In some ways, 2013 was more about potential than anything else.
The inaugural year of SEK Art Fest whetted the appetite for years to come. McCune rallied around the potential of losing their school, although their efforts were not enough. The construction work on Via Christi's surgery center, PSU's Center for the Arts, Pinamonti Physical Therapy, CHC-SEK and more is truly about the potential of what will be once their respective projects are complete. Likewise, the city sales tax vote is an investment in the potential of a fully-funded city police and fire staff. Also, the big events that announced plans to come to Pittsburg won't actually make it to the city for a time to come. Even the retirement of Rep. Bob Grant is a chance to see the potential of what that seat will become with someone else occupying it.
Sure, not all the memories of 2013 fit that theme. But could 2014 bring even more major events and milestones? Potentially.
— Written by Andrew Nash. Stories compiled by Morning Sun reporters Andrew Nash, Sarah Gooding and Nikki Patrick.
Even by Crawford County standards, 2013 was particularly strange when it came to weather. There were two major flooding incidents, as well as a wind storm that ransacked the county.
Let's start with the windstorm, since it occurred first. On May 19, 60-70 mph straight-line winds pummeled Pittsburg and other parts of the county. Perhaps hardest hit were Schlanger Park, which lost a sizable chunk of its trees, and Spicer Adams Welding, which lost a wall to the winds.
Then there were the floods.
The first major flooding was later in May, when four inches of rain in a 24-hour period left the county waterlogged and waters rising midway into JayCee Ballpark.
The other flooding incident came at the worst time for Crawford County fairgoers, ruining several trailers and canceling a number of events at the County Fair. This incident was later declared a federal disaster.
Breaking New Ground
The ground's been broken enough times in the last year, one might even call it shattered.
In just the health care field, a major expansion at Pinamonti Physical Therapy not only had the ground broken, but construction got underway. An expansion of Community Health Center-Southeast Kansas technically started in 2012, but work moved onward and forward in 2013. Both are expected to be completed in 2014.
But there's more. Civic organizations like the Knights of Columbus and the Pittsburg Farmers Market broke ground themselves on new buildings, located a few blocks apart. The Knights of Columbus building has already been completed.
Finally, there was a little work done at Pittsburg State. The mezzanine/balcony area of John Lance Arena received a complete overhaul, and new stairways were put in as well. Also, to make way for the Center for the Arts, the longstanding tennis courts were removed in August.
Center for the Arts
More than 30 years after the condemnation and razing of Carney Hall the dream of a home on campus for fine and performing arts is being fulfilled by the Center for the Arts.
The project became a priority for the current university administration, and was kickstarted when an anonymous donor contributed $10 million to help get the project started and an additional $7 million was contributed by students, who voted to increase student fees to help fund the Center for the Arts and other projects on campus.
"There is no doubt, this project is the culmination of 35 years of hard work and the contributions of many, many individuals," said university president Steve Scott at the groundbreaking.
By midsummer, the walls of the main stage area were towering over the surrounding landscape, and in November the university conducted the first on-stage event in the new facility with the unveiling of the next strategic planning process. The Center is scheduled to be complete in late summer 2014.
SEK Art Fest
The dreams and planning of a visionary group of area residents came to fruition in the summer of 2013, when 26 brightly colored coal buckets, each interpreting what makes Southeast Kansas great, were unveiled in June and drew additional foot traffic to downtown Pittsburg throughout the summer.
The artists for the event were named in February and, after some delays in the arrival of an initial order of buckets, artists were able to claim their buckets in May and the buckets were revealed to underwriters and then the public following their delivery to Broadway Street in downtown Pittsburg in mid-June.
A series of small-scale buckets, decorated by area school children, also graced store windows throughout the downtown in the early part of the summer.
Two of the buckets were turned over and cracked as a result of vandalism during the Fourth of July overnight hours, but were doctored and touched up before the auction, which took place over Labor Day weekend and grossed more than $34,000 for the next Art Fest and other area events.
The Way We Worked
FRANKLIN — The process started in August of 2011 when the Miners Hall Museum, Franklin, applied to host "The Way We Worked," a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit which traced the many changes affecting the American workforce and work environments over the past 150 years.
The Franklin application was accepted, and MHM volunteers and staff worked to get ready for the exhibit. Twelve local monthly exhibits on "The Way We Worked in Southeast Kansas" led up to the arrival of the Smithsonian exhibit.
