Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grandview C-4 Looks Into Facility Usage

By Mary Wilson

The Grandview C-4 School District partnered with Applied Economics to perform a demographic study in order to project future enrollment numbers to determine whether or not Grandview will be at or above capacity.

"We combine these numbers with the current enrollment to see what we need to do, both in the immediate future and in the long term," said Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Ann Cook.

The study has been ongoing for several months, and Rick Brammer and his team from Applied Economics have looked at the growth in the area the district serves, and the presentation at the May 21 school board meeting focused on the district’s facilities in particular. Applied Economics was escorted through every hallway in the district, and shown every available space in each building.

"That way we could see how all of the space is currently being utilized," said Brammer. "I think what we did in those walk-throughs was more important than the demographics. Just to look at how much space we have and how that space is being used was essential."

Current programming was considered in determining whether or not each facility was at recommended capacity levels. Out of community and enrollment projections, Brammer looks at what can be done in terms of facility usage. Part of the study looks at where students in the district are living in comparison to where their in-district school is located, and then determining whether or not those sub-districts need to be shifted to avoid crowding at any particular location.

"We really start with the nuts and bolts," said Brammer. "We start with the individual students and the demographics of all the different geographies that make up the attendance areas."

Each facility was reviewed to determine how many teaching stations are available total, and what is currently being used. Based on class size standards, it was determined that utilization of elementary school space is high, while both middle schools have ample space. Following are recommendations based on the facility study.

At Belvidere, the current utilization rate is eighty-nine percent, with around 40 available seats and 362 students. It was taken into consideration that Belvidere will receive new students in the future from the youth sports village development, though how many and how soon is unknown.

At Butcher-Greene, the current utilization rate is at eighty-nine percent, with about 50 seats available and 394 students. This school is projected to grow by about 80 students over the next 10 years.

Conn-West’s current utilization rate is at eighty-five percent with around 70 seats available and 399 students. This attendance area is not projected to grow beyond program capacity in the projection period. However, some additional increases are expected due to continued stabilization of the housing market.

Martin City’s current utilization rate is at ninety percent with about 45 seats available and 402 students. The attendance area is projected to continue to experience growth, especially later in the projection period. This, in addition to its isolated location and the potential need to relieve over-crowding at Butcher-Greene, may make adding classroom space at Martin City desirable. This could include the addition of a 4 to 6 classroom wing, perhaps to house pre-school and kindergarten, making additional space available for the other grades.

At Meadowmere, the current utilization rate is at ninety-five percent with 459 students, making it the largest and highest-utilized school in the District with only about 30 available seats. However, the attendance area is not projected to experience significant increases in enrollment. It may be desirable to restrict students from outside the attendance area and/or seek to relocate any special education programs there to avoid having to modify the attendance area at this time.

There is ample space at the middle school level with a utilization rate of 65 percent and nearly 500 available seats. The district could add a special program, such as STEM or a language emersion, at Grandview Middle School (with district-wide transportation) to entice more Martin City students to attend Grandview Middle School, making more space for the elementary students there. No changes were recommended at the high school level.

While it was determined that some locations are at capacity currently, it was not recommended to make any significant immediate changes. The district will continue to monitor the demographics of attendance areas and facility usage to determine the best course of action going forward.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Largest All-Turf Soccer Complex in the World Coming to Grandview

by Mary Wilson

The Grandview community will soon see a nearly $300 million project along Highway 150. A much-anticipated all-turf soccer complex, to be located between Byars and Kelley Roads, will be constructed, with games being played as early as August of 2016.
Shane Hackett, executive director of Heartland Soccer, the country’s largest soccer league, said that Heartland Soccer is scheduled to be the main tenant of the complex. The development will consist of 240 acres, currently zoned for residential housing, multi-family housing, commercial and retail.

“This is slated to be fifteen all-turf soccer fields,” said Hackett. “This is the synthetic turf that you can currently see at the Overland Park Complex and Swope Soccer Village.”
Hackett added that the benefit of the turf over grass is that the fields can be operated year-round. All of the fields will be lighted, and teams will have the opportunity to utilize the facility during the week, while games and tournaments will be played on the weekends.

“These fifteen fields will make this the largest all-turf soccer complex in the world,” said Hackett.

The fields, because of their size, can be used for multiple sports despite being soccer fields, including football and lacrosse.

The complex will also include a restaurant, hotel and retail component, catering to families while there. Due to the destination-type of events these soccer tournaments will bring, there will be a variety of eating establishments and retailers, making it a one-stop-shop for visiting families, as well as the Grandview community.
“It’s not uncommon to go and take my daughter to practice and I’m there for 90-minutes waiting, and I think it’d be great to go out and get something to eat or pick up some groceries,” said Hackett. “That’s what is being looked at here. This is truly a destination piece.”

Hackett added that some of the largest soccer tournaments in the nation are held in Kansas City, and this new complex will attract regional and national competitions. The fields themselves have been spoken for, according to Hackett, and leased out seven days per week with use beginning as early as August 1, 2016.

The Grandview community is invited to attend the official announcement for the development on Friday, May 8, at 4:30 p.m. at The View.

“After last week's announcement that Truman Corners is being redeveloped, it is great to inform Grandview residents that this major development is being announced this week,” said Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones. “The northern part of Grandview and the southern part of Grandview are being developed simultaneously. Great things are happening in Grandview.”

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hickman Mills Moves on From Blue Cross, Blue Shield

By Paul Thompson

The Hickman Mills C-1 school district has officially become self-insured. During its Thursday, April 23 regular session, the C-1 Board of Education agreed to a five-year deal with the Self-Insurance Pool of Greater Kansas City (SIPGKC) to provide health insurance benefits for district employees. The district previously provided employee health coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City (BCBSKC), which had proposed a 16.2% premium increase for 2015-2016. After negotiations, the increase was reduced to 13.2%, but the figure still wasn’t amenable to staff.

“As superintendent, I felt like the last time I purchased a used car,” said C-1 superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter. “Given the work that we have to do in the district, I don’t think this administration can continue to recommend an arrangement where every two years we’re in a used-car salesman situation.”

Instead of taking the new figures back to his staff, Carpenter reached out to SIPGKC. What he found was that the district could realize an annual liability savings of $781,000 by switching from Blue Cross Blue Shield to a self-insured plan through SIPGKC. The agreement with SIPGKC represents a roughly 4% increase over what the C-1 district paid last year, but is around 12% less expensive than what was originally proposed through BCBSKC for 2015-2016. Plan options will remain roughly equivalent in the self-insured pool, although the Preferred Care PPO will be eliminated.

Mark Whiting, who serves as a consultant for SIPGKC, said that part of SIPGKC’s value derives from the fact that it is a non-profit organization that doesn’t prioritize profits.

“There are definite advantages of being self-funded,” Whiting said. “We have lower premiums, there’s no profit margin built in; we get to lose those things if we’re self-funded.”

SIPGKC’s Paul Kinder, a former superintendent of the Blue Springs district, noted that 69% of all school districts with more than 500 employees choose to self-fund their insurance plans. Kinder further explained some of the perks of joining the self-insured pool.

“The main benefit is volume=leverage,” said Kinder. “Another part that’s really helpful is, if you have a bad year, you could go ahead and do a pay-down as a school district.

“We’re able to reduce the ACA fees,” he added. “We’re talking about a 4.3% reduction right now.”
Board member Karry Palmer asked if any services would be disrupted because of the switch.

“There’ll be some change, but it will be very minimal,” answered Whiting. “The access is fabulous, and all the hospitals are involved.”

With the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year fast-approaching, Carpenter asked to board to vote on the proposal immediately.

“Our employees know that current policies that are put forth are becoming unaffordable for the district,” he said. “We’d like to have action on this tonight, so that we can get our open enrollment going.”

The board ultimately voted unanimously to join the self-insured pool, while at least one wondered how they could become eligible.

“So they’ll be able to go to any hospital that’s in their area?” asked board member Bonnaye Mims. “Okay, how can I get in that plan?”

