Looking back at 2023’s top local stories

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With the New Year around the corner it’s time to take a look at the Top 10 local news stories for 2023.

The list has been compiled based on story views via Google Analytics for Cowley Post.

No 10:

UPDATE: Cowley College board to hold special meeting Monday night; Former trustee speaks out (3,621 views)

On Jan. 26, Cowley College Board of Trustees Chair Brett Bazil called for a special meeting.

According to the special meeting notice from Bazil, the lone agenda item is an executive session “to discuss non-elected personnel, regarding employee performance, pursuant to the exception for discussion related to non-elected personnel for 30 minutes.”

Bazil said no action was to follow and that board requests David Andreas, the board’s attorney, be present in the executive session.

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Jim Ramierz, a former member of the board from 2011 to 2015, organized a gathering of Cowley College supporters later in the week at the Ark City American Legion.

In a Facebook post, Ramirez, who is also the father-in-law of departing Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole, said the purpose of the gathering is for attendees “to sign petitions and be apprised of what’s occurring internally at the college.”

More on this story as the countdown continues.

No. 9

Reed resigns as Winfield USD 465 superintendent (3,899 views)

On Jan. 24, USD 465 announced Nathan Reed would be resigning and accepted a position in Wichita.

Reed had been the superintendent of USD 465 since July 2018.

No. 8:

Winfield cement truck driver dies in hospital following rollover (3,907 views)

On June 13, a Winfield man, Charles Velz, was killed in a cement mixer truck rollover.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Velz was driving a 2023 Western Star cement mixer eastbound on U.S. 160 when it left the roadway, struck a culvert, and partially overturned in the south ditch.

The truck came to rest on the passenger side facing west.

Velz, 50, was ejected from the vehicle.

No. 7

Cowley College trustees approve O’Toole’s resignation despite rescission letter (4,418 views)

On Feb. 21, Cowley Post reported the Cowley College Board of Trustees approved former athletic director Jason O’Toole’s resignation during a board meeting the previous night — despite the fact O’Toole submitted a letter to the college rescinding his resignation following the termination of former college president Randy Smith.

More on that as the Top 10 countdown of local stories of 2023 continues.

No. 6

Elderly man found deceased with gunshot wound Monday (4,833 views)

On July 31, an elderly male was found with a fatal gunshot wound Monday in rural Cowley County.

Authorities said it was believed the gunshot was self-inflicted.

No. 5

Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole resigns (5,865 views)

On Jan. 24, Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole resigned.

According to Cowley Director of Institutional Communication Rama Peroo that morning, O’Toole submitted his resignation to the college the prior day. Peroo was named iterim athletic director.

O’Toole, who played baseball at Cowley and graduated from the school in 1994, has been employed at Cowley College for the past 25 years. O’Toole assumed the position of athletic director at Cowley in July 2021.

No. 4

Local woman, 19,in critical condition following pedestrian hit-and-run (7,311 views)

On Feb. 5, a 19-year-old Cowley County woman was in critical condition in a Wichita hospital following a hit-and-run accident Sunday night south of Ark City.

According to a news release from the Cowley County Sheriff’s Office the next day, at approximately 8:13 p.m. on Feb. 5, Cowley County Emergency Communications dispatched Arkansas City Fire/EMS to a pedestrian found laying in a ditch in the 31000 block of 61st Rd with injuries.

Deputies were dispatched to the area when it was reported that the individual may have been struck by a vehicle.

Vehicle debris and a cell phone were found near where the individual was found lying.

Cowley County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Kevin Horinek checked the area for a vehicle with damage matching the debris and made contact with Brady Pudden, driver of a white Ford F250 with damage to the passenger side of the pickup.

Pudden was arrested for duty of driver involving great bodily harm, suspended license and expired tag with a bond of $26,300.

No. 3

BREAKING: Silgan to close in January, 169 layoffs expected (7,927 views)

On Nov. 28, a Winfield plastics manufacturer told its employees it is closing its doors and will soon begin layoffs of 169 employees.

According to a formal notice from the company to employees that day, Silgan Dispensing Systems will begin layoffs on January 27 and will end “on or about” March 1.

Silgan told employees doors will close Jan. 9 and the layoffs will be permanent.

Silgan said in the notice the closure of the facility was a “consolidation” measure for the company and added some employees will be offered positions at its Grandview, Missouri facility.

No. 2

Ark City man killed in motorcycle accident identified; Speed estimated at 70-100 mph in 55 (7,975 views)

On Sept. 1, the Cowley County Sheriff’s Office identified Chase Roberts, 20, of Ark City, as the man killed in a motorcycle accident the prior night just north of Ark City on U.S. 77 at the bypass.

At approximately 8:09 p.m. that night, deputies from the Cowley County Sheriff’s Office, Ark City Police Department and Ark City Fire/EMS responded to the 26000 block of U.S. 77 Hwy for the report of an injury accident involving a passenger car and motorcycle.

Roberts was declared deceased at the scene by Ark City Fire/EMS.

No. 1

BREAKING: Smith fired by Cowley College Board; Schoon Interim President (26,975 views)

On Feb. 2, the Cowley College Board of Trustees terminated President Randy Smith’s contract during a special meeting Thursday night at the campus in Ark City.

The vote was 7-0 to terminate his contract.

Dr. Michelle Schoon, the Vice President of Academic Affairs for the college, will be the interim president.

“I’m kind of speechless,” Schoon told Cowley Post after the meeting closed. “It really caught me off guard.”

Smith was hired by the board in July, but quickly faced criticism from employees of the school for firings and what many described as a hostile work environment.

Tensions in the community hit a fever pitch a couple weeks ago when Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole unexpectedly submitted his resignation.

Supports of O’Toole say he was forced to resign, while supporters of Smith, including some parents of Cowley College athletes, have claimed O’Toole did not do his due diligence in addressing concerns, via letters written to the board.

O’Toole has declined comment on why he resigned.

That week, questions arose concerning Smith’s employment and financial history, especially a $1 million bankruptcy he filed in 2019 three years before he was selected as the next president.

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