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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 5/31/2022

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

Meeting dates: April 21, 2022 through May 5, 2022 (most recent appears first)

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


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

Information on the Utility Scale Solar Facilities Project is available at https://www.jocogov.org/.


May 5, 2022

 

Two residents described the Nehemiah Assembly, a faith based, local group, which met with Commissioners Allenbrand, Fast and Hanzlick to begin work to establish a short-term mental health crisis center and to address homelessness. Individuals also commented concerning their fears of vaccines, pedophilia and Marxism in schools. Another individual noted that the BOCC does not regulate schools. Comments concerning truck traffic around the Edgerton Logistics Park were also made. Residents commented on Utility Scale Solar Facilities and the purchase of local homes by out-of-town investors. 


The Board approved the appointment of Jeffrey Mendoza to the Library Board.


The Board conducted a public hearing and voted to fund the Douglas L. Smith Middle Basin Wastewater Treatment Facility Plan (Highway 69 and College Blvd), not to exceed $1,048,000. In response to Commissioner Fast’s request, Susan Pekarek, General Manager for Johnson County Wastewater, commented that efforts to make these facilities environmentally friendly are ongoing.

 

The Board also approved a use of General Fund Reserves, not to exceed $150,000, for a comprehensive salary and benefit study. Six votes were cast in favor, while Commissioner O’Hara opposed. 


A time capsule installed in the previous courthouse 71 years ago of the building and recently x-rayed at Nelson-Atkins was just opened, revealing sealed envelopes from local municipalities, the courts, and residents, newspaper microfilm, a trial docket dated May 5, 1951, photographs including some taken during construction of the former courthouse, newspapers and a very small 1950 Olathe phone directory. Johnson County Museum staff will consider incorporating these items into their collection.

Johnson County’s 2022 Feed the Need campaign received 1,171 pounds of food donations on April 27 to be distributed to local food pantries. 


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a $281 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the County to support the Nelson Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements project.


The state budget has been passed, adding ARPA funds for housing and other projects; the KPERS trust fund has been shored up, a constitutional amendment requiring an election of sheriff for each county is in process, work continues on establishing 988 as the unique number for suicide prevention and mental health crises, and the House did not override the Governor’s veto of the bill preventing local governments from regulating plastic bags. 

Commissioner Hanzlick commented on the MARC Leadership Awards to Dr. Steven Stites for his leadership during the pandemic via the University of Kansas Morning Medical Update and to Chairperson Eilert for his leadership in local government.


April 28, 2022


Two individuals made public comments objecting to vaccines. One person requested a 500-foot setback for Utility Scale Solar Facilities as opposed to the current 250-foot limit. Three persons objected to warehouse development and inclusive library books. 


The Board approved the final development plan with VanTrust Real Estate Development, LLC for two buildings at the New Century Commerce Center on 159th Street and Clare Road.

 

The Board voted to withdraw from the interlocal agreement with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) for the management of transit services in Johnson County, in order to establish the Johnson County Transit division within the Public Works department, and to authorize five new FTE positions to support the mission of Johnson County Transit in the ongoing provision of transit service in Johnson County and the long-term partnership with the KCATA. Scot Neufeld reported on meetings with Kansas City, MO supportive of this measure, and the County will continue the partnership with RideKC. The purpose of this move is to increase the County’s responsibility for expansion and promotion of our transit system without impacting current services. Commissioner Hanzlick noted that this is our chance for a successful pilot project, and Commissioners Hanzlick and Meyer will continue to serve on metropolitan committees for transportation. 


 The Board voted to approve the sale and delivery of Taxable General Obligation Internal Improvement Bonds to fund complex improvements at the Nelson Wastewater treatment plant. Commissioner O’Hara made a motion to require an extra audit. Commissioner Ashcraft seconded the amendment. As part of the EPA, this is already subject to the single oversight audit. The motion was withdrawn. 


Johnson County has been ranked as the healthiest county in the state by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 


Commissioner Hanzlick reported on the affordable housing initiative, offering the following recommendations:  

  • Address homelessness, immediately establishing a Johnson County Housing Coordinator position, and establish a shelter with associated services. 

  • Preserve existing major and minor home repair assistance.

  • Develop attainable housing opportunities. 

  • Establish a Housing Trust Fund

Commissioner Fast noted that it is vital to partner with our cities for this effort. Currently, 1,000 unhoused children live in Johnson County. The Board voted to fund one FTE Housing Coordinator. (The American Recovery Act could be a funding source for this.)  

Maury Thompson, deputy county manager, was recognized for 15 years of service. 


