J-W Staff Reports
On the world, national and state scenes, 1999 was the year of anti-evolution votes, presidential impeachment, Columbine, World Trade Organization riots, mega-mergers and gene mapping. But there was plenty that happened in Lawrence and the surrounding area, too. Here is a quick look at what happened in Lawrence and the surrounding area or had people talking.
- The first month of 1999 began with Mother Nature playing tricks on the area. A snowstorm forecast to dump six to 10 inches brought only an inch to the area on Jan. 1.
- As schools returned to session, students in Ottawa walked into a new middle school on Jan. 4.
- Later in the month, the Kansas Board of Regents approved $44 million for projects at Kansas University, including a new $3.5 million child care facility.
- In other school-related news, Lawrence school board members Kerry Altenbernd, Carol Linhos and Maley Wilkins announced that they would not seek re-election.
- January was a big month for sports -- especially off-the-field events, including the retirement of NBA great Michael Jordan on Jan. 13, and the Kansas City Chiefs naming Gunther Cunningham head coach on Jan. 24.
- The Haskell Indian Nations University women's basketball team also reached a mark of 17-0 by month's end.
- Area residents, like the rest of the nation, saw the U.S. Senate wrap up its impeachment trial of President Clinton.
- Kansas Gov. Bill Graves was sworn in for his second term on Jan. 11, and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was sworn in as governor of Minnesota on Jan. 4.
- Fire destroyed a golf course clubhouse and equipment in Eudora on Jan. 29.
- Oread neighborhood residents packed the city commission meeting Feb. 1 to support midnight closings for The Hawk and The Wheel. The commission didn't favor the early closings, but required the bars to address trash and noise complaints.
- An early-morning fire on Feb. 4 destroyed most of the Lawrence Athletic Center, 3201 Mesa Way, but owner Rick Sells immediately announced plans to rebuild. Later in the month, fire investigators ruled a heating unit in a sauna area started the fire.
- Former Kansas University basketball player Raef LaFrentz started his NBA career on Feb. 5, scoring 11 points and racking up seven rebounds with the Denver Nuggets. The season's start was delayed when owners locked out players over a labor dispute.
- The Kansas University Institute of Public Policy and Business Research released a study suggesting an $80 million market for organic farmers in the Kaw Valley.
- Sparking debate about facility needs, the Lawrence school district pursued a $4.1 million contract to purchase a building at 110 McDonald Drive to house the district's administration and support services.
- KU basketball coaches Roy Williams and Marian Washington celebrated career landmarks on Feb. 20 with wins against Oklahoma teams; Williams hits his 300th win at KU, and Washington reaches her 500th victory in her 26th season coaching the KU women's team.
- Lawrence Memorial Hospital Endowment Assn. celebrated its first black-tie event Feb. 27 at the former Consolidated Barb Wire Co. building.
- KU football player Michael Chandler was shot in the groin by intruders Feb. 27. The case remains unsolved.
You could sum it up with two words: March Madness.
- March 5, Kansas University's men's basketball team routed Nebraska 77-53 in a Big 12 quarterfinal game at Kemper Arena in Kansas City.
The win -- KU's first over Nebraska in three games during the season -- propelled the Jayhawks into a semifinal contest against Kansas State.
March 6, KU clipped the Wildcats, 69-58, at Kemper. Jeff Boschee scored a career-high 19 points in the game.
The victory pushed the Jayhawks (21-9) into the Big 12 final contest against Oklahoma State.
March 7, the Jayhawks defeated OSU, 53-37, in the Big 12 tournament's title game. It was the third Big 12 championship in a row for KU.
March 12, the Jayhawks defeated the underdog Evansville (Ind.) Purple Aces, 95-74, in a first-round contest at the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Tournament in New Orleans.
Two days later, defending national champion Kentucky outlasted Kansas, 92-88, in overtime at the Superdome in a second-round contest sure to be remembered as a classic.
The month wasn't all about basketball, though.
- March 3, state water planners said Douglas County is expected to have the fastest growth of any county in Kansas, with its population -- and demand for water -- doubling by 2040.
- March 4, a camera crew from NBC's Chicago bureau visited town to shoot segments on 15-year-old Lawrence filmmaker Alyssa Buecker and her guinea pigs for NBC's "Today" show.
- March 8, Amy Watkins, a 1996 KU graduate, was murdered in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she was a second-year graduate student at Hunter College's School of Social Work. Watkins had worked at The Casbah, 803 Mass., for about three years while attending KU.
- March 18, Kansas University police arrested Aaron Hale Culwell, a 19-year-old freshman, for allegedly burning a swastika symbol onto a residence hall carpet. He was booked into the Douglas County Jail on a charge of aggravated arson.
- March 31, plans were rolling ahead for relocating the Lawrence Arts Center to the 900 block of New Hampshire, despite the possibility of a cheaper project inside an outlet mall down the street. Lawrence city commissioners agreed to hire Glenn Livingood Penzler Architects to draw a conceptual plan for a new $6.6 million center.
Rain, rain and more rain fell in April causing problems in Lawrence and the surrounding rural communities. Four hours of rain produced 2.64 inches on the 21st, which overflowed creeks. Clogged ditches, pipes and storm drains across town created residual problems for weeks.
The heavy rains throughout the month caused farmers to push back corn planting and created a risk of disease in wheat crops, according to local agriculture officials.
- Major road repairs got under way and so did downtown sewer upgrades that disrupted retail traffic on Massachusetts Street. The Kansas River Bridge traffic was restricted to one lane in each direction for the four-month resurfacing project.
- School officials, parents and children across the country were terrified after 12 students and one teacher were killed by two teen-age gunmen at Columbine High School in suburban Denver. The gunmen killed themselves in the rampage.
Days later, McLouth schools were closed for part of a Monday morning after a bomb scare.
- Lawrence High's Dick Purdy announced his retirement after racking up a 270-138-5 life record in 41 football seasons. Purdy won five state championships in nine seasons with the Lions.
- Voters in Douglas and Jefferson counties defeated a $14.86 million bond issue for Perry-Lecompton school district.
- Kansas University captured the Big 12 Conference golf championship in Hutchinson after 50 dry years.
- Sandy Mason, Spencer librarian and head of the special collections department at Kansas University, announced her retirement after 42 years of book work.
It wasn't a good month for Marlin and Sherry Rein. The rural Lecompton couple's $300,000 log-cabin home burned to the ground May 3.
The late-morning, non-injury fire was later blamed on an overheated garage door opener.
- The month's penchant for disaster continued with a May 4 tornado flattening much of Haysville, a Wichita suburb, killing five and injuring 125.
Lawrence felt the weather's wrath on May 14 when lightning struck the Eldridge Hotel, causing $100,000 damage.
- Haskell's Board of Regents on May 6 affirmed its opposition to the routing of the South Lawrence Trafficway through the Haskell Wetlands. Two weeks later, Gov. Bill Graves said he hoped the two sides -- Haskell and state transportation officials -- could strike a compromise.
- For the first time in its 141-year history, Baker University officials on May 7 voted to allow legal-age drinking on campus.
- The city of Lawrence on May 18 approved spending $6.1 million on a new facility for the Lawrence Arts Center on the east side of New Hampshire between Ninth and 10th streets.
- The 25,000-member American Public Works Assn. named Lawrence's public works director George Williams one of the nation's Top Ten public works administrators.
- Dirk Wedd on May 25 was named Lawrence High School football coach. Wedd, who played football for the Lions in the late 1960s, was a center on the all-state team in 1969.
- Wichita native Lynette Woodard retired from the WNBA's Detroit Heat basketball team on May 26 to accept a coaching position at KU.
The month began with wet weather that carried over from May. It kept some farmers from planting and ruined other farmers' crops.
- June 1, construction crews installing fiber optic lines for Sunflower Cablevision inadvertently cut a phone line, knocking out phone service for businesses and homes along 23rd Street. The repair stretched to a third day.
A second accident June 4 took out phone customers along West 15th Street for a few hours.
- Lawrence public school administrators searched for the appropriate response to a May Free State High School trip during which some students ate marijuana-laced brownies.
- Lawrence city commissioners grappled with the deteriorated brick street in the 700 block of Mississippi and ultimately decided to make the repairs with city crews instead of paying an outside firm an estimated $400,000 to do it.
- Douglas County and Kansas Department of Transportation officials made a last push to convince Haskell Indian Nations University to sign off on a trafficway route along 31st Street. They offered a $5 million compensation package including $3.3 million in cash.
- Tonganoxie received a $713,605 grant to spruce up downtown.
- State officials gave Kansas University the go-ahead to spend $300,000 in bonus money to ensure the press box and luxury suites at Memorial Stadium were completed by the opening football game.
- Leaving as it arrived, June's finale included a heavy storm that dumped 3.2 inches of rain on Lawrence over 1 1/2 days and whipped up 60 to 80 mile an hour winds in Ottawa, breaking church windows and knocking down trees in the town's City Park.
Getting around town was no easy task in July. With street projects tying up traffic in many parts of the city and temperatures soaring into the triple digits, many people tried to find ways to stay indoors.
- It began costing more to drive in Kansas when a 2-cent per gallon motor fuel tax took effect to help pay for the state's new Comprehensive Transportation Program.
- A Lawrence family returned home from the annual Fourth of July fireworks display and found their home on the 2000 block of Massachusetts riddled with bullet holes. A neighbor was arrested and charged with the shooting, but the family moved out of the home out of fear for their personal safety after the suspect was released on bond.
- Traffic was shut off through the heart of downtown when the city's utility replacement project reached the intersection of Ninth and Massachusetts streets. The work ended up taking longer than expected, and many merchants got upset after learning the streets would remain closed through the back-to-school rush in August.
The project also forced the Bourgeois Pig, 6 E. Ninth, to close for several weeks when vibrations from the jackhammering rattled the foundation of the building.
- Chet Johnson Furniture closed its doors when the building was sold to a new landlord who raised the rent on the property by 850 percent.
- The Lawrence City Commission passed a new leash law in July requiring animals to be kept on leashes or inside fenced yards when they are outside. The ordinance sparked controversy when residents learned it applied to cats as well as dogs.
- A 1990 armed robbery at the Magic Wok was back in the news in July when Phaymany Nouansacky, the last of six suspects in the case, was brought back to Lawrence after being arrested in Utah.
- A store clerk was raped during an armed robbery of a Payless ShoeSource store July 2. Two weeks later, the Fox network's "America's Most Wanted" program aired a story about the suspect, 38-year-old Terry McIntyre, who was finally arrested in Kansas City, Mo., in September and now faces federal charges.
- Efforts to revitalize the eastern edge of downtown got a boost in July when city commissioners approved a new version of the Downtown 2000 redevelopment project that includes plans for a new $6 million building for the Lawrence Arts Center.
- An explosion ripped through the Heetco Inc., propane distributorship July 30, injuring one person. Kim Groenhagen, 35, who was walking nearby when the explosion happened, suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body.
A narrow vote by the Kansas State Board of Education to write evolution, the Big Bang and billions of years of natural history out of state curriculum standards roiled the state.
In a 6-4 vote, one of the board's moderates joined conservative members to end months of debate over the standards, which determine the subjects public school students are tested on.
- Three Haskell Indian Nations University students were killed Aug. 29 when the truck in which they were riding overturned after striking railroad tracks in North Lawrence.
A fourth man, who was also riding in the truck bed with the three men, died in September. The driver of the truck was charged in November with driving under the influence, aggravated battery and driving while intoxicated.
- Downtown merchants complained about construction at the intersection of Ninth and Massachusetts streets. Free parking introduced by the city did little to allay their complaints.
- Gov. Bill Graves appointed new members to his Cabinet. Rochelle Chronister resigned as secretary of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. She was replaced by her deputy, Janet Schalansky. Jamie Clover Adams was appointed to be the new secretary of agriculture.
- Lawrence public schools recorded an increase in enrollment at the beginning of the school year.
- The Jayhawk football team lost its season opener to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 48-13. The two battled in the Eddie Robinson Classic in South Bend, Ind.
Lawrence High School senior Bill Kinnersley, 16, kicked the month off with news of his mental prowess. He was the only Kansan out of 7,000 to earn a perfect score on the ACT exam administered last summer. Nationally, 60 of 354,000 matched Kinnersley.
- Two days after Kinnersley's good news came some bad news. A decision to shut down the Farmland Industries fertilizer plant in Lawrence was announced. More than 100 lost their jobs.
- Vietnam War veteran Gary Conner, 52, Lawrence, received a replacement for a Purple Heart Medal that was lost in a house fire.
- The owner of the Toy Moon store on Massachusetts Street, Mike Cnossen, was killed Sept. 9 when struck by a motorist while bicycling near his Topeka home.
- National Computer Systems reported Sept. 9 it had won a $60 million government contract that would bring 100 jobs to Lawrence.
- Prairie Park Nature Center, 27th and Harper streets, opened for business on Sept. 18.
- On Sept. 21, a Douglas County judge dismissed an attempted murder case after a prosecutor failed to show for a pretrial conference. The beneficiary was Ronnie McPherson, 53, rural Perry. He allegedly shot Kayla Riley three times in March.
- The Jayhawk football team was humbled by San Diego State in Memorial Stadium, losing 43-13 on Sept. 25.
- Two days later, the Lawrence school board voted 4-3 to buy a $4.1 million, two-building complex at 110 McDonald Drive. The structures will be remodeled to serve as an administrative and warehouse headquarters.
Death -- of a road, a giant and a Jefferson County resident -- made news in October.
Haskell Indian Nations University's Board of Regents listened while state and Douglas County officials pleaded for the support they needed to allow completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
The officials, pushing to extend the unfinished road along 31st Street, ran into a brick wall after a daylong hearing at Haskell.
"I believe it should be torn up and done away with," said Mamie Rupnicki, the regents' chairwoman.
After a $5 million compensation offer, at least a decade of work and $53 million of planning and construction, county officials dejectedly agreed.
"The trafficway is dead," said Craig Weinaug, county administrator. "It will not be completed."
- Wilt Chamberlain, the former Kansas University basketball player who went on to dominate the NBA, died of heart failure Oct. 12 at age 63. The 7-foot-1 center remains the only man to score 100 points in an NBA game.
- Two days later, sheriff's officials in Jefferson County took a call from a man complaining that he had been shot. By the time they arrived at the caller's gated rural residence, Clarence E. Rinke, 55, was a murder victim.
- Sprint, with 15,000 employees in the Kansas City area, announced plans for a $115 billion merger with MCI WorldCom.
- In high school football, Nate Vail kicked a 20-yard field goal in overtime to give Free State a 31-28 victory over Lawrence High, and the school's first berth in the state playoffs.
Kansas Secretary of Aging Thelma Hunter Gordon resigned Nov. 1 amid questions raised by the Journal-World about her out-of-state travel at state expense and a $135,000 grant given to a former aide.
- On Nov. 8, the body of Camille Arfmann, 14, was found buried in a trash-filled ditch on property belonging to her brother-in-law Floyd Scott Bledsoe, 23, and his brother Tom, 25, only a few days after Arfmann was reported missing. Arfmann had been shot. Tom was arrested, but later released, and Floyd was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated indecent liberties with a child.
- On Nov. 9, the Kansas Department of Transportation finally announced the route for long-debated U.S. Highway 59 improvements. The debate didn't stop there. Throughout the month people came out for and against the new route of the highway, a mile east of the existing road.
- A Kansas University football player, Dion Rayford, became the butt of jokes across the nation on Nov. 17 when he tried to climb through a Taco Bell drive-through window to get his "chalupa" and got stuck.
- A series of articles during November set off statewide debate about open records. Nineteen Kansas newspapers and the Harris News Service banded together to test how public public records were. The series, which ran in newspapers across the state, showed that the Kansas Open Records Act was not applied equally from county to county or agency to agency. Some reporters were questioned more than the law allowed when they asked for records; one was even detained briefly. Out of 420 records requests from counties, cities, school districts and sheriff's departments, 35 were flatly refused and many were only partially filled.
- State assessments showed low-income and minority children in Lawrence schools were scoring lower on math, reading and writing tests than their richer, white counterparts. School district officials said they would study the problem in hopes of finding ways to remedy the disparities.
- State highway officials confounded Douglas County and Lawrence officials by announcing the only way the state would improve U.S. 59 between Lawrence and Ottawa was with a freeway, not an expressway, either parallel to the existing road or about one mile east.
- Terry Glasscock, a former aide to Kansas Aging Secretary Thelma Hunter Gordon, announced he was paying back $90,000 of a $135,000 consulting contract earlier called into question by the Journal-World. Gordon abruptly resigned after news of the contract was published in November.
- After 30 years of 24-hour emergency aid to troubled residents, Headquarters Counseling Center announced it might have to cut back around-the-clock services due to lack of funding.
- Bernie Norwood, 67, a Lawrence man who worked his way up through the ranks of state service to retire as director of the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control division, died Dec. 14.
- Runza Drive-Inn announced it would open a new westside location near Sixth and Kasold in spring 2000.
- The executive director of the Haskell Foundation resigned amid questions about the institution's solvency. The FBI was asked to investigate.
- The Census Bureau said Lawrence posted the largest percentage population gain of any metropolitan area in Kansas during 1998.
- City commissioners approved an advisory board's recommendations launching a new citywide bus service. Buses are expected to be rolling by May 2000.