Thursday, May 31, 2007

thurber hearing 5-31-07

The picture of how and when Jodi Sanderholm was murdered is starting to take shape as the preliminary hearing is taking place in Winfield.

The preliminary hearing is where the prosecution basically presents its case and the judge decides whether there is enough evidence to proceed. If the judge orders the case to go to trial it only means that the judge thinks there is a possibility that the crime happened and at least some evidence linking the defendant to it.

More evidence will be shown Thursday and Friday, and we will see even more of what apparently happenedRemember, Justin Thurber is not yet convicted of a crime. As far as the law is concerned he is still innocent until proven guilty. There were lots of stories circulating when Jodi disappeared. It shocked the town and everyone was looking for answers, so every story, no matter how bizzare, spread like wildfire.

At the Traveler we tried to give as much factual information as we could. The main reason I am glad the preliminary hearing is finally here, is that we will finally hear some facts.In the first day of testimony there were no big surprises, though there were some things that began to make sense. Many of the stories that circulated had some truth to them.

You can see details of the testimony on our main web page where Foss Farrar and I, James Jordan, wrote about what we saw Wednesday. Farrar will likely cover the hearing Thursday while I am out of town. I may cover it Friday.

There were a lot of strange feelings going around as I covered the trial. I did not know Jodi personally. I had seen her at basketball games when I took pictures for the paper. I just remember she had a really pretty smile.

I think we all felt a sense of loss when she was killed. The whole town suffered. Of course her family suffered more than anyone. There are no words, but we can pray for them and do whatever we can for them if the opportunity arises.

There may be some painful things coming out at the trial. We will be dredging up memories and such. We are trying to be tasteful at the paper, but we still have to get the news out there. We will try to cause as little pain as possible as we tell the public what happened.

According to testimony Wednesday, it seems Jodi got up that fateful day as usual, and went to dance practice at 10 a.m.

Her mom called her to see if she wanted to go to lunch, but Jodi said she would just go home and eat someting.

She had planned to go to a friends house to fix her hair a bit later. Jodi made it to her mail box as usual, but apparenly never got inside her house.

She left practice a little before 12. Jodi usually put the mail on the counter. When her parents arrived home there was no mail, and none in the box, and no indication that Jodi had ever made it home for lunch.

Thurber was seen by danceline members earlier in the day near where they practiced. There was also testimony about him following some of the other danceline member around.Someone else saw Thurber in his car going north on First Street after the girls left practice.Testimony also put Thurber with Jodi in her car at the Cowley Fishing Lake.

As I said, he is not yet convicted of anything, and we need to remember that. There does seem to be evidence that he was at least around her and probably with her that day.A truck driver said he saw Thurber and Jodi drive into the fishing lake in her car.

She was never seen alive again.

The hearing itself was about what you would expect. Witness after witness telling what they knew.

The defense cross examined a little, but didn't grill anyone.


At the hearing I felt for Cindy Sanderholm, Jodi's mother. Just imagine how hard that must have been, to sit up there and talk about Jodi. But Cindy Sanderholm showed a great deal of composure.

She kept smiling and even showed a sense of humor while they were setting up the microphone. There were a few instances of light humor that broke up the heaviness of the hearing.

One witness testified that he saw Thurber on the morning Jodi disappared while he was working out at the nearby fitness center.

When asked if he worked out regularly, he said he did, and noted that he was giving up a workout to be there to testify.The construction truck driver who testified that he saw Thurber driving Jodi's car with her in the passenger side near Cowley Lake also had a couple of moments.Apparently the car he said Thurber was driving passed him and then stopped in front of him to turn into the lake, which was upsetting.He said he was agravated because "some idiot" had cut him off, nearly caused him to wreck, and he was going to then have a hard time getting up the incline - small hill - he was on.

Later in the testimony, prosecutors told him they were going to ask him about a certain thing. So he politely waited for the prosecutor to ask the question. Meanwhile the prosecutor was waiting for the answer. Well the prosecutor said he was "going" to ask the question.Those were about the only light moments at the hearing.

There wasnt a lot of emotion shown as the facts were laid out.I was thinking about how you never know what the results of your actions will be.

Had Jodi decided to go to lunch with her parents, or just stop at a fast food joint and not gone home, it might not have happened. Of course it might have happened anyway.

Also I was surprised at how many people saw something.

