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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 11/30/2021


Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

Meeting dates: October 14 through Nov. 11, 2021 (most recent appears first)

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


Go to, to see meetings online. Seating in the meeting room is limited because of COVID-19. Information on the pandemic is available at


Nov. 11, 2021

No meeting because of Veteran’s Day.


Nov. 4, 2021

The Board authorized the implementation of Johnson County Transit pilot programs in the areas of fixed route, commuter express, micro transit and paratransit services in Johnson County over the course of four years. Keeley Snyder, director of Workforce Partnership, testified in favor of the motion as it benefits job seekers and English-as-another-language learners by means of transportation vouchers. The Board will get an update on the plan next spring in order to reevaluate the definition of “vulnerable populations” and fares.


Infection numbers continue to trend down, according to the COVID-19 update. Full vaccination rate is at 65.1%, but the denominator for this data will change with the recently approved vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. Appointments are now open and more doses are expected, including sites at Children’s Mercy, pediatricians and pharmacies. People can now mix booster doses, the Health Department provides Spanish speaking and sign language interpreters at vaccination sites, and flu shots are also recommended. 


The Vote Canvass is Tuesday, Nov. 9, 9 A.M.


Oct. 28, 2021

After the county received nine bids, the Board approved General Obligation Internal Improvement Bonds, Series 2021A of Johnson County, Kansas to finance wastewater and certain airport road improvements in an amount estimated to be $41,495,000. The Board also approved improvements to the County Administration Building, New Century Adult Detention Center, a new Med-Act Facility, and Central Booking Facility with Lease Purchase Revenue Bonds estimated at $7,105,000.


Meeting as the Public Building Commission, the Commissioners approved several projects, including the replacement of passenger and freight elevators in the County Administration Building.


The Board approved submitting the 2022 Action Plan to HUD for about $2,551,351 (consisting of an estimated $1,354,000 in Community Development Block Grant and $1,197,351 in Home Investment Partnerships funds.) Commissioner Hanzlick noted that housing is a complex problem: in Johnson County 40% of the jobs are for wages of $17 an hour or less, which makes it difficult for workers to obtain housing. 


The Board approved the 2022 Storm water Management Program for $19,873,800. 


The county has a strategic plan to seek additional funding besides the gasoline tax for CARS road improvement projects, in anticipation of declining revenue resulting from the trend to electric vehicles.  


Acting as the Committee of the Whole, the Board voted 4-2 to bring the transit plan forward on the agenda after hearing the briefing from staff. 


Retail sales were up 10% as of August, 2021, according to the County Economic Report.


The County will continue using Facebook Live as needed for public communication.


Fred Sherman, Election Commissioner, reported on upcoming local elections, stating that 96 races involving 191 filed candidates are scheduled for the Nov. 2, 2021 election. Three early voting sites will be open Monday morning, Nov. 1, until noon. Judging by advance voting, this election may show a marked increase in participation rate at 20%. Commissioner O’Hara commended the Election Office on worker training. The Canvass will be on Tuesday, Nov. 9.


Commissioner Hanzlick commented that KERA, the Kansas Emergency Rental program, provides emergency assistance for those impacted by COVID-19. The funds go directly to the landlords. Call 211 to obtain “Partner Assistance” in completing and monitoring the application. Project 10-20 in Johnson County will  offer Cold Weather Shelter from Dec. 1 to April 1, serving up to 30 people a night, age 18 or older.


Oct. 21, 2021

Several proclamations were made, including Imagine a Day Without Water and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The Board also approved a number of appointments, including that of Claire M. Reagan as Sixth District Representative to the Juvenile Corrections Advisory Board through June 30, 2022 and Jarrod Ousley as Chairman’s Representative to the Commission on Aging as of 2024. Sitting as the governing body of Fire District No.2, the Board authorized agreements with Fire District No. 1 and Overland Park to provide Fire/Rescue and EMS service within that territory, covering a section of Miami County and Spring Hill.


Workforce housing was approved in Gardner within one mile of the New Century Airport.


An Emergency COVID-19 Supplemental Grant in the amount of $296,695 will provide mental health services to individuals experiencing severe and persistent mental illness in Johnson County was accepted.


