The Kansas River Keeper sounds like a mythical being but is actually a native Kansan who says she is the eyes, the ears and the voice of the river.
Dawn Buehler is the Kansas River Keeper and says her mission is to protect and preserve the Kansas (Kaw) River for future generations.
Buehler heads an organization of more than 100 volunteers who work to maintain the river quality on the longest prairie-based river system in the world. The Kansas River watershed covers 53,000 square miles and is part of the Missouri River watershed that includes parts of Colorado and Nebraska as well as Kansas.
From her office in DeSoto, she responds to pollution reports from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and uses the USGS site to check for safe water levels. Challenges to the river include storm water, land use changes, agriculture, population increases which increase demands on the river, and the need to protect the drinking water supply.The River Keeper volunteers work with groups and companies such as Westar Energy, Bowersock, and the Kansas Basin Regional Advisory Committee as well as listening to public input. They are supported entirely by grants, fund raising events and donations.
The River Keeper volunteers work with groups and companies such as Westar Energy, Bowersock, and the Kansas Basin Regional Advisory Committee as well as listening to public input. They are supported entirely by grants, fundraising events, and donations.
River Keeper events this fall include a September Lawrence to Eudora paddle and an October cleanup where the Kaw meets the Missouri.
For more information visit the Friends of the Kaw Website.
Progress on the Central District Development Project is increasingly visible at Kansas University. The $350 million project is transforming a 45-acre space that lies north and east of the Iowa and 19th Street into “Innovation Way.” Financing was completed and construction began in January 2016.
Jim Modig, University Architect and Director of Design and Construction Management (DCM) at KU, took care to describe the scope and history of the project in his presentation to the club. The project is the tangible result of KU’s Master Plan for 2014-2024. In particular, that plan recognized that existing spaces for science classes at KU were suffering from delayed maintenance and were too small, unsafe, and outdated to attract the best students.
The scope of the Central District Development work includes creating Jayhawk Trail that will tie the campus together end-to-end with accessible access for pedestrians and bicyclists. A new Integrated Sciences building is designed to encourage innovation and collaboration among students of various scientific disciplines. A new student union with flexible conference space, a parking garage for 600 cars, a new central utility plant, new apartments, and a new residence hall with dining facility are also part of the plan. The images of the residence hall in time lapse photographs reveal the speed of the work.
Companies from all over the world expressed interest in bidding on this project, Modig said, but after reviewing the qualifications of those companies, the project team asked for a Request for Proposal (RFP) from three firms. The RFPs addressed building of the science facilities, modernizing the campus infrastructure, providing student housing, and addressing ongoing operations and maintenance.
The Central District Development Project has been financed through a public/private partnership (P3), a non-profit entity that ensures that the State and the Board of Regents are not liable for the debt.
The economic impact of the Central District Development Project is significant, according to Modig. The project employs more than 8,500 people directly and indirectly. For every $1 spent, the project generates $2.47 in incremental economic value. Seventy-five percent of the subcontractors for the projects underway have been awarded to Kansas-based businesses; another 20% have gone to companies in the Kansas City area; only 5% have been given out-of-state.
Beth Llewellyn, executive director of Health Care Access, spoke to Lawrence Central Rotarians about the mission and the services of this “safety net” clinic for low-income and uninsured individuals living or working in Douglas County. Llewellyn grew up in Lawrence and returned to take charge of Health Care Access in June of 2015. Llewellyn has 25 years of experience in health care administration and has a strong personal conviction that good health care should available to everyone. The clinic operates on a sliding fee scale with 26 percent of the people served being unable to pay anything. Unfortunately, this number is increasing.
Clinic services include primary care, chronic disease management, counseling and psychotherapy, referral coordination, prescription assistance, resource navigation management, case management, wellness management, and on-site physical therapy. Some 59 percent of the people served are at or below the Federal Poverty Line. Many of them suffer from hypertension, diabetes, or mood/behavior disorders.
Health Care Access, located at 330 Maine Street, has a staff of fifteen and an operating budget of $950,000 and is governed by a private board of directors. The organization works with a number of health care related partners that make up a network of health care assistance and expertise. In addition to fees and donations, financial support comes from the State of Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the City of Lawrence, Douglas County, and the United Way.
