Letters (April 21, 2010)


Marion missed out with flight group

I am the local representative of the Heart of America Free Flight Association. (I have owned a home in Marion for 18 years.)

As you probably know by now, if you read local publications or attend Marion City Council meetings, this association sponsored its annual meeting and contest in Marion last year and eagerly planned to return again this Father’s Day weekend for the 13th year of the competition.

The meet has been previously held in the Kansas City area. Doug Kjellin and Margo Yates, of the Marion City Chamber of Commerce, have frequently described the favorable economic impact this fledging event had upon our city and our immediate surrounding area.

Anyone who has participated in planning a major event—from a wedding to Chingawassa Days—knows very well it takes time, thought and preparation to bring such an undertaking to a successful conclusion.

The Free Flight Association made a great point of thanking the community, both privately to city officials, and publicly through our area newspapers.

So the desire of the association to return in 2010 can have been no surprise. In fact, Marion Mayor Mary Olson, interviewed in the Feb. 10 issue of the Free Press, cited the competition as a new event of which the city can be proud.

Susan Berg, editor of the Marion County Record, also reviewed the successes of the year 2009 and wrote, “Members of the association were so impressed with the community and city officials, they have decided to return this summer.”

Yet the Marion City Airport board of directors remained silent until only a few short weeks ago before informing the association that the contestants were not welcome to return.

The Free Flight Association has excellent insurance coverage—indeed, a member of the city council commented on this in an open meeting. Yet, no attempt was made by the Marion City Airport board to defray repair of the airport grounds created by the rainy conditions of last year’s contest.

Dick McKlinden has made much of this problem. Why did he not call my attention, or that of Mike Basta, to these terrible ruts—until now? (We were the two individuals who were careful to thank the community for its hospitality. He could hardly have been unaware of our existence.)

This is, after all, a small municipal airport, not a golf course putting green. Is this the first time the airport grounds have been less than pristine?

Mr. McKlinden was exceedingly abrasive in his comments about the association in his presentation to the Marion City Council. He depicted the contestants as mad men careening around the airport in Harley Davidsons in search of paper mache airplanes.

He forgot to mention, or was unaware, that two of the contestants are aeronautical engineers.

Ty Zeiner was much more diplomatic when he appeared before the council at the subsequent meeting. Indeed Mr. Kjellin said these concessions gave him hope that our difficulties could be worked through.

Yet, after talking with Mr. Basta, I learned that the compromise actually offered by the airport board left a great deal to be desired. The gates to the airport itself will be locked. (Can’t trust those dangerous outsiders out on our runway, can we?)

All activity will be limited to the airport parking lot. I invite any of you to visit the airport. The gravel parking lot is very small, having been envisioned to house cars for the comparatively few coming and going to access planes.

It is about 36 feet by 24 feet and is surrounded by overhead wires. It is highly possible that, given last year’s favorable response from contestants, that 40 to 100 “outsiders” would have attended, entirely filling the parking area with their vehicles.

The contestants are then invited to take out their equipment and prepare to launch their airplanes from this congested area. (These are not radio control airplanes. The small engines are used only to send the planes airborne and then they soar where they will in the Kansas winds.)

The second great compromise is to allow the contestants to walk out upon the sacred grounds of the airport to retrieve their property.

Last year Mr. Kjellin obtained permission from surrounding property owners for the contestants to go upon the lands around the airport to retrieve their planes. I have been apprised of no complaints.

The great “concession” of the airport board consists of permission to use the small airport parking lot and permission to walk across the airport grounds. These are not, Mr. Zeiner’s tact aside, concessions at all.

With this event, Marion had the chance to host an event that would have brought national publicity to our town. It would have grown each year, bringing new money and favorable publicity to Marion and our county.

Few places are offered this kind of publicity—on a silver platter. Few turn it down so contemptuously.

Paul L. Thomas

Marion

Alcohol use can ruin student milestones

Each spring as the school year draws to a close, high schools across the state begin preparing for their proms and graduations. While these events are usually met with great anticipation and excitement by school administrators, students and parents, there is another dangerous reality that presents itself—underage drinking at parties to celebrate the occasions.

While schools do a great job of providing after-prom parties and activities as a safe alternative, too often some students will not attend the school-sponsored party, and instead choose to attend alternative parties that provide alcoholic beverages. This creates a dangerous situation for our young adults, and troopers, deputies and police officers know all too well the possibilities that exist.

Currently, schools across the state are hosting safety demonstrations by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Save a Life Tour (a high-impact alcohol awareness program), and law enforcement, in which mock crashes are utilized as a teaching tool for students to understand the ramifications of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

These demonstrations are designed to make students think about the consequences of their actions, and understand that poor choices could cost them or someone else their life. These choices can have lifelong consequences for everyone involved.

Law enforcement officers across the state are aware of prom and draduation dates. They are often advised by concerned citizens of illegal parties, and schedule extra enforcement when the parties are occurring.

There have been occasions where parents or friends host parties, thinking they will provide a safe environment for teens to party and drink alcohol. These are defined as “social hosting” under KSA 21-3610c, and are illegal. Violation of this law is a Class A misdemeanor, with a minimum fine of $1,000.

Students, we encourage you to make responsible choices. Attend your school-sponsored after-prom parties; resist peer pressure to consume alcohol or drugs. Think about your future, what type of career do you see for yourself?

If you are convicted for DUI or drug violations, they are a part of your permanent record, and as such, could automatically disqualify you from many professions. Worse yet, you may be involved in a life altering or life ending tragedy that will forever impact your memories of this very special time.

Parents, monitor your child’s activities. Ask the school to implement a notification policy if students leave prom or the after-prom party early.

Check on your child occasionally. If they say they are going somewhere, check to see if they are actually there. (They may not like it now, but they will thank you later in life, and remember that lesson when they become parents.)

Don’t become an enabler by hosting drinking parties. Not only are they illegal, but you are liable if someone gets injured or suffers alcohol poisoning.

The Kansas Highway Patrol encourages everyone to celebrate in a safe and legal manner. Please buckle your safety belts as you travel, and avoid distractions in your vehicle that prevent you from giving your full time and attention to driving. Never drink and drive.

This season is a time of life-changing moments. Do your best to make good memories, not bad ones that will affect you and your families for the rest of your lives.

Terry Maple, Supt.

Kansas Highway Patrol

Topeka


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