April 21, 2022


Commissioner Allenbrand was absent due to a death in the family. 


Several individuals made public comments concerning vaccines, utility scale solar power facilities and inflation.


The Board agreed to the application by the city of Olathe for a final development plan for Scannell Building #2, and for the I-35 Logistics Park Fourth Plat, located near the northwest corner of 159th Street and Clare Road, Olathe, Kansas within one mile of the New Century AirCenter (within the Olathe city limits). The Board approved Olathe’s application for a final development plan for the same logistics park, Building C Expansion, on 52 acres, 15251 S. Green Road, Olathe, within one mile of the New Century AirCenter.

The Board approved the 10th Judicial District’s Juvenile Justice Comprehensive Plan Grant Application in the amount of $1.6 million and the Juvenile Corrections Advisory Board (JCAB) Grant Application in the amount of $400,773 to the Kansas Department of Corrections - Juvenile Services (KDOC-JS) and authorized the associated positions, contracts, and client services. This item includes the Adult Intensive Supervision program, which provides supervision and monitoring of adult felony offenders as an alternative to incarceration in state facilities. Commissioner O’Hara commented that the need for reading instruction is not met in public schools.


The Board authorized the application for Reinvestment Grant and Regional Collaboration Grant to the Kansas Department of Corrections - Juvenile Services, as approved by the Juvenile Corrections Advisory Board, for $403,250 to support programs and interventions for justice-involved youth. The Board also authorized the County Department of Corrections’ Community Corrections Comprehensive Plan and Funding Requests to the Kansas Department of Corrections for $2.4 million, and the use of Client Reimbursement/ Fee Fund Budget Request for $191,398. The County Corrections Department will fund a minority coordinator. 

 

The CERI report posted a 2.2% unemployment rate (compared to 4.9% from Jan. to Jan.) and a 3.4% increase in price of homes sold. 

 

Commissioner Fast attended County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman’s “Behind the Ballot” event on April 20 and praised the security measures in place for Johnson County elections.

 

District Court Judge Kelly Ryan updated the Board, stating that three new district judge positions will be in place this year, per legislative action, a welcome addition to balance caseloads. The new courthouse has sufficient capacity for this increase. 


The Board went into executive session to discuss matters related to County cybersecurity. 



Johnson County Library Board

May 12, 2022

Submitted by Karen Wulfkuhle


The Board met in person. According to the Johnson County 2022 Resident Satisfaction Survey, the Library received 2nd in highest satisfaction across all county departments and agencies. In 2019 the Library received 81% satisfaction and in 2020 that rose to an 85% satisfaction rate. In 2022, that satisfaction rate reached 88%.


Small quantities (bag or armload) of books are now accepted at the following branches - Antioch, Blue Valley, Cedar Roe, Gardner and Leawood. Large donations are accepted Saturdays, 9-11 a.m. at 8279 Melrose Dr. in Lenexa.


Summer Reading 2022: Oceans of Possibilities | Johnson County Library (jocolibrary.org)  launches June 4 with a mix of virtual and in-person programming. Several programs to recognize Juneteenth will be held throughout the month.


Staggered closures will take place in 2022 for a range of improvements at Cedar Roe, Oak Park, Gardner and Shawnee.


Capital Improvement Update:
The new Antioch library has an anticipated groundbreaking at the end of 2022 or early in 2023 and an opening in early 2024. The existing Antioch branch will close at the end of 2023.
Plans are being developed for improvements to DeSoto, Edgerton and Springhill following community and staff input.
The Blue Valley building project is set to start in 2024, with a completion date in 2027.
The Library is in conversation with the City of Prairie Village about a replacement for Corinth, which is anticipated to begin in 2027.

 

To learn more, click here.



Blue Valley School Board 

May 9, 2022

Submitted by Ann Schuster


*Note : In a special meeting in late April, Board member Jim McMullen was removed as Board Vice-President due to public statements made not in keeping with Blue Valley philosophies. He continues to serve as a voting member. 

         

The meeting opened with recognitions of awards given to BV staff and students. This was followed by the monthly Open Forum during which the following concerns were brought up:

-book reconsideration

-disciplinary action taken against Board member McMullen

-SPED funding recently voted down by the State Legislature

-Critical Race theory

-disrespectful language used against Board members at the special meeting in April


Curriculum updates were given by the Drug and Alcohol and Literacy Committees. It was reported that assessments at the first and fourth grade levels are already showing student improvement.


Kaety Bowers was elected the new Board Vice-President.


There was some discussion of the Panorama program, which fosters student Social Emotional Learning, and the new contract for the program was approved.


The formation of a new District Communications Committee consisting of parents, students, and staff was also approved. 


The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.


To learn more, click here.



Shawnee Mission School Board

Submitted by Lisa Bonds


April 25, 2022


The Board approved a proposed work group to redraw boundaries between Briarwood and Tomahawk elementary schools. The work group will include both parents and district staff. The hope is to have the lines drawn by the end of the next school year. The board also heard a report on the “grow your own” program. This program’s goal is to increase the district’s teacher pool. The program includes future teacher programs in each district high school, to provide scholarships to district graduates, and encourage alternative routes to the profession. The board also heard an update on a program the district has with Fort Hays University. The district pays ninety percent of the tuition for current teachers to gain a special education certification. The teachers promise to work in the district for five years. The first group of teachers finished the program and the hope is to have fifteen teachers in the next group. This program is also offered to paraprofessionals. 


May 9, 2022 Workshop


This workshop meeting was dominated by the budget for capital outlay and bond funds. The district will benefit from increases in assessed property values in the district. This year the values are up 9.6%; while typically the values go up only 4-5% each year. The district does not plan to increase the mill levy. The administration is asking the board to increase instructional material fees on students. In the past these fees were called “textbook fees”. Currently this fee is $80 for secondary students, with no fee for elementary students. The administration wants to collect $60 from elementary students and $100 from secondary students. This fee increase will help, but it will not make the instructional material budget self-supporting. 


To learn more, click here.



Lenexa City Council Summary

Submitted by Ellen Miller


The 2020 census showed that Lenexa gained population, especially in the western part of the city. To ensure that each city council district has an “equal” population, staff proposed moving one precinct from Ward 2 to Ward 1. That change affected 938 people. A major benefit was reuniting the Whispering Hills subdivision as a “community of interest.” On April 19, City Council approved moving the precinct.


The city’s employees have gone “above and beyond” in the past three years. Most of them have front-line jobs, from first responders to street maintenance. Working from home wasn’t an option for many. Despite COVID-19, new health protocols and staff illness, they did their jobs. 


To show their gratitude and support, the city council unanimously approved new employee benefits on May 3. Following a comparative study with similar local cities, improvements include:

  • One-time COVID-19 bonus for those who served through that period

  • Three percent (3%) increase for all employees (full-time and part-time)

  • Expanded bereavement leave criteria

  • Paid parental leave expanded to six weeks per event

Mayor Mike Boehm stated, “Our cost of turnover is much higher than the $250,000 price. We need to support the ones who’ve stayed through difficult times.”  The changes go into effect during the summer, 2022.


To learn more, click here.



Prairie Village City Council

April 18, 2022

Submitted by Eileen Marshall


Council is meeting in-person, with Zoom an option for anyone who needs it. Public can tune in live on Facebook. Public comments can be made in-person or via Zoom, with prior notice.


One public comment was made, urging Council to livestream committee meetings as they do the regular council meetings.


Work continues on the Diversity committee and the ad hoc Housing committee.


The mayor read a letter received from the current mayor of Dolyna, Ukraine, which is the sister-city of Prairie Village. The Ukrainians thank US citizens for the support they have received so far and urge the mayor to use any contacts he has in the US federal government to encourage more assistance. Council unanimously approved a letter to be addressed to President Biden, Senators Moran and Marshall, and Representative Davids. The letter expresses solidarity with Ukraine and calls for increased efforts to aid the country in its defense against Russia, in addition to a call to welcome Ukrainian refugees to the US. Council also discussed what else Prairie Village could do to help Dolyna specifically. More information will be needed on what is legal and what is practical, therefore no action was taken on this issue. The city has been acting as a collector for wheelchairs and walkers to be sent to Dolyna by the Ukrainian Club of Kansas City.


Finance Director Nickie Lee presented preliminary revenue projections for the next budget year and explained the budget process and timeline. The budget must be adopted at the first meeting in September.



Prairie Village City Council

May 2, 2022

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met in person on Monday, May 2, 2022, beginning with a recognition of selected police officers and a proclamation for National Police Week. Following extensive discussion, the Council voted to regulate the duration of portable storage units placed in front of houses. Council member Greg Shelton reported on the Environmental Committee’s recently-held successful native plant sale and work to create a recycling program for e-waste. In addition, the new Public Works building has received a sustainability award for its energy-saving features. City Administrator Wes Jordan announced that, due to population shifts within the city, ward boundaries will need to be re-drawn to equalize the numbers of residents in each ward. The Council voted unanimously to spend up to $10,000 to send walkie-talkies to Dolyna, Ukraine, one of the items they had requested.


To learn more, click here.