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A Fourth celebration

The sky was lit up on July 3 and 4 as several local communities celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks.

Hiawatha celebrated the night of Friday, July 3, with a fireworks celebration along Windmill Lane for the many local people who came out for the event. Also Friday night were fireworks in Everest and Sabetha.

While the Fourth of July has always brought about a big celebration in Robinson that included a pancake breakfast, Nail Keg Derby, parade, ice cream social and fireworks, the Robinson Lions Club announced that this year’s celebration would be canceled due to COVID-19.

However, Horton went ahead with some of festivities that included a fishing derby, boat parade, live music and fireworks on Mission Lake. Highland and Bern were also local communities that had fireworks and other festivities on Saturday for the Fourth of July.


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County prepares for early voting, primary election

The Brown County Clerk’s Office is preparing for early voting for the upcoming August primary election.

The county clerk’s offices reminds residents that all city positions are “nonpartisan” — the candidate does not declare a party affiliation. This year there were not more than three filing in the same party for any of the open positions and so those do not require a primary election. All 2020 city positions will be voted on in November in the general election.

All other positions such as township and county — if they have at least two in the same party that have filed — will be decided upon in the primary election, set for Aug. 4.

Voter registration deadline is July 14. Anyone can register vote, but those who are currently registered as a Democrat or Republican who would like to change parties won’t be able to do so until Sept. 1. Unaffiliated voters may affiliate up to and on Election Day and vote a regular ballot. First-time voters wishing to register to vote may do so until close of voter registration on July 14. After then, any voter wanting to register for the first time or change their party affiliation from Democrat or Republican to Democrat or Republican must vote a provisional ballot.

Early voting will begin in July with dates as follows:

July 15: 9 to 11 a.m. at Maple Grove in Hiawatha

July 16: 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Morrill Community Center and 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Everest Northfield Community Center.

July 17: Early voting begins at 9 a.m. at the Brown County Clerk’s office.

County and Judicial Filings (Primary and General)

District Judge District 22, Div 2 (four-year term) — incumbent John Weingart (R) has refiled and is running unopposed.

District 2 Brown County Commission (four-year term) — Lamar Shoemaker (R) has filed for the position currently held by Keith Olsen, who did not refile.

District 3 Brown County Commission (four-year term) — Dwight A Kruse (R) has filed for re-election and is being challenged by William Pollock (R).

Brown County Clerk (four-year term): Dawn Boyles (R) has filed for the position currently held by Melissa Gormley, who initially filed for re-election, but withdrew. Boyles is running unopposed.

Brown County Treasurer (four-year term): Betty (BJ) Spiker (R) and Ann Olson (R) have filed for the position currently held by Cheryl Lippold, who did not file for re-election.

Brown County Register of Deeds (four-year term): Nellie Brockhoff (R) filed for re-election and is running unopposed.

Brown County Attorney (four-year term): Kevin Hill (R) has filed for re-election and is running unopposed.

Brown County Sheriff (four-year term): John D. Merchant Sr. (R) has filed for re-election and is being challenged by Dennis Entrikin (R).

Hiawatha City Filings (General Election)

Commissioner of police (four-year term): Dustin Williams has filed for re-election and is being challenged by L. Evans Woehlecke.

Commissioner of streets and parks (four-year term): Becky Shamburg has filed for re-election and is being challenged by Paul Mendez and Nicholas Blevins.

Commissioner of Utilities (four-year term): Toni J. Hull has filed for re-election and is being challenged by Brian Shefferd.

Other Filings

Fairview City Council: Mayor Art Vonderschmidt has filed for re-election and city council member Doug Bletscher has filed for re-election. The position of John Armstrong’s city council position is up for election, but no one has filed.

Irvin Township: Curtis Blevins (D) has filed for re-election as trustee. Also up for vote is the position of treasurer, currently held by JoLynn Siebenmorgen, who has not filed.

Padonia Township: Bradley Swearingen (R) has filed for re-election as trustee. Also up for election is the position of treasurer, currently held by Jeffrey Gormley, who has not filed for re-election.

