Leavenworth County man pleads guilty to gun theft in federal court

One Leavenworth County man has pleaded guilty and another is awaiting trial for the burglary and theft of firearms from a Winchester gun shop.

Andrew M. Amundsen, 19, Leavenworth, pleaded guilty last week in Federal District Court to one count of burglary and theft from a federally licensed gun dealer.

A co-defendant, Justin E. Hornback, 20, Tonganoxie, is awaiting trial.

According to court records both men drove and parked a short distance away from the gun shop during the early morning hours of May 18, 2011.

Both men walked to the shop where power lines were cut to avoid setting off a security alarm.

A rear door was forced open and Amundsen entered the building while Hornback allegedly waited outside. Both men carried 15 firearms back to the vehicle that included pump shotguns, semiautomatic rifles and pistols.

The records state that both men drove to an acquaintance in Leavenworth County the next morning and demonstrated the weapons.

Later that day the weapons were sold to some brothers in Leavenworth County for cash and electronic items.

A month later Leavenworth County Sheriff Deputies issued search warrants at the brothers’ residence where the stolen firearms were found. The brothers claimed that they did not know the guns were stolen and said they had bought them from Amundsen and Hornback.

Police contacted friends of both men who confirmed that they had seen both men with guns and that they had talked about stealing them at Winchester.

Amundsen could face 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine but prosecutors will ask for only five years probation as part of the plea agreement. Sentencing is set for April 4.

from JeffCountynews.com http://www.jeffcountynews.com/2012/01/leavenworth-county-man-pleads-guilty-to-gun-theft-in-federal-court/

City of Valley Falls considering higher court costs

by Clarke Davis

A trip to Valley Falls city court might get more costly if a suggestion by city Administrator Chris Channell gets council approval.

Court fees are now $55.50 with $20.50 going to the state. It is suggested that it be raised $20 to $85 plus the fine.

Channell said Judge Dennis Reiling had suggested the city make it the same as the district court, which is $98, but Channell said $85 is more in line with area cities.

He further suggested putting the $20 increase in a special equipment police fund for the purchase of tasers, video equipment, and so forth.

This drew an immediate negative reaction from Mayor Charles Stutesman and some council members who did not like the way that would appear to the public.

“We don’t want an officer writing tickets to justify his existence,” Stutesman said.

Shawn Jepson said he didn’t like the idea either that somehow an officer could profit from writing a ticket. Todd Harrington brought up waterboarding but failed to get a reaction.

The concern then shifted to the city receiving community service from those who cannot pay their fines and costs. Presently, those sentenced to community service report to the animal shelter operated by the Jefferson County Humane Society.

Lucy Thomas and Jo Tichenor both said they’d like to see the city derive some benefit from community service. They along with Jepson plan to meet with Judge Reiling on the next court date, Jan. 25.

The history of community service varies. The street department has received some good help in the past but utilities superintendent Daryl Courter said he had one person who sat in the street and refused to work. He had to call a police officer to escort the person off the street. Thomas also had a bad experience, telling about a woman who showed up to a job site at quitting time wearing a bikini.

Thomas wants the city to derive some good from those who can’t or won’t pay the court fees and hopes by meeting with the judge they can work out a better program.

Those who don’t pay the court fees can have their driver’s license suspended and a warrant issued for their arrest, according to Channell.

It’s only a matter of semantics, but Channell is going to call court fees, docket fees from now on. That, too, came as a suggestion from the judge to put an end to the argument put forth by those who pay their fine but don’t go to court.

Asked if equipping officers with Tasers was going to be back on the agenda, Channell said they came as a recommendation to the council by former police chief Gordon Bledsoe.

Police Chief Josh Pence said he is very familiar with Tasers, having been trained and equipped with them while on duty in east Topeka where he had to use one on several occasions.

In other business, the council:

  • Discussed the recycling program expected to begin Feb. 1. The $1 charge will be assessed to every water meter, thus businesses and multi-family dwellings will pay just the $1.
  • Held an executive session after which they voted to dismiss Jeff Church from city employment.
  • Discussed purchasing a used highway patrol car.
  • The city has new software for writing payroll and Channell intends to go to direct deposit soon.

from JeffCountynews.com http://www.jeffcountynews.com/2012/01/city-of-valley-falls-considering-higher-court-costs/

Construction on Oskaloosa city pool is on track for opening day

City council considers leasing pool

by Dennis Sharkey

Construction on the new city pool in Oskaloosa is progressing toward opening day but decisions still need to be made about who will manage the pool.

