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Archive for Thursday, January 1, 1998

1997 EVENTS

January 1, 1998

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If Lawrence did nothing else in 1997, it did not sit still.

Consider these events, for example:

  • The opening of Free State High School marked the dawn of Lawrence as a two-high school city.
  • Kansas University decided Coke was the real thing, and accepted an exclusive agreement with the Atlanta-based company for beverages on the campus.
  • A downtown fire gutted a longtime business but couldn't keep it from continuing its operations.
  • Elections changed the makeup of both the Lawrence City Commission and the Lawrence school board.

Here's a month-by-month look at 1997 news highlights in the Lawrence area:

January

The Lawrence Fire Department and and Douglas County Ambulance Service rang in the new year with a merger approved by the Lawrence City and Douglas County commissions. The merger brought about the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical agency, with promises of more efficient ambulance service for areas outside the city of Lawrence.

The wife of Sports Page Brewery developer Allan Salah told a bankruptcy court on Jan. 8 that her husband burned documents related to the debt-plagued venture before he fled the United States to join his family in the Middle East. Later in the year, the brewery was salvaged from bankruptcy court by local restaurateur Brian Paden and his family's partnership, which owns Fifi's Restaurant, 925 Iowa. The cost: $366,898.93. The brewery opened in May.

Noted KU graduates Clyde Tombaugh and Paul Endacott died in January. Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930, has an observatory on campus named after him. Endacott, a longtime KU benefactor, led the university's basketball team to its first two championships.

More than 500 parents and children watched as Lawrence school board members cast preliminary votes to close Cordley, East Heights, Grant and Riverside elementary schools.

On Jan. 15, Lawrence Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Robert Ohlen announced his resignation. Ohlen, who was at the hospital for 18 years, left the position in June.

KANU-FM General Manager Howard Hill also left his longtime position. With the station facing a $200,000 deficit, Hill was reassigned to University Relations post. Hill had been KANU's general manager for two decades.

Seth Dunscomb, captain of the KU swim team, died on Jan. 21 during practice as the result of an enlarged heart.

Lawrence painter Robert Sudlow was honored as Kansan of the Year by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas on Jan. 24.

Construction workers Charlie Shoemaker and Bruce Kloss died in a fire in their room at the Sundance apartment complex, 1407 W. Seventh. Investigators ruled the fire was started in a couch by a cigarette.

A surprise snowfall dumped five inches of snow in the area on Jan. 27, closing local schools.

February

A downtown fire and a scorching school board primary election heated up the month.

On Feb. 26, fire in the downtown's 800 block of Massachusetts ravaged an L-shaped building containing Sunflower Surplus, Sunflower Bike Shop and the former Herbivore's Juice Bar at 9 E. Eighth.

There were no injuries reported, but early estimates were that the blaze caused $1 million in damage.

Sunflower owners announced they would rebuild and immediately opened a satellite shop in the downtown's 900 block. Other nearby businesses suffered water and smoke damage from the fire.

Concerns over proposed closings of Grant and East Heights schools led to a petition being filed to remove three school board members from office on grounds they violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act. The three, Carol Linhos, Mary Loveland and Maley Wilkins, voted with a majority of other board members to close the two schools.

The recall petition was filed after school-closing foes led the pack in the Feb. 25 school board primary. James Hilliard and Austin Turney led the six candidates who moved on to the April 1 general election. Hilliard, Turney and fifth-place finisher Leni Salkind said they would vote to reverse the closing decision. Incumbent George Crawford, who voted to close Grant School, finished sixth.

In the city primary election, those advancing to the general election ballot were Marty Kennedy, Erv Hodges, incumbent Bob Moody, Lisa Blair, incumbent Jo Andersen and Alan Black.

In sports, Kansas University's men's basketball team clinched the first-ever Big 12 basketball championship with a 78-58 win over Kansas State University at Allen Fieldhouse.

March

Underdog Arizona bounced KU from the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament -- 85-82 -- in the Sweet 16 on March 21 in Birmingham, Ala. KU ended the season with a 34-2 record. The Wildcats went on to win the NCAA Tournament.

A Census report indicated Douglas County was the sixth fastest growing county in the state from 1990 to 1996 with a population of 89,899.

An $80,000 study of Lawrence public transportation offered suggestions to improve the ability of residents to move freely in the city. Options ranged from doing nothing to spending an additional $2 million annually.

A group of American Indians and environmentalists filed a lawsuit March 12 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., to halt progress on the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway pending an environmental study.

A new book, "Smart Parents Guide to College," listed Baker University in Baldwin among the best schools in the nation for undergraduate education.

