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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 11/1/2021

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

Meeting dates: Sept. 9, 2021 through Oct. 7, 2021 (most recent appears first)

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

 

Go to https://boccmeetings.jocogov.org/onbaseagendaonline, to see meetings online. Seating in the meeting room is limited because of COVID-19. Information on the pandemic is available at   https://jocogov.org/County-services-impacted-covid-19.

 

Oct. 7, 2021

The Board passed a resolution adding Juneteenth to the fixed county holiday calendar beginning in 2022. The financial impact is about $180,000, mostly to cover premium pay for 24/7 coverage by the Sheriff’s department. Commissioner Hanzlick noted that our county is named for a Reverend Johnson, who held enslaved people, and that “we are putting a stake in the ground to recognize our past. We want to make the county a place for everyone.” Representatives from the Johnson County NAACP also spoke on behalf of the resolution.

 

The Board authorized a grant to United Community Services in the amount of $90,426 to maintain housing stability, both for renters and now for mortgage holders impacted by the pandemic

 

The Board authorized a cooperation agreement between the county and the Public Building Commission for $3,018,000 to provide interim funding for the Household Hazardous Waste Facility CIP. Two Commissioners noted the need for a one stop shop facility with expanded recycle options.

 

The Board authorized a contract with Doubled D, Inc., Dale Brothers for hazardous material abatement and the razing of existing structure(s) on the Kuhlman Diecasting property near 164th and Mission Road for $456,200.

 

The county disbursed $500,000 from COVID-19 Relief Funding for testing, PPE, nurse navigators and virtual training for the Tomahawk Waste Water Staff.

 

Dr. Areola reported that the county positivity rate is 5.3% and declining slightly. We are still at high risk, however, and will be until more people are vaccinated (63.2% as of Oct. 7, 2021). Masking in schools and vaccinations are driving the rate down. The Delta variant accounts for 90% of all cases.

 

Sept. 30, 2021

The County kicked off the United Way 2021 Campaign. The Board accepted a First-Episode Psychosis grant of $256,000 from the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which allows the Mental Health Department to add a clinician, case manager, and half-time peer-support specialist for the Early Intervention and Treatment Program. Commissioner Fast commented that research indicates similar programs impact homelessness rates, specifically, among other positive outcomes.  

 

Commissioners Shirley Allenbrand, Becky Fast and Janee' Hanzlick serve on the County Housing Subcommittee. Their report, presented today, recommends collaborating with cities, community organizers and county resources. Recommendations also include creation of a homeless shelter, housing trust fund, and city land banks, as feasible, among others.

 

The Board approved the 2022 Streamlined Annual PHA Plan for submission to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). JCHA’s FY 2021 budget is $11,972,408 million for direct rental assistance. Monthly disbursements from January through July have averaged $969,786, with about 800 people on the waitlist.

 

The county manager reported on a six-month pilot project featuring a partnership between Johnson County Transit, United Community Services and the Department of Children and Families to provide micro transit services for transitional age youth.

 

Dr. Areola reported on COVID-19 infection numbers. School district numbers are now available.

 

Sept. 23, 2021

The Commissioners approved the fee schedule for services provided by the medical examiner to other counties. They also approved the final plats for Island Creek Farm, a long term care facility to be located at 150th and Quivira in Overland Park (within one mile of the Executive Airport) and the Olathe Health Quivira Campus, to be located on the northwest corner of 151st and Quivira. Because her relative was involved in the project, Commissioner Allenbrand abstained.

 

County unemployment for July 2021 was 3.8%, 6,720 homes were sold and retail sales were $8.2 million, according to the CERI (County Economic Research Institute).

 

County Epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh reported on updates and enhancements to the COVID-19 dashboard: infection percentages are now aligned with the CDC. She noted a dramatic change in the ages affected by COVID-19, moving down from age 80 plus currently to a majority of cases in the 9 to 40 age range. Plans continue for distributing boosters of Pfizer BioNTech, pending recommendation by the CDC, with two mass sites reopening to accommodate the 14,000 residents over 65 qualified to receive a booster on Oct 1.

 

During Commission Comments Commissioner Fast thanked the Church of the Resurrection for hosting the Sept. 21 forum on COVID-19, featuring resources for vaccination and mental health. Commissioner Hanzlick cited the MIT Cost of Living Calculator, noting that the cost of living in Johnson County necessitates a $38.79 hourly wage. (https://livingwage.mit.edu/)

 

Sept. 16, 2021

The Commissioners voted to approve the budgets for Fire District Number One and Northwest Consolidated Fire District. The necessary fire coverage has doubled in recent years from 100 square miles to 200 square miles.  The Board also approved contracts with Tech Gardens for disaster recovery and cybersecurity, computer recovery hardware and software, purchasing three petabytes of storage space.

