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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 11/1/2022

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

Sept. 15 through Oct. 6, 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.  


Oct. 6, 2022


The Commissioners recognized National Disability Employment Awareness Month.


Several individuals made false public comments about elections and the COVID-19 vaccines. One individual corrected the previously stated election misinformation, also commenting on Sheriff Hayden’s “non-existent voter fraud investigation.” The Chair called for civility, stating that applause for comments was inappropriate and that public comments represented personal opinions. Other commenters protested truck traffic in rural Johnson County.


Peg Trent, county attorney, noted that the Johnson County Election system is stand-alone, contains no voter records, all information is stored domestically, and our system is separate from other systems. Johnson County data is encrypted. She has updated the Commissioners on the Los Angeles case via email.


The Board approved the appointments of Janine Estrada-Lopez, Fourth District Representative to the Tenth Judicial District Nominating Commission; Charles W McAllister Jr., Fifth District Representative to the Commission on Aging; the reappointments of Andrea Leavitt, First District Representative to the Commission on Aging; Debbie Scott Williams, Second District Representative to the Developmental Supports Board; Carol Lehman, Fourth District Representative to the Airport Commission; Mark Burdolski, Sixth District Representative to the Fire District No. 1 Governing Board; and Gayle V Richardson, Seventh District Representative to the Developmental Supports Board.


After discussing the early termination agreement with Evergreen Living Innovations and considering contracting long term care services to other facilities in the area instead, the Board broke for lunch. Commissioners Hanzlick and Fast objected to the plan to contract services. At least 15 public commenters objected to this plan.


The Commissioners approved the Solid Waste Management Plan, which was adopted in 2019. That plan was approved by the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and state law requires an annual review, with a public hearing at least every five years. This is the third annual review.


The Board authorized Mental Health staff to contract with Leawood to provide mental health diversion services to Leawood.


The Major Projects Update for all projects over $1,000,000 was presented. Antioch Library, new name Merriam Plaza Library, should be completed in 2024. The artists for the public art were selected and the project design team is working to define the final concept. The new Shawnee Med-Act Facility should be completed in 2023.


The Board voted to raise the salary of the county manager to market level with surrounding municipalities and to add a 4% performance bonus. Commissioners Fast, O’Hara and Ashcraft voted no. Commissioner Fast noted that the vote unfairly bound the next commission and was timed too close to the next election.


Sept. 29, 2022


Communications Specialist Brian Campbell was recognized for his part in the successful cardiac resuscitation of a Leawood resident.


The “Jake with Distinction Safety Award” has been awarded to the Johnson County Airport Commission, New Century Short Line Railroad for a perfect 2021 record.


Public commenters made false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, objected to rural road traffic, attacked a commissioner by name at length, making accusations and name calling. One commenter asked about the financial impact of each agenda item, information already available in the agenda items. A commenter asserted that the Evergreen Healthcare Center is not needed. Another public commenter objected to the Sheriff’s false claims of election fraud. The last commenter denied being an extremist.


The Board authorized a contract with EMS Management & Consultants for ambulance and EMS medical billing and collection services for $600,000 for the year.


The Board delayed an Early Termination Agreement between the Board of County Commissioners and Evergreen Living Innovations, Incorporated with a payment of $29 million of General Fund Reserves (Countywide Support Funds).


Several public commenters objected to the project, one using profanity. Another commenter made false allegations about election fraud at that point. The chairperson failed to keep the comments in order of agenda items.


The Board conducted a public hearing and voted to create Contract District No. 1 of Blue River No. 28, authorizing funds to provide sewers for $4,400,000 and authorized a contract district financing agreement with Pflumm 175 Investors, LLC. This project was included in the Capital Improvement Plan presented to the Board earlier this year, and the payback on this 100-year infrastructure will be within 20-22 years.


The Board approved a change order to the construction contract with Dale Brothers for $221,507.90 to remove and dispose of concrete tanks for hazardous material abatement on the Kuhlman Diecasting property at 164th and Mission Road, increasing the total construction contract amount to $677,707.90.


 The Board approved a civil service compensation plan for the Sheriff’s department which converts sworn civil service staff to a step plan, except for staff assigned to the Crime Lab, and amending the Johnson County Human Resources compensation policy. The Commissioners approved the reallocation and expenditure of General Fund reserves (Countywide Support Fund) for $3,195,533 for Fiscal 2022 and $13,249,020 for 2023.