Oskaloosa swimming pool

Construction on the new city pool in Oskaloosa is progressing toward opening day but decisions still need to be made about who will manage the pool.

One option the city is considering is leasing the pool to a private individual or organization. Exactly how the lease would work is still being determined City Clerk Patty Hamm said on Monday.

A familiar name to Oskaloosa parents surfaced at the meeting last Thursday, Jan. 5, as a possible person to lease the pool. Former Oskaloosa Elementary School Principal Darren Shupe was mentioned by Hamm. Shupe leases the city pool in Tonganoxie.

The other option would be to hire a manager to run the pool and the staff with the city being the responsible party.

Hamm said a decision needs to be made soon because the end of January is when she typically begins advertising for a pool manager.

Mayor Mike Paavola was the only member of the current council who was around the last time the city pool was open in 2010. He said the council should expect a visit from the Parks and Recreation Commission to ask questions about how the pool will be operated.

“(The Parks and Recreation Commission) would kind of like to see us handle it in a different way from the past,” Paavola said. “They are very concerned about that. Don’t be surprised if they come and ask us some questions.”

Paavola did not explain any further. The last time the pool was open in 2010 the relationship between the council and the manager that was hired deteriorated halfway through the summer and the manager was fired.

There were also some issues raised with former Mayor Mike Boyd for his handling of a disagreement with the manager.

Regardless of who manages the pool the chemicals and their handling will be done by city staff.

Councilman Gary Bryant said some of the chemicals used for the pool are extremely corrosive and teenagers wearing swimming suits and flip-flops could be in danger. Anytime a problem is discovered city staff are supposed to be called.

“If there’s an issue they get called anyhow,” Bryant said.

The council also approved a payment of $51,800 to the contractor working on the pool. In total the city has paid more than $89,000 and $54,000 is still owed.

The Parks and Recreation Commission committed $50,000 toward the project but the two groups have not met since construction began.

from JeffCountynews.com http://www.jeffcountynews.com/2012/01/construction-on-oskaloosa-city-pool-is-on-track-for-opening-day/

Jenkins to meet with voters in Valley Falls

Rep. Lynn Jenkins will conduct a listening session at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Delaware Township Library in Valley Falls.

The gathering in the Jefferson County library at 421 Mary St. will be the 53rd Congress to Kansas tour stop the Republican 2nd District congresswoman has made since beginning her second term Jan. 3, 2011.

read more

from News http://cjonline.com/news/2012-01-17/jenkins-meet-voters-valley-falls

USD 340 board gets figures for proposed bond issue

by Clarke Davis

Submitting a bond issue to voters in the Jefferson West school district is far from being a done deal after hearing comments at the school board meeting Monday night.

Schools bond issue technology

Submitting a bond issue to voters in the Jefferson West school district is far from being a done deal after hearing comments at the school board meeting Monday night.

Superintendent Pat Happer laid out some cost estimates for repairs to facilities, enhancing technology, and improving the sports facilities that ranged from $2.85 to $3.31 million.

The board has always thought of considering something around $3 million that will not exceed eight to 10 years and not carry a larger mill levy than the high school bonds that got paid off last year.

Board President Jeff Van Petten was quick to pour cold water on the list of projects. He thought the list leaned too heavy on athletics — new locker facilities and a concession stand at the football field, new football field lights, reseeding the field, resurfacing the track, and some improvements to the baseball field along with some visitor bleachers.

What concerns Van Petten more was the technology proposal. He said he wanted to float some money for technology to get the district up to speed, but besides the $705,000 initial outlay from the bond issue the board was told it will cost $460,000 a year to maintain and keep everything upgraded.

“Where’s that money going to come from?” he asked.

Linda Jones-Giltner noted that everything on the list were items that had been discussed and were needed and many had been put off too long.

She and Dreana McClurg believe it’s doable. “We just have to figure out how,” Jones-Giltner said.

Van Petten said too much of the capital outlay fund is committed for other projects, such as the bus barn to take up the slack on these other items.

Happer noted that he had included a new roof on the high school and could throw in a school bus or two to take the pressure off the capital outlay fund.

“The list of improvements to the facilities makes sense, but this is not salable,” Van Petten said. “There will be no money to maintain this technology plan. We’ll wind up with something we can’t pay for.”

