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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 4/26/2021


Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

Meeting dates: Mar. 18,2021 through April 8, 2021 (most recent appears first)

Observers: Lenore Rowe, Joan Gilson, Jerry Gilson, Kathleen Morrow, Karen Wiederaenders, Rebecca James


The Board now meets in person with limited seating in the meeting room. Go to, to see meetings. Public comments may be made in person or by Zoom, and speakers must register by noon the Wednesday before the meeting.


The Johnson County Health and Environment Department broadcasts COVID updates on OnBase and Facebook Live daily at 4 PM. COVID questions? Call 913-715-CV19 (2819) Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. or go to For daily updates, sign up here:  


Thursday, April 8, 2021


Public Comments

Four people commented, one person against masks, one in favor. Nikki Johnston McDonald requested that the County take the lead on creating a year-round shelter for the homeless.


Reports and Communications 

The Legislative Update for Topeka included information on the Shut-Down Tax Relief Bill calling for reimbursement to businesses impacted by health orders. Assistant County Manager Maury Thompson mentioned that local businesses have already received a total $13.5 million in assistance, with many other opportunities available for more help. Mr. Thompson will follow up on Commissioner Hanzlick’s request for information about emergency rental assistance funds available from the state. Commissioner Fast asked about follow-along efforts concerning the American Rescue Fund. We should know more by the Federal deadline for getting the funds to the counties, which is May 12.


Dr. Areola reported that 11,100 COVID vaccine doses are due next week, with a total of 20,000 arriving across various platforms, drugstores and health systems.  The South African variant has increased, but the UK variant is now the dominant circulating strain in the United States. As more residents are vaccinated in the next few weeks, the Health Department will address vaccine hesitancy and reluctance for remaining residents.


Thursday, April 1, 2021


Chairperson Eilert Proclaimed April 5-11, 2021 as National Public Health Week, and Dr. Areola gave a short presentation explaining that Public Health is a complex project, one that works to provide equitable access to housing, health and nutrition. Our county health department has gotten the vaccine program going with only 142 employees, many volunteers and participants from departments all over the county, an amazing accomplishment.


Public Comments

Four people commented, one person promoting the need for masks and public health measures, three arguing that masks were not needed, arguing for the use of unproven remedies for COVID-19 instead.


Business Session

Vice Chairperson Janee’ Hanzlick reported on the task force to examine virtual/in person meetings. After consulting with the sheriff and staff, the group recommended that the Board resume in-person meetings at the County Administration Building on April 8, 2021 with the following four conditions: Social distancing; staff and commissioners have the option to meet virtually; public comments may be presented in person or remotely with the requirement to sign up by noon the Wednesday before the meeting; and masks are required per the public health order.


Cassie Woolworth commented, requesting real enforcement of the mask order by the sheriff at these meetings for the health and safety of the commissioners, staff and public.


Reports and Communications 

The Olathe DMV office is closed for two days for deep cleaning as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on employees. The Mission office remains open, with services also available online, through drop off, email and regular mail.        


Dr. Areola reported on vaccination activity at the new Lenexa warehouse facility, featuring extended hours for evenings and week-ends. The County’s new sign-up system allows residents to notify the Health Department if they’ve been vaccinated. Currently 238,864 people have been vaccinated; 85,647 of these are second doses. Seventy-five percent of individuals over 65 have been vaccinated. This data does not represent the total numbers because some individuals are getting vaccinated in other states.  Dr. Areola expressed continued concern about the COVID variants, urging residents to practice physical distancing, hand washing and mask wearing.


Thursday, Mar. 25, 2021


Chairperson Eilert proclaimed March 2021 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Mar. 21, 2021 as World Down Syndrome Day.


Public Comments

Seven people commented, two for the mask mandate, including Claire Reagan, mother of three. Five testified against the mandate.


The Board Adjourned for thirty minutes for legal consultation.


Business Session

The Board approved Resolution No. 017-21 for two residential lots, Prairie Farmstead, homes for those living with dementia, near the Executive Airport.  Resolution No. 018-12, The Lakes of Conestoga manufactured home community, affordable housing near the New Century Airport was also approved. 


A public hearing was conducted, and $16,085,000 was approved for improvements, pre-design and engineering services with Black & Veatch for the Nelson Wastewater Treatment Facility in north Johnson County, the oldest wastewater facility in the county, originally built in the mid 1940’s.


Johnson County Public Health Order No. 002-20 was reviewed. After discussion, consultation, and several public comments, the order was renewed with the following revision: All capacity limitations are removed for all organizations, fairs, parades, etc. The mask requirement and six foot distancing rule remain. It is hoped that this will allow the County to get 50% of the population vaccinated by May with the least restrictive measures possible that still achieve goals for public health. Fourteen people had signed up to make public comments. Twelve spoke, most wanting the mask requirement removed. Hanzlick moved, Allenbrand seconded, and the vote was 5 to 2 with Ashcraft and O’Hara opposed.


Dr. Areola commented that broad vaccination is vital for the safety of all to mitigate variants of concern. Chairperson Eilert noted that state statute ASA 65-119 requires the Board to act as the Board of Public Health; as such, the Board must maintain public health in the case of contagious, infectious diseases. Under this statute the County is required to vaccinate as many people as possible, which is impossible to accomplish by Mar. 31, hence the need for an extended order.


In response to Commission request, Cindy Dunham, County legal counsel, commented on Senate Bill 40, which extends the Governor’s emergency order but also states that any aggrieved party can file an action against the County for relief concerning perceived harm caused by the mask mandate, and the case must be heard within 72 hours. The County is required to show that the current order uses the least restrictive means to achieve the stated purpose of public health and safety.


The Commission is reviewing options for virtual/in-person meetings. Allenbrand, Meyers and Hanzlick will present a recommendation for a vote on this item next week.


Reports and Communications

Dr. Areola reported that the Lenexa facility is ready for vaccination administration, with the addition of evening and week-end appointments for greater flexibility. In response to Commissioner O’Hara’s query, Dr. Areola stated that the demand for COVID-19 vaccine is robust, with appointments for 5,000 doses filling up within 30 minutes last week.


The audit committee scheduled for the afternoon was postponed as a result of the length of the meeting.


The State of the County Meeting will be held virtually March 30th at 10:45 AM.


Thursday, Mar. 18, 2021


Public Comments

Six people made public comments, three advocating for the mask mandate, two against, and one person, Dave Trabert, paid director of the Kansas Policy Institute, requesting COVID-19 funds be used to reimburse taxpayers.


Action Agenda

The Commission approved Resolution No. 014-12, Human Resource Ethics policy, to be effective May 1, 2021 (except for section 401.5, concerning political activity by staff and elected officials, which will be studied further). We did not note any reference in the policy to concerns related to Diversity, Equity or Inclusion. Commissioner Ashcraft asked about a fiscal note on this item.


Reports and Communications

The County Economic Research Institute (CERI) reports that the average cost of housing in the county has increased 7.7% this year.


The County continues to monitor Senate Bill 18, which repeals current property tax lids and creates more hearing requirements.


The County will receive about $116 million under the American Rescue Plan, overseen by the Department of Treasury. These funds are to be directed to the public health emergency, the needs of essential workers, the provision of government services, and to necessary infrastructure investment in water, sewer and Internet services.


Dr. Areola reported that the County is currently polling persons 65 and older as to vaccine status and will follow up to set necessary appointments. All phases will be eligible on Mar. 22, which will be 476,000 residents. The County is working with healthcare systems to vaccinate higher education staff and employees at Tyson and Amazon. As of today, long term care facilities here show no COVID-19 outbreaks.


Commission Comments

Commissioner Fast thanked the Health Dept staff for their work in vaccinating the unhoused and intellectually disabled residents of the County. She asked that other access besides digital means be available to sign up for appointments. Commissioner Allenbrand thanked Dr. Areola for the mobile delivery of vaccines. Commissioner Hanzlick commented on her meeting with Representative Sharice Davids last week to discuss transit issues, which will require an increased investment in infrastructure.


Johnson County Library Board

April 8, 2021

Submitted by Karen Wulfkuhle


The board heard updates on construction projects, including brief closures at Cedar Roe, Corinth and Oak Park for repairs, major construction at Central, and Antioch replacement.  The Library has taken a number of steps to address COVID. A timeline for returning to normal operations has been established.  Branches will open on Fridays beginning April 23.  May 3 is the date for return to regular hours, meeting/study rooms and furniture.  The meeting room reservation system will be activated on April 28.  In person programming and the Maker Space will return in the fall.


