Posts tagged with Kansas

Bob Dole honored with first plaque on the Kansas Walk of Honor

Bob Dole, who took his Kansas roots to the national political stage, was honored Friday in the shadow of the Statehouse, with the unveiling of the inaugural Kansas Walk of Honor plaque.

In typical Dole fashion, the 88-year-old former U.S. senator and presidential candidate quipped, “I don’t deserve it, but I’ll take it.”

During the ceremony, Dole was praised by leaders for his public service, self-sacrifice, honesty and sense of duty.

Gov. Sam Brownback described Dole as a man who “deals from the heart,” and said he will tell youngsters unfamiliar with Dole, “He’s what most Kansans would call a good man. And that’s saying a lot.”

Born in Russell in 1923, Dole was attending Kansas University when he joined the Army during World War II. He was severely wounded, hospitalized for 39 months and received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star.

He later served in the U.S. House and as a leader in the Senate. He was the Republican Party nominee for vice president in 1976 and president in 1996. Both campaigns ended in defeat.

During his political career, he became known as an advocate for veterans and people with disabilities.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Dole’s “fingerprints” were on every major piece of legislation for a generation. Roberts added that Dole helped give “a proper burial” to bills that needed killing.

Dole was often the leader working behind the scenes to get things done without taking the credit, said former Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers.

In his speech, Dole thanked the Kansans who elected him and gave him an opportunity to serve.

He reminisced about his short stint in the state Legislature as “the greenest of lawmakers ­— a somewhat banged up 2nd Lieutenant studying law at Washburn and hoping that my hero Dwight Eisenhower could be persuaded to run for president.”

He said when he was young he took inspiration from a song called “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” He added, “My whole life, up to and including today, has been a validation of that song.”

After his speech, Dole spoke briefly with reporters. When asked what his proudest legislative achievement was, he said it was working with Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat from New York, on reforming Social Security.

“Compromise is not a bad thing and working across the aisle is not a bad thing,” Dole said.

Asked what advice he would give political leaders today, he said, “They’ve got to be civil to each other. Some of the things they say about each other just don’t belong on the Senate floor. There’s got to be more civility, there’s got to be more trust, and there’s got to be bipartisanship. It takes good, strong leadership to make it work.”

After the speeches and ceremony, a long line of well-wishers greeted Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, also a former U.S. senator. Dole was then headed to Elkhart, Russell and Hutchinson.

The outdoor ceremony was attended by former Dole staffers, Kansas politicians and folks who just wanted to honor Dole.

Sheila and Alan Rice, of Topeka, said Dole was unlike other politicians.

“He represented the public well. He didn’t appear to be on a pedestal, untouchable,” Sheila said.

“He’s truly loved,” said Kelly Wingerson, of Tecumseh. “I get teary-eyed over it.”

By Scott Rothschild


Job coaches offer tips on how to get noticed

Just because the country remains mired in the Great Recession, with unemployment persisting and wages stagnating and employee security weakening and consumer confidence waning, doesn’t mean that workers and anyone looking for work should wallow in frustration.

Give yourself a boost by working harder when it comes to seeking advancement, employment or anything else related to a career.

In short: Be better by showing how you’re better.

“Experience alone is not enough,” said Carol Rau, owner of Career Advantage, a Lawrence-based employment consulting firm, where clients receive help with job searches and résumé writing. “That will just allow you to apply. Remember, if there’s a listing that says ‘10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree required,’ and you have that, so does everyone else.”

“The thing you have to focus on is to go above and beyond the experience,” she said.

It’s a familiar refrain by professionals connected with human relations, job searches and other fields affiliated with employment: Simply listing where you’ve worked, what jobs you’ve had and the responsibilities you’ve held may be impressive, but it often takes more to stand out in an increasingly crowded job market.

Clearly communicating what you’ve done, how much business you’ve generated, how many efficiencies you’ve identified and how many positives you’ve provided for an employer can help, they say. Think numbers, percentages, returns.

Evidence that you can get things done.

“You have to know what your own strengths are and what makes you different from people who do the same things you do,” said Lyne Tumlinson, who runs Career Lift LLC, another Lawrence consulting firm that works with individuals, groups and organizations to make the most of their talent — and, increasingly, as a career coach for employees hoping to move up and former employees looking to land new jobs. “That makes you stand out. Otherwise, you become a commodity.”

Whether you are looking for advancement in your current job or are working to get hired at a new job, the two professionals say there are a few things everyone should do:

Do your homework. Find out exactly what an employer wants and then figure out, exactly, how you can make that happen.

