Too often the positive stories go underappreciated.
In the first part of 2015, a North Platte student took time to help raise money for a family in need, two counties away. Park Hill South student council members organized and hosted a state-wide event. Athletes like Matthew Schmitt, Ethan Karsten, Colston DiBlasi, Ke-Shawn Hayes, Chris Nilsen and Darrien Case took high school programs to new heights. A Platte County R-3 teacher retired after 36 years in education and coaching.
Oh yeah, voters also approved a tax levy to help fund expansion for the R-3 district.
Those stories can’t be forgotten, even though aggravating road construction, concerning flooding and violent crime were a big part of 2015 in Platte County from January to June. Here’s a look back at all the top news — and sports — from the first half of the year. Check back next week for a review of the second half of 2015.
Man stabbed in altercation at Weston bar
An uninvited guest to a wedding reception eventually stabbed a patron at O’Malley’s Pub in Weston, Mo. On Monday, Jan. 12, Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd charged Mark Dewayne Cordell of North
Kansas City, Mo. with a Class B felony of assault and unclassified felony of armed criminal action for his role in a physical altercation that turned violent. According to a probable cause statement, Weston Police Department officers responded the previous night to reports of a victim stabbed at the bar, and that patrons had the suspect detained.
Upon arrival at about 10:30 p.m., an officer found Cordell, 54, on the ground in the parking lot being physically restrained. The officer then went inside to locate the victim, who was actively bleeding from a chest wound and being treated by fellow patrons who were off-duty medical personnel and law enforcement.
The victim was transported to the intensive care unit at North Kansas City Hospital but survived.
Witnesses said that Cordell entered a private wedding reception without an invitation and was asked to leave but refused to comply. The groom then asked the victim to escort Cordell out which resulted first in a verbal argument and then a physical confrontation once they were outside the bar, which ended with the victim stabbed in the chest.
City of Riverside settles lawsuit with former employee
After a nearly two-year legal battle, the City of Riverside and mayor Kathy Rose reached a settlement in an age discrimination lawsuit with a former employee.
David Blackburn, a former Riverside city administrator, settled out of court for $200,000 to cover lost wages, emotional distress and legal fees. The city approved payments totaling $100,000 to be made to him with a vote during a special meeting held Dec. 31, 2014.
Age 63 at the end of his 12-year tenure with the city, Blackburn filed suit in March of 2013 after his termination the previous year. He alleged that the city terminated him in July of 2012 due to his age and because Rose held a grudge against him.
Blackburn began working for the city in 2000 as the city administrator. A July 2012 press release from the city announced his departure as a resignation, and Rose thanked Blackburn for his service.
Organizations begin study on Centennial Bridge
The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) identified a need for a new structure to replace the Centennial Bridge, which spans between Platte County and Leavenworth, Kan. A study began last year and was brought to the public early in 2015 to help determine the best location, type, costs, potential funding mechanisms and preliminary environmental impact of a replacement.
About 150 people attended two open houses in mid-January.
Much of the discussion centered on turning the new span into a toll bridge. According to a KDOT study, average daily traffic for the Centennial Bridge is 13,989 vehicles.
The bridge is jointly owned by the Kansas and Missouri departments of transportation.
Currently, the structure is a narrow, two-lane roadway without shoulders. According to KDOT, improvements along K-92 in Kansas and Route 92 in Missouri are necessary to safely accommodate the increased traffic volumes in the area since the original construction in 1955.
KDOT has approximately $2.9 billion in projected annual transportation needs, but only $1.4 billion in projected annual revenue. The Missouri Department of Transportation released a report in January on its own budget shortfalls, making funding scarce for large structure replacements.
Murder-suicide rocks Platte County neighborhood
Two men were killed and a woman injured after a murder-suicide that happened on the evening of Friday, Jan. 16 in a residential neighborhood located in Kansas City North near Lake Waukomis.
