It’s still okay to be in a St. Patrick celebratory mood for the weekend…even though the official day passed Thursday. Many in town wore green shirts and blouses but others went further to dress up in shamrock regalia…or I even saw a few leprechauns (couple pictures of local Irishmen?). Last evening Chamber members gathered at Not Lost Brewery for some special St. Paddy’s brew (yes…there was a green beer), and to eat bangers and mash (few pictures here). Fun time…and we were also helping celebrate the brewery’s third anniversary of opening.  
 
Dusty and Melody Gentry do a good job of brewing different beers and creating a fun and unique environment…something that’s great to have in downtown Ottawa. On a regular basis, the local brewpub located in our historic downtown features small batches of hand-crafted brews that include traditional beer styles, as well as experimental offerings. Dusty and Melody say, “though we wander, we are not lost”…hence – Not Lost Brewery!!
 
The celebration continues all weekend…stop in to congratulate the Gentrys, help them celebrate their 3-years, and watch some basketball. Be sure to wear green!
 
Kansas Senate Redistricting:
 
The Kansas Senate this week passed it’s version of the new Kansas Senate redistrict map…this remap would be in place for the next 10-years. This too, like the Kansas Congressional re-district map passed earlier this year, makes big changes for Franklin County voters (click here to see the proposed map). For the last 10-years, Kansas has been lumped with counties to the south and east…Anderson, Allen, Linn and parts of Miami and Bourbon Counties. If this new proposal becomes law, Franklin County would be split with the north half (including all of Ottawa) voting with parts of Douglas, all of Osage, and parts of Shawnee Counties…the south half would continue to be represented by Senator Caryn Tyson and remain with the counties to the south and east but lose Bourbon County but adding Coffey, Wilson and Woodson Counties. The Senator who would be the current incumbent for the north half of the new Franklin County senate district is Senator Rick Kloos, a Republican from Shawnee County (you can visit his Facebook page here). All this change is required because of population shifts as revealed by the 2020 census and the Constitution’s requirement of even populated voting districts.
 
Kansas House Redistricting:
 
The Kansas House hasn’t yet passed their new redistricting plan. Different proposals floating around for our current Kansas House districts, don’t cause that much change for us here in Ottawa…which the Kansas Senate map proposal and the U.S. Congressional map’s four Kansas Congressional seats will create for local voters. Blaine Finch would still be the incumbent for a larger portion of Franklin County (including Ottawa). Franklin County as proposed in most of the maps, would remain fairly whole (picture of proposed map here) except for Wellsville (currently represented by Mark Samsel). Osage County in the proposals is removed from our district. 
 
It should be noted that once a body (either the House or Senate) passes their proposal for their particular chamber of the Capitol, the other side generally agrees with the other’s work and sends the re-map proposals to the Governor for final approval or veto. If things change too much, I’ll let you know.
 
New Franklin County Emergency Manager (EM) Director:
 
Since 2004 Franklin County has been served by Alan Radcliffe as the county EM director. Alan began his actual career with Franklin County in 1980 when he was 17-years old and worked his way up and through various departments…and, when in 2004 he was appointed as the EM Director, it was the first time for Franklin County to have a full-time Emergency Manager Director …a position he has held until he recently retired in December 2021. In February, the county appointed a new director, Tom Winter (picture here) who spoke with Rotary members a week ago. This was my first time meeting Tom, but he has been in the department since 2015 and is now promoted. Most recently he served on the COVID-19 emergency response team. He is credited with bringing a wealth of experience, technological savvy, high energy and a great sense of humor to the position. Tom shared the most predominant disasters in Franklin County is flooding…guess it goes with living close to creeks and rivers! Still…in the case of major fires, tornados or other weather-related events (or pandemics), it’s good to have a steady and experienced hand at the wheel. Congratulations to Tom…and to Alan too. Alan deserves a great retirement for keeping us all safer this last 30+ years!!
 
Prairie Paws Animal Shelter:
 
It was good to get to Prairie Paws Animal Shelter this morning and “officially” welcome Vanessa Cowie, Director of the shelter to Ottawa (pictures here). She has been on the job for a little over a year…but, as we are so used to hearing…due to COVID, this was the first opportunity to join them in the shelter, get updates, and meet Vanessa. Prairie Paws has served our community for over 70-years…but in 2010 the new facility was built on K-68 east of Ottawa and the old and outdated shelter on Seventeenth Street was closed. Some still remember Bea Martin Peck…the originator of the shelter and longtime advocate of our furry friends. A very good and prominent picture of Bea hangs in the lobby of the now 12-year old facility which is very modern…but currently, with the help of a benefactor, is undergoing a renovation with a new surgery suite and outdoor doggy play runs. Many, many thanks to Vanessa and her staff…they provide such a needed and important service to Franklin County!! I’ll add this too…the shelter is always looking for volunteers to care for animals as well as serve on the board (2 open vacancies). If you need to get your “animal fix”, but for whatever reason can’t own or adopt a cat or dog, you might find this a very enjoyable place to donate some of your spare time.  
 
City Considering Cedar Street Improvements:
 
Still a little early to say this is for sure happening, but at their last meeting the City Commission approved the Public Works Department to seek bids for the continued improvement of Cedar Street from Thirteenth to Fifteenth Street. A number of years ago, the City improved a large segment of Cedar from First to Seventh Streets. At that time, the original plan was to complete the entire rest of the street in 5-years…but then the grant they were using to do the upgrade dried up. Now new money has been identified and also…the storm sewer in the area is in bad need of improvement to help handle major runoff created, in part by just more hard surfacing in the area. Along with traffic increases from more Ottawa University students, the hospital and other medical-related businesses and residential traffic, this major Ottawa corridor is an essential artery of our east side and must be maintained at a high level. The continuation of the project will of course depend on how bids come in…but looking positive for this to be a major construction and detour zone this summer. I’ll keep you posted. 
 
Daylight Savings Time:
 
Let me be the last to remind you to move your clocks forward an hour…should have done it last weekend (except of course for the microwave, car, and many random clocks which always require thought as to how to reset!). For those who hate this biannual ritual, this will make you happy…the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill to make daylight savings time permanent (article here). First of all, it’s a very rare occurrence in today’s climate, for the Senate to vote unanimously…for anything!! Some Senators made the statement that science is now proving the changing of time twice a year is leading to sleep deprivation and other health problems! Huh…funny they accept this science so readily, but half the body rejects the science of vaccinations!?!
 
All this said…it must still go to the House of Representatives and then the President for signature. However this remains as the biggest push to accomplish this in quite a number of years…we’ll see!!
 
My family celebrated March birthdays last weekend with a Mexican-themed party (pictures here)…complete with a piñata and pin-the-tail on the donkey!! Kids all had a great time playing together…and of course eating cake and ice cream.
 
Many will be glued to the NCAA Basketball tournament this weekend as we narrow the field to the final 8! KU has made the advance to play another game…my team never made the hunt. It does sound as if we’re getting a new men’s basketball coach at Kansas State. Probably time…we’ll see if it makes a difference.
 
I’ll mention one last thing…it is fun to see Zach Greinke back with the Royals where he began his career and won a Cy Young award here. Now 38, I’m sure he’s past his prime…he probably isn’t as good as he once was…but I’m sure he is as good once as he ever was!!
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John  
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000