What is the biggest challenge or need? Beth Llewellyn urged support of the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. More information is available on Health Care Access at healthcareaccess.org.
The challenge to eXplore Lawrence, the non-profit entity now responsible for promoting and managing Lawrence tourism, is to understand the Lawrence brand and capitalize on it, according to Michael Davidson, Executive Director since April 1, 2016. The entity, funded by the city’s transient guest tax, anticipates a 2017 budget of $990,000. With the slogan “Unmistakably Lawrence,” the City is well on its way to enhance its reputation as a destination.
eXplore Lawrence is focused on encouraging visits not only for leisure activities, but also for conventions, meetings, and training events held by corporations. Currently, according to Davidson, 25,000 people in Lawrence work in tourism-related businesses—attractions, hotels, restaurants, and support services—generating an estimated $5 million in the local economy. For every $1 spent in tourism, $8 dollars gets churned into the economy. And Davidson also points out the fact that the industry provides numerous entry-level jobs for workers in the area.
Recently, eXplore Lawrence invested in a professional survey to identify ways to become even stronger and more effective in its efforts. In addition, the group is using social media in innovative ways, collecting pictures and videos from folks who have actually visited Lawrence and re-posting them on their website. They also use technology that alerts them when people who have explored the website actually come to visit the community.
Central Rotarians saw the fruits of their contribution to Lawrence’s Sister Cities organization when Elizabeth Grinage and Chehailis Jones spoke to the club on August 3. These two young women were the recipients of 2016 travel scholarships provided by the club.
Kelly Schultz, a nine-year member of the advisory board, explained that the Sister Cities program was devised during the Eisenhower administration in order to promote relationships among people and reduce the likelihood of conflict in the world—values certainly consistent with Rotary’s aims. Lawrence has three Sister Cities: Eutin, Germany; Hiratsuka, Japan; and Iniades, Greece. There is a Friends group in Lawrence for each city. Friendship gardens here symbolize the effort and care that it takes to generate the beauty of international relationships. The student travel program is a reciprocal one where Lawrence students spend time in homes in one of the Sister Cities and then host their new friends here in our community. Porter Arneill, the city staff liaison for Sister Cities, was also in attendance.
Elizabeth, a junior this fall at Free State High School, spent a month visiting Eutin, Germany, along with six other Lawrence students. Not only did Elizabeth stay in the home of a German family, she attended school, a real challenge since she has only been studying German for two years. The Eutin parks and gardens and the local castle impressed her in particular. In visits to other cities, she explored churches, a miniature museum, and an outdoor festival. The group spent five days in Berlin, visited a concentration camp, and mixed with the crowd of soccer enthusiasts during a public viewing of a game. She visited a seal rescue station on the North Sea and held a jellyfish in her hands at the Baltic Sea. Favorite new foods: “spaghetti ice” and “milk rice,” rice cooked in milk with sugar and served with strawberries. Elizabeth is looking forward to hosting her German friends for a month in Lawrence this fall.Chehailis, an
Chehailis, an eighth-grader at Southwest Middle School, spent ten “amazing” days in Hiratsuka, Japan. Her group visited an aquarium, a Shinto temple, and an amusement park situated on the sixtieth floor of a building. She told about the crowds, music, and festival lanterns. What was most different? Well, they walked everywhere! And ate lots of fish. And had vegetables for breakfast. When her Japanese guests came to Lawrence last month, Chehailis took them to Pet World, to meet her friends, to play at Worlds of Fun, and to see the Basketball Hall of Fame at KU. They also sampled fry bread and saw bison at the Potawatomi Nation.
Douglass Country Community Foundation Program and Communications Officer Marilyn Hull and Douglas Country Community Health Department Community Health Planner (and Lawrence Central Rotary Member) Charlie Bryan came to present the findings of the Lawrence Pedestrian Bicycle Issues Task Force Report released earlier this year.
The Task Force’s mission is “use community input and research to recommend ways to create a healthier, safer, greener, more prosperous Lawrence by making it easier for residents and visitors of all ages, abilities, and incomes to walk, ride a bike, or use a wheelchair or other mobility device for everyday transportation and recreation.”
