Archive for Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Good, bad news for Baldwin City

January 29, 2003

My, my, my, hasn't Baldwin City had more than its share of news here recently. Last week's resignation of Sgt. Colleen Larson, followed by an even bigger surprise with City Administrator Larry's Paine's departure headed the list.

But, of course, there's more. Monday we get hit with the bad news that our Douglas County Treasurers satellite office will close. Of course right up there, too, is the police news with lawsuits and the investigations into the vandalism in the school district and the robbery at Walt's Pizza Cafe.

At least there was some good news -- the Kansas Department of Transportation has bumped up the installation of the traffic signal at U.S. Highway 56 and Sixth Street to February of 2004. That's better than the previously announced date of late 2004. It's also better than a poke in the eye, given KDOT's history around these parts.

But, that was the only good news.

I was saddened to hear of both Paine and Larson's resignations. Both have served the city well.

Paine has done an admirable job in righting Baldwin's financial ship. When he came here four and a half years ago, we were basically broke after it had been discovered that a former city clerk had misappropriate funds. Through hard work and the hiring of new city clerk Peggy Nichols, that situation was corrected.

Although that was big, what I will remember most about Paine's tenure are the improvements in infrastructure and all the ups and downs we had with electricity. We're well on our way to a whole host of upgrades in water and power. It wasn't easy, by any stretch.

I will also remember the relationship that the Signal developed with Paine. When we first launched, the Ledger was the "official publication" for the city. Despite that and other pressures involving two local newspapers, Paine didn't show any favoritism. Soon, the Signal was the "official publication" and even that obstacle was removed.

Paine was very good about letting us know what was going on, even if it wasn't for publication. We always appreciated his "heads-ups" and always kept the "off-the-record" comments off the record.

The personal relationship we had was good. I will miss him. He did a great job for Baldwin. I wish him and his family all the best in the new location in Concordia.

Sgt. Larson served Baldwin well for 16 years. Although the last two years were full of turmoil, she was our best source of information at the police department. I know this has been a hard time for her and I also wish her well in her new endeavors.

The other police news has been interesting. The lawsuits filed by three current and one former officer have again rekindled the police-problem past that we all had hoped had ended with a new chief of police being hired. I had more comment about the column I wrote last week on that saga than any I've written for awhile. All I said was we're tired of it. Let's move on. Everyone I spoke to agreed.

There's been as much talk about the downtown robbery of Walt's than anything, though. We're confident that crime will be solved, as will the vandalism case in the Baldwin School District. I've been very impressed with new Police Chief Mike McKenna and his efforts to be open with what's going on in the department. That was needed badly.

I also had the opportunity to get to know him a little better through both our small roles in last week's play, "My Fatal Valentine." I was a guest reader and he comes in at the last of the play to arrest the murderer. I was on early and he came on at the end, so in between we were able to talk both about police matters and personal items. I like him. He's a good one.

Paine was also a guest reader for the play. We had the opportunity to chat back stage, too. It happened to be the day of his resignation, so we had plenty to talk about. Again, I'll miss him.

And if you missed "My Fatal Valentine," that's too bad. It was a great show. With the other play by the Baldwin City Community Theatre's "Nunsense" coming up, it's obvious that the BCCT is alive and well and has made it through the controversy at the end of last year.

That's some more good news. We'll take all of that we can get.

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