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Here comes Peter Cottontail...

Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail — Hippity Hoppity Easter’s on it’s way!

Well, Easter was Sunday, and unfortunately, instead of having its regular Easter Egg Hunt, the Hiawatha Chamber and Visitors Bureau offered a distant Easter greeting from the world’s biggest bunny.

The HCVB caught the Easter Bunny hiding eggs in a resident’s yard and videoed him sending an Easter greeting to all the youth of Hiawatha.

Chamber officials are also offering a variety of “social distancing” activities with scavenger hunts throughout town in an effort to brighten up everyone’s “shelter in place” the past few weeks.

These kicked off in March, with a different theme each week — residents could place bears, hearts, flowers and bunnies in their windows and people who spotted them could submit photos. Each week had a different theme.

Those who took part and submitted photos, were entered into a drawing to win $100 in Chamber Bucks, sponsored by Stacie’s Dance Academy.

Chamber Administrator Sarah Kleopfer said this week is the fourth and final week of the Distancing Scavenger Hunt with the theme of hearts. Look for windows with hearts and submit your photo to the HCVB through Facebook.

Also, watch the HCVB’s Facebook page for information on new scavenger hunts and activities to do, she said, noting that the newest scavenger hunt will start April 20.

In addition, HCVB reminds the residents that Chamber Bucks are still available for purchase to use at participating Chamber businesses. While many of these businesses are closed currently, the Chamber Bucks can be used when they reopen to support the small businesses.

The downtown office is closed currently, but the HCVB is doing business via email at hiawathachamber@rainbowtel.net and phone at 742-7136.


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Fairview resident killed in house fire

The Brown County Sheriff reported that a Fairview resident was killed early Thursday morning in a house fire there.

Sheriff John Merchant reported that at approximately 3:19 a.m., the Brown County Sheriffs office received a 911 call reporting a house fire in the vicinity of US 36 Highway and Sycamore Street in Fairview. Responding agencies were Fairview, Sabetha and Powhattan Fire departments, Squad 48, Town and Country ambulance, Brown County Sheriffs deputies and Sac and Fox Police.

“The fire claimed the life of one of the residents of the home,” Sheriff Merchant said. “No foul play is suspected.”

The name of the victim is withheld pending notification of the family.

“We are very thankful to have a great group of emergency responders that arrive quickly to take care of situations such as this,” he said. “The Brown County Sheriffs office would like to express our condolences to the family on the loss of their loved one.”

Sheriff Merchant said the fire marshals office has been notified as standard procedure to investigate the cause of the fire.


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Fire district discussions continue at county level

Members of the Hiawatha Fire Department approached the Brown County Commission Monday morning about forming a fire district within the county.

The regular weekly meeting was closed to the public, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, but was shown via Facebook live. Guests were able to call in or join the meeting via Zoom conference.

Representing the Hiawatha Fire Department was member Corey Lay, who talked to the commissioners about forming a fire district. This idea first came to the Hiawatha City Commission a couple of months ago, as the Hiawatha Fire Department approached the city about joining with Hiawatha and Padonia Townships – areas that the HFD already covers for fire calls — to form a fire district, with a proposed start date of January 2021.

The change from a fire department to a fire district would move the groups funding and governance out from under the city’s scope and funding would occur through taxes collected within the district.

Earlier this year, members of the HFD approached the city commission after first meeting with members of the Wathena Fire District to get some information on logistics and set out parameters should a district be formed.

Among some of the department’s main concerns centered around ownership of fire department property. Currently operating under the umbrella of the city, the fire department’s vehicles, facilities and gear are owned by the City of Hiawatha, and questions of the future status of that ownership were brought to the commission. The Hiawatha City Commission was in favor of the fire district, and commissioners said the department’s equipment and most of the fire trucks would be signed over to the district if it was formed. The commission agreed that the building could also be signed over to the Fire District, as the city had no interest in maintaining the facility.

One truck still has $91,000 left on a loan and City Administrator Mike Nichols said that bonds securing the loan would need to be paid, as the bond specifies the use of the truck for a city fire department. City Attorney Andy Delaney recommended the matter of the fire truck be tabled until after the fire department requested a petition from the Brown County Commission to start a fire district.

Lay told the commissioners that the department members had spoken to area land owners about the possibility of forming a fire district and was met with a favorable response. At Monday’s meeting, county commissioners seemed in favor of starting a fire district, but wanted a little more information from other fire departments in the county – such as Robinson, Everest, Powhattan and Fairview – to see if there was interest. County Attorney Kevin Hill advised that the state statute allows for a district to include a city of the second class if the entire county or majority is included in the proposed fire district.

If the majority of the county does not want a district, then the county can establish a fire district not including the city of Hiawatha that the City can later petition to be included in, Hill added.

After discussion with the commissioners, Hill advised Lay that the petition that would be filed to establish the district would need to be signed by owners of 60 percent of the land that would be within the proposed district.

Hill said a petition is one nice way of hearing from the people who will be taxes for these services through a fire district.


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Teammates offers opportunity to mentor to kids

A new program is being implemented in the Hiawatha school district that offers a chance to mentor to kids.

Kim Krauter, counselor at Hiawatha Middle School, is working with several other school officials — along with a handful of community members — to get a program called “Teammates” up and going by the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

Teammates is a mentoring program that originated in Nebraska and is all school-based, Krauter said. That means that mentors meet the students at the school for interaction — for safety purposes there are no meet-ups that are not supervised at the school during academic hours.

Krauter said now is the time to get mentors signed up in order to have the program ready by fall. She needs the mentors and from there, will know how many students can be signed up.