Lawrence architect John Lee, highly regarded for work in the area of historic preservation, was found dead March 28 at Clinton Lake Dam. Other deaths in March included Dr. James S. Reed, Douglas County coroner from 1965 to 1971, and John Wooden, owner of the Wagon Wheel Cafe in Lawrence.

April

The drowning deaths of a 10-year-old girl, her mother and her grandmother -- all of whom were caught in a riptide off the California coast -- shocked their hometown of Ottawa.

Ivy Pacheco, 10, Mary "Paulie" Pacheco, 38, and Judith Rombold, 65, of Wichita, drowned April 15 at Big Sur, Calif., 130 miles south of San Francisco.

In late April, a Lawrence group dropped a two-month effort to remove three Lawrence school board members from office. A recall petition alleged that Carol Linhos, Mary Loveland and Maley Wilkins, as well as the rest of the board, violated the Kansas Open Meetings Law by discussing the sale of school-owned property in executive session.

Linhos, Loveland, Wilkins, and Kerry Altenbernd, whose terms end in 1999, were joined on the board by newcomers James Hilliard, Austin Turney and Leni Salkind, who were elected April 1.

On the Lawrence City Commission, incumbent Bob Moody was re-elected to his commission seat, and newcomers Marty Kennedy and Erv Hodges filled the other two seats contested in the April 1 elections. Later in the month, commissioners selected Bonnie Augustine as mayor.

Outside of Lawrence, funding for a controversial $2 million municipal pool project in Baldwin received a public nod, 502-490, in the general election.

And Topekan Damon McCray, 23, was sentenced to life in prison for the August 1996 shooting death of former Topeka High classmate Onzie Branch, 24, in a Lawrence nightclub parking lot.

May

It's the month in which students look forward to the start of summer vacation, but much of the time was devoted to school news.

Lawrence teachers approved a contract for the 1997-98 school year that included an overall pay increase of 3.25 percent. Actual increases varied from 1.2 to 3.5 percent, depending on experience.

Lawrence High School Principal Brad Tate and Woodlawn School Principal Gary Haworth both announced that they were stepping down from their positions. Tate signed on as the principal of a new North Kansas City high school scheduled to open in 1998. Haworth did not have immediate plans.

Kansas University celebrated the school's 125th commencement.

Lawrence High School graduates took a nostalgic look back at the class that was the end of the one-high school era in Lawrence. Commencement ceremonies, usually held outside, were moved into Allen Fieldhouse for the second consecutive year because of inclement weather.

Free State High School students-to-be chose an image of a swooping firebird as their school's mascot.

Haskell Indian Nations University saw the first four-year class graduate from the school. Eight teacher education graduates, who helped take the school from a junior college to a university, accepted degrees.

Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce decided to return to school and play for the Jayhawks during the 1997-98 school year.

Three other Jayhawk basketball players were given scholar-athlete of the year awards. Angela Halbleib took home the women's honor with a 3.82 GPA, while teammates Jerod Haase and Jacque Vaughn shared the men's award. Both had a 3.7 GPA.

Out of the classroom and off campus, KU faculty took a five-day field trip around the state. Chancellor Robert Hemenway took a 10-day tour of Japan to "promote exchanges and understanding." A visit to Lawrence sister city Hiratsuka was part of the itinerary.

Hollywood Theaters opened a seven screens of its 12-screen complex on South Iowa; the Clinton Lake Sports Complex opened, featuring a four-diamond facility, playground and batting cage area.

Former Lawrence resident and 'Orchid Club' pornographer Christopher Saemisch pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital got a new CEO. Gene Meyer took over for the exiting Robert Ohlen.

June

Peoples' working conditions, occupations and lifetimes cut short dominated news in June.

Lawrence police and firefighters completed heated negotiations with city officials and ended up with three-year work contracts. Police got 3 percent wage increases and the ability to have fellow officers present during Internal Affairs interviews. Firefighters lost out in their bid for reclassification, which would have granted employees pay increases of 14 percent over three years.

Marguerite Carlson, executive director of Douglas County Senior Services, faced criticism of her personnel and policy decisions in recent months. Among the complaints: Unfair firings, racial insensitivity, adult day program cuts and prohibition of wax coatings on a popular dance floor.

Two Kansas University basketball standouts -- Scot Pollard and Jacque Vaughn -- were selected in the first round of the NBA draft. The Detroit Pistons snagged Pollard with the 19th pick, and the Utah Jazz snapped up Vaughn with the 27th selection, reuniting Vaughn with former KU teammate Greg Ostertag.

Sherlyn Sampson retired after 22 years in the local court system, leaving her job as clerk of the Douglas County District Court for a job in Colorado.

Gary Mavity resigned as principal at Ottawa High School, becoming the fourth high-level administrator to leave the Ottawa school district in 15 months.

