Thursday, April 29, 2010

Supper is School

Hickman Mills School District now provides children of many struggling families three square meals a day

By Mary Kay Morrow

Photos by Sally Morrow Gomez

Kindergartener Mya Townsend crunched into a chicken nugget while wedged between chattery friends on a bench in the sun-filled cafeteria at Burke Elementary School on Monday evening, March 29.  The kids were munching away on dinners of chicken, corn, sliced kiwi, bread and milk.

Mya is one of nearly 700 Hickman Mills C-1 elementary kids now eating dinner at school before heading home.

For Mya’s mom, Angela Hunter, the district’s new dinner program is a time-saver.

A Security Guard at Ward Parkway Shopping Center, Hunter said her daughter used to be hungry right away when they got home in the evening.

“Now, I have more time,” Hunter said. “We’re able to read, relax, and I don’t have to worry about dinner until later.”

Since January of this year, thousands of dinners have been served to Hickman Mills’ kids. That means the school district is now feeding many of its students three square meals every school day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – as well as partnering with the community to send healthy snacks home on Fridays to help kids throughout the weekend.

“We’re looking at the holistic well-being of our children.  You do what you have to do,” said Hickman Mills School Board President Bonnaye Mims.  “Our responsibility is beyond math, reading and writing.  And the need is getting bigger.  We’re sociologists, social workers, doctors, food pantry, and grocery store.”
Dinner was first served at school in January to approximately 700 of the 3,200 students in Hickman Mills’ eight elementary schools. Students in the Local Investment Commission (LINC) after school program are eligible to eat the free, healthy dinners every school day.

“The first month we served 10,000 meals - with a week of snow days,” said Hickman Mills’ Director of Nutrition Services Leah Schmidt.  “There were 12,000 dinners in February and 12,500 in March, with spring break.”
Schmidt sees the need first hand.

“There may be a child who may not have a meal at all until the next morning unless we provide it,” she said. 

The program is possible due to a federally-funded initiative by the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program. It is currently available in only 13 states and in areas where 50%

 or more of the children are eligible for free- or reduced-price meals.

Jim Morris, with the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE), explained that the Supper Program reimburses the school district a total of $2.875 per meal served. For the 10,000 dinners served in January, Hickman was reimbursed $26,000.

The dinners are a blessing for many families in the Hickman Mills School District, where 78% qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches, a program which began in the 1960s through the federal government. Most feedback from families is positive.

“Parents say they have more time for homework and spending time with their families,” said LINC Food Service Manager Wendy Ramirez.  “Just one parent declined the dinners.  She wanted her kids to go home and have dinner together.”

For single mother-of-three Keona Williams, the school-provided dinners allow her time to give her children—fourth-grader Javontae Brock and second-grader Kiance Brock—her full attention with their homework.
“Before I had to cook at the same time as trying to help them,” Williams said.

“Now, mom can take time off from cooking and help me with my homework, especially math,” Javonte said.
A Certified Nurses Assistant at Jefferson Health Care, Williams usually gets off work about 5pm and is relieved that she no longer has to stop at the store and do dishes on school nights along with homework, baths, ironing, combing her daughter’s hair, and reading with the kids—all before 9pm.

“The best thing is not having to cram everything into four hours,” said Williams, who usually just grabs cereal or a sandwich for herself after the kids are in bed.

Last year, Missouri schools served an average of 606,476 lunches and 223,071 breakfasts each school day as part of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program administered in Missouri by the Department of Education. Some 44% were served free, and about 10% were served at reduced price. 

Those numbers are projected to increase over the next three years – primarily because of the nation’s economic slump.

DESE’s Jim Morris explained that because of the slump, the federal government is boosting funding for some programs due to increased needs among children and families.  

“We expect to receive about $39 million in additional aid for the school lunch program during the next year to cover the rising numbers of children eligible for free- or reduced-cost meals.”  

Morris doesn’t see this as a shift in the school districts’ role, beyond reading and writing.

“Rather, it is the continuation of a trend,” said Morris.  “School lunch and breakfast programs have become accepted parts of school operations over the last half-century.  Today, however, we are seeing a significant surge in the number of families that need subsidized meals for their children.”  

Morris said schools are trying to do what they can to assist struggling families and to meet the nutritional needs of children. 

Last month in Hickman Mills, the district budget was amended to include cuts to various programs and funds.  The only program to receive increased funding was the Food Supper Program through the Department of Health and Senior Services.  The Supper Program increased by $175,000.