 

County Epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh reported that an increased number of individuals under 40 are dying from Covid, including an Olathe School District football coach in his 30’s. 

 

Johnson County Parks and Recreation unanimously approved the full, original text of their DEI statement, which references “historical, systemic barriers to equitable access,” with the addition of the word physical.

 

Sept. 9, 2021

After a memorial ceremony honoring the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Chairperson Eilert called the Board meeting to order. Public comments featured two individuals who addressed commissioners by name, stating: “We are coming for you” and [you] “will hang, just like Mussolini.”  The Chairperson did not comment.

 

The Commissioners approved a contract renewal with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City to furnish group health and stop loss administration services for the 2022 calendar year with an estimated annual administration cost not to exceed $6,900,000 as included in the 2022 Health Care Fund budget. 

 

 

Johnson County 2021 Charter Commission

Submitted by Alleen VanBebber and Eileen Marshall


Sept. 13, 2021, 5:30 p.m.

This meeting was intended as the first opportunity for members of the public to comment in person or via ZOOM. The meeting was convened at the KU Edwards campus and pursuant to the masking rules thereof. A large and unruly group packed the room, refusing to wear masks or maintain physical distance, and also disrupting the proceedings by shouting. The Commission was unable to function and the meeting was adjourned at 5:40 p.m.


Sept. 22, 2021, 4:00 p.m.

Meeting was held in person at the KU Edwards Campus, with some members attending via Zoom, and viewable by the public via Facebook Live. Roll call – 23 present, 2 absent


Chairman Musil thanked the County Sheriff for providing uniformed security officers for this meeting.

Chairman Musil stated that two public hearings are being planned. The first will be Oct. 11, 5:30 to 7:30, probably at the Olathe Embassy Suites ballroom, masks recommended but not required. The second will be Oct. 27, same time, masks required, and location to be determined. Arrangements for both are still being made. Two different meetings appear to be needed in order to give all citizens the opportunity to speak in person. (The thinking is that those who feel comfortable only if everyone is masked can’t be heard if mask requirements are flouted, as they were at the Sept. 13 meeting. Those who are against masking can speak at the Oct. 11 meeting.) Anyone who was already on the schedule for the Sept. 13 meeting will be given first priority to speak at these two public hearings. 

There was some discussion about the fact that the Charter Commission faces a deadline to submit a final report to the County Commission in February 2022, and that they had better “get to work” now to be sure to meet that deadline. [Editor’s note: the Charter Commission held its first organizational meeting on March 1, 2021, and therefore, according to the charter, the report must be submitted to the County Commission by March 1, 2022.] There was also concern expressed that the schedule may not allow for an additional public hearing (or two of them, to accommodate masking concerns) once the Commission has decided what issues, if any, it will address. 


Members discussed a Nov. 1 deadline for submission of potential recommendations and charter amendments, which would then be on the agenda for the Nov. 8 meeting. 


The members walked through the Home Rule Charter. The only changes brought up during this period pertained to certain paragraphs of the document that describe past events, such as the transition to the Home Rule Charter in 2000. One member opined that perhaps these paragraphs were no longer needed and could be eliminated. 


There was also discussion regarding whether comments submitted by the public on the Commission’s website should be visible to the public. Currently, they are not, although they are shared with the members of the Commission. I did not hear a definitive answer on whether these comments are legally public records, nor did I hear the Commission take action on this question.


Oct. 11, 2021, 5:30 p.m.

Meeting was held in person at the Olathe Embassy Suites, with some members attending via Zoom, and was viewable by the public both in-person and via Facebook Live. Roll call – 19 present, 6 absent


Chairman Musil stated that tonight is the first public hearing. [Editor’s note: Members of the public disrupted the Sept. 13 public hearing, forcing adjournment.]  The second public hearing will be Oct. 27, 5:30 p.m., also at the Olathe Embassy Suites ballroom. Chairman also stated that commission members are asked to submit all proposed amendments and revisions by Nov. 1. The two scheduled meetings in Nov. will be discussions of any proposed amendments.


I did not count the speakers, but somewhere between 35 and 50 individuals addressed the group, either in person or via Zoom. Exactly two people, our own Amber Stenger, President of the Johnson County LWV, and someone from the OP Chamber of Commerce, spoke up in favor of non-partisan elections. A handful expressed the opposite opinion. The overwhelming majority of speakers were very concerned that the Commission may move to make the County Sheriff an appointed position rather than an elected one. To be clear, there are no proposals in front of the Commission at this time, but some members of the public have seized upon a comment made in a previous meeting and want to be sure their support of the current sheriff is on the record. Meeting adjourned at 7:40 p.m.


Next meeting: Monday, Oct. 27 – will be a second public hearing as described above. 

To learn more, click here.




Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board Meeting

Submitted by Harry and Mary Bognich

Sept. 27, 2021, in-person at the Mission Office

Director Tim DeWeese reviewed the 7-Point Strategic Vision from 2019 to present:

  • Strengthen Financial Position, e.g., Seek Grants/Awards, Seek Alternative Funding Streams, etc. Hiring a Grant Manager this year has greatly improved receipt of more and larger grants.

  • Advancing Quality Care – going well but hampered somewhat by pandemic (less face-to-face).

  • Enhancing Client Satisfaction & Engagement – pandemic has hampered this also, but Same Day Service has vastly improved in last 2 years.

  • Building Stronger Community Partnerships – succeeded and expanded very well. Also found that parents are more willing to become involved via ‘Parent Connect’ technology.

  • Capitalizing on Technology – continuing to work on this.

  • Maximizing Data & Information – new dashboards created.

  • Improving Staff Satisfaction & Appreciation – Staff is doing very well, but it has been very hard to retain staff due to competitiveness with other jobs and states. Turnover has increased from 9% annually to almost 30% this year. This is still less than other comparable mental health or social service jobs, but it creates a lot of difficulties. Turnover is higher for certain positions than others. Many factors are involved here (wages, county or state rules, lack of applicants, etc.); each presents different challenges to overcome. There also seem to be fewer students coming out of college to work in mental health. Advisory Board members offered some suggestions.


JoCo Mental Health Center employees are now answering ALL LOCAL calls to the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine starting August 27, rather than callers being routed to a call center elsewhere in Kansas or in another state. This helps the caller to receive local assistance.


Just two of the four important and large grants recently received:

  1. First Episode Psychosis grants provide treatment to teenagers and young adults much quicker to lessen trauma to the brain. The quicker treatment is received, the less brain damage, and further recovery time is greatly reduced.

  2. Nearly one million dollars to help incarcerated persons having mental health issues who are re-entering life after prison.


Next meeting Nov. 22, 2021, at the Mission office. 

To learn more, click here.




Water One Board

Oct. 12, 2021

Submitted by Annette Becker


This was my first meeting as an observer and I took away three main points.


  1. They are thrilled to have members of the public attend their meetings and introduced me as the new representative from the LWV as the first order of business. Five of the board members introduced themselves and spoke with me after the meeting as did Mike Armstrong (the general manager), who made sure I was added to the e-mail list to receive a packet of their agenda before each meeting. 

  2. There’s a lot to learn. A lot of engineering talk but also committed people who are happy to “talk shop” and answer questions.

  3. I have big shoes to fill! Everyone mentioned the years Ellen Miller was a fixture at the meetings and how much they appreciated her and miss her.

To learn more, click here.



Olathe School Board

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

Oct. 7, 2021

The Olathe School Board met on Oct. 7 for its regular monthly meeting. The school district gave a presentation regarding their Real World Learning – Market Value Assets (MVA) program, with the goal of all students graduating with MVA. The MVA fall within 4 categories: Internship and Client Work, College and Articulated Credits, Industry Recognized Certifications, and Entrepreneurship. The administration also discussed the status of students (under 18) testing positive for COVID. A member of the board asked if the administration has considered a “test to stay” program and requested that the administration make inquires with other Johnson County school districts regard their plans. 

To learn more, click here.


Shawnee Mission School Board

Submitted by Lisa Bonds

Sept. 12, 2021 

Only five members attended the meeting. Superintendent Hubbard started the meeting with a report which included a reading program called Read Across SMSD to encourage all stakeholders to read more, and the groundbreaking at the new John Diemer Elementary School. The board also heard a report on the opening of a health partnership which will open a clinic each afternoon at Shawnee Mission West High School. The rest of the meeting was reserved for a report of the Department of Student and Family Services and Student Activities. The committee reported on their work on making discipline more consistent across the district by placing offenses in four levels and the punishments that should follow. The plan also included a restorative justice program. 


Sept. 27, 2021 

The board members’ discussion about requiring staff vaccinations took up the majority of the meeting. Several important points came out of that discussion. 1] 81% of the staff is already vaccinated. 2] Superintendent Hubbard fears that a vaccination requirement could hurt fulfilling the 250 classified openings and may create more. 3] There will be a cost to the district for testing. 4] The Biden administration’s requirement for vaccinations or testing does not apply to public schools. The board decided to table the discussion and wait until the administration wants the board to act on it in the future. 

