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An old, ink-drawn map of Lake Lotawana that hangs under a stuffed deer's head lists some of the playful names — Bandit Bay, Quantrill's Cove — assigned to different parts of the lake.
Milton Thompson, a Jackson County parks commissioner, established the Lake Lotawana Development Co. in 1928. He and his partners sold it as a place where the city's elite could enjoy the water without having to travel too far. "A development so unusual and so conveniently located as Lake Lotawana is bound to attract quickly the better class of the outdoor-loving populace," promised a company brochure.
The damming of Sni-a-Bar Creek began at daybreak on March 27, 1929, and by noon, "the stream was lapping impotently against the new impediment," according to an account in the lake's official newspaper.
The dam created nearly 1,000 lakefront lots. Early settlers included Chet Keys, an assistant U.S. attorney, and Lou Holland, the head of the Chamber of Commerce. John Thompson, who built the Chevrolet plant in the Leeds section of Kansas City, employed an American Indian to hew the logs of his lodge.
Before it was a city, Lake Lotawana was just a homeowners' association. To this day, the Lake Lotawana Community Association controls the lake (it's shaped like a map of Italy) and the streets that surround it. The city was not incorporated until 1958.
Over the years, the lake's "better class" took steps to preserve its way of life.
Tobacco wholesaler Anthony Barber owns a large amount of property adjacent to Lake Lotawana. In the late 1970s, residents fought his attempt to build a feedlot for a thousand head of cattle. Their protests prevailed, despite Barber's substantial political connections. (Harold Doc Holliday, who represented Kansas City's East Side on the Jackson County Legislature, was an especially ardent Barber supporter. Barber contributed heavily to the black political club Freedom Inc.)
Later, Barber tried to expand his rock quarry near the lake. Barber said the quarry was a model operation, but Lake Lotawana residents complained about dust and murky runoff.
In an attempt to keep Barber in check, the city of Lake Lotawana annexed a piece of his quarry. That shifted the city's western border to Milton Thompson Road, where Pat Herrington lives. An auto shop owner, Herrington quickly came to resent his new city of residence.
Herrington says former Lake Lotawana Mayor Arthur Van Hook and others lied about the benefits of being annexed. Herrington tells The Pitch that the city leaders he has dealt with care only about their "crown jewel" — the lake.
Herrington was also annoyed by the fact that Lake Lotawana police immediately began to hunt for speeders on Milton Thompson Road. Noticing the frequency of the officers' speed traps, he set up an electronic sign in his yard, warning motorists to mind their pace. The sign also editorialized: "Writing traffic tickets is not crime fighting."
Herrington's protests did not endear him to the city's police chief. Squad cars, Herrington says, used to lurk behind rock piles in an attempt to catch him committing an infraction. (Poletis says Herrington was not harassed.)
It turns out that the chief's bad side was a crowded place.
Randy Poletis had an intense desire to apprehend criminals. And a tendency to overreact.
So concluded an evaluation of Poletis in 1976, his sixth year as a police officer in Prairie Village. Poletis had joined the department in 1970, after a stint in the Army. He had grown up in Kansas City, Kansas.