Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grandview to Put Hotel Tax on Ballot

By Seann McAnally
City officials plan to put a “transient guest tax” on a ballot for voter approval, possibly as soon as August.
Earlier this year, Aldermen Jim Crain and now-Mayor Steve Dennis asked city staff to look into establishing such a tax, often called a “hotel/motel tax” in other cities.
Until recently, said Joe Gall, city attorney, only charter cities – that is, cities ruled by a local constitution, such as Lee’s Summit or Belton – could establish such a tax. But in recent years, he said, state legislation has been written that allows non-charter cities to impose such a tax. The tax would take the form of a 5% tax on hotel and motel stays in the city limits. Cory Smith, city administrator, opined it could raise as much as $50,000 - $60,000 in the first six months.
The rub is that the tax must be used to “promote tourism.”
But both Crain and Alderman Joe Runions said they’ve been assured by state officials that local boards can be “creative” with the money.
“If we have a city full of pot holes, that’s no good for tourism,” Crain said.
Smith said the tax shouldn’t affect most people in Grandview, other than occasions when family members visit and decide to stay in one of the city’s two local hotels.
“Most cities around us have the same or higher room taxes in place, so it should not place (the hotels) at any disadvantage,” Smith said. “This is open-ended, but it does say to support tourism.”
Dennis said it’s important to understand clearly what can and can’t be done with the revenues.
“It’s not like we’re trying to be disingenuous about this, but we do want the broadest possible legal option,” he said. “I think there are a lot of things we could do in this city that fall under the heading of promoting tourism.”
Dennis hinted at the potential for more hotels in Grandview in the near future, and said the tax could be a big windfall for the city.
According to city documents, the city of Independence gets about $1 million a year from its transient guest tax, and funds a Tourism Department with it. Blue Springs, meanwhile, uses it to pay debt associated with the Adams Pointe Conference Center. Kansas City uses its tax to pay for the TWA Dome and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Sewer Holding Basins Planned for Raytown Road and I-470

By Andrea Wood
The Little Blue Valley Sewer District plans to use 23 acres of land near the KCMO Yard Waste drop-off site (Raytown Road & I-470) to hold excess waste water during storms.
About four times per year, said project manager Michael Looney, the area gets so much rain that the Atherton Wastewater Treatment Plant cannot handle it all. The plant can handle 150 million gallons per day, and major rain events can generate 250 million gallons.
Overflows can occur, when the water is not disinfected before it dumps into the Missouri River.
The State of Missouri and the EPA are cracking down on waste water overflows. By 2013, all waste water must be treated before going in the Missouri River--even if there is a big storm.
So the Little Blue Valley Sewer District is proposing to build the two holding basins, where waste water can sit for 24-48 hours until the Atherton plant has the capacity to disinfect it.
“Should there be any odors, chemicals can be added to the wastewater to help,” Looney said. “Water cannons will also be built so that solids can be washed out.”
Cell #1 would be concrete, could hold approximately 16 million gallons, and would be fenced. Cell #2 would hold approximately 78 million gallons, and would be lined with grass.
“Most of the site was once used by the Kansas City, Missouri Water Services Department as wastewater treatment lagoons,” Looney said.  “They were decommissioned in the late 1970s.”
He said the area will be empty and dry most of the time, and odors are not anticipated.
The $13 million holding basins would be used for approximately 20 years.
The yard waste drop-off site would remain where it is, and the Little Blue Valley Sewer District would improve the road leading down to the drop-off site and holding basins as part of the plan.
“Pending permit approval by the City of Kansas City, Missouri and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, we anticipate construction could begin in the Spring/Summer of 2012,” Looney said.
The plan is scheduled to go before the KCMO Planning Commission on May 3rd.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Controversy at C-4 School Board Swear-In

District says new board member’s age discrimination claim is conflict of interest

