WRITER: Elvyn Jones

Undersheriff says snapshot shows little change in jail overcrowding; officials looking into modular cell units

After presenting inmate numbers showing that overcrowding is still a problem at the county jail, Douglas County Undersheriff Gary Bunting told the Douglas County Commission he would return in early October to share details about installing modular cell units at the jail. “We believe that might not be the best solution, so we’re asking for a few weeks to flesh out the details,” Bunting said of the modular ...

Repairs stop Douglas County Courthouse's 115-year-old clock

Keen downtown observers may have noticed in the last week that the hands of the four clocks on the tower of the Douglas County Courthouse are stuck at about seven minutes after 1 o'clock. David Sparkes, county buildings and grounds director, can give you a more precise reading of the stopped hands by referring to a dial in the clock tower. The dial is a reference for the person using a crank to set the time of ...

Baldwin City mural project has ambitious goals

When Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce director Jeannette Blackmar walks down the community’s downtown streets, she sees blank canvas all around her. “There’s a lot of wonderful walls that lend themselves to murals,” she said. “There’s no shortage of canvas downtown.” There’s also no shortage of local artists with the talent to design murals, or of local stories for the works to tell residents ...

Sheriff's office to present new inmate numbers as Douglas County renews jail overcrowding discussion

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will restart discussion of the jail overcrowding issue with fresh information on the number of inmates. The discussion is scheduled for the County Commission’s 4 p.m. meeting. Commissioners will meet again at 6 p.m. for two planning issues that require public hearings. Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern is scheduled to present to commissioners new numbers on the ...

Eudora school board invests in staff with approval of 2018-2019 budget

The Eudora school board approved a 2018-2019 budget that lowered the mill levy and invested all the new money it received from the state in district staff, Superintendent Steve Splichal said. The board approved the budget at an Aug. 23 meeting. The action set the district’s mill levy at 70.63 mills or 0.743 mills lower than its 2017-2018 budget. At 70.63 mills, the district’s share of taxes on a $150,000 ...

Award-winning Big Springs Quarry reclamation becomes company showcase

Cole Andersen has overseen scores of reclamations of mined-out quarries, but the one completed at a site on the western edge of Douglas County is special to him. “Absolutely,” said the environmental, health and safety manager for Mid-States Materials LLC. “The end use is so unique. I’m out there all the time. It’s absolutely beautiful.” The project reclaimed three phases of Mid-States’ Big ...

Board sheds more light on $20,000 raise for deputy superintendent, now says stand-alone vote wasn't taken

District leaders are now acknowledging that the Lawrence school board never did take a stand-alone vote to give Deputy Superintendent Anna Stubblefield a $20,000 raise. Instead, the raise — which amounted to about a 13 percent pay increase — was approved earlier this month as part of the district’s overall budget, which included a 30-page summary that broke down details of the budget and included ...

Lawrence school district, teachers union at impasse over 2018-19 contract

The Lawrence school district and the Lawrence teachers union are at an impasse after the lead district negotiator said the district would not increase its salary proposal or consider other key requests from the union. About 30 minutes into Wednesday's negotiation session, David Cunningham, the district's chief legal counsel and executive director of human resources, said there was no room for movement on the ...

This week's Douglas County Commission meeting canceled

The Douglas County Commission meeting for Wednesday has been canceled because one of the three commissioners will be unable to attend. The next commission meeting will be at 4 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

Sword found at Schwegler Elementary; LHS student allegedly strikes staff member

Students at Schwegler Elementary School made an unusual discovery during an afternoon recess on Friday: a sheathed sword attached to a bicycle that had been abandoned in a ditch near the school’s playground, according to Julie Boyle, the school district's communications director. No details were available on how the sword got there or to whom it belonged. Lawrence police officers were called to Schwegler, ...

Lawrence school district, teachers union will try to narrow $1 million compensation gap

The Lawrence school district and the Lawrence teachers union will attempt to close a more than $1 million gap when their representatives meet Wednesday for the next round of contract negotiations. Negotiators for the union, known as the Lawrence Education Association, and district representatives will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the district office, 110 McDonald Drive. It will be the first negotiation session ...

North Lawrence fire traced to cigarette; 2nd Saturday fire remains under investigation

A Saturday afternoon fire in North Lawrence was caused by a discarded cigarette, while the cause of a fire that was reported nearly simultaneously in west Lawrence remains under investigation, a Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical official said. James King, fire marshal for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical, said the fire at a two-story wood-frame house at 336 Elm St. in North Lawrence was started ...

School board president refutes rumor that new superintendent already received raise

The president of the Lawrence school board sought Monday to dispel a rumor that the board had given new Superintendent Anthony Lewis a significant raise when approving the 2019 budget. During her remarks at the opening of Monday’s school board meeting, Board President Jessica Beeson responded to emails that she and other board members received during the weekend, asking why the board had given Superintendent ...

Lawrence school board eyes 'paperless' meeting management programs

The Lawrence school board will meet Monday with a brief agenda that includes a presentations on two "paperless" meeting management programs. Representatives from BoardDocs and BoardPaq will give online presentations to the the board about software that allows government bodies to post online agendas and minutes. According to the BoardDocs and BoardPaq websites, the programs reduce paperwork by allowing the ...

Lawrence firefighters called to 2 fires nearly simultaneously on hot afternoon

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical first responders were kept busy Saturday fighting two fires that were reported almost simultaneously during the hot afternoon. At about 2:20 p.m. Saturday, a fire was reported at 336 Elm St. in North Lawrence. Just minutes later, at 2:24 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to a fire in an office building at 545 Columbia Drive. No one was injured in either fire. The fire at ...

From Bach to bluegrass: State Fiddling and Picking Championships back in Lawrence this weekend

The 38th annual Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championships this Sunday in South Park will offer something new even to the event’s 10-year organizer. “Have you ever heard Bach or Mozart played on a banjo?” asked Gayle Sigurdson. “We're going to have the band No Bow Tie, (which) does classical music from composers on acoustic instruments. We’ve never had a classical band before. We always look to ...

Longtime County Administrator Craig Weinaug announces plans to retire in December

Craig Weinaug announced Thursday that he would retire Dec. 14 as Douglas County administrator after more than 26 years in the position. “It’s time,” said Weinaug, who will be 67 in January. “The average length of time a city or county administrator or manager stays in one position is between six to eight years. I’ve served here longer than any Lawrence city manager, Lawrence school superintendent or ...

Self, Stubblefield set to rappel down building in fundraising challenge

University of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self and Lawrence Deputy Superintendent Anna Stubblefield are set to rappel down a building as part of the “Over the Edge Global” fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club. Alissa Bauer, marketing and communications director for the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club, said the event would be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the 200 block of East Ninth Street. ...

Extension organization to have kitchen garage sale

Douglas County K-State Extension Master Food volunteers and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program educators are planning a kitchen garage sale. The sale is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the Flory Meeting Hall at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2120 Harper St. It is a “bring-and-buy” event. People are invited to drop off kitchen wares they no longer want or need at the north entrance to ...

County Commission advances behavioral health sales tax ballot question

The Douglas County Commission approved ballot language Wednesday for a referendum to be placed before voters in the November general election asking for approval of a quarter-cent sales tax that would fund construction of a behavioral health campus and programming. It is the second referendum the county has advanced this year. Voters defeated Proposition 1 in May, which would have authorized the county to ...