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Commentary by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — Perhaps, one of the most important aspects concerning a proposal to bring a community college campus to Wellington few are talking about is the financial debt now being incurred by today’s college graduates – including those in Sumner County.
Being a parent of two students currently in four-year universities, it is shocking how expensive college is. The overburdening financial strain parents and students alike are now facing to obtain a college education is astronomical. Few will argue that this college-age generation seeking a better way of life are already behind the economic eight-ball when they receive a college diploma.
Yet in the ultimate Catch-22 situation, not earning a four-year college diploma, will leave an individual at a significant disadvantage in future career endeavors.
Some people are arguing that a half-cent sales tax will add to Wellington and Sumner County’s already burgeoning tax load. I would argue this is a financial opportunity the community can not afford to pass up for their own personal economic good. Bringing a community college to town will be a tremendous savings for anyone looking to obtain a four-year and/or post graduate degree.
I stumbled across a Consumer Report article, “Student debt – lives on hold” which outlines the plight of millions of Americans, who went to college seeking a better future but were now facing crushing debt from student loans. All the while a financial industry has been making record profits off these loans.
Commentary by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — I’m a little late this year with the annual “hand wringing about the high school football team” column. Usually, I am cranking out my angst column by week 2 or 3. It’s week 5 this year. I’m slow on the switch.
Perhaps, it’s my age and I don’t care like I used to. For example, Saturday K-State blew a 16-3 lead against West Virginia and I was like over it 10 minutes later. In years’ past, it would have taken me the whole weekend.
It also might be because I’m suffering with a “been there, done that” mentality. This marks the seventh consecutive year the Crusader nation is suffering from “we aren’t as good as we used to” angst. After all, 2009 was the last year, Wellington was both winning games and making playoffs.
Maybe it is becoming repetitive. I’ve been spending time holding down the comment section with the same kind of comments that were being said last year and the year before. The readership is restless. I did let one slip through from a gentleman that was rather comical. He somehow related the plight of the high school football team to higher utility rates. I love it. We should wrap up all our social media rants in one big colossal “Wellington stinks” paragraph.
I can do one better. I think the Wellington City Council is to blame for the plight of the football team because the Etter-Hansel controversy caused the high school players so much stress that they couldn’t perform to their capabilities (that was sarcasm by the way).
It has come to my attention that the public has raised some questions regarding the injunction action I recently filed against the City, and I would like to clear up some misconceptions about that action. First and foremost, I want to make clear that I did not file a suit against the City of Wellington so that I would personally receive money for damages.
I have no desire to profit from these recent events, and any damages that I would be awarded would be donated to the Memorial Auditorium Air Conditioning Fund. My intent in filing the injunction action was to protect the City Council seat for which the citizens of Wellington elected me, to ensure that both the voters and the election process are honored by allowing an elected City Council Member to properly serve out his term.
The following letter was written by Ed Larson, a former member of the Sumner County Planning and Zoning Commission:
To the editor: The Sumner County Commission is totally out of touch with it’s citizens. Their constant abuse of the “executive session” rule is the best example, along with their property tax record. Executive session is a tool designed to protect the privacy of an employee. It is to be used only when discussion of an individual employee or their pay package is to be discussed.
Now elected officials have perverted this tool to cover their discussion and intent on all types of business. Just look at the 2016 minutes of the Sumner County Commission. Many of their meetings only say “went into executive session at 9:02 came out at 9:20 chairman reports no binding action was taken”. This happens many times during one meeting!
On Sept. 6, I am sure this is how the decision was arrived at on the Dollar General store in Conway Springs. I was in the Commission chambers at 9 a.m. on Sept 6 they went into a 20 minute executive session to discuss the upcoming zoning change. They then moved the meeting to the Raymond Frye for the zoning hearing. I am sure they made the decision in the 9 a.m. executive session before the public made any comments.
by Dr. Dennis Rittle, President of Cowley College — It’s official. We’re on the ballot!
With the recent approval by the County Commissioners of submitted ballot language, Sumner County voters will soon get to cast their vote in favor of a Cowley College campus located in Wellington.
