Archive for Friday, January 1, 1999


January 1, 1999


June was an eventful month for Baldwin residents in particular.

The city experienced the firing of a city clerk and the hiring of a city administrator.

On June 1, the Baldwin City Council fired Penni L. Porter, the Baldwin city clerk since 1994. Porter was eventually charged with misusing city funds. Investigators suspected she had "borrowed" as much as $25,000 in 1998.

Later in the month, the city announced the hiring of Larry Paine as city administrator, a post that had been vacant since February. Paine was the former town manager of Cave Creek, Ariz.

Lawrence saw personnel changes of its own.

Lawrence public schools said "good-bye" to district superintendent Al Azinger, who left his post to take a teaching job at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill. Azinger joined the district in 1992 and guided the district through the building of Free State High School.

Kathleen Williams was hired to replace Azinger. She had been an assistant superintendent in Schaumburg, Ill.

The Lawrence City Commission continued to grapple with public transportation issues.

During budget discussions, Douglas County Area Transportation, the city's on-demand van system, requested a budget of $573,000 for next year. That would have been a $157,000 increase over the current year. Transportation officials said the system was overloaded to the point of denying service to people in need.

Another budget proposal called for the addition of a flexible bus route to the van service.

In sports news, Kansas University's Raef Lafrentz and Paul Pierce were selected in the first round of the NBA draft June 24. Lafrentz was picked third by the Denver Nuggets. Pierce went 10th to the Boston Celtics.

June was rife with weather stories.

After a very hot and very dry May, parts of June were unusually cold and wet, easing the concerns of wheat farmers but doing damage as well.

More than 2 inches of rain fell on Lawrence within 24 hours over June 7 and 8.

Golfball-size hail pounded Big Spring on June 28.

And on June 29, severe weather spawned a tornado that tore up the Perry Lake Marina, doing $500,000 in damage to the marina and 45 boats.


In July, the Lawrence school district hired a new superintendent, the stained-glass window at Smith Hall was vandalized twice and the city opened a new golf course.

Kathleen Williams accepted the position of superintendent of the school district, replacing outgoing Supt. Al Azinger. The assistant superintendent from Schaumburg, Ill., was offered the job after a three-month search that looked at 30 candidates.

The stained-glass window, depicting the biblical burning bush, at Smith Hall on the Kansas University campus was vandalized twice in July. Work had just begun to repair panels of the window damaged by a vandal in April when half of a cinder block was lobbed at the window. A few weeks later the window was vandalized yet again.

The front nine holes of the city's new Eagle Bend Golf Course opened. The course was designed with wide fairways and a minimum of trees.

David Cox was sentenced to 19 years in prison for his role in a two-day hostage standoff in January. His sentence was lighter than that of another man charged in the standoff, Kipling Johnson. He was sentenced to 24 years, 4 months.

Temperatures rose to just under and over 100 degrees for several days during the month. The heat put a strain on utility companies. Electric customers were asked to cut power use during the hottest part of the day to avoid power shortages.

People lined up at convenience and grocery stores to buy Powerball tickets when the jackpot soared to $295.7 million. It was won by 13 workers in Ohio.

A fire started by smoking material at Sundance Apartments, 1407 W. Seventh, did $250,000 worth of damage. The fire displaced 36 to 48 people. The city commission decided to spend $9.5 million dollars on a new indoor aquatic center featuring a 50-meter pool. The commission discussed putting in a 25-meter pool but finally agreed to go with the larger pool.

Melizza Lara-Honea, 21, died after walking in front of a Union Pacific train in northeast Lawrence. Authorities said she made no attempt to move out of its way.

Dr. Dale Clinton, 78, was injured when his motorcycle struck a sedan near Eudora. The longtime Lawrence doctor later died of his injuries.


Gov. Bill Graves soundly trounced challenger David Miller in the GOP primary. The incumbent governor won more than 70 percent of the vote. Miller later wrote a letter chiding the governor.

The debate over the privatization of foster care continued to rage across the state all month. Critics, including foster parents, judges and social workers, said private group homes and other service providers operating under state contracts were ill-prepared and underfunded for the rising number of foster children pouring into the system.

Matt Vestal, 19, a KU student, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Lisa Rosel in March. Rosel died after stumbling in the street in the 1400 block of Tennessee and being run over by Vestal. Rosel had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .097, while Vestal had a BAC of .081. A person with a BAC of .08 is considered legally intoxicated. A plea agreement called for 14 days in jail, but the judge later sentenced Vestal to 30 days.

To the dismay of college officials, KU held on to its No. 8 ranking among party schools in an annual Princeton review.

An arson fire destroyed a 113-year-old home at 1605 Tenn. The house was being renovated into four one-bedroom apartments when it was burned. Damage was so extensive the house had to be demolished.

Liberty Memorial High School, now Centennial Junior High School, was rededicated at a celebration of its 75 years.

Dan Neuenswander, former Lawrence schools superintendent, requested a recount of ballots for the Republican primary after finding out he lost to John Bacon of Olathe for the state Board of Education. Numbers posted election night had Neuenswander losing by 3,000 votes because of a reporting error. The actual margin was only 24 votes.

KU administrators, including Chancellor Robert Hemenway, sweated in the August sun along with students moving in. The administrators helped moved students into the dorms, carrying boxes, furniture and clothing.


The month began with U.S. Customs Service agents busting a worldwide pornography ring called the "Wonderland Club" and officials confiscating computer equipment from a Lawrence home on Sept. 1.

The raids -- spanning 22 states, Australia and several European countries -- resulted in the indictment of a 34-year-old Lawrence man, William E. Martin Jr., who pleaded guilty in November to one count of receiving and distributing child pornography.