When it all happened police were asking anyone who thought they saw anything to contact them. Many people did, and many leads came up empty.

But some did not.Any of those people could have not been paying attention at a precise moment and not have witnessed what they witnessed.THurber could have passed that truck at anytime.

Why did he wait until he was so close to the turnoff? Had he passed that truck earlier, the driver would probably have not noticed anything. Of course, that is assuming the driver is correct in identifying Thurber.I still want to keep an open mind and not convict anyone before all the facts come out.We still have not heard from the defense. We may not hear from them during this hearing.

At a preliminary hearing the defense is not required to put forth any evidence.Thats my take on things so far Hope to hear from some of youJ


Friday, May 25, 2007

rural fire district 5 - 5-20-07

It looks like the county will now negotiate with the city to see how much Arkansas City will charge residents of Rural Fire District 5 for fire protection.

I am sure you have heard about the local board resigning after the county told them they could not sign a contract without approval. They had threatened to start their own department because Ark City has raised its rates dramatically.

Both sides make good arguments, and there are good people on both sides of the issue.

I do feel for the members of the fire district board though. They were in a rough situation. They were given the responsibility to negotiate for fire protection, but really didn't have much to negotiate with. Either way, they were going to make people upset.

I believe the real problem is the system itself and the result has been to make good people distrust and perhaps even dislike each other.

Fire protection is like water or electricity. It is, or should be, a public utility.

Whatever is decided, I think we should take a hard look at the system, perhaps at the state level, and find a better way.

Some question whether Arkansas City is overcharging. Could they be getting a little revenge over Parkerfield forming its own city to avoid annexatoin a few years ago? I have no idea, but the idea is out there.

The city is says it is just asking for costs. Of course those costs are disputed. The city gets to its cost by taking its fire budget and dividing that by the total number of calls, to get a cost per call fiigure. It then multiplies that by the number of calls to the rural fire district to get a total.

Here is a link to the city's budget. You can look at that and decide for yourself.

The city says it has not raised rates for several years and that it is just trying to get those rates in line with today's prices. That could be. If you look at the city's total budget for fire and rescue, it hasnt changed much over the last two or three years.

Another way to look at this is how it would affect individual homeowners. The increase would mean about $30 more on a $100,000 house in the area. With the way property taxes rise, that doesn't seem excessive.

Though rising property taxes is an entirely different subject that we shall have to address at some point.

Those men on the board talked about starting up a department, that would have tried to utilize some grants to provide part of what they needed. There are a lot of agencies that offer grants to local rural fire depts., so they could probably have gotten some.

here are a couple of places :

Also, just in case anyone wondered. The county was well within its rights to do what it did. Here is an attorney general's opinion. Its not a areal similar case, but it does show the legalities of how the boards are set up and the county's relation to them.

Thats my take on the fire district situation.

There are some politics involved as usual.

But people in rural areas need fire protection. That should be the first concern.

RE: Rural Fire Districts


Can't pass this one up either! Guess I might do better here, that Letter to Editors to express myself!
I scanned all the blogs today, first day I saw this topic, which is disturbing to me also, as, was stated, once again, we have to pay out.
Now, I do think that our city was very upset when Parkerfield annexed. It took a lot of money out of their pockets and they wanted that badly.
When I read about the RFD#5 wanting to establish their own fire department because of the cost quoted to retain Ark City emergency care, I wasn't surprised. I was shocked when the county stepped in and said "oh no, we have to ok this first!" If I understood what I read, Parkerfield was willing to carry the burden of their district and town. When the county stepped up, after the facts? and declared their position, the board didn't have any bargaining power as it was completely taken over by the county and you knew they would go with Ark City, so where was the bargaining power? Nothing to do but resign, they had no say anyway.
In one blog, you spoke of $12 per $100,000 assessment, now, I see $30 per $100,00 and may I ask where this estimate will end when the fat lady sings?
Is it not like the water raise, originally, it was to be laid on all us poor people who use minimum or less, the Freedland got the message that , hey dude, that ain't right, so he changed it and said ok, 106% on min. users over a 5 year period and believe you worked out 66% for those who could afford to use water; water their yards to keep Ark City beautified, longer, hot showers for their tired bodies, water for plants in streetscape and so on it goes. Where did that leave us lesser endowed people? well, you did the figures! Again, a few had the say. We are one of the highest water rates in the state of Kansas, if I remember correctly, as well as rated one of the highest for all utlities and what do we have? This goes back to where does this city want to take us, to poverty and no town, or cinch up its' belts and do as we have to do. We poor eat hotdogs, the more endowed eat fillet mignon. Oh great. Now we can't even afford the buns, so we just eat the "dogs!", sometimes not even hot because who can afford the gas in winter when all reserves go to keeping from freezing to death! In the summer, who wants a "hotdog", us poor just want to try to stay cool. Can't run air conditioners and can't afford water either, but guess we could sit in a cold tub 24/7!
Now, $30 doesn't seem much, but you don't seem to have reached an end to this rising figure; it was taken out of the hands of Parkerfield by the laws and a few. No one had any real say, once again, and is this called a dictorship? Haven't been to school for a while, maybe I need to go!
You can't go to the Dr. without insurance or money up front, you can't decide what you would like to do or what may be best for your own town, an entity of 6 decide everything for us, no matter what we say, so what ya say now? I am ready!!
Yes, we have changed the commissioners, but they got in on the end of this one, so did they just go with the flow, the established or do we need to try again?