New hires will start at step 2, $28.50 for new hiring rate until there are 14 new hires (the average vacancy rate for that office). This will be funded by foregoing previously authorized expenditures for the office.  The associated costs that will be avoided in 2023 are as follows:

  • 2022 Compression adjustments totaling $195,095

  • Hiring bonuses in 2022 and 2023 totaling approximately $300,000

  • 2023 Retention bonuses totaling $1,503,000

  • 2023 Range movement adjustments for sworn staff totaling $780,378

  • 2023 Compression adjustments totaling $780,378

The office has five or six new recruits, but several former employees report having left for city police forces because of the sheriff’s two-year jail duty requirement.  


Public commenters objected to the pay rate as too low.


The New Century Air Center and Johnson County Airport held Comprehensive Compatibility Plan Updates on Oct. 6 and Oct. 4, respectively. The public was welcome.


Commissioner Hanzlick reported that she attended the monthly MARC Board meeting, an entity crucial to public safety. Tower cells for 911 located in Bonner Springs and elsewhere are the responsibility of MARC, along with the opioid crisis, hazard waste abatement and more.


Commissioner O’Hara’s motion demanding a report on the count of all Medicaid beds in the county failed.


Sept. 22, 2022


Chairperson Eilert proclaimed Sept. 25th as Gold Star Mothers and Family Day, a national recognition dating back to World War I.


Peg Trent, chief legal counsel, joined Chairperson Eilert to recognize retiring legal department employee Larry McCaulay.


The Board approved the Committee of the Whole’s request that an item on the Sheriff’s pay plan be added to the agenda for Sept. 29. Maury Thompson stated that conversion from a merit system to a step plan will require complex planning. The technical action will be to approve pay tables. There is a possibility to reach an agreement on the pay plan, allocating resources differently.


Individuals commented, making false statements addressing Commissioners by name, about vaccines, election fraud, the Sheriff’s budget. Others called the Board a “Den of Snakes,” “deceptive,” accused them of “white washing,” calling them “drug pushers,” communists, and complaining about Internet access and traffic. One person read the Preamble to the Constitution and social media entries.


The Board approved the 2023 County Assistance Road System Program expenditures, for $17,248,000 for 50-50 shared road projects with 13 local cities. Funding is from the gas tax and county support (Gas tax, $12,732,000, County Support $4,516,000 for a total of $17,248,000. 2023 Budget funding requests for $5,640,000 were cut.) The state is examining sources of funds in light of diminishing gas tax funds because of electric vehicles. The CARS mission includes embracing new technology to enhance the transportation system: AI, charging stations, etc.


The Board approved the 2023 Stormwater Management Program (flood control for Johnson County cities especially in light of severe weather events) for $17,116,000, funded from sales tax.


Cities here rely on CARS and Stormwater Management for important infrastructure projects, and street collapses and flooding risk for almost three dozen homes and other locations will be abated. Representatives from several cities testified about the value of both programs, with one request for a future assessment to fund developing needs.


The Board also approved the 2022 Stormwater Management Program Policy. One significant change was the creation of Watershed Organizations.


The Board approved an exception to competition with Hy-Vee and IHOP for meals for eligible persons for the CHAMPSS (Choosing Healthy Appetizing Meal Plan Solutions for Seniors) program in the Aging and Human Services Department for $600,000 a year for about 2,400 people. This program is largely funded through the Older Americans Act, a federally funded program, and residents have expressed their appreciation for the program, especially for meal delivery during the Pandemic.


The Board discussed an Early Termination Agreement with Evergreen Living Innovations (ELI) to pay ELI $29 million of General Fund Reserves to begin to plan construction of a new facility to replace the obsolete structure to house about 120 older adults with limited assets. 


A new partnership between the Black & Veatch Library MakerSpace and the Johnson County Library will produce 3D-printed anatomical models for training County emergency medical providers in life-saving techniques.


County Economic Research Institute (CERI) Indicators reported the County unemployment rate as of July 2022 at 2.9%.  The inflation-adjusted change in the price of homes sold from July 2021 to July 2022 was +5.8%.


The Board approved Chairperson Eilert as voting delegate to the 2022 Kansas Association of Counties Annual Business Meeting.