The need is here. In a recent survey of area students, 86 percent of respondents said they wanted to continue their education close to home. Moreover, 70 percent of adult learners indicated they desire additional training and would take college courses if available in the county.
Since Cowley College began instruction in 1922, we’ve adapted our offerings in a variety of ways to continue to meet the emergent needs of a changing workplace. There’s no question, especially in Sumner County, of the need for a workforce skilled in agricultural, manufacturing, public safety, information technology, teaching, and other vocational trades.
The Cowley College campus in Sumner County will meet those workforce needs. Our goal is to provide area students with the opportunity to advance their education and acquire good-paying jobs close to home.
By Tom Bell, President and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association — We need to set the record straight regarding Gov. Brownback’s plan to tax hospitals. The Governor has stated that he wants to increase the current hospital provider tax to replace his four percent Medicaid provider reimbursement cut … and to help struggling rural hospitals.
The Governor seems to be saying that in order to reverse the four percent rate cuts, he is going to increase a tax on the very entities those cuts are hurting. That is at best inconsistent, and more likely it will exacerbate the problems being faced by health care providers. For example, one such facility, Sumner Regional Medical Center in Wellington, was exempted from the direct four percent Medicaid cut, but would be assessed an additional tax of $32,000 under the Governor’s proposal. It’s been often reported Sumner Regional is struggling. This is certainly no way to help that rural hospital.
The Governor’s hospital tax increase, just like his Medicaid cut announcement, shows a lack of understanding of the interdependence of Kansas hospitals specifically, and the Kansas health care system in general. ALL hospitals are challenged by the Medicaid cuts and ALL hospitals will be even more challenged by an increase in the hospital provider tax. And consequently, every community, large and small, will feel its effects.
To the editor:
I would like to start off by taking complete responsibility for my actions and admit that I could have handled myself in a more professional manner. I’m only human, I’m far from perfect and I have made many mistakes in my life (this being one). I am certain that I will make more mistakes, most likely on a daily basis.
However, with that same certainty I can assure you that I will make every effort possible to identify those mistakes, learn from them and better myself. To all of the citizens of Wellington, please accept my apology for my unprofessional behavior at the August 2 Wellington City Council Meeting. I know now that I could have handled myself differently. I will now take this opportunity to provide you with some insight as to what I was thinking; why I took the actions that I did, along with some questions that I now have. Please bear in mind while you read this, that based upon obvious reasons this is the only platform that I have for communication.
With regards to my comment: The audio clearly states that I said “I’m Resigning”. I never specified a date that said resignation was to begin, it was not directed to anyone in specific, and was said in haste under my breath and would not have been heard had it not been for the audio equipment. Given the fact that no specific date was given, it’s not a binding resignation. Furthermore, an elected official has the right to change his/her mind without Council (or The Mayor’s) approval. My comment was not followed up with anything in writing so it isn’t official, nor was it accepted and/or voted on by The Council so it is not a valid resignation.
Dear Wellington City Council:
Please put to rest this absurd, stupid, and absolutely unnecessary controversy surrounding council member Kip Etter and his supposed resignation, forced step down or whatever you want to call it.
It is clear from the video that Etter’s verbal resignation was done in haste and in a fit of anger, with little forethought.
So why not treat it as such? Ignore it and move on.
It is disappointing that Etter chose to behave this way, which is not worthy of the position that is bestowed upon him. There seems to be troubling repeated behavior for a man who has progressive and forward thinking ideas. I can only hope that Etter develops a sense of humility as he moves forward. I, myself, am willing to forgive him for past transgressions, because of his leadership potential of the future.
It is also disappointing that Vince Wetta, a man I admire for his years of civil service, decided to shirk protocol and take matters in his own hand by hiring at-the-time prospective city manager candidate Shane Shields without the consultation of the full city council body. It was an arrogant move.
It is disappointing the council never could come up with an orderly process in the first place for this important decision of hiring a city manager.
It is disappointing that Mayor Shelley Hansel took it upon herself by telling Etter to step down when it appears through research she does not have the legal authority to do so.
To the editor: A little something I put together for your consideration. Your option as to whether to run it or not, as always, and your option as to when, if ever, you decide to publish it.
I am writing this in response to the two articles reported on this week regarding the city council and Mr. Kip Etter. To begin with, I do not know Mr. Etter, and have never, to my knowledge, had any kind of dealings with him. I don’t know what kind of person he is. For all I know he very well may be a very nice young man. Or not.
I have heard a number of people talk about him regarding several things that have transpired here in town regarding other businesses, and of course I have read about what has happened with the city council. But over the years, and especially now, I tend to take whatever I hear with a grain of salt. If I wasn’t there, I really can’t pass judgement on anyone or anything. That being said, lets move on.
The old saying goes “Opinions are like (well, you know), everybody’s got one and they all stink.” The two articles reported on dealing with this matter had, as of the time of this writing, 80 replies. This tells me several things. The first being there are a lot of people who are concerned, one way or the other, as to what’s actually going on in Wellington.
Commentary by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — I googled the “Jerry Springer Show” before writing this editorial. I legitimately wondered if the show known for barbaric people throwing chairs at one another was still on TV. According to the trusty Wikipedia page, it most certainly is. It has been on for 25 years and is still going strong. Wow, 25 years.
The reason I bring up Jerry Springer, a show I rarely think about and God forbid actually watch, is it serves as a metaphor. It is the ultimate public humiliation show. It sets people up to look foolish in front of millions for their viewing pleasure. There are people who want attention, and there are plenty out there willing to let them have it.
I tend to think in some ways when a Wichita television station news truck pulls into Wellington to do a “fact finder” or a “news on your side” expose, Wellington, as a whole, is about took look like those saps on the Springer show. There is something rotten happening in Wellington. And the rest of the state needs to know about it.
This week, a news story surfaced on Wichita TV about our high utility rates. That is a legitimate concern and people have reason to complain. But my problem isn’t the subject matter as it is becoming a statewide news story. The routine is always the same whether it be no more horses in the parade, a silly football skirmish, or the hospital closing when it is not. Newscasts are single dimensional. A TV reporter talks to about three or four individuals, including someone “on the street” who usually has little idea what the subject matter is about, leaves town, edits the story and puts it on the news broadcast later that evening.
There rarely is a follow up, or if the problem has been solved.
And I’m usually perplexed. Why would someone in Salina care about Wellington’s high utility rates? Where is the statewide news interest? Do I care if say, they have high utility rates in Garden City?
by James Jordan, Sumner Newscow — The Wellington City Council could hire Shane Shields to be its next city manager at its meeting Tuesday. At its last meeting in somewhat of a surprise move, the council voted to hire Shields contingent on negotiating a contract. The issue of city manager is not on the agenda that was released Friday, but there is an executive session on the agenda to do the negotiations.
Mayor Shelley Hansel said it is possible they could come out of executive session and vote to hire Shields and make it official. They could also continue the negotiations and make the official move at a later time.
At the last regular meeting council member Vince Wetta surprised his fellow council members by making a motion to hire Shields. That came as they were discussing whether to hire the league of municipalities to run a search and help them hire a city manager at a cost of about $6,000.
At a work session the week before the council had talked about the issue, and whether they should just go ahead and hire Shields instead of going through the search. Three council members expressed an interest in hiring Shields instead of doing the search, but other members wanted to do the search anyway, even though almost all said they thought Shields might well emerge as the top candidate.
Shields is the current interim city manager, and served in that capacity a couple of years ago when the city was searching for city manager that resulted in the hiring of Roy Eckert. The council dismissed Eckert a few months ago and was faced with looking for a manager again.
The motion by Wetta passed by a 4-2 vote. Kip Etter and Kelly Hawley voted no. Etter seemed upset and left the meeting abruptly and did not return. He also missed the next work session meeting, but was celebrating his anniversary with his wife. He has not responded to questions about leaving the meeting. Hawley also left, but returned moments later.
Hawley said later it was a “huge surprise” that the motion was made to hire Shields, especially when a consensus had been reached at an earlier meeting to go through the process of taking applications with the league of municipalities running the search.