According to police, James Jolly, 30, shot his uncle and mother in the driveway of a home located in the 5100 block of NW Linden Rd. The incident occurred at about 4 p.m., and responding law enforcement saw a man, later identified as Jolly, go into the house. A short while later, they heard a gunshot, and upon entering the house shortly after 5 p.m., found Jolly deceased as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot.
Dennis Honey, Jolly’s 69-year-old uncle and owner of the home, was pronounced dead at the scene. Jolly’s mother, whose name was not released, was taken to a Northland Hospital and recovered from her injuries.
With approval from the board of aldermen, the City of Platte City approved the expenditure of about $3,800 for the transport and placement of a 13-ton anchor off of the scrapped USS Platte (AO-186) — a decommissioned U.S. Navy Cimarron class fleet oiler. The money came out of the city’s general fund.
The anchor was purchased as the centerpiece of Platte City’s 175th anniversary celebration.
Southern Recycling in Amelia, La., had recently bought the ship from the United States to scrap, and offered up the anchor, which stands about 13 feet high and is about 12 feet wide from tip to tip. The city made the purchase in January and placed it at Settler’s Crossing Park at the end of Main Street later in the year.
The city is currently seeking a grant to pay for a permanent display setting for the historic relic.
North Platte student raises money for opponent
Courtney Kipping, a senior at North Platte High School and the starting point guard on the basketball team last year, organized a quick fundraiser for the Simmons family of Lawson, Mo., which included Keely Simmons — a player on Lawson’s basketball team.
Kipping helped organize the baking of about 300 cookies to sell at North Platte’s courtwarming basketball doubleheader against Lathrop on Friday, Feb. 6.
Along with straight donations, Kipping helped raise more than $150, which was presented to the Simmons family on Tuesday, Feb. 10 when North Platte traveled to Lawson for a KCI Conference doubleheader.
Two people shot during domestic disturbance
A 39-year-old man was taken into custody on Feb. 4 after he allegedly shot his wife before responding officers shot him.
Travis Potter remains in custody on felony charges in the incident. According to a probable cause statement, officers responded at around 3:45 a.m. to a residential cul-de-sac between North Congress Avenue and NW Prairie View Road, just south of Barry Road off of Interstate 29.
Upon arrival, they located a victim with a gunshot wound to her leg and found Potter standing beside her armed with a rifle. He refused to comply, and officers fired at him, striking him an undisclosed amount of times in the right arm.
Both parties were transported to area hospitals for treatment, and Potter was later taken into custody. The female victim required surgery but survived the attack.
Record 10 Park Hill players sign to play football in college
After helping lead Park Hill to the Class 5 state semifinals, 10 players signed collegiate scholarships in early February. Ryan Truvillion (Southeast Missouri State), Carter Anchors (Pittsburg State), Jamaal Brazil (Northwest Missouri State), Anthony Enriquez (Northwest Missouri State), Austin Reiter (Quincy), Clayton Cole (Quincy) Jordan Lashbrook (Quincy), Kenyatte Harris (Washburn), Jeremiah Benson (William Penn) and David Taylor (Baker) were the signees.
Sewer project completed, expected to spur growth
In mid-February, Kansas City Water Services completed a two-year, $40 million sewer expansion currently known as the Twin Creeks project. Originally known as the First and Second Creek Sewer Expansion Project when the ceremonial groundbreaking occurred on April 10, 2013, the infrastructure expands wastewater service to 13,000 acres of land for future development, which is ultimately expected to attract more than 70,000 residents.
The majority of the land is located between Interstate 435 (north boundary), Interstate 29 (west boundary, Highway 152 (south boundary) and U.S. Highway 169 (east boundary).
The development area represents roughly 2.5 times the acreage of Gladstone, Mo., and would provide the potential to expand Kansas City’s existing population by 15 percent, according to a news release.
The Twin Creeks project included the construction of 54,500 feet (almost 10.5 miles) of sewer main and two new pump stations.
West Platte approves major construction project
In February, the West Platte Board of Education gave tentative approval to move ahead with about $7 million in projects over the next two years, approximately. Multiple phases were involved, and a new athletic stadium with FieldTurf and all-weather eight-lane track were started first.
All projects will be funded through tax revenue received from Kansas City Power and Light’s Iatan power plant located north of Weston.
The stadium project was completed in December of 2015 with the next phase set to begin soon. The track will be ready for use this spring, and the first football game at the stadium will be next fall.
Park Hill wrestling makes it 3 straight state titles
Ke-Shawn Hayes and Colston DiBlasi finished their wrestling careers at Park Hill by each winning a third straight individual title in the Class 4 Missouri State Wrestling Championships. Coupled with Canten Marriott’s first state crown, the Trojans won a third straight team title with a school-record-tying 11 qualifiers and six medalists.
Hayes and DiBlasi, both now at Division I schools, became the third and fourth three-time champions in program history.
Platte County wrestling records another historic 1st
Platte County finished second in the Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships final team standings, winning the first state trophy at that level after coming in fifth each of the previous two years. Matthew Schmitt and Ethan Karsten — then juniors — both won their second straight individual titles.
The Pirates won five medals overall with three finalists.
QuikTrip expanding in Platte County
In early March, the new Generation 3 QuikTrip opened in Riverside, Mo. The store, located just across the intersection from the old location at NW Vivion Road and NW Gateway Avenue, features a full-service QT Kitchen, which offers various made-to-order food and drinks.
Later in the year, QuikTrip announced plans to build a similar store in Parkville, Mo. at the intersection of Highways 9 and 45.
Park Hill girls end lengthy playoff drought
Park Hill girls basketball won its first district title since 1995 by beating Staley in the Class 5 District 16 championship game in early March. They finished 19-9 with a loss to Liberty in a Class 5 sectional played Wednesday, March 11.
North Platte ousters embattled basketball coach
During a Wednesday, March 18 meeting, North Platte Board of Education members listened to public opinions for about 30 minutes on both sides of a controversy, which stemmed from allegedly inappropriate behavior around members of the boys basketball team. Doug Burnett, who recently finished up his first year with the school, twice missed games with no explanation from district officials when questioned about his absence.
In closed session, the board voted 5-2 to offer a math teaching contract to Burnett for the upcoming school year but 4-3 against him returning as a coach.
Park Hill South hosts state student council event
During the Park Hill School District’s spring break last year, more than 1,000 students from more than 200 schools across the state traveled to Park Hill South High School to take part in the Missouri Association of Student Councils (MASC) state convention. Members of the Park Hill South Student Council won the right to host the state-wide convention in an election held at MASC’s annual convention last year.
To bring the MASC convention to Kansas City, Park Hill South students devised a campaign based on the Mayhem character from Allstate Insurance commercials. A member reprised the role in various promotional items, assuring voters that their student council members would take care of the convention and handle the mayhem.
The convention ran from March 19-21.
Platte County honors forgotten state champion
Platte County hung the 14th athletic state championship banner in school history in March, this one honoring the first the school ever won, more than five decades ago.
A little bit of recent research verified that Platte County won the Class C Missouri State Indoor Track and Field Championship in 1961. Because the Missouri State High School Activities Association stopped sponsoring the sport in 1972, records were not well kept.
At the urging of graduate David Reineke, Platte County activities director Phil Dorman asked MSHSAA for verification of the championship, which the organization supplied. He then ordered the banner to mark the feat that occurred in March 1961 at Brewer Fieldhouse on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo.
The new banner hangs in the northwest corner of the Platte County High School gymnasium.
Previously, the 2000 wrestling team was believed to be the first team state champion in Platte County history. The wrestling team has won seven state titles total (2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010) in addition to three in football (2000, 2001 and 2002), one in girls basketball (2009), one in softball (2008) and one in baseball (2002).
Park Hill South just misses basketball state title
Playing in a state title game for the second time in school history, Park Hill South couldn’t finish off a mostly unexpected run. Blue Springs South captured the Class 5 state championship with a 71-57 victory Saturday, March 21 at Mizzou Arena in a quirky matchup of Kansas City area schools.
