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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 9/28/2021

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

Meeting dates: August 26 through Sept. 2, 2021 (most recent appears first)

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

 

September 2, 2021

The Board now meets in person with limited seating in the meeting room. Go to  Home - OnBase Agenda Online, to see meetings in progress and recorded.  COVID questions? Call  913-715-CV19 (2819) Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. or go to https://jocogov.org/County-services-impacted-covid-19. For weekly COVID-19 updates sign up here:  Johnson County Kansas. People may sign up the day of the meeting by 9:30 AM to make public comments, and speakers will go in order of virtual, previously registered, and finally, registered day of the meeting.

 

After discussion, the Board voted to accept the proposed budget for next year.

 

After relevant testimony, the Board voted to endorse Resolution 061-21, Kansas City Regional Climate Action plan to review and implement the metropolitan Net Zero plan as appropriate to mitigate global warming. This will represent a savings to taxpayers, along with the benefits to our environment. The briefing sheet and supporting documents are available at View Meeting - OnBase Agenda Online

 

The Board authorized funding for the Lagoon Biosolids Cleanout Program for $584,200. Biosolids are recycled on farmland and elsewhere.

 

The Board voted to fund the State Senior Care Act (SCA) program in the amount of $1,306,240, along with funding for one additional FTE to assist in administering this service to an additional 150 new Senior Care Act clients in SFY 2022.   

 

COVID Update – Once the third vaccination is recommended by the FDA Advisory committee, the County will set up a massive roll-out, which will probably impact community clinics. Along with a number of other local organizations, KU Medical Center and St. Luke’s have issued employee vaccine mandates. We are now experiencing increased emergency room volume, resulting in staff and bed shortages, along with longer wait times for ambulances, sometimes as much as 45 minutes. Current vaccination rate is 61%. The Health Department is working to increase vaccination rates in LatinX community. Over 90% of patients hospitalized in Johnson County with COVID are unvaccinated.

 

August 26, 2021

The Board voted unanimously to approve Resolution 052-21, regulating the discharge of firearms across property boundaries. Initial violations incur a $500 fine. Victims testified concerning out of pocket costs, stress and danger after recent, repeated incidents of semi-automatic weapons fire into their homes. The Kansas house is working on more stringent regulation, HB 2454.

 

Dr. Areola reported that many more Johnson County residents who have been waiting on full FDA approval of a COVID vaccine will now be vaccinated as a result of Monday’s announcement. Dr. Areola warned that the drug Ivermectin is not approved for prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

 

Dr. Hunt reported that 59.5% of the County is vaccinated. The CDC, which has a more comprehensive reporting system, reports a vaccination rate of 60.4%.

 

County Epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzshuh reported a 9.5% positivity rate, with increased numbers in young people and children ages 0-9. Johnson County child hospitalizations are all reported in Missouri (Kansas City Children’s Mercy) and do not appear on the County website. We can check for these numbers on the MARC website. MARC - Mid-America Regional Council - Regional Planning for Greater Kansas City

 

Our hospitalization numbers rely on each hospital reporting to the county, but several of the hospitals have no staff member to do this because of labor shortages. Dr. Areola noted that the county is working with MARC to get these numbers on our own dashboard, hopefully by Aug. 28.

  

County Manager Postoak Ferguson noted that Governor Kelly has returned state employees to remote work status; the County also encourages this practice here.

 

CRF Report—All information on federal funds received are noted on the Johnson County Government website under the tab at the top labeled “COVID 19 Response and Recovery”. This notification is required as part of the American Rescue and Recovery Act and prepared using the US Treasury template. The County is advised not to spend or allocate funds until the Department of Treasury issues a final rule.

 

Commission Comments—August 25, 2021 marked the 166th birthday of Johnson County.

 

Johnson County Charter Commission

August 25, 2021 (August 9 meeting was cancelled)

Submitted by Alleen VanBebber and Eileen Marshall

 

The first “public hearing” is scheduled for September 13, from 5:30 to 7:30. Virtual and in person. The location is KU Edwards Campus, BEST Conference Center, 12604 Quivira Road, Overland Park, KS. There is an updated list of meeting dates online, but Chair Musil said the November and December dates would be moved. He announced that the second public hearing will be in November and told the Charter Commission members to have proposed amendments in place before then, for voting by the end of the year. 

