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Observer Corps Reports

Eileen Marshall | Published on 7/1/2020

Johnson County BOCC Meeting Observer Report

May 28 through June 11, 2020 (most recent at the top)

Observers: Lee Rowe, Kathleen Morrow, Karen Wiederaenders, Joan Gilson


The Board of County Commissioners has returned to physical meetings and public comments were accepted. 


The Board approved a request from the Johnson County Department of Health and Epidemiology for $4,154,405 to continue effective disease investigation and containment through the hiring of more contact tracers and test kits in order to help local organizations function effectively in the continuing pandemic. Schools, courts and other entities across the county will benefit from these initiatives.  The approved funds come from (federal) CARES funding, which must be spent by 12/31/2020. 


The Court House will be complete by August 2020 and open the first quarter of 2021. 


As of 6/11/2020 Johnson County has 992 Cases of COVID-19, with approximately 30% in long term care facilities and 67% in the rest of the community (Lakeview Village reports two new cases in the assisted living section. Our population is testing at 3.8% positive. Seventy one deaths have been reported, with 601 assumed recoveries. The Board voted to continue to follow the Ad Astra plan through Phase 2 and on into Phase 3 and phase out of recommendations as of 6/22/2020.  All recommendations, including cooperation with contact tracers, are voluntary, according to County legal counsel. 

Commissioner Hanzlick noted that the deadline for submitting the Census questionnaire has been extended, and she urged everyone to complete the questionnaire in order for the County to receive important representation, funding and other benefits. 


Public Comments were solicited and accepted via phone and Zoom.   


Commissioners approved an emergency exception to the competitive bid practice in order to purchase COVID testing supplies for $200,000 (paid from federal funds).  The competition to obtain these supplies is intense, and Dr. Areola explained that broad testing is our primary tool to combat the virus in order to quickly identify, isolate, treat and contact trace infected persons. No stockpile exists, and we will be purchasing 1,500-2,000 kits, depending on the suppliers.  

County Manager Postoak Ferguson and Maury Thompson reported that we have spent $1.2 million in funds reimbursable under the CARES Act, and the reimbursement process will begin soon, pending Board approval. 

The Community Survey Results indicate good satisfaction, which reflects the hard work and good decisions of many county employees during the last difficult months. Concern remains, however, for sufficient affordable housing. 

Dr. Areola updated the Board on COVID-19. Commissioners Hanzlick and Fast both issued heartfelt pleas through tears to make Johnson County more inclusive, calling for change  in Johnson County, to combat the historical and structural racism present here.                


A county-wide emergency order was approved and issued in order to have access to COVID 19 funding.  This action is necessary because the state-wide emergency order no longer exists.                 

A motion carried to adopt Resolution No. 023-20 to submit a ballot question on November 3, 2020 to allow the sale of alcohol by the individual drink in public places without requiring that the gross receipts of the establishment be derived from the sale of food. 

A motion carried to ask the staff to prepare a report within 60 to 90 days to evaluate the possibility and process for creating a county department of aging and to submit a preliminary budget for that proposed department, in order to better address the needs of the growing aging population in the county. 

Maury Thompson reported that the county has spent $400,000 of the COVID 19 funds. The county has received a request from the city of Olathe concerning the sharing of funds. Joe Waters reported on plans to prepare the Commission meeting room for public, Board and staff physical presence through social distancing, Plexiglas dividers, cueing, and reduced seating (4 to 5 chairs for the public) at a cost of approximately $5,000. 


Dr. Areola, Dept. of Health and Environment, gave an update on Covid-19. He emphasized that, whatever the Board decides about further health directives, it is the job of the health officers to protect the health of the people. Addressing Commissioner Brown directly, Dr. Areola stated that “The virus is still here, and just because you ‘can’ doesn’t mean you should. It is even more important now to avoid crowds, stay home, and wash hands frequently. Wearing masks is your responsibility to others in the community. The risk is even higher now than it has been.”             

The Commission narrowly voted to approve a guidance plan for county reopening that takes into account the incubation period of COVID 19 for infections resulting from Memorial Day mass gatherings. The plan, in effect from 5/28/2020 to 6/11/2020, limits mass gatherings to 45, excludes churches, recommends [not requires] voluntary measures of social distancing, hand washing and barrier masks.