Focus on results. “What successes have you had?” Tumlinson said. “And what problems did you overcome?” Such details on a résumé should allow a reviewer to determine how you might fit into the company’s plans, especially when compared with people who simply list their jobs and responsibilities. Rau’s take: “If there’s a way to quantify or measure what you did as an employee, those are powerful statements. … That shows you’re the best qualified.”

Be proactive. “It’s very frustrating to send off a lot of résumés and sit and wait,” Rau said, so consider having a reference — preferably someone within the company you’re targeting — make unsolicited contact with the company’s hiring professionals or others in charge, even before you send in a résumé and cover letter. “It sounds very bold, but — in this market — you have to do anything you can to get an interview,” Rau said. “The goal of a résumé is to get an interview. … You need to get your foot in the door and somehow be considered to get an interview.”

Among Tumlinson’s clients is Joel Wagler, who spent 25 years working in customer-service, management and ownership positions. After closing his business, The Mail Box, in December, he’s been busy applying for jobs in the area.

He admits having been lost early on — not unusual for someone who had last interviewed for a job back in 1985, when he landed work stocking groceries in Hutchinson — but is encouraged by his direction since signing on with Career Lift.

Wagler knows he has plenty to offer and is working to see that potential employers see the benefits he can bring to the job beginning on Day One.

“I know what to look for,” said Wagler, who is using Tumlinson’s advice during confidential sessions to target traditional markets and explore new opportunities, a direction he’s happy to share. “I’m confident with my résumé. I don’t lack confidence in myself."

“You can’t control what the employers are doing, but you can control how you go about it. That’s what I’m doing.”

By Mark Fagan


Kansas School for the Deaf turns 150 this month

To a person who hears, lunchtime at this particular school can be a jarring and confusing sight. Hands aflutter, kids laughing, the clanging of chairs and the squeaking of floors.

Heads quickly scan the room, looking to see if they missed part of a funny comment or are being left out of a story.

But nary a word.

Have a camera, and curiosity soars. But the students approach with caution. There’s an awkward moment when a student realizes a hearing person doesn’t speak their language. And for a hearing person, you can’t help but feel left out of all the fun.

A brave 4-year-old approaches.

Tiny fingers move and the girl is telling you her age.

“I’m four,” she says, in sign language.

The cookie she’s munching on?

“It’s chocolate chip,” she says and now bored, she turns around, munching and signing, talking to her friends.

The scene isn’t much different from an encounter with a 4-year-old at another school. Curiosity, a short attention span and having lunch with friends. Just no words.

This is the Kansas School for the Deaf, which this month celebrates its 150th anniversary. Through the years, thousands of students have passed through the school, learned a new language, moved on to careers and created a “deaf-friendly” culture in Olathe.

About the school

Seventh-grader Cameron Symansky, 12, plays football, basketball, hunts and is a Boy Scout.

The Kansas School for the Deaf offers a variety of sports and extracurricular options, and if something isn’t offered at the school, students simply hop over to one of the local schools to join in.

“There’s a lot of activities,” said Cameron, using sign language, interpreted for the Journal-World.

Just more evidence to help fight the occasional stereotypes the deaf students at the school encounter.

“It can be frustrating sometimes with a hearing person because they think that we’re limited,” he said.

About half the roughly 150 students live near the school — which is part of the state’s public school system and is available to any deaf student in Kansas — and attend during the day, like Cameron. The other half live farther away from the school and stay in dorms on site during the week.

Cameron, originally from South Korea, was adopted when he was 3 and started in the preschool program. Cameron had an early leg up on education, which is key, said Luanne Barron, the school’s assistant superintendent. Students can attend as early as age 3 and stay until they’re 21. Barron encourages students to enroll at the school as soon as possible because in many smaller Kansas towns, there just aren’t enough services for deaf students.

“In some rural areas, there may not be an interpreter all,” Barron said.

Like some of the other students, Cameron tried the public school system. He said it was a good learning experience, but communicating with other students was always an issue.

“It was really difficult to make friends,” Cameron said. “I wanted to stay in the public school, but communication was really difficult.”

But here at the school for the deaf, Cameron has the opportunity to make friends who speak his language.

His experiences have been so positive that one of his possible career choices would be coming back to the school, which students and staff simply call KSD, after college to be a counselor.

“KSD is very important to me,” he said.

Two languages

Barron emphasizes that the school is a bilingual school, where students learn English and American Sign Language.