The board approved the FY 2022 Proposed Revenue and Expenditures of $43,770,980, $1.8 million higher than FY 2021.  Highlights of increased expenditures:
• Current proposal contains a 3% Merit Pool
• New positions for Cyber Security and Online Programing Coordination
• Pay Rate Equity Adjustments made in 2021 have full year impact in 2022
• Increased Payments to Public Building Commission tied to Antioch
• Increased Funding for Library Capital Replacement Program (CRP)


To learn more, click here.


Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board 

Mar. 22, 2021 via Zoom.

Submitted by Harry Bognich

Overland Park now has three co-responders, which allows much better coverage. There are two in Lenexa, two in Shawnee, two in Olathe, one shared by Leawood and Prairie Village, and a couple elsewhere in Johnson County.

County Commissioner Becky Fast reported she will be advocating for mental health, veterans, and housing as the county discusses its new budget.

MHC’s fund balance for 2020 is at or over 12%, much better than prior years and exceeds the county's 8% minimum.  MHC is requesting four new Case Managers and two new Clinicians for the next budget to meet immediate demand in services.  Also hope to add up to 9 other positions for 2022 using other funds received mainly from the State that were largely put into the fund balance but not used yet.  Even with these nine, MHC is still far below the number of Full-Time Employees it had back in 2010.

Staff gained Toddler and Infant Certification in “Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC)”, a “home-visiting parenting program to help caregivers nurture and respond sensitively to their infants and toddlers to foster their development and form strong and healthy relationships.”

MHC is providing 16 (1 hour) sessions March through June for Frontline Workers Support.

MHC’s turnover rate was high in 2020. Main reason is low salaries for MHC workers who have a master’s degree or who do not have a bachelor’s degree. Competition is high in those two levels from other jobs both in the metro area and neighboring states (MO, OK).

Next meeting May 24, 2021.

To learn more, click here.



Blue Valley School Board

April 12, 2021

Submitted by Elise Kammeyer

  • A student participated in Open Forum to petition the school board again to reconsider allowing removed books back into the English curriculum.

  • There are plans for a high school math pilot program for 21/22 year.  The new course is Introduction to Data Science.

  • COVID cases and quarantining students/staff are lower than they have been all year.

  • BV Edge program—gives students opportunities for college credit, internships, client-connected projects, or industry-recognized credentials. Programs are in partnership with JCCC, Baker University, the JoCo Fire Department, and others involved with the career-ready programs.

To learn more, click here.



Olathe School Board

April 1, 2021

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

District administration gave an update on the status of the new virtual learning school it is establishing for the 2021-2022 school year. The website for this new school has been launched.   The school district received 51 applications from students on the first day.  For the 2021-2022 school year the maximum number of students that could be enrolled in the new school has been set at 3% of the total students in the district, or approximately 1,000.

The Olathe School District administration updated the school board members on the status of the Dyslexia - Structural Literacy program.

To learn more, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board

Submitted by Lisa Bonds

Feb. 8, 2021 [Workshop] 

The board received information on how school-level teams are helping the district determine how CARES funds should be spent.  Secondary teachers’ class load will be reduced from six out of seven courses to five out of seven.  The recent bond issue allows the funding for this reduction.  

Feb. 22, 2021 [Meeting]

The board made two major decisions during the meeting.  The first was moving all students back to the traditional learning model by March 22.  The schools will not be able to maintain six feet of social distance, but will try to maintain three feet instead.  The district believes the staff will be vaccinated within weeks.  The second major decision the board made was to name Deputy Superintendent Michelle Hubbard as the new superintendent.

Mar. 22, 2021 

The Shawnee Mission School Board was informed that the cold weather of February caused a $1.6 million bill for natural gas.  This bill was not from Kansas Gas but from a gas transporter.  The board also heard a legislative update.  The board took two actions.  The first action changed some language on a policy that allows school nurses or public health officials to prevent students and staff from entering schools if they have been diagnosed with illnesses which could endanger others.  The second action concerned refinancing past bonds and selling the bond that voters authorized in January, 2021.  The board will see a $13 million savings with reduced interest rates by refinancing 2012 and 2015 bonds.  This action will provide more money for the district for their building projects.  The money may be needed to cover rising construction costs.   

To learn more, click here.

Overland Park City Council

April 6, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Allen


The Overland Park Mayor and City Council met virtually Monday April 5, 2021.

  •  Farmer’s Market and City pools are opening.