Commissioner Fast noted that 40% of emergency calls in one Johnson County city consist of welfare calls.


The Board conducted a public hearing, authorized $6,648,400 for Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) pre-construction phase services for the Nelson Wastewater Treatment Facility Project, and approved a contract with McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. for CMAR pre-construction phase services in an amount not to exceed $5,940,000. The CMAR cost estimating and scheduling service saved the County millions of dollars on the Tomahawk project.


The Master Development Plan with Van Trust Real Estate for the New Century Commerce Center and authorization for Phase 1 of the Infrastructure Development Plan were approved.


With the exception of Commissioner O’Hara, the Board voted to approve the New Century Airport master plan, capital improvement project and issuance of bonds not to exceed $75,340,894.


In response to a question, Dr. Areola noted that any reconsideration of the school mask mandate needs to take into account the community spread rate and allowing parents time to vaccinate the 50,000 plus children in the county, among other factors.       


Oct. 14, 2021

The Board approved a motion to maintain the existing BOCC district boundaries, with another review of district boundaries in early 2023.  By statute, the Board of County Commissioners must review the commission districts at least once every three years.


Auditors reported that the barcode system adopted by the sheriff’s department does not currently operate as intended, necessitating hand data entry of evidence and property. The Sheriff’s office agreed with auditors’ recommendation that they review and update their policies and procedures for the property room as personnel changes occur, or at least annually. 


Dr. Areola reported that the COVID-19 incidence rate at 5.2% positivity, while trending down, is still too high.  School rates at about four per thousand are under control as a result of masking and careful reporting. 



Johnson County 2021 Charter Commission

Oct. 27, 2021, 5:30 p.m.

Submitted by Alleen VanBebber and Eileen Marshall

The 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.

There were 17 members of the public registered to speak. Following is a summary of the comments; many speakers addressed more than one issue, so the total of the numbers shown will exceed 17.

  • 10 AGAINST appointing the sheriff (currently an elected position)

  • 5 FOR changing some other appointed positions back to elected ones

  • 6 IN FAVOR of partisan elections

  • 2 saw no need for any changes to the Home Rule Charter

  • 2 AGAINST partisan elections

  • 1 against the current county auditor

  • 1 held a notebook in the air, stating it was a written report that would be given to the members of the Charter Commission, but no opinion was expressed verbally. This person stated that she was speaking for 75 others who had been at the first (disrupted) public hearing.

  • 1 person, after speaking in favor of partisan elections and converting more positions to elected ones, wanted someone to report on the supposed benefits of home rule.

The general tone of the speakers was more respectful and less raucous than the Oct. 11 meeting.  

Once the public comment section of the meeting was closed, the members worked out a schedule for the next few meetings.

  1. Nov. 1 – not a meeting, but the deadline for members to submit proposed amendments

  2. Nov. 8, 4:00 p.m. – first meeting to discuss as many amendments as possible and take a first vote.  According to rules adopted by this Charter Commission, any amendment proposed by a member will be duly considered. If an amendment gets at least 9 votes, it moves forward for further consideration at the next meeting, and then a final vote is taken. According to the Home Rule Charter, an amendment must have at least 13 votes in order to be approved and sent to the Board of County Commissioners.

  3. Nov. 17 – further discussion and voting

  4. December 6, 13, 22 – further discussion and voting if needed

A member of the public asked a question toward the end of this meeting that indicated his misunderstanding that members of the public can propose amendments. Chairman Musil clarified that only members of the Charter Commission can propose amendments.

Johnson County 2021 Charter Commission

Nov. 8, 2021, 4:00 p.m.

Submitted by Alleen VanBebber and Eileen Marshall

The meeting was held in person at the county administration building in Olathe, with some members attending via Zoom, and was viewable by the public both in-person and via Facebook Live.


  1. Roll call – all 25 members present

  2. Approve minutes of  Oct. 27 meeting; approve today’s agenda

  3. First reading – Consideration of proposed amendments to the Home Rule Charter


As of the meeting, there were 15 proposed amendments to the Home Rule Charter, including two that are simply language clean-up and do not change how the county operates. There were also three proposed recommendations to the BOCC (one of which had been withdrawn by the meeting date), which are NOT meant as amendments to the Charter and are governed by different rules. 