The board scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, at the administration building to continue to iron out a plan.

The board must pass a resolution by Feb. 7 in order to hold an April 3 election.

from JeffCountynews.com http://www.jeffcountynews.com/2012/01/usd-340-board-gets-figures-for-proposed-bond-issue/

Ozawkie man charged with cultivating marijuana

Charges have been filed against Chester D. Pottorf, Ozawkie, for allegedly cultivating marijuana plants.

Pottorf was charged in November with distributing hallucinogens, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to the court records Pottorf was alledgedly found with several bags of a green leafy substance that was believed to be marijuana. In addition a trash container with “green stock vegetation” was found in Pottorf’s possession along with triple beam scales and shears.

Also recovered was a photo album that allegedly contained photos of Pottorf in a marijuana field.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig said that the pictures seemed to be dated and that a field was never found. However, items were found in Pottorf’s home that indicated a possible growing operation.

Nearly a year went by before prosecutors officially charged Pottorf. A $10,000 bond was set for his release.

from JeffCountynews.com http://www.jeffcountynews.com/2012/01/ozawkie-man-charged-with-cultivating-marijuana/

Holland predicts gridlock for 2012 session

by Dennis Sharkey

Kansas Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and minority whip, says that Kansas will have a budget and redistricting will happen but don’t expect much else.

Sen. Tom Holland

Sen. Tom Holland

Holland isn’t trying to be pessimistic but is forecasting a contentious session because of political polarization that comes with an election year for all Kansas legislators and especially moderate Republican senators. He said many of them will see primary challenges.

“I see this session being extremely contentious,” Holland said. “You’re going to have these incumbent Republican senators under attack throughout the session,” he said.

Holland may predict gridlock but he doesn’t think that translates to a boring or slow session. He believes it will be the busiest session since he entered the legislature as a House member in 2003. He won election to the Senate in 2008 and challenged current Gov. Sam Brownback last year for the state’s top elected position.

Many believe the state’s economic position is better this year thanks to an improving economy and past cuts to the budget.

Holland guarantees that two items will get done before the legislature adjourns. A budget will pass and redistricting will happen but there will be some debates about whether to cut more spending or apply surplus balances to programs.

“There are lots of balls in the air,” Holland said. “I’m sure we’ll have some good debates on whether any balance should be put to use.”

Although Holland isn’t predicting much more legislation, he does expect many debates to take place on some key central issues that may also shape the elections.

There has been a lot of information published about Brownback’s plans for tax reform including income taxes. Many of Brownback’s ideas scare Holland. His main fear is that the lost revemies will be made up with trickle down effects on local communities.

“My fear is you will see increased pressure for local property taxes to go up,” he said. “I want to be sure those on fixed income are protected.

“The state is just going to shift the tax burden down to the local level,” Holland added. “We’re going to make life even harder for Kansas middle class families to survive,” he said.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, formed a committee last year after Brownback announced plans to put forth a proposal to reform income taxes. Morris was outspoken about the issue of transparency when he announced the committee. Holland is on the committee and agrees with his colleague across the isle. He believes any plan the governor puts forward will not have had the proper public scrutiny.

“This has been done behind closed doors,” he said. “You have special interest putting this package together.”

Holland said he will introduce legislation that freezes residential property taxes for seniors until they no longer own the property. He got a similar bill passed in the House during the 2008 session but the bill died in the Senate.

He also plans on introducing legislation that would prohibit employers from discriminating against those who are unemployed and a bill that would prohibit employers from checking an applicant’s credit history unless it is a financially sensitive position.

“Economic times are tough out there and we don’t want to be discouraging people from seeking employment,” he said.

“It’s none of their business,” he said about personal financial information. “That’s personal private business.”

Holland will pull another bill that he has previously tried to get passed to help with immigration. His bill would require all governmental agencies and state contractors to use e-verify. He said the bill would be structured to be as least burdensome as possible.

“The state needs to show it can live under its own rules,” he said.

He said all of Kansas’ neighboring states have already enacted similar laws.

Another issue that scares Holland is Brownback’s education finance formula. He says the state has cut more than $620 from the base state aid the past two years and the funding level is as low as it has been in a decade. Holland says Brownback’s plan is more status quo.

“He basically wants to lock in the cuts we’ve had over the last two years,” Holland said. “It’s basically a one time expenditure.”

He said the state needs to build back up to where funding was before cuts started.