Syndicated columnist George Will spoke Sept. 10 at Baker University's convocation, declaring all of Douglas County a "Monica-free zone," referring to White House intern Monica Lewinsky with whom President Clinton admitted an affair.

Kansas University football coach Terry Allen was outraged when Missouri fans threw objects at Kansas parents and the KU band during a football game Sept. 12 in Columbia.

The aftermath of a single lightning bolt -- water from fire sprinklers -- caused significant damage Sept. 21 to the Reuter Organ Company, damaging work in progress and most of the company's wood supply.

On Sept. 22, conservative Republicans defeated an attempt by rebellious moderates to force election of new leadership in the Douglas County GOP.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the South Lawrence Trafficway case on Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City, later ruling to uphold an injunction on the eastern leg of the project.

In sports, the Kansas University football team beat Alabama-Birmingham 39-37 on Sept. 26 after four overtimes.

On Sept. 27, a statewide survey by researchers at the KU School of Social Welfare said Kaw Valley Center, the private contractor providing foster care in Douglas County and 32 other eastern Kansas counties, was ranked dead last by the foster parents who worked for it.

"Monday After the Miracle," a CBS movie, made its world premiere Sept. 28 at Liberty Hall.


The month started out with rains heavy enough to later qualify Douglas County for federal disaster relief.

Oct. 15 brought the wrap-up of a temporary complaint department created by state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to gauge discontent among child welfare professionals. The special telephone hotline, operated by Kansas University's Beach Center, responded to criticisms of state foster-care services.

Gov. Bill Graves announced that Johnson County businessman and former KU business instructor Clay C. Blair would replace Phyllis Nolan of Louisburg on the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees state universities. Blair was the developer of the KU Regents Center in Johnson County.

Three thrill-seeking teen-agers were arrested Oct. 14 for trespassing at Stull Cemetery, which local folklore describes as a "gateway to hell" on Halloween. The day before Halloween, workers sawed down the monster pine tree, more than a century old, that stood by the supposed gateway's front gate.

Police that week also arrested a Eudora woman for allegedly "cooking" methamphetamine on a hotplate. The woman's 6-year-old daughter was home at the time.

Baker University in Baldwin announced it would seek a permanent conservation easement to preserve the 573-acre wetlands it owns south of 31st Street in Lawrence. Highway officials said the move wouldn't affect proposed completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Various downtown businesses, including Coco Loco, Jazzhaus and Milton's, reported receiving counterfeit $10 bills that apparently were made with a high-quality color copying machine.

The owners of Johnny's Tavern announced the historic North Lawrence pub was on the sale block due to slow trade there.

The month ended with the death from diabetes complications of Ron Todd, a former state insurance commissioner. The longtime Lawrence resident and Kansas GOP party activist was 66 when he died Oct. 29.


In a slow election year, Lawrence voters went to the polls and overwhelmingly passed a $16.16 million bond issue for Lawrence Public Schools. The result will be the construction of a new elementary school west of Wakarusa and other improvements to schools in the Lawrence district.

Voters also elected Democrat Dennis Moore to the 3rd Kansas Congressional District, previously represented by incumbent candidate Vince Snowbarger. It was the first time a Democrat had been elected to the post since the district was established in 1962.

Other changes were not viewed as favorably.

Chris's Fresh Market Place, the only grocery store in North Lawrence since 1949, closed unexpectedly on Nov. 14. Owners never gave a full explanation for the shutdown.

Plans were also made to close the Mercantile Bank location at 647 Mass. The site will be used for future retail development.

And Pier I Imports, located downtown since it opened in 1976, announced plans to move to a larger location in South Lawrence next year.

The city of Lawrence unveiled a $100 million plan to guide transportation improvements through the next five years.

The plan, called the Lawrence area's Transportation Improvement Plan, or TIP, calls for federal, state and local governments to chip in for the cost of improvements to streets and highways including the South Lawrence Trafficway, traffic signals, bridges, transit and the airport.

Announcement of the plan came just days after the Kansas Department of Transportation pulled traffic funding for the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Kansas Secretary of Transportation E. Dean Carlson referred to the trafficway project as "essentially dead" after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold an injunction on trafficway work until an environmental study is completed.

Douglas County commissioners voted against an appeal of the decision and said they would explore the feasibility of completing the supplemental environmental impact statement in question.

Thanksgiving came and went on a mild note, with high temperatures in the low 70s.


State regulators ordered Douglas County to develop a plan for repairing the spillway at Lone Star Lake after inspections revealed the structure had eroded enough to create concern for public safety. County officials estimated the cost of fixing the spillway at $1 million.

A construction worker was fatally injured after falling more than 15 feet from a scaffold to a concrete floor at Bracker Ceramics north of Lawrence.

Jefferson County sheriff's officers and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation with a bomb sniffing dog searched McLouth schools Dec. 1, after a threatening note found in a wastebasket prompted school officials to evacuate classrooms. No bomb was found.

Gasoline prices continued to drop. At some Lawrence gas stations the fuel dipped as low as 77 cents a gallon.

Thousands of spectators flocked to downtown Lawrence to watch the Eldridge Hotel Old Fashioned Christmas Parade, which featured almost 100 horse-drawn wagons, surreys and other antique conveyances

Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home reported brisk business for its new crematory, the only one in Lawrence.

Sale of the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets mall was announced. Riverfront LLC gave an undisclosed sum for the three-level retail center.

The U.S. House of Representatives delivered two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, but most Lawrence residents showed little interest in the televised proceedings. Tubes in most public gathering spots such as bars and waiting rooms were tuned elsewhere.

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole cautioned against impeaching the president, but the four Kansas congressmen, Republicans all, were among those voting to impeach.

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