Jeri Martin (Jerrilyn Martin)
Traveler Editor
Memberredd rover

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Date: May 30
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RE: Rural Fire Districts

This is in reply to the posting about city debt, 8 million doesn't seem like much when we speak of a whole city, but to me that is alot of money. If I were to have that much debt I would be trying to manage it, by not getting more in debt. Of course it is pretty easy to not manage it if there is a multitude of tax payers to fall back on. When something comes along that some just think is needed, we just spend the money on it and tax the citizens.

With times as they are now, gas prices and higher costs of living, those of us on fixed incomes are barely eeking by on what we make. I hear all the time we need to cinch in the economic belt. Well I can tell you right now, mine is cinched to the point it hurts. I would like to see government start cinching in. Not just city, but county, state and federal government. The time is now. With our country's dependence on foreign oil, we need to change how we function. Drop our speed limits to 55 once again. Promote and give tax breaks to those who will drive gas efficient cars. Give tax breaks to those who will car pool. Tax breaks for those who use public transportation. I am not seeing any attempt from government to cinch in it's belt. I hear alot of hot air from Washington. We just keep doing the same thing we always have done. Because it is more comfortable.

This fire district thing is just one spoke in the wheel of many. Thirty dollars on $100,000.00 doesn't seem like much money but when you add that to the amount that the insurance goes up as well, along with the cost of living for groceries, gas, utilities, medicine, health care, IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Some people have duel incomes and it makes it a bit easier to share the expense of a home. But some of us are not sharing the burden of house hold costs. The elderly with limited incomes are suffering. Along with those with low paying jobs and small children.

I read in this blog site, on another post, that a poster had a family friend that had a hard time getting health care in our town at one of our local clinic's. It is all a money thing. Maybe before too long we will be able to get health care from Walmart stores.(not) They have power to work the system. They could get $4 scripts when no one else could, or would. Now it is common to hear about them at many big box stores. Too bad our federal government couldn't get that established for us. Too many well paid lobbiest in Washington makes sure that doesn't happen.

So in closing, pardon me if I do seem a bit "negative", there are many reasons why. And I can see that many of my fellow Arkcitians are feeling the same way. I was told by one of the new commissioners a while back that the city was too much in debt, I didn't know there was a web site that was noted in an earlier post to check out the city's finances. I took a commissioners word for it. I would like to imagine the whole world rosey for all in it. But for some it is not. With unemployment and inflation times are hard for some. For some it hasn't happened and they tend to not understand. But with time, on the course we are going, it will happen. Heaven help us all.

Traveler Editor

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Date: May 26
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RE: Rural Fire Districts

Some folks are still pretty "hot" about the rural fire district situation.
There are plenty of people who are happy with the arrangement that the county and city made to provide fire protection to the rural area of Southern Cowley County.
There are still some upset though, and they keep looking for stones to throw.
I wanted to clear up a couple of things.

The tax millage rate is seven for the new arrangement between Arkansas City and Cowley County. Some have pointed out that state law limits the mil rate to five.
That is true, except when it is contracted out to someone else - such as the Arkansas City Fire Dept. In that situation, the county can set the millage rate at whatever they need to in order to pay the contract.