Commissioner Hanzlick noted that the Kansas Housing assistance fund is available for seniors needing help paying property tax. Other sources of help include the State Homestead Fund Act, and a new program, The Base Tax Freeze.


The Time Capsule artifacts will be viewed Sept. 28 at the Arts and Heritage Center.


The Climate Action Now, Go Green 2022 event at the Sylvester Powell Community Center Sept. 17 had a strong turnout of both exhibitors and attendees.


Sept. 15, 2022


Hispanic Heritage Month was proclaimed.  


Public comments were made objecting to the sheriff’s false statements about elections and the IRS. Individuals made false comments about COVID-19, demanded the removal of ballot drop boxes, election fraud and charged Board members with lying. The Chair noted that state statute requires an audit after every election. Another commenter expressed opposition to making 199th Street a truck route.


For the consent agenda, the board amended the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022-2026 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to include the Mental Health Department (MNH) Community Support Services (CSS) Nurse Station Remodel capital project and authorize the reallocation of Mental Health Fund reserves for $160,000.


Scott Neufeld, Budget Director, explained the budget process in response to Commissioner O’Hara’s complaint, and she then commented on the Sheriff’s budget. Neufeld noted that no request from the Sheriff’s office has been refused. The Nurse Station Remodel project is coming from reserves, but significant Medicaid funds will be coming in.


After lengthy discussion of neighbors’ concerns, the Board approved a Conditional Use Permit for a Halloween event for Jack’s Hollow at 30450 W 143rd Street, a fundraiser for Secret Santa.


The contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) for Group Health and Stop Loss Administration services for 2023 for $6,200,000 annually was authorized. The Board also authorized the 2023 medical and pharmacy drug plan design changes, in addition to the 2023 employee contribution rate structure recommended by the Health Care Fund Management Team.


The Board authorized $165,000 for the rest of the year for the Mental Health Department to add 6.0 FTE positions for the Johnson County Mental Health Chronic Care Clinic and Health Integration Team.


The Board approved using General Fund Reserves for the rest of 2022 (Countywide Support Funds), for $1,075,000 to address wage equity and compression issues in the County workforce. Not all employees will receive an increase; only those whose pay was not appropriately positioned in the range based on their relevant job experience. Fifty-three percent of the workforce will receive an adjustment.


National Hispanic Heritage Month Events in Johnson County:

  • Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center Celebration, https://www.jcprd.com/1566/Hispanic-Heritage-Month

  • Family Concert: Bring in the Music with 123 Andrés, The Central Resource Library, Oct. 15th, 9:15 AM – 11:00 AM Register at: https://jocolibrary.bibliocommons.com/events/62f3dbea9309ca41006c51a7

  • This fall the Johnson County Library will offer bilingual story time on Monday mornings via Facebook, at Blue Valley Library on Thursday mornings and at Central Resource Library on Friday mornings.

Commissioner O’Hara urged the County to become “color-blind and ignore race” in its outreach efforts.


Committee of the Whole


Sept. 15, 2022


Calvin Hayden stated that the sheriff’s office has lost 60 officers. One option is to raise the starting salary to $24.50 an hour, which would cost about $3 million this year, $11 million for 2023. Commissioner Meyer argued for a step system versus a merit system.


Assistant Manager Maury Thompson advocated for a merit system. Chairperson Eilert suggested the county provide a bonus to encourage new hires and amend the 2023 budget to allow for increases. Initial retention bonuses would be offered. The item will be on the Thursday agenda.



Johnson County Library Board 

Sept. 8, 2022 and Oct. 13, 2022

Observer: Karen Wulfkuhle


League Observer Karen Wulfkuhle submitted a public comment thanking the Library for making voting accessible across the county by providing space for advance voting at three libraries and election-day voting at seven libraries, plus sites for six drop-boxes. The Library was also thanked for its partnership with the League to host legislative forums.


The board is considering proposals to renovate/renew space at three libraries - Spring Hill, DeSoto and Edgerton. Following staff and public input, priorities include collaborative and quiet study space, wider range of hours and access to popular collections, kids’ area, meeting rooms, public computers and improved security.


The name Merriam Plaza Library was approved for the Antioch replacement. Construction will begin in late 2022/early 2023, with the new facility anticipated to open in 2024.