By Paul Thompson
New C-4 Board members Bob Stewart, Paul Alexander, and Barbara Polette were sworn into office on Thursday, April 15, although it wasn’t a sure thing until minutes before the meeting began.
Outgoing board member Allen Meyer read a prepared statement on behalf of the district before the swearing in, stating that the district believes that Polette, who was fired from her teaching position at Meadowmere Elementary last year, has a conflict of interest which will prohibit her from participating in certain finance-related votes.
Polette, who garnered the most votes in the April 5th election, fought the termination in a public hearing last year. She has since filed an age discrimination claim against the district.
“Because she has pending legal claims against the district, it may be impossible for her to be unbiased in board policy,” read Meyer from the two-page legal document. “…It is our understanding that Ms. Polette plans to abstain from voting on certain issues tonight.”
The letter also stated that while Polette has every right to pursue her claim against the district, the district believes she could be violating the school board’s policies on conflict of interest by simultaneously serving as a member of the school board. The district’s letter suggested two options for Polette to eliminate the alleged conflict of interest.
“This may be accomplished through a variety of means, either withdrawing her claim against the district, or by stepping back from the board,” read Meyer.
A last-second agreement, however, resulted in neither of those options. Minutes before the C-4 School Board meeting began, a compromise had been reached in which Polette agreed to abstain from certain finance-related votes until her claim had been cleared.
“That sentence that stated ‘I will abstain from voting’ was interjected at the last minute by (Grandview School District attorney) Shellie Guin,” said Meyer last Friday. “That was hand written.”
Meyer revealed that a version of the letter would still have been read before the swearing-in even if the agreement had been reached earlier, seeing as how Polette’s claim had been a closed subject until that night.
Polette has filed a claim with the Missouri Commission of Human Rights on the issue of age discrimination. The claim stems from her termination from Meadowmere Elementary School in April of last year. Polette appealed the termination in an open school board hearing last summer, but the board ultimately decided to uphold the district’s decision to fire the former special education teacher.
She was fired amid claims that she failed to properly test her students, didn’t comply with district curriculum and ultimately being deemed insubordinate. Testifying against Polette were Meadowmere Principal Lisa Walker and district Director of Special Services Susan Kirkpatrick, who were both named assistant superintendants early last week.
The defense for Polette argued that the district provided her with a “moving target” that was impossible to meet. They also argued that Polette was a “master of individualized education” with 10 years of experience in the district, and that she generally drew strong reviews from parents, several of whom testified on her behalf at the hearings.
Polette was the leading vote-getter of the 9 candidates who applied for the C-4 School Board, earning 16% of the vote. The conflict of interest concerns regarding her claim surfaced over the last couple of weeks, resulting in the agreement between Polette and the board that she would abstain from voting on issues related to finance until her claim had been cleared.
Although rare, legal issues between board members and school districts are not unprecedented.
“We’ve had school board members that have been involved in lawsuits against the district before.” Said Missouri School Board Association lawyer Susan Goldhammer.
Goldhammer said that while some issues may arise such as maintaining attorney-client privilege between the district and their lawyers, Polette still has the right to be on the board.
 “Whether it had to be announced then and there, that’s up to the school district,” Goldhammer said.“It might put the public at ease to know that they had come to some sort of agreement.”
It is important to note that the claim with the Missouri Commission of Human Rights is not a lawsuit, but rather more of a preliminary step to see if a case could be made. Polette estimated that her claim should be decided one way or another within the month, give or take. What remains to be seen is whether or not she would proceed with a suit if the commission ruled in her favor.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” she stated.
In the meantime, the two district staff who testified against Polette are preparing for their new positions among the top administrators, which they will begin on July 1st. Walker will fill the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction seat, vacated with the retirement of Barbara Tate. Kirkpatrick will fill the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, vacated by the retirement of Debra Nelson.
Both positions work closely with the school board on issues impacting the district.

Bannister Redevelopment Plan TIF Gets First Okay

Last Wednesday, Kansas City’s Tax Increment Financing Commission unanimously approved a new $590 million Bannister redevelopment plan, called ‘The Trails.’
The plan must now go before the City Council, which is expected to happen in May. Lane4 Property Group Inc. is seeking $191 million in city and state tax incentives for the plan, which includes 1.2 million square feet of retail, 1.5 million square feet of office space, and 150 hotel rooms.

Aiman Honored as C-1 School Board Regroups

Last Tuesday, April 12th, Hickman Mills School Board Member Debbie Aiman was presented with a plaque from Board President Bonnaye Mims, thanking her for her service during the last three years.  In a close election on April 5th, Aiman was not able to retain her seat on the board. After Breman Anderson, Dan Osman and Bonnaye Mims took the oath of office, the board reorganized. Mims was once again voted as President, receiving votes from April Cushing, George Flesher and Dan Osman. Darrell Curls was also nominated for President, with support from J.T Brown and Breman Anderson. George Flesher was elected as Vice-President, with votes from Mims, Cushing, Osman and Flesher. J.T. Brown was also nominated, and received votes from Curls and Anderson.

Friday, April 15, 2011

White Among National Champs

By Paul Thompson
With a minute to play in a hotly contested NCAA Women's National Championship game, Texas A&M needed a big play. The Aggies were inbounding the basketball with two seconds on the shot clock and a two point lead. The ball was passed in to former Hickman Mills star Tyra White, and she put up the shot she'll never forget.
"I just knew I had to get it up," White said about the three-pointer. "When I did, it felt short at first, but I was just happy it went in. Looking at the replay is pretty cool."
The shot gave the Aggies an insurmountable five point lead and their first ever national title. It was an emotional moment for White, the former McDonald's All-American who thought her career could have been over after a serious knee injury during her freshman season at Texas A&M. Now White can look back at the injury and appreciate the motivation that it gave her to come back as strong as ever.
"When I first tore my ACL I thought my world was over," White acknowledged. "Just looking from me as a freshman and now where I am, it was a blessing."
White redshirted during that freshman season, and didn't become a regular starter until her redshirt sophomore year. Last season, White teamed up with longtime friend and fellow Kansas Citian Danielle Adams to turn Texas A&M into a formidable opponent. Now a junior, White has emerged as a soft-spoken leader of the Aggies. She scored 18 points in the national championship game to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Tyra says that ultimately, leaving with a national championship was especially sweet after failing to win the Big 12 tournament in hometown Kansas City this season.
"It means a lot because we weren't able to do it at the Big 12 Tournament this year," said White. "We take a lot of pride in where we've come from. We take a lot of pride, me and Danielle do."
After her championship game performance, White received an outpouring of support from friends and fans from the Kansas City area.
"My high school coach sent me a fax, and I got a call from my old principal at Hickman. Just getting congratulations is nice," she said.
When asked if it was strange to learn that the school where she became a star, Hickman Mills, has now merged into Ruskin, White admitted it was a little different. But that doesn't take anything away from her hometown.
"It's very weird, but my cousin went there (Ruskin), and my little cousins go to Hickman (Junior High) now. They see my picture there at Hickman," said White of her old school. "It's kind of different to have all those kids in one building, but I love Kansas City, I love Hickman, and I love Ruskin."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Election Results