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kansas City’s Mayor Touts Opportunity and Innovation

By Mary Wilson

Kansas City Mayor Sly James delivered his State of the City address to a packed house at Starlight Theater on Tuesday, March 31. According to James, Starlight Theater embodies what is great about Kansas City: parks, arts, partnerships and the assets of the city.

Mayor James began his address thanking those whom he has served alongside for the past year, including sixth district councilman John Sharp, who termed out of office this week.

“Being mayor is undoubtedly the best job in politics, and there is one group that I’m compelled and honored to serve with,” said James. “The members of the council terming out of office deserve our thanks for their outstanding and committed service to Kansas City.”

He also honored the loss of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich. “I do hope that we can learn something from that tragic circumstance. For instance, that leadership is preferable to politics,” said James. “It is my hope that over the course of the next few months, we’ll have more leaders emerge than politicians.”

According to James, more than ever, Kansas Citians are engaged, thanks to social media and technology. Technology, innovation and planning contribute to the success of the agenda James has followed since taking office in 2012. His focus has been on efficiency, employment, education and enforcement.

“Through focus on these, we strive to make all that we do in Kansas City the best today, tomorrow, and for the generation to come,” said James.

The technology foundation, according to James, continues to pay dividends in improved efficiency in Kansas City. Recently, Kansas City launched its first-ever digital roadmap, setting goals to secure its place as a leading digital city. It also supports Kansas City’s future workforce by addressing digital inclusion and creating a pipeline of home-grown talent.

“It makes Kansas City a smart city,” said James. “We are using that technology to find better efficiencies in the delivery of city services.”

A smart city is a technological framework that could bring things such as interactive kiosks, mobile applications, sensory technology and smart street lighting.

“Kansas City is once again the envy of our peers because we do things like this, drawing deeply from our entrepreneurial spirit and from our technological assets,” said James.

As a result of an open-data ordinance passed last June, data about Kansas City is more readily available to the public than at any time during the history of Kansas City. Information searches that used to mean a trip to city hall are now available online, from anywhere in the world, instantaneously, according to James.

“I believe that open, transparent government is fundamental to an efficient and effective democracy,” said James. “The open-data portal allows for that.”

James added that the opinions of citizens drive cultural shifts that include data-driven performance enhancements to improve city departments. The tool for that is the annual citizen’s satisfaction survey, with the most recent survey results showing significant improvements in sixty-one separate categories.

“City satisfaction with its citizens is at the highest level since the city began its survey in 2005,” said James. “Not many cities can say that. People are noticing the way that we do business in Kansas City.”

The mayor stated that maintaining the city’s streets, bridges, roads and other city infrastructure remains a priority for him. Currently, the city funds nearly $77 million per year for infrastructure services, such as street overlays, snow plowing, striping, signage, maintaining bridges and more.

“I refuse to kick that can down the road and leave our aging infrastructure problems for the next generation,” said James. “We have a backlog of deferred maintenance and my priority is to deal with it.”

According to James, the industry benchmark to fund the improvements Kansas City’s infrastructure needs would cost nearly three-times the allotted annual budget.

“Kansas Citians expect better and we need to do better,” said James.

In June of 2016, Kansas City voters will be asked to renew the Kansas City Earnings Tax. James said that the city has been good stewards of this critical resource by making changes like improved budgeting and fiscal management systems since the last vote.

“We are making budget decisions more closely aligned with citizen input,” said James.

Last February, Mayor James was invited to the White House for the unveiling of President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program, which addresses strategies to align opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.

“As I learned about each of the goals of My Brother’s Keeper, I was struck by the fact that Kansas City is a leader in many of those areas,” said James. “One of the President’s goals, in particular, is close to my heart: reading at grade-level by third grade.”

Turn the Page KC, the mayor’s early childhood reading program, is just one of many of the mayor’s programs focusing on youth in Kansas City. Turn the Page KC was recently recognized by KCPT for the program’s focus on all children reading at grade-level, and the White House invited the program directors to be on a panel to discuss local efforts and strategies to bridge the word gap.

Combined last year, Kansas City Mayor’s Nights served nearly 6,000 basketball, volleyball and soccer athletes ages 10-25. Last summer, Club KC served more than 10,000 Kansas City 12- to 18-year-olds, and youth crime dropped 18% while Club KC was in session.

