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Missouri Job Center returning to normal operations

JOPLIN, Mo. — If you’re on the hunt for a job, you’ll have a new option receiving help next week.

The Missouri Job Center in Joplin is returning to normal operations. That means pandemic restrictions are lifted – and job seekers will be able to, once again, use the facility in person. Virtual options are still in place for those concerned about interacting with others on site.

Pam Regan, MO Job Center, said, “Job seekers are nervous and we understand that so we just want to let everybody know that we are here. We are available, we can help them with job searching, resumes, interviews, whatever they need to get prepared to go back to work.”

The job center will be offering training opportunities for those wanting additional skills in warehouse work or highway construction. Monday will mark the first official day without restrictions since March of 2020.

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CHCSEK offers additional assistance to seniors

SOUTHEAST KANSAS — The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas is providing food boxes to seniors in Cherokee County.

They come from the Kansas Food Bank, and are for low-income seniors over the age of 60. Boxes will be available at the health center’s facility in Baxter Springs.

This doesn’t replace any current food plan – it’s an extra resource. Enrollment in the monthly program can be made over the phone by calling 316-265-3663.

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Community storm shelters more prevalent since Joplin tornado

WEBB CITY, Mo. — When that storm siren goes off, you’re likely looking for the closest place to take shelter safely. And now there are many more choices than just ten years ago.

There clearly have been some tornado shelters at schools and other public sites for years. But the 2011 Joplin tornado changed what many considered safe.

Josie Spikereit, WCHS Junior, said, “We know we should go into the dome and have designated spots we sit in.”

Webb City Junior Josie Spikereit doesn’t have to think twice about where to go in the high school for a tornado warning. It also applies after school hours.

“It’s nice to know that even if we’re not at school we can go into the storm shelter, that they open it up for our community. So I feel safe that we have a safe place that we can go to now.”

Webb City is one of many, many school districts to re-evaluate sheltering plans after the 2011 Joplin tornado.

Kevin Cooper, WC R-7 Asst. Superintendent, said, “In the past we would just put the kids in the hallway duck and cover, but we saw what happened in the hallway and we knew that wasn’t going to be the safest thing.”

In the R-7 District alone, they’ve added enough tornado shelters to cover the entire district. Some are also open to the public.

“Would be the four community plus three that are just for school, it costs us $22 million.”

Not a small price tag. But Webb City schools got some help, grant funding from FEMA that they may not have gotten without local disasters raising safety concerns in the Four States.

“And it wasn’t just Joplin you know Carl Junction’s had a couple of issues and things with storms as well, but that did put us kind of at the top of the pecking order as far as some federal grants.”

It’s a improvement plan that’s played out in many area schools in recent years.

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Kansas GOP senator pushes back as state keeps federal unemployment benefits

TOPEKA (KSNT) — As some states across the country decide to put an end to federal unemployment benefits, Kansas will not be joining that list.

Governor Laura Kelly announced Wednesday that the state will continue to administer federal unemployment benefits.

“While the Governor will monitor this situation closely over the coming months, her primary focus remains on continuing her administration’s record-setting efforts recruiting new businesses and jobs to Kansas.” 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s Office

The announcement comes a day after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he will cut off all federal pandemic unemployment benefits to Missourians. 

Some GOP leaders have pushed to end federal unemployment benefits, or cut extensions, in an effort to address labor shortages, and get people back to work. Kansas’ U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, who’s pushed to roll back the extra $300 extensions in federal unemployment payments, said the governor’s decision will come with a cost.

“If the governor would go out and talk to businesses, talk to Kansans, she would quickly understand that the number one impediment in getting this economy growing is getting people back to work,” Marshall told KSNT’s Capitol Bureau.

Marshall said he doesn’t want to “pull the rug out” from anyone that is struggling to make ends meet, but he does want to help them find a job.

“There are 8 million jobs that are open across the country now, and certainly a large number in Kansas,” Marshall said. “If you are not qualified to do the jobs that are available, then what can we do to help you out?”

While federal unemployment benefits will continue for now, the governor is encouraging Kansans to apply to jobs by visiting the state’s job recruitment website for job opportunities and assistance.

Thousands of unemployed Kansans have struggled through the pandemic, with some still waiting to get unemployment payments. The state’s labor office reported more than 16,000 people in the backlog for one of the federal programs, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, this week.

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McDonald County focuses on roads and bridges

MCDONALD COUNTY, Mo. — Officials in McDonald County have their hands full right now, with a number of road and bridge projects.

Work to improve a bridge on Langley road is underway. Repairs to bridges on Millcreek, Salt, and Deer Creek roads will start soon – as will work on a number of roads in the county affected by recent floods. The projects are being funded by the county’s road and bridge project revenue.

Jamey Cope – McDonald County Associate Commissioner, said, “Here in McDonald County we have 670 miles roughly of dirt roads, and about 170 miles of chipped roads, so it takes a long time to go over all of those roads, to get them all replaced and you know fixed adequately to where cars can travel, so there’s a lot going on with the roads right now.”

The hope is to have all bridge projects completed by the end of the year.