“Our focus when it comes to education needs to be restoring funding to education through the existing state formula,” he said. “The existing formula works.

“The formula is constitutionally valid,” he added.

Holland said Brownback’s plan only helps large districts and rural districts will fall behind.

“What we’re saying is your zip code is going to determine the quality of education,” Holland said. “Jefferson County kids will not be able to keep up with Johnson County kids.”

Holland said all of the “weighting” for things such as transportation and at-risk students will go away making the gap wider if districts grow.

Holland expects at least a debate if not changes to some major programs. The state’s employee retirement program known as KPERS and Medicaid are on the front burner.

There is a predicted $8.3 billion long term funding gap for KPERS. Holland said he wants to know how the gap will be filled and how the plan will retain state employees.

“They have a lot of institutional knowledge,” Holland said. “The pension plan was seen as something to keep them around long term.”

Medicaid costs for the state have increased by more than 27 percent in the last five years. Holland said something needs to be done to curb the cost but checks and balances need to be in place for third party care providers.

“I want to be sure we have some measures and controls up front in those contracts to establish benchmarks and standards so that taxpayers know they are getting their money’s worth.”

from JeffCountynews.com http://www.jeffcountynews.com/2012/01/holland-predicts-gridlock-for-2012-session/

Rep. Gonzalez more comfortable with a year’s experience

by Dennis Sharkey

This week a year ago he didn’t know where his office was or even which way to go but that’s all changed.

The 2012 session of the Kansas House of Representatives began on Monday and Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry, doesn’t feel like the new kid at a new school on the first day.

Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry

Rep. Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry

“I kind of know how the flow is going to go,” Gonzalez said. “It should be a lot simpler on the stuff that gave me trouble last year.”

Last year he arrived in Topeka almost needing a map to get around the capital building with construction complicating matters further. The 2011 legislative session was the first time Gonzalez held any kind of elected office so the whole process was new as well.

Many lessons were learned for the first time legislator including the time he tried to take a simple one page bill to the House floor. A few hours later his simple bill wasn’t so simple anymore and was 17 pages long.

“I’m standing up at the podium saying, ‘What happened?’” Gonzalez joked. “That’s when I learned my lesson.”

Gonzalez has spent many hours since the legislature adjurned last May touring his district that encompasses all of Jefferson County and part of Atchison County. He has visited with all of the local school boards and attended many meetings. He believes he will hit the ground running this week.

Another lesson learned last year is attention to detail. He said lawmakers have to be aware of what is being put in front of them and ask a lot of questions.

“We’re going to have to be pretty cognizant of our decisions,” he said. “Show me what you got. We have to be aware.”

Since the last meeting of the legislature there has been discussion about hot topics such as the state income tax and education funding. Many have been critical of Gov. Sam Brownback’s education funding plan and the lack of transparency when dealing with taxes. However, Gonzalez said he wants the hearing process to play out before making a decision.

“What is the exact proposal?” Gonzalez said. “How are we going to do that? I haven’t seen the paperwork on it.

“That’s part of the session,” he added. “You have to have proposals and you have to have agendas.”

Gonzalez defended the governor’s handling of the income tax discussions and said nothing has been decided and it would have to pass both houses first.

“My comment to that is, ‘What’s a done deal?’” he said. “We don’t have all the particulars yet.

“It’s better you’re told what’s coming up,” Gonzalez says he tells people. “Once we get to the floor and start discussing it we’ll have a little bit more to go with.”

Initially Gonzalez sees some good things with Brownback’s education finance plan but also recognizes some of the arguments that rural schools will make.

“We have students out there who should be afforded the same quality of education that is being afforded to the Johnson County Schools,” he said. “You can’t just say, ‘Well you guys only have x number of dollars and that’s what you’re going to have to work with.’ You have to equalize it.”

Gonzalez will hold the same committee assignments as last year. He is on the public safety, aging and long term care, elections and budget committees.

He believes the biggest debates will be during budget hearings and that the challenges that lawmakers faced last year are similar to this year’s challenges.

“We’re still looking at a tight budget and we know that everyone will come in wanting to fund their departments,” he said. “We’re going to have the same challenge we had last year which is we only have so much money and what can we do with it?

“Is it reasonable and why do you need what you’re asking for?” he added.

Gonzalez does not know how much of the Republican agenda will be accomplished this year and isn’t worried that it is an election year.

