Advanced Meter Infrastructure

The City of Topeka Utilities Department is currently in the process installing an Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) system. This system provides the Utilities Department with the ability to read all 57,000 water meters in Topeka by radio, using 31 radio receiving locations. The AMI system will also provide the Utilities Department with more frequent and reliable information to better serve our Utility customers.
When selecting locations for the 31 radio receiving locations, many existing buildings and structures were considered. 27 locations have been selected and approved including several City of Topeka facilities, local schools and community centers. These locations allow for 80% of the meters to be read. The gaps in our coverage were due to not having existing buildings or structures to utilize. To resolve this issue 4 locations have been selected to house a 60 foot tall steel pole. The pole will have an electronics cabinet and electrical service. The 4 locations are 515 SW Horne Street, 4813 SW 17th St, 2350 SW Pepperwood and 1650 NW Fredith Lane. These will be installed in the public right of way along the street. Each location was reviewed in order to minimize the impact on the neighboring homes and businesses. There should not be any direct negative impact to the areas surrounding the 4 locations. However this new system will provide more beneficial data such as more accurate readings, leak detection and high water usage. The installation will start in June with the poles being fully functional in July.
If you have any questions regarding this project please call:
Ryan Woolaway
City of Topeka

Donate Blood at the 3rd Annual Battle of the Badges

Local fire and law enforcement personnel are teaming with the American Red Cross for the 3rd annual Battle of the Badges blood drive to see who can recruit the most eligible donors in their community to donate blood.
Individuals can join the Battle of the Badges blood drive by donating May 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Holliday Building, 620 SE Madison. Donors’ blood donations will help decide who wins bragging rights and the traveling trophy.
“The Battle of the Badges blood drive is one of those yearly events where a little competitive spirit takes over between the members the Fire Department and the Police Department to benefit a great cause,” said Topeka Police Chief Bill Cochran. “Best of all, at the end of the day everyone in our community benefits and the comradery between our two departments becomes even stronger. We hope you will come donate blood and make a difference.”
Battle of the Badges is a friendly competition to encourage community members to join their local first responders and perform their own heroic act with a blood donation.
“I know this event is known as the “Battle of the Badges,” blood drive but to me it is really the “Pledge of the Badges,” said Topeka Fire Chief Craig Duke. “Each year both departments look at this special way to serve our community. We pledge to go beyond our daily way of public safety servitude by donating blood. Why? Because that’s who we are.”

Duke continues, “On the lighter side, it is fun to see how Topeka Fire Department and Topeka Police Department make this a whole community event by competing in fun, to see who will have the most donated pints of blood for the Red Cross but in the end, we all win.”
This May, during National Trauma Month, the Red Cross is calling on donors to give blood regularly to be prepared to meet the needs of patients. In emergency situations, having blood available when a patient arrives at a hospital is vital. Regular donations can help ensure sufficient supplies are available for trauma patients when every second matters, as well as others with serious medical conditions.
“Fire and law enforcement units know firsthand how important it is to have blood readily available for emergencies,” said Susan Faler, account manager, Red Cross Central Plains Blood Services Region. “By hosting this blood drive, they are helping ensure that blood is on the shelves before it is needed.”

In thanks, all those who come to donate blood with the Red Cross now through June 10, 2019, will receive a $5 Gift Card via email. (Restrictions apply; see More information and details are available at
To make an appointment for the Topeka Battle of the Badges, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and use sponsor code Topeka.
How to donate blood
All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at or use the Blood Donor App.

About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Water Advisory

The City of Topeka Utility Department is advising Topeka area residents to avoid contact with local waterways flowing throughout the City until further notice due to the inundation of the City’s storm and sanitary sewer systems. With the heavy rains the local infrastructure is struggling with excess water (commonly referred to as inflow and infiltration) in the sanitary sewer system. Stormwater can enter into the sewer system through illegally connected residential sump pumps and roof drains, as well as cracked sewer pipes and manhole covers. This excess water is currently causing areas of the system to overflow into nearby waterways.
The Department is also actively working to complete repairs to a broken sanitary sewer force main near 2501 SW Randolph that caused untreated sewage to flow into a small tributary that flows to Shunganunga Creek near Big Shunga Park. Temporary repairs were completed Tuesday, however the pipe was compromised again early Wednesday morning. Permanent repairs are ongoing.
Residents are advised to practice safe and common sense hygiene, like avoiding immersion and ingestion, keeping pets out of the water and washing hands before eating. Topeka staff will continue to monitor the water in local creeks and waterways and provide notification when the advisory can be lifted. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been notified and is advising.

City of Topeka Celebrates National Arbor Day

Gov. Lara Kelly, will sign a proclamation at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, May 3rd, to designate April 26th Kansas Arbor Day. The Governor will be joined by members of the Kansas Forest Service, the Kansas Arborist Association, and City of Topeka Arborist Travis Tenbrink.
“This is an important opportunity to celebrate Arbor Day and the importance that tree’s play in our lives,” said City of Topeka Arborist Travis Tenbrink. “This is a great way to get the community involved in planting trees and we hope that it will encourage others to plant a tree during our celebration of Arbor Day.”
Following the signing the group will be planting a White Oak across the street from the Capital at the Judicial Center. The White Oak was selected to increase the diversity of trees being planted in the downtown area.