    • Farmer’s Market – opening day - April 17

    • Pools – specifics are not yet available

  • Mental Health Task Force- Will ask for public comment. The report will be presented at the Mayor and City Council meeting on May 17, 2021

  • Brookridge project (103 and Antioch) –The developer has requested and was awarded two deadline extensions

    • Start date for the included apartments extended by 2 years [2025]

    • Completion date for the project extended by one year [2027]

  • Development of the former Sprint campus, now known as the Aspira project (116th and Nall)

    • Major concern is traffic. The developer asked for changes to access points on Nall. Request for change was denied.

  • The rest of the meeting was devoted to chickens. The OP ordinance allows chickens on lots greater than three acres; otherwise the homeowner must be awarded a Special Use Permit.  Two were denied, in NE Overland Park, lot sizes 0.86 and 0.55 acres. The third was approved, near JoCo Exec Airport. Lot size 1.5 acres. Note the Council is working on updating the Chicken Ordinance. 

To learn more, click here.

 Prairie Village City Council 

April 5, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met virtually on Monday, April 5, 2021, beginning with presentations from the Teen Council on ways to help local businesses during the pandemic and from Mindy Corporon from the Faith Always Wins Foundation on the upcoming week of events to encourage understanding and respect for others. 

Mayor Eric Mikkelson reported declining Covid-19 infections and rising vaccination rates. Following extensive discussion, the Council directed staff to look into possible options for the Council to meet in-person in the future. 

Budget requests from various committees were approved, with forthcoming budget items for the Council’s consideration explained. A possible new sustainability grant program to encourage residents to conserve energy was also detailed.

To learn more, click here.

Johnson County 2021 Charter Commission

Meeting date: April 12, 2021, 4:00 p.m.

This was the second meeting of the 2021 Charter Commission (CC). It was held via Zoom and is viewable by the public via Facebook Live.


  1. Election of officers

  2. Approve minutes of Mar. 1 meeting

  3. Schedule meetings and public hearings

  4. Location of meetings

  5. Potential topics of discussion

  6. Discussion of website

Twenty-four of the 25 members were present; Jim Denning was absent.

Greg Musil was the only nominee for Chair and was duly elected. Dawn Rattan and Karin Brownlee were both nominated for Vice-Chair; Dawn Rattan was the winner, 12 votes to 10, with two abstentions (including the Chair). 

A discussion ensued regarding whether to elect additional officers. Eventually it was decided to elect a Secretary. Karin Brownlee and Ed Peterson were nominated; Ed Peterson was the winner, 12 to 11, with the Chair abstaining.

Officers (comprising an Executive Committee):

  1. Chair: Greg Musil

  2. Vice-Chair: Dawn Rattan

  3. Secretary: Ed Peterson

The group discussed conducting their meetings using Robert’s Rules of Order, supplemented by some “common-sense” rules to be proposed by the Executive Committee and discussed at the next meeting.  If a parliamentarian is needed, Cindy Dunham, Deputy Director of the legal department, will step in.

Chairman Musil disclosed that he is the legal representative of Penny Postoak Ferguson (County Manager) with regard to her employment contract, and will recuse himself from any CC decisions for which that poses a conflict of interest.

After lengthy discussion, the members agreed to have regular meetings from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month and the fourth Wednesday of each month for the duration of the commission, with the understanding that a future meeting could be cancelled if there were no items ready to be discussed. The preferred location is the Johnson County Heritage Center if technology allows. The consensus was that the meetings need to be accessible remotely, both for the public and for any members who cannot or do not wish to attend in person. The next meeting will be Wednesday, April 28, at 4:00 via Zoom, which gives county staff time to set up technology at the JoCo Heritage Center before the first meeting in May.

Members discussed having two public hearings during the process, with one to occur after the CC has heard presentations from county staff and become familiar with county operations.  The second public hearing would come near the end of the process, after recommendations have been discussed and perhaps even voted on. Dates and locations for these have not been set.

The members discussed the website, which will be part of the Johnson County Government website. The plan is to have all of the relevant documents for this and the prior CC available on the website. They did not take a vote on approving the proposed website plan. Currently, the public can access the meeting schedule and agenda by going to the calendar for the Board of County Commissioners, locating the CC meeting, and clicking on it.

One of the members suggested the importance of getting the word out to the public regarding the CC. There was general agreement but no action taken.

Meeting adjourned at 6:00 p.m. Next meeting: April 28, 4:00 via Zoom, viewable on Facebook.