“Many of our families are struggling financially and providing a nutritious meal after school helps them stretch limited funds,” said Gayle Wood, the district’s LINC liaison.

Burke Elementary Principal Casey D. Klapmeyer agrees.

“This program could not have come at a better time for our students and community.  We were fortunate to get this program at such a crucial time for our families.  So many are struggling financially and getting this assistance has been a blessing to them.” 

Klapmeyer thinks families without students in the district don’t always understand the support, besides teaching, schools try to offer families.

“Many of our parents are working two or more jobs right now to make ends meet and have unusual hours, so the dinner program takes the stress out of coming home late and having to pull together a dinner for their child.  Knowing a meal is going to be available each day allows our kids to focus on what’s important...learning.”

Now in its second year, Hickman’s “Back Snack Club” is one more way district personnel, with help from the community, are doing what they can for kids.

“When we started back snacks, we found out a lot of kids were going home to nothing,” said Mims.
With support from local churches and food pantries, the district fills back packs (provided by Harvesters Community Food Network) with nutritious snacks. The packs are sent home with children after school on Friday so that they have food to eat over the weekend. 

Hickman Mills Community Christian Church Volunteer JoAnne Karaff explained that people bring in donations throughout the year for the program. The money is not only used for food but for other things such as uniforms and school supplies as well.

“Our church has pretty much gone through the money we have,” Karaff said, indicating the need for donations. 
Karaff explained that kids qualify for the program on a need basis based on income, as well as through teacher and counselor recommendations.

HM Director of Nutrition Services Leah Schmidt explained the process.

“Churches adopt schools, pick up food that is delivered by Harvesters to our warehouse, and pack it into back packs for the kids to pick up on Fridays before getting on the buses,” said Schmidt.  “After the kids return the packs on Mondays, the churches clean them out before re-filling them for the next week.”

Schmidt said the Community Assistance Council (CAC) is a key player in making the Back Snack Club happen.

Every Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 pm, volunteers from Hickman Mills Community Christian Church pack food bundles donated by Harvesters at CAC, located at 10901 Blue Ridge Boulevard. 

Specific snacks are selected in order to be easy for kids to prepare themselves, such as microwavable meals, pudding cups and juice boxes.

“The snacks are different each week,” Schmidt said.  Last week’s pack included Vegetable Soup, Saltines, Granola Bars, Bean & Franks, Milk, Juice Boxes, Cereal, Pudding, and Canned Peaches.

Schmidt said she feels good seeing kids get healthy snacks. She’s seen kids come to school hungry.

“We see it on Monday morning. Some of the kids are so hungry,” she said.  “This is just one more thing we can do to help families out.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Truman Corners to get New TIF Deal

By Seann McAnally

The developer for Truman Corners Shopping Center walked into the public hearing to prove that a struggling tax increment financing plan shouldn’t be taken away. But instead of losing the TIF, the developer walked out with the promise of a brand-new deal.

Some officials say it’s not just good news for the developer, but for Grandview as well. 

The Grandview Board of Aldermen on April 13 had a public hearing on the future of the Truman Corners tax increment financing plan. The developer – UMB Bank – was required to show cause why city officials should not void the 13 year-old TIF plan for Truman Corners, which has lost value and sales since the TIF began. The developer has also not completed the second phase of promised improvements to the shopping center.

The board voted 4-2 to renegotiate the TIF to give the developer more favorable terms. 

Aldermen Tony Prior, Steve Dennis, Annette Turnbaugh, and Joe Runions voted in favor of renegotiation. Aldermen Leonard Jones and Jim Crain voted to void the TIF plan. 

“We’re all frustrated by the lack of growth,” Dennis said. “We’re all tired of the promises. But we all want to hold out hope. Unfortunately we have to dangle these carrots for any potential suitors.” 

Joe Lauber, an attorney for the city, showed evidence that the TIF plan has failed.

He said the purpose of the TIF plan was originally to cure blight at the center – that is, to enhance its appearance and attract tenants.

 Despite some minor road work, few improvements have been made and the vacancy rate is higher at the shopping center.

“It’s still basically a sea of asphalt,” Lauber said. 

The developer has already been reimbursed some $2.8 million for initial improvements, primarily involving road work around the site. 

Lauber also showed proof that the owner of the shopping center has successfully appealed real estate assessments of the property’s value, lowering it by as much as $800,000.

“There’s nothing illegal about that, but it’s also true that doing so seems contradictory to the purpose of the TIF, and it has limited funds available to make improvements,” Lauber pointed out. 