During this meeting, the group discussed only seven of the proposed amendments, with one voted down, two voted to receive a second reading, two that are very similar to be resubmitted as one, one that could turn into a recommendation but cannot be an amendment, and another that was withdrawn but sounded as if it might come back to life.

Details of what was discussed (underlining indicates exact wording of proposal):

  1. Change the positions of County Clerk, Register of Deeds, and County Treasurer to elected positions from their current status as appointed positions. This was submitted by Wendy Bingesser and received only eight votes, so it will not move forward. People who spoke against it mainly felt that keeping these as appointed positions contributes to a professionally managed county administration. They are administrative positions and report to the County Manager, who reports to the BOCC, which is accountable to the voters.

  2. Establishment of “Johnson County Unincorporated Trustee” Position Elected by the Unincorporated Citizens of Johnson County. This was submitted by Randy Hutchins. The underlying issue appears to be frustration with how little attention and advocacy the rural areas receive from county government, according to Mr. Hutchins. It became obvious during the prolonged discussion that his proposed solution is unclear and the commission members did not really know what the implications might be or even if it would be within state statutes. Still, it received nine votes, so can be discussed again.

  3. Change the Head of the Johnson County Appraisal Office to an elected position. This was submitted by Randy Hutchins. The appraisal officer is appointed as per state statute, so this cannot go forward as an amendment, and therefore no vote was taken. It could possibly be re-stated as a recommendation to the BOCC for local advocates to take the issue to the legislature.

  4. Create a public health and safety governing board to provide oversight for the public health department and county sheriff’s department. This was submitted by Joy Koesten and will be combined with the next item (see below) in time for the next meeting. Not discussed.

  5. The Board of County Commissioners shall form a Health Advisory Council which shall provide guidance when the BOCC acts as the Public Health Board. The Health Advisory Council shall be composed of representatives of interested groups and parties, including but not limited to, physicians, patients, caregivers, pharmacies, hospitals and the general public. This was submitted by Ed Peterson and will be combined with the previous item (see above) in time for the next meeting. Not discussed.

  6. The directors and members of the governing boards of Johnson County Library System, Parks and Recreation District, Mental Health Center, Developmental Supports and the Airport Commission shall be appointed by the Board of County Commissioners, based on education and experience for the position appointed to. ALL appointees shall maintain residency within Johnson County and be a qualified elector. This was submitted by Greg Smith. After discussion of to whom it would actually apply and the current rules, it was withdrawn, with some talk of bringing a revised version back to life.

  7. All vacancies on the Board of County Commissioners should be filled by special election unless the next scheduled election is within 90 days of the position becoming vacant. This was submitted by Greg Smith. Despite many people weighing in against this proposal, and the fact that the situation has only arisen once in 20 years, it received 10 yes votes and therefore moves ahead to a second reading.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:02.

Next meeting: Wednesday, Nov. 17, 4:00 p.m. – Johnson County Administration building.

To view all amendments, click here.



WaterOne Board

Nov. 9, 2021

Submitted by Annette Becker

The budget was reviewed, and there will be a slight increase in fees (~$1.59 per customer per billing period). It was also noted that household affordability for water is better than it has been in the past, meaning a lower percentage of income after basic needs are met is spent on water. For the record, some of the best water in the country is a bargain at 230 gallons for $1. 

WaterOne has received a grant that will allow them to purchase 9 EV trucks for their fleet at the same cost as traditional gas vehicles. 

There is a new customer portal, “my account,” on their website for customers. Check out videos on their YouTube channel on how to use it. 

There was also a presentation on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was passed last Friday.  There is $15 billion appropriated in the Act for lead service line replacement. Water One is hoping to get a piece of this for general inventory of all the pipes to check for leaks, though lead is not a concern here. Another $9 billion has been appropriated for emerging contaminants (i.e. endocrine disrupting compounds, pesticides, pharmaceuticals).

To learn more, click here.