Gary Patterson, who had planned to become an assistant principal at Free State High School, instead was named to take over for Brad Tate as principal at Lawrence High School.

Bob Frederick, KU athletics director, decided to keep his job on Mount Oread after being named a finalist for the athletics director job at the University of North Carolina. He interviewed on a Friday, but withdrew his name two days later.

Tragedy also struck.

Two Kansas University students died unexpectedly. Latina Sullivan, 23, suffered an asthma attack and died after delivering copies of the University Daily Kansan newspaper -- for which she served as summer editor -- to the press. Daniel J. Hamman, 22, died after a small kitchen fire filled his Tennessee Street apartment with smoke. His apartment's smoke detector did not have a battery.

Terry Gittins, 42, died following a four-year battle with non Hodgkin's lymphoma. Gittins, a partner in Calvin Eddy Kappelman Real Estate Inc. and former past president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors, died June 14 after undergoing a bone marrow transplant May 3 in Omaha.

July

July was marked by typically hot temperatures and ongoing legal turns regarding the South Lawrence Trafficway.

The city also hosted several gatherings, including the Advanced World Aerobatics Championships at the municipal airport during the second week of July. That event featured 55 pilots from 14 countries flying single-engine propeller planes in specific routines.

In another mode of transportation, Lawrence city commissioners at a July 9 study session tabled any measure for a fixed-route bus system for the city, pledging instead to allocate more funds for an on-demand van service.

Meanwhile, motorists hoping to have a highway bypass completed around the city received some bad news when a federal judge issued an injunction on construction of the final, eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway until completion of an environmental impact statement.

Douglas County later in the month joined the state in appealing the decision, which was considered a temporary victory by environmentalists and some Native Americans.

Temperatures in July also soared. On July 25, Lawrence electrical customers set a usage record of 2,181 megawatts for 24 hours, according to KPL, the local electric company.

A new city area code, 785, went into effect on July 20. Long-distance telephone customers dialing Lawrence may use either the new code, or the old 913 code, until Oct. 1, 1998.

On July 30, the body of a man found seven days earlier under an Interstate 70 overpass near Lawrence was identified as Robert M. Baldwin. He was believed to have been murdered.

August

William S. Burroughs, the Beat author, artist and TV celebrity who made Lawrence the home of his final years, died Aug. 2 at Memorial Hospital. He was 83.

Kerry Golden started work as new superintendent of Lawrence Municipal Golf Course at Clinton Lake, overseeing preparation work on 18 holes expected to draw some 10,000 people when the course opens in 1998.

Kansas University signed high-dollar deals with Nike and Coca-Cola. Nike agreed to provide the school $750,000 in team-sports equipment, $105,000 cash, and placement of Jayhawk merchandise in 5,200 stores nationwide. In exchange for $21 million, Coke gained exclusive campus vending rights for 10 years.

KU's Natural History Museum added two massive dinosaur skeletons to its collection. The fossils, thought to be 150 million years old, were from one adult and one baby Camarasaurus discovered on a Wyoming ranch.

A major page in Lawrence history turned Aug. 21 when doors opened at a second high school. About 850 students enrolled at Free State High.

A downtown brew pub reopened with a new name, Brown Bear Brewing Co., and an emphasis on live blues music.

Dirk and Eva Potter and their five children escaped unharmed Aug. 26 after a bullet whizzed through the living room and kitchen of their home at 1344 N.Y. Several shots were fired at the house for no apparent reason by an unknown assailant.

September

Education was again a hot topic during September, as a new Episcopal school opened east of Lawrence. Bishop Seabury Academy, serving about 30 seventh- through ninth-graders, ultimately plans to construct a campus west of Lawrence.

At Kansas University, officials reported fall enrollment increased by 0.9 percent from fall 1996. Enrollment in Lawrence public schools was also up from last year, by 177 students, to 10,232

KU also reported progress toward its goal of enrolling 100 new National Merit Scholars in the year 2000. A total of 90 new Scholars enrolled at KU this fall, prompting Chancellor Robert Hemenway to comment, "For Kansans, KU is truly an academic treasure in their own back yard."

Lawrence residents joined the rest of the world in early September in mourning the passing of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa.

Closer to home, 5-year-old Tommy Munger died at his North Lawrence home. It was determined that children playing with matches and a lighter caused the blaze, which also injured Tommy's mother.

Jon Hermes, 30, died Sept. 15 from injuries he sustained when his bicycle collided with a dump truck at Ninth and Mississippi streets. Police determined that no charges would be filed in the case and that Hermes was at fault because he tried to pass the truck on the right. That determination sparked an outcry from bicyclists, who urged city officials to heighten safety for bicyclists in Lawrence.

