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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshal | Published on 3/28/2023

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

Feb. 16 through March 9, 2023 (most recent listed first)

Observers: Rebecca James, Jerry Gilson, Joan Gilson, Kathleen Morrow, 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 during the meeting. Item discussions by Commissioners will be limited to five minutes per person. Speakers should refrain from obscene, profane, slanderous, insulting or threatening remarks.

March 9, 2023

The County recognized Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, spotlighting artists with disabilities, whose work will be displayed on digital billboards at I-35 and Cambridge Circle and I-35 and Roe. 

The Board appointed Erik Hage as Seventh District representative to the Park and Recreation Commission.

An RFP is going out soon to buy more efficient software for the Election office.

The Board approved the first revision to the Amended Rules of Order for the Board. The Rules now state that items must be submitted for the regular meeting by “close of business” the previous Friday, with sufficient information included. County Counsel Peg Trent explained the current process. Requests for items requiring information that is not readily available must be made through the Chair, per Home Rule Charter, and it is a matter of the Chair’s “sole judgment” to approve or disapprove the request.

Commissioner Ashcraft asked why this item was added to today’s agenda. Counsel Trent explained that she was asked to do so by the Board and that she will be away next week and wanted to eliminate possible confusion. Commissioner Fast asked for a lengthier time frame for additions by staff and Chair. Counsel Trent replied that she was directed on the record to bring this item before the Board by the current meeting.

Commissioner O’Hara offered an amendment to the Rules, which would require that an item to be added will be brought back in six weeks if it’s not immediately added. Chair Kelly noted that this might be unwieldy, especially during budget season. The Amendment failed, 4 (Kelly, Hanzlick, Meyers, Allenbrand) to 3 (O’Hara, Fast, Ashcraft). An amendment requiring that the Board be kept informed of progress on a request for the addition of an item to the agenda passed unanimously.

The 40 members of the 2023 Spring JoCo Academy will be meeting for 10 more weeks, touring various facilities, and learning about Johnson County.

TikTok access by employees on JoCo networks will be restricted as of 5 p.m. on March 10. Exceptions will be made for employees with a business need to use TikTok. The Library will not be affected. The Sheriff’s Department is evaluating their platforms.

The Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (LFRF) funding and expense report was given. Funds were expended on housing assistance, mental health, environment, public health and aging services, among other items.

In the State legislature, the newly formed House Committee on Welfare Reform heard a bill on Thursday that would clamp down on people without housing. The proposal, dubbed the Safe Cities Act, would make it unlawful to use state or local government-owned lands for unauthorized sleeping or camping.  There is no word yet on whether the bill will be worked.

Governor Kelly announced that nine short-line rail maintenance and rehabilitation projects are being awarded nearly $5 million as part of the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Short Line Rail Improvement Fund program. These projects will strengthen Kansas’ agriculture supply chain. Senate Bill 248, to repeal sales tax on food and groceries, will have a $15 million impact to the County, and the County may offer testimony against this bill. Commissioner Hanzlick noted that legislation like this takes away diverse revenue sources and puts more burden on property taxes. Commissioner Ashcraft stated that these sales taxes are a burden on many residents, and Chairperson Kelly thanked the Board for the robust discussion.

March 2, 2023

The County proclaimed Severe Weather Awareness Week, and the Chairperson reminded everyone of the importance of preparedness measures for severe weather.  Https://www.NotifyJoCo and http://Ready.Gov are both sources of preparedness information.

Public Comments lasted about 25 minutes.

Per Commissioner O’Hara’s request, the Board voted to add items to a future agenda concerning the revocation of public health regulations and disaster emergency regulations related to COVID-19.

The Commissioners approved the appointment of Trenton Louis Dansel as Sixth District representative to the Tenth Judicial District Nominating Commission.

The  Board authorized the previously budgeted purchase of fleet vehicles and equipment from competitively solicited contracts for $6,727,879 for Public Services, Waste Water, the Library and the Sheriff’s department. Twenty-six percent of all vehicles are alternatively fueled (natural gas, EV, etc.)

The Board approved funding from reserve funds for 10 full-time civilian positions for the Sheriff’s office to provide security at the courthouse, fill posts at the detention centers and support recruiting efforts.

After a public comment by Shara Collins objecting to the item, the Board approved a budgeted contract increase of $3,788,613 with VitalCore Health Strategies, LLC, for inmate and offender medical services and prescriptions, for a total of $24,297,234 in order to avoid the expense of hospitalizations, dialysis trips and more. The measure also increases officer safety and the stability of inmates.

County Manager Postoak Ferguson thanked the 4000 County employees who are responsible for Johnson County’s top community satisfaction survey scores and AAA bond rating. The Board welcomed new deputy county manager Julie Karins.