What TIF money has come in over the years – less than $3 million – has mostly been from two completely separate TIF projects (Sam’s Club and Truman Farm Villas) that were attached to the project in 1997. Only 24% of the revenues from the TIF are from Truman Corners itself.

Major improvements to the shopping center were supposed to kick in when the developer found an anchor tenant for the old Montgomery Wards building. The deadline for that came and went in 2007. 

Attorney Bill Moore, with the King Hershey law firm, represented the developer. He blamed the economy and Grandview’s demographics for the shopping center’s decline. 

“Obviously there has been a glitch somewhere or we wouldn’t be here today,” Moore said. “We hope you will modify the TIF to make it more reasonable and flexible.” 

Moore said the city should change the TIF plan so that a “major anchor tenant” can be smaller than 150,000 square feet. He said there are only a few retailers of that size, such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Home Depot, and those retailers are already well represented in Lee’s Summit, Belton, and other neighboring communities. 

He said the TIF plan should be modified to allow the developers to seek a smaller retailer such as Burlington Coat Factory, Gordman’s, Marshalls, or other stores in the 25,000 to 50,000 square foot range. 

The current TIF plan doesn’t prevent the developer from pursuing such tenants, but it doesn’t allow the developer to reimburse the costs of improvements unless the Wards building is occupied by a 150,000 square foot tenant. 

He said if the current plan was voided, he hoped the board would be open to another TIF in the future, once a tenant could be secured. 

Carl LaSala, a commercial realtor who has been trying to find tenants for the property, said it’s not easy. 

“Grandview has been passed over,” he said. “Retailers have a herd mentality. They want to locate around other retailers.” 

LaSala said Wal-Mart wanted to occupy the old Montgomery Wards space, but Price Chopper has a clause in its lease that prevents any other stores that sell groceries from locating at Truman Corners. 

He said “retail follows rooftops,” so they tend to go to cities where new homes are being constructed. He noted that Wal-Mart was interested in the site, but that Price Chopper officials said they would move their store if Wal-Mart opened at Truman Corners. 

In the end, Alderman Dennis said, offering to renegotiate the TIF plan was a pragmatic decision, not an emotional one.

“We realize there hasn’t been much movement there, but I wouldn’t want to take a tool out of their hands,” Dennis said. 

Alderman Runions agreed. 

“Just negotiate it and see what we get,” he said. “If we don’t like it, we can reconvene and say no.” 

Crain said it would be difficult to modify the TIF plan without having a better idea of the specific clients the developer will try to attract. 

“We don’t know how to modify it, and I don’t think you do, either,” Crain told the developers. 

Mayor Bob Beckers said the board’s decision was preliminary, and that it would formalize the renegotiations within a few weeks. 

Dennis said that once the International House of Prayer campus is completed, retailers will be more likely to want to locate at Truman Corners. 

“All six of us up there (the aldermen) know that it’s still a very difficult economy, and that property is a real challenge to market,” he said. “But I honestly see better times ahead for Grandview. That’s not just political rhetoric. What we basically did was to buy ourselves some time.” 

Crain said he just wants people who live in Grandview to be able to shop here.

“They’re spending their money somewhere else,” he said. “They want to spend it here.”

Shots Fired at Truck as it Nearly Hits GVPD Officer

By Andrea Wood

A Belton man is in custody after putting the life of a Grandview Police Officer in jeopardy last Thursday.

According to police reports, Grandview officers were called to assist Belton Police in pursuit of car being driven by 21 year-old Jason Elliott of Belton, at 2:38 am.

Two Grandview officers were deploying “stop sticks” into the intersection of 155th Street and North Scott Avenue when Elliott’s Dodge pick-up truck was spotted heading northbound in the southbound lanes at an extremely high rate of speed.

A 25 year-old Grandview officer, who has been with the department for three years, was in the intersection as truck approached, and attempted to get out of the way.
Witnesses said that the Dodge suddenly swerved left, and then right, “each time re-directing the Dodge in the direction of the victim as though attempting to strike him with the vehicle.”

The officer said that in fear of his life, he fired four rounds of his .45 caliber duty weapon at the vehicle as the Dodge passed within feet of him. Elliott’s vehicle was hit, but he was not.

The officer, along with several other Belton and Grandview police, then pursued Elliott northbound into Grandview, where stop sticks were successful and the suspect was arrested near 124th and 71 Highway.

Elliott has been charged with Felony Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer and Felony Resisting a Lawful Stop. His bond is being recommended at $250,000 cash.
Meanwhile, the police officer who fired at the oncoming truck is back on duty.