Olathe School Board

Nov. 4, 2021

Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board met on Nov. 4 for its regular monthly meeting. The board approved the plan for district administration to call an election in March 2022 to give the district the authority to issue up to $298 million in capital improvement bonds. The board also approved a “test to stay” COVID program for students who have been exposed to COVID and are unvaccinated, effective Nov. 8, 2021, and starting Nov. 29 masks in the high schools will be made optional. 

To learn more, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board

Oct. 11, 2021 

Submitted by Lisa Bonds

The board heard a report from the administration about recruitment of both classified (non-teaching) and certified staff. The district has taken several steps to fulfill the openings in the district. For classified staff the district has held a job fair and has increased advertisements both within and outside of the district. However there is still a serious shortage of both paras and kitchen staff. In order to fill certified staff, the district administration has increased recruitment efforts to areas around the country. The administration also reported that the district is trying to grow their own teachers with training programs at the high schools and providing internships and mentors to high school students who are interested in the teaching profession.  

Shawnee Mission School Board

Oct. 25, 2021

Submitted by Lisa Bonds

After the superintendent report, district staff informed the board that the cost of increasing paras, aids and kitchen staffs’ pay by $2 per hour would cost the district $2.6 million. The board approved a $1 million price tag for an educator training conference in the district, open to all teachers. If the entire staff received the training at the national conferences the cost would be $4 million. The board also discussed who the representative should vote for at the state school board organization.  

To learn more, click here.

Overland Park City Council

Oct. 18, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Allen

The OP City council met in person Monday Oct. 18, 2021. Logan Heley and Fred Thompson were not present. I attended virtually. 

  1. The second of two Public Hearings was held on the Financial Plan, Capital Improvement Program and Maintenance Program of 2023-2027. Tonight’s hearing was to gather citizens’ ideas on what should be included in the 2023-2027 Plan. No citizen chose to speak. The Plan will now go to the Committee for development. Citizens will be able to comment in February 2022 after the proposed Plan is open for comments. 

  2. Oct. 18, 2021 was proclaimed Jason Sudekis Day. His parents accepted the award. They are very funny too. 

  3. Overland Park will receive $18 million from the American Rescue Care Act. The first $9 million has been received, and plan for utilization was reviewed. The second half of the funds will be disbursed in May 2022, and plans for how it will be spent have not been conceived.  

Overland Park City Council

Nov. 1, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Allen

The OP City council met in person Monday Nov. 1, 2021, 2021. Faris Farasatti was not present.

I attended virtually. 

  1. Mayor Gerlach was presented the E.A Mosher Award for Excellence in Local Government 2021 from the League of Local Government. 

  2. The new city Communications Manager will be Meg Ralph Her job entails public information, emergency communications, website, social media etc. 

  3. Termination of a Tax Increment Financial (TIF) agreement for the project at W.80th and Marty. The project was sold prior to TIF payment and without notice to the City. 

To learn more, click here.  


Prairie Village City Council 

Oct. 18, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met in a hybrid format (both in-person and virtually) on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, beginning with the introduction of the Teen Council members and a legislative update by State Representative Jerry Stogsdill. The Mayor announced that all COVID-19-related measures continue moving in a positive direction, with the CDC reporting the Johnson County vaccination rate at 77% and the testing positivity rate below 5%, thereby removing the area from the high-transmission category. Following an extensive discussion, the Council voted 7-5 to allow the Prairie Village mask mandate to expire on Oct. 31. In other business, the ordinance banning conversion therapy of minors that was approved by the Committee of the Whole last month by a vote of 11-1, and the UN-sponsored climate initiative called “Cities Race to Zero” was approved unanimously. 

Prairie Village City Council 

Nov. 1, 2021

Submitted by Eileen Marshall

The Council met in a hybrid format, with some in-person and some via Zoom, and public viewing via Facebook.

Affordable Housing --- The Committee of the Whole discussed a new tax rebate program, which will be brought to the Council at a later meeting for another discussion and vote. The program would provide a rebate of 100% of the City’s portion of property taxes on a residential owner-occupied property and will be limited to applicants who qualify as “very low-income” households as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. If approved, the program is estimated to help from 20 to 30 households and cost up to $20,000 in 2022. Roeland Park and Mission currently have similar programs.

To learn more, click here.