The Legislative Update covered a number of bills. Senate Bill 208 prohibiting remote ballot boxes passed 21-19.  It will go to the House for further consideration. SB33, which exempts all Social Security benefits from the Homestead Property Tax, passed. For further information on pending legislation, see Bills and Resolutions | Kansas State Legislature

Feb. 23, 2023

The Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners and the cities of Merriam, Mission, Roeland Park, Fairway, Westwood, Westwood Hills and Mission Woods, Kansas to provide crisis intervention assistance services.

A Special Use Permit (SUP) was renewed for a quarry and accessory construction and demolition landfill operation at 159th Street and Old 56 Highway in Olathe, a mile from New Century AirCenter.

According to the County Economic Research Institute (CERI) Indicators, the unemployment rate as of December 2022 was 2.3%. The inflation-adjusted change in price of homes sold from Dec. 2021 to Dec. 2022 was up 2.4%, and total taxable retail sales year-to-date through November 2022 were $17,572,001,000, an increase of 3.8%.

The Legislature is in Day 33 of the 90-day session, and over 100 bills have been worked on in the last two days, a voting bill requiring ballots to be returned by election day and another bill eliminating most ballot drop boxes. Senate Bill 210 allows partisan races at local elections, including school boards. This bill does not apply to the BOCC because of the County charter. A bill establishing the special education funding task force (to cut state funding of this federally required program) has passed the House.

Feb. 16, 2023

County Manager Postoak Ferguson reported on the public comment period and public hearings on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) & HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) Programs. The purpose of the hearings is to assess the community development and housing needs of extremely low to moderate income residents. The grant will fund work to create plans and programs to meet those needs in cooperation with cities and the county. Find more information at  Community Development | Johnson County Kansas.  

The Board approved several appointments to various boards:

  • Library Board--Anna Van Ophem, Charles W. McAllister Jr

  • Commission on Aging--Catherina Kelly

  • Park and Recreation Commission--Gary Ristow, George Schlagel

  • Public Art Commission--Larry Meeker

The County will buy 32 acres from Charles O. Pretz, Douglas Alan Hardy, Melinda Hardy Goff, and J&P Farm Properties, LLC adjacent to New Century AirCenter for $1,726,056.

The Board voted to approve an early termination agreement with Evergreen Living Innovations, (ELI) Incorporated, a 501(c)(3)organization, to transfer responsibility for patient care to Evergreen. Evergreen will construct a new building to replace the obsolete structure.  

Yes votes: Kelly, Allenbrand, Hanzlick, Meyers, Fast. No votes: O’Hara, Ashcraft.

The county will provide financial support for the transition. Key terms of the

agreement include:

  • $23.8 million maximum payment with $10 million to be paid to ELI and $13.8 million placed in escrow, to be paid if ELI secures financing and a building permit for construction or renovation of a new or existing facility by August 31, 2024.

  • If this deadline is not met, ELI will wind down pursuant to a submitted plan, including placement of residents at other Johnson County nursing homes. If this occurs, the County will contribute $4 million of the escrowed funds to be used solely for this purpose.

  • The County is contributing to the successful transition by allowing the continued use of the current facility free of charge.

  • ELI will vacate the facility by August 1, 2026.

  • ELI is solely responsible for the care, treatment, and transition of the residents.

One commenter praised Evergreen, but several residents and a nursing home CEO asserted that the marketplace should address the needs for nursing home care and the County should not be involved. (Actually, the County withdraws from the nursing home business with this agreement.)  Commissioner O’Hara also objected to termination, citing similar reasons and, additionally, falsely accusing the County of failing to maintain the building. Commissioner Allenbrand noted that replacement is a better option than repair.

The Board adopted their revised code of ethics with the major revision that appointed members’ conflict of interest statements will remain confidential. The Commissioners also adopted a revised Human Resource Policy, which now distinguishes the standards that govern employees versus officials concerning conflicts of interests, gifts and gratuities. The proposed revisions are also necessary to ensure that employees remain subject to high ethical standards, although no longer subject to the Code of Ethics. Elected officials are already covered under state statute.

The Board approved an increase of $1,662,030 for the Lenexa Med-Act capital project, bringing the new total to $5,520,030.

The Board also approved $4,366,343 for the Johnson County Courthouse Design Build capital project for a total project cost of $219,932,002. The increase is necessitated by the increase of three judges. 

The County Motor Vehicle Department will transition the Title Drop-Off Service to a Dealer/Fleet Service in order to increase efficiency, improve the resident experience, and reduce delinquent tax collection beginning April 3.

The House K-12 Budget Committee passed HB 2218 this week, allowing vouchers from state taxes to students to attend private schools which do not offer special education services. The bill, which mirrors similar initiatives in other states, has been a key component to the Kansas GOP platform that was released at the beginning of the session. These measures are opposed statewide by superintendents, school boards and education advocates.