The big takeaway from the report is that virtually every Lawrence citizen walks, wheels or rides a bike in the course of a week. From the report:
It may be as simple as walking or wheeling from a car or bus stop to a grocery store or doctor’s office. It may be riding a bike to school, or walking to work, or wheeling to a downtown event. Everybody needs safe ways to move around the community.
Because the need is universal, the City of Lawrence Pedestrian-Bicycle Issues Task Force has taken an inclusive approach to studying our walking, wheeling and bike-riding environment. Our findings and recommendations are geared toward providing additional safety and comfort for all ages and abilities.
They also pointed out that Lawrence has 72 linear miles of streets with no sidewalks. The report asserts that Lawrence’s sidewalk maintenance policy is ineffective, resulting in a deteriorating pedestrian network. Many sidewalks don’t provide adequate access for people with disabilities or seniors with mobility limitations.
They also showed members a recommended map of upgrades and additions to the local bike and multi-use path network that would ultimately complete the loop around Lawrence.
If you are interested in more information please visit the Pedestrian-Bicycle Issues Task Force at https://www.lawrenceks.org/ped-bike
Mitzi McFatrich executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care (KABC) says she has “the best job in the world” even though the word she uses the most in describing it is “challenging.”McFatrich who is a United Methodist minister, started working with the group when it was Kansas Improvement for Nursing Homes. Founded in Lawrence by a concerned citizens group headed by Petey Cerf and Harriet Nehring, as a statewide organization of volunteers, there are 650 members across Kansas. The group advocates with the legislature for law changes that benefit older people, works on upgrades in possibilities and hosts workshops.
McFatrich who is a United Methodist minister, started working with the group when it was Kansas Improvement for Nursing Homes. Founded in Lawrence by a concerned citizens group headed by Petey Cerf and Harriet Nehring, as a statewide organization of volunteers, there are 650 members across Kansas. The group advocates with the legislature for law changes that benefit older people, works on upgrades in possibilities and hosts workshops.
“There are always new challenges,” she said, using her favorite word. “We train law enforcement, social workers , bankers to identify, intervene and prevent elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.
“Another challenge,” McFatrich said “is helping people pick long term care. Older adults want to age in place at home. Nobody wants to talk about nursing homes or go to one. We work to maintain people’s sense of self and their dignity. We help people through life’s transitions.”
A priority of KABC is also to monitor medical care for older adults. They maintain a database on facilities in Kansas to see what medical care is available at which nursing homes, to help people avoid medical interactions that cause problems, and to record comments and opinions about elder care . They serve as ombudsmen for older citizens.
“And when I see some of the results, McFatrich said, “this really is the best job in the world!”
Judy Wright isn’t sure where this quotation came from, but she and others involved with the “Re-Invent Lawrence” initiative use is as their by-word. Judy, a board member of Douglas County Senior Services, spoke about the local effort to attract retirees to Lawrence and asked club members to serve as ambassadors of the message.
About three and a half years ago, the City of Lawrence and Douglas County established a task force to study what attracts retirees to Lawrence. The hope was that by understanding the motivations of those who have come here to retire, others might be encouraged to follow. DCSS was asked to lead this economic development initiative aimed at three market groups: (1) Baby Boomers—to invite them to move back to the city where they attended a college or university; (2) adult children who live here—to ask them to encourage their parents to retire in Lawrence; and (3) local pre-retirees—to entice them to stay in the community.
The idea of retirement life in Lawrence is easy to sell. The community has a lifestyle rich with art, theater, music, sports, and life-long learning opportunities. Mass Street shopping, bike-friendly streets, parks and recreation options, libraries, and museums, and award-winning medical services are among the list of activities and amenities available here. The City’s proximity to Kansas City and its international airport is also a decided advantage.
Although it is difficult to track results of the DCSS efforts so far, Judy and Kay have been giving presentations in the community for about 14 months. The DCSS office has received inquiries from potential residents during those months. The organization has a distinguished list of sponsors and a robust website “Live Lawrence Life” They are placing ads in the KU Magazine and other alumni communications.
The rides and activities start at 8:00 am to beat the summer heat. There’ll be rides and activities for everyone ranging from a 1-mile easy loop around the Arboretum and Training wheel take-off for kiddos who want to the three-mile family ride out to the Clinton Lake overlook and back. Lastly, there is the 10-mile ride up to I-70 and back.
During all of the rides in the parking lot of the Arboretum there will be:
- Helmets Fittings and Safety vests to participants (while supplies last).
- Kid’s Zone with inflatables to burn off that extra energy.
- Sunflower Bike will have a maintenance and bike check stand set up.
- The Merc will have a great array of healthy snacks.
What a great way to spend a Saturday morning! We hope to see everyone there!
A panel of new members, Taryn Parillo and Jay Holley, and long time members, Glenn Davis and Lynn O’Neal, talked about their jobs, their hobbies, and their favorite things.
“I think the deepening friendships are what has made the comradery at the meetings so evident,” Kate said. “One of my favorite things has been watching people get to know each other. Building relationships was one of the reasons we set up potlucks that included spouses and children. And attendance at the holiday luncheon, the anniversary dinner, and the Family Frolic Picnic reinforced new friendships. At every meeting we each put in ‘Happy Money’ and talk about things that have happened during the week.“
On the 29th all four Rotarians told about their love for family gatherings, Christmas for Taryn and the fourth of July for Jay (although “we set the barn on fire with fireworks once,” he said.) Lynn told about big family get togethers in Branson and Glen travels often with some of his five children.
Differing in occupations, Taryn is a financial planner, Jay an architect, Glen in insurance, and Lynn a retired ophthalmologist, they have a common interest in community service that benefits Lawrence. Taryn said she especially enjoyed helping with the bike ride, while Jay talking about hearing about Rotary when members were planting flowers downtown. Glen, who said he is a “bike nut” has worked on several cycling projects over the years. Lynn said he joined Rotary for the friendships as well as the community service projects.
“It has been so good this year to have members bring spouses, children, and grandchildren to our volunteer projects,” Kate said. “There are so many examples of this such as the Community Bike rides, Christmas bell ringing, and presentations from Sister Cities, to name a few.
“Although fostering relationships was key, I’m also pleased that we continued all of our fundraising efforts and our international involvements'” she said.” Nearly everyone in the club has a project or has taken on responsibility for a particular task at some time during the year. And we’ve updated the ‘nuts and bolts’ for running the club by setting a budget, timely invoices, meeting notes and sending monthly Highlight emails.”
As Kate turns the gavel over to incoming president, Jim Peters, all the panel members agreed that her “Getting to Know You” project, aided by her warm and welcoming personality, has definitely been a success.
Fairness. Impartiality. These attributes are key to maintaining a court system that is respected by the public. Matt Birch, attorney with Shamberg, Johnson & Berman in Kansas City, MO, and representative from the Kansas Association for Justice, spoke to Rotarians about the role of the judiciary on June 22. Birch began his comments by highlighting the division of power between legislative, administrative, and judicial branches that structures federal and state governments. The courts were devised to stand independent of politics, serving as a check and balance to the actions of the other two branches of government where individuals are elected to office.
Birch began his comments by highlighting the division of power between legislative, administrative, and judicial branches that structures federal and state governments. The courts were devised to stand independent of politics, serving as a check and balance to the actions of the other two branches of government where individuals are elected to office. The current method of appointing Supreme Court judges in Kansas is known as a “merit system.” It was established in 1958 in response to the infamous “triple play” that took place in Kansas in 1956. Designed to separate judicial nominations from politics, the process uses a Supreme Court Nominating Commission made up of attorneys and other citizens to nominate three qualified people for the open seats on the court. The Governor selects one of the three nominees to serve.
The current method of appointing Supreme Court judges in Kansas is known as a “merit system.” It was established in 1958 in response to the infamous “triple play” that took place in Kansas in 1956. Designed to separate judicial nominations from politics, the process uses a Supreme Court Nominating Commission made up of attorneys and other citizens to nominate three qualified people for the open seats on the court. The Governor selects one of the three nominees to serve.Birch explained that the merit system method of selecting judges in Kansas is now being challenged in the state legislature. Instead of the merit system, the proposal is for a “federal-style” model where the Governor would select the nominee to the Supreme Court, subject to senate confirmation. Such a change to the selection procedure for Supreme Court judges will require an amendment to the Kansas State Constitution. This new procedure is already in place for the Kansas appellate courts, established under a statute passed in 2013.