On free public view from May 11 to June 23, it drew in excess of 5,670 visitors.
Phyllis Bitner and Debby Close served as co-chairmen for exhibit arrangements, with around 85 volunteers assisting.
"They did a terrific job in Franklin," said Tracy Quillin, Kansas Humanities Council director of communications and statewide coordinator for the exhibit's tour. "I think everyone walked away feeling enriched by the experience."
Big Events on the Way
While that may sound like a line from a bad science fiction movie, it could also describe the thousands of people expected to visit the area in the coming years. In 2013, a number of big events were announced that will make their way to Pittsburg.
In 2014 alone, the Kansas Shrine Bowl and all its accompanying athletes and band performers will make their way to the Football Capital of Kansas. That will be a few months after the mud and the magnificence of the SAE Baja — Kansas event to be held at Pittsburg State in May.
But both of those seem small when compared to a national championship. Late in 2013, the NCAA announced it would be bringing the Division II Indoor Track Championships to Pittsburg in 2016 and 2018. Now if only there were a building to host that event...
City Sales Tax Vote
Pittsburg police and fire crews asked for the public's help in 2013. And the public responded emphatically.
The Pittsburg police were facing a shortage in officers and staff, while the fire department stared at nearly antique fire trucks and the need for expensive equipment. With the city commission's approval, a 10-year, half-cent sales tax increase went before Pittsburg voters in September that was designed to fund five new officers and technology upgrades for the police, as well as a new pumper truck, bunker gear, SCBA and training for the fire department.
When it came time to vote, the public passed the measure by nearly a 60-40 margin, with the sales tax set to go into effect tomorrow.
Via Christi Hospital
It has been a year of growth and cuts for Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg.
Early in the year the hospital became a part of Ascension Health, the largest Catholic and nonprofit health system in the country.
At the same time, the hospital invested in the types of cuts it does best - through an expansion in the form of a two-story, cutting-edge surgery center. The center's groundbreaking took place in Nov. 2012 and work really picked up in the spring with the pouring of concrete. The roof was poured and side panels placed in mid-December and the current completion date for the expansion is summer of 2014.
However, in late spring, the Via Christi Health system also announced statewide cuts in staffing to help balance out an $18 million budget shortfall. Locally, the hospital was asked to reduce costs by $3.5 million. When the cuts concluded, 28 staff members across all departments were laid off.
Throughout the later summer months growth began again with the hiring of four new physicians, including Dr. Michael Fenech, an OBGYN with experience using the da Vinci robot for robotic-assisted surgery. In mid-August, Fenech made hospital and regional medical history by performing the first robotic-assisted gynecological surgery in the Four-State area, paving the way for Via Christi to become a regional leader with the service.
Bob Grant Retires
Former Rep. Bob Grant, D-Frontenac, is not exactly known for his fashion sense. But when the time came for him to announce his retirement after roughly 18 years in the Kansas Legislature, he rented a tuxedo and took to the House floor.
Grant, a former mayor of Cherokee, announced his planned retirement in May before stepping down officially in December. He had served in the Kansas Legislature since 1991 (with a few years off in the mid 1990s). But perhaps, more than anything, he had a hell of a time saying whatever he damn well pleased.
Adam Lusker, D-Frontenac, was chosen over the summer to follow in Grant's footsteps, and was sworn in a few days after Grant's retirement.
McCune School to close
Years of district population decline forced some tough decisions for members of the USD 247 Southeast Board of Education.
In early October, USD 247 Superintendent Glenn Fortmayer outlined a series of options to aid in keeping the district in the black, including developing grade-level centers in Cherokee, Weir and McCune, developing a charter school in McCune and closing the McCune building.
The topic quickly became a hot-button issue for the area, especially after a meeting in which district residents could offer comments, but board members were advised not to respond for legal reasons.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, during a continuation of a meeting, three board members submitted their resignations and the remaining four voted to close the McCune building and develop grade-level centers in Cherokee and Weir.
The decision caused intense grief in the McCune area in the days and weeks after the initial vote to begin proceedings toward closure, but was upheld on Dec. 11.
The McCune Attendance Center will close following the 2013-14 school year.
2013 — Year in Review
In some ways, 2013 was more about potential than anything else.