Body Found in Longview Lake

A body was discovered in the water near the boat ramp at the Longview Lake marina Tuesday morning. According to police, the body was of a male in his 20s or 30s, with tattoos. An autopsy is being performed to determine cause of death, and the man was not identified as of press time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Building a New Plan for Bannister

By Andrea Wood

With Bannister Mall fully demolished--and hopes for a Wizards soccer stadium gone as well--Lane4 President Owen Buckley says his development team is working on a new Master Plan for ‘The Trails’ which they will re-submit to the city for TIF purposes by the end of the summer.
“The plan still has three legs to the stool,” Buckley explained. “The retail and corporate office ‘legs’ still remain.”

The third leg, which had been the professional soccer stadium, is now undefined, and may remain so for awhile. Buckley said his team is considering another destination attraction, or even residential, to fill the gap.

“It’s a huge piece when you take out something from a plan that was going to utilize 100 acres out of 467 at the site,” he said. “We’re looking at all the options and remaining flexible as we move forward.”

While Lane4 works on a new plan, Kansas City had hopes that the project would be eligible to receive $5 million in Recovery Zone Bonds. The money was hoped to be used on the demolition of empty buildings and the acquisition of additional property at the Bannister site. However, lawyers determined that the bonds could not be used for demolition or acquisition.

“It was awarded to us, but we can’t use it right now,” Buckley said. “So the money will just have to go back into the cycle.”

Currently, Lane4 owns the former mall site, Hypermart, and Benjamin Ranch. They do not own the strip-malls where Toys ‘R’ Us once stood, or the strip-mall with Burlington Coat Factory.

Last year, residents complained that trash and weeds in the area were violating city codes. Buckley reports that $20,000 has been spent getting trash picked up, and that Lane4 is working with the 3-Trails Community Improvement District to ensure that the site is clean and secure.

As they work on a new Master Plan, Lane4 is requesting that local stakeholders--parents, educators, residents, businesses and religious groups--sign up to be potential participants in future focus groups. For more information, contact Britt Crum-Cano with LANE4 at (816) 960-1444.   

C-1 Parents as Teachers Program Cut in Half

By Mary Kay Morrow

Following heated debate, a divided HMC-1 board voted to cut funds in half for the district’s much-lauded Parents as Teachers program by a vote of 5 to 4 last Thursday evening. 

Required by state law, Parents As Teachers is a free program which provides parent education and developmental screenings for families with children ages birth through five years.  

Board President Bonnaye Mims, Board Vice President George Flesher, and members Scott Jennings and Darrell Curls supported the 50% reduction in funding.

In a last-ditch effort to protect the program, outgoing board members Teresa Edens and Ken Bonar sided with Debbie Aiman in a push to fund Parents As Teachers closer to current levels.

“Parents As Teachers is so effective.  We should be expanding it in these particular times,” said Bonar.  “That’s my parting shot.” 

Edens added that in a district where 84% of children are “hardship kids,” the district needs to be doing more for children. 

“Kids will be harder to deal with later as opposed to what we can do for them with this kind of program,” Edens said.

Parent Educators of the program had written to the board asking them to maintain “what (Board) Director Curls called an ‘essential’ program that touches the lives of so many throughout the district.”

But in the end, a measure to halve current funding prevailed in a close four-to-three vote leaving Parents As Teachers with half as much money and the possibility of losing a proposed two-thirds of its current 16-teacher staff.

Board member Scott Jennings summed up the sentiments of half of his colleagues before making the motion to allocate 50% of next year’s $825,000 in funding for the program and directing the Early Childhood Principal Teresa Tanner to present a plan for the program using $412,000 as a guideline for their budget.

“Our program is one of the best in the state of Missouri. Unfortunately, I just don’t think we’re going to be able to continue the program as it is.  Painfully, we have to adjust accordingly,” Jennings said.

Other supporters of the cuts were equally reluctant to cut the program.  

Mims said the district had had the money when the program began.

“I’m not saying this is not a good program,” Mims said.  “We can’t continue business as usual.  If we had done this five years ago, we wouldn’t be sitting here now.

“I’m pleased to hear the discussion is about our kids,” Mims added.
Curls asked where the money to continue the program at its current levels would come from.  

“We have to deal with the realities of the days and times,” Curls said.  “Where are you going to cut?  Where will it end?”

Opponents of the deep cuts asked their peers to look at all programs equally and for cuts to be made fairly across programs.

