help_outline Skip to main content

News / Articles

Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 1/4/2022


Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

Meeting dates: Nov. 18, 2021 through Dec. 9, 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

Dec. 9, 2021

Commissioner Meyers reiterated the County’s support for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a matter of good employment policy and efficient, high-level functioning. He stated that the policy is not political, but rather a positive step forward to be a welcoming community. The Board recognized and thanked the County employees and volunteers leading the United Way, Arts Commission and Feed the Need efforts.

The Board voted to allocate $151,500 for the 2022 Human Services Fund as outlined by United Community Services of Johnson County in its 2022 Human Service Fund Recommendation Report.

This fund-pass-through program awards grants to non-profit organizations that provide safety net programs for Johnson County residents. In 2020, programs receiving these funds provided over 168,000 “units of service,” including medical and dental appointments, nights of safe housing, counseling and case management, emergency rental and utility assistance, food pantries, employment training and more. The Board also voted to allocate $140,559 of 2022 Johnson County Alcohol Tax Funds for a program which directly impacted 49,000 residents here.

Funds were approved for multiple wastewater infrastructure improvement projects in an amount not to exceed $5,545,000. Projects include the Collection System inspection and renewal, the Stream Crossing program, and the City Street/Storm program (a cooperative project between the County and cities). 


The Board approved an additional $4,375,000 to the Integrated Plan Program, increasing the total program amount to $8,336,000. This program allows the County to monitor and control costs in large projects.

The Board viewed a presentation on the UCS Recognition of Johnson County and its partnership with Johnson County Community College for trade/employment training for justice-involved individuals.

The new County website has been launched:

A number of County projects have received prestigious awards, including the American Institute of Architecture’s recognition of the new courthouse.

The Board discussed the 2022 State Legislative Platform, specifically the item supporting extending the 3-day postmark grace period to include mail ballot elections.

Dec. 2, 2021

Vaccination news: 79.2% of the Johnson County population greater than 12 years of age has been vaccinated.

Commissioner Hanzlick asked whether Sheriff Hayden could come before the Board to explain how he is protecting public health with his current antibody testing program.

The Board authorized a contract with Precision Contracting & Construction, LLC to improve underground drainage, ADA compliance, and paving at the Transit Campus located at 1701 W. 56 Highway, Olathe, Kansas 66061 in the amount not to exceed $390,000.

The Board voted to accept the FEMA Cooperating Technical Partners grant award in the amount of $875,200 and authorized a contract with Olsson Associates to complete the Indian Creek 2-D Floodplain Modeling and Mapping project in an amount not to exceed $1,029,640 per RFP No. 2021-062, at a cost to the county of $154,440. This project will be conducted in cooperation with a similar project across the state line, and Indian Creek was selected because it is a site of floods of record.

The Board approved a petition from certain landowners to detach their land from the boundaries of Fire District No. 2 of Johnson County, transferring it to Olathe for fire protection services.

Maury Thompson, Deputy County Manager, reported on several projects, including the Antioch Library Branch, which is in schematic design review now. The new Johnson County Square is on schedule and on budget with a ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for Dec. 9.

The COVID-19 funding report indicated an increase over last month of $986,744.96 for mitigation procedures. The county anticipates another 58-59 million dollars.

Dr. Areola, Elizabeth Holzschuh, and Charlie Hunt provided an epidemiology and infection report. The COVID-19 dashboard has been revamped. Community risk is high. As of Nov. 20, schools reported 303 cases, a 119% increase from October. In addition, districts are reporting high rates of absenteeism. Children’s Mercy reports 18 cases, with one-third in intensive care. While testing is still available one day a week at the Health Department, services are also available elsewhere in the County. In response to Commissioner Ashcraft’s question, Hunt noted that we are not ready to scale back our response to the pandemic. Commissioner Allenbrand asked about workplace testing, which is being cut back by the state. No recommendation was forthcoming.

The County will be interviewing candidates for the Auditor position on Monday, Dec. 6th.

Nov. 25, 2021

No meeting. Thanksgiving holiday.

Nov. 18, 2021

The Board approved a bond issue for Fire District No. 2 in the amount $3,115,000 to replace three fire engines, one ladder truck and associated equipment. Fire District No. 2 remains owner of these assets. The District’s rating is A level, according to Standard and Poor’s. Four bids were received with the best bid at 1.144056% from DA Davidson.


The Board left to attend the funeral service for Dennis Moore.

The Board meeting continued at 1:30 p.m.