Birch explained that the merit system method of selecting judges in Kansas is now being challenged in the state legislature. Instead of the merit system, the proposal is for a “federal-style” model where the Governor would select the nominee to the Supreme Court, subject to senate confirmation. Such a change to the selection procedure for Supreme Court judges will require an amendment to the Kansas State Constitution. This new procedure is already in place for the Kansas appellate courts, established under a statute passed in 2013.Matt Birch noted that this fall five Supreme Court judges will be on the state ballot in a routine retention election. Professional ethics prevents them from “campaigning” or defending their records in any way. Birch urged voters to avoid being influenced by whether or not these judges had made decisions that were popular with the public and instead to assess each of the five judges according to their professionalism, ethics, and legal credentials.
Matt Birch noted that this fall five Supreme Court judges will be on the state ballot in a routine retention election. Professional ethics prevents them from “campaigning” or defending their records in any way. Birch urged voters to avoid being influenced by whether or not these judges had made decisions that were popular with the public and instead to assess each of the five judges according to their professionalism, ethics, and legal credentials.
LCR members take a well-deserved break during the spring clean-up day at the Lawrence Rotary Arboretum on Saturday, June 18. From left, Vern Brobst, Jim Peters, Fred Atchison, Audrey Coleman, Taryn Parillo and Glen Davis (not pictured) all pitched in to beautify the Arboretum. Members from all three Lawrence Rotary Clubs participated.
New Lawrence City Manager Tom Markus began his talk to Lawrence Central Rotary on June 17 by detailing his experience in the job. Beginning his career in 1973, he weathered 11 years in Cook County, Illinois, several years in Minnesota and, most recently, the top city job in Iowa City, Iowa.
“In Cook County, I learned how to keep a moral compass; in Minnesota, I was working in a state governed at that time by wrestler Jesse “the body” Ventura; in Iowa, I learned about life in a university town,” he said. “All these experiences have shaped me, made me more patient and calm.”
But he knows he’s going to need all his experience and patience and a calm attitude in his new job. Markus said when he came to Lawrence he had an ambitious 100-day plan. “But I didn’t realize how complex Lawrence is.”
Now he is working to balance expenses and revenues in light of the city’s potential for a $1.3 million deficit in 2017. He said some of the options are to raise revenue or cut expenses, but his preference is a middle ground of mixing and matching from both options.
“It’s close to the bone on decisions here,” he told Central Rotarians. “The city has to provide core services such as police, education. That’s essential.
“Federal and state government have shed their support for certain services which means we are going to have to handle them locally. Although,” he said “that’s not bad because the distance from services support can be too long. When it’s local, common sense can come into play.” He believes the new city commission has a good impact on budget planning.
“What I’m trying to do is figure how to settle the controversy, avoid polarization, and get to the middle,” he said.
Speaking at Lawrence Central Rotary on June 8, she said the Humane Society nurtures the human-animal bond by providing shelter, care and advocacy for abused and homeless pets. In 2015 the Lawrence Shelter took in 3,571 pets including 2,186 strays and 851 that were surrendered by their owners. Dogs made up 1,611 of the received animals, cats were 1,883 and there were 74 others.
When an animal comes into the shelter there is an intake exam . Workers get as much information as possible and give the animal a medical check. They prepare a behavior evaluation making sure the animals are happy, healthy (mainly in the case of dogs) and what their personalities are like—if they are high energy or would be better off with an older family. They also see if surgery would be necessary.
“The place for a pet is in a home, not a shelter,” Scheibe said “and we work hard to place them.” The number of adoptions is on the increase with over 2,000 in 2015. “We don’t keep them any longer than necessary,” she said. The holding period for strays is three days minimum and for surrenders there is no hold. Others are handled case by case. The average length of a stay is 27 days, with dogs averaging a 15-day stay.
The shelter staff also does cruelty investigations, 24 hour injured or ill pickup, community outreach education and low-cost micro-chipping.
“We can always use help,” she said. “We train volunteers, have a fostering program, encourage adoptions and are always very happy to accept donations.”