The public can send comments through the BOCC clerk:  BOCC-Clerk@jocogov.orgFor further information, see  

Johnson County Library Board

June 4 and June 11, 2020

Submitted by Karen Wulfkuhle

On June 4, the board approved opening all libraries on June 15.  In addition, it was approved that library materials would not be quarantined before re-shelving.  This decision drew considerable public comment opposing the action.  At the June 11 meeting, the quarantine decision was revisited and rescinded.  Library materials will now be held for 72 hours before they are available to patrons.

All Libraries will open June 15 with modified hours.  Currently, the Library has 31 staff vacancies and cannot operate at full capacity until some positions are filled, which takes approximately 10 weeks. Computers will be available for patrons; however, meeting rooms will not. Visit for details.

A fiscal year 2021 revenue and expenditure budget of $41,604,042 was approved.  This is about $800,000 lower than originally expected due to slightly lower revenue projections for motor vehicle tax revenue and investment interest income in 2021.  This budget will now go to the Board of County Commissioners.

To read more, click here.

Olathe School Board

June 4, 2020

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on June 4, 2020.  It was an hour and half virtual meeting. The two main topics were the discussion of the current issues facing the public and the school district: 1) diversity and equality for all, and 2) continuing education in the era of the coronavirus.   Below is the statement the Olathe school district made, which the board supports, regarding the first matter: 

“June 3, 2020As a public school district within a beautifully diverse community, we are processing recent events with heavy hearts. Collectively, our emotions have been on a roller coaster in recent days.

Our priority is the safety, the well-being and the equitable opportunities for our students, our staff and our families. It is our duty to provide a safe, caring environment for learning and when our community hurts, we need to address the pain.

As educators, as administrators and as humans we will continue to listen and to support. Right now and more than ever, our students and our families are watching and learning.

Racism and divisiveness have no room in our buildings, in our community, in our state, nation or in our world. It will not be tolerated. Students and our families of color need to know they are welcome and their voice matters, their lives matter. As humans we are created equal and deserve the same opportunities. Our staff is committed to ensuring safety and disrupting racism in our halls.

We are stronger as a community, as one. Let our anger, fear, sadness bring us together for that will make times of joy even sweeter. We see you. We hear you. We love you.”

In regard to the coronavirus, the Olathe school district is continuing in their efforts to develop and implement the continuous learning plan 2.0.  This will help to address the needs when the new school year starts in August, knowing that a different/enhanced approach will be needed.  Flexibility will be necessary, as it is not known if schools will be open, and if they are, how many parents will opt to keep their children at home.  

To read more, click here.

Overland Park City Council 

May 18, 2020

Submitted by Janet Milkovich

The two primary agenda items for the May 18 meeting were:

1. Whether or not to open the city’s outdoor pools

2. To swear in an appointed councilmember for Ward 4.

After a lot of discussion it was decided that all of the city’s outdoor pools would remain closed for the year. The factors considered were risk of spreading COVID 19, scheduling “shifts” for residents to use the pool for a couple of hours at a time then close for cleaning between shifts, and the $700,000 out of pocket cost to the city.  The city is experiencing a large budget shortfall due to the loss of sales tax revenue during the pandemic and the $700,000 can be used elsewhere. 

Mayor Carl Gerlach, Council President Fred Spears and John Thompson, chair of the Finance, Administration + Economic Development Committee, selected Stacie Gram to fill the vacancy in Ward 4. Stacie is a graduate of Leadership Overland Park and served as 2nd Vice-Chairman of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce and on the Chamber board of directors. She has lived in Ward 4 for 20 years. There are two city council members from each of the city’s six wards. They serve staggered four-year terms. Gina Burke was elected last November for a second term on the City Council but resigned after moving out of Ward 4. Stacie will serve the remainder of Gina’s term. Of the twelve city council members, two are women and one is not Caucasian.