Guest Presentations:  This meeting was limited to presentations from all seven County Commissioners. (To be clear, these are the elected County Commissioners, not the members of the Charter Commission.) The presentations were in two phases. 

Phase One:  Commission Chair Eilert went first with a careful discussion of the County Commission’s work as it is performed under the current Charter, and he emphasized his view that the Charter is working well and doesn’t need fixing. However, he included what he saw coming up as potential issues based on the written questions received in advance from the various Charter Commission members. He mentioned issues such as nonpartisan elections, redrawing district lines, and appointment vs. election of some officials. 

Phase Two:  The plan was to stick to the pre-presented questions, get responses, and do follow-up questions. That is mostly what happened, but the content revealed a painfully obvious problem:   Some Charter Commission members do not have a basic understanding of what home rule is or its limitations.Some apparently do not understand that a Charter provision must either comply with all relevant state statutes or statutes must be changed by the Legislature.In short, some of them are not clear on the scope of their job on the Charter Commission.

Both Eilert and Musil became frustrated at the lack of basic knowledge being aired by Charter Commission members and County Commissioners. They each corrected some obvious misapprehensions, as did some of the other participants in the meeting. At one point, Musil opined that the Charter Members need a session to review the current Charter in detail and walk through Charter requirements. He announced that the group would be doing that at another session.

For more information about the Charter Commission, click here.


Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board Meeting

July 26, 2021

Submitted by Harry and Mary Bognich


This was the first in-person meeting since January 2020, over a year and a half ago.


Six new staff members were approved and onboarding is in progress; seven more are tentatively approved if the county’s 2022 budget passes with no reductions after the August 23 Budget Public Hearing.


An Equity/Diversity Task Force has been set up for about one year to address this area of the MHC.


MHC has hired a Behavioral Health Data Scientist, Dr. Josh Austin (PhD in Economics), as part of the Health Information Management Team to work on using data better to improve mental health. MHC started using data in 2016 and subsequent years to successfully study and address mental health issues, but this is to take it up another level to address all 3 levels of Data Analysis:

  1. Strategic, e.g., Dashboard, Key Performance Indicators, etc.

  2. Operational, e.g., are clients seen in a timely manner?

  3. Tactical, e.g., is a specific therapeutic practice effective? Does a policy improve performance?

For example, a Dashboard can show there is a problem with unkept appointments, but it does not explain WHY this is happening, or HOW this can be solved. This is what Dr. Austin, et.al. will work on.


Next meeting September 27, 2021 – In Person at the Mission Office.


To learn more, click here.


Olathe School Board

September 4, 2021

Submitted by Cindy Hicks


The Olathe School Board met on Sept. 4 for its regular monthly meeting. The school district gave a comprehensive presentation regarding their Diversity, Engagement, and Inclusion program. The school administration also discussed a couple of new problems they are addressing this year: (1) limited food options and quantities from vendors and (2) limited number of busses in service as vendors are having problems finding drivers.

To learn more, click here.


Shawnee Mission School Board

August 2021

Submitted by Lisa Bonds


August 5, 2021

This was a special meeting to discuss and pass the mask policy, whereby all students and staff will be required to wear masks at the start of the year. This reflects the decisions of the county and the CDC. 

August 9th, 2021

The Shawnee Mission School board heard reports about the new elementary grade cards that reflect the district's primary standards. At the secondary level the board heard a report on personal learning plans. The board also approved three contracts with outside companies to provide services the district was unable to provide because they were unable to fill many open positions. 

August 23, 2021

The board voted on several important items. The first vote took the School Resource Officer (SRO) cost out of the current budget, which would be voted on later in the meeting. Baseline data will be collected during this semester, and in the spring the board will consider the current contracts with all the cities that provide SROs in the district schools. The next important vote was taken on the budget. There was much discussion on the budget which was later passed 7-0. The district’s budget for the coming year is above the tax collected last year; therefore the new state law required the board to have a hearing on the budget, including a public comment period. The main concern from the comments was how the budget was divided. The district uses the form the state provided. Finally the board passed the negotiated contract with the NEA. 

