Rumor Watch

Contact Us

515 Kansas Ave.
Atchison, KS 66002View Map
  • Telephone Number: 913-367-5500
  • Facsimile Number: 913-367-3654
Missouri River Flood
Due to the Missouri River conditions, we've dedicated a special rumor section to flood questions. For up-to-the-minute updates on this rapidly changing situation, follow us on Facebook.
Check out the river levels (and the bridge construction) from September 2009 to today on our bridge cam.
STATUS: MoDOT has closed US-59 (on the Missouri side) and M-45 between Leavenworth and I-435. Traffic from Kansas City area should take I-70 to I-73. Traffic from St. Jo should take US-36 to K-7. Atchison also remains accessible by K-4/US-59 for approach from the south/southwest. Follow road closings with KDOT and MoDOT
All City infrastructure is still protected at this level, and it poses no threat to the public water supply. Although water is encroaching on a handful of riverside businesses at this time, the City is largely protected from high water due to its position on the bluffs and its system of watershed dams throughout the community. Our thoughts go out to our friends and neighbors in the low lying Missouri river basin who are profoundly affected by this disaster. 
The City of Atchison, Atchison County, Kansas Emergency Management, Corps of Engineers, Union Pacific, local media, and key community and business interests continue to coordinate closely. We appreciate their partnership as well as your patience as this event it on its Facebook page and here.
As always, follow instructions of law enforcement officials if you encounter them on scene and respect road closures. Law enforcement is aggressively ticketing vehicles and pedestrians who trespass.
Even if the flooding won't affect your home or business, it's always a good idea to be prepared against natural disasters, even if it's just to have a plan for your own personal well-being. Check out some great resources here and at
Flood Rumors:
  • Can I get to Atchison? Are the roads closed? Is the bridge closed? At this time Highway 59 is closed to traffic from the Missouri side. Traffic from Kansas City should detour on I-70 to US-73 through Leavenworth. Traffic to St. Jo should detour on K-7 to Hwy 36.
  • Is the water safe to drink? Yes, city water is totally safe to drink. As always, if anything jeopardized the public water supply, both the Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE) and the City of Atchison would make big announcements to alert customers. The safety of the public water supply is one of the foremost considerations of the City's preparedness effort. 
  • Will the Amelia Earhart Festival get cancelled? No. Festival organizers proudly announce that the Amelia Earhart Festival will go on as planned on July 15-16. The festival will keep the public informed of changes of venue or other schedule changes. Make plans!
  • I heard I can get a voucher from Atchison Police Department to go see my house in Winthrop, Missouri? As friends and neighbors, the City of Atchison and its police department are trying to be accommodating to flood victims while also protecting access to property outside of its jurisdiction. Although it's not advised to go to Winthrop at this time, Winthrop residents may come to the Atchison Police Department at City Hall and speak with an officer. There is no voucher system (sorry, folks, random rumor) but an officer will take your personal information and description so that there's a clear record of who's had access to Winthrop during this time. Again, it's not advised that you go and it's at your own risk. Trespassing will be aggressively prosecuted.
  • Can I put my boat in to get to my house? No. The National Guard has closed the river to navigation and that extends to flooded areas. Flood waters are extremely dangerous to navigate, even for experienced boaters. In addition to the nasty pathogens found in flood water, the current is moving much faster than it looks and the depths are completely unpredictable. If you want to access property in Missouri beyond Winthrop, contact the Buchanan County Sheriff's Department at 816/276-8800.
