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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 11/29/2022

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

Oct. 13 through Nov. 8, 2022 

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. 13, 2022

 

The County kicked off the 2022 United Way Campaign, featuring Sunflower House, an agency addressing the needs of abused and neglected children.

 

Two public commenters demanded paper ballots in elections and falsely asserted COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous.              

 

The Board approved the project to reseal and rejuvenate runways at the New Century AirCenter and the Executive Airport.

 

Affordable Housing: The Board conducted a public hearing and approved the proposed 2023 Streamlined Annual Public Housing Authority Plan for submission to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Success is measured by number of leased units and whether they stay within the HUD budget for the County program. The waiting list has 597 people. Commissioner Fast noted that the wait list for Public Housing will probably increase once the State and Federal Emergency Assistance Funds run out, which will be soon.

 

The Appraiser’s Office provided an update. Housing prices have held steady in Johnson County. Residents can appeal their own property evaluations.

 

The Nelson WasteWater Facility Open House was held Oct. 6. A virtual presentation will be held in the next few weeks on the Nelson website.

 

Maury Thompson reported on the COVID-19 Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, Funding and Expense Report.  

 

Oct. 17, 2022

Special meeting

 

Commissioner Allenbrand moved to recess its open meeting and convene in executive session at 3:03 p.m. for 60 minutes, to discuss matters relating to security of County operations, to preserve the security of County operations and for the purpose of receiving the advice of counsel and to protect attorney-client confidentiality. Commissioner Hanzlick seconded the motion, and the Board moved to executive session.

 

 Oct. 20, 2022

 

The Board recognized the nationwide “Imagine a Day Without Water,” an advocacy and education project for water and stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.  National Arts & Humanities Month was also proclaimed.

 

A resident urged people to vote. Individuals returned to repeat lies about election fraud, Donald Trump, COVID-19 vaccines, LGBTQ issues, and accuse the Board of genocide and financial fraud. A resident running for the Board campaigned for her own race frequently and throughout the meeting. The public comments were marked by interruptions of the meeting and unruliness. Chairperson Eilert reminded people of the protocol for public comments, which is to sign up in person or online ahead of time. 

 

The Board approved an increase of $2.9 million to the Transit budget (from Transit fund reserves) and to increase the contract amount with WHC KCT, LLC, from $2,436,305 to $4,436,305, to support micro transit and other previously authorized pilot programs. Commissioner O’Hara voted against it, arguing that the services were too expensive and should be limited.

 

American Rescue Plan: The Board authorized the receipt of $55,000 from the US Treasury Department’s Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Funding (part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021). Transparency note: all reports, including audits and spending of federal funds are available on the County website. https://www.jocogov.org/

 

The Board authorized the allocation of Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funding (CSLFR) from the US Treasury to fund direct community investment programs to address struggling small businesses, including childcare businesses, and a one-time direct payment to the Enterprise Center of Johnson County for a local match and assistance in administering these programs. Targeted organizations were determined by County survey. Families spend 29% of their income on childcare, a significant impact on employability and the labor shortage. Commissioners Ashcraft and O’Hara voted No.

 

The Board allocated Coronavirus funds for $2,085,000 to fund direct community investment programs to address housing and food insecurity within Johnson County, and a one-time direct payment to United Community Services (UCS) to administer the programs. The need is significant: at least a thousand Johnson County public school students are currently homeless, and this is a county responsibility.

 

The County Economic Research Institute (CERI) report indicates County unemployment is at 2.6%. Commissioner O’Hara urged the Board to be aware of property valuations. Chairperson Eilert remarked that the Board has been aware of these issues “for many years.”

 

Evergreen Update: Maury Thompson provided the Board with detailed information to review in the next few days for the request for proposals for Evergreen, and Joe O’Connor will manage the process.

 

Commissioner O’Hara urged the Board to explain the security breach to the public.

 

The Board adjourned to executive session.

 

Oct. 27, 2022

 

Public commenters returned to repeat fears about election fraud and vaccines. One person objected to Kansas law concerning tax law and requested a cap on taxes for elderly residents. Chairperson Eilert reminded him that the laws are created by the state legislature and someone from the County would contact the commenter with more information.

 

Advisory Board: The Board ratified the appointments of Stewart A. Curtright – Chairman Representative to the Criminal Justice Advisory Council; Raymond Manley and Scott Martin – Chairman’s Representatives to the Solid Waste Management Committee; Daniel Jones – Chairman’s Representative to the Solid Waste Management Committee; and Brett Standard, August Huber III, James Brown and Matt Wild – Chairman’s Representatives to the Contractor licensing Review Board.

 

Emergency Services/Sheriff/DA/Mental Health Court: The Board voted to purchase eight Osage ambulances from Emergency Services Supply for $2,437,275 for Johnson County MED-ACT, rescinding the previous Board authorization to purchase Braun ambulances from Pinnacle Emergency Vehicles, which had raised prices to an unexpected level.  

 

The Board agreed to accept $595,000 in federal grant funds for the Sheriff’s department for license plate readers to be used in criminal investigations, mostly located at high-traffic areas throughout the County. Commissioner Fast noted that the cities are already using this technology, stating concerns about duplicate use of tax dollars, citizen privacy and secure data storage. The data is stored at the courthouse. Commissioner Hanzlick asked about guidelines for accessing the data. The Sheriff’s Department controls the access.

 

The Board approved an agreement with the Desoto School District to allow Ryan Jacobsen, MD, (Emergency Medical Director) to assist USD 232 in training school personnel to administer opioid antagonists (e.g., Narcan). Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley School Districts have similar agreements.

 

The Board agreed to assign an additional five full time people to the District Attorney’s Office to be assigned to the new criminal court, for $530,000. Commissioner Ashcraft voted No. Because of personnel losses resulting from the Pandemic, thousands of criminal cases have been delayed or dropped, and the County has 2,000 more cases in the pipeline than before COVID-19.

 

The typical caseload for the DA is up to 240 cases, especially for juvenile and domestic violence cases; the victim support staff is carrying a double load, and these overloads exist across the State. In answer to Commissioner Hanzlick’s inquiry, it was noted that public defenders are overloaded and shut down frequently. Commissioner Ashcraft argued that case numbers were down, a misreading of the data, according to the DA. Commissioner Fast expressed concern about additional taxes or cuts in County services, considering a looming recession.

 

The Board accepted a grant for $309,766 for non-personnel related expenses from the Department of Justice for the development of the Johnson County Mental Health Court to reduce frequency of individuals’ contact with the criminal justice system. This program has an 82% success rate.

 

Paul Davis, Director of County Emergency Services, has been appointed to the 988 (National Suicide Hotline) Coordinating Council to advise on the implementation of services for Aging Services.

 

 

Nov. 3, 2022

 

Public comments concerned the value of the Mental Health Court and the Sheriff’s misleading social media post about the Nov. 8 election. Other comments consisted of false COVID-19 information.

 

The Board conducted a public hearing and approved funds for design and bid services for the State Line Road Pump Stations and Force Main Project. These stations will reduce our expenses about $100,000,000 over the next 20 years.

 

Mental Health: Molly Perkins, County employee, was appointed to the 988 Coordinating Council by Governor Kelly.

 

The National Association of Counties’ Familiar Faces Initiative Peer-Learning Sites is a project to improve outcomes through coordinated health and justice systems for residents with complex health and behavior conditions. After identifying individuals cycling through jails and emergency departments frequently, Familiar Faces collaborates with social services to improve outcomes for these residents.

 

Affordable Housing Project: Spring Hill will hold a public hearing Nov. 17 about the proposed Wiswell Farms for the Rural Farms Housing Incentive District. Recent legislation encourages renovation and construction of quality housing of various price ranges in rural areas through tax incentives. The County has veto power.

 

Public Transit: Commissioner Janee' Hanzlick has been recognized as the Public Transit Advocate of the Year by the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance.

