Friday, October 21, 2016

Local libraries push for Proposition L approval

Branches to see expansion of services in each community

By Mary Wilson,

For less than the price of a new hardback book, Mid-Continent Public Library hopes to increase its operating levy by passing Proposition L in the November 8 election. The resulting 1% property tax increase upon passage would impact homeowners with homes valued at $150,000 approximately $22.80 per year. The impact approval of Proposition L would have on local libraries would include building and renovating library branches and maintaining or expanding library collections, services and programs.

System-wide, library users will see a growth in the services offered through Mid-Continent. Grandview and South Kansas City residents can expect to see changes at the three branches serving the area: Grandview, Blue Ridge and Red Bridge.

“The thing that is specific to each branch is the facility piece,” said Jim Staley, Community Relations and Planning Director for Mid-Continent Public Library.

According to Staley, the Grandview branch is one of the few locations that will receive an expansion. While plans are still in progress, it will likely receive a new entrance on the front side of the building with the addition of interior room into what is currently greenspace. One concept includes added windows to increase natural light, with the addition of study/collaboration rooms, a community room, outdoor space, interior renovations and other enhancements.

“All around the system, we’re trying to get more light in our buildings,” said Staley. “Most of the buildings were built at a time when we wanted to limit the light because of the books. Now, with the ability to coat windows and so on, we would prefer to build the buildings for people instead of for books, which is what they were originally built for.”

Blue Ridge and Red Bridge will also receive enclosed meeting spaces or community rooms. All three will also have two or three smaller rooms big enough to accommodate small groups inside the library. Each building would also receive a facelift.

“If a community group wants to come in and use the library, it’s there,” said Staley. “We want the library to be an inviting place for people to come in. While many of them are looking their age, we want people to see the buildings and want to visit.”

The look of the Red Bridge branch will be influenced by the rest of Red Bridge Shopping Center’s improvements currently under construction. Red Bridge currently has Google Fiber lines, while Grandview and Blue Ridge do not, but will receive them with passage of Proposition L. Plans also include the addition of technology-related infrastructure, including power plugs and internet ports.

“All of the improvements are essentially making the library more functional for a modern library user,” said Staley. “We have people who sit in their cars and use the Wi-Fi connections. If we added outdoor spaces, the library would be useful even when it is closed.”

Due to transportation challenges in certain areas, Mid-Continent would like to expand the Grow A Reader program with the Grow A Reader bus, the Reading Rocket, an early-literacy mobile unit that can reach kids that may not have access to the library otherwise.

“In some of the communities in this area, we have identified there is a need for these types of services,” said Staley. “It’s just a matter of getting the revenue to help support getting it in different communities.”

The Reading Rocket is being tested in Independence with positive response from communities in that area, said Staley. Center, Hickman Mills and Grandview school districts have partnered with Mid-Continent, and Staley said that the library would like to continue to offer support to the districts.
“All three districts, while they can’t formally endorse Proposition L, have been very supportive,” said Staley.

The small business program has started to gain momentum in the south, according to Staley, and that is another service enhancement that voters can expect to see implemented. Other service enhancements include increased support for seniors, expansion of literacy programs for children and teens, increased community-driven programming, increased availability of books, audio/visual, and digital items and expanded hours.

“We did 8,700 free tax-help programs for seniors last year,” said Staley. Library-By-Mail currently serves homebound residents who can’t make it into their local library branch, with 20,000 materials delivered to 370 customers.

“We’ll deliver books, music or movies right to their doorstep,” said Emily Brown, Public Relations Coordinator for Mid-Continent Public Library.

Each community will determine the expansion of library hours, rather than a sweeping change across the board. The expansion of specific services will also be dictated by local needs and wants. Library resources will also be expanded, including books, digital resources, music, movies and more.