  • Can I still go fishing? Feel free to fish in one of our scenic watershed dams throughout the community, including Warnock Lake. However, fishing in the river at this time is highly inadvisable due to the accelerated current and the quality of the water coming from upstream. Also, police are aggressively ticketing trespassers who trespass around "road closed" barricades and signs. Private railroad property is also off limits. The National Guard has also closed the river to boating.
  • Why is the flooding happening? I heard it was a "controlled flood?" Due to unprecedented levels of precipitation from snow melt and spring rain, it's become necessary for the Army Corps of Engineers to follow protocol and massively increase dam releases into the Missouri River Basin from upriver dams like Gavin's Point in South Dakota -- or risk the dams bursting and all that water heading downstream all at once. As a scenic riverside community that's familiar with seasonal flooding of varying degrees, Atchison is thankful for the advance notice and the time it's had to prepare for the worst case scenario thanks to the Corps' controlled flood strategy.
  • I heard on the Internet that the military is going to blow the dam at Gavin's Point on purpose. We don't hear about it because they want it to just seem natural. Look, conspiracy theorists do a fine job of speaking for themselves, so we won't speak for them. Natural disasters are times of high stress and anxiety; rumors can seem like fact and fears seem like reality. During these confusing times, always check your source. Unless you heard it directly from an official local, state, or federal government announcement, be wary of hearsay -- even if the person is well-meaning.
  • Can I volunteer? Yes. Thanks for reaching out.
    • The Humane Society of Atchison is taking in pets from the region affected by the flood and is requesting volunteers, money, and people interested in adopting. Contact Diana Middleton at (913) 367-3647.
    • The Red Cross is also requesting volunteers. Contact Kim Bottorff at Red Cross Offcies, 504 1/2 Kansas Avenue or email or call 913-367-5355.
    • The City of Atchison is taking names of volunteers in case they're needed. To add your name to the list, email We'll contact you if we can use you.  
  • Is it safe to wade in the flood waters (for fun)? No. Please stay out of the flood waters, including pets. The water is moving downstream rapidly and carrying a lot of debris. Accidents can happen in an instant. Play it safe and steer clear.
  • Why isn't River Road sandbagged to keep it open? River Road is a natural low point and normally takes on water in high peaks. Although a popular and scenic route, it's not an essential arterial and not necessary to keep businesses open. Sandbagging is done to protect lives and property (buildings and homes) which is where resources are focused during a disaster.
  • I have a four wheel drive vehicle, so I can still make it through high water. Nope. When a road is closed, it's unlawful to proceed regardless of how awesome your car is. If you drive around the "Road Closed" barrier, you will get ticketed. Turn around, don't drown. 
  • How much did that block wall cost and why did you put it there? The barrier blocks were donated to the City during this disaster effort by Bunge Corporation; Marlatt Construction donated loading and unloading labor. The city covered the costs of transporting the block only. The City is closely tracking all of its expenses in the event it can seek FEMA reimbursement. City engineers consulted with the Corps of Engineers to determine the most effective placement to protect lives and property. Roads will be left open until the waters rise.
  • That wall is 5 foot tall! Will the flood waters get that high?! No. In the worst case scenario, we will likely only need the first foot or two of the wall. However, we need all the downward pressure from the height of the wall to keep the lower block in place against the pressure of the water.
  • Do I need to be worried about evacuating my house? No. Flood conditions are not projected to affect any residences in Atchison. It's always a good idea to have a plan in place for natural disasters, but this flood event doesn't appear to pose an imminent threat.
  • Do you know of storage facilities that I can put my stuff in? There are several storage companies that are a part of the Atchison business community. If you feel like you need to store something and need a reference, call the Chamber of Commerce at 913-367-2427.

