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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 9/29/2022

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

Aug. 11 through Sept. 8, 2022 (most recent listed first)

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

 

Meetings are available at https://boccmeetings.jocogov.org/OnBaseAgendaOnline/Meetings/

and https://www.youtube.com/jocovideos.  

 

Sept. 8, 2022

 

The Board recognized the Direct Support Professionals for Developmental Disabilities for Johnson County Services for outstanding service. National Preparedness Week, Sept. 11 -17, was recognized.

 

Susan Pekarek presented performance awards to Johnson County Wastewater employees. Operated as a utility, the facility uses no taxes. In addition to many other outstanding local facilities, Mill Creek received a Gold Award for no Water Board violations.

 

Members of the public made false statements about COVID-19 and campaign statements, addressing a commissioner by name, both in violation of public policy and the use of taxpayer funds. Complaints about 199th St, Panasonic, the sheriff’s budget and electronic voting machines were made. Observers applauded without comment by the Chairperson.

 

The County agreed to extend Emergency Rental Assistance to Sept. 15, 2022.

 

Plats were approved for Woodspring Estates,  207th Street and Lackman Road, and Estates of Shadow Woods, 191st Street and Nall Avenue. The Board also approved a conditional use permit for a garage at 4665 W. 188th Terrace.

 

The Board approved a five-year agreement with Miami County Fire District No. 2 to provide fire and rescue services in Miami County Fire District No. 2, and a one-year agreement with Springhill.

 

The County will provide a different format for the COVID-19 report, forwarding information via email and posting on the website. Overland Park announced a public hearing on Sept. 19 for a TIF project at 91st and Metcalf.

 

The Funding and Expense Report for the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund was presented. Expenditures were made in Health and Environment, Aging, Mental Health, and Planning, Housing and Community Departments.

 

Commissioner Hanzlick noted that it is important to plan carefully for a crisis stabilization center because it is an important investment in mental health and of county funds. The Douglas County crisis center has not yet opened because of staffing difficulties. She recognized Commissioner Allenbrand for establishing a special fund with the Friends of Johnson County Mental Health Center in honor of her daughter Tiffany, especially to support victims of sexual assault.

 

Sept. 1, 2022

 

The Board recognized the 50th Anniversary of Johnson County Developmental Supports. National Suicide Prevention Month was also proclaimed. The suicide rate in Johnson County has gone down 20% in the past year, thanks to the combined efforts of a number of parents, local organizations, public schools and the County.

 

Residents commented on the value of County mental health services, 199th St. traffic and the November ballot constitutional amendments: one to deprive the governor of all power, and the second to require the election of sheriffs. The Chair reminded observers to be civil as false comments on COVID-19 were made. Residents campaigned and made heated, false, slanderous accusations of election fraud, criminality and communist plots, directing remarks to County officials and employees by name. Chairperson Eilert noted that the podium is paid for by taxpayer funds, and cannot be used for campaigning. The crowd booed.

 

Robin Symes explained the budget to Commissioner O’Hara again. Chair Eilert noted that all budget information has been available through public meetings and discussion for residents’ information, but Commissioner O’Hara complained at length about the budget process, accompanied by audience applause.

 

Budgets for Fire Districts 1, 2, Northwest Consolidated, and Consolidated were approved. In the face of No votes from Commissioners O’Hara and Ashcraft on Fire District 1, Chair Eilert stated that it is important to support fire districts, and if these minority opinions were to prevail the County would have no fire service. Commissioner Fast noted that Commissioner Ashcraft has never supported a fire budget.  These budgets are impacted by salary competitiveness and increase in numbers of residential districts, but Commissioner O’Hara complained about the mill levy, budget shortfalls, and taxes on her buildings in Olathe. It was noted that increased development related to the Intermodal Hub will also support Department revenue. Commissioner Allenbrand thanked Chief Dennis Meyers, FD #1 for his work in developing and steering the Fire District.

 

The Board approved the 2023 Budget and the 2023 – 2027 Capital Improvement Program as proposed. Voting No: Commissioners Ashcraft and O’Hara.  A public hearing for the 2023 Proposed Budget was held on August 22, 2022, and the Board agreed to exceed the revenue neutral rate for the County, Park and Recreation and Library taxing districts. The budget addresses County needs while maintaining the workforce.

 

One resident commented in favor of the budget as presented for its support of the services and benefits that make the County attractive to individuals and to businesses. Commissioner Ashcraft made a motion to cut the mill levy back by 2 mills. Chair Eilert disagreed, noting that budget reserves will be necessary in light of the probable recession. The motion failed.

 

The Board approved contracts with Velocity Pump Rental and Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. for wastewater temporary bypass pumping services for Johnson County Wastewater for $250,000, a measure to maintain consistent costs for emergencies.