“They’re two completely different languages,” she said. In addition to other state certification requirements, teachers at the school must also be certified in American Sign Language. The staff has both deaf and hearing faculty, Barron said.

Classes are designed to give both languages equal weight, and that’s on full display in teacher Daniel Allen’s sixth-grade classroom for story time.

During the week, the students were studying Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach.”

As opposed to simply reading the story, Allen and the class also sign the words.

The students giggle throughout Allen’s signing of the story, as he exaggerates the signs and adds in his own humorous facial expressions.

“It’s one of my favorite things to do with my class,” Allen said. “I love it.”

The performance aspect of story time embraced by Allen is key, he said, because it helps students connect the written word to the gestures and signing.

“It’s a visual language,” Allen said.

The visual aspect is a point emphasized by teachers and by the decoration of the school. At every corner of the several buildings on the campus, students are met with bright colors, murals and “deaf-visual” art, which is a combination of artwork and signing. Lining the school library are portraits with a visual element, such as a house with hands signing “home.”

‘Typical’ experiences

And deaf families from all over the country make Olathe their home, in large part because of the reputation of the school and the city.

High school student Briella Diaz, 15, moved with her parents and siblings — all of whom are deaf — last year from Utah, after having trouble with services for the deaf in that state.

“We knew there was a large deaf community here,” Briella said. “Everything’s ready to go here.”

Briella talks in glowing terms of the community surrounding the school. Go into a store or restaurant, and you’re bound to run into another deaf person, she said. Police carry notebooks and are ready to write notes to residents during interactions, and businesses seem ready and willing to assist deaf customers.

“There’s caption televisions everywhere,” Briella said. Supporting the deaf “is like the law here.”

But occasionally, Briella said, she and her friends encounter someone not quite comfortable with a deaf person.

“Some hearing people just back off,” she said. But that provides an opportunity. “It’s important to educate them.”

When asked about what her life is like and what she likes to do, Briella uses the word “typical” a lot.

She plays volleyball, competes on the academic bowl team, hangs out with friends and plans to go to college at Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf in Washington, D.C., that’s a popular college choice for the school’s students.

Briella laughs when asked if there’s the typical gossip about boyfriends and girlfriends among the students.

“Oh yeah, it’s real-life drama here,” she said.

Ask Briella what it’s like being deaf, or going to a deaf school, and she just shrugs. They’re questions she’s been asked before, and she just doesn’t have any huge revelations about her experiences.

“We just have a different language, that’s all,” she said.

By Shaun Hittle


Public hearing on controversial pipeline project will be held in Topeka

Several of Kansas’ largest environmental groups plan to protest the massive and controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project when they rally outside of a public hearing in Topeka on Monday.

Next week, the U.S. State Department will hold public hearings in eight cities stretching from Montana to Texas on TransCanada’s proposed 1,700-mile, $7 billion pipeline project. The pipeline will more than double the amount of crude oil being transported from the oil sand fields of Canada to the refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Part of that massive pipeline already runs through Kansas, but it hasn’t been built in other states.

Before the pipeline can be built, a presidential permit must be issued, a process that is being overseen by the U.S. State Department. Part of that process includes taking public comments.

Monday’s hearings will be from noon to 3 p.m. and then from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kansas Expocentre, 1 Expocentre Drive, Topeka.

Outside of the Expocentre, protesters plan to hold a rally at 3:30 p.m. Among those opposing the pipeline are the National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy, Kansas Young Democrats, CREDO and Kansas Interfaith Power and Light.

Extracting oil from tars sand is among the dirtiest forms of energy, said Kendall Mackey, a grass-roots organizer for the National Wildlife Federation. Groups such as the National Wildlife Federation would like for the oil to be replaced with clean energy sources.

They also have concerns that once it reaches the refineries in the Gulf Coast, the oil will be shipped overseas and that TransCanada has a poor track record of oil spills.

“This is a national issue focused around America’s dependence on foreign oil,” Mackey said.

Monday’s rally will be an opportunity for those who want to speak outside the hearing, whether it be through words or signs.

Inside the hearing room, those signs will be forbidden. Those interested in speaking will sign up at the door. Each speaker should have three to five minutes to speak, but that could change if there are a large number of people who wish to speak.

All hearings are chaired by a senior official from the state department, who will explain the status of the permit and the department’s process for making a decision. The presiding officer will not answer questions. For those who don’t wish to speak, comments can be submitted in writing.

