Friday, October 11, 2019

City to Purchase Property for Road and Railroad Improvements



by Stephanie A. Wilken

A local public works project originally proposed several years ago is expected to move forward, making way for a widened road and new railroad overpass; but this time around, the property involved is 60 percent off its original sale price.

The Grandview Board of Aldermen will consider the purchase of a 4.2 acre strip of land where the Kansas City Southern Railroad crosses Blue Ridge Boulevard. The project is expected to improve transportation in the area, and there will also be an opportunity for developers to propose new ideas for the remaining unused area.

The Blue Ridge Boulevard Railroad Overpass Replacement Project, or Blue Ridge Bridge Project, dates back to 2014. Grandview previously attempted to purchase the property through condemnation, a process where the city would have compensated the owner for the property intended for public use. Through that process, both the city and the former owner had appraisals done. The city obtained an appraisal of $591,450 and the former owner obtained a higher appraisal. Officials at the time did not pursue the purchase due to cost.

Today, The Land Trust of Jackson County controls the property after its former owner defaulted on taxes, and will sell it to the city for $236,566, a 60 percent reduction from the city’s appraisal. 

“Sometimes patience is good,” said Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones.

Grandview Attorney Joe Gall and Public Works Director Dennis Randolph presented the proposed purchase to the Board of Aldermen at a work session Tuesday, October. 1.

“We think they are treating us very fairly and think this is a really good opportunity to buy this property,” Gall said. “And we’re recommending that the Board move to do that.”

The Blue Ridge Bridge Project is part of the Mid‐ America Regional Council’s long range transportation plan. According to a 2014 Grandview Public Works document, the plan calls for this section of Blue Ridge Boulevard to be widened to four lanes, but the older railroad overpass makes that impossible.

In documents accompanying the work session Oct. 1, city officials outlined that the project will be funded by $3,567,500 in grants from the Federal Railroad Administration, an amount that makes up fifty percent of the projected $7,135,000 construction costs. City staff negotiated cost-share agreement with the railroad for it to pay the city 51,783,750, representing half of its match to the grant funds. The city would purchase the 4.2 acres from the Land Trust with cash from transportation sales tax revenue, and therefore would not pay any interest on the deal.

The project will also open up the remainder of the space to become something else. Staff recommended the Board later consider a request for proposals for developers to pitch ideas for the area that will be undeveloped after the project is complete. They would then select from those proposals and sell the remaining property to a developer.

“We already know of two different entities that are interested in the property,” Randolph said, adding that a number of communities use a developer proposal process for this type of project. “It’s a nice piece of property if it’s cleaned up … it has nice potential for us.”

The Board was scheduled to vote at its October 8 regular meeting on approval of the purchase of the property.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Hometown Newspaper Receives Statewide Recognition



The Jackson County Advocate, Grandview and South Kansas City’s locally-owned hometown newspaper since 1953, remains an award-winning news source. The paper received recognition on Saturday, September 28, at the Missouri Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Awards luncheon, held at the VooDoo Lounge at Harrah’s North Kansas City Hotel and Casino.

Editor Mary Wilson received two first place awards for best story about history (Forgotten Cemetery) and best story about religion (Flourish Furnishings). She also received second place in best story about rural life or agriculture, and best coverage of government; third place in best business story, and best news or feature series; and honorable mention in best coverage of government. Former sports editor Brent Kalwei received third place in best sports feature story; and honorable mention in best sports feature story, and best sports news story or package.

“Of course, we don’t do what we do for the awards,” said Wilson. “But, being recognized for a job well done is always nice and is very much appreciated. I love what I do. I love being able to tell the stories of the community; your stories. I love getting to know the people and places in my hometown, and I love uncovering the nitty gritty when necessary, too.”

The Better Newspaper Awards are part of an annual contest, put on by the Missouri Press Foundation. The Advocate, a member of the Missouri Press Association, has won numerous awards in this statewide contest over the years. Wilson also currently serves on the association’s Board of Directors.

Red Bridge Library Opens



by Stephanie A. Wilken 

Moving 60,300 books is no small feat.

And even though the new Red Bridge Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library System (MCPL) is located just feet from the old one, moving that collection of books is still a massive undertaking.
The 24 employees at the branch have spent the last month packing those 60,300 books into crates, with books packed tightly so they wouldn’t be damaged in the move. With 130 crates in all, adult fiction totaled 38 crates alone.

Together, they worked more than 1,500 hours to get the job done. And patrons got a chance to see all that hard work September 24, when MCPL opened its new Red Bridge Branch to the public.

Hundreds of visitors lined the street forming a book brigade as employees opened the doors to the now former branch and selected the last of the books from a lonely, last shelf the only thing remaining in the old branch. From little hands to big hands, the books were passed to their new home: A 14,352 square foot modern facility that includes new meeting spaces, a community room and updated technology alongside the previous collection of books.

“We’re so excited to welcome our customers to this incredible new building, which we think will be a tremendous resource for residents of South Kansas City,” said Sherry Bridges, Red Bridge Branch Manager. “The resources and amenities now available at the Library’s Red Bridge Branch better reflect what customers expect and deserve from a 21st century library.”

The new branch is also 2,300 square feet larger and has a new outdoor patio (with WiFi extended outside), lighting designed to mimic natural sunlight, a family restroom and a wellness room, where patrons can have a moment of privacy.

The plan began 14 months ago and included a team of 10 library district employees along with five architects and designers. Renovation began on the new location in January of 2019 – and there’s a purposeful holdover from the previous occupant, a bowling alley: The stairs leading from the reception area down to the main collection are the stairs that once led down to the lanes. Today, the bright, light wood has seating incorporated throughout, creating embankments where customers can relax, kick back and utilize the space for anything from reading a book to using one of the six new laptops and laptop desks.

The former branch opened in 1987, and since then, the services that people need and want have evolved. Other technology upgrades include five new TV monitors and eight public desktop computers.

MCPL Public Relations Coordinator Emily Brown said these new features are the result of public comment. The district reached out to its users through online surveys and public meetings. And the answer was clear: More technology and intentional spaces.

“We really wanted to make sure we are providing the types of things each individual community needs and wants to see,” Brown said. “People use the library a lot differently than they did back then; they actually want to come in and stay, use it as co-working space, study space, and use the Wi-Fi.”

It’s not just about books, Bridges said. Today, patrons want and expect those modern features.

“Serving people through technology is a big part of our services,” she said.

The move to open the new Red Bridge Branch is part of a $113 million capital improvement plan that will upgrade many locations throughout the district. The funding was made possible by increased funding from the passage of Proposition L by voters in 2016. The Red Bridge branch serves an estimated 41,000 customers, with the district serving more than 800,000.

“Every branch will be touched in some way,” Brown said, adding that two new branches, one in Lee’s Summit and one in Independence, will break ground soon.

The library is located at 453 Red Bridge Rd. in the Red Bridge Shopping Center in Kansas City, Missouri. For more information, visit https://www.mymcpl.org/locations/red-bridge.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Rocking the Kindness


Area elementary school students decorate kindness rocks to spread throughout community


by Mary Wilson

Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. “We will, we will, rock you! We will, we will, rock you,” could be heard throughout the halls of one school last Friday, September 13, as students embarked on a journey to send a message of kindness, one little rock at a time.

At Meadowmere Elementary School in Grandview, kindness rocks. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade spent the afternoon last week painting small rocks with thoughtful, kind and inspirational messages on them in hopes to cheer up a stranger’s day. The rocks will be strategically placed throughout the Grandview School District boundaries, including parks, businesses, schools, or churches.

“Meadowmere rocks because each student is so kind, courageous, and respectful,” said art teacher Adryan Steinberg.

When kindness rocks are found, the recipients will find instructions on the back which ask them to take a photo with the rock and post the photo onto the Meadowmere Rocks Facebook page. The person who finds the rock, after posting online, is then instructed to place the rock in a different location for another to find. Teachers will be tracking when posts are made online and informing their students of when their rocks are found.

Students headed to various creation stations throughout the building, making up what Steinberg called “Kindness Crews.” Every student in the building, along with visitors, painted a kindness rock. Once finished, each rock was coated with a shellac and set out to dry.

The Kindness Rocks Project is a national movement which began when one woman lost both of her parents and was looking for some sort of sign or message that she was doing things the right way. Megan Murphy, as the creator of the project, determined that whenever she saw a heart-shaped rock, it was from her dad; whenever she saw a piece of sea glass, it was from her mom.

“When I would find one, I would feel like I was really being supported,” Murphy said. Those were the moments that I really felt something bigger than myself. But, through this process, I realized that the answers lied within me.”

She ended up taking a marker with her to the beach and wrote messages on rocks. That first day, she left five rocks. That evening, a friend texted her and sent her a picture of a rock with a motivational message on it she had found on the beach.

“I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it,” Murphy said. “It was really odd. She said to me, ‘if you did drop this rock, it made my day.’ I thought, ‘okay, I have something here.’”