 

The Commissioners approved the BikeWalk KC for the Safe Routes to School Program and the COPE project (Communities Organizing to Promote Equity), which is to help residents obtain food, healthcare and other related needs. Commissioner O’Hara falsely stated that COVID-19 vaccines are controversial, COVID-19 is over and that the term Equity should be avoided because it is a trigger word. Commissioner Meyers corrected her.

 

The Board approved a $610,000 increase for the Household Hazardous Waste Facility capital project for a total of $1,610,000.

 

The Sheriff requested 10 additional FTE positions. County Manager Postoak-Ferguson reported on the progress in staffing this department. These additional positions could be reallocated by the County Manager through the end of the year, and the Board will need to act in order to continue this beyond 2022. Seven additional positions, salaries and bonuses have been approved. The County Manager is also working on temporary pay options and market pay adjustments in light of urgent need. The Board also needs information about Corrections and Med-Act. The Committee of the Whole will address the items at the Sept. 15 meeting.

 

Commissioner Hanzlick thanked the staff of Aging and Human Services for joining her at Santa Fe Towers to provide information about County services. Commissioner Allenbrand noted that she checked the traffic on 199th St. herself. Commissioner Fast stated that a number of residents are concerned about unfounded suspicions and accusations about County elections.

 

Aug. 25, 2022

 

Leadership In Action awards for work on the County COVID-19 vaccination effort were presented to Kate Clark (DHE), Jennifer Lowe (DHE) and Janice Phillips (Facilities). Jennifer Barns (JCPR) was recognized for her work on child development projects.

 

Individuals commented on 199th Street, demanding board resignations. Another resident objected to the County sheriff’s lack of security for the BOCC, the politicization of the sheriff’s office and to its false claims of election fraud. False claims about the sheriff’s budget, Panasonic, masks and COVID-19 vaccines were made. Commenters also objected to the County budget, with one request for “the Holy Spirit” to come into the room. Several charges of election fraud were made; Commissioner O’Hara’s campaign was praised.

 

The Board approved the following items:

  • A drainage easement at the southwest corner of the Douglas L. Smith Middle Basin Wastewater Treatment Plant property.

  • Johnson County Department of Corrections’ State 2023 Carryover Reimbursement Budget to the Kansas Department of Corrections for $179,872.07 (fees collected from clients and adults on probation to be applied against budget items).

  • The reappointment of Pamela Shernuk, Third District Representative to the Commission on Aging through August 31, 2025.

After a public hearing the Board approved the Fire District’s proposed budget, which exceeds the revenue neutral rate (although most homeowners will not see tax increases). Property taxes to support the budget were authorized. The “Exceeds Revenue Neutral Rate” term is applied here because of some uncertainty about final costs.

 

The Board authorized $528,900 for the Lagoon Biosolids Cleanout Program, increasing the total project authorization to $2,285,100. After the lagoon is drained, the resulting slurry is transported to farm fields to improve soil production.

 

The Board voted to buy property in Shawnee from the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County, a private entity, for $100,00, for future use as a Johnson County Wastewater wet weather storage site for peak flow events (defined as “the maximum instantaneous rate of flow of stormwater at a particular point”).

 

The Board voted to increase funds to purchase SQL Server Software Licenses related to the Orion Land Records application, an increase of $119,785.28 for the upgrade, for a total of $1,165,467.

 

The Board voted unanimously to allocate Coronavirus SLFRF (from the U.S. Department of the Treasury) for $40,936,600, including $400,000 in additional interest earnings, and $40,536,600 in lost revenue, for 2020 and 2021.  $40,536,600 was transferred to the Countywide Support Fund. Sheriff Hayden and Commissioner O’Hara made repeated, unsupported charges of “money laundering” and “lack of transparency,” which were refuted by Commissioners Fast and Allenbrand with current funding data for the Sheriff’s department. Maury Thompson, Assistant County Manager, provided extensive, detailed explanations of the funding process, noting that the dollars under discussion are reimbursement-based funds, not earmarked for Public Safety. It was also noted that Public Safety includes many other areas besides the Sheriff’s department.

 

 A public commenter warned against fascism from the Democratic National Committee.

 

Safety improvements on 199th Street include replacement of load limited bridges, adding shoulders, a clear zone, and improving drainage. The US 56 and 199th intersection and the 199th Street overpass of I-35 have also been improved, and 199th Street safety improvements at Clare Road to US 169 are scheduled for 2023. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad development has resulted in more traffic.  The County is working with both Gardner and Edgerton to resolve traffic issues without causing traffic burdens for other areas of the County.