Another focus of Mayor James has been to narrow the digital divide in Kansas City, and take full advantage of bigger digital pipelines of which Kansas City is becoming known nationally and internationally.

“We must make computers, the internet, and digital literacy training accessible to all,” said James.

James ended his address by stating that gun control regulation needs to be addressed, and that the senseless killing of children in Kansas City simply cannot continue.

“I want to thank Kansas City for giving me what I consider to be an amazing opportunity to serve as your mayor for the past four years,” said James. “I know that I have the best job in politics, and I hope you know that I’ve given you my best each and every day.”

Mayor James said he is proud to be mayor of a city that is reinventing itself.

“Flyover country no more, Kansas City is the center of the American renaissance,” said James. “We are the city that other cities look to for ideas. The state of our city is full of opportunity, and I assure you I’ll continue to seize each and every one with your help and support.”

Monday, April 6, 2015

Grandview’s Liability Decreases as a Result of Truman’s Marketplace TIF

By Mary Wilson

The Grandview Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the second amended Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan for Truman’s Marketplace on Tuesday, March 24. Because the City of Grandview is backing bonds with its general fund appropriation authority, the liability to the city has decreased significantly.

According to Assistant City Administrator Kirk Decker, Grandview’s credit enhancement helps reduce the interest rate of the bonds, as bondholders have security that the city would supplement any debt service shortfall with an appropriation from its general fund. 

“Both of these numbers are the worst case scenario; that is, the entire project failed and no businesses produced any PILOTS (property tax increments) or EATS (sales tax increments),” said Decker.

In the original agreement, Grandview’s maximum potential debt service payment was $5.3 million.  In the second amended agreement, the City’s maximum liability is $425,000.  This liability is also lessened because the city’s general fund appropriation obligation is secured by a Community Improvement District (CID) assessment on the property within the district ($1.00 per square foot), rather than PILOTS or EATS associated with new businesses.

“Overall, it was a 92% decrease in liability and the bonds are backed by the most reliable revenue stream,” said Decker. “So, even though the project took longer than anticipated, the passage of time has been to the City’s, and subsequently its taxpayers’, advantage.”

The city will also receive a $125,000 payment semi-annually through the TIF due to additional costs, which was designed to off-set the costs that have been incurring due to the lack of development in the shopping center. These funds will continue to accrue on a sliding scale until stores open that produce $12.5 million annually in sales.

“At that point, that payment goes away,” said Joe Lauber, special counsel to the City of Grandview. “The developer worked really well with us in order to get that taken care of, and we’re appreciative of that.”

It was recommended to the board that they allow the developer to complete the purchase of the Truman Corners property after the approval of the amended bond documents, but within three days of the preliminary offering statements are mailed for the purposes of marketing the bonds.

“When they will actually purchase the shopping center will occur in a window,” said Lauber. “We think that this provision ends up being a good compromise and allows the developer and its bank the maximum flexibility that they can have high confidence that the public side of financing is going forward, but it also allows for the reality that the bond market may not look favorably at that timing.”

According to Lauber, the closing on the property has been the hardest piece of the Truman’s Marketplace puzzle to put together. Once the developer has purchased the property, a ground-breaking ceremony will take place and construction will begin.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Grandview Pulls Breed-specific Ban on Pit Bulls

Geoff Hall, President of Wayside Waifs, celebrates Grandview’s decision to repeal the breed-specific ban with a pit bull puppy available for adoption. Effective immediately, Wayside Waifs is now able to adopt pit bulls to those living in the Grandview city limits. Visit to see all of the animals looking for homes.


By Mary Wilson

After several months of discussion and education, the Grandview Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the repeal of the breed-specific ban on pit bulls in city limits. The ban was adopted by the aldermen on July 26, 2005, at a time when the city was dealing with pit bull dogs being bred and trained to participate in dog fighting, with the fights occurring out in the open within city limits. Due to the inherent aggressive behavior of the animals, the breed-specific ban was put in place.