Murphy’s message of kindness has spread, and it’s now made its way to Grandview through students at Meadowmere Elementary School. Should you find one in the community, take a picture, and post it to Facebook with the instructions that are fastened to the underside of the kindness rock.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Grandview shooting range nearing completion


by Mary K. Wilson

The Grandview Board of Aldermen got the first glimpses of the soon-to-be-open shooting range. The facility will be the first of its kind in the metro, with a mission to become a unique destination for a safe and affordable place for gun owners to shoot outdoors.

On Thursday, September 5, the Aldermen were able to experience first-hand what the range will look and sound like when it opens. A business plan, which includes a partnership between the Grandview Parks and Recreation and the Grandview Police departments, was also recently discussed during a work session. Parks and Rec Director Sue Yerkes said that the process will likely change several times, as they learn how to operate a shooting range.

“Quite frankly, we don’t have any other parks and recreation departments to lean on for this information,” Yerkes said. “We have conservation areas that we have viewed and visited, and we have visited and talked with private entities, but this is a first as far as parks and recreation partnering with a police department for a quasi-public shooting range.”

There are only two other outdoor shooting ranges within a 50-mile radius of Grandview, of which, only one, according to Yerkes, would be viewed as direct competition. The Lake City Shooting Range, located in Independence, offers rifle, pistol, trap and skeet, and archery at $4 per hour.

“We are of the opinion that the project’s recreation market area is a 25-mile radius,” Yerkes said. “We know that we are not going to make a lot of money the first year or two. Our anticipation is to at least break even by year three.”

Building a safe environment and garnering the trust of the public in developing a robust program at the range will be priority. Grandview police will serve as range masters, with Honeywell serving as a second priority for training access behind the police department. The facility has opportunities for rental, concessions, and lane rental fees at $7 per hour.

“We realize that is different than others in the area,” said Yerkes. “This is something different and something special, so we’re okay with charging seven dollars.”

A December 2019 soft opening for the public is anticipated; however, due to grant funding, the shooting range is required to be opened for police department training by Sept. 30. Funding was also provided by Honeywell to help with office space and classroom renovation.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Animal shelter breaks ground on $8 million expansion



by Mary Wilson

Kansas City’s largest no kill animal shelter is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year in a big way. Wayside Waifs has broken ground on a construction project that will add 20,000 square feet of space to the pet adoption campus.

The $8 million project includes an Education and Training Center for large event hosting, dog training classes, youth education programming, and staff offices; along with a Canine Behavior Center, the second of its kind in the nation, that will exclusively serve shy, fearful and high-energy/arousal shelter dog behavior transformations.

On Thursday, August 22, Wayside Waifs held a groundbreaking ceremony, inviting guests, volunteers, and the community out to their grounds to celebrate the future of the shelter. Wayside Waifs President Geoff Hall said that the organization couldn’t have survived the past 75 years without the partnerships formed over the years, including with animal welfare organizations like Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, KC Pet Project, Great Plains SPCA, and Spay and Neuter Kansas City, as well as local municipalities in the metro.

“We are very, very grateful to be in the wonderful community of Grandview, Missouri,” said Hall. “Grandview is a partner of ours with whom we have been working with to provide animal impoundment services for many, many years, and we work together to solve problems to improve the lives of both people and animals.”

Through the years, Hall said Wayside has continued to grow and improve. The organization is housed on a 50-acre campus, surrounded by nature, with a roughly 50,000 square foot shelter. Homeless animals come to Wayside for various reasons, and last year a total of 5,600 animals were adopted out, with 2019 on pace to reach that number again this year.

Wayside Waifs considers preventative work to be just as important to their organization as the adoption of animals. The team created the No More Bullying program several years ago, and today it is taught in 34 cities in 20 states throughout the country, with the goal of changing the lives of kids to go on to be productive members of society with both animals and people.

Hall said that around three years ago, Wayside’s board of directors gave the executive team a task to begin envisioning what was next for the organization.

“We recognized that there is a dearth of facilities to help both prepare the future of a newly-adopted pet, specifically a dog to have a happy life and a home, as well as dogs that perhaps have had some damaging experiences at the hand of a human being,” said Hall. “These animals traditionally had a very high rate of euthanasia in shelters all throughout the country. We knew that we could do better.”

After investigation of how to handle these types of dogs, a plan was created to help address behavior issues on two ends. The capital campaign that Wayside is launching, and broke ground on last week, is for two buildings. The first will be to replace the current community room that is insufficient for the needs of today, which includes an 8,000-square-foot addition to the campus to house classrooms, dog training space and office space. 