 

The Program Spotlight featured the Criminal Justice Advisory Council, which works to support the County criminal justice system to support offender change and enhance public safety. The Chair and Commissioners lauded the Council’s work, including the Co-responder program. The Crisis Continuum of Care work group is one of several supports for the Criminal Justice program, and Commissioners Hanzlick and Fast both serve on this body. Commissioner Allenbrand works on the Crisis Relief Center.

 

Robin Symes reviewed the Aug. 22 public hearing on the 2023 Budget. Twenty-seven speakers commented on the growth in the budget (5% annual increase), sheriff’s funding (45% of the General Services budget), and property taxes. Over half of the taxes on a homeowner’s annual bill are from other entities besides the County. The amount of taxes paid by residents depends upon where they live in the County.

 

Commissioner Fast commented that she attended the Shawnee Mission School District program luncheon with Commissioner Hanzlick, where they presented information about collaborative mental health efforts with the District and the County. Commissioner Allenbrand met with the Mayor of Edgerton, who announced a 250-unit affordable home development. Commissioner Hanzlick will visit with residents of Santa Fe Towers about their needs with Tim Wolfe, Director of Aging and Human Services. She is also learning about the challenges deaf and hard of hearing people face during weather emergencies.

 

In response to Commissioner Fast’s question, lost revenues for the election recount amount to $336 over the estimate of costs, but this does not include staff standard hourly rates or other lost funds.

 

Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022

 

Public commenters made false comments about COVID-19 and the County budget. Another commenter demanded that no more large trucks be allowed on 199th Street in light of a recent crash.

 

Chairperson Eilert signed a resolution enlarging the privately financed sewer district near 170th Street and Quivira Road.

 

The Board approved the application to rezone about 59.8 acres from Agricultural to Restricted Industrial located northeast of Highway 56 / W 175th Street and Cedar Niles Road, within a mile of the New Century AirCenter. The redevelopment plan must be approved within a year. Board members noted that access, traffic issues and proximity to the airport will need to be planned for and approved. The delay in filing the redevelopment plan is because several entities are involved in the project, which will require more time and additional engineering studies. 

 

The Board also approved an added agenda item, authorizing one-time additional compensation for $100 a day (about $45,000) for County employees reassigned as election workers to recount the “Value Them Both” Constitutional Amendment Ballots for the 2022 Special Election. These funds (from the Election Office budget) are eligible for reimbursement from the Secretary of State. The election office was given notice for this unprecedented recount at 6:00 p.m., Aug. 15, with a 5-day deadline. The work force includes 50 election workers and 100 County employees. A 4:00 p.m. canvass is anticipated for Friday, August 19, 2022 (Saturday if that deadline is not made).

 

Commissioner Fast asked that language be added to clarify that County Taxpayers will be paying for this recount if state reimbursement does not occur. Costs for the two biggest counties, Johnson and Sedgewick, could easily surpass the posted bond.

 

Peg Trent, County Legal Department, noted that the motion is required by statute in order to submit the re-count cost for reimbursement and to ensure that County employees be paid. Chairperson Eilert stated that for transparency, sources of the funds need to be apparent if the County is not reimbursed. Commissioner Hanzlick asked to add language that the County will aggressively pursue reimbursement by the SOS. Peg Trent remarked that all costs, including overtime, will be captured and submitted for reimbursement.

 

A public commenter asked about using County voters rather than County employees, an impractical request given the urgent deadline.

 

Commissioner Hanzlick submitted a friendly amendment to include wording that the County will include overtime expenses in the reimbursement request to the Secretary of State. Commissioner Fast noted that the posted bond will probably be insufficient for the costs of the county recounts. State statutes should hold counties harmless for the surplus costs of recounts inadequately funded by those who demand them.

 

The August County Economic Research Institute indicators (CERI) for August are as follows:

  • Unemployment Rate was down .9%,

  • Residential Building Permits were down 31.7%,

  • Average Price of Homes Sold was up 2.9%,

  • Multifamily Building Permits were down 75.0% (10 this year; 40 last year),

  • Retail sales were up 1.7%.

The performance audit of the Johnson County Mental Health Center indicates high turnover, which has a number of negative impacts on the community and the employees. The recommendation was to incorporate the low-cost measure of periodic stay interviews into its employee engagement and retention efforts, which the Mental Health Center agreed with. Commissioner Hanzlick inquired whether flexibility of scheduling was available for employees, which was not addressed in this audit.  

 

Commissioner Fast asked about other specific recommendations and strategies for reducing turnover (peer support, etc.) to address the workforce crisis. Although higher salaries in private and other public sectors are a challenge, efforts are underway now to hire people at better salaries. It is difficult to offer flexibility to employees because of the critical need for in-person interactions in this area. The County does have options for flexibility.