A Kansas University freshman, Angie Griffin, 18, died in her Ellsworth Hall room on Sept. 26. The cause of her death still has not been released, although her parents were told it was not a contagious disease.

Local residents also turned their attention to gang violence in September. An early-morning fight on Sept. 7 landed three adults and four juveniles in jail, and three boys in the hospital. Police said the fight was gang-related.

And former gang member Laurence Young spoke during forums aimed at decreasing gang activity and increasing awareness about gangs in Lawrence. Young's talks were part of a series on gangs in Lawrence.

County officials broke ground Sept. 9 on a $22 million jail in the 3500 block of East 21st Street. It's projected that the building will be complete in early 1999.

October October was a month of celebrity and firsts for Lawrence. The month also saw the start of two big issues -- what to do with the arts center and downtown parking. On Oct. 11, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls rocked Allen Fieldhouse in an NBA preseason game against the Seattle SuperSonics. The Bulls won 101-92. Actor/director Edward James Olmos came to town in mid-October as part of the "Gangs in Lawrence: A Call to Action" series. Olmos spoke at area schools about violence and the need for education. A famous Kansas figure popped up in a national travel guide -- William Quantrill was praised by Fodor's 98 travel guide for his work to rebuild Lawrence after raiders destroyed it in the Civil War. The guide's editors soon realized the error (Quantrill was the raider) and corrected it. The month also saw the first of many battles between the Lawrence High School Lions and the new kids in town, the Free State High School Firebirds. In soccer, the Lions beat the Firebirds 5-3; in football, the Lions beat the Firebirds 34-15. Growing pains at the arts center dominated the city agenda for the month, with Mayor Bonnie Augustine wrapping up October by appointing an 11-member committee to study how to expand the downtown center. Downtown parking became an issue near the beginning of October, prompting the Chamber of Commerce to survey local business people about solutions.

November

Schools were in the news in much of November.

At the beginning of the month, Kansas University formally dedicated the rebuilt Budig Hall, once known as Hoch Auditorium.

Gene Budig, president of baseball's American League, was on hand for the dedication. Budig was KU's chancellor from 1981 to 1994.

In the middle of the month, Lawrence school officials began studying what to do about overcrowding at two elementary schools in west Lawrence.

The study followed a school board meeting on Nov. 24, when Quail Run and Sunflower school parents asked the board to float a bond issue to finance a new school to relieve overcrowding, rather than to bus students to other schools.

Late in the month, a boundary committee was looking at the possibility of changing elementary boundaries or building an additional school.

Near the end of the month, Free State High School, which opened in August, was formally dedicated in a ceremony at the school. The public approved building the city's second high school in 1994.

The end of the month also brought tragedy -- an explosion at KPL's Lawrence Energy Center that fatally injured three men.

Duane Tenpenny, 48, Topeka, died Nov. 24, when the explosion occurred. Ron Guy, 57, Lawrence, and Charles Price, 51, North Kansas City, Mo., both died from their injuries a few days later. The explosion was blamed on human error.

Also during the month, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce released results of a survey on downtown parking.

The survey found "strong support" for building a new three-level garage beside the Lawrence Public Library and putting angled parking along both sides of Vermont and New Hampshire streets.

December

The last month of the year began with major stories on local and area businesses.

In the first week of the month, a German company, Sauer Sunstrand, announced it would build a 150,000-square-foot facility with 150 jobs in the East Hills Business Park.

Another major employer, J.C. Penney, announced it would build a new 80,000-square-foot store near 33rd and Iowa.

The Half-Price store announced that it would close in mid-January. Sears will take over the building at 27th and Iowa

In mid-December Lawrence school officials said they would have to change the newly created Free State High School logo. The logo, depicting a swooping firebird, was considered by officials at Temple University in Philadelphia to be too similar to Temple's trademarked Owl logo.

At Kansas University, a bronze statue of legendary KU basketball coach Forrest "Phog" Allen was dedicated Dec. 14, with men's head basketball coach Roy Williams, KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway and other officials on hand. The statue sits outside Allen Fieldhouse, also named for the coach.

Later in the month, two local bars, Bullwinkle's and the Jayhawk Cafe, were shut down for several weeks by state officials who allegedly found ongoing liquor law violations. Two other bars, Johnny's Tavern and Coyotes, also were fined.

The end of the month was marked by some bad news for Kansas University basketball fans: All-American forward Raef LaFrentz on Dec. 26 suffered a broken bone in his nonshooting hand, which will sideline him for about six weeks.

The team, in Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic, won its first two games without LaFrentz but dropped the tournament's title match, against the University of Hawaii.

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