The Board approved a contract with Tyler Technologies, Inc. for Front Elevation (Street Level) Digital Imagery to assist with property appraisals, at a cost not to exceed $706,700 for a period of one (1) year with the option to renew for an additional four (4) one-year periods for $50,000 each.

The Board also authorized a number of mental health initiatives, including adding one FTE Clinician position to provide mental health services to Johnson County Community College students in the amount of $98,000. The Sheriff’s Department will also be able to add a mental health first responder.

The Board approved the addition of three FTE to the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment for the Immunization Action Plan program through funding distributed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The personnel include a Community Clinic Worker to enhance mobile operations, especially in underserved areas, and two Registered Nurses. Vaccine appointments for children aged 5 to 11 are filled up through December.

Nikki L. McDonald was appointed Chairman’s representative to the Mental Health Center Advisory Board through February 5, 2024.

Dr. Areola reported that 13.3% of 5-to-11-year olds have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with the first dose. County appointments have filled up, and some pharmacies are having difficulties with staffing and availability of doses. We are seeing an increase in cases in schools. All those age 18 and over are now eligible for booster shots in Kansas. Children account for 25% of all infections nationally. 

The County asked the staff to look into the American Rescue Plan for funds for infrastructure, especially broadband.


Johnson County 2021 Charter Commission

Meeting date: Nov. 17, 2021, 4:00 p.m.

Submitted by Alleen VanBebber and Eileen Marshall

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.


Roll call – 20 members present, 3 joined soon thereafter

Approve minutes of Nov. 8 meeting; approve today’s agenda

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


As of the meeting, there were 9 remaining proposed amendments which had not yet been discussed by the group, including 2 that are simply language clean-up and do not change how the county operates. During this meeting, the group discussed four of the proposed amendments (leaving five for the next meeting), and all four received at least none Yes votes and therefore advance to a second reading. 


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

In times of emergency, the Board of County Commissioners shall form a Health and Safety Advisory Council which shall provide guidance when the BOCC acts as the Board of Health or exercises other emergency powers. The Health Advisory Council shall be composed of representatives of interested groups and parties as determined by the BOCC, including but not limited to, physicians, patients, caregivers, pharmacies, hospitals, schools, religious organizations, first responders and the general publicThis proposal was made by Ed Peterson and Joy Koesten. Discussion centered around the definition of “emergency,” and whether this action would be duplicative of other efforts already underway in county government, whether it is already the prerogative of the BOCC to form such a body and therefore not necessary to amend the Charter, and whether it is too specific to cover emergencies other than pandemics. It received 12 Yes votes and therefore moves on to a second reading.

Delete all text from Section 2.05 ("Compensation") and replace with the following: "Each Commissioner and the Chair shall receive an annual salary set at the 2021 salary amount, subject to annual adjustment of [3% or Consumer Price Index] starting in 2022. They shall receive non-cash employee benefits commensurate with those offered to County management employees." This proposal was made by Eric Mikkelson, who stated that the BOCC had not voted itself a raise in 10 years and that what is essentially a fulltime job for a Commissioner pays less than $50,000 per year. (Chair earns $75,000.) This proposal would not allow a big raise but would provide for some increase. After discussion pro and con, this proposal received 18 Yes votes and moves ahead to the second reading.

At Section 2.02, the fourth sentence shall be deleted and replaced with the following: "Six Commissioners shall continue to be elected to four-year terms consistent with past practice. The Seventh District Commissioner elected in Nov. 2022 shall be elected to a five-year term, after which term the Seventh District Commissioner shall thereafter be elected to four-year terms beginning in Nov. 2027." This proposal was also made by Eric Mikkelson. It is intended to solve the problem faced by county Commissioners from districts 1, 2, and 4, who are elected in the same year as the at-large Seventh District Commissioner (who becomes the Chair). Because they run at the same time, someone who is already a Commissioner must give up his/her existing seat in order to run for the at-large seat. Commissioners from the other districts do not have this dilemma, because they are elected in different years. This amendment would permanently put the Seventh District Commissioner on an election cycle in odd-numbered years, which would free any sitting commissioner to run for the seat without giving up his/her existing seat. This received 23 Yes votes and zero NO votes, moving ahead to a second reading.

BOCC are to approve new hires or reappointments of department directors or division heads. This proposal was made by Laura Klingensmith. She repeatedly explained that she wanted the BOCC to “have accountability” and “oversight” of the County Manager in hiring practices and mentioned Dr. Areola as an example of the need for this. This proposal received nine Yes votes and will move ahead to a second reading.

The meeting was adjourned shortly after 6:00.

Next meeting: Wednesday, Dec. 6, 4:00 p.m. – KU Edwards Campus BEST Conference Center.

Johnson County 2021 Charter Commission

Meeting date: Dec. 6, 2021, 4:00 p.m.

Submitted by Alleen VanBebber and Eileen Marshall

Meeting was held in person at the KU Edwards Campus, with some members attending via Zoom, and was viewable by the public both in-person and via Facebook Live.


Roll call – 23 members present, 2 joined soon thereafter

Approve minutes of Nov. 17 meeting; approve today’s agenda

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

Second reading of proposed amendments that have received at least nine Yes votes


Although it was not listed on the agenda, the first item discussed was a proposal to hire legal counsel to advise the Commission on the legality and proper wording of proposed amendments. The Executive Committee suggested the Foulson firm, with Tony Rupp as the lead counsel, and the vote to engage the firm was unanimous. 

As of the meeting, there were five remaining proposed amendments which had not yet been discussed by the group, including two that are simply language clean-up and do not change how the county operates. During this meeting, the group discussed the three remaining substantive proposals, with two receiving enough votes to proceed to second reading and one defeated. 

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

Change election status of the sheriff’s position to a nonpartisan race. 

This proposed amendment was put forward by Joy Koesten (and is also a part of the third proposal, which appears below, beginning with “Modify Article V”). Vigorous debate centered on whether partisan races (a) bring clarity or confusion to the voters, and (b) result in better or worse governance. A couple of Commission members stated that they would vote against the proposal simply because they did not see a compelling reason to change the charter in this way, noting that the existing system has worked for twenty years as-is. In other words, not a preference for partisan versus non-partisan elections, but “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The proposal received 12 Yes votes and moves forward to a second reading.

Change the format of all county elections to partisan.

This proposed amendment was brought by Greg Smith. The proposal received eight Yes votes and therefore failed to advance to second reading.

• Modify Article V as follows: 1. Modify Section 5.02, bullet 1, sentence 2 to read as follows: “Except as provided by law or this Charter, the County Manager shall appoint, suspend, or dismiss all non-elected department directors and division heads, including the County Clerk, the Register of Deeds, and the County Treasurer.” 2. Modify Section 5.05 by deleting bullets, 1, 2, 3, and redraft the remaining provisions to read as follows: “Sheriff shall be selected by popular vote in a nonpartisan election held every 4 years. The Commissioners shall review and approve the Sheriff’s budget. The Sheriff’s office is subject to the personnel policies and procedures established by the BOCC and all other administrative policies adopted by the Commission to the extent not inconsistent with law.” “While the District Attorney of the 10th judicial district is not a county official, this elected, state position shall comply with administrative policies adopted by the Commission to the extent not inconsistent with law."

This proposal was brought by Paula Schwach. Beyond the non-partisan election for Sheriff, which was discussed and voted on in the first item, it is meant to clarify the current standing of each of the positions mentioned, which are arguably ambiguous in the current Charter. There was discussion around whether these changes would be worthwhile to bring to the voters on a ballot if there were no other proposed changes to the Charter. In the end, the proposal received 14 Yes votes and moves ahead to a second reading.


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 item was the only “second reading” item discussed tonight, and the Commission’s rule is that a second reading happens in one meeting, and then the final vote happens at a later meeting. Therefore, no vote was taken on this item tonight. It was put forward by Greg Smith for the purpose of giving voters or party precinct captains the choice of who will replace a resigned or departed County Commissioner. Currently, the BOCC appoints the replacement, who then stands at the next election if she/he wants to continue. There was much discussion of different timing scenarios, as commission members tried to understand how the proposal would work in practice. It appears that rewording is needed. Nonetheless, it is scheduled for a final vote at a subsequent meeting.

The meeting was adjourned shortly after 6:00.

Next meeting: Monday, Dec. 13, 4:00 p.m. – KU Edwards Campus BEST Conference Center.

For more about the Charter Commission, click here.

Johnson County Library Board

Dec. 9, 2021

Submitted by Karen Wulfkuhle


No action was taken due to the absence of a quorum. Staff reported on current and future capital projects. Central Library is slated to re-open Feb. 22. In addition to serving as a branch library, it is the administrative center for the library system. A combined total of 140 staff work at Central. Work on the new Antioch Branch is moving forward. A one-story design is being developed. The current building will close at the end of 2023. The new building is set to open 1st quarter 2024. DeSoto, Spring Hill, Gardner Renewal Study is underway to analyze current conditions and present options to the board in May 2022. Public engagement sessions will be held in late January/early February. Four branches - Gardner, Cedar Roe, Oak Park, and Shawnee - will experience brief closures in 2022 for maintenance.

For more about the Library Board, click here.

Olathe School Board

Dec. 2, 2021

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on Dec. 2, 2021. The following items were discussed:

  1. The Olathe School Administration is implementing their bond communication plan for the upcoming vote on the capital improvement bond. Ballots should be mailed by February 9, 2022 and are due back to the election office by March 1, 2022.

  2. The school administration provided an update on their expanded methods to recruit and retain staff.

  3. The school district received a clean and unqualified opinion from their independent financial auditors for the year ending June30, 2021.

  4. Guidelines have been developed regarding the use of pronouns in referencing students and others. It is the intent of the school districts to respect and protect the privacy of students and not to “out” a student.

  5. A reminder was provided that the Olathe School District follows the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s mask mandate for students. Also confirmed that ignoring such mandate is a Class C misdemeanor and potentially could cause a school district to lose its accreditation.

For more about the Olathe School Board, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board

Nov. 15, 2021

Submitted by Lisa Bonds 

The board heard two reports. The first report was on the program Ground Up - Student Driving Sustainability in Schools. A group of high school students presented the 5 priorities which are listed below.

  • Actions the school district could establish- install more renewable energy and LED lights in all schools 

  • Increasing student involvement- plant trees at schools and increasing the topic in biology and other classes 

  • Reduce waste- reduce food and packaging waste and use compost in the school gardens 

  • Increase green spaces- to audit each school and set a timeline to ensure each school had enough green spaces 

  • Transportation- incentives for students who ride bikes to school and change schools bus to electric 

The second report was a technology report, which pointed out that although there were several retirements the positions were filled and that the department was able to go remote during the pandemic and will be able to continue using these changes in the future. 

The board voted on one action, which again included masking. The proposal was to continue masks in elementary schools, but to allow optional masks in middle and high schools. This plan would start January 3rd. If a school reaches 4% exclusion or quarantines the mask requirement would be imposed for fourteen days. The district would continue social distancing and group sizes along with following the KSHSAA [state's activities organization] rules for sports and activities. [These rules include no mask requirements for fans or participants.] Members of the board proposed two amendments. The first was to start the KSHSAA’s rules on January 3rd when the masks come off in the schools. The amendment was defeated with Guy and Ousley voting for the amendment. The second amendment was to move the remasking requirement from 4% to 3% to be in line with the Blue Valley School District. The amendment passed with Stratton, Goodburn and Borgman voting against the proposal. The board did approve the amended proposal with a vote of 5-2 with Guy and Ousley voting against it. 

For more about the Shawnee Mission School Board, click here.

Lenexa City Council

Nov. 16, 2021

Submitted by Ellen Miller

Advent Health Care and Lenexa are cooperating to create the 25-acre Advent Health Life Campus at 87th Parkway and Renner. It is a major extension of the new Lenexa City Center. To be constructed over 10 years, the campus will include a hospital, medical offices, “life activation” (wellness) buildings, retail stores and a hotel. Plazas, outdoor seating and public open areas between its planned 11 buildings will complement current walking trails and the Central Green park.

On Nov. 16, City Council approved the overall preliminary design including traffic patterns, a stormwater retention basin and architectural features. Members noted how the hospital had been reduced from eight stories to five stories due to neighborhood meetings and input. 

Lenexa City Center’s goal? Public/private development that melds public areas and green spaces with diverse civic services. Currently City Center includes:

  • City Hall

  • Johnson County Library 

  • Lenexa Recreation Center

  • The Public Market and seasonal Farmers Market

  • Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center

  • And soon to come, the Advent Health Life Campus

Cooperative planning takes time and a willingness to compromise. Hats off to all -- neighbors, planners, Lenexa city staff and council members -- for helping create a new health/wellness center to serve our community.

For more, click here.

Overland Park City Council

Nov. 15, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Allen

The OP City council met virtually Monday Nov. 15, 2021. 

  1. Mayor Gerlach recognized outgoing council members Stacie Gram, Chris Newlin, John H. Thompson for their work on the City Council.

  2. OP Council President Curt Skoog recognized retiring Mayor Gerlach for his years of service to the City of Overland Park as City Council Member (10 years) and Mayor (16 years). As a retirement gift Mayor Gerlach was granted lifetime use of Overland Park golf courses. Thank you, Mayor Gerlach!

  3. E-bikes and scooters have been approved to be used on bike/hike trails in Overland Park.

  4. Most of the meeting was devoted to whether improvements to the US 169/167th Street interchange should be added to the US 169 Toll Lane project. The City Council approved the addition of the 167th Street interchange to the US 169 Toll Lane project

    1. Background: The 167th Street bridge was not included in the US 169 Toll Lane project because the funds for the Toll Lane Project could not be used for 167th Street. 

    2. Goal of added construction

      1. Widen 167th Street under US 69 to four lanes

      2. Replace the US 69 bridge over 167th Street

      3. Add interchange from 167th Street to US 69 south

    3. How it would be financed

      1. Adding the improvement would increase project cost by 10M

      2. Potential sources of the funds

        1. Check from OP to the project for 10M

          1. OP does not have 10M right now

          2. 100% of the funds would be from taxes paid by OP residents

        2. Extend the collection of the toll on the approved toll road by 3-7 years

          1. It has been projected that 59% of the tolls paid in the toll lane will be by cars that are not OP residents. 

          2. Toll lane collection will remain 103rd Street to 151st Street. It will not extend to 167th Street for this project. 

    4. Benefits/Consequences of either approving now or approving later

      1. Approving now

        1. Benefit- Project will roll into the US 69 Toll Lane project and be completed within three years.

        2. Benefit- 59% of money will be from cars that are not OP residents

        3. Consequence- Changes the length of time the toll lane will be operational.

      2. Approving later

        1. Benefit- length of time the toll lane will be operational that was made in June 2021 will be honored

        2. Consequence- Will not look at updating the 167th interchange until after the US 69 Toll Lane project is complete (~ three years)

        3. Consequence – In three years, the cost to complete the 167th interchange project will likely be increased

        4. Consequence- Entire cost of project may come from OP taxpayers

Overland Park City Council

Dec. 6, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Allen

The OP City council met Monday Dec. 6, 2021. All members were present; I attended virtually.

  1. The newly elected and re-elected Mayor and Council Members took the oath of office. Mayor Curt Skoog, followed by Council Members

    1. Newly elected: Melissa Cheatham, Jeff Cox, Scott Mosher, Sam Passer

    2. Re-elected: Jim Kite and Logan Heley

  2. Council President and permanent committee assignments will be announced in January

  3. The Luminary Walk at the Arboretum is open, and gorgeous. 

  4. US 69 Advisory Group will be holding Neighborhood meetings to provide information on this project to OP citizens. If you would like links to the meetings, please send an email to Council Member Fred Spears to request them.

  5. Sales tax exemptions were approved for:

    1. SERV at Promontory (91st and Metcalf) The SERV plan was approved in June 2021, and will provide outdoor entertainment. Look for work on this phase of the project to begin this month. 

    2. Galleria 115 project on the old Sprint campus. 

For more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council

Nov. 15, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met in a hybrid format (both in-person and virtually) on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Dr. Sunny Sanwar from Dynamhex presented a status report on the development of the City of Prairie Village’s carbon emissions project that will allow the city, residents and commercial establishments to monitor their emissions. The Mayor reported that some COVID-19 rates are increasing, with the positivity rates going from 5.3% to 5.9%. Following extensive discussion and two amendment attempts, the Council approved by a vote of 9-3 to begin a new tax rebate program proposed by the Committee of the Whole. The program, which is estimated to help from 20 to 30 households and cost up to $20,000, is similar to programs in Roeland Park and Mission. 

Prairie Village City Council

Dec. 6, 2021

Submitted by Eileen Marshall 

Notable items:

  1. Council said thank you and farewell to four members who chose not to continue (Sheila Myers, Jori Nelson, Tucker Poling and Dan Runion) and welcomed and swore-in four newly-elected members (Cole Robinson, Dave Robinson {father and son}, Greg Shelton, and Lauren Wolf).

  2. United Community Services updated the Council on its operations in providing support to area non-profits who form part of the safety net for vulnerable populations in the county. Council approved contributions to United Community Services and the Drug and Alcoholism Council of Johnson County.

  3. The Committee of the Whole discussed the 2022 legislative agenda, to be voted on at a later meeting.

For more, click here.