Park Hill South’s 15-game winning streak came to a close, and the Panthers took home another second-place trophy, first since finishing as runner-up in Class 3A 15 years earlier. They did set a school record for wins with a 26-4 final record, topping the mark of 21 set in 2000, to go along with a Suburban Conference Red Division title — the first unblemished crown in program history.
A monumental upset of Chaminade set up the opportunity with the Panthers winning their semifinal matchup.
4 charged in theft of massive gun cache
A total of four persons were charged in the theft of about 70 firearms worth about $20,000 that occurred Sunday, March 22 at a Lake Waukomis, Mo. residence.
A short investigation led authorities to two neighbors and an accomplice in the crime. David Grant, Andrea Jacobs and Westley Watts were originally charged with Joshua Campbell located and charged later on.
Grant, who turned 33 the day of the crime, and Jacobs, 30, were in a relationship and lived together at 773 NW South Shore Dr. The guns and other property were stolen from 775 NW South Shore Dr.
Park Hill District adopts long-range facilities plan
The Park Hill Board of Education voted in March to move forward with a long-range facility plan paving the way for the eventual elimination of the sixth-grade center.
This brings to an end a nearly two-year process to set the future course for the district to address enrollment growth. As this is a future plan based on population growth, no timetable for implementation was set.
The board approved Concept A, which calls for the construction of two new elementary schools and a fourth middle school over a period of multiple years. The current sixth grade center would be eliminated.
All four middle schools would house sixth through eighth grade students. Additionally, a center would be built to create an alternative third high school, which students from both current high schools could attend for special programs, such as the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS).
The number of schools in the plan will allow for a clean feeder pattern, with no need to split classes of elementary students as they move to middle and eventually high school.
R-3 voters approve tax levy
The Platte County R-3 tax levy proposal passed with overwhelming voter support in early April, setting in a $29-million plan to help handle continued growth management challenges in the district’s buildings. A similar levy failed in 2012, but about 57 percent voted in support this time around.
The $0.43 per $100 of assessed valuation will fund extensive construction projects in both the north and south ends of the district, aimed at increasing classroom space.
Platte County now plans to close Rising Star Elementary (a kindergarten-only facility in Platte City), annex Paxton School to become part of the high school, renovate and add on to Pathfinder Elementary and build a second elementary school in Platte City, which will be located off of Fourth Street with eventual access to Kentucky Avenue. Siegrist Elementary would be converted from serving first through third grades to K-5, the same configuration as the new elementary building.
Springston unexpectedly resigns at Park Hill
The Park Hill Board of Education agreed to accept the resignation of superintendent Dr. Scott Springston on Monday, April 13.
The Park Hill School district issued a release and said Springston, 44, would go on leave effective immediately to deal with an unspecified health issue. The resignation became effective on June 30. A public records request showed that a February police report involving Springston and his wife revealed the possibility of alcohol abuse. The Park Hill Board of Education held special unscheduled meetings concerning “personnel matters” on April 7, 8 and 9.
The board held another meeting on April 13 to authorize the resignation agreement with Springston and placing him on administrative leave through June 30, 2015.
Election result helps kickstart Platte City road project
A major roadway project in Platte City started thanks to the passage of the Platte County R-3 School District’s tax levy.
The City of Platte City and district officials agreed on the extension of Kentucky Avenue from its current terminus at Bent Oak Court to Fourth Street. The new roadway will help service the district’s new elementary building set to be built on adjacent property after voters approved a property tax increase last week that will fund $29 million worth of construction projects.
Back in November of 2014, Platte City voters gave 66-percent approval to a no-tax ballot question allowing the city ability to issue $2.7 million in bonds that can only be used toward this specific road project. Planning began for the lengthier extension in 2011 and 2012 before a failed tax levy question put the project on hold.
The extension will make Kentucky Avenue the long-desired east-west thoroughfare for Platte City.
Platte County’s Patterson ends historic coaching career
Jan Patterson retired as a teacher and coach in the Platte County R-3 School District after 36 years. She left a lasting legacy through her time working with female athletes in a multitude of sports.