  

The board previewed the new Shawnee Mission North High School Bison mascot that is in development after the district discontinued the Indian mascot. The board approved several items, including renewing the district’s contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield, approving a new administration handbook, and agreeing to continue the current district data storage system. The board also approved paying the gas bill from last February, which was negotiated down to a little over $337,000 from $1.6 million. 


To learn more, click here.


Overland Park City Council

Submitted by Nancy Allen

Sept. 13, 2021

The OP City council met in person Monday Sept. 13, 2021. I attended virtually. Councilperson Fred Spears was absent.

There were three topics for public hearing

  1. There is a new budget process in place because of Kansas State Senate Bill 13 (SB13) that established public hearing requirements if the proposed budget exceeds the property tax levy’s revenue neutral rate (RNR). The RNR is the tax rate in mills that would generate the same property tax revenue dollars as levied in the previous tax year using the current tax year’s total assessed valuation. 

    1. Proposed budget would allow for a 1 mill rate increase for behavioral health unit and training for first responders for mental health calls. 

    2. Five citizens spoke against going higher than the RNR. Two speakers supported it.

    3. Among council members, Hamblin and Farassati voted against it, others voted for exceeding the RNR, so it passed. 

  2. The public hearing on the budget approval ensued. The budget will be voted upon Sept 20, 2021. 

    1. Three spoke for approving the budget. They were aligned with the improvement in training for first responders for mental health checks

    2. Those who spoke against approving the budget wanted the Council to look to other expenditures to fund the needed mental health staffing and training need. 

  3. Substantial Amendment to the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Fiscal year 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan- No public comment. Plan was approved 

There was a long discussion about electric vs. gas golf cars at Lady Sykes and St. Andrew’s golf courses. Gas carts are less expensive (do not need charging stations, can be filled prior to each golf round) but are polluters. Electric carts do not pollute as much, but have greater infrastructure needs, such as charging stations; one charge is not enough for 3 rounds of golf. Council decided not to go electric at this time.

Sept. 20, 2021

The OP City council met in person Monday Sept. 20, 2021. I attended virtually. 

  1. OP Citizen thanked the Council for notifying residents living south of 103rd Street that the ChipSeal project for pavement improvement had been postponed. She asked for more information.

  2. The Proposed 2022 Operating Budget was approved.

  3. The pit bull ban has been repealed. 


Oct. 4, 2021

The OP City council met in person Monday Oct. 4, 2021. I attended virtually. 


  1. Overland Park surveys citizens every other year. The 2021 results can be found here

    1. https://www.opkansas.org/about-overland-park/resident-surveys/

    2. Summary 

      1. Overall, citizens are either satisfied or very satisfied with quality of life and image of Overland Park (92% and 86%, respectively)

      2. Categories citizens are most satisfied with include 

        1. Police, fire and ambulance services

        2. Recreation programs

        3. Storm water management.

      3. Categories citizens feel should be improved are

        1. City street maintenance

        2. Traffic flow/congestion on major streets

  2. Overland Park will host the International Conference of Master Gardeners in 2023. 

  3. Approved Infrastructure Maintenance Program



Prairie Village City Council

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell 

Sept. 20, 2021

The Prairie Village City Council met virtually on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, beginning with a legislative update by State Senator Ethan Corson, followed by a presentation on the Climate Action KC plan given by Whitney Wilson and Kirstin Riott. Wilson and Riott praised the City for all of their climate- and sustainability-related efforts, especially those taken by the Tree Board and Environmental Committee. The Mayor encouraged the appropriate City bodies and staff to review the Climate Action’s plan and bring forward items relevant for discussion by the City Council. Council member Ian Graves announced that the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Housing Committee was held and that this group will be addressing housing issues of the City. Following extensive discussion, the City Council voted 11 to 1 to extend the mask mandate until Oct. 31. The Council then heard a presentation by Equality Kansas recommending an ordinance banning conversion therapy of minors. The Council voted 10 to 2 to direct staff to draft such an ordinance. 


Oct. 4, 2021

The Prairie Village City Council met in a hybrid format (both in-person and virtually) on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, beginning with a legislative update by State Representative Rui Xu. The Mayor announced that all Covid-related rates are improving, with the CDC reporting the Johnson County vaccination rate at 75.6%. In light of that, Council member Sheila Myers moved that the Prairie Village mask mandate be rescinded, but the motion died for lack of a second. The ordinance banning conversion therapy of minors was approved 11 to 1 and the UN-sponsored climate initiative called “Cities Race to Zero” was approved 8 to 4. 


To learn more, click here.