Vol. 3, Issue 4                                     April 2019
Recently, our Director of Public Works, County Manager, and I met with Kansas Transportation Secretary Lorenz to discuss the Northwest Bypass. Secretary Lorenz is supportive of the project; however the project is waiting on funding. Besides the economic benefits of the bypass, it has the potential of solving the flooding problem that West Wichita experienced during the Halloween flood in October 1998.
 
The most important action the Commission took during April was the appointment of Doug Williams as the next Chief of Sedgwick County Fire District 1. Chief Williams did a great job as Interim Fire Chief, and we look forward to his leadership in this critical position.
 
This newsletter is a little longer than normal because of a unique opportunity I had. I met two members of the United States World War One Centennial Commission, Mr. Jerry Hester and Colonel Thomas Moe, USAF (Retired and a Vietnam War POW for 5 ½ years in the Hanoi Hilton). They recounted the valor of Lieutenant Erwin Bleckley, a Medal of Honor recipient from Wichita. The excerpt below is a synopsis from Wikipedia because the account given by Mr. Hester and Colonel Moe was so riveting that I did not take notes.
 
On September 24, 1918 the 50th Aero Squadron that Lt. Bleckey was assigned to relocated to  Remicourt , France to support the  77th Division
 
At the beginning of October, approximately 554 soldiers of the 77th “Metropolitan” Division advanced into the Argonne Forest and were cut off and surrounded by German troops. They were only able to communicate with division headquarters by carrier pigeon and inadvertently supplied division headquarters with incorrect coordinates of its location.
 
By October 5, the division commander, Major General Robert Alexander , requested that the 50th Aero Squadron locate and resupply the " Lost Battalion " by air with ammunition, rations, and medical supplies. Four attempts to pinpoint the location were unsuccessful in increasingly bad weather.
 
On October 6, the 50th Aero Squadron flew 13 additional missions, ultimately having three aircraft shot down, in what the USAF has termed the first combat airlift in history. The first re-supply mission, flown by Lts. Floyd M. Pickrell and Alfred C. George, took off shortly before noon in poor visibility. The DH-4 of Lts. Maurice F. Graham and James E. McCurdy returned from the last mission with McCurdy seriously wounded by a bullet through the neck, but also with confirmation that the location given by the lost battalion was incorrect and occupied by German forces.
 
Early that afternoon, flying with Lt. Goettler, Bleckley took off to try to locate the "Lost Battalion.” After completion of their first mission, they returned to Remicourt with numerous holes in the aircraft from small arms fire, and problems with their spark plugs . Warned by squadron commander Captain Daniel P. Morse that a second sortie would be exceedingly more difficult and hazardous, Bleckley was quoted: "We'll make the delivery or die in the attempt!"
 
Late in the afternoon, the pair flew a second re-supply mission in aircraft number 6, borrowed from Lt. Pickrell when their own was not serviceable. Lt.Goettler skidded his plane, made turns, side-slipped a little occasionally, climbed, and then dove. Each time the plane turned and its great mottled belly flopped back into normal position, the men of the lost battalion expected to see it tumble from the sky. But, on its way it went like a charmed thing, roaring up, down, and across, rocked occasionally by the ash of big shells that had just passed. The plane finally crashed into the French terrain.
 
The DH-4 flew low, just above the tree tops, cresting hilltops and descending into a ravine in which the Germans could shoot down at the aircraft. The attempt to draw fire to pinpoint German positions would help find the battalion by the process of elimination. By flying low the attempts to drop supplies into an area 350 by 50 yards, where the battalion was believed to be dug in, would be more precise. Even so, much of the re-supply was recovered by German troops, and the aircraft came under intense and accurate fire from German machine guns and rifles. Lt. Goettler was struck in the head by a bullet and killed. The DH-4 crashed inside Allied lines, and Bleckley was thrown from the plane and severely injured. Unconscious, he was rescued by French soldiers, and rushed by automobile to a hospital. Unfortunately, he died en-route of internal injuries suffered in the crash.
 
Both men were recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross , two of the six received by aviators of the squadron. The awards were upgraded to the Medal of Honor by the Decoration Board in 1922. The medal was presented to Bleckley's parents at the Wichita Forum on March 23, 1923. Maj. Gen. C. B. Duncan, commander of the 7th Corps Area, pinned the medal on the lapel of Bleckley's father, Col. Elmer E. Bleckley. The Kansas National Guard was presented with a painting of the DH-4 and Bleckley moments after the crash. It depicts him as conscious but near death, handing a bloody paper containing the location of the Lost Battalion to French soldiers. 
Projects in District 3
Road construction of 61st St North between 151st and 167th West.
  • 167th Street West to be closed to thru traffic through early May.
  • 61st Street North to be closed to thru traffic during construction.
  • Estimated completion this June

Bridge replacement on 95th South between Ridge and Hoover.
  • Closed to thru traffic during construction
  • Expected completion this June

Crack Sealing of select county roads.
  • Temporary lane closures
  • Pilot car operation may result in significant delays
A Week to Celebrate the First of the First Responders
Sedgwick County’s 911 call takers and dispatchers are often described as hidden heroes – the people you hear, but never see. April 14 through 20 was National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week – a week to celebrate, recognize, and thank the true first responders to an emergency. A lifeline for the community in times of crisis – they offer critical, timely care to citizens, ensuring help is provided during the worst times of your life. We thank them every day for the work they do, their service, and dedication to the Sedgwick County community.
Crews continue to work on the Kellogg/ I-235 interchange rebuild. This first phase is scheduled to be completed this year.
Update on Kellogg/ 235 interchange
Project updates can be found at www.235kelloggcentral.com and include:

  • All ramps are open but temporary lane closures are possible for regular maintenance chores or to complete minor items from the construction punch list.
  • Work will resume on bridge painting as weather moderates but traffic should not be affected.
National Public Health Week Celebrated: Steve Coen receives Lifetime Commitment to Public Health Award
For more than 20 years, communities around the country have celebrated National Public Health Week (NPHW), an initiative of the American Public Health Association, each April to celebrate public health and highlight key issues. This year, NPHW was celebrated April 1 through 7 with the theme, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: For science. For action. For health.”