Currently, the program is geared toward students in 5th-8th grades as a starting point, but Krauter said there could come a time when the program could expand.

The purpose of the program is to match a student with a mentor — an adult that the student may have something in common with.

“It’s really matched by their strengths,” she said. “Mentors will come to the school and we will find places for them to get together — play games and other activities.”

The ideal time would be during SSR/lunch — which provides about an hour during the middle of the academic day, which also opens up some classrooms for such activities.

Krauter is encouraging adults in the community — age 18 and older — to contact her if they are interested in being a mentor to a middle school student. She said each adult goes through a background check, provided by the Teammates organization. While start-up costs are minimal, Krauter noted that they are obtaining some funding from Greenbush, along with local funding from USD 415 for the program.

“We don’t have a lot of costs initially, but once we get off the ground we may search for additional funding and create a budget after the first year, as we see what our costs are,” Krauter said.

Krauter hopes to have mentors in place by the time school starts in the fall and she plans an assembly day at the school to introduce the program and get kids signed up. A planned implementation day would be Sept. 9.

Other members of the Advisory Council include Principal Kylie Gatz, Special Education Director Becky Shamburg, Superintendent Lonnie Moser, along with a few community members.

Anyone interested in being a mentor with Teammates can contact Krauter at kkrauter@usd415.org or call the Hiawatha Middle School at 742-4172.


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Hiawatha School District takes a step forward in adding back wrestling program

The Hiawatha School Board took a step Monday night in bringing back a wrestling program to the high school for the next academic year.

The approval by board members was a preliminary step in response to a proposal to develop a wrestling coop with Doniphan West High School. HHS Athletic Director Kim Lillie introduced the proposal to school board members at Monday’s regular monthly meeting, which was held via Zoom conference.

Hiawatha has not had its own wrestling program in several years. It was cut due to low numbers at the high school and the middle school levels and local youth wrestling programs were seeing lower numbers as well. Several years ago Hiawatha attempted a coop with Horton’s district, whose program had also declined, in an effort to still offer wrestling but save on expenses. Lillie explained this also included middle schoolers — some were coached at Hiawatha and some were coached at Horton. That lasted a short time, as numbers continued to remain too low to sustain the finances and transportation required to have a program.

Lillie said D-West has also seen low numbers, averaging around 5-6 wrestlers. She has polled the Hiawatha High school Students and found there was interest from about 5-6 students in participating.

“The biggest hurdle will be transportation,” she said.

The proposal would be that Hiawatha High wrestlers would be transported to Highland to practice with Doniphan West students. Lillie said she didn’t know whether the most efficient would be for the district to provide transportation to and from — a van driver would drop off the wrestlers then return to pick them up. Another alternative is to not offer transportation — parents would possibly have to be responsible.

Lillie did mention that Nemaha Central just added wrestling, so as of currently, all Big 7 schools will have wrestling programs if Hiawatha were to join Doniphan West.

Because D-West is not a Class 3A school, all regional and state competitions would be held within each school’s own classification, Lillie said, also noting that there would not be a program for middle schoolers with this proposal.

Lillie discussed costs with the board and said roughly Hiawatha’s portion would be around $5,200 — not more than half of the total team costs even if the number of participants was more than half.

President Ian Schuetz expressed some concern that if Hiawatha only had five kids, that’s approximately $1,000 per wrestler to keep the program going. He said he was interested in bringing it back and noted that wrestling was considered a Hiawatha “legacy” sport as many teams — in the 80s and 90s especially — saw much success. But, he was concerned with financing and numbers — especially since a youth program wasn’t prevalent in Hiawatha currently, in order to provide numbers for the future.

Lillie indicated that this is the best option to give Hiawatha a chance to add the program again, by splitting costs with another school. She noted that last time Hiawatha had a wrestling program, several athletes competed at post-season and state competitions. Lillie told the board members she had garnered some interest from the younger students as well, which would be good news for future teams.

She also told board members that the district still owns very nice wrestling mats that were purchased only two years prior to the program ending.

Schuetz agreed this was an opportunity for Hiawatha to see if there was that interest — the program would either grow or fizzle out and the district wouldn’t be out much money initially.

The board unanimously approved to move ahead with forming a wrestling coop with Doniphan West, but the approval was pending an agreement be provided to the board at the May meeting.


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Kansas Governor Laura Kelly extends stay-at-home order until May 3

The “stay-at-home” order for Kansans was extended two weeks until May 3 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, announced Governor Laura Kelly in a press conference Wednesday.

The current order was set to expire on April 19, but Gov. Kelly informed Kansans via her press conference — which airs on her Facebook page, as well as through area media — that she is keeping the shelter-in-place order effective for two more weeks, based on current COVID-19 numbers.

She said that she has been informed by health officials the peak will hit Kansas somewhere in that last week of April and she wants to take all precautions until the wave resides.

In addition, Gov. Kelly said she is continuing to limit in-person worship services and other religious gatherings to 10 or less, despite continued criticism from the Legislature. Last week, the Legislative Council voted 5-2 to overrule Gov. Kelly’s order restricting religious gatherings, but on Saturday the Supreme Court uphold her executive order.

During the press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Kelly was asked about a few churches that still held services and what were the potential penalties for them. She said that enforcement of that order is up to local law enforcement agencies.

Kansans are encouraged to wear masks when in public and to maintain social distancing guidelines of 6 feet or more between people — not gathering with more than 10 people at a time.

For more coronavirus coverage, go to our website at www.hiawathaworldonline.com and see page 9 of today’s issue.