Denial of Borrowing Privileges (when a patron’s account is sent to a materials recovery vendor) limit was raised from $25 to $50. By raising the materials recovery limit, the library will save nearly $17,000 in yearly vendor fees.


The board adopted a resolution to exceed the revenue neutral rate in the levy of property taxes, in support of the budget for the Johnson County Library taxing district for FY 2023. The revenue neutral rate is estimated at 3.535 mills. The 2023 budget has been approved by the Library Board and is part of the BOCC’s proposed 2023 Budget, for an estimated mill levy of 3.804, and projected to bring in $42,140,327 in property tax revenue.

A memorandum of understanding was approved between the Library and Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE). The Library will provide use of a study room at the Central Resource Library for a Community Health Worker/Tobacco Treatment Specialist from JCDHE to meet one-on-one with residents once a week, table space for nurses from JCDHE to set up Blood Pressure Clinics once a month, and space at all 14 locations for patrons to pick up COVID-19 tests on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last.

To learn more, click here.

Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board 

Sept. 26, 2022

Observer: Harry Bognich


The advisory board met in-person at the Mission office. JoCo Mental Health Center has been working with the judicial courts for about 20 years. This meeting centered on two main programs that JoCo MHC and the courts are very actively working on together.


“Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (AOT) was started in 2019. This court program tries to catch people to give them mental health assistance with these goals:

  1. Increased compliance with treatment.

  2. Increased engagement for better treatment outcomes.

  3. Reduce risks of re-hospitalization, arrest, and homelessness.

  4. Reduce recidivism.

  5. Reduce costs on the system and to society.


AOT has been very successful, especially in 2021 and 2022, as this program has developed and matured. The number of people in AOT varies a lot. Presently, there are nine, but three more are just entering in the last week.


“Mental Health Diversion” is a 12-month program, and an individual must be accepted into this program because it is not for everyone. To date, 283 persons have completed this program and 82% have successfully completed it. Thirty-seven persons are currently on Diversion or pending acceptance.


Further information about those two programs and others that help people in the criminal justice system who experience mental health issues can be found at this website: https://www.jocogov.org/stepping-initiative


Next meeting will be held Nov. 28.


To learn more, click here.



Blue Valley School Board

Sept. 12, 2022

Observer: Ann Schuster


The meeting began with staff recognition by Superintendent Dr. Tonya Merrigan, followed by Board Advisory Committee reports from the Curriculum and Instruction and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion groups. The Finance Committee presented the timeline on the district referendum, and the Communications Committee outlined their strategic plan goals.

Board member and Superintendent reports followed, and the new Director of the Blue Valley Foundation was introduced. There was some discussion on the recent lockdown at Blue Valley Northwest High School following a disturbance at St. Andrew’s Golf Club nearby.


Dr. Merrigan gave details and comments on the following:

-First day of school

-Rally in the Valley

-Student recognition

-Staff mental health training


New Business included the approval of the 2022-23 legal budget and estimated tax rate as published, a construction update on various building projects and the presentation and approval of a new crisis alert system to be implemented in January of 2023.


To learn more, click here.



Prairie Village City Council 

Sept. 19, 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 eight people spoke. Six citizens spoke against any changes to current zoning regulations, and two spoke in support of efforts to include more affordable housing in PV.


The council discussed the general topic of remote participation in public meetings. First, the City Attorney reminded the council that “the position of the Attorney General is that the city must – even for purely remote or virtual meetings – provide a physical location and place for members of the public to come and watch the meeting”, to the extent the meeting constitutes a public hearing as required by law. This has been clarified now that the emergency orders associated with COVID-19 have expired and most meetings are in-person. It will require a change to the city’s current written policy. The council also discussed expectations of how many times per year a councilperson may attend remotely instead of in person, with no final decision on that matter.


Various other aspects of city business were discussed and approved. The meeting adjourned at 8:16 p.m.


Oct. 3, 2022

Observer: Eileen Marshall


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

The mayor read a proclamation in support of gun safety awareness. Andrew Meyer and Volodymyr Polishchuk of Stand with Ukraine KC gave a presentation on the group’s humanitarian efforts on the ground in Ukraine and appealed to PV citizens to support their sister city, Dolyna, located in the west of Ukraine.