To learn more, click here.


Lenexa City Council

August 17, 2021

Submitted by Ellen Miller


After 20 years, it’s time for a new Comprehensive Plan in Lenexa. City Council chose Houseal LaVigne consultants out of six contenders. It has served cities nationally. Lenexa’s work starts in August, to be completed in January, 2023. 

Lenexa’s planning process highlights input from residents, business owners and stakeholders. Early in-person and virtual methods include focus groups and online surveys. A Community Visioning Workshop will build on the city’s Vision 2040 blueprint. Finally, residents can critique the draft plan at a Community Open House to be held late in 2022.

The deliverable comprehensive plan will target housing and neighborhoods, transportation, community facilities, recreation, and more. The fixed-price contract of $199,940 includes reimbursables. For more information, watch the Lenexa website at https://www.lenexa.com/.


Overland Park City Council

August 2 and 16, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Allen


The OP City council met in person Monday August 2, 2021. I attended virtually. The Mayor and all Councilpersons were in attendance

  1. Overland Park is preparing for a review of their Comprehensive Plan. They are publishing a “Planning the Plan” Video Series. This is an opportunity for the public to have input. The link is Planning the Plan

  2. It is a short video followed by a set of questions for your input on the direction of the city.

  3. At the Arboretum, ground has been broken on the Longhouse Center. $11 million has been donated for the Center. Completion is projected to be late 2020.

  4. City Manager Bill Ebel announced his retirement, March 1, 2022


The OP City council met in person Monday August 16, 2021. I attended virtually.

  1. Councilmembers Graham and Heley were absent. 

  2. Mayor Gerlach accepted the NAACP Corporate Membership Plaque from the Johnson County NAACP. It is the first time the recognition has been bestowed to a City Council in Johnson County. 

  3. Mayor Gerlach reminded Councilmembers not to talk about their take on development projects prior to action by the Council. 

  4. Councilmember Fred Spears will be heading an infrastructure needs advisory board. It will have 12 members including 6 citizens, one from each ward. If you are interested the application can be found here after Monday August 24th. WWW.OPKansas.org/. Applications will be reviewed by the Public Works Committee on October 27, and the full Council on November 1. 

    1. It will meet for about one year, time intensive, there will be pre and post “homework” Environmental and green factors will be identified but will not be drivers of the recommendations. 

    2. There will be a minimum of six 2-hour meetings. 

    3. Apply if you are interested. Contact Mr. Spears if you have questions or trouble applying for one of the six citizen positions. fred.spears@opkansas.org

Prairie Village City Council

August 16, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell


The Prairie Village City Council met virtually on Monday, August 16, 2021. The Mayor reported that Covid infections are rising, while the vaccination rate is holding steady. The Jazz Fest Committee Chair announced that they will be meeting later this week to decide whether or not to continue with plans to hold that in-person event this year. Following citizen participation and extensive Council discussion, the City Council voted 10-1 to put in place a mask mandate for indoor spaces in Prairie Village, with an option for local businesses to require proof-of-vaccinations instead of masks. The ordinance will go into effect August 24. 


Prairie Village City Council 

September 7, 2021

Submitted by Eileen Marshall


The Council met via Zoom, with public viewing via Facebook.

State Representative Stephanie Clayton updated the council on recent developments in the state legislature.

A public hearing was held to discuss the adoption of a budget for 2022 that exceeds the revenue-neutral rate. One citizen spoke during the public comment section. Among the council, there was a spirited discussion of the effect on citizens of increasing property taxes and also the investment in critical infrastructure that property taxes pay for. In the end, the budget was approved as submitted, with a dollar increase of about 5% over last year and a mill levy rate of 19.321, same as last year.

Council narrowly approved (with the Mayor breaking the tie) a one-year pilot program with Bird Rides for electric scooters in the city.

Council approved returning to in-person council meetings at a date to be set by city staff. Meetings will be hybrid-style, with those who feel comfortable returning in person with masks and physical distancing, those those who do not will continue to dial in via Zoom. The public will have access either in-person with masks or via Facebook live.

To learn more, click here.