“We don’t have a budget and don’t know what other cuts will be,” Aiman said.   She said the district has not cut 50% of any other program and asked that money currently spent on things like technology be applied to Parents As Teachers.

“If all other programs were cut just 10%, we would be able to fund Parents As Teachers,” Aiman said.  “No one’s looking at that.  This is what our job is – to help children.”

Edens agreed.

“Why are we going after one program and cutting it 50% when we’re not cutting any other program? The idea is to make cuts across the board,” Edens said.  “I think Parents As Teachers should be cut – just not this drastically.”
Edens has held that bringing the program back later will cost the district roughly $1,200 per teacher for training.

“We’re just going to be hurting ourselves in the future,” Edens reiterated.

Aiman pointed out that just a portion of the reductions were due to state cuts.
“I talked to DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) and state cuts were $18,000, not $40,000,” as administrators reported in March, she said.

Jennings said money from the state had been cut in half and that the district funds “half a million over and above what we get from the state.”
Aiman countered that if the state cut half, why was the district also cutting half?

“It’s the taxpayer’s money,” Aiman argued.

DESE Spokesman Jim Morris said Parents As Teachers withholding for 2009-10 was 6%, or some $2 million statewide, as announced to all school districts in February.

“That may work out a little differently for each school district depending on how many families are served.  For the Hickman Mills C-1 district, if the 6% holds, it translates to $18,500,” Morris explained before clarifying the 2010-11 budget process.

The House has passed its final Parents As Teachers state budget of $27 million.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended roughly half, or $13 million, of this year’s total budget for next year and the Senate is working on it now.

“We don’t know when a final decision wil be made,” Morris said.  “We expect it to go to the Senate floor this week.  Then, the Conference Committee will work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.”

Asked about the timing of a decision, Morris said,  “  Every year it’s a scramble.  This year is more complicated than ever.  It could be decided this week but they absolutely, positively have to have it done by May 7.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

SKC Health Clinic Site Unveiled

By Paul Thompson

Getting sick is always bad news, but there is now a silver lining in Southern Kansas City.  That’s because the City of Kansas City—partnering with Swope Health Services and the Local Investment Commission (LINC)—has officially announced the site for a new health clinic in the Southland.

On Wednesday, March 31, officials revealed that the new Swope Health South Clinic will be located at 8821 Troost Avenue.  The health clinic will be the first located south of 75th street in KCMO.  

The site was chosen from a group of 33 other locations by a special panel convened to find the area most in need by South Kansas City residents. 
“The emergency room and ambulance have been their primary care physician,” Councilman John Sharp said. 

That won’t be the case for much longer.  The health clinic will begin remodeling in the next few weeks and still plans to open up to the public sometime this summer.  The clinic will offer primary care physicians for adults as well as children, and will also provide preventative care, chronic disease management, and other specialized services.

Swope Health South Clinic anticipates a large swell of patients upon opening and is implementing an electronic medical records system to make the transition as smooth as possible.  The clinic will serve the insured and uninsured alike, and will receive federal funding to help cover the cost of operations.

Councilwoman Cathy Jolly praised the coming facility, and alluded to more possible health clinics coming soon. 

 “It is very gratifying to take this step towards opening that clinic,” she said,  “and to know that because of the passing of the health care reform bill, more funding for clinics of this type will be made available.”

Expounding on the likelihood of further clinics, director of the KCMO Health Department  Dr. Rex Arthur acknowledged that preliminary plans for another South Kansas City health clinic were already underway.

Until then, officials behind the project are confident that they have chosen the correct spot for the first Southland clinic.  

“It was very clear that there was nowhere in the metropolitan area that had more need than this area,” said Rob Gierer, the chief operating officer of the Local Investment Commission (LINC).

Grandview gears up for Yard of the Month program

The City of Grandview will begin its annual Yards of the Month program in May. The city hopes to work with Grandview neighbors who are willing to help select the City of Grandview Yard of the Month winners each month from May through August.
“We’d like to have a resident volunteer from each of Grandview’s three wards to help decide the winning yards,” said Chris Chiodini, Director of the Grandview Community Development Department. “It’s simple…we just need someone willing to drive through the neighborhoods in their ward and write down the addresses of yards which should be considered to receive the award.”
The winning homeowners from each Ward are honored at a Board of Aldermen meeting, published in the Jackson County Advocate, receive a gift bag of prizes and get bragging rights for the month. Past prizes have included passes to The View community center, restaurant and shop gift certificates.
Anyone can nominate a yard for consideration. If you would like to nominate a yard and provide the property address of the home being nominated, or volunteer to help select winners throughout the summer, please call the Grandview Community Development Department at 316-4820,.
In selecting homes to receive the Yard of the Month awards, the following considerations are made:
• The house, yard, and any displays should make a cohesive statement.
• While the award is for the yard, the house is also taken into consideration. Garage doors needing paint, damaged gutters, and other distractions are taken into consideration when reviewing the yard.
• Improvement is noticed, appreciated, and may be rewarded.
• Prior winners cannot win the same award for a period of 5 years. (i.e.: Winners in June are ineligible for another summer award for 5 years, but are still eligible for Fall and Holiday awards during that time.) This policy helps to share the recognition for hard work.
“If you do not win for your yard, please do not get frustrated or give up,” Chiodini said. “Neighbors are looking at everyone’s yard. Your yard and home is appreciated (and helps make your neighborhood look great!)”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Local Boards to See New Faces

By Andrea Wood

When several local boards re-organize later this month, residents will see new officials representing them following Tuesday’s election.
In Grandview, Ward II Alderwoman Debra McKinstry did not file for re-election. Voters selected Annette Turnbaugh (272 votes) over Sage Beauchamp (187 votes) to fill the city seat. Two unchallenged incumbents have also officially been re-elected: Leonard Jones in Ward I and Jim Crain in Ward III. The board members will be sworn in on Tuesday, April 13 at 7pm.

For the Hickman Mills C-1 School Board, the three-year seats currently held by Ken Bonar and Teresa Edens were both up for grabs, as neither filed for re-election. On Tuesday, voters selected between four candidates--April Cushing, J.T. Brown, Christopher Murray, and Don Hoskins. The close race resulted in the election of Cushing (687 votes) and Brown (561 votes). The C-1 school board will re-organize on April 8th at 7:30pm.

Three seats on the Grandview C-4 School Board were also open this year--two three-year positions, and a one-year position to fill the seat left open by Angela Langford’s resignation. C-4 School Board President Dennis Hooton did not file for re-election. Voters selected Cindy Bastian and re-elected Ann Fisher to fill the three-year seats. Amber Woodrome was unchallenged for the one-year, unfulfilled seat on the school board. The C-4 board re-organizes on Thursday, April 15 at 6:30pm.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Memories of Richards & Gebaur Still Fly High

By Seann McAnally

Across the nation, military bases honor the names of American soldiers, most of whom have died serving their country.
But over time, those names often become just that – names without a story.
One writer hopes to change that.
Linda Swink, of Hamilton, Ohio, has written a book called In Their Honor: The Men Behind the Names of Our Military Installations. The book profiles more than 520 military heroes who had bases named in their honor.
Two of those men are First Lieutenant John F. Richards, who was killed on the first day of the Argonne offensive while on an artillery spotting mission during World War I, and Arthur William Gebaur, Jr., who was killed on his 99th mission during World War II and is still listed as “missing in action.”
Local residents won’t have trouble recognizing those names: the men were the namesakes of the Richards-Gebaur Air Base, and they lived in the area.
“I realized there was very little information on these men,” Swink said. “I found there were no books on the subject. So I talked to some historians and they agreed that it’s an area where more research needed to be done.”
Swink herself is no stranger to the military. Her father was a U.S. Marine, her husband is a retired Army officer, and she served four years on active duty with the Air Force, and 11 more in the Air Force Reserves.
Contributing to military history wasn’t Swink’s only goal in writing the book. Ultimately, she said, she’s interested in what it’s like to be a hero who makes the ultimate sacrifice.
“The men these bases were named after are so heroic,” she said. “Can you imagine yourself being in a situation where you give your life to save your fellow soldiers? To me, that’s almost beyond comprehension.”
The Richards-Gebaur Air Base was renamed from Richards Field in 1941, and operated in various capacities until 1994, when the air base closed and the Kansas City Port Authority took over the site.
Now, Chicago-based developer CenterPoint Properties is transforming the base into an international inland port for trains and trucks shipping goods across North America.
But that doesn’t mean the names of Richards and Gebaur will be lost to history.
Steve Rinne is the business development officer for the Kansas City Port Authority, which oversees the facility. He says the port authority has been working with CenterPoint to honor the men who died in their country’s service.
“We feel like the name has got a real connection with Grandview and South Kansas City people, and it deserves to be remembered,” Rinne said.
Rinne said the developer and the port authority will name the main road that runs through the new facility 
“Richards Gebaur Way,” although it is currently labeled as a continuation of Botts Road in development plans.
“In addition to that, we would like to build some sort of marker or memorial, but it’s still in the planning stages,” Rinne said. “We want to honor their memory. They gave their lives for this country and we want people to know about them.”
One local man who definitely knows about them is C.N. Seidlitz, Richards’ nephew, who was born two years after his uncle died.
Even though he grew up without his uncle’s presence, Seidlitz said he feels like he knows Richards through his journals.
“He kept a diary, and my grandfather published it, along with letters he wrote during the war,” Seidlitz recalled. “There is a large plaque in Europe where he was shot down.”
Seidlitz said his uncle’s story inspired him to join the Air Force. During World War II, Seidlitz served with the 15th Air Force in Italy, flying B-24 bombers.
It’s always been a source of pride for his family, Seidlitz said, that the air base was named in Richards’ honor.
“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “It has kept his memory alive.”
He said he’s glad that won’t end now that CenterPoint is developing the freight facility, and looks forward to seeing whatever memorial they come up with.
“I hope I get to see it, but they better hurry up,” he joked. “After all, I turn 90 this year.”
Swink said she doesn’t plan to rest on her laurels. She’s already started a book chronicling the adventures of air force Major General Edward Mechenbier, who wrote the introduction to her current book.
“He’s got an interesting story,” Swink said. “He was a POW along with John McCain, so I’ve been interviewing him once a week.”
She also said she hopes to return to the topic of military bases with a second edition of her book, as there are some 250 more bases named after men who she can’t find information about. She said she even hopes to come to Richards-Gebaur for a possible presentation and book signing in the near future.
Either way, she said she’ll continue to research and tell stories of military heroes.
“I have to write,” she said. “It’s what I do.”
Swink’s book is available at or from the publisher, Little Miami Publishing Co., at To read excerpts from her book, visit

