city’s crime rate down 12%, several projects coming to fruition topics of state of city address by city leaders
By Seann McAnally
Officials painted a rosy picture of Grandview’s future at the State of the City address at The View Community Center on Jan. 27.
Steve Dennis, president of the Board of Aldermen and acting mayor, shared the spotlight with the heads of the city’s parks, public works, police, and economic development departments.
Todd Krass, CEO of Research Belton Hospital and chairman of the board of directors for the Grandview Chamber of Commerce, opened the event by remembering the man who should have been speaking.
“We’re missing one element here today, and that’s Bob Beckers,” Krass said of Grandview’s mayor, who passed away following his second battle with cancer in August. “I’m sure he’s here with us in spirit and would be extremely proud to see the city he served so long move forward.”
Dennis also praised Beckers.
“I don’t know that I can recognize any one person that made an impact on this city the way he did,” Dennis said. “He re-energized this city in so many ways, and we’re thankful Bob Beckers entered our lives. He loved this city.”
Dennis went on to say that he enjoys bragging about Grandview when he meets others from around the metropolitan area. He said as a lifelong resident, he’s seen Grandview’s ups and downs.
“I’ve seen the goods, the bads, and the uglies, and I’ve seen it turn around,” he said.
Dennis touted Grandview’s quality of life, schools, and conservative financial attitude, which he said give it a leg up on neighboring cities.
“I’m not going to mention any names, but we’ve got communities across the state line that are in debt and laying off public safety workers,” he said. “But here in Grandview we have a balanced budget and we’re reaping the benefits of conservative spending, and holding our own in these tough economic times.”
That’s not to say Grandview still doesn’t have a long way to go, he said – particularly in terms of how the rest of the KC area views it.
“We need to work on our image,” Dennis said. “Grandview still has a reputation. We’re starting to do something about that.”
He said the time is right for Grandview to come out of its economic doldrums, thanks in part to new development along 71 and 150 Highways.
“We’d been passed over,” he said. “Development went to the second tier suburbs. They’re not doing that anymore. They’re coming here.”
He thanked Grandview’s business community and gave them a large share of credit for Grandview’s turnaround.
“We’ve got momentum going, and now they’re keeping it going,” Dennis said. “All this energy in our city is starting to snowball for us. But the best change is seeing people’s hearts change.”
He recalled sitting in City Administrator Cory Smith’s office earlier this year, looking over Smith’s shoulder, out the window at Main Street.
“There were families strolling down Main Street, enjoying their city,” Dennis said. “Call me a romantic, but that’s what we’re working for.”
Tony Finlay, director of parks and recreation, touted the new sprayground at John Anderson Park, as well as the “Brumble’s Forest” destination playground slated for construction at Meadowmere Park this spring. He said there are no other parks like those in the Kansas City area, and thanked voters for approving $7.5 million in parks bonds to make it happen. He also plugged the completion of a plan for a citywide trails system, improvements to Mapleview and Southview Park.
“We’re giving the voters what they wanted,” Finlay said.
Dennis introduced new Public Works Director Dennis Randolph, who joined the city in late 2009.
“He’s got a real aggressive attitude for going after money,” Dennis said.
Randolph said his experience gives him confidence that things are turning around for Grandview.
“When you’re coming out of an economic downturn, a busy public works department is a sign of good things coming back to the community,” Randolph said. “In 2010, we had a busy year.”
He thanked voters for approving a continuation of the half-cent transportation sales tax in August.
“That means we have $1 million a year coming in to plan for the future,” he said. He also said he thought it was essential to seek federal funds, even though some conservative voters don’t like that idea.
“If the federal money is out there, we should get our share,” Randolph said. “Whether you like it or not, that’s the game right now. We want to get what you contribute to the government and spend it here in Grandview.”
He said much of that will go to the city’s “star project” of the next five years – the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Main Street. He also touted Botts Road construction, which he said would give good access for industrial traffic, a new railroad overpass at Blue Ridge Blvd and the KC Southern line, and a new maintenance facility. He also said 71 Hwy becoming a federal interstate will make a big difference for Grandview.
“We can’t forget that 71 will become I-49 in a few years,” he said. “And when you have an “I” road, that makes a big difference.”
Captain Charlie Iseman of the police department discussed new technology officers are using, such as automatic license plate readers and electronic ticketing devices, as well as a new off-road vehicle and security enhancements at police headquarters in City Hall.
“The 2010 crime rate is down 12 percent,” he said. “That’s partially a regional trend but it’s also due to the enthusiasm of our officers. Day and night they’re out there looking for that very small percentage of our community that’s doing most of the crime out there.”
Alan Kenyon, the city’s economic development director, said his experience in the industry is telling him things are looking good for Grandview. Dennis praised Kenyon, saying “he’s the one who should get most of the credit” for much of the new development happening in the city.
“I have never been in a community where I have seen so many elements coming together in a confluence to turn around a city,” Kenyon said. “I’m confident that in 5 years, Grandview will be one of the fastest-growing cities in Missouri.”
Kenyon said new construction on 150 Hwy will draw traffic from southern Lee’s Summit, and that the new NNSA and CenterPoint facilities should attract high-income residents. He also spoke highly of the Gateway Commons tax increment financing district, which is anchored by Gail’s Harley Davidson. Dennis echoed Kenyon’s comments.
“One woman and a motorcycle really turned that area around,” Dennis said of owner Gail Worth.