Mid-Continent Public Library’s last tax levy was increased in 1983. Over the next 15 years, the district population is forecasted to grow by 1 million residents. To serve the growing communities, the library needs to update and construct buildings, grow the collection of available resources, and increase services requested by the community.

Proposition L’s exact ballot language on November 8 will be: For the purpose of renovating and replacing aging library facilities, enhancing spaces and programming for children and adults, expanding services and collections to serve public demand, and for the general operation of public libraries, shall there be an eight cent tax increase over the thirty-two cent tax per hundred dollars assessed valuation for Consolidated Library District #3, known as the Mid-Continent Public Library?

A yes vote will include the renovation of 28 library buildings and the construction of six new or replacement library buildings, along with other expansions and investments. A no vote would minimize library maintenance to basic repairs with the elimination of possible expansion, possible reduction in branch hours of operation, staff, and scaled-back internet bandwidth, decreased library outreach and partnership development and services, and a reduction in the current investment in resources. 

For more information, visit the library's website dedicated to Proposition L at: 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Aldermen approve SB 650 changes to local ordinance

by Mary Wilson,

The State of Missouri legislature in 2014 passed Senate Bill (SB) 650, the Uniform Wireless Communications Infrastructure Deployment Act, thus creating significant changes to law in response to what the telecommunications industry lobby portrayed as municipal governments acting as impediments to review and approve their proposed facilities, including towers and accessory equipment. These changes were intended to limit or remove local government authority for zoning and land use approvals.

The changes approved in SB 650 were brought forward to the Grandview Board of Aldermen after a public hearing for approval on Tuesday, September 27, in order to bring the city into compliance with the new law.

With the new bill, communications towers and facilities will be permitted on buildings and structures 2 stories in height or greater. Mast supporting antennas may extend up to ten feet above the roof line. In residential districts, the existing structure must be on property developed with a non-residential use. Applications will be required to submit a site plan and associated fee, as they are subject to review. A building permit will also be required.

The ordinance includes development standards, including a minimum distance between towers, but removed the city’s authority of security for maintenance or removal of antennas or towers.

 “Senate Bill 650 came about because of extensive lobbying at the state level by telecommunications companies and I think what they’ve done is a tremendous disservice to cities,” said Ward 3 Alderman Jim Crain. “We can no longer require financial security in the form of a bond or letter of credit. We no longer have right of access. We can no longer require the removal of abandoned antennas and towers. We can no longer require proof of study of additional potential sites. What the state has done has allowed telecommunications companies to come into cities and cram it down our throats.”

After brief discussion Tuesday night, the Board of Aldermen approved the changes, with Crain being the sole opposition to the ordinance.

“While I guess we have to abide by this, I strongly disagree with it,” said Crain. Mayor Leonard Jones asked Crain if the bill was another unfunded mandate. He responded, “I think it’s at least that. It’s not requiring us to spend any money but it is certainly taking away local control.”

Bill number 7175 passed and thus became Ordinance 6923 in the City of Grandview. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grandview Alderman Resigns

by Mary Wilson,

The City of Grandview has seen tremendous strides toward progress over the last several months, including groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, announcements and more. Week after week, the City’s elected officials have been welcoming new businesses and been present at numerous community activities promoting the great things happening. One alderman has been noticeably absent.

Ward 1 Alderman Debbie Bibbs last attended a work session on June 21, while her last regular meeting was on August 9. On Monday, September 12, Bibbs submitted a resignation letter to Mayor Leonard Jones effective immediately, stating recent health issues require her immediate attention.

According to Bibbs, resignation wasn’t something she envisioned, but because of her health issues she felt she didn’t have any other option. She added that there is nothing in place for medical leave of elected officials.

“I have appreciated and enjoyed the relationships that I have developed while in this position,” said Bibbs. “I hope our relationships will go far beyond having worked together as elected persons and staff representing our great city, but relationships that have developed into friendships.”

Elected in April 2015, Bibbs became the first African-American woman elected to the Grandview Board of Aldermen. It also became the first time in Grandview’s history that three female aldermen were seated at one time. In 2014, the City of Grandview was seeking a candidate to fill a Ward I vacancy. With encouragement from friends, Bibbs, a resident for over 35 years, applied. Although she did not get the appointment, Bibbs decided to run for the position when it appeared on the April 2015 ballot.

“I’m so thankful and I appreciate the opportunity I was given to be on the Board and to sit in and be a part of helping move Grandview forward,” said Bibbs. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

Going forward, according to policy on vacancy, the City Clerk will accept letters of interest from and send applications for appointment to qualified individuals to fill the position within a period of time specified by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. That timeframe will be determined soon, according to Jones.

The applications will be reviewed, and after the Mayor and Board of Aldermen have selected an individual to fill the vacancy, a special meeting will be convened; the individual will be appointed and will serve until the next regular municipal election in April 2017. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Former KCMO Councilman Targeted in Drive-by Shooting

by Mary Wilson

Tucked back on a dead-end street in a quiet neighborhood in South Kansas City, John Sharp was home working on a few things before heading to bed in the early morning hours of Thursday, September 1. The former Kansas City, Missouri city councilman lives on a street where children are often playing outside, with bicycles left in driveways and basketballs finding home in nearby yards.

The peace and quiet of the overnight hours was disturbed on September 1. Sharp said he had just returned inside the house after retrieving some items from his garage when he heard at least eight rounds of gunfire from just outside his home.

“I thought they were right outside my window, it was so loud,” said Sharp. “Police recovered five shell casings that night and neighbors found two more after that. It’s just a wonder that somebody wasn’t killed.”

A neighbor had surveillance cameras on the night of the shooting, but Sharp said the quality of the video is poor. The footage shows the suspect’s car heading west down the street, slow in front of Sharp’s house with a suspect hanging out of the passenger’s window shooting at the house over the roof of the car and then drive away. Another neighbor saw the car, but didn’t make out enough details to provide police with make or model.

“They were shooting a 40-caliber, which is a pretty big gun,” said Sharp. At the time of the shooting, a vehicle in Sharp’s driveway had a hole in the back window with the bullet lodged in the roof of the car. Since then, the window has shattered. Another bullet hole can be seen in Sharp’s garage door that eventually hit the back wall of the garage.

Sharp’s neighbor’s house was also hit with bullets, including one that went through a sleeping child’s bedroom. A car in that driveway also has a bullet hole in it, along with the roof of the house.

“I hadn’t even realized they were hit that night,” said Sharp. “I found out the next day. She (the homeowner) just moved in from out of state. She hasn’t been here long enough to make any enemies. I’m not sure she’ll be here very long after this.”

He believes he was a target of retaliation stemming from a recent election and political activities he’s been involved with.

“I don’t go to clubs anymore and I’m not messing around with somebody’s wife, you know?” said Sharp. “About all I do anymore is charitable work.”

A reward of up to $2000 is being offered for any information regarding the drive-by shooting. Witnesses are asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Local Restaurant Owners Make Giving a Business Priority

by Mary Wilson

A popular restaurant in Grandview has been serving up more than chicken wings since opening last April. Wingz and More owners Chris Ray and Katie Benner have been busy making a name for themselves in the community, thanks to the power of social media.

Having known each other for a few years, Ray and Benner, who grew up in Kansas City and Grandview respectively, were looking at business opportunities to pursue in the area. They did some planning and research based on the needs of the community, and ultimately settled on opening a restaurant.

“We knew a chicken wing place was here before and was a fan favorite,” said Benner. “So, we started to look around and see what venues were available that might work for us.”

The duo began negotiations to find a home in the new Truman’s Marketplace shopping center redevelopment when they found the current location just across Blue Ridge.

“This location works out really well for us and the business and is much better suited for us,” said Benner. “Chris began working on recipes for the menu, while I worked on the back office side of things.”

