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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 2/28/2023

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

Jan. 19, 2023 through Feb. 9, 2023 (most recent listed first)

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

To access information about BOCC meetings including live broadcasts, the calendar and how to contact commissioners, visit the BOCC meetings page.

For detailed information on registering for public comments, submitting written public comments and speaking guidelines, go to the BOCC public comment page. Public comments are now accepted in person or in writing. Public comments will still be live streamed and recorded on action agenda items. Item discussions by Commissioners will be limited to five minutes per person with all discussion after the motion is approved and before the vote. Remarks should be relevant, respectful and avoid threats.

Feb. 9, 2023

Haile Sims, president of Johnson County NAACP, spoke, and the Board proclaimed Black History Month. Commissioner O’Hara spoke about her Black daughter, and her view that prejudice is individual, not widespread through society.

Public Comments lasted about ten minutes, and were summarized by Commissioner O’Hara in her comments at the end of the meeting.

The Board conducted a public hearing and agreed to contract with HDR Engineering to fund the third phase of an integrated plan for a long term strategy for managing our municipal stormwater and wastewater program management for $3,681,000. Two people signed up for public comments but did not appear.

Commissioner O’Hara noted that Climate Action KC is a partner here and asked if the Chair should recuse himself because of his previous position with that organization. County Counsel Peg Trent explained that bias differs from conflict of interest; the latter is measurable, but bias can be set aside and that no conflict of interest existed here for the Chair. Trent further explained that the process for calling out other members in cases of presumed ethics violations is to be confidential, not public.

After a public hearing, the Board agreed to fund the design and construction phase of Johnson County Wastewater sanitary sewer work for the Kansas Department of Transportation US-69 Express Modernization and Expansion Project. The cost is limited to $1,886,500 (through the capital improvement program, not tolls). K-Tags will be used in the express lanes.

The Board accepted a grant of $107,249 from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) for Johnson County Aging and Human Services for the Senior Nutrition Program.

The Board also agreed to accept a grant from the State for $101,161.68 from Senior Care Act funds. Services provided under the Senior Care Act (a non-Medicaid program) are selected to help individuals continue to live independently, and can include case management, attendant care, respite care, homemaker and chore services, adult day care, and transportation assistance. These services are intermittent and can be received a few hours or a few days a week. The costs of services range from free to full cost on a sliding scale.

Commissioners voted to include drainage work on the Sheriff Training facility in the 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for $1,725,000 in order to alleviate air quality problems. In response to the Sheriff’s complaints of neglect, County Manager Postoak Ferguson noted that the County had maintained and repaired the building consistently.

The Board adopted the 2023 County Federal Legislative Platform, which includes the following core principles: To execute the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for County Governments, to maintain financial stability for County governmental Services, to oppose unfunded mandates, to restore the balance of federalism, and to optimize intergovernmental partnerships.

Olathe resident Stephanie Berland objected to the platform, claiming lack of support for the sheriff, transparency, budget concerns, etc. Commissioner O’Hara voted No, citing concerns about separation of powers.

The Funding and Expense Report for the Covid Recovery Fund was presented. See details here:

The County is tracking 200 bills in the legislature. A big announcement last week was that the Integra computer chip manufacturing facility will be located in Wichita and will provide 2,000 jobs, a development triggered by APEX act. Larger downstream effects for increased tax revenue are predicted.

Feb. 2, 2023

Chairman Kelly detailed a change to the Public Comments Session. Virtual comments will be allowed, but the rules are the same for both methods of commenting. Public Comments lasted for twenty minutes.

Commissioner Hanzlick noted that many residents have contacted her to say they no longer feel safe attending BOCC meetings as a result of the vociferous and inaccurate public comment sessions.

The Board adopted the Rules of Order after amendments were introduced to change the Call the Question, requiring that when an agenda item is added to each meeting, Board members must disclose all conflicts of interest. The order of motions was changed to staff presentation without discussion, motion, discussion, and vote. The Board also voted to require a second for the Call the Question. (Rules of Order are available at

The Board approved the Chair’s appointment of Commissioner Shirley Allenbrand as the Vice-Chair of the Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Fast reiterated her previous comments that she did believe this should be a matter of the Chair’s choice, not a vote item.

Coronavirus SLFRF (funds) were  released (by a vote of 5-2) in support of direct community investment programs, $100,000 to Gateway of Hope (serving under-insured or uninsured low-income women) and $100,000 to Pharmacy of Grace (providing vaccinations and medications for chronic disease for the under-served) among other agencies. Other programs receiving funds included:

  • Workforce development (serving unemployed and underemployed or low-skilled workers), $1,166,670.00 to JCCC, $1,166,670.00 to KU Edwards Campus, and $1,166,670.00 to Workforce Partnership.

  • Direct community investment to address struggling small businesses, $43,000 to Interurban Art House, $884,900 to Arts Council of Johnson County Creative Industries Small Business Grants & $50,000 to Arts Council for Direct Assistance Funding, $721,890 to Emporia State University, $172,000 to JCPRD for the Maker Space Project, and $251,730 to JCPRD Arts Resiliency Program.

For more information, go to

The Board authorized a contract with Kelly Construction Group, Inc., for ADA Compliance Restroom Modifications for various Johnson County facilities.

The Commissioners also authorized Senior Care Act funds: one for accepting KDADS funds for the JOCO Area Agency on Aging for $101,161.68 and the other for $107,249.00 for the Senior Nutrition Program.

Updates were provided on County Major Projects: Antioch Library Replacement (A grand opening is planned for the second quarter, 2024. New name: Merriam Plaza Library), New Shawnee Med-Act Facility, Med-Act Lenexa Facility, and others.

The House Tax Committee heard HB 2107 and HB 2109, pertaining to the income threshold for purposes of taxing social security income. For more information, see

 Jan. 26, 2023

Liaison Appointments to Boards and Commissions-- Airport Commission--Allenbrand; Developmental Supports Governing Board- Ashcraft; Library Board- Hanzlick; Park & Recreation--Meyers; Mental Health Advisory Board- Fast; Planning Commission- O’Hara. Information about the remaining assignments (Council of Mayors, MARC, Area Agency on Aging et al.) is available at the BOCC meetings page. 

The Johnson County Wastewater department presented their Integrated Plan to improve water quality and save money (over $278,000,000 on Mill Creek and Nelson, Leawood, and Lower Indian Creek and Tomahawk Creek plants). Wastewater will ask for additional funds for this program in February. Commissioner Hanzlick noted that the FAQ section of the Wastewater website is a helpful source of information.

The County Economic Research Institute (CERI) Indicators show an unemployment rate of 2.2% for November, 2022. Total retail sales have increased 11%.

The County is following the Sales Tax Holiday Proposal and the Food Sales tax issue in the KS legislature. The APEX (Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion) Act was passed last Session resulting in several mega-projects in the pipeline. Several possible projects were discussed, including:

  • An advanced manufacturing plant consisting of $3 billion capital investment and about 3,500 jobs.

  • An advanced manufacturing plant consisting of $4 billion capital investment and about 723 jobs.

  • A semiconductor megaproject consisting of $1.4 billion capital investment and about 1,994 jobs.

  • A semiconductor megaproject consisting of $1.9 billion capital investment and about 2,000 jobs.

  • A renewable energy megaproject consisting of $1 billion capital investment and about 25 jobs.

Peripheral Visions, featuring the works of Johnson County and Kansas City artists with intellectual disabilities will be on display Jan. 7, 2023 to March 25, 2023 at the Kansas City, MO Central Library.

Chair Kelly noted that at the State of the State address Governor Kelly emphasized the importance of bipartisan agreement on issues such as economic development.

Jan. 19, 2023

The meeting was punctuated by frequent comments by Commissioners O’Hara and Ashcraft about the new procedures. 

Commissioner Ashcraft made several motions, seconded by Commissioner O’Hara, to table motions on agenda items for discussion both before and after staff presentation, requiring applicants to wait extra time. The Board, appearing confused, voted to uphold the motion. Chair Kelly is following the current rules, according to County Counsel Peg Trent. Commissioner O’Hara claimed that she didn’t have enough time to ask questions about agenda items. Chair Kelly replied that her claim was wrong; no comment or debate is precluded, but it needs to be at the appropriate time. Trent explained that the County rules allow for debate and question after the item is on the floor. Residents must request time to comment on items ahead of time. The Board agreed to follow this rule.

 The County will receive an adolescent mental health grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide mental health awareness training to school personnel and first responders in Johnson County. The program director noted that parent involvement is needed for good outcomes for teen mental health issues. Commissioner O’Hara claimed incorrectly that the schools are usurping parental decisions, and Commissioner Hanzlick noted that in some cases reporting back to parents is unsafe for the child. Commissioner O’Hara’s was the only No vote.

The Legislative Update by Federico and Duerst was presented. Highlights of Governor Kelly’s plans for her term include among other items:   

  • The acceleration of the elimination of the food sales tax, to conclude April 1, 2023, and which would include diapers and feminine hygiene products.

  • Increasing the exemption on social security income tax.

  • Adding $500 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund.

  • Expanding Medicaid.

  • Fully funding K-12 education, including Special Education.

  • Additional investment in the Housing Revolving Loan Program.

Several retirements, replacements and committee shifts have occurred in the State house, full report available under Commission Meeting Documents, Legislative Update (

Jan. 19, 2023

Board of County Commissioners Committee of the Whole

Observer: Rebecca James

The Board reviewed the meeting rules while Commissioners Ashcraft, Meyers and O’Hara kept interjecting issues about livestreaming public comment (citing “transparency”) and allowing the public to comment on agenda items. As County Counsel Peg Trent and Chair Kelly have stated several times, nothing in the rules says that the public cannot speak to agenda items, only requiring pre-registration to speak to a particular item during its slot in the agenda.

There was much conversation about the order of presentation of an action agenda item with whether the motion should be made and seconded, followed by the presentation by staff & questions from Commissioners, followed by the roll call vote. O’Hara wanted to have discussion before the motion and after the motion. The reasoning for having the motion first is so that there is an item on the table to discuss.

Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board Meeting

Jan. 23, 2023, in-person at the Mission Office.

Observers: Harry and Mary Bognich

Most of the meeting was a presentation about the MHC “Prevention and Community Relations” division by Shana Burgess. There are currently 19 people in this division and their key areas are:

  • Engagement with staff (e.g., identify strengths, employee empowerment)

  • Community relations (website, social media, newsletters, etc.)

  • Grants and awards (one person is dedicated full-time to this)

  • Friends of JoCo MHC (donors, etc.)

  • Staff development (e.g., training and onboarding)

  • Family education (e.g., Family Forever)

  • Prevention of substance abuse, of suicide, of mental crises

Shana explained that they work with many local organizations, doing presentations to community members and civic groups. They also work with middle and high school student groups. What has been very successful is high school students teaching and talking with middle school students about making good decisions, providing coping strategies, suggesting how to stop bullying.

Director Tim DeWeese reported that Kevin Kufeldt (MHC Director of Addiction and Residential Services) made multiple presentations in January on fentanyl and the work MHC is doing to combat and treat this epidemic. The Olathe School District was the focus in January; next up is the DeSoto School District.

On Jan. 20, the Chronic Care Clinic officially opened in the MHC Olathe office. Their goal is to educate clients (and their family members) about the importance of addressing all health-related issues and assist them in caring for their physical health as well as their mental health.

Tim invited all who care about mental health to join him at the Statehouse in Topeka on Tuesday, March 7, at 9 a.m. for Mental Health Advocacy Day.

Friends of JCMHC and Johnson County Community College are presenting a screening of the film “Angst” followed by a panel discussion at JCCC’s Yardley Hall on Tuesday, March 28, at 6 p.m.

Another recommendation was for individuals to attend Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), which is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, and other caring citizens how to help individuals who are experiencing mental health or addiction challenges or are in crisis. All classes are open to the community and scholarships are available. Email Sarah Haupt ( to register or reach out to Prevention and Community Relations at 913-715-7880 or for information. Next classes are:

Adult Mental Health First Aid – Virtual – Thursday, March 23 at 9:00 am

Youth Mental Health First Aid – Virtual – Tuesday, March 28, at 9:00 am

Next meeting will be March 27, 2023.

To learn more, click here.

Blue Valley School Board

Feb. 6, 2023

Observer: Ann Schuster

Board Advisory Committee reports included the success of the recent bond issue and the vandalism that recently occurred at Blue Valley High School. The Student Activity Committee is implementing a Positive Sportsmanship initiative to combat the latter as well as to encourage better conduct at sporting events.

The DEI Committee heard a report from the District Library Coordinator on librarians’ efforts to complete Diversity audits and enhance school collections to reflect the DEI principles of the District. DEI also heard from Human Resources on recruitment efforts.

The Health and Well Being Committee focused on identifying and responding to mental health issues experienced by staff and students.

The newly passed bond issue and final expenses from the last bond were part of the Finance Committee report.

The Executive Director of Curriculum and the Human Resources Director presented an evaluation of the Chinese Immersion program. The biggest challenge in continuing this initiative is the shortage of qualified teachers to provide instruction at the two participating elementary schools. They offered four options for the Board to consider that ranged from continuing Chinese Immersion on a more limited basis to sunsetting the program entirely. After a lengthy question and answer session, and acknowledging the support given by parents in the preceding public comment period, the Board will act to form an advisory group to consider the options and report back at the March meeting.

