Dear Chamber Supporters:
It was just a week ago we were reeling from the devastating 10-inch rain which drowned our community. The official word is the storm concentrated on an area beginning at Lone Star in Douglas County south to about Rock Creek Road in Franklin County. For the most part heavy rains began and the squall didn’t move…it just hovered over the area for most of the night. In their report to City Commissioners, Franklin County Emergency Management Director, Alan Radcliffe and City of Ottawa Public Works Director, Michael Haeffele, told commissioners everyone was ready and the system worked as it’s supposed to….we were just overwhelmed with water.
Eight-Mile Creek was the main conduit which brought most of the water from the northern areas of the storms into Ottawa…Eight-Mile drains into the Marias des Cygnes just west of town. The river already full from discharges at Pomona and Melvern Lakes rose 11 feet in one hour between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00. Long before the water from north of town reached Ottawa, the flood system designed by the Corp of Engineers was overcome. Once the already swollen river began to rise, the retention outlet drains are shut at which time all water is pumped over the levee with the 4 pumps Ottawa employees as part of our flood-control plan. There was so much water, the 4 pumps couldn’t keep up…eventually the next day 11 more pumps were brought in from surrounding communities but by this time we were in salvage mode.
All in all our City officials deserve a big pat on the back…many worked all night under extreme conditions to mitigate a worsening situation that was unavoidable under all circumstances. Citizens need to realize concrete and development areas cause water to move faster with more force…in the storm of Summer of 2019 we experienced this firsthand.
Commissioners also learned on Monday the signal lighting at Main and Keokuk Streets will be in “flashing-only” mode for a month until parts can be received to fix the lights…if you travel this direction, please exercise patience getting through the intersection. Our north side stores are slowly beginning to reopen…Smoked Creations was open for business Tuesday, 3-Guys Liquor was open on Thursday, Kansas State Bank plans to reopen the lobby on Monday. Slowly but surely we are overcoming the aftermath. Thanks to all who worked during the storm and who have worked this week to recover from it.
The Kansas Department of Commerce mobile workforce development bus was in Ottawa Thursday and parked in front of the Chamber (pictures here). Kansas is divided into districts of which Franklin County is in District 2…the name of our district is Heartland Works. Many will remember once upon a time communities had unemployment offices…now we have workforce centers. The District 2 is served by centers in Lawrence, Topeka and Manhattan. Recognizing that individuals who are unemployed sometimes don’t have transportation, District 2 Board purchased a mobile unit which travels to communities in our district without a workforce center. I’m honored to currently be the Chair of the District 2 Board. Kansas Works helps individuals who are unemployed or under-employed to advance their training and work skills to allow them to become more employable. In addition they work with Kansas companies/communities to learn what specific skills are needed and how they can provide a more work-ready labor force. The bus will be back in Ottawa October 3 and December 5…each day from 9:30-12:00. If you know someone who could use these services or a company needing additional workers give me a call…I will make sure you are put in touch with the correct people at Heartland Works.
New Healthcare and Education Professionals:
The Chamber’s annual recognition of new healthcare and education professionals which have moved into our community within the last year took place on Wednesday this week (here are a few pictures). Every year in August we take a moment to say “welcome to Ottawa” to all the new individuals who are involved with either providing healthcare or educating local citizens. It’s fun to meet the new professionals which will immediately become immersed in our lives and the life of the community virtually by the jobs they perform. The list is always impressive…here is the complete list. There is always a good representation of Chamber members and elected officials to greet our newest community members. We look forward to them joining our ranks not only in their professions but in our churches and community organizations as well…welcome to Ottawa!!
The aforementioned luncheon was held this year in the newly remodeled Cyclone Room at the high school (you might have noticed some of the changes from my previous pictures). It feels refreshed, clean and new. And wow…is the lunchroom different from what I remember in high school. The school lunch service, OPAA, provided a sandwich, soup, salad and yogurt bar from which attenders could choose their lunch forte…really good! After the program everyone was given the opportunity to roam the halls to see and experience all the “new” in the building…the only off-limits was the new performing arts building which is still under construction. For those who are familiar with the building, you still see the same basic building design with the 3 familiar hallways…but that’s about it. All the rooms are new and many creative study spaces have been incorporated into the building design. This is not your granddaddies high school…it is state of the art from the time you enter the building through new security to every classroom and study space. Here are a few pictures from the locker rooms which were, for the most part, formerly dungeons. When given a chance you should definitely tour the new high school…it’s amazing!
Two New Downtown Businesses:
Our downtown continues to flourish…I’ve mentioned several times the construction project at 4th and Main Streets. Josh Walker told me this week the name of the new establishment will be The Corner Market…here is a link to their Facebook. You can see construction pictures and start to follow their progression.
Another new business opening Monday next week is The Pie Pit at 306 South Main Street…here is their Facebook page. They are partnering with a familiar face from downtown, Teri Sutton which formerly operated Primitive Treasures. You can get a sense for what they will be from their Facebook page…as I learn more about them I will provide more information in the weeks ahead.Here are a few pictures of what to expect.
The roof is almost complete on the largest pavilion and the electrical installation work made great strides this week. Also the restrooms are getting close to being prepared to install the fixtures…things are moving fast now. Here are this week’s pictures. Plans are moving ahead for our grand opening on Friday, September 6…mark your calendars. We will have a ribbon cutting at 8:00 that morning and then from 6:00-10:00 that same evening aTravis Marvin Concert. This will be an “all community event” to enjoy this new space and get a feel for what we can do in our downtown moving forward. I will keep you posted as more details become available.
Eggs & Issues:
It is still not too late to get tickets to our annual summer political forum, Eggs & Issues…you can register here. Kansas Secretary of Commerce, David Toland will be this year’s speaker…his department is so important to our community and all Kansas communities. Commerce works to find and develop leads from companies and business which are considering relocating in Kansas. Additionally Secretary Toland will discuss the new Missouri/Kansas Compact recently signed by both states and enlighten attenders with all the changes he is making in the Department of Commerce. David grew up just down the street in Iola, Kansas…he understands SE Kansas which is a great break for communities like Ottawa. AT&T is once again sponsoring our event which will be held in the AdventHealth Conference rooms on August 22 at 7:30 a.m. We usually sell out for this event – seating is limited…get your seat reserved today!
Herbert Franklin Sheldon was an early Ottawa leader, former businessman, mayor and state senator…so was Charles Gillette (except the part about being a state senator). Mr. Sheldon built the house at 718 South Cedar for his residence but down through the years it was transitioned into a dormitory for Ottawa University. Charles and Sue Gillette recently bought the former Sheldon Hall and donated it to the university so it can once again serve as university housing…this morning we officially cut the ribbon and dedicated the now “Gillette House” (pictures here). What a beautiful home it is…ornate, well cared for and what a fun place to live for a college student. Currently there are 8 OU women living on the second floor…when the 3rd floor is done it can house up to 20 students. Thanks to Charles and Sue for preserving this part of Ottawa’s history. This property is significant not only for its architecture and the role it played in OU’s history…but also because of its connection with two formerly prominent Ottawa mayors which were and are dedicated citizens. It is a beautiful house which now has another new life.
For Cherry and me it was a busy week of grandkids with swim parties, pizza party, baking with grandma and even tea parties…Max and Newt spent most of the week at our house and now grandpa and grandma are spent. Here are pictures of their adventures this week. There were also parties with cousins…pictures here.
Got to run now…busy afternoon. Talk to you next week…
Onward ~ John
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce