result.

Here are the headlines for the year:

Jan. 3 Building permits up in 2000; Cold takes its toll on Baldwin City; New Year brings new contract to city administrator; Future of City Lake sought.

Jan. 10 Mayor, city council filings filling fast; Plan lacks substance, school board says; Baseball program to begin in 2002.

Jan. 17 New filings bring more primaries; Spelling bee quizzes BES students; BHS debaters advance to state tournament.

Jan. 24 Issues, candidates large in number; Two of three school board seats unopposed; Debaters make trek to Shawnee Heights.

Jan. 31 Gas bills result in customer conservation; Community makes Chili Golf Classic benefit a success.

Feb. 7 City to pay for power upgrades; Forum brings out issues; Winter royalty at BHS were seniors Evan Durnal and Suzie Weege and juniors Matt Noonan and Colleen Kivett; Citizen donates land for Media Park.

Feb. 14 School board looks at option of refinancing; Candidates to face questions during forum; BHS students see Washington close-up; French students set for upcoming trip.

Feb. 21 City council candidates communicate on issues; Clerk explains ballot; City council and school board candidates answer questions.

Feb. 28 New faces make big showing in primary election; BJHS students solve problems with creativity; BPU lawsuit dismissed after two days; BHS Scholar's Bowl team takes part at state meet; Junior High artists awarded.

March 7 School board eyes building options for the future; Mayor's race heats up; Fatalities recorded to the east and west of Baldwin.

March 14 District to ponder change in utility charges; Hobson's city visit still makes waves; Mayor hopefuls debate at BHS.

March 21 Baldwin on short end of census stick; Council looks at sewer rate hike; Candidates to gather at Baker for forum.

March 28 Candidates debate issues at forum; Construction projects at FireTree Estates get closer; Light Center offers alternative healing.

April 4 Baldwin chooses final four; City looks at DUI changes; Black Jack Diner to open soon; Chamber, Baker set to honor Baldwin's finest.

April 11 Election aftermath begins transition; School board talks growth; Bulldogs travel to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.; BHS French students tour Paris; FCCLA students gain state awards.

April 18 Storm sirens sound in Baldwin; Baldwin ducks tornado; School board hears Charter School concerns; Awards go to BHS band; "Twelve Angry Men" preparing for performances.

April 25 Blaze destroys rural Baldwin home; Mayor vetoes DUI ordinance; Baldwin beautification program set to start; Relay for Life ready for its annual run.

May 2 New council set to take reins; Baldwin to feel road work inconveniences again; School district budget booster; Island Paradise brings pleasure towards BHS at prom.

May 9 Council has changing of the guard; School board eyes land prize; Mystery Murder Trains ready to roll; Krekels open season with top yard.

May 16 School board takes look at bond issues; Graduation weekend set to invade Baldwin; Charter school gets reprieve; Star Struck strikes Baldwin.

May 23 Graduation 2001, Baldwin High and Baker University both conducted their graduation ceremonies; Vinland celebrates Founder's Day; Sixth Street to be snarled until October.

May 30 BHS junior improves to fair condition after rough housing got out of hand; Bulldog boys track team brings home state track and field team titles; City meeting set to discuss electricity; Local Knights of Columbus group wins awards.

June 6 City seeks input on electricity issues; City council to consider quorum change; Land purchase put to rest by council; School plan goes before patrons; BHS student, Jennifer White, headed for Japan.

June 13 An anniversary with "Annie" as CLEAR runs full circle; Electricity issue draws charged audience; Yard of the Week prize goes to Collinses.

June 20 Electrical outages bring back memories; Council discusses building moratorium; Council quorum is changed; Fun times at the Library with summer reading program; June Art Walk draws big crowd.

June 27 School facilities meeting draws a crowd; Murder-for-hire plan foiled; Midland Railway gains grant; Elders win weekly yard honors.

July 3 Fun-filled Fourth of July set to unfold; Flag holder effort is set for veterans; City Council talks bricks; Cardiac Arrest draws a somewhat reluctant crowd; Baldwin is top team at NCA.

July 11 Investigation centered on police; Signal, Ledger are merged into one; Sixth Street construction progressing; Baldwin celebrates Fourth with a bang.