Before the conclusion of the meeting, the 2024-25 school calendar and results of a District topographical were presented.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

To learn more click here.

Olathe School Board

Feb. 3, 2023

Observer: Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on Feb. 3, 2023. One of the main topics was the use of data to help improve student learning. FastBridge, a comprehensive assessment program, has been implemented district-wide this school year. It provides: 1) a universal screener for reading and math, utilized three times each year, 2) a system for diagnostics in reading, and 3) a system for progress maintenance. From FastBridge and other sources, data is used to identify: 1) individual student needs, 2) individual classroom needs, 3) individual building needs, and 4) district needs. The school district is also in the process of implementing a data warehouse platform to provide one spot for teachers, counselors, and administrators to gather information from the various systems the district uses.

To learn more, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board

Jan. 23, 2023

Observer: Maureen Hale

One of the main topics discussed at length was a year-5 review of the district’s Priority One Health Center for district employees and their families. This exclusive health program has proven to be a good investment for the district, by helping staff receive needed health care quickly, often within 24 hours of a request. The program has reduced the amount of time teachers are absent from the classroom. Per the charts presented, in the course of the five years since this program was started, staff overall have also saved nearly $460,000 in health care costs. 

A second topic discussed was the use of the ESSER Funds (Elementary and Secondary School Relief Funds). This is federal money given to the school district to address the educational impact of COVID-19 on student learning. It was a three year program to help schools catch up with student learning. Some of these funds have been used to hire more social workers for elementary schools, counselors for secondary schools and teachers to allow for smaller classroom size, as well as funding the cost of summer school. Next year, 2023-24, will be year three of the program. It is not known yet if there will be an extension of this federal funding. 

Lastly, Dr. Kevin Lowe spoke about several proposed bills currently in the KS Legislature. One that could greatly impact families with school-age children is the proposal to eliminate sales tax on groceries. A second is the proposed sales tax holiday on school-related items at the beginning of a school year. Dr. Lowe also discussed the desire of some to make the funding formula for Special Education more clear and precise. These items are still in discussion.

To learn more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council 

Jan. 17, 2023

Observer: Eileen Marshall

The Council met in person at 6:00 p.m., with public viewing in person or via Facebook Live. All members were present, with one attending via Zoom.

PUBLIC COMMENTS -- Approximately 22 residents spoke against any potential zoning changes. Four others spoke on other subjects. Public comments lasted approximately one hour.

ATTAINABLE HOUSING -- City clerk Adam Geffert reported on the property tax rebate program, whereby low-income residents can receive a rebate of the PV portion of property taxes. The program is an effort to help people who might otherwise be “priced out” remain in their homes. For this year, 38 applications have already been approved, with an average rebate of $550. This is an increase over last year.

Various other city business was conducted, and the meeting ended around 9:00 p.m.

Prairie Village City Council 

Feb. 6, 2023

Observer: Eileen Marshall

The Council met in person at 6:00 p.m., with public viewing in person or via Facebook Live. Mr. Shelton was absent.

CLIMATE CHANGE -- The Tree Board presented the results of the tree protection ordinance that went into effect in June 2021. The ordinance aims to protect the tree canopy as a public asset in the city by regulating actions of housing re-developers during renovations and rebuilds. After 41 redevelopment projects since June 2021, the net effect is that the city has 110 MORE trees than before.

PUBLIC COMMENTS -- Approximately 58 residents spoke during the 2 ¼ hour public comment period. Twenty-four spoke against any changes to zoning regulations, while 29 spoke in favor. One called three council members “unethical” and stated their names, but offered no evidence to back up his claim. Another spoke up against the incivility of some of the commenters. Two people spoke against the proposal to allow councilmembers to opt into the city employee health insurance plan at the same rates as other employees.

ATTAINABLE HOUSING – Following the public comment period, Council took up a motion to consider removing R-1, R-2, and all mention of “by right” in the recommendations currently being considered by the Zoning Commission. This would prevent consideration of any changes within the single-family or duplex/ small multi-unit areas. After lengthy discussion, Council opted to remove R-1 only, leaving the other two items as-is, and effectively returning the R-1 issue to Council for further discussion at a future date. 

Due to the late hour, the scheduled discussion of whether to allow councilmembers to opt into the city employee health insurance plan at the same rates as other employees was tabled for the next meeting.

The meeting ended around 10:40 p.m. To learn more, click here.