Emergency Closure at 21st Street and I-470.

Beginning on Monday, April 29, 21st Street will be fully closed to vehicular traffic and open to pedestrians and bike on the north sidewalk. There will be a signed detour using 17th Street. I-470 off and on ramps will be fully closed on the east side of the bridge, the west side ramps will both be open. Although through traffic will be prohibited, local access to the businesses between Belle Avenue and I-470 will be maintained. This section of roadway carries about 27,000 vehicles a day.

The complete “emergency” closure is being done for several reasons:
• The concrete pavement was already showing signs of significant deterioration at the joints, and the situation was made noticeably worse by the harsh winter.
• KDOT will be starting their project to overlay I-470 northbound on or before June 15. The City’s project must be completed prior to the beginning of that overlay work or wait until it is finished. It is our opinion that 21st Street cannot be adequately and safely maintained until after the I-470 work, so we have to act immediately.
• Worker and driver safety. This is a high traffic location. In order to protect construction workers and drivers, full closure is a safer alternative than a complicated, ever changing maze of signs, cones and barricades.
• The full closure will allow the work to be finished in a much shorter time period. The Contractor is required to be finished on or before June 1st or they will face financial penalties.
• A full closure costs significantly less. The cost of maintaining through traffic while constructing roads is expensive.
• There are several construction projects already underway on the west side of Topeka. But there are more projects scheduled to start later in the summer. It is important that the 21st work be completed before these other projects begin to help with the inevitable inconvenience of multiple projects.

Sunflower Paving is the contractor for this project. The project will be completed by June 1st.

Topeka Zoo Releases Name of Injured Zoo Keeper

During an incident with a Sumatran tiger on April 20, 2019, a Zoo Keeper at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center sustained injuries and is currently recovering at a local Topeka hospital. The injured keeper is 40 year-old Kristyn Hayden-Ortega. Kristyn began working with the Topeka Zoo on July 30, 2001.
Kristyn is a passionate and dedicated individual in this field. She has taught and mentored many other zookeepers, educators, interns, and volunteers into becoming ambassadors for animals of all species. Whether training a tiger for a semen collection, a voluntary ultrasound, or working with an African painted dog to allow the use of a stethoscope to listen to his heart, she is very determined which allows her to approach obstacles with a realistic, but also “we’ll try it” outlook. She has a great sense of humor and is a great problem solver.
During Kristyn’s tenure at the zoo:

  • She began her employment at the zoo in the zoo’s education department where she helped implement a state wide Safari Edventure Day program. She also made several trips to Paraguay to work with maned wolves and train zoo keepers in South America.
  • After transferring to the zoo’s Animal Care Department in 2009, she developed a passion for working with a number of different animals including African painted dogs and Sumatran tigers.
  • She is the zoo’s Institutional Representative to and sits on the steering committee of the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan Steering Committee.
  • She recently presented at a conference in Texas on training techniques to enhance reproduction in Sumatran tigers.
  • She has traveled to Thailand to work with Asian elephants.
  • She was involved with the original release of black-footed ferrets into the Kansas landscape.
  • She is the current president of the Topeka Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.

Kristyn is a highly valued member of our team. She is full of passion and performs great work. It is still uncertain when she will leave the hospital but a full recovery is expected.
Kristyn’s family would like to thank everyone who has sent prayers and well-wishes. At the same time, Kristyn’s family has experienced a traumatic event and needs time to process that. They have asked for privacy and hope the media and public can respect that.

Sumatran Tiger Injures Keeper at Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center

At about 9:15 this morning, a Zoo Keeper found herself in the same outdoor space with a seven year old Sumatran tiger. The Keeper sustained injuries but is being treated at a local hospital and remains in stable condition.
Zoo personnel responded immediately. In less than ten minutes, the tiger was called into an adjoining indoor holding space. The tiger was never out of its enclosure.
While the zoo briefly closed during the time of the incident, it reopened shortly after.
“The male Sumatran tiger, Sanjiv, simply reacted the way that is normal for a tiger to do,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. “There is absolutely no consideration of euthanizing the tiger.”
Over the next several days, a complete investigation will be conducted that will also review all policies and procedures around tiger management at the zoo. “If we need to make updates to our current procedures, we will most certainly do that,” said Wiley.
The zoo staff is highly trained and experienced in working with tigers. Safety is always in the forefront. The entire zoo team routinely trains for emergency situations like this.
The Topeka Zoo considers its Sumatran Tiger Program to be one of its best well rounded animal programs. “For this critically endangered species we have an active breeding program, we make regular contributions to the science of caring for this species and our community financially supports a ranger on the ground in Sumatra,” said Wiley. “Right now, our focus is on our injured team member. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.”

Ash Street Force Main and Pump Station Project

The City of Topeka Utilities Department started construction on the Ash Street Force Main project on April 15th and is scheduled to be completed in April of 2020. The original station was constructed in 1928 with an expansion occurring in 1972. The project consists of construction and installation of a new 48” diameter force main as well as upgrades to the Ash Street Pump Station’s existing pumps, gates, instrumentation and controls. There have been two failures in the existing force main, therefore this is a mandated rehabilitation project as part of the Consent Agreement with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Citizens in the area of the Ash Street Pump Station were notified of the construction by mail this spring. An open house and informational presentation was held on January 24th. The site of construction will have several pieces of large equipment working in the area. The City of Topeka asks that citizens be cautious around the construction work zone. Please follow all temporary construction work zone traffic control which will include detours for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. For more information please contact City Wastewater Engineer Michelle Neiswender at 368-4251.

Cleo the Lemur Gives Birth to Stillborn

When staff at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center confirmed with ultrasound that Cleo, an eleven year old black and white ruffed lemur, was pregnant, they were excited. The pregnancy was Cleo’s first. Cleo was pregnant with multiple babies. The excitement turned to sadness late Saturday evening as Cleo gave birth to a motionless baby.
As her due date approached, Cleo began spending more and more time in a nest box last Tuesday. A camera was placed near the box and staff began making periodic night time checks. Around 8:00 Saturday evening, Cleo gave birth to the first baby. When the baby appeared to be motionless, staff began to intervene.
Once it was determined that the baby monkey was stillborn, attention was focused on Cleo. Ultrasound confirmed that there was at least one more heartbeat in Cleo’s uterus. A radiograph confirmed three remaining babies inside Cleo.
Cleo was given a medication to help stimulate labor. After 90 minutes had passed with no further delivery progress, the decision was made to do an emergency caesarian section. Two of the remaining three had died in utero. One was born with a heartbeat but never took a breath. Each baby had some sort of abnormality.
Cleo continues to recover from her surgery and is doing well. She is getting extra of her favorite fruits. She will continue to stay at the Zoo’s hospital for another five to seven days so that her incision and medication intake can be monitored.
“It was a very sad night Saturday for the staff that were here taking care of Cleo and for our entire team as the news spread,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. “We were all really looking forward to this birth. I am always amazed at what our staff accomplishes and the efforts they give to the animals that live here. The compassion that they displayed during this event was incredible.”


AZA Premieres Our Wildlife Heroes PSA Featuring Contest Winners- Topeka Zoo’s own Rachael Rost is featured

We need animal conservation heroes more than ever as the world is losing wildlife thousands of times faster than the natural extinction rate. A new public service announcement unveiled today by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) features four professionals who embody what it means to be a champion for wildlife and wild places. The winners of the AZA Find Our Wildlife Heroes contest, who star in the ad, share the unique paths they’ve pursued to help save endangered species. The full PSA and vignettes featuring each of the heroes may be viewed on AZA’s YouTube channel.

“The professional staff at AZA-accredited facilities are doing incredible work each day to educate and inspire the next generation of conservationists, provide exceptional care possible to the animals at their facilities, and working tirelessly in the field to save animals in nature,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “Amanda, Donnie, Josh, and Rachael are representative of those thousands of professionals, and I believe America will enjoy getting to know them.”

Last fall, AZA invited members of its 233-accredited facilities to submit personal stories of their passion for animal care and conservation. Over 100 entries were received, highlighting the diverse work of professionals at AZA-accredited facilities and the love they have for their jobs.

After deliberation from a panel of judges, as well as a public voting period, four members from AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums were chosen as Our Wildlife Heroes. These four heroes represent professionals at AZA facilities who play a hands-on role in the care and conservation of animals:

  • Amanda Hodo from Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium – Amanda followed her dream to pursue aquatic biology and serves as a role model to the next generation of scientists through outreach to underserved communities.
  • Donnie Alverson from San Diego Zoo Global – Donnie, a conservation researcher, is studying, breeding and reintroducing Hawaiian honeycreepers to ensure sustainable populations in the wild.
  • Josh Lucas from Oklahoma City Zoo – Josh, a herpetologist, grew his childhood love of reptiles into a lifelong passion for caring for animals and traveled across the globe to help rescue endangered radiated tortoises from illegal wildlife trade.
  • Rachael Rost from Topeka Zoo – Rachael, an educator, directly connects with thousands of students per year, engaging them in citizen science and inspiring conservation in the classroom.

More than 800,000 animals receive quality care at AZA-accredited organizations, which includes ensuring a diverse wildlife population for generations to come. Because of exceptional staff members like these heroes, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are uniquely suited to fight extinction through:
 Resources – They contributed $220 million in 2017 to field conservation, benefitting over 800 species worldwide.
 Research – They conducted over 1,000 animal care, health, and welfare projects in 2017.
 Recovery – They reintroduce extinct species such as the scimitar-horned oryx and the black-footed ferret and rehabilitate animals who cannot survive on their own.
 Education – They inspire nearly 200 million annual guests, in addition to the countless education and volunteer programs in their community.

The PSA encourages viewers also to be a hero for wildlife through five simple steps: Advocate, Volunteer, Donate, Share and Visit. Animal lovers can deepen their commitment to wildlife conservation by going to


Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit