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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 3/29/2022


Johnson County Board of Commissioners

Meeting dates: Feb. 17, 2022 through March 10, 2022 (most recent appears first)

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

 

Go to https://boccmeetings.jocogov.org/OnBaseAgendaOnline/Meetings/ . Meetings are also available at https://www.youtube.com/jocovideos

 

March 10, 2022              

Chairperson Ed Eilert opened the meeting with a tribute to the people of Ukraine, noting that the County administration building now displays blue and yellow lights, representative of the Ukrainian flag and our support for the nation. He stated, “We all are free people, and our democracy must be preserved and we must do what we can as a country to help those in trouble to protect their own democracy.”

 

County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson has reappointed Tamiko House, Principal Partner of Human Resources to serve as the Human Resources representative and has appointed Paul Davis, Department of Emergency Services Director to serve as the Department Director representative to the Civil Service Board. The Board approved the reappointment of Emily Coleman Hidalgo, Third District Representative to the Southeast Consolidated Zoning Board.

               

The County has a severe weather guide at http://jocogov.org/severe-weather-guide and a template for winter emergencies is available at http://jocogov.org/snow . Summer auditions for Theater in the Park will be held April 9 and 10. More information on how to audition can be found on Http://TheatreinthePark.org

 

 BOCC Upcoming Meetings include the following:  

  • BOCC retreat – Monday, March 21

  • BOCC/Mental Health Advisory Board Joint Meeting – Monday, March 28

  • BOCC budget retreat – Thursday, March 31

  • Special BOCC Board Meeting/Public Hearing on Utility Scale Solar Regulations –Monday, April 4

  • BOCC/Library Joint Meeting – Thursday, April 14

  • BOCC/Developmental Supports Joint Meeting – Tuesday, April 26

*Dates to be determined – BOCC/Airport Joint Meeting and BOCC/Park and Recreation Joint Meeting

 

Legislative Update - The Kansas Senate debated without action a small income tax credit bill on Thursday that quickly ballooned to include a freeze on property taxes, income tax credits for schoolteachers and tax credits for housing developments. Specifically, the measure now includes the following amended provisions:

  • A $250 individual income tax credit for school teachers purchasing classroom supplies.

  • A property tax freeze for seniors 65 and older or disabled veterans whose total household income does not exceed $50,000.

  • An increase of the exemption provisions from the 20-mill property tax levy. The current 20 mill rate applies to all property after the first $20,000 in value; the amendment would increase the amount to $65,000 and add a calculation for a scale to increase the exemption based on statewide property values.

A provision was also proposed by Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes (D-Lenexa) to provide a $250 income tax rebate to all Kansans who have filed a tax return. The amendment, identical to a key tenet of Governor Laura Kelly’s proposed budget, was debated but ultimately defeated by a vote of 16-18. The bills legislating a freeze on property valuations are premised on loss to revenue being compensated by state funds. Commissioner Hanzlick noted that only testimony authorized by the BOCC represents official county positions.

 

COVID Update. Positivity rate is 4.9%. The vaccine rate for residents 18 years old+ is just over 85%+ for one dose.  Commissioner Hanzlick mentioned that the CDC website lists Johnson County at a “low level” of transmission. 

 

March 3, 2022

The Board proclaimed March 2022 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The Board voted to consider approving the reappointment of Lisa Huesers, Third District Representative to the Transportation Council and the appointment of Dan Foil, Third District Representative to the Southeast Consolidated Zoning Board. The Board ratified the Chairman’s appointments to the REACH Board of Directors: Joseph Reuben, M.D.; Jim Sanders, M.D., J.D.; Katherine Ferro and Justin Richter.

 

After a presentation by Susan Pekarek, general manager, Johnson County Wastewater, the Board voted 6-1 to sign a Master Utility Agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation detailing designation of responsibility for reimbursement of sanitary sewer relocation costs related to the US-69 Modernization and Expansion Project, costs to be paid by rate payers.

 

The Board conducted a public hearing and unanimously approved an enlargement to the Consolidated Main Sewer District at the southwest corner of 159th Street and Clare Road, the New Century Commerce Center Phase I.

 

The Board voted to authorize funds for the Blue River Main Wastewater Treatment Facility Phase (the County’s first treatment facility, about 1947) Improvements Project study for $802,100.

 

After a presentation by Maury Thompson, Assistant County Manager, the Board approved a capital project for $740,000 to purchase land at 19065 S. Lackman Road, Olathe, Kansas 66062 for future Johnson County use.

 

The Board heard a presentation on the Wastewater Backup Prevention Program, information available at Https://www.jocogov.org/department/wastewater.

 

The County Department of Health and Environment was lauded for their work with cities to inform residents about recycling practices through the “Recycle Right” Campaign. Commissioner Fast asked about getting an intern to help with contacting residents.

 

Legislative Update.  A concurrent resolution requiring Sheriff’s elections, which requires a Feb. 3 vote of the House and Senate, is currently in the legislature.

Commissioner Hanzlick noted that it is important to understand that only Board-authorized individuals can speak officially for Johnson County.  Statements by other individuals or elected officials do not represent officially authorized communications.

 

Cares Act funds are spent and the account closed. Decisions regarding the distribution of ARPA funds ($117 M to JOCO) should be forthcoming within the next few weeks. 

 

The county legal department recommends that the Board keep records of all communications, and encourages residents to communicate with the entire Board on hearings for the solar farm near Gardner.

 

Commissioner Hanzlick encouraged Johnson Countians to apply to serve on boards. Information available at Appointed Boards and Commissions | Johnson County Kansas (jocogov.org).

 

Feb. 24, 2022

Johnson County Charter Commission’s chair, Greg Musil, reported to the BOCC. The 25-member Commission was diverse geographically, ideologically and in every way possible. The Commission held 23 public hearings virtually and online, and hosted a website (https://charter.jocogov.org/) where agendas were posted. The charge was to make a comprehensive, 10-year review of the County charter and government, and then to propose recommendations and amendments. None of these received enough votes in the Charter commission to go forward. 

 

The County signed an agreement with Leawood, Merriam, Shawnee and Westwood to allow first responders to treat suspected opioid overdoses with Naloxone or other products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under a protocol signed by a doctor.

               

The Commissioners approved a request from VanTrust Real Estate Development for a Final Development Plan for Phase 1 infrastructure improvements, for the New Century Commerce Center, East Area Plan, on 242 acres, Logistics Park District, located at the southwest corner of 159th Street and Clare Road.

 

County Manager Postoak Ferguson reported that the city of Desoto will conduct a public hearing on March 3 to consider approving a property tax abatement for property financed with approximately $100 million in industrial revenue bonds for acquiring and constructing a one million sq. ft. facility to be located at the northwest corner 103rd and Edgerton Rd. The applicant has requested a 10-year, 85% property tax abatement for the property constructed or purchased with the proceeds. Commissioner O’Hara voiced concerns about TIF districts in the County eroding our tax base.

 

County Economic Research Institute (CERI) Indicators. The unemployment rate for December 2021 is 1.7%, compared to 3.8% in December of 2020. The average unemployment rate for December the previous five years was 2.9%. The number of single-family homes sold in December 2021 was 889, compared to 1,009 in December 2020, a 12% decrease.

 

Stepping Up Initiative. A team from Sheriff’s Office, Mental Health, JIMS and DTI worked together to develop a Johnson County dashboard. The group will utilize data from this dashboard to make decisions to reduce the number of people with mental illness in our criminal justice system. More information can be found on the county website (jocogov.org)

 

The Central Library has reopened after extensive renovations.

 

The County reappraisal report indicates that home values are up, reflecting low inventory coupled with increased population. Ninety-eight percent of residential properties increased in value. Eighty six percent of commercial projects have been completed and are on the tax rolls. Industrial and business real estate markets continue to be strong, except for hotels (pandemic-related lack of travel). Appraisals go out Feb. 28, and the deadline for appeals is March 30. The Kansas Supreme Court is now hearing the County lawsuit on Dark Store valuations, the proposed method of big box stores (Walmart, etc.) to reduce their property tax evaluations.        

 

Legislative Update. Senator Ron Ryckman has been appointed Chair of the Agriculture Committee after a shakeup. The KanCare measure is on hold and referred to the Attorney General’s office. The bill would require the state to negotiate and extend the current contracts with the three managed care organizations through 2025. Opponents of the bill, including House Health Ranking Minority Member Susan Ruiz (D-Shawnee), argued the measure was essentially a no-bid contract. 

 

Feb.17, 2022

The Chairperson issued a proclamation celebrating Black History month. 

 

 After several public comments by Zoom and sitting as the Board of Health, the Commissioners rescinded Health Order No. 001-21 mandating masks in schools for 5- to 11-year-olds. This vote occurred after a presentation by Dr. Areola, who reported COVID-19 infection rates at 12.2% and partial vaccination rate at 76.6%, with 43% for one vaccine for children under 12. Vaccines are widely available for children in County and private medical facilities.

 

The Board authorized funds for the Mill Creek Storage Facility (MCR1-C025) design and bid services, not to exceed $2,568,500. 

 

The Board also voted to authorize additional funds for design and construction of the Nelson Wastewater Treatment Facility Improvements project, for a total project authorization amount of $574,000,000. Existing technology is out of date and will not meet EPA requirements. This project is financed under the Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Plan (WIFIA), a low-interest Federal loan plan that allows the County to keep costs low and predictable. 

 

In response to a demand for audits by a public commenter, Susan Pekarek, General Manager at Johnson County Wastewater District, explained the extensive auditing and monitoring systems already in place for Waste Water projects. Commissioner O’Hara stated again that she wanted an audit and is worried about financial irregularities in the District Court. Chairperson Eilert explained again that the District Court does not impact Johnson County reserves or taxes and that the state court system is currently investigating financial issues in the District Court, which is not part of the BOCC’s remit.

 

The County Manager reported that the City of Olathe conducted a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 15, to consider approving a property tax abatement for an industrial facility at the northwest corner of Dennis Avenue and Pine Street in Olathe, KS. The applicant has requested a 10-year, 50% property tax abatement for the property.

 

The Johnson County Mental Health Center is kicking off the Reentry Project with partnerships from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Johnson County Department of Corrections. This is part of their Stepping Up initiative to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness in our jails and Adult Residential Center.

 

Johnson County Library Board

March 10, 2022

Submitted by Karen Wulfkuhle

 

The Board met virtually on March 10, 2022. The plan for the new Antioch Library was revealed by the project architect firm Drake Wells. A unique aspect of this 15,000 square foot single story building is a green roof space. The roof-top, to be planted primarily with grasses, is intended to complement the site space as well as offer environmental benefits. There will be no public access to the roof. Johnson County, by statute, has a public art program of one percent up to $500,000 for capital building projects. The process is underway to select the art, so that it can be integrated into the building design.

 

The search process for the next County Librarian is underway in preparation for Sean Casserly's retirement at the end of June. 

 

To learn more, click here.

 

Olathe School Board

March 3, 2022

Submitted by Cindy Hicks


The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on March 3, 2022. The following items were discussed:

  • Olathe East High School was chosen to implement the 3DE (3-dimension education) program. They are in the process of implementing 3DE and it will begin with the 2022-23 school year with approximately 150 freshmen students. This is a national program and Olathe East will be the first school in Kansas to implement.
  • The Board approved the motion to designate from 5pm to 5:45 p.m. on the dates of the board’s regularly scheduled meetings as a special public comment meeting during which patrons may address the board as outlined in the board policy. The board meetings begin at 6 p.m. 
  • The Board approved a motion that restores the traditional partnership model with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment for disease mitigation within the district, leaving masks as optional. 
To learn more, click here.

Overland Park City Council

Feb. 21, 2022

Submitted by Nancy Allen


The OP City council met in person. I attempted to attend virtually. The audio quality was unacceptable. My report is based on reporting from the Shawnee Mission Post. Minutes for 2022 meetings are not available at this time. 

  • City Manager Bill Ebel is retiring as of March 1, 2022. Kristy Stallings will be the interim City Manager. The city has employed the Chicago based recruiting firm Baker Tilly. Committees have been formed to filter applications, interview, and submit recommendations. Request for applications will close March 14, 2022.

  • Deer Creek apartment Plan. There was a large citizen turnout that delivered public comment on the rezoning request to add apartments next to the Deer Creek Golf Club. The citizens were generally against rezoning and building the apartments. The City Council ultimately denied the rezoning proposal and quashed the apartment development next to the Golf club. A few days after the rejection of the development plan, it was reported that Deer Creek Golf Club will close April 1, 2022. 


Overland Park City Council

March 7, 2022

Submitted by Nancy Allen


Scott Mosher was an excused Councilmember; all others were present. I attended virtually. 


  • Chip Seal - Infrastructure Committee Advisory Committee, made up of members of the Public Works committee, citizens, and vendors, is still fact finding and has not yet made any decisions. In the meantime, bid tabulations to continue work on street upkeep using chip seal were presented to the City Council for approval. Three bid tabulations were proposed and passed with a 9-2 vote. 

  • Shamrock Project- at 93rd and Metcalf (9325 Metcalf) - The applicant requested increasing the number of parking spaces at the project. The concern is that the parking proposed for the project is excessive and will not support walkability in sync with Vision Metcalf. The request meets the current minimum number of parking spaces as outlined in the current regulations. The change to the application, allowing additional parking, was approved 9-2.

  • LUX Senior Apartments, 137th and Quivira, northwest corner. The applicant is requesting rezoning from a Planned Apartment District to a Planned High-Rise Apartment District. In this instance, high-rise means five stories. After much citizen testimony both for and against the change, the rezoning request was granted. 

To learn more, click here.


Prairie Village City Council

Feb. 22, 2022

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell


The Prairie Village City Council met virtually. Following the Mayor’s report that COVID-19 rates had decreased precipitously, the Council voted unanimously to repeal the ordinance requiring the wearing of masks. They also voted unanimously to return to a hybrid meeting format for Council and committee meetings. The mayor also announced the re-formation of a committee to explore the creation of a civic center. 


Prairie Village City Council

March 7, 2022

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell


The Prairie Village City Council met virtually and in person. A proclamation declaring March Women’s History Month was read, followed by a legislative update from Little Government Relations. The mayor reported that the Prairie Village COVID-19 news was “very, very good,” with Johnson County being rated as “low risk,” the only county in the area to be so-designated. He also announced that preliminary estimates show the appraised value of real estate up 13%. Council Member Inga Selders reported on the Diversity Committee’s recent Martin Luther King Day event, and announced a forthcoming housing town meeting to be held Sunday, April 3 at 2:30 p.m. at Meadowbrook Park Clubhouse.


To learn more, click here.