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.

Friday, August 9, 2019

New catering shop to open in downtown Grandview





by Mary K. Wilson

Visitors to Grandview’s historic downtown will soon smell the barbecue in the air. A new catering business is set to open, and the smokers are ready to be lit on the property now home to Any Event Catering at 506 Main Street.

Owner Casey Lueck is busy making finishing touches on the inside of the building, which he says he wanted to look old-school, sort of like a farmhouse. He has completely refinished the interior, including a storefront, a full commercial kitchen and barbecue equipment on the back patio.

“I’ve been in the lumber business my whole life, and I’ve always cooked,” said Lueck. “Since I was doing all of this anyway, I just decided to make money doing it. That’s literally how it got started.”

He purchased his first meat smoker around two decades ago, and fell in love with barbecue. While at work one day, he decided he didn’t want to work for someone else anymore, and put together a plan. Lueck’s parents, Greg and Vicki Lueck, live in Grandview and found the building on Main, which Lueck wasn’t sure would be big enough for what he wanted to do.

“When I got inside, it was 1100 square feet, and was bigger than I thought,” said Lueck. “So, here we are.”

While he waits for final approval on certain aspects of the business from the City of Grandview, Lueck has been working to complete minor things that don’t require permits.

Any Event Catering will have a country store at the front, where Lueck will sell homemade barbecue sauces, salsas, beef jerky and an assortment of homemade goods, including breads and desserts. He’ll also sell meat out of the store. After smoking or grilling, all the meat will be available to buy frozen with instructions on how to heat.

“I like to stop into stores like that, and that’s what I wanted to have here,” said Lueck. “It is catering. People won’t be able to come into the store and order a sandwich. But, if they call ahead, the next day I could have whatever it is they need.”

Lueck has a unique catering style, which he refers to as stop-and-drop, where he can serve meals for a small meeting or a large party. He offers to deliver the food, or customers will be able to stop by his shop to pick up their orders.

He also plans to serve food at area events or business locations, like the new winery in Peculiar, where he can showcase his talents and grow his customer base.

His recipes come from his family, and he will continue to cook the food that he grew up with. As a kid, Lueck remembers visiting Wilson’s Meat Market in Grandview, and he said that is similar to the feel that he recalls visiting that shop.

“That was an awesome place, and that’s what I want to be,” said Lueck. “We’ll be so much more than a barbecue catering place. I don’t want to be categorized as strictly catering. Of course, we cater, but I want people to know that we’ll do more.”

A self-proclaimed workaholic, Lueck is anxious to open his doors to the public. He looks forward to the opportunity of working with other businesses in the downtown corridor, where he can help provide food for different events.

“I wanted to be able to go to work every day and have it feel like it’s not work,” said Lueck. “It hasn’t felt like work so far. I’m excited to start cooking. The food is good and the barbecue is good.”

Any Event Catering prides itself on being family-owned and operated. When you walk through the door, you’ll see Lueck, and possibly hear his 12-year-old son, Aiden, playing video games in the back room. He looks forward to being a part of the downtown community and having the locals join his food-loving family.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Aldermen consider addendum for expansion project at The View

by Mary Wilson

In 2014, the City of Grandview was cutting ribbons at parks across town, with the reopening of several facilities which had been transformed with new, cutting-edge equipment. That same year, in August of 2014, Grandview voters approved $8.7 million in bonds for four improvement projects, including Shalimar Park renovations, an outdoor aquatics facility, Meadowmere Park development and an expansion of The View community center.

On Tuesday, July 16, the Grandview Board of Aldermen discussed The View expansion project during their work session. The original package for the expansion that voters approved included: additional space for a senior and teen center, gaming area, computer lab/classroom space, quiet room for reading and study, renovated toddler room, and a juice and snack bar.

Recreation Manager Morgan Tangen said that the current plans include an expansion on the tot-drop side of the center. She said that surveys have been completed, primarily focusing on current View membership, to determine what the space could be used for.

“A majority of the people spoke in favor of a fitness area,” said Tangen. “Our current fitness area is a little tight, so we are looking at moving some of our fitness stuff into that new expansion area to not only please our members, but to make it functional fitness.”

Tangen added that they are currently looking at having the same contracting company who is completing the splash pad project at The View also do the expansion, which would require the Aldermen to approve an addendum for the splash pad.

“When we started the splash pad design-build project, we discussed internally that there might be an opportunity to do something about The View expansion with the same contractor if they performed well for us,” said Public Works Director Dennis Randolph. “They have the same skills, and so it wouldn’t be any different.”

The project, as Randolph presented to the Aldermen, would entail 2,500 to 3,000-square-feet of space with the idea that the room can be easily modified in the future for different use. The initial cost was around $1.2 million, but with changes the project would now cost around $900,000 with the same contractor as the splash pad.

“The biggest impact that we face, if we want to go this route with the contractor, is scheduling,” said Randolph. “If we went back, instead, to the design-bid-build model, I’m estimating that it would be about six months later when this job could get done close to the end of 2020. If we took advantage and did an addendum, we could get it done by the beginning of May next year.”

Randolph added that if the city were to hold off on the project, and receive bids for completion next year, he thinks that the cost may be somewhere between $900,000 and $1.5 million.

“The big change would be that we would end up paying for design by an architect at probably around ten percent of that cost, minimum,” said Randolph. “That’s a significant savings for us.”

Alderman John Maloney said that while he doesn’t doubt that members who were surveyed were wanting the space to be utilized for fitness, he has an issue with the funding source.

“Very specifically, the bond package said what we were going to build,” said Maloney. “This is nowhere near the same thing as a senior and teen center.”