Vote Tuesday!

Polls will open from 6am until 7pm on Tuesday, April 6th, as voters select those to represent them on Grandview’s Board of Aldermen, the Grandview C-4 School Board, and the Hickman Mills C-1 School Board. 

Residents who do not know where to vote can call the Jackson County Election Board at 816-325-4600 (if you live in Grandview) or the Kansas City Election Board at 816-842-4820 (if you live in Kansas City). For more details, see the election guide--with a list of polling places for Grandview and C-4 patrons--on pages four and five.

Three seats on the Board of Aldermen are up for election, one in each of the city’s three wards.
WARD I: Leonard Jones filed for re-election, and is uncontested.
WARD II: Debra McKinstry did not file for re-election. Voters in this ward will choose between two candidates:
• Annette Turnbaugh
• Sage Beauchamp
WARD III: Jim Crain filed for re-election, and is uncontested.
  For information on these candidates, see pages four and five.   

Two three-year term positions are up for election in the Hickman Mills C-1 School District. The seats are currently held by Ken Bonar and Teresa Edens, neither of whom filed for re-election. On Tuesday, voters will choose two school board members between four candidates:
• April R. Cushing
• James T. Brown
• Christopher R. Murray
• Don Hoskins
For information on these candidates, see last week’s Jackson County Advocate.

Three seats on the Grandview School Board are open this year--two three-year positions, and a one-year position to fill the seat left open by Angela Langford’s resignation.
Voters will choose two school board members from three candidates:
• Ann Fisher
• Larry Pulos
• Cindy Bastian
   There is only one candidate, Amber Woodrome, for the one-year, unfulfilled seat on the Grandview School Board. Woodrome will gain the position uncontested.
  For information on these candidates, see last week’s Advocate.    

C-1 to Purchase Metal Detectors and Security Doors

By Mary Kay Morrow

When students walk through the doors of Hickman Mills C-1 schools next year, they will be passing through nearly $685,000 in added security measures. 

Last Tuesday, the Hickman Mills C-1 school board voted to purchase ten portable metal detectors to be used at its high school and middle schools next year, as well as enhanced door security at all elementary schools.

In the past, district personnel have expressed concerns that metal detectors are not a time-efficient way to get kids in and out of buildings. However, the walk-through Garrett PD 6500i metal detectors chosen by the district are reported to be able to accommodate as many as 60 people a minute, and the detectors can readily indicate the actual position of any metal objects. 

These metal detectors are used widely—including at KCMO schools and all US airports—and are considered cutting-edge.

The ten units will be used as follows: four at Ruskin High School, four at the 8th and 9th grade center (currently Hickman Mills High School) and two at the 6th and 7th grade center (currently Smith-Hale Middle School).  Portability will allow the detectors to be used at athletic games and other district events as well. 