Overland Park City Council

June 1, 2020

Submitted by Janet Milkovich

1. The City Council met virtually via Zoom. They held their first virtual public hearing and had one participant, Beth Johnson, the Sr. Vice President of Economic Development for the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce. Beth read a state of support for Resolution 4620, the issuance of Federally Taxable Private Activity Economic Development Revenue Bonds in an amount not to exceed $35,500,000 and granting a Property Tax Abatement for Overland One, LLC. This project is on the northeast corner of West 110th Street and Nall, the former site of the Century Link Building, which has been demolished. Building One and Two have been completed and the primary tenant is Creative Planning. This resolution applies to Building Three plus a parking garage. Two council members voted against the resolution and questioned the wisdom of granting tax abatement during this economic downtown. The resolution passed.

2. June 5, 2020 was proclaimed as National Gun Violence Awareness Day. The Mayor asked the all citizens work together to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

3. The City Manager, Bill Ebel, gave a Covid-19 update which included a timeline for scheduled re-openings. 

Overland Park City Council

June 15, 2020

Submitted by Janet Milkovich

Public Comment: 

There was no time allotted for public comment.

New Appointments to Commission and Board:

1. Ms. Terry Happer Scheier, former councilmember for Ward One, defeated in the last election, was appointed to the Legacy of Greenery Committee which, according to the city website, promotes landscaping throughout the city. 

2. Ms. Benee Hudson, a BI Data Visualization Developer in Finance for H&R Block, was appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals. 

Mental Health Task Force:

Councilmember Chris Newlin, Ward 6, gave an update on the Mental Health Task Force. They are looking at the role of Johnson County in Mental Health and plan to present an 8-hour class on mental health training which will be available to the community. The job of the task force is to offer recommendations but not make policy. The use of force policy is not under the purview of the task force.

MARC and Climate Action KC:

Councilmember Kurt Skoog gave a MARC (Mid America Regional Council) report. Climate Action KC and the MARC kicked off the public engagement process for a Kansas City-area climate action plan Thursday afternoon. The groups shared regional greenhouse gas inventory outcomes, a climate risk and vulnerability assessment, and next steps for climate action planning.  Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly and Councilmember Lindsey Constance, founders of the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition (rebranded as Climate Action KC), stressed the importance of public engagement to develop a shared vision for a sustainable future. The Kansas City area would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 5.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050 to achieve the Mid-America Regional Council's goal. This action would put the region in compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement. 

To read more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council

May 18, 2020

Submitted by Eileen Marshall 

  1. The Mayor gave an update on Covid-19 in Prairie Village and noted that national, state, and county health authorities are working diligently in bringing the outbreak at Brighton Gardens long-term care facility under control.

  2. After about an hour of discussion, the council voted 7 to 5 AGAINST the proposed ordinance to require the wearing of face masks in stores and other public spaces. After that, it was proposed that a vote be taken on a “sense of the council” recommending that everyone voluntarily wear face masks when physical distancing is not possible.  It passed unanimously.

  3. The capital improvements budget for 2021 was discussed. 

Prairie Village City Council

June 1, 2020

Submitted by Eileen Marshall 

  1. The Mayor gave an update on Covid-19 in Prairie Village and made a statement in support of fair and impartial policing.

  2. City Hall will re-open on June 8, with physical distancing measures in place.  The public is encouraged to continue conducting business with the City online and by phone to the extent possible. City Council and other public meetings will continue on Zoom, and this policy will be re-evaluated periodically. Village Fest, the annual 4th of July celebration, will be a drive-thru event this year.

  3. Council voted 8 to 4 in favor of asking city staff to draft an ordinance allowing residents to keep hens.  The ordinance will be discussed and voted on at a future meeting.

Prairie Village City Council

June 15, 2020

Submitted by Eileen Marshall 

  1. The Mayor gave an update on Covid-19 in Prairie Village.

  2. The Chief of Police gave a statement regarding fair and impartial policing, and the entire Council approved a joint statement on racial justice.

  3. External auditors presented the City’s financial audit, which resulted in a clean opinion.

  4. 2020 Jazz Fest, originally scheduled for September, has been cancelled due to Covid-19.

  5. A proposed ordinance to allow backyard hens was discussed and will be brought forward for reconsideration after additional work.

  6. The budget for 2021 was discussed.  This required a discussion of whether the city will add curbside recycling of glass and/or food compost, as the costs are significant. After prolonged and passionate discussion, the vote was tied. The Mayor broke the tie to move the budget forward without adding to the current recycling program.

To read more, click here.