WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — In 2005 Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels was shot and killed while serving a warrant. 12 years later and the Samuels name lives on.
His son, Heath Samuels, is finishing up his first term as sheriff in Greenwood County. Fulfilling his father’s legacy. Samuels says it is something he has always dreamed of doing.
Now he has set his sights on finishing what his father started, while also creating a legacy of his own.
Tune in Thursday night at 10 to hear how Sheriff Samuels is using his past pain to pave the way for a better future in Greenwood County.
HARVEY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Voters in Harvey County will soon decide the fate of one of its three county parks: Camp Hawk.
Camp Hawk is located just south of Newton and offers fishing, camping, disc golf and a shelter available for rent, which is often used for weddings, scout meetings or family reunions. Whether it stays or whether it sells is up to the people.
Over a year ago, Harvey County commissioners proposed the sale of the park as a budget measure. This move was met by opposition, who then gathered signatures for a protest petition, putting the item on the ballot. A group, “Vote No Camp Hawk” has spent the last year talking to voters and handing out flyers to get their message out.
“This is a huge asset in our community, all three of our county parks are…they’re great places for families to grow and for us to be able to build our communities,” Brittany Welch with Camp Hawk Vote No said on Sunday.
The county also has Harvey County East Park and Harvey County West Park.
Welch moved to Harvey County years ago and Camp Hawk was a place she began going with friends and the disc golf community. Her passion for the park led her to join the county’s parks advisory board. Welch explains, now up to 4 percent of Harvey County voters have signed their protest petition. It’s a trend she hopes carries over to the ballot box next week.
“Once you lose that space, you’re not going to get it back. You’re not going to get a space back for your family to come to have a wedding to make those memories,” Welch said.
Along with Welch, Newton business owner Daniel Harms also actively participates in Camp Hawk Vote No. He donated funds to the space when the disc golf course was opened over 15 years ago.
“This is a long term asset that’s very cheap to operate and something that can be used for the next 40 to 50 years like it has been used for 40 years in the past,” Harms said.
Harms says research shows that Camp Hawk occupies less than 1 percent of the county’s park budget and that the county has underspent its parks budget in recent years.
But on the other side of the coin, Harvey County commissioner Chip Westfall explains the county’s past with the park. Originally, Camp Hawk was owned by the YMCA in the early 1970’s, and after the YMCA went out of business, the city, county and YMCA negotiated and the county took possession.
Westfall says that when the tax lid law came into effect three years ago, the county had to sell surplus matierals and even two properties.
“All three parks need improvement and we were looking at, can we reduce by selling the park? The ballot specifically states that those funds, if ever sold, would be used at the other two parks so we looked at that option in part of our consideration and we need to keep both facilities, or all three facilities, if the vote goes to keep it, in a safe and operating condition,” Westfall said.
He explains that underspending the parks budget in recent years was a precautionary measure that had to do with a transition of several employees, including a parks director. Westfall says a state statute says you have to keep budgeted a maximum salary and maximum benefits should they be necessary in the transition.
Westfall said, seeing the opposing group form is “democracy at its finest” and while a previous administration tracked down an estimate for the park, updating parks and keeping them up to code can be costly, at least what he’s seen in the city of Newton’s efforts.
“This (selling) is just a tool we want to use if it becomes necessary. If we’d had a major recession again in the area, it’s gonna be tough with a tax lid,” Westfall said.
He called the proposal to sell an “advisory note”, adding that the county is not actively campaigning for the sale.
Election day is Tuesday, November 7.
To clear up a misconception, there are “Camp Hawk vote no” signs in yards across the county as well as signs that say “Vote Yes!”
The Vote YES signs represent a different measure on the ballot, the school bond vote.