Archive for Thursday, December 30, 2010

Harsh winter, national champs lead Signal’s top 10 stories

December 30, 2010

It’s official — the readers have voted and the results are in from the contest for the top Baldwin City stories from 2010.

The Baldwin City Signal’s top story was the USD 348 School Board’s vote to close Marion Springs and Vinland elementary schools. The debate lasted nearly the entire year, but other than the school board’s decision, there was plenty of other news in and around Baldwin City.

After the votes were totaled, here are the subsequent top 10 stories from the past year:

1. Winter snowfall

In the online voting, it was a close call between the school closings and the large amount of snow that fell last winter. It was a matter of seven more votes for the school closings.

The harsh winter first hit the area with nearly a foot of snow on Christmas Eve of 2009. Then a week later, more snow fell on New Years Eve, which caused a week of headaches for those traveling during the holidays.

That wasn’t the only snow that fell during the winter. Several inches fell on Jan. 6, which kept city crews busy. However, the next snow didn’t come until February. There were two light snowfalls during the month, with another severe storm during the middle of March.

It was the largest amount of snow recorded in the area during one year in many years. The snowy winter left folks hoping this winter is a bit less white and flaky.

2. BHS national champs

Garnering 17 percent of the online votes was the Baldwin High School national champion Real World Design Challenge Team. It was the first-ever national title for any BHS students.

On March 29, the group of seven students and two advisors returned home to a small gathering of friends and family members, who made signs welcoming back the national champions. The BHS students won the RWDC by beating defending champs Hawaii and Minnesota two days before in Washington D.C.

In October, four of the students returned to the nation’s capital. They were invited for the White House Science Fair. While there on a free trip, the students spent a few minutes talking with President Barack Obama.

The BHS students have enjoyed a whirlwind 2010. Their year started with their second-straight state title in February and ended with meeting the president.

3. Holland runs for governor

Baldwin City put itself on the political map in February when one of its residents announced he would be running for governor. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, made the official announcement Feb. 17 in Topeka.

Several other better-known Democrats chose not to run for governor. Holland faced an uphill battle against U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., in the November election.

In the end, Holland lost the election to Brownback in a year Republicans won all statewide races and won a large majority in the Kansas House.

In 2008, Holland defeated incumbent Republican Roger Pine for the state Senate seat. In 2002, he defeated incumbent Republican Ralph Tanner for a House seat.

4. Mill levy increases

It wasn’t a big surprise to anyone when the Baldwin City Council and USD 348 Board of Education announced mill levy increases for their 2010-2011 budgets during their August meetings.

The school district mill levy jumped 4.497 mills. After agreeing to a 7.497 mills increase, the board at its next meeting agreed to a 3 mill decrease in the district’s Capital Outlay fund at the next school board meeting. A 13.807 mill levy increase in the district’s bond and interest accounted for most the increase.

After decreasing its mill levy for the 2010 budget, the city council approved a 2011 budget with a 1.895 mill increase.

“The increase is largely due to debt service increase,” City Administrator Jeff Dingman said at the August meeting. “Our operating budgets went down.”

5. New school opens

Despite a nearly two-week delay, the new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center opened its doors in late August. Classes began on Aug. 18, but the new school wasn’t ready and wasn’t projected to open until after Labor Day weekend.

However, crews worked diligently to open earlier and were able to finish enough of the building that it passed inspection. On Aug. 31, the BESPC was open for classes.

The new school accounted for the majority of cost associated with the Nov. 2008 bond issue voters approved. It is located at the corner of Elm and Lawrence streets in west Baldwin City.

6. Henderson plays Jeopardy

After months of anticipation, Baldwin City resident Becky Henderson made her debut on the game show “Jeopardy.” She flew to California in February to film the episode that ran June 7.

A watch party was held at The Lodge and dozens of local patrons attended the party. Henderson tried out for the show once before and had always wanted to be on it. Her dream came true this year.

Unfortunately, her time on the show didn’t last long. She finished third and did not advance, but she did enjoy the experience and says she’d do it again in a heartbeat.

7. Restaurant state champs

In the spring, Baldwin High School won another state championship. This one wasn’t for engineering. A group of four BHS students won the Kansas ProStart Management Team competition for the second-straight year.

The students had to develop a business proposal for a new restaurant concept and present their idea to a panel of judges. This year’s design was a hamburger restaurant called the Cross Country Grill.

They almost didn’t get to present their idea to the judges. Shortly before the entry deadline, the BHS students tried to upload the presentation, but the file was corrupt. They were allowed to redo their presentation, so they worked overnight to create a new Powerpoint presentation. They competed at the national contest in Overland Park, but didn’t place.

8. Fire destroys home

Brent and Lynnette Ojanguren have their cats to thank for being alive and unharmed after a fire engulfed their house during the early morning hours of Nov. 7

Their house at 217 Dearborn Street went up in flames shortly before 2 a.m. Several fire crews responded to the blaze, but the call came too late. The fire destroyed much of the house.

Neither of the Ojangurens were injured in the fire and their children were not a hoe..

9. Volunteering for 100 years

The Nov. 7 fire was just one of many that the Baldwin City Volunteer Fire Department has worked in its 100 years of service to the community.

The department marked its 100th year in late June this year. After a fire destroyed the original post office in 1908, residents called for a town fire department. In 1910, the Baldwin City Volunteer Fire Department was chartered. Eight years after that, the city purchased its first “Auto Fire Truck” for $950.

10. Phase One completed

It’s taken years of work and 1,000s of dollars by many individuals, but the dream was made into a reality in March.

After seven years of hard work and fundraising, the Lumberyard Arts Center celebrated its grand opening March 26. The grand opening commemorated the completion of the first phase of the project. Many art shows and events have been held in the LAC and it is open during the day to visitors.

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