The Board voted down Commissioner O’Hara’s request to add an item to a future agenda to have the Committee of the Whole review policies for the creation of Tax Increment Financing District policies, reviewing Sedgwick County’s procedure. Chair Kelly noted that Sedgwick County no longer follows this process. Commissioner Hanzlick and other Commissioners noted that the Board already has relevant information to address this issue, and that this motion would usurp city prerogatives.

Johnson County Library Board, 

March 9, 2023

Observer: Karen Wulfkuhle


The Library board meets at 4 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at the Central Resource Library.  The meeting is streamed to the library's YouTube channel for public viewing.  

At the end of December 2022, the library’s revenues were $44.2 million, a little over 99% of anticipated revenues. Obligated expenses were 93% of the budget encumbered. A majority of savings were in compensation due to vacancies. Also debt payments for Merriam Plaza were budgeted, but not yet incurred. The 2024 budget will be considered at the April meeting.


The board authorized the sale of the Lackman library building and property at an initial offer price of $1,950,000. Located at 15345 W. 87th, Lenexa, the library was closed in 2019. Proceeds will go to the Library Comprehensive Master Plan account for future projects.  


In February, the board approved the 2024-2028 Capital Improvement Plan.  Merriam Plaza will open mid 2nd or 3rd quarter 2024.  Mid- 2024, major projects will begin in Spring Hill and Edgerton.  Replacement of Corinth is slated to begin in 2026 with completion in 2028.  A study regarding Blue Valley will be initiated in 2029, anticipating a building project in 2030.  A mobile lab is under consideration for later in the decade.  Note that all dates may change.


In April the board will consider a resolution to eliminate charges for overdue materials, an action taken by other Libraries across the country.  Fees for damaged or lost materials would continue.


Shelly O’Brien is the new Development and Foundation Director, following the retirement of Stephanie Stollsteimer.

To learn more, click here.

Johnson County Parks and Recreation Board Meeting

March 15, 2023

Observer: Ada Niedenthal

Two new board members were sworn in.  Legal Counsel Fred Logan reviewed KS Open Meetings Act and explained how it applies to any and all discussions by Board members outside of the Board room.

A major topic of discussion centered on Heritage Park Lake Water Quality and Habitat Improvements.  This project has been in the works for 10 years.  In order to move the project forward, staff requested the Board reject all recently received bids, authorize re-design and re-bid the project.  Re-design will include scaling back the project.

Next Board meeting will be April 19, 7:00, at Meadowbrook Park Clubhouse.

To learn more, click here.

Blue Valley School Board Meeting

March 6, 2023

Observer: Ann Schuster

The March meeting began with updates from the following Board Advisory Committees: Finance, Facilities and Communications. Items discussed included the opening of the new District Logistics Center (combining the Warehouse, Print Services and Library Technical Services operations), the monitoring of enrollment at 6 BV schools and the continued efforts to attract and retain new teachers.

A hearing was held for the Construction Manager at Risk Delivery Method. No discussion ensued and a motion to approve was passed.

The 2024-25 School Calendar was approved with just a slight change to the Fall Parent Teacher Conference schedule.

The Legislative Update was then given by Dr. Merrigan who noted the latest progress on bills affecting Blue Valley. She reminded the Board of a visit next month by Governor Kelly to view the District’s new Food Pantry at the Hilltop Campus.

Board Member Kaety Bowers was selected as the new liaison for the KASB Region 11 Nominating Committee.

To learn more, click here.

Olathe School Board

March 2, 2023

Observer: Cindy Hicks

The Administration presented three options to the Board to address the issue of a significant lack of school bus drivers.  Each option would increase the interval between the start times of the three types of schools (Elementary, Middle and High School).  In doing this it would allow some drivers to do double or triple routes during the school day, thus reducing the number of drivers needed. The goal is to present the Administration’s proposed solution at the April meeting.  The Administration also informed the Board that the Olathe Public School System ranked #12 on the Forbes 2023 list of top midsize employers.  

To learn more, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board Meeting

Feb. 27, 2023

Observer: Maureen Hale

Dr. Stewart Little spoke to the Board regarding the current status of the multiple education bills that are in discussion by the legislature.  A majority of the meeting was devoted to this information sharing.  The three main bills are Special Education funding, the voucher program and the Open Enrollment for children of district staff, thus being allowed to skip the lottery system.  There were concerns expressed about the possible lack of funding for Special Needs Students, if the voucher program for private schools passes.  A possible glitch in the voucher program is that private schools may choose not to accept a voucher student.  Dr. Little said many other states are watching to see what Kansas does with this voucher program; approve, not approve, if approved how is it managed. He also stated that the bills are all still in discussion, yet if rolled into one bill, it will be hard for legislators to choose how to vote because of the combination of the different issues in that one vote.  

To learn more, click here.