If the fire district provided its own protection, it would be limited to five mills. I think the county would too if it were to provide fire protection, but I am not sure. But since they have a contract with someone else, they are not limited to five mills. If the rural district had contracted with a new company, they would not have been limited to five mills until they took over the department themselves, which was the ultimate goal.

The amount of money is not very much. Even at seven mills, people in the district will be paying an extra $30 or so on their tax bill.

Also I got an email talking about how Arkansas City is way in debt and desperate for money, and that was why they were trying to gouge the rural fire district.
The email exaggerated a good bit.

I checked the books. The city is in debt around $8 million. That is about normal for cities of its size. They are going to be going further in debt for water and sewer improvements. If you'll recall, a couple years ago they put in rate increases to take effect over a few years to pay for that. Water rates will go up again a bit next year as part of that deal.
So, Arkansas City does have debt, but not any more than might be expected.

They have contracted to expand water lines to the new hospital, if it ever happens.That's another topic for another day.
As I understand it, the city could be left holding the bag to some extent, but probably not a whole lot. They won't extend the lines until the hospital is being built apparently.

The only other issue I am aware of is the distribution of the district's assets.
When the board resigned, the county disbanded the board. I am not sure if they will appoint a new board someday or not.
Anyways, the board had around $46,000 in cash, and a fire truck or two used for fighting brush fires.
That all went to Arkansas City.
I don't see this changing how the area is protected at all. What should have happened to the money is up for debate, but regaredless of what the county did, someone would have complained.

Now I hope poeple dont take all of this and think I am just defending Arkansas City. I am neutral. I am just trying to get facts out there.

I do think the fire board did what they thought best. They are good men who gave a lot of their time and effort for the district. They were put in a difficult situation. Personally, I don't blame them for resigning after the county used a power play to keep them from starting a different fire department.

I am not sure the fire protection would have been as good, but we will never know now.

That's about all for now.

Hope to hear from you all.


Traveler Editor

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Date: May 15
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RE: Rural Fire Districts

I suppose everyone has heard by now that the city and county made a deal on rural fire protection for Rural Fire District No. 5.
They made the deal rather quickly. County officials heard from a lot of poeple who wanted to keep fire protection under Arkansas City, and they were not real concerned about the price increase.
When you talk about going from $160,000 to 230,000, that sounds like a big increase, and it is. However, the impact on the individual taxpayer would not be all that much. The tax bill for rural fire protection will go up about $12 on a $100,000 house. That is an estimated figure, so dont hold me to that, but it is close.

I still think the fire board members were trying to do what they thought best, and I believe they did a good job. Several of them had been on the board for 30 years or so, so it was not easy for them to step aside.
They faced the same situation 25 years ago, and almost created a fire department then. The city backed off some then so the crisis was averted.
They were in a bind in this situation, and when the county said they had to have approval before making a deal, they felt they had lost any bargaining power they had.
The county was within its rights to do what it did.
BUt even so, I still think the board members were put into a difficult situation, and only did what they felt they needed to do.

The city of Arkasnas City kept saying that the reason for the steep increases was the fact that it had not raised prices in several years. That was a mistake. Now they have a five-year deal with incremental increases in prices, which makes more sense and may avoid further crisis.

Some have said the city was trying to exact a little revenge on Parkerfield. Im not so sure that is the case. Its also worth noting that none of the current council members, nor the city manager, are the same people who were involved in trying to annex Parkerfield. I am not making a judgement there.

So hopefully this ends a controversy.

Let me know what you think.


redd rover

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Date: May 7
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RE: Rural Fire Districts

I read this blog on the rural fire district and found that you have some of the same concerns as I. One thing you brought up was the City possibly raising the rates to counter balance revenue lost by Parkerfield incorporating. Good point. That is something I hadn't thought of. It does seem that when the city wants more revenue it just annex's more county homes. It doesn't seem to supply the homes it annex's with any sevices, except over priced water and trash services. What I do know is, that the city has paid thousands of dollars to property owners north of town for rights of way to put services out to the hospital. Has anyone been aware of this? I know of many that were paid thousands of dollars just so when, and if, the city does deciede to put in the hospital, they will have the rights to these properties for utilities. This is not something that WILL has already been done. The checks have been cut, and cashed. The city is spending lots of money, now I know why they need to raise the fire district rates. Some one needs to pay for the excess spending.