“Our staff has grown to 75 employees,” said Hall. “We have 1,400 volunteers. We have no place to put our internal working groups, let alone external working groups.”

There are dogs that come to Wayside who are either shy and fearful or have high arousal and low impulse control and both, according to Hall, can be difficult to live with in a home.

“We also think that these animals deserve a chance,” said Hall. “We recognize that one of our limiting factors, regardless of the size of our facility, is that it is chaotic in the shelter.”

A brand-new K-9 behavior center will be built on the property. The 9,000-square-foot facility will allow Wayside to be able to provide a controlled environment to help those dogs be more calm, focused and resilient to life with people. Wayside Waifs is partnering with the ASPCA, who recently completed a similar facility in North Carolina.

“I’m proud to say that Wayside Waifs and Kansas City will be the second facility of its type in this country,” said Hall.

Partners on the project include A.L. Huber Construction and SFS Architects. Tom and Jill Turner and Dave and Sandy Johnson are leading the fundraising campaign efforts, with $7 million of the $8 million in project costs already secured through private endowments and other efforts. The expansions are expected to take approximately 10 months to complete.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Students from Ruskin lead discussion on neighborhood safety





by Mary Wilson 

Prior to the back-to-school rally held on Saturday, August 10, residents from Hickman Mills were invited to a panel hosted by the Community and Police Relations team (CPR) in south Kansas City. The team was put together by a group of active members of the community to improve the relationship between the police and young people in the area.

The questions for the panel were student-driven, with Ruskin High School recent graduate Walter Verge and junior Ebony Ross leading the discussion on their own concerns regarding crime, violence prevention, police perception and building relationships between community and law enforcement. Invited to be on the panel were Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, 5th District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, 3rd District At-Large Councilman Brandon Ellington, South Patrol Division Manager Daniel Gates and Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile.

“Earlier this year, only a few months into 2019, there were more homicides reported in Kansas City, Missouri than the beginning of any year for the past nine to ten year,” Verge said as he began the conversation. “There have been at least 126 homicides with at least five (victims) younger than the age of 16. One question I have for my community and its enforcers is what is being done? How can we deplete the statistics and rates of homicides?”

He added that he believes in order for the community to prevail, its members must unify and work together to solve the problem. Mayor Lucas said that he thinks there are two core issues: community and prevention.

“How do we make it so we have a community where people have opportunities and education,” Lucas said, “and things that are different than being involved in crime? We need to make sure we find those who are causing trouble in our community and make sure we address those issues so that there aren’t folks who are creating more threats, more violence for us long-term. The biggest thing that we need to do is prevent these types of things from happening.”

Lucas added that it comes down to having influencers in the lives of young people who believe in them, and tell them that they can be someone greater than they believe they can. He said that he would like to see more investment in alternative activities for young people in the community.

“Things like a youth council for our city,” Lucas said, “so we have folks who not only have activities, but are helping create them. I do recognize that what you and I see as fun on the weekends may be different, and I may be stuck in a 1998 view of fun. I want to make sure that the city, where it can, is invested in those opportunities.”

He said that the schools are the main connector when it comes to implementing new programs and activities for youth.

“There is no better place for us to catch people, to give them ideas, to show them their worth, to tell them how special they are than in the schools,” said Lucas. “That’s one thing that I think we can do.”

Dr. Cargile agreed, and said that as a district, their role in ending the violence in the community starts with education. They have tools in place as educators to teach restorative practices and conflict resolution. She agreed that the community effort starts in the district and in the schools.

“We partner with a resource on conflict resolution to teach our students mediation skills without violence,” said Cargile. “That has been a big initiative in the district for the last few years. We’ve seen a decline in our discipline issues, and we continue to provide training to the staff to provide them the tools to equip our students with the skills that they need to work their issues out without violence.”

Gates said that the police department is very good at gathering data about crime after it occurs, and using the data to be proactive and provide heavier enforcement in areas where necessary. He also added that he recommends community members with firearms secure them inside their homes when not in use in order to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.

“We see a lot of theft from cars,” said Gates, “where people leave weapons that they own in their vehicle overnight in front of their house. I understand about wanting to be safe and feeling safe with having your own firearm and having access to that legally, but you have to make good decisions. Leaving weapons in your car overnight in front of your house is probably not the best decision.”

He suggested that students who may hear of something or witness something potentially threatening or dangerous speak out and address the issues with the KCPD officers who are in their schools.

“We can’t do this alone,” Gates said.

The TIPS Hotline has increased awards for community tips in order to help motivate individuals with information to contact police anonymously.  Those with information are urged to call 816-474-TIPS.