Benner and Ray have worked various charity events together in the past, and knew that giving back to the community would remain a priority in their business endeavors.
“It’s something simple that we could do, especially with food,” said Benner. “Everyone has to eat.”
Ray suggested a lasagna dinner, where community members were invited via social media to come and have a meal, no charge, no questions asked. A tip jar that sits on the counter at Wingz and More is labeled “for the needy.”
“For our first shot at something like that, we had a fair number of people here,” said Benner. “With the tips, whether someone drops the change given back to them or larger bills, our customers are always contributing to those funds that we can then turn around and use for those meals that we provide.”
The lasagna dinner, only being advertised through social media and word of mouth, provided a warm, full meal for those in need in the community. On Facebook, the post for the dinner was shared 62 times, and talked about in various groups. That morning of the dinner, Ray also visited some areas in the community where he knew homeless and hungry people live and invited them to the restaurant.

“I thought about putting a sign out to advertise it as well,” said Ray. “I figure, if people are going to come in and take advantage of it, that’s not really my cross to bear. I won’t turn anybody away.”

While he’s more inclined to provide the meals outside of the major holiday seasons, he does understand there is a need during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and he has plans in the works to help fill that need. Ray has also begun working with the Grandview High School football program, helping provide food for the athletes to help alleviate the burden to the parents.

“You can’t expect kids to perform on a football field if they haven’t eaten,” said Benner. “A few from the team have even interviewed for jobs with us.”

Two young men from Grandview were recently hired part-time at the restaurant. Ray said he was pleasantly surprised by the mannerisms and overall maturity of the teammates from Grandview he has met.

Passionate about education and providing for the community, Ray ran for the Hickman Mills School Board a few years ago, losing the election by only 30 votes. Benner’s mother is a former teacher at Santa Fe.

Wingz and More has received rave reviews on social media, and has only advertised themselves through different media outlets, but Brenner said they’ve found the most luck through Facebook. On a local rant/rave page, Wingz and More is possibly one of the top-reviewed businesses within the last several months since they opened.

“We are so far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this point,” said Ray. “We had decent projections which we’re surpassing majorly. It is a good problem to have.”

Wingz and More is located at 11902 S Blue Ridge, Suite C, in Grandview. They are open daily on Monday for dinner from 4-9, Tuesday through Thursday for lunch and dinner from 11-9, Friday and Saturday for lunch and dinner from 11-10, and Sunday for lunch and dinner from 12-7. They also have meeting space available and catering options. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ranch-style Home Cookin’ Opens in Grandview

Michelle’s Ranch Café moves to new location from Raymore

by Mary Wilson

Having been at the Benjamin Ranch Café for 21 years, Michelle Reynolds opened the first Michelle’s Ranch Café 10 years ago in Raymore when Cerner announced their plans to purchase the properties and redevelop the former Bannister site.

“Of course, it took another 10 years after we moved out of there for anything to start happening,” said Reynolds. “We were told they were coming right in and so we did what we thought was best.”
More recently, the 10-year lease on the café in Raymore was up and Reynolds made the choice to move her restaurant to a new location.

“The people in Raymore were really good to me,” said Reynolds. “My restaurant there was off the beaten path a bit, so it’s nice to open up again and see all these familiar faces.”

Reynolds closed her restaurant in Raymore on Monday, July 25. On Tuesday, July 26, all of her furniture and supplies were moved to her new location in Grandview. With a team of help and assistance from local company JC Love, Reynolds was ready to serve breakfast in Grandview’s Ranch Café on Friday, July 29.

“We got in a lot faster and it went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” said Reynolds. “Everybody here is so awesome. The city, my staff and our vendors have really bent over backwards to help get us up and going again. They all worked their butts off.”

Visible from the highway, Reynolds pointed out that the new location is close enough for her former Raymore customers to visit, as well as for those who remember her from Benjamin Ranch.

