For me, it’s like Christmas.
Combines are rolling through Kansas wheat fields – the best time of year.
Q: Along K-61 by Hutchinson, there has been musk thistle growing – not just a few, but thick patches – and now it is blowing everywhere. It looks like someone mowed the edges of the ditch, so they should know it is growing. Doesn’t the state do anything to stop this noxious weed?
Ah, the thorn of every landowner’s side. I’ve spent time combing pastures on hot summer days – spraying the purple-flowered plants and pulling thistles out of the ground.
While some might think they are a lovely wildflower, They are not. They are supposed to be controlled, according to the Kansas Noxious Weed Law.
So, why would the state allow them to grow prolifically in the ditch?
Actually, after a call to the Kansas Department of Transportation, it’s the county’s responsibility. The state contracts with most Kansas counties to control noxious weeds along state roadways.
So, I called Dave McComb, director of Reno County Public Works, who noted they have had a bit of a transition in the county’s noxious weed department.
As of this year, the county’s noxious weed department merged into the public works department.
“When the merger happened, the noxious weed supervisor and staff resigned,” McComb said.
So, for the past few months, there hasn’t been anyone staffing the noxious weed department.
On June 6, a new noxious weed supervisor started, along with one employee.
“We are training two people right now, and we’ll see if we need additional staff at a later time. The guys are already out spraying stuff.”
McComb said the staff monitor and control noxious weeds in county right of ways. The county also sells chemicals to private citizens at a reduced rate to help take care of noxious weeds on a property.
If you notice a patch of noxious weeds, call Public Works Superintendent Don Brittain at (620) 694-2976.
Q: I’ve heard there is a community of homeless people in Hutch. Is there any way to get warm coats, blankets, etc. directly to them, instead of dropping items off at thrift stores where anyone can buy them?
Juan Gonzales, manager of the NOEL Lodge, an emergency shelter, said they take items, but added they don’t have a lot of storage.
Some of the things they need are blankets, towels, wash clothes and bedding. Blankets are especially great in the winter, because if the lodge fills up, they can give people blankets.
Since the lodge at 400 W. Second isn’t open during the day, those with donations can call Gonzales at (620) 960-2369.
Meanwhile, Kathy Davis, director of First Call for Help at 721 W. Second, said they also take donations. They keep some of the clothes up front, but they also give items to the Soup Kitchen, as well as Fair Price Clothing Store at Fourth and Whiteside.
Meanwhile, those coming into First Call can also get a voucher to pick out several articles of clothing from Fair Price Clothing Store. They can get a voucher every 30 days, Davis said.
At present, Davis said they could use shoe donations – such as frocks and sandles. Bedding and kitchen items go fast.
Fellow Ask Hutch cohort Kathy Hanks said her church – Grace Episcopal Church on Main Street – has a clothes closet for those who need it. Several other churches also offer free clothing.
And finally, a big thank you to Mary Clarkin, our education reporter, who helped me get the answer to this question.
Q: The state budget for schools is 55 percent. Educators say it isn’t enough. What do they think is fair?
Over half of the dollars in the state’s general fund – not the overall state budget – do go for aid for K-12 schools.
“It’s important to note that Kansas spends more on the state level in part to require less at a local level. In other words, by having more state aid it keeps our property taxes lower,” said Mark Tallman, with the Kansas Association of School Boards.
“The percent of the budget doesn’t really tell you how much you’re actually spending,” Tallman said, since other states structure school aid differently.
Kansas is below average in total dollars per pupil, Tallman said. The most recent U.S Census Bureau data, from 2012-13, shows Kansas is 27th in the nation by that measurement.
“Our concern is making sure we have enough dollars to do the job to deliver the education quality we want,” Tallman said. That is not based on percentage.
In May, the Kansas Supreme Court declared the Legislature’s school finance equity fix for poorer districts was unconstitutional. Gov. Sam Brownback has called a special session of the Legislature for later this month to address that matter. Still pending in court is whether the Legislature is adequately funding K-12 education.
But the real question is, will Kansas lawmakers disregard the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to fix inequities in school funding – risking the closure of the state’s schools?
We will see. If lawmakers take no action on school finance by June 30, the court could prevent further spending by schools, effectively shutting them down.