The metal detectors will cost roughly $36,000, and be funded by the district’s reserves, which were considered slim by auditors last December.
The lock-down doors for the district’s elementary schools have a base bid of nearly $650,000. Enhanced door security in the district will include new exterior doors as well as electro-mechanical locks, proximity card readers, cameras and intercoms on selected doors for controlled access.

“The basic design is intended to keep people out (of the schools) that should not be there,” said architect Mark Spurgeon.

Board members hope that the metal detectors and enhanced doors will help increase security at the district’s schools.

Hickman Mills C-1 has experienced a string of violent incidents involving teenagers in the past year.  Two students were murdered, and two loaded guns have been discovered at Ruskin High School.

Most recently, a HMHS 14-year old student was shot in the hand by one of her classmates last Thursday with either an Airsoft pistol or possibly a pellet gun.

Hickman Mills School District spokesman John Baccala said a girl walked into the school office at Hickman Mills claiming to have been shot.
“The student’s parent took her for medical treatment for a minor flesh wound to the back of her hand,” said Baccala.

According to Baccala, the incident falls under the Safe Schools Act and as such, the student who shot her faces a ten-day suspension at a minimum and possibly other disciplinary action up to and including expulsion. 

“We are not going to tolerate having these at our schools,” said Baccala.

Police are investigating the incident that took place in a parking lot at the far west end of the Hickman campus near 90th Street and Santa Fe Road at 3:15pm.

In a district survey last year conducted by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), just one percent of students and two percent of faculty indicated that they feel safe at school. 

Despite 15 weapon-related incidents in Hickman Mills in 2009 as listed on the DESE website, school officials maintain perception is worse than reality.

“Anything can be a weapon,” Dr. Williams said in January.

“I’ve seen serious things done with a paper clip or an earring,” said Board President Bonnaye Mims. 

Hickman Security Director John McEntee said that while people tend to focus on isolated incidents, school is still the safest place for kids to be.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, the board proceeded with the heightened security measures.

The process to approve the security measures was met with some confusion.

Both measures were on Tuesday’s agenda as consent items, which are typically items that do not require discussion before a vote is taken. 

Board member Debbie Aiman had asked that metal detectors be pulled out of the consent agenda for further discussion. One item not pulled from consent was the enhanced door security measures.

Later in the meeting, however, Associate Superintendent Mitch Nutterfield brought up door security as part of his bond update. Nutterfield explained that $500,000 of the April 2008 bond money was originally intended only to replace some exterior doors.

“I want to make sure the board is clear on the sequence of events,” Nutterfield said. “The secondary schools would not be getting the cameras and what not.  There is not enough bond money left to do all of the buildings.”

Nutterfield later explained that the district might be able to come up with an intermediate solution for the high school doors--lockdown, but without new doors--until more money can be found.

Elementary school door security enhancements will be funded with the 2008 bond money and possibly contingency funds remaining from the $9.7 million Early Childhood Center, which might receive some federal funds (application pending).

Paul Gerber of Konrath, the project management group, clarified available contingency funds from the Childhood Center.
“We’re at a point where we feel comfortable with $878,000 in savings right now,” Konrath said. 

Emil Konrath went on to say that the “entire security package isn’t in (the bid.)  If push comes to shove, we may not be able to go forward.”
Architect Mark Spurgeon said that the contractors had allowed them to postpone the door enhancements at the secondary level until they know if there is funding available from the Childhood Center.

Board Member Teresa Edens expressed concern that the board had approved the measure earlier in the evening.

“It’s awkward that we approved this and don’t really know what we’re doing,” Edens said.  “We’re spending a million dollars with no details here.  I think we should know what we’re buying given our financial situation.”

“We have discussed this for the last three months,” Nutterfield countered. 

Board member Scott Jennings echoed Edens’ concerns, noting that the $500,000 in bond money originally allocated had now almost doubled.

“I have real questions on security,” Jennings said before making a motion to retract and reconsider the enhanced security vote.  Edens seconded the motion but the board defeated the motion to withdraw approval by a vote of 5 to 2, with Edens and Jennings voting to reconsider.

In addition to the security measures approved last week, Hickman currently employs off-duty, uniformed police officers full-time with two at each high school, one at each middle school and at the Star management school, and two who roam the eight elementary schools.

The board reorganization will take place on April 8 at 7:30 pm in the Administration Board Room. The next monthly meeting will be on April 15 at 7pm.  Watch the district website for changes.