July 18 Investigations continues at Baldwin Police Dept.; Rhea resigns, but denies allegations; City council considers police car and donated land; Clarence Rusk is the oldest living Freemason in Kansas, receiving his 75 year Mason membership pin.

July 25 Farmers' Market flourishes in Baldwin City; City budget jumps, but mill levy doesn't; It's county fair time again; Hurry up, wait for police probe; Alex Beecher and Nicki Smith recently toured Australia, New Zealand.

Aug. 1 County Fair Time Comes Calling; Teen Challenge Local pastor heads effort to reclaim troubled youth; Baldwin youths perform in "Evita;" Runners spend week at Ryun camp build physically as well as spiritually.

Aug. 8 Board approves school bond vote; Paige Wagner reigns in riding competition; Council budgets for future projects.

Aug. 15 Vinland Fair wraps up; No conclusions in police investigation; Front-wheel drive cruiser sits idle pending training; School board okays budget.

Aug. 22 Baker enrollment jumps for second year; Student, visitor spending boosts businesses; Library renovation set to begin at Baker; Variety marks this year's Artist and Lecture Series; It was a smooth start for Baldwin schools.

Aug. 29 Baldwin City power goes dark again; Residents vent electrical anger; Baker enrollment best in 20 years; New BHS program could soon be part of graduation requirements; Jennifer White spends summer in Japan learning customs.

Sept. 5 Power outages draw council concern; Mushrooms cropping up; Collins Library has ground breaking.

Sept. 12 World Trade Center tragedy felt in Baldwin; Harrises escape disaster; Police probe awaits interview of chief; Chamber of Commerce has new officers.

Sept. 19 Struggling for answers amid terror; Attacks considered worse than Pearl Harbor; Police car is back; Police investigation results to be shared today.

Sept. 26 Baldwin youth deal with tragedy; BES raised money to help NYC; Art Walk features "cuppa java" night; BHS crowns royalty; celebrates homecoming with pep rally, victory.

Oct. 3 Police investigation takes new twists; Baldwin construction is bustling; Sixth St. speeders be aware; Berg nominee for Teacher of the Year; CFBC sponsors brick sale to improve park.

Oct. 10 Water leaks bring need for conservation; Productive harvest so far; School board approves graduation requirements; School bond issue looms for voters; "Ballad" set to return.

Oct. 17 Shots send shock in West Baldwin; Water leak is fixed; Rural residents voice opposition to zoning; FCCLA sponsors field day for students; Voter turnout critical for bond issue.

Oct. 24 Record crowd flocks in for 44th Maple Leaf Festival; Anthem captures festival crowd; Shooting leaves city divided; KHP probe finds police violations.

Oct. 31 Noonan among elite with third state cross country title; Charges filed in shooting; Voters to decide school bond issue; Haunted train thrills audiences once again; City power plant is put on hold.

Nov. 7 Voters give bond issue approval; City council makes Baker, TV debut; BHS debaters win league tourney; BHS to perform fall musical.

Nov. 14 Bond passage signals building start; Baldwin High set to present "Lucky Stiff;" Englishes' print collection offers differences; State license plates show Baker pride.

Nov. 20 Baker feed brings thoughts of home, 300 for Thanksgiving; Water leak hits Baldwin again; BHS play thrills audiences; City approves patrol car purchase.

Nov. 28 Answers sought for water line breaks; It's time to get pets ready for winter's wrath; Christmas festivities set to get under way in Baldwin Sunday; Alice Anne Callahan Russell wins Baker award.

Dec. 5 Christmas around Baldwin: Tree farm tradition for families; Baldwin holiday home tour set for this weekend; Council meets in private, Executive session lasts 60 minutes; Local harp player releases CD; BES third grader hits ice rink every week.

Dec. 12 Police chief, three officers suspended; Board grapples with junior high wrestling; Rainbow Preschool may be closed; VES students make time capsule.

Dec. 19 Police appeal disciplinary action; McDonald's a step closer to Baldwin; Preliminary hearing reveals Oct. 14 details; MSES takes trip around world.

Dec. 26 Mayor calls for release of Bennett Report; BHS graduate gets some much needed help from his brother; Lambert elected to board; Baldwin State Bank contributes to Baker U.; BES makes comfort kits.

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