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Area Police Chief retiring

DUQUESNE, Mo. — A local police chief is ready to retire.

Duquesne Police Chief Tommy Kitch announced his decision to retire in June at Monday’s city council meeting. He’s spent thirty years in law enforcement, 17 of those as Duquesne’s Police Chief. Kitch’s wife retired just last year – and he says he’s ready to spend more time at home.

Chief Tommy Kitch, Duquesne Police Department, said, “The relationships that I’ve built here in Duquesne over the last 16-17 years have been really meaningful. There’s a lot of people here where I know the families, I know the kids. I’ve had the opportunity to watch them grow and have children of their own. And it’s been meaningful. It’s good memories.”

He says the city is being left in good hands with the other officers on the force for the years to come. For his post-retirement life, he says he plans to go hiking and camping.

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Duquesne residents concerned about speeding in school zones

DUQUESNE, Mo. — Duquesne residents are raising concerns about speeding in school zones.

The area of concern is near Joplin East Middle School and Soaring Heights Elementary. Citizens raised their concerns at the Duquesne City Council meeting Monday night. They say there’s a noticeable difference when police patrol cars are present.

Becca White, Duquesne City Council Member, said, “It was brought to our attention that there has been a speeding problem in the school zones in the mornings and the afternoons during pick-up and drop-off time. Citizens asked for some extra patrol during that time from the police just to slow people down a little bit.”

White says there have also been issues with the school zone lights not flashing during school hours. As a mom herself, she says school zones aren’t there to hand out extra tickets – their purpose is to keep kids safe.

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Cherokee County reflects on a year of economic development

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ks. — This week is Economic Development Week across the country.

A much different outlook on things than this time a year ago – when the pandemic had just started to affect, well, really everything. A year later, many businesses are in a much more celebratory mood, thanks, in part, to a number of grant programs. That includes Cherokee County.

Janet Miller, Cherokee County Economic Development Corporation Director, said, “Usually in economic development we see a particular industry suffering or that kind of thing rather than businesses across the board are having issues at the same time.”

It’s hard to avoid this when you’re in the middle of a pandemic.

Samantha Atkinson, New Beginnings Full Service Salon Owner, said, “We were shut down for about seven weeks, unable to work, so a loss of revenue was huge for us. Even during a shut down you still have a mortgage, you still have utilities due and everything and so without an income it makes it harder to make those payments.”

Whether it was to stay afloat, adjust or recover, some businesses needed a little help. This came in the form of grant programs like Spark and the CDBG.

“Businesses needed money fast and so these grant programs were terrific in terms of being able to help assist them get through the tough times,” said Miller.

Not only did this help keep many in business, but it also created a new market.

“This was probably the first time in recent memory that there were wide spread business grant programs, I think people always think ‘I’ll start a business, I’ll get a grant.’ Seeing a lot of businesses start now in the last five to six months.”

A year later many business are returning to normal, in some cases even better than before.

“I feel like we’ve gained respect and because of that I’m busier, I didn’t think it was possible, I feel like I’m busier than I was before,” said Atkinson.

“The game was to help those businesses make it through the pandemic and I think we’ve been very successful in that and we hope that we’re looking towards a brighter 2021 and beyond,” said Miller.

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Joplin Parks and Rec focuses on trees

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Parks and Recreation Department is working on planting trees throughout the city of Joplin.

The May 22, 2011 tornado destroyed 17,000 trees throughout the city. Since then the parks and recreation department has planted more than 2,500 trees.

Two grants through the Missouri Department of Conservation is helping the city prune and trim its trees. The city was awarded two grants totaling $21,000 to trim and prune trees in several parks.

Jake Cowen, Parks Maintenance Superintendent, said, “Trees are very important. Everyone loves sitting under a tree and the shade thast it offers and the health benefits. Tree guys say they’re little air conditioners.”

He says this year’s hard winter killed some trees and the city is constantly working to replace dead trees.

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Joplin Chamber of Commerce to host tech summit

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce is working to connect businesses with helpful resources.

Doug Hunt, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, Director of Entrepreneurship, said, “Joplin has a lot to offer and we want to make sure every sector around the globe knows who we are, where we are located, and what we have to offer.”

The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce is preparing to host the Joplin Regional Innovation and Technology Summit. It will focus on different topics for business owners and will have experts talking about cyber security, software, and e-commerce.

“The purpose of the technology summit is to educate our local community on the technology companies that we have and the emerging small businesses that are growing, doing amazing things all over the globe that they may not see otherwise.”

The chamber plans on bringing in tech leaders from around the United States to show them what Joplin has to offer.

“To raise the awareness of the fact that although we are proud of our manufacturing. Joplin is emerging as a technology economic development resource as well.”

Jason Rincker with Stronghold Data is finding cyber security speakers for the summit. He says the summit will help businesses stay on top of emerging technology and cyber security.

“From a cyber security standpoint the threat landscape changes daily. We have organizations that are trying to attack businesses here and it costs them money. Its real dollars. The problem is most businesses don’t realize that they’re a target.”

The summit will be held in November and will be free and open to the public.