Regardless of the state department’s decision, the pipeline in Kansas won’t change, but two pumping stations could be built. Last summer, TransCanada laid pipeline through Kansas to connect Steele City, Neb., with Cushing, Okla. That pipeline travels through Washington, Clay, Dickinson, Marion, Butler and Cowley counties.

The current approval process is for two expansion projects. One starts in Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, and travels through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. Another phase would take oil from Oklahoma south to Texas. The pipeline that already runs through Kansas would connect those two projects.

Representatives for TransCanada have said that the company is going above and beyond what is required for safety and integrity. They also noted that Canada has far more stringent environmental regulations than other foreign countries supplying the U.S. with oil, such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

By Christine Metz


Senator says dust regulation unnecessary; agency says farmers needn’t worry

From driving down rural roads to cattle stomping around the feedlot, dust is a common byproduct of farm life in Kansas.

And that’s exactly why the state’s agricultural organizations are so concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency’s review of the Clean Air Act, which, among other things, stipulates how much coarse particulate matter (aka dust) can be in the air.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., cosponsored a bill that would prohibit the EPA from regulating farm dust. In a press release, Roberts said the regulation “defies common sense.”

To be clear, the EPA hasn’t proposed any changes to the limits of coarse particulate matter that can be in the air. Right now the standard is set at 150 micrograms per cubic meter, which can’t be exceeded more than once a year over an average of three years. If it is exceeded, states have to submit an implementation plan that details what steps they will take to reduce the pollutants.

The Clean Air Act has been around for more than 40 years, and the 150 micrograms per cubic meter standard has been on the books since 1987. It’s a limit the state of Kansas has never exceeded. What has farmers and Roberts concerned is the EPA’s routine five-year review of the Clean Air Act standards.

The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent advisory board, recommended that the EPA revise its current coarse particulate matter standard to between 65 to 75 micrograms per cubic meter.

And that’s a standard that just an average windy day in Dodge City could exceed, said Allie Devine, vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association.

“We estimate most of the western United States would exceed (national air standards) if the new lower standard for dust is adopted,” Devine said.

The Kansas Livestock Association has joined a coalition of other industries in the western half of the country to study the implications of such a standard and the health effects of dust.

“Here’s the kicker,” Devine said “The Clean Air Act requires there to be a health effect. And we don’t believe there is substantial data, or actually there is very little data, that supports the health effects of large particulate matter.”

While the smaller particulate matter can more easily escape into the lungs, Devine said the larger stuff mainly stays in the nose.

According to the EPA, scientific studies have linked exposure to coarse particles to increased respiratory symptoms in children and to hospital admissions or even premature death for people with heart or lung disease.

Furthermore the EPA contends the monitoring requirements don’t target rural areas. In Kansas, 10 air monitors measure coarse particulate matter. Four of those monitors are in the Wichita area, another two are in the Kansas City metro area, and the rest are in Topeka, Dodge City, Goodland and Chanute.

Kansas has never exceeded the standard. And according to the EPA, the vast majority of states who do have to reduce their emissions focus on pollutants from industrial and construction settings.

“There are no plans to regulate the dust from any farm,” said Kris Lancaster, an EPA Region 7 spokesman. “The focus is and consistently has been in urban areas where most of the air pollution is.”

Steve Baccus, a farmer near Salina and president of the Kansas Farm Bureau, scoffs at some of the proposals he has heard for curbing the dust from farming. They include speed bumps in feedlots, watering country roads, putting a diaper-like contraption on combines, lowering the gears on farm equipment so they go slower and limiting how many times fields can be tilled.

For Baccus they would all add more money and time to his farming operation.

“For some of this, there is no common sense involved,” he said.

But Lancaster said he doesn’t know of any such recommendations that have come from the EPA.

“We haven’t proposed any such ridiculous things,” he said.

As for Roberts’ proposed bill, dubbed The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, it would stop the EPA from imposing more stringent standards for one year. It would also give state and municipalities the ability to regulate the issue before the federal government. And before the EPA could impose stricter standards, it would have to prove there were substantial health effects from dust and that those concerns outweighed economic ones.

“Our producers deserve respect and appreciation from the EPA, not costly and redundant regulation,” Roberts said in a press release.

By Christine Metz


Kansas prison system overcrowded and understaffed, says Department of Corrections secretary

The state prison system is overcrowded and understaffed, Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts said Tuesday.

Roberts told members of the House-Senate Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight that corrections staff were performing well under pressure.

“I don’t think things are in a crisis mode, but it’s tight,” he said.