“My responsibilities are to do what I’m supposed to do during the session,” he said. “If you worry about what’s going to happen in the future you need to think about doing something else.”

A project that Gonzalez has been working on since last year is a bill that will deal with sexting. Sexting is an act of sending lewd photos via a text message to a cell phone.

He said currently there are no guidelines for addressing the issue from a law enforcement perspective.

“It’s a brand new technology,” Gonzalez said. “Do you treat someone as a felon? Do you send a 15-year-old to jail? We’re trying to make it to where it would have some parameters.”

from JeffCountynews.com http://www.jeffcountynews.com/2012/01/rep-gonzalez-more-comfortable-with-a-years-experience/

Rep. Gonzalez more comfortable with a year’s experience

by Dennis Sharkey

This week a year ago he didn’t know where his office was or even which way to go but that’s all changed.

The 2012 session of the Kansas House of Representatives began on Monday and Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry, doesn’t feel like the new kid at a new school on the first day.

Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry

Rep. Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry

“I kind of know how the flow is going to go,” Gonzalez said. “It should be a lot simpler on the stuff that gave me trouble last year.”

Last year he arrived in Topeka almost needing a map to get around the capital building with construction complicating matters further. The 2011 legislative session was the first time Gonzalez held any kind of elected office so the whole process was new as well.

Many lessons were learned for the first time legislator including the time he tried to take a simple one page bill to the House floor. A few hours later his simple bill wasn’t so simple anymore and was 17 pages long.

“I’m standing up at the podium saying, ‘What happened?’” Gonzalez joked. “That’s when I learned my lesson.”

Gonzalez has spent many hours since the legislature adjurned last May touring his district that encompasses all of Jefferson County and part of Atchison County. He has visited with all of the local school boards and attended many meetings. He believes he will hit the ground running this week.

Another lesson learned last year is attention to detail. He said lawmakers have to be aware of what is being put in front of them and ask a lot of questions.

“We’re going to have to be pretty cognizant of our decisions,” he said. “Show me what you got. We have to be aware.”

Since the last meeting of the legislature there has been discussion about hot topics such as the state income tax and education funding. Many have been critical of Gov. Sam Brownback’s education funding plan and the lack of transparency when dealing with taxes. However, Gonzalez said he wants the hearing process to play out before making a decision.

“What is the exact proposal?” Gonzalez said. “How are we going to do that? I haven’t seen the paperwork on it.

“That’s part of the session,” he added. “You have to have proposals and you have to have agendas.”

Gonzalez defended the governor’s handling of the income tax discussions and said nothing has been decided and it would have to pass both houses first.

“My comment to that is, ‘What’s a done deal?’” he said. “We don’t have all the particulars yet.

“It’s better you’re told what’s coming up,” Gonzalez says he tells people. “Once we get to the floor and start discussing it we’ll have a little bit more to go with.”

Initially Gonzalez sees some good things with Brownback’s education finance plan but also recognizes some of the arguments that rural schools will make.

“We have students out there who should be afforded the same quality of education that is being afforded to the Johnson County Schools,” he said. “You can’t just say, ‘Well you guys only have x number of dollars and that’s what you’re going to have to work with.’ You have to equalize it.”

Gonzalez will hold the same committee assignments as last year. He is on the public safety, aging and long term care, elections and budget committees.

He believes the biggest debates will be during budget hearings and that the challenges that lawmakers faced last year are similar to this year’s challenges.

“We’re still looking at a tight budget and we know that everyone will come in wanting to fund their departments,” he said. “We’re going to have the same challenge we had last year which is we only have so much money and what can we do with it?

“Is it reasonable and why do you need what you’re asking for?” he added.

Gonzalez does not know how much of the Republican agenda will be accomplished this year and isn’t worried that it is an election year.

“My responsibilities are to do what I’m supposed to do during the session,” he said. “If you worry about what’s going to happen in the future you need to think about doing something else.”

A project that Gonzalez has been working on since last year is a bill that will deal with sexting. Sexting is an act of sending lewd photos via a text message to a cell phone.

He said currently there are no guidelines for addressing the issue from a law enforcement perspective.

“It’s a brand new technology,” Gonzalez said. “Do you treat someone as a felon? Do you send a 15-year-old to jail? We’re trying to make it to where it would have some parameters.”

from JeffCountynews.com http://www.jeffcountynews.com/2012/01/rep-gonzalez-more-comfortable-with-a-years-experience/