He referred to the informational brochures that were distributed prior to the vote in 2014, which stated: “with a growing baby boomer population, as well as an active teenager demographic, this project expands The View, adding an area to serve as both a Senior and Teen Center. Included are a gaming area, learning center and meeting rooms.”

“That’s exactly what we told the voters we were going to build,” said Maloney. “We’ve always prided ourselves on doing exactly what we say we’re going to do. I don’t know how we can, in good conscience, finance this with bond money when it’s not what we said we were going to finance. I can’t support this because that’s not where this money is supposed to come from.”

Knowing that this project was included in the bond package approved in 2014, Maloney questioned why this wasn’t part of the original design-build process for the splash pad or other projects that have been completed using the same funds.

“We knew this was there, why wasn’t it a part of something?” he asked. “It sounds like we’re running against the clock, and to save time and money, we need to do it this way to avoid that. I don’t like the visual that this gives voters without a bid process because we just remembered we had to do an expansion of The View. I have problems with that.”

Randolph said that while the time is important, the savings would be far more significant. City Administrator Cemal Gungor added that regardless of who the contract is awarded to for the expansion, his concern is how city staff can manage cost, progress, legal and oversight.

“We cannot run that many projects at one time,” said Gungor. “Right now we have the splash park and the shooting range. We need to take a breath. We’ve been doing this for the last four years and the projects need to be scheduled within our means.”

Alderman Sandy Kessinger said she was struggling with understanding how to reconcile adding the expansion project, a separate project, onto the splash pad project.

“While I can appreciate the reasoning for doing that, we have a purchasing policy that says anything over $10,000 has to go out to bid,” said Kessinger. “I don’t know how we can piggy-back that on there and make it legit.”

City Attorney Joe Gall said that he believes this can be done legally.

“The purchasing policy is guideline, but I think this is an exception that we can take advantage of,” said Gall. “There are exceptions for full source in the purchasing policy, and I think this might fit those criteria.”

Ultimately, the Aldermen asked Gall to review the policies to ensure that an addendum can be made on the splash pad project to add The View expansion to existing contractors already working at the site. The final decision was made after print deadline at the following regular session. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Comment Period Opens for Transportation Improvements in Missouri


Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is seeking public input on the draft submitted to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for the 2020-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The STIP focuses on taking care of the state’s existing transportation system, and provides for a 30-day public review and comment period.

MoDOT Planning Director Machelle Watkins told commissioners the draft STIP includes 1,869 highway and bridge projects, of which 85% will be maintained in the condition they are in today. On average, the STIP annually invests in 1,014 lane miles of interstate pavements, 1,346 miles of major route pavements, 2,652 miles of minor route pavements and 213 bridges.

Missouri has the nation’s seventh largest state highway system with 33,859 miles of roadways and 10,385 bridges, but ranks 48th nationally in revenue per mile.

“With the priority of maintaining the existing system, MoDOT has developed asset management plans for each district, with the goal to maintain current pavement and bridge conditions,” Watkins said. “The asset management plans focus on preventive maintenance improvements to keep good roads and bridges in good condition. If preventive maintenance investments were not made, the cost of improving the asset in poor condition can cost four to ten times more.”

The STIP includes funding for the “Focus on Bridges” program that was initiated by the Governor and funded by the Missouri General Assembly approved budget with a one-time $50 million injection of general revenues for the rehabilitation and/or reconstruction of 45 bridges, including one in Jackson County at 140th Street at I-49. The money currently dedicated to these bridge projects will then be freed up for additional improvements to the state system of roads and bridges.

The program was developed assuming federal funding levels consistent with the FAST Act, which expires in September 2020. A forecast assuming a reduced level of federal funding, consistent with Highway Trust Fund revenues, was also prepared. MoDOT and planning partners worked together to identify specific projects that would be delayed, should federal funding be reduced.

The STIP details an annual construction program that averages $924 million per year for the five-year period. But it is insufficient to meet the state’s unfunded high-priority transportation needs that are estimated in MoDOT’s “Citizen’s Guide to Transportation Funding,” at an additional $825 million per year.

“Across every region of the state, feedback from Missourians has consistently prioritized maintaining the existing system as the highest priority,” MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said. “The STIP represents our commitment to Missourians of the projects that will be developed and delivered over the next five years.

“However,” McKenna continued, “this STIP recognizes the serious consequences to our plans if policy makers in Washington are unable to fix the Highway Trust Fund. In Missouri, that puts $613 million of projects including 5,423 lane-miles of roadway improvements and 55 bridge projects in jeopardy in FY 2021 and 2022. We have worked with our planning partners to determine these at-risk projects and offer a qualified commitment of project delivery.”

The draft STIP also includes detailed project information for non-highway modes of transportation and includes a section detailing planned operations and maintenance activities for the next three years, alongside expenditures for those same activities in the prior year. This additional information is provided to allow Missourians to more easily see how their transportation funding is invested.

The draft 2020-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program lists transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for fiscal years 2020 through 2024 (July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2024). Those interested in seeing the program or offering comments can contact MoDOT by email to STIPcomments@modot.mo.gov, by calling customer service at 1-888-ASK-MoDOT (275-6636), or by mail to Transportation Planning, Program Comments, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO 65102. The program is also available on MoDOT's website at www.modot.org/DRAFTSTIP and at MoDOT district and regional offices around the state. The formal comment period ends July 5, 2019.

Following the public review period, the comments will be presented to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The Commission will review the comments and the final transportation program before considering it for approval at its July 10 meeting in Richmond.