Roberts said that budget cuts over the past few years have reduced staff and programs designed to prevent recidivism and to help inmates succeed once they get out of prison.

Meanwhile the Legislature continues to approve bills that increase prison sentences, which leads to a “stacking effect” in the system.

“We can build, we can contract, or we can look at early-release mechanisms,” Roberts said.

As of Sept. 1, the state had 9,236 inmates in a system with a capacity of 9,164. Some of the over-capacity inmates are being kept in the Cowley County jail through a contract with the county, Roberts said.

And in the current fiscal year, 95 positions in the Corrections Department were cut because of budget cuts enacted by the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback. Another 45 workers are taking advantage of an early-retirement incentive program.

State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said he feared any more job reductions would jeopardize the safety of prison employees.

Roberts agreed, saying, “I wouldn’t go any further.”

Budget cuts have also reduced programs that allowed inmates to work on getting a GED or other educational opportunities.

One of the immediate problems is setting aside space for inmates with mental illnesses, which Roberts said is about 27 percent of the prison population.

“We need more mental health beds, no question about it,” he said.

Roberts said the department is putting together an “exhaustive plan” on managing prison space and discussing that with Brownback’s office.

Included in the various options under consideration, he said, was releasing inmates early who are at a low risk of re-offending, and keeping them under house arrest and monitoring them by electronic means.

No decision has been made yet on the house-arrest proposal, and Roberts said he would not jeopardize safety with any plan. “If I feel like we have safety situations, I will let someone know very quickly,” he said.

While the down economy has led to budget cuts, Roberts said it has also resulted in less turnover of prison guards, which means a more experienced work force.

By Scott Rothschild


Unemployment up for 1st time since 2009

The Kansas unemployment rate for August increased — the first monthly increase in more than two years ­— as the state job market continued to struggle, officials reported Thursday.

The jobless rate for August was 6.9 percent, up from 6.8 percent in July and down from 7.1 percent in August 2010. The seasonally adjusted rate for August was 6.7 percent, up from 6.5 percent in July and down from 7 percent in August 2010.

“Overall there has been no noticeable improvement in the Kansas labor market since April,” said Tyler Tenbrink, an economist with the Kansas Department of Labor.

“This lack of employment growth has manifested itself in an increased unemployment rate for the state. This is the first increase in the statewide unemployment rate since July 2009,” Tenbrink said.

Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee said, “It is difficult for Kansas to recover from a significant recession without faster-paced job growth.”

Statewide, Kansas gained 2,500 private-sector jobs since July but lost 4,800 government jobs, according to the report.

Claims for unemployment compensation also increased.

There were 21,420 initial claims for unemployment benefits in August, up from 19,706 initial claims in July and an increase from 17,632 in August 2010.

There were 231,076 continued claims in August, up from 192,155 in July and a decrease from 235,654 in August 2010.

Last week, Gov. Sam Brownback said he was encouraged by the “trajectory” of private-sector job growth in Kansas. “We need to accelerate it,” he said.

He added, “The likelihood of public-sector jobs being sustainable in the near term is not high.”

By Scott Rothschild


U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran recalls 9/11 memories at Leavenworth ceremony

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, then a U.S. representative, visited ground zero.

He visited a makeshift memorial people had made near the World Trade Center rubble and remembered a message written on a piece of notebook paper. The note was from a daughter to her father, saying that she missed him and hoped that she could live her life so that one day she could see her father in heaven. Moran said the message was signed by a 12-year-old named Amanda.

Moran was one of three speakers who addressed a crowd Sunday afternoon at VFW Park in Leavenworth as part of that city’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony.

Moran also recalled being in his office near the Pentagon and feeling the building shake from the impact of Flight 77 hitting the building.

Citizens responded together to the attack and the military personnel fought for their country as a result of the attack.

“No one responded because they were Republicans or Democrats,” Moran said. “No soldiers fought because of partisan politics.”

Col. Wayne A. Green, garrison commander at Fort Leavenworth, also spoke, as did Leavenworth County Commissioner Clyde Graeber.

Graeber, who at the time of the attacks was secretary of the Kansas Department Health and Environment, said he and other state officials met with then-Gov. Bill Graves to discuss preparations for the state in the wake of the attack, including areas in the state that could be targets for future attacks. Graeber’s response: Fort Leavenworth.

Green, who represented the fort at the ceremony, said about 9/11: “Clear, cool fall skies were interrupted by jet streams of evil. Clear skies were replaced with a clear realization that America was under attack.”