The City of Atchison is committed to open and honest communication with residents, business owners, stakeholders, and staff. Truthful, reliable information is the foundation of this commitment.

We take rumors seriously. When spread unchecked, they chip away at the level of confidence that community members have in their local government and damage morale within the organization.

Submit a Rumor
Have you heard something that sounds too good to be true? Or does the word on the street make your blood boil? Send us what you've heard at We'll track down the truth and post it on this page. (Keep in mind, submissions will be screened and/or formatted prior to posting.)

And for the latest City of Atchison news straight from the source, check out our News & Notices.

  • I heard the bridge project's been delayed, true? 'Fraid so. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has jurisdiction of the bridge and the bridge project. In early June, KDOT let us know that the project is facing significant delays due to a conflict with its subcontractor over fabricating a very important part of the bridge's structure. Once KDOT works out an agreement with the sub, it'll be at least nine months until the new bridge can carry traffic and another three months to complete the finishing details. Originally slated to open in Fall 2011, it may likely be Summer or Fall of 2012 before it's open. ... But we'd rather have a good bridge than a fast bridge, right?
  • So, what's the hold-up? The snag is four giant 4'x6' steel boxes - called "knuckles" - that tie in the bridge's arch to its base. KDOT and the fabricator are working out some measurement issues, but it's important that they take the time to get it right because precision is critical to the integrity of the bridge's structure. KDOT is committed to taking the time to make it right so we can make it last.
  • Has the flooding created further delays on the new bridge? Not really, with the delays in the fabrication issue, the river situation isn't impacting the construction schedule that much at this point.
  • With the delay, is the old bridge safe to travel on? Yes. KDOT engineers have assured us that the old bridge will do just fine for the duration.
  • With the old bridge's sentimental/historic value to the community, did KDOT ever find a buyer for it as promised? KDOT's commitment was to try to locate an interested party to buy the old bridge and relocate it so that it could "live on" somewhere else. KDOT put out a request for proposal, but there were no takers. We appreciate KDOT's willingness to try to ease our concerns about a community landmark that has a lot of personal value to us. The old bridge has served us well for many, many years.
  • Are they going to blow up the old bridge? No. There will be some underwater demolition and excavation but the rest of the bridge will be deconstructed by KDOT's demo contractor. Some of the materials may be reclaimed (re-used in other projects) by the demolition contractor, so in a way our bride will still live on. The demo team is also required to remove the pylons down to 20' below the mud line (base of the river). Interesting, no?
  • Will the new bridge be a two-lane or four-lane? The bridge was built as a four-lane, but for now will be striped as a two-lane with very generous shoulders. In the future, if Missouri restores its funding for a four-lane tie-in, KDOT can re-stripe the bridge.
  • I heard that the new bridge is secretly planned to be a toll bridge. Is that true? No. Someone is pullin's your leg. KDOT has no interest in making it a toll bridge. The hassle it would cause, the traffic congestion it would create, and the unreasonable burden on the community ... no. Someone out there is celebrating April Fools a little early. 

Check out the bridge's progress at our bridge cam.

Rumor: My neighbor just told me that the City has stopped doing special pick-ups on Wednesdays. Is that true?
Fact: No, there's been no trash service interruption and none anticipated. Now, on certain holiday weekends, trash service is shuffled around to accommodate the holiday and when that happens we can't offer special pick-up that week only. Perhaps this led to your neighbor's confusion, yes?
Otherwise, we're very pleased and proud to offer special pick-ups as a complementary service to our customers. That's a personal touch you'll only find in a hometown community like Atchison.
To schedule a special pick-up, call our Public Works HelpLine at 913/367-5561. To learn more about solid waste collections services and trash routes, check this out.
By the way, thanks for giving us a heads-up and the chance to uncross "crossed wires." It's a great reminder why we should get our info straight from the source.

Rumor: I recently sent you an anonymous complaint about a person connected to the city and absolutely nothing was done about my concerns. If I don't see some improvements soon, I'm going to send a strongly-worded letter to the editor to let the whole town know the city knew about this and did nothing! And this time I'm going to sign my name!


Fact: Good, we encourage you to. The reality is - unless it's an anonymous tip to the police department about criminal activity - we cannot act on anonymous personnel complaints. They're simply not actionable. Without a way to follow-up with you, we don't have all the information we need to take action, if necessary.
Public services belong to us all and everyone is encouraged to give feedback. Facebook us, email us, call us, or write us a good old fashioned letter. Your complaint will be treated in confidence, if that's your wish. Just help us help you and let us know who's expressing the concern.

Rumor: Why'd the city shut-down the only cab company in town?! I relied on them to get me to my doctor appointments!


Fact: Despite stories to the contrary, it's not true that the city "shut down the cab company."
After becoming aware of some real-life incidences of concern, the city passed an ordinance (a local law) that said any cab company that wants to operate in this community has to 1) have adequate insurance to cover its business liabilities and 2) background-check employees to ensure sex offenders aren't hired as drivers.


Instead of meeting these basic requirements, the cab company in service when the ordinance was passed chose to shut down operations. It's an unfortunate outcome for the time being, but we're aware of a local individual who is currently working to open up a transportation service that will meet these minimum protections for its customers.


Rumor: I heard the city's giving free money away to downtown businesses? That's our tax dollars! What gives?


Fact: No, it's not true. Here's where the wires probably got crossed .... Since 1999, the City has had a Community Development Block Grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce which funded a Downtown Fa�ade Improvement Revolving Loan Fund that the City has managed with great success for the last 11 years. Businesses located in the downtown core could apply for a 0% interest loan from the revolving loan fund for facade improvements and pay it back over time, up to 15 years depending on the amount of the loan.


These were state dollars, available locally for a very limited and specific purpose. There was no overlap or impact to public tax dollars or other city funds. As a community, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to offer these grant-funded loan dollars to incent downtown revitalization. Over the last decade it has been a vital component to encouraging an attractive, walkable downtown for citizens and tourists.