Public participation is always offered near the beginning of the meeting, but this time Council opted to move discussion of a proposed change to the Ad Hoc Housing Committee recommendations earlier in the agenda, before the public comment time. These are the recommendations that have inspired so much backlash, and Council seemed hopeful that the changes would calm the reaction. The council voted unanimously to exclude consideration of the following from the single-family zoning areas:

  • Courtyard patterns

  • Duplexes, 3- and 4-plexes

  • Row houses

  • Apartments

After this move, the single-family zoning recommendations still include consideration of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), as well as the language “by right”, which proved to be a sore point for the citizens who spoke against the zoning changes. It is important to note that the recommendations are, at this point, simply a request for the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) to look into making changes. It does not require any changes to city codes, which would happen only after public input and several months of research by P&Z. Twenty-two citizens spoke against any changes to current zoning regulations, and one spoke in support of efforts to include more affordable housing in PV. Two spoke against a community center. The public comment period ended at 8:20.


Council next took up a discussion of a possible new community center. Both the Johnson County Library and the Y facilities in PV are approaching or past their useful life, and for years the city has been considering a partnership that would co-locate a new library and community center somewhere on or near the city campus. Just prior to the pandemic, a survey had been completed that indicated a high level of interest among the citizens and potential users of such a facility. After three years, the Ad Hoc Community Center Committee recommended running the survey again and also presented a Memorandum of Understanding with the Y to share the cost of the survey. After lengthy discussion, Council sent the recommendation back to the committee for further discussion. There appears to be some resistance on the council to both collaborating with the Y and with having a community center at all.


The council approved the revised policy for remote participation in meetings of the governing body. At the last meeting, the City Attorney reminded the council that “the position of the Attorney General is that the city must – even for purely remote or virtual meetings – provide a physical location and place for members of the public to come and watch the meeting”, to the extent the meeting constitutes a public hearing as required by law. This has been clarified now that the emergency orders associated with COVID-19 have expired and most meetings are in-person. The revised policy reflects changes required to comply with the position of the KS AG.


I signed off at 10:00 p.m. Still on the agenda were a couple of items not relevant to our League.


To learn more, click here.



Roeland Park City Council 

Sept. 19, 2022

Observer: Kate McLaury


All governing body members were present, and Mayor Kelly appeared virtually.
Parks and Recreation - Anthony Marshall reported on the 2022 summer at the Aquatic Center. Marshall reported 2200 summer camp attendees, lifeguards reported 15 saves, and recommended more advertising to increase attendance especially in the Wyandotte area. Residents’ daily visits were down by half. Attendance reflected non-resident attendance increase. City Administrator Moody estimated a $100,000 operating loss for the pool for 2022, an improvement over 2021.

Sustainability – Sleepyhead Beds, a non-profit, explained their program and services. Gayle Terry Holmes, Executive Director, said they sanitize used beds and linen for reuse or recycle, keeping them out of landfills and helping those in need. The Go Green Environmental Fair was held Saturday Sept. 17 and reported a great success. Forty-nine exhibitors, 500 attendees, electric vehicles, rain barrels, games and prizes made for a good family event.

Mayor Kelly reports Bishop Miege High School wants to have fireworks at kickoff during home games. The amended permit to approve the fireworks at Miege is contingent on meeting the requirements of city code, providing proof of insurance, $100 permit payment, and letter of recommendation from Fire Department CFE#2. Motion carried 5 to 4. 

Votes: Faidley, Dickens, Hill and Rebne voting no.
Mayor Kelly voted yes and broke the tie.


To learn more, click here.



WaterOne

Sept. 13, 2022

Observer: Annette Becker


WaterOne received two awards from the American Water Works Association (AWWA): 

  • Best of the Best Water Taste Test

  • People’s Choice Water Taste Test


The 2021 AWWA annual water audit was discussed. It revealed that we have a healthy system of water mains and connections and are therefore losing less water due to leaks and breaks than comparable areas.


The 2021 master plan was discussed, and one focus will be on smart watering plans and education of the public regarding times of high demand. An online portal is available to customers, which allows them to see how much water they are using.


Interesting discussion regarding reducing carbon footprint by working to sequester more carbon. WaterOne is working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement best practices – for example, encouraging more cover crops in farmland around the Milford reservoir to reduce phosphate runoff and decrease algae blooms.


Stay hydrated with the best tasting water in the country!


To learn more, click here.