Kansas City officials are breathing a sigh of relief after the earnings tax was overwhelmingly approved by 78% of the city's voters. The 1% e-tax on those who live and/or work in Kansas City generates a large portion of the city's general fund.
Grandview voters selected Alderman Steve Dennis as their mayor by 53%. Dennis  has served as acting mayor since the death of Mayor Bob Beckers late last summer. Alderman Leonard Jones, who challenged Dennis for the mayor's seat, will still serve Ward 1 as Alderman.
Grandview's Board of Aldermen will see some new faces, as Brent Steeno will take the seat Dennis had occupied in Ward 1. In Ward 3, John Maloney won the seat from incumbent Tony Preyer in a three-man race.
Grandview C-4 voters approved a $7 million bond issue, and selected three new faces for the school board--Barbara Polette, Paul Alexander and Bob Stewart. The three new school board members received the most votes in a crowded, nine-person race that included only one current board member, Amber Woodrome, who did not retain her seat.
Hickman Mills C-1 voters re-elected two out of three of their incumbent school board members. Board President Bonnaye Mims was selected for another term, as was Breman Anderson. Incumbent Debbie Aiman lost her seat to newcomer Dan Osman.
Other winners included Dave Anderson and Robert Anderson to the Jackson County #1 Water District Board.
For full results, pick up your copy of the Jackson County Advocate Thursday!

New Ground for Hickman Mills Clinic, Carondelet

WIC Clinic building demolished to make way for 20,000 sq ft medical building

By Seann McAnally
Developers broke ground Friday on a new 20,000 square-foot medical office to be construced at 150 Highway and Byars Road.
Executives and physicians from future tenants Hickman Mills Clinic (Encompass Medical Group), and Carondelet Health and Carondelet Heart Institute donned shovels for the ceremony. 
"The Carondelet Heart Institute is thrilled to celebrate our vision coming to life with a new healthcare facility that will offer clinical services, top physicians committed to providing high-quality care to families in the Grandview community," said David Ireland, CEO of the Carondelet Heart Institute.
The project is the first new medical office building in Grandview in several years.  The single-story $5.3 million building will include primary care group, cardiology group, specialty physicians and a full-service pharmacy. 
The land was blessed, and remarks were given. Dr. Steve Buie, a primary care physician and partner with Hickman Mills Clinic-Encompass Medical Group, spoke.
"My father started this clinic and we hope to continue that tradition of care out here in Grandview," Buie said. "We're proud of our continued presence in the south of the Metro area."
Grandview Alderman Steve Dennis said he's happy to have the new neighbors.
"I grew up at [Hickman Mills] clinic and your dad caused me a lot of pain," Dennis joked about getting shots when he was young. "This is an exciting time for development along 150 Hwy...I think things are really going to turn around here in Grandview."
Developers praised Grandview Economic Development Director Alan Kenyon for his assistance on the project.
"New medical development further enhances the overall quality of life in our community," Kenyon said. He also pointed out that the medical clinic will add momentum to the development of the 150 Highway corridor along the south of Grandview.
Due to open in November 2011, the new medical office building on 2.5 acres is designed by Hoefer Wysocki Architects and constructed by Taylor Kelly Construction Services. 
LADCO Development's President & CEO Jon Garnaas gave praise to the city.
"We are thankful to the City of Grandview's leaders and residents for their support to make the new medical building a reality."
The Grandview Medical Office will house two primary tenants--the Carondelet Heart Institue and the Hickman Mills Clinic.
The Carondelet Heart Institute provides cardiovascular services including cardiac diagnostics, cardiovascular interventions, open-heart surgery and cardiac rehabilitation. The heart institute provides state-of-the-art cardiovascular care in a positive healing environment which includes preventing, detecting and managing complex cardiovascular disease. 
The Hickman Mills Clinic-Encompass Medical Group located at the new Grandview Medical Office Building will include eight primary care physicians.  The Encompass Medical Group offers family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, premier imaging, mammography and urgent care within multiple locations in the Kansas City metro area. 
Since the groundbreaking, work has already began at the site. The building which housed the Jackson County Health Department WIC clinic has already been torn down.
A temporary WIC clinic is up and running at 15211 E. 71 Highway, just off the East Access road near Rodeway Inn.
Shane Kovac, a representative of Truman Medical Centers, which runs the county program, said officials have targeted a permanent Grandview location, but that negotiations to secure it are still going on.