“When I drove by and saw it was empty, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I couldn’t have picked a better location,” said Reynolds.

Her success at Benjamin Ranch was due a lot to current construction at the time, including the Walmart and Montgomery Ward stores going in. The entire operation was strictly word-of-mouth; no advertising was done in the 21 years the restaurant was open.

“It was mostly the construction guys who would eat there and then go back and tell their families and friends about us,” said Reynolds.

The restaurant business runs in the family. Reynolds’ daughter, Katie, owns and operates a restaurant in Peculiar, and she considers her son her left-hand-man.

“If I’m not here, my son will be,” said Reynolds. “We’re truly a family business. My other half, Mike, does all of my errand running for me.”

Visible from I-49, Michelle’s Ranch Café is located at 12704 E Frontage Road, in the former Livingston’s and Shirley’s restaurants. Open daily from 6-2 for breakfast and lunch, the Ranch serves home-style, comfort foods, ranging from biscuits and gravy to meatloaf and tenderloins.

“We’re excited and really happy to be here in Grandview,” said Reynolds. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

KC man, GV grad alleged in Baton Rouge shooting

 Suspect in Baton Rouge police murders Gavin Long, 
pictured above in 2005 Grandview yearbook photo, and below in 
a YouTube video posted  on July 10, 2016.

by Mary Wilson

The man who fatally shot three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, La., and wounded three others before being killed by the police on Sunday morning “was targeting officers,” Louisiana state police officials said Monday.

The three officers killed Sunday were: Montrell L. Jackson, 32, a 10-year veteran of the Baton Rouge Police Department, who was married with a new baby at home; Matthew Gerald, 41, who had served with the Baton Rouge Police Department for less than a year; and Brad Garafola, 45, an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy and a father of four. Of the officers who were wounded, one was “fighting for his life” in the hospital on Monday.

Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, Colonel Michael D. Edmonson, said in a news conference that his department is confident that the suspect, 29-year-old Gavin Long of Kansas City, was the only shooter in the incidents that took place in Baton Rouge, LA.

“When he engaged those police officers, he was deliberate and extremely accurate,” said Edmonson.

According to Baton Rouge police, three guns were taken from Long, and they recovered a rented Chevy Malibu with Missouri plates from the scene. Edmonson added that one of the more challenging things in this case will be the examination of Long’s social media, including posts and activity on his accounts after the crime took place.

“Three officers are dead, one is fighting for his life, we owe it to them to do it right and get it right,” said. Edmondson.

According to Long’s YouTube videos, under the pseudonym Cosmo Setepenra, he believed the world is run by devils and that “it takes one revolutionary to stand up against oppression and sacrifice.” He also believed that 100% of revolutions have been “successful through fighting back, through bloodshed. Zero have been successful by simply protesting.” It is believed that while he was in Baton Rouge, Long was specifically and intentionally looking to engage with police officers.

Long attended Grandview Schools beginning at Conn-West in 1996, for fourth and fifth grades. He then attended Grandview Middle School, and ultimately graduated from Grandview High School in 2005. According to Grandview High School’s yearbooks from his high school career, Long was not involved in clubs or organizations outside of normal curriculum.

Long joined the Marines in 2005 and served until 2010, according to military records obtained by the Associated Press. He rose to the rank of sergeant and served in Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009. Records show he received several medals, including one for good conduct. Long received an honorable discharge and was listed as a “data network specialist.”

Since then, Long claimed to be a world traveler, spending the last two years in Africa before recently returning to his home in Kansas City, at 1166 E 77th Ter., where records show he has lived since 2012.

“With our partners from local, state and national agencies, we will leave no stone unturned. This is a unified team,” said a federal investigator during Monday’s news conference. “This will only make us stronger. We will work tirelessly to ensure safety in this community and throughout the nation.”

Anyone with information related to the suspect or the Baton Rouge investigation is encouraged to call 800-CALL-FBI.