When the ban was enacted, pit bulls living within city limits were required to be registered as dangerous animals and owners were to pay for an annual permit, inspection, insurance policy, specific housing arrangements and follow restrictions when kept or brought outside. At the time, approximately twenty pit bulls were registered that were known to be living in the city.

“After comparing Grandview with what surrounding cities around us have done, we’ve been able to fix the holes when it comes to dangerous animals in general, to where all citizens are protected as well as the animals,” said Ward 3 Alderman John Maloney. “We are looking to our neighbors to see their best practices.”

Community Development Director Chris Chiodini and his staff looked at neighboring Missouri communities, and found that some cities continue to have the breed-specific ban in place. Grandview chose to pull the ban, and in order for an animal to be deemed dangerous, the actions of the animal would have to be determined to be a threat to the community as a whole.

“It’s the actions of the animal only, and has nothing to do with the breed of the animal itself,” said Chiodini. “We had to tighten up the ordinance and make sure that in doing so, we continue to protect not just people, but the animals themselves.”

The ordinance approved last week removes any breed-specific legislation, and made necessary changes so that the information on the requirements for animals of any breed or kind deemed dangerous is easy to read.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Aldermen Approve Truman’s Marketplace TIF Plan

RED Legacy Aims for April 3 Groundbreaking

By Mary Wilson

On Tuesday, March 3, the Grandview Board of Aldermen gave the final approval on the second amended and restated Truman’s Marketplace Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Redevelopment Plan. A week earlier, the final public hearing for the TIF plan was heard, and the aldermen moved to postpone the final vote until their next meeting, in order to comply with giving a ten days’ notice.

As previously reported, the major component of the redevelopment effort has changed from a reconstruction to primarily a remodel of existing structures. Managing Partner of RED Legacy, Bart Lowen, presented the aldermen with elevation visuals as well as an explanation of what RED will be remodeling and how it will look when completed.

“One question we wanted to address is where we’re at with our tenants,” said Lowen. “Time kills deals, and that is the case in some cases, but we’re happy to tell you that, through this entire effort, of the approximately eighty-percent of the tenants that we had in lease in the former plan, all but one is moving forward with us. So, roughly seventy-five percent of the tenants in this project are still there today.”

Lowen added that his team has been working with those tenants to incorporate their businesses into the new site plan. RED will work with them to amend the signed leases to provide for the changes to the shopping center. Some were shifted or moved to accommodate the remodel effort.

“Burlington, for instance, is now on the south end of the site,” said Lowen. “We had to move them into an existing location.”

Of those seventy-five percent of tenants, Lowen said half of them have signed amended leases. One major tenant RED is still working with to sign an amended lease is Price Chopper, yet Lowen was confident that the grocer remains committed to the project. When the lease with Price Chopper is executed, RED will be well into the sixty-percent leased capacity range on the project for tenants.

Security has been an issue that’s remained prevalent in the plans for the shopping center, and Lowen stated that a good security program remains intact with the amended plan. There will be security cameras on the buildings as well as in parking areas. There will also be a patrolling effort during business hours. Along with the security efforts, shoppers will see new parking lots, upgraded landscaping, and a new street that will run through the project with lighting and upgraded facades.

“It just creates an atmosphere that is a little bit more of an uplifting atmosphere that really helps to add to the security effort of the project,” said Lowen.

The elevation and look of the project has remained fairly constant, even with the changes from redevelopment to remodel. RED has made some tweaks and changes to the look of some buildings to accommodate the remodel effort, but the walkable environment the aldermen were looking for in the beginning has remained the focus.

“All the buildings remain; it’s just a façade renovation,” said Lowen. “This project right now is very flat, and we’ll start to create and add some character into the plan. We’ll be applying quite a bit of materials to the existing walls in order to create the façade upgrade the project will receive. This clearly is well more than a can of paint.”

Moving forward, RED will wait for the Grandview Board of Aldermen to approve the Paramaters Bond Ordinance and Bond Documents on March 24, and will then move forward with the purchase of the shopping center two days later on March 26. RED is prepared for a groundbreaking event to occur on Friday, April 3, provided everything in the next month goes smoothly.