Locally, the Sedgwick County Health Department (SCHD) recognizes an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment and contributions to public health through the Dr. Doren Fredrickson Lifetime Dedication to Public Health Award. Dr. Fredrickson served as the County’s health officer from 2002 until his death in 2008. He was a dedicated, caring, and enthusiastic health advocate who devoted his entire career to improving public health.  

The 2019 recipient of the Dr. Doren Fredrickson Lifetime Commitment to Public Health Award is Steve Coen (photograph). He received the award at the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners’ Meeting on April 3. Coen is the President and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation.

“We are very excited to honor Mr. Coen with the Doren Fredrickson Award. He, too, is an individual who has dedicated his entire career to improving the health of the community in not just Sedgwick County, but the entire State of Kansas,” said Adrienne Byrne, Director of the Sedgwick County Health Department.  
Interns Gain Experience through Project SEARCH
Ten interns recently graduated from the Sedgwick County Project SEARCH program. Commissioners celebrated their achievements during their regular meeting. Project SEARCH is a business/ organization-led collaboration that enables young adults with disabilities to gain and maintain employment through training and career exploration during a one-year rotational internship. More than 70 percent of graduates attain employment after this internship.

Interns are matched to specific projects based on their previous work history and predetermined interests. Internship tasks vary but can include data entry, scanning, janitorial/ custodial, general administrative duties, food service, housekeeping, and laundry.

In Sedgwick County, there are a total of three Project SEARCH sites. Wichita Public Schools partners with Sedgwick County and Ascension Via Christi, while Derby Public Schools partners with McConnell Air Force Base for Project SEARCH. Support is also provided by Sedgwick County’s Community Developmental Disability Organization (SCDDO) and Kansas Rehabilitation Services.

SCDDO serves as the single point of entry for all intellectual and developmental services in Sedgwick County. This program is a key piece in the SCDDO’s employment efforts. Learn more about Project SEARCH by emailing scddo@sedgwick.gov
2020 Budget Development is Underway
Discussion regarding the 2020 budget is underway. Commissioners and County leaders held a retreat in February at the Law Enforcement Training Center taking time to cultivate their priorities for the coming year. 

Area experts were cautiously optimistic about our region’s future with labor markets showing signs of improvement and unemployment rates continuing to decline. However, salaries and wages have remained flat over the last few years. Sedgwick County’s own financial forecast projected modest surpluses, even as the organization continues to strategically draw down fund balances.

More workshops and conversations will happen through the spring and summer; the County Manager is expected to present a recommendation to Commissioners on Wednesday, July 17. 
County Launches New Career Website
This week, Sedgwick County unveiled a new website for job vacancies , directing candidates to apply for careers at careers.sedgwickcounty.org. The new website has additional functionality to assist the County with attracting and communicating with potential employees. The site interacts with major job websites, including LinkedIn and Indeed. Users may apply using their tablets or mobile devices. The website replaces the 19-year-old www.HRePartners.com.  

The new site is part of an overall recruitment campaign for Sedgwick County. Strategic Communications has created digital ads to share careers across the organization, with special consideration for positions with historically high turnover, or positions that require specialized training.

The campaign highlights several career paths with Sedgwick County and the Sedgwick County Zoo. 
Public Invited to Show Support for Children's Mental Health Awareness Day
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one in five children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness, making it the 3rd leading cause of death in youth. Educating yourself and others on the warning signs of mental illness can be crucial in saving someone’s life. That’s why COMCARE of Sedgwick County, COMCARE Community Partners, and Wichita Public Schools have come together to host a Children’s Art Show in recognition of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

All are invited to attend the Art Show at Old Cowtown Museum from 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, May 18 in the Empire House Theatre. Additionally, Cowtown is offering FREE admission into the museum to any students and their families from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day. The Art Show is a come and go event, and light refreshments will be served. 

Remember: take care of your mental health. It’s the smart thing to do. 
County to Participate in Community Events
Stop by the Sedgwick County booths on Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5. Representatives will be at Viva Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, May 5 at the Coleman Parking Lot in Downtown Wichita. Then, representatives will be at Cinco de Mayo for Open Streets ICT – NoMar on Sunday, May 5, near the NoMar Market on 21st Street and Broadway.  
As the top outdoor family attraction in the State, the mission of the Sedgwick County Zoo is to inspire discovery, appreciation, and respect for animals and nature. It is home to 3,000 animals and nearly 400 species. The Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit is the third largest elephant habitat in the United States. 
Exploration Place, Kansas’ premier science center, inspires a deeper interest in science through creative and fun experiences for people of all ages. Through its permanent and travelling exhibits, education programs, Digital Dome Theater films and special events, visitors can enjoy learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  
The Kansas African American Museum endeavors to make the Kansas African American experience resonate with EVERY Kansan. Located in the venerable Calvary Baptist Church, visitors may expand their knowledge and understanding of the Kansas African American story. 
Residents and visitors can gain an understanding of our community and cultural heritage at the Wichita – Sedgwick County Historical Museum. By collecting, preserving, and interpreting materials which reflect the area’s heritage visitors can experience different facets that shaped the community we live in today.  
316-660-9300
525 N. Main, Ste 320, Wichita, KS 67203