Then, earlier this year the federal government enforced new grant restrictions on the Kansas Department of Commerce which in turn trickled down to the local level. These new mandates made it nearly impossible to continue operating the revolving loan program.


So, the City of Atchison and the Kansas Department of Commerce mutually agreed to terminate the revolving loan program and for the City to return to the State its dollars currently sitting unallocated in the revolving loan fund. As a concession to the Atchison community, the Kansas Department of Commerce agreed to convert the 14 outstanding loans into grants. This included grants to a dozen local commercial property owners and downtown merchants as well as organizations like the YMCA and the United Methodist Church, a generous and welcome gift from the State.


As this was happening there were two local merchants in the middle of the Downtown Fa�ade Loan application process. Both would have received the same funding and program benefits that all the other participants had received were it not for the State imposing such drastic changes to the program, making it unworkable for a small business.
So, in fairness to these businesses, the City Commission acted to give a one-time grant (with City funds) to each business equivalent to the value of the amortized interest they will now be paying through a private loan with one of our local banking institutions instead of the 0% interest revolving loan program. In other words, making them whole for our decision to terminate the program mid-application.


Obviously, these are very unique circumstances that don't happen every day. But, no, these grant conversions and the money behind them have no real impact on your tax dollars or city funding.
If you're a believer in supporting the community, buying local, the 3/50 Project, etc., you probably agree that good fortune for a handful of businesses strengthens the Atchison business community as a whole. And indeed, we have encouraged each recipient of the grants to pay it forward - and in many cases, keep paying it forward -- by contributing to the prosperity and vitality of the Atchison community.


Still have questions? City Manager Trey Cocking is happy to hear from you. You can reach him at 913-367-5506.

Rumor: I hear the City's giving away the youth correctional facility (the JJA property). Why isn't the City trying to sell it and who are they giving it away to?

Fact: The State of Kansas continues to have ownership and control of the property, but has asked the City to work in partnership with other community organizations to be available to meet with potential business interests for the property.

If the State does not find a buyer after a time, state officials have indicated that they may exercise their option to put the property up for auction in part or in whole. Point being, the City has no control over the facility, but we are doing our very best to influence the State towards a positive outcome for the community.

If you know of a private business interested in the property, please refer them to Atchison Economic Development at 888-367-5524 for more information.   

Rumor: I've heard they're charging parents and relatives admission to watch their kids' play at the new sports complex.

Fact: The new sports complex is owned and operated by the Atchison Recreation Commission, so the City has no direct involvement in or information about its operations. For more information on this issue, please contact 913-367-3352.

Rumor: I called City Hall to complain about my utility bill. I admit I got pretty heated, but the employee hung up the phone! I got out of line, but still -- is that any way to treat a customer?

Fact: Each day our mission is to provide excellent customer service focused on finding solutions while enforcing City policies. However, providing good customer service does not mean listening to verbal abuse such as swearing, name-calling, shouting, or threats.
If a call spirals into these outbursts, it's unlikely that we'll be able to reach a successful resolution anyway. City customer service staff have been trained in conflict resolution skills, but if the verbal abuse continues the employee is allowed to end the call courteously and ask the customer to call back when they've calmed down.
If you have a genuine complaint about the customer service you received, it's appropriate to contact the department director or City Manager to discuss it.

Send us what you've heard at

News Highlights

More | Subscribe to this feed
  • Atchison, KS Launches New Website
    Published: Thursday, January 06, 2011
    Press Release - Atchison, KS Launches New Website First Birth for 2011 for eGov Websites For Immediate Release Contact: April Strano eGov Strategies, LLC Phone: (877) 634-3468 ext. 2194 Fax: (317) 522-0716 Email: astrano@egovstr...
  • Water Treatment Plant Announces Partial Shut-Down Tuesday
    Published: Thursday, January 06, 2011
    News Release January 6, 2010 Contact: Trey Cocking, City Manager (913) 367-5506 WATER TREATMENT PLANT ANNOUNCES PARTIAL SHUT-DOWN TUESDAY Atchison � City officials announced today that utility crews and the city's construction c...
  • City Offers Christmas Tree Disposal Site
    Published: Tuesday, December 28, 2010
    News Release December 23, 2010 Contact: Trey Cocking, City Manager (913) 367-5506 CITY OFFERS CHRISTMAS TREE DISPOSAL SITE Atchison � Atchison residents are encouraged to dispose of their non-artificial Christmas trees at the de...

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