Farley dies at age 86
A long-time Platte County attorney and relative to the founder of Farley, Mo. died at the age of 86 in April.
James W. “Jim” Farley practiced law in the area for more than six decades. He was also active in politics and an extremely influential resident of Platte County. Farley influenced countless lives through his diverse interests both professionally and personally — a one-of-a-kind renaissance man cut from a very rare cloth.
Born in 1928, Farley graduated from Parkville High School in 1945 and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Missouri in 1952. Shortly after, he set up his law practice in Farley, Mo. — founded by his great, great grandfather in 1850 — and remained there until 1991 when he moved it to Main Street in Platte City.
Farley, a noted Democrat, didn’t retire until January of 2014. But his office never left Platte County, and he never truly stopped working in law.
Road work snarls traffic along Interstate 29
In April, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) began extensive work to rehabilitate 12 bridges along the Interstate 29 corridor that traverses Platte County.
The work lasted about six months and included lane reductions, narrow lanes and ramp closures. Speeds were reduced to 55 miles per hour for various periods from just north of Platte City to just north of Riverside, causing delayed travel times.
Nash repeats as champion for North Platte track
In her final high school competition, North Platte’s Regan Nash successfully defended her 100-meter dash title and collected three medals in the Class 2 Missouri State Track and Field Championships. She finished her career as a two-time state champion — the only individual titles in program history — with nine career top-eight finishes at state.
Nash won the 100, placed third in the 200 and ran a leg on the fourth-place 4x100 relay. Those events accounted for 21 of North Platte’s 28 team points, which put them just three away from the top four in the final team standings and the corresponding team trophy.
Man indicted in 2014 murder
A Platte County grand jury indicted Zakary Mergy on a pair of felony charges, including second-degree murder, on Friday, May 29. The 28-year-old from Kansas City, Kan. was arrested in late December of 2014 and charged with murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of 27-year-old Francisco Vargas, who was found dead in his residence near Parkville, Mo. on Nov. 1.
According to a probable cause statement, Mergy gave various convoluted stories during repeated interviews with authorities in an attempt to provide an alibi.
Mergy and another man, who has not been charged in connection with the crime, were found to have been in the area around the time of the crime being committed. Mergy also gave details about the crime known only to investigators, according to the court documents.
Park Hill’s Nilsen, South’s Case score big wins at state track
Competing in the Missouri State Track and Field Championships for the first time, Chris Nilsen, then a junior, set three more school records and broke the state meet mark for pole vault. He won the Class 5
pole vault competition at 15 feet, 6 inches but went on to become the first vaulter in Missouri history to clear 17-0 in state competition.
The first boys pole vault champion in Park Hill history, Nilsen spent all year rising to new heights. He set the school record originally at 15-3 before upping that to 15-7 and then 16-0 during District 8 and Sectional 4 competition before besting that mark three times at state.
Darrien Case, a senior at Park Hill South, held off the second-lap challenge from a flurry of contenders to win the Class 5 title in the 800-meter run and became the second individual state champion in program history. He finished in 1 minute, 53.63 seconds — bettering his school record set in a victory at the prestigious KU Relays earlier in the season by .02 of a second.
West Platte baseball wins another state trophy
Back in the state semifinals for the second time in three years, West Platte lost its Class 2 semifinal to Valle Catholic, and rain forced the Bluejays to share the third-place trophy with Norwood. Officials canceled the third-place game due to the inclement weather.
West Platte now has three state trophies in program history after going 19-6 in 2015.
Park starts celebration
Confetti filled the air June 11 as Park University kicked off its 140th anniversary celebration with a ceremony held in June at Copley Quad on the Parkville, Mo. campus. Titled “Hail Park,” the ceremony marked the passing of 140 years as an institute of higher learning with speakers and the dedication of a new sculpture displayed along the patio. Rita Blitt, a Park graduate and renowned artist, created the work, entitled “Infinity.”
The kickoff celebration started a planned year of events.