 

Commissioner Hanzlick commented on the value of Race Project KC, the program on racial justice instituted by the Library (https://www.raceprojectkc.com/ ).  Commissioner Fast will attend the discussion on the child care shortage in Prairie Village. Commissioner Allenbrand welcomed Dr. Brian Huff as new superintendent of Gardner Schools. 

 

Aug. 11, 2022

 

In a public comments section marked by profanity and shouting, a number of individuals demanded a written statement of support for Sheriff Hayden and increased funding so he can investigate “200 complaints of voter fraud.” Chairperson Eilert noted that the Sheriff’s budget was increased 6.4% this year, for $6.1 million. In addition, a $4.6 million increase was authorized last week for workforce and incentive bonuses. “This is absolute proof that the BOCC has lived up to its responsibility to fund the Sheriff’s office.”

 

Chairperson Eilert signed an agreement with Overland Park for construction of a Stormwater Management Project.

 

An Exception to Competition with Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. for emergency bypass pumping services at the Douglas L. Smith Middle Basin Wastewater Treatment Facility for $170,000 was granted. The existing screens designed to filter out solid matter are malfunctioning, resulting in the need for emergency repairs. Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara voted no, objecting to granting the exception to competition.

 

The “All About Me” program, featuring a workbook for clients of the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging and Aging and Human Services, was spotlighted. The workbook is available free to all clients, with a PDF link on the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging website.  

 

The audit of the Micro Transit program was presented. It was recommended that the Transit Director prepare a contract administration plan for micro transit in collaboration with the Procurement Office.

 

The report is available at http://jocogov.org/audit . 

 

The COVID-19 report indicates that our numbers have dropped into the “Low” category. Commissioner Hanzlick stated her appreciation of the DHE’s health updates, information of prime importance for shelters and other congregate situations.

 

The vote canvass will continue on August 15.

 

 

Olathe School Board

Sept. 1, 2022

Observer: Cindy Hicks


The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on Sept. 1, 2022. The following items were discussed:

  • Dr Julie Veatch, the new Director of school improvement, curriculum and assessment was introduced to the board and public. 


  • The school board’s evaluation committee and Dr Yeager, Superintendent, have been in discussions regarding the goals for Dr Yeager in the following four categories: academic achievement, community engagement, budget and DIE (diversity, equity, and inclusion).


  • The school board approved the 2022-23 budget. 


To learn more, click here.

 


Lenexa City Council

Sept. 6, 2022

Observer:  Ellen Miller


Starting January 3, 2023, City Council’s business meetings will be recorded, posted, and indexed. Viewers can go to the city’s website the next day to see what occurred. PowerPoints and other materials shown during the meeting will be included. Closed captions are optional. The contract with Swagit Productions, LLC ,cost $72,005 for implementation plus a monthly fee of $1,740 or $20,880/year.



Prairie Village City Council 

Sept. 6, 2022

Observer: Eileen Marshall


The Council met in person at 6:00 p.m., with public viewing in person or via Facebook. 

Public participation is always offered near the beginning of the meeting, and this time approximately 40 people spoke. This part of the meeting lasted about 90 minutes. About 35 citizens spoke against any changes to current zoning regulations, and about four spoke in support of efforts to include more affordable housing in PV. One person spoke about a recent police matter. Some speakers were angry, but most were respectful, and the meeting was not disrupted unduly by anyone speaking out of turn.

By contrast, no members of the public took advantage of the chance to speak at the public hearings regarding next year’s budget. This council meeting included two required public hearings – one for exceeding the revenue-neutral rate and the other for the budget itself, and no citizens rose to speak at either one. The 2023 budget was unanimously approved by the council. It is about 8.5% higher than the current one, reflecting inflation, and the city is rolling back the mil levy by one mil.

Various other aspects of city business were discussed and approved. The meeting adjourned at 9:55 p.m. To learn more, click here.

 

Roeland Park City Council
Sept. 6, 2022
Observer: Kate McLaury

The Roeland Park City Council met in person Sept. 6 and offered Zoom for community participation.


Court clerk Julie Perez was honored with the Outstanding Service Award. In his report Mayor Kelly proclaimed Hispanic Heritage Month to be celebrated Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. He also noted the Diaper Needs Awareness Week Proclamation, Sept. 24 through Oct. 2. Involvement will follow in the media and in the web campaign.

The land purchase agreement with EPC is in place, with a price of $12 per square foot, $5 million dollars. (Mixed-use project on site of old city swimming pool.)

Telecommunications Franchise agreement is to move from Surewest to Everfast. Storm pipe work order with Larkin is approved. The appointment of Linda Heiden to the Parks Committee is approved.


To learn more, click here.