About the country’s response, he said, “Fear is no match for selflessness of American people.”

Master of ceremonies for the ceremony was retired Lt. Col. Tom Meier, husband of state Rep. Melanie Meier, D-Leavenworth. The Leavenworth High School Junior ROTC presented the colors, while Paige Padgett sang the national anthem. Chaplain Gary “Sam” Sanford gave the invocation and bugler Jim Timmons performed taps. Several local officials participated in the laying of wreaths for the deceased at the park in downtown Leavenworth.

By Shawn Linenberger


Old train a vintage ride down memory lane

For some, riding on a vintage train car was a fun Saturday activity. For two men, it was coming home.

“This was my life,” said Eldon Denney, 81.

He looked around the 60-year-old train car he spent years riding in, sorting mail on the go as a mail clerk for the Railway Mail Service.

His old mail car, and other classic train cars, were back on the rails over the weekend, thanks to volunteers at the Midland Railway Historical Association of Baldwin City.

“We were the Marines of the mail service,” said Herb Crawford, a clerk on a different route.

The Railway Mail Service was established in 1864 to make mail faster and more efficient, allowing large amounts of mail to be sorted on the road rather than waiting to be sorted in the bigger cities.

The job was mentally demanding and physically taxing. The men had to know sections of the country intimately and were responsible for the towns in the states their trains covered. Hawthorn, who rode the line from Kansas City to Colorado, said he knew many of the towns in the 11 states.

“I didn’t know them all, but a lot of them,” Crawford, 88, said. “You learn tricks. Anything that has cow to it, you gave it to the Pan Handle. Like Bovine, Hereford — that goes to the Pan Handle.”

The men worked roughly 12-hour shifts, and new workers soon developed leg muscles from balancing on the wobbling train.

The work could be dangerous, too. Crawford was involved in two fatal train crashes, and all of the clerks were issued guns, to stave off bandits. Robberies were rare, though.

“It was a little peashooter, a .38 special,” Crawford said. “Still, I wouldn’t want someone to shoot me with it.”

The Railway Mail Service was an innovation when it was created, and it was eventually overtaken by another: the jet airplane. The service survived in areas of the Northeast until 1971, but Crawford and Denney had their last rides in the mid-1960s.

The two were placed in post offices in Topeka and Springfield, Mo., respectively. Working in the post office just wasn’t the same. The excitement and the sense of freedom were gone.

“It was the best thing for my career, but I missed it,” said Crawford, who would go on to become an engineering manager for the Kansas City division of the U.S. Postal Service.

It didn’t hit Crawford until a few weeks later what giving up the rails really meant.

“I got up one morning and was sitting on my bed. My wife came in, and I told her, ‘I won’t be able to ever go out there again,’” Crawford said. “Then I cried like a baby.”

Denney also missed the rails. He said that on the rails, if you did a good job and got your work done quickly, you might just get a few moments to stretch out on the sorting table and enjoy the countryside passing you by.

By Aaron Couch


Colorado officials mystified by Brownback’s letter on water deal

After years of negotiations, Colorado officials have agreed to drain a reservoir and send the water to Kansas in order to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a long-running dispute.

But as the plan was unfolding, Gov. Sam Brownback indicated he had problems with it.

In a recent letter to a Colorado resident, Brownback said the Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County, Colo., which abuts the border of northwest Kansas, is a valuable recreational area for many residents in surrounding communities. He added in the letter to Audrey Hase, who is trying to save the reservoir from being drained, “Because Colorado is a party to this compact, it is named in the lawsuit, but Kansas seeks no relief against Colorado at this time.”

The statement caused alarms to go off in Colorado.

Colorado State Engineer Dick Wolf said Brownback was off base.

“I’m not sure what the basis for that statement is,” Wolf said Monday. “We do know that it is wrong,” he said.

The release of water from Bonny Reservoir is necessary for Colorado to make up a water debt it owes Kansas and comply with the 2003 settlement of the 1942 Republican River Compact between Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, Wolf said.

“We are taking steps to completely drain the reservoir,” he said.

And, he said, the release benefits Kansas.

Wolf said he spoke with Kansas water officials to make sure Brownback wasn’t signaling a change of plans. He said they told him the plan hasn’t changed.

Brownback’s office maintained that draining Bonny Reservoir isn’t part of the compact negotiations. Wolf, however, maintains it is the only plausible way to fulfill the compact.

“It was the best of our worst options,” he said.

Colorado will start draining Bonny Reservoir after Labor Day.

By Scott Rothschild