 

Panasonic broke ground Nov. 2, 2022. The County will be receiving settlement funds from the Walgreens/CVS opioid lawsuit.

 

Elections--Chairperson Eilert encouraged everyone to vote on Nov. 8.

 

Nov. 8, 2022

 

Absent: Commissioner Meyers, who is working on transportation for the upcoming NFL Draft.

 

Chairperson Eilert noted Veterans Day, recognizing 168 County employees who are veterans.

 

Individuals made false comments on vaccines. Others commented on the election.

 

The vote canvass will be held on Nov. 16 and 17, delayed by Veteran’s Day holiday. Additional funds were allocated to pay election workers in case of possible recount. The Chair urged Commissioners to serve on this canvass board.

 

Commissioners conducted a public hearing and approved the 2023 Action Plan for Housing and Community Development. There will be about $1,354,000 in Community Development Block Grant and $1,309,978 in Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) funds. United Community Services, Johnson County Developmental Supports and others commented.

 

The Medical Examiner’s office will hire six more medicolegal Death Investigators to alleviate staff overload (to be funded by Public Health reserves).

 

De Soto will hold a public hearing on Dec. 1, 2022, for the Sunflower TIF Expansion.

 

The Central Resource Library will host an art collection honoring unsung heroic women until Dec. 21.

 

Because this is his last meeting, Assistant County Manager Maury Thompson was recognized for his service. Commissioner Fast expressed deep appreciation for his outstanding work for Johnson County.

 

Commissioner O’Hara made several comments on items relevant to the state legislature, indicating she wants a 50% cap on all TIF industrial projects.

 

Commissioner Hanzlick noted the graduation event for the Johnson County Civic Academy, a 10-week program in which residents learn about the complex and varied functions of the County. Susan Pekarek and her staff were recognized informally for their presentation on Waste Water, as was Emergency Services. “I appreciate how the County is using my money,” one participant commented.

 

 

 

Johnson County Library Board

Nov. 10, 2022

Observer: Karen Wulfkuhle

 

The construction contract with Titan Built, LLC for Merriam Plaza Library was approved for a maximum amount of $10,675,647. Ground breaking is set for Nov. 29.  Antioch Library is slated to close 2nd quarter 2023. The board approved the temporary closing of Oak Park January - May 2023 for interior and exterior work. 

 

At a retreat Oct. 19, the board reached a consensus on direction to library staff regarding which building projects to prioritize next. In order, they are Spring Hill, DeSoto, Corinth, and Blue Valley. This direction for the Comprehensive Master Plan was approved at the board meeting. Staff will develop a timeline for board action in December.

 

To learn more, click here.

 

 

Prairie Village City Council 

Oct. 17, 2022

Observer: Eileen Marshall


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

During the public participation period, two citizens spoke against the changes proposed by the ad hoc committee on housing, and 15 spoke up in favor. Clearly, a counter-movement has been formed to support the possibility of increasing affordable housing in PV.

Other city business was conducted, and the meeting adjourned at 8:10.

 

Prairie Village City Council 

Nov. 7, 2022

Observer: Eileen Marshall


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

During the public participation period, 23 citizens spoke against the changes proposed by the ad hoc committee on housing, and one spoke up in favor of better communication from the city. Although a minority, comments included a few personal attacks on specific individuals. Public comment lasted approximately one hour.

After conducting other city business, the council met as the Committee of the Whole to discuss a staff proposal to alter the timing of public comment during the meetings. The proposal was to limit the public comment at the beginning of the meeting to a certain amount of time or a certain number of commenters, then conduct council business that required participation of staff/consultants/public officials (other than Council), and then afterward allow anyone who had not had the chance to comment at the beginning to have their say. This was meant to avoid situations in which, for example, a consultant who is to make a presentation to the council has to wait perhaps until after 10:00 p.m. if public comments are lengthy, as they have been recently. Most council members who spoke shared the opinion that it is essential to hear from citizens, and, especially during this contentious period, now is not a good time to make any changes to the public comment process.

The meeting adjourned at 8:10 p.m.

To learn more, click here.