Hamlin Township: Victor Menold (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Joseph Noll (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Morrill Township: Ryan Menold (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Brent Wikle (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Walnut Township: Zon Middendorf (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Brett Trentman (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Hiawatha Township: David Pfister (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and is being challenged by Michael Patton (R) and John D. Merchant Jr. (R). Larry Weast has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Robinson Township: Allen Torkelson (R) has filed for re-election as trustee. Bryce Tryon (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Washington Township: Laurence Berger (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Joe Bunck (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Mission Township: The position of trustee, currently held by Jerry Gifford, is up for election — Gifford did not refile. Rodney Rice (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Powhattan Township: Frank Mueseler (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Ronald Rettele has filed for re-election as treasurer.

There are also several precinct committee positions up for election.


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Brown County Commission urges use of masks

The Brown County Commission voted Monday to strongly suggest the use of masks in public, but officials decided not to mandate them this time.

The decision, which had been tabled a week prior, came after hearing from individual commissioners, as well as health-care professionals. County Health Director Chastity Schumann addressed the commission, which held the meeting via internet and a video feed on the courthouse lawn, and updated the group on cases in local counties, ending with a recommendation to strongly suggest the use of masks in public places.

Schumann noted that Nemaha, Jackson and Doniphan counties all went with recommendations on masks rather than mandates. Completed tests in Brown County now number 665, with 15 positive cases, no hospitalizations and 14 recovered. Schumann also stated that the newest case was the first since June 17, and that the majority of positive COVID-19 positive tests have been work-related — some of which were at places where people were required to wear masks — and only one case was believed to have been related to a mass gathering of more than 50 people.

Hiawatha Community Hospital CEO John Broberg spoke to the commission as well advocating for the use of masks. Broberg said the Hiawatha Hospital has taken more than 900 calls and performed more than 500 tests. A resident of Johnson County, Broberg said that this weekend every business he went to now requires masks to enter and those businesses were still busy.

Commissioner Dwight Kruse noted that Brown County has been below the average of percentage of positive tests. Commissioner Richard Lehmkuhl warned that any decision made Monday could be reversed at any time.

Commissioner Keith Olsen said he has gone back and forth on the issue. He said he is thankful for citizens sharing their concerns and urged a common-sense approach to mass gatherings. Olsen also spoke about the previous meeting, stating his displeasure at not having law enforcement present and also with the interaction between the commission and County Attorney Kevin Hill.

Hill responded by stating that he did not appreciate Olsen’s comments, and that he has served the County well for years and will continue to do so. Hill also said that no decision could have been made last Tuesday as the governor’s decree was not in place until Thursday and that the commission was not in a legal position to take action at that juncture.

Olsen then made a motion, given fewer COVID-19 cases in Brown County, the difficulty of the enforcing a face mask mandate, and after consulting with public health officials, that the county should strongly encourage but not mandate the use of masks in public. Lehmkuhl seconded the motion and the vote was unanimous, passing Resolution 2020-14.


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Commissioners discuss budget prior to publication

The Hiawatha City Commission met on Monday evening, and a key point of the discussion was the publication of the proposed 2021 budget.

Commissioner Becky Shamburg expressed her concerns about dropping the entire proposed 6 mills. Shamburg said that the city values department heads and felt that a 5-mill decrease would give them more room to work to keep performing at the level they do, noting that the extra mill would only cost the average property owner around $13 for the year. Shamburg’s opinion was opposed by Commissioner Toni Hull, who felt that a 6-mill decrease was promised to citizens when they voted in the quarter-cent recreation sales tax.

After discussion, the commission voted to send the proposed budget for publication and set a public hearing for the next regular meeting on July 20.

The commission voted to approve the consent agenda, which included payment to Crawford, Murphy and Tilley in the amount of $1,190, a payment to Arvest Equipment Finance in the amount of $32,266.65 and a payment to the State of Kansas in the amount of $62,918.75. The group also voted to raise the hourly rate for records requests from $18 to $20 per hour.