Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rock Blasting Near Route 150 and Botts Road Will Cause Delays


KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Blasting of rock near Route 150 and Botts Road will halt traffic for up to 15 minutes once daily beginning Monday, February 28 through Friday, March 4, weather permitting.
The delays will allow workers to break apart and remove rock to build a new intersection at Route 150 and Botts Road.  The blasting operation, which will halt traffic for no longer than 15 minutes once each day, will occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Once the contractor is ready to set off a charge, both eastbound and westbound traffic on Route 150 will be halted to allow for the blast and to clean up any debris that may fall onto the roadway. Westbound traffic will be diverted or slowed to a halt beginning at Route 71. Eastbound traffic will be diverted or halted at Route D.
Traffic at Prospect Avenue and Thunderbird Road west of the construction site and Andrews Road east of the site will also be halted during the blasting.
For more information about other MoDOT projects, please visit MoDOT's Website at www.modot.mo.gov/kansascity. For instant updates, follow MoDOT_KC on Twitter or send questions and comments to kccommunityrelations@modot.mo.gov.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Voters pick James, Burke in KC Mayor Race

Official Election Results

KC MAYOR
Deb Hermann ..... 11%
*Mike Burke ........ 26%
*Sly James.......... 26%
Henry Klein........... 1%
Jim Rowland ...... 13%
Mark Funkhouser .. 21%
Charlie Wheeler ... 1%

KC COUNCIL
6TH DISTRICT

*John Sharp ....... 66%
*Terrence Nash .. 34%

6TH DISTRICT At Large
Michael Brown ... 16%
*Scott Taylor ...... 35%
Rick Abel ............ 10%
*Tracy Ward ........ 17%
Chuck Eddy ........ 16%
Delmira Quarles ... 3%
MD Rabbi Alam .... 3%

5TH DISTRICT At Large
*Cindy Circo ....... 75%
*Charlie Angel .... 25%

4TH DISTRICT At Large
*John Crawford .. 25%
Anne McGregor .. 12%
*Jim Glover......... 36%
Annie Presley ..... 22%

3rd DISTRICT At Large
*Melba Curls ....... 53%
*Brandon Ellington .31%
Durwin Rice ........ 16%

2nd DISTRICT At Large
*Ed Ford .............. 58%
*Allen Dillingham . 42%
1st DISTRICT At Large
*Scott Wagner .... 67%
*Daina Kennedy . 33%

9th DISTRICT STATE SENATOR
*Kiki Curls (D) .... 83%
Nola Wood (R) .... 17%
* Projected Winners NOTE: Results
unoffi cial as of press time

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Complete Election Guide in the Feb. 17 Issue!

Check out the Advocate's comprehensive election guide in the Feb. 17 issue, on stands now. You can find a copy of the Advocate at our office at 1102 Main in Grandview, as well as the Conoco station and Hard Bean Cafe on Main in Grandview; the 7-11 on Highgrove in Grandview, IHOP University's Administration Office (former Grandview Plaza Carpet Corner location), Price Chopper in Grandview, Shirley's Restaurant in Grandview and Lipari's Sun Fresh in South Kansas City.

The Advocate is looking for south KC locations for news racks! If you have any ideas, or would like a rack at your business, please call Seann or Paul at 761-6200.

Kelley Road Closure

Kelley Road at the south side of Route 150 will be closed beginning 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, for reconstruction of the intersection.
Traffic on Route 150 will not be affected. Reconstruction at the intersection will take about a month, weather permitting. When completed, the intersection will have traffic signals and left-turn lanes as part of nearly $69 million in improvements that include widening Route 150 from just west of Route 291 to Route 71, and the new single-point urban interchange at Route 150 and Route 71. The new interchange was completed last fall, and the widening project is on schedule to be completed by mid-2012.

North & Southbound ramps to I-35 closed until May

The City of Kansas City, Mo., is advising motorists that construction on the 87th Street roundabouts will close the northbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramps to Interstate 435 beginning Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 9:30 a.m. until early May.
This construction, a part of Phase 2 of the 87th Street improvement project, is on schedule despite heavy snowfall. The latest work will install roundabouts on 87th Street at the bottom of two of the Interstate 435 exit ramps.
"Our contractor plans to work through the winter to ensure that this work is completed in a timely fashion," said Pat Klein, acting director of the Capital Projects Department. "This closure will allow that work to continue in the most efficient manner possible."
Construction started on the 87th Street improvement project in June 2009. The $11 million roadway improvement will realign and widen 87th Street east of Highway 71, adding sidewalks, storm and sanitary sewers and other improvements to the roadway. In addition, roundabouts will be installed at both Interstate 435 intersections, Hillcrest Road and Newton Avenue. The project is scheduled for completion in early summer 2011.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trash pick-up delayed, City offices closed Feb. 21

In observance of the President’s Day holiday on Monday, Feb. 21, Kansas City curbside trash and recycling collection will be delayed one day and City of Kansas City, Mo., offices will be closed.

KC residents who usually have Monday collection will receive this service on Tuesday, Feb. 22. Residents who usually have Friday collection will receive this service on Saturday, Feb 26.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

South KC Targeted in New Phase of Stabilization Program

By Seann McAnally
J.C. Advocate

South Kansas City is benefiting from a federal program that could turn the tide of foreclosures in the area – and potential homebuyers can take advantage of big savings in the process. 

City Councilman John Sharp says five subdivisions in the Ruskin area have been targeted for Kansas City’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. 

The federally funded program, which is entering its third phase, aims to purchase and completely rehabilitate vacant, foreclosed homes and market them to qualified buyers, who can get a grant to pay 20 percent of down payment. That way, a buyer can get into a completed rehabbed home with a full two-year warranty, and only have to finance 80 percent of the purchase price. 

Some $1.8 million is available for this phase of the program, which has already been through two previous funding cycles. Eligible areas include parts of Ruskin Heights, Ruskin Hills, Kirkside, Crossgates and Bell Acres. The boundaries are Blue Ridge Blvd. on the west, Raytown Rd. on the east, 107th St. on the north and 119th St. on the south. 

City Councilman John Sharp says he pleaded with other city officials to target the Ruskin area specifically – which has been hard-hit by foreclosures – rather than piecemeal the process all over the city. 

“Concentrating our efforts to renovate and sell vacant houses in the Ruskin area will really make a positive impact on these neighborhoods,” Sharp said. “It makes a lot more sense than just doing one or two house in neighborhoods throughout the city, which doesn’t have much impact.” 

In earlier phases of the program, 30 vacant, foreclosed homes in the Hickman Mills School District were purchased, and 27 of those were completely renovated. About 50 homes in total have been purchased and rehabbed throughout the entire city. 

More than a dozen homes have been sold so far through the program in Kansas City’s Sixth Council District. 

The city itself doesn’t actually purchase the homes, Sharp said, but does administer the federal funding. Not-for-profit community groups receive grant funds to purchase and rehabilitate the homes. Such organizations include Neighborhood Housing Services, Blue Hills Community Services, Swope Community Builders and the Westside Housing Organization. Those groups sub-contract with the city’s Economic Development Corporation. 

Mark Stalsworth, president and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services, said the program is self-perpetuating, because proceeds from the sales of the homes – minus real estate commissions – are funneled back into the program to purchase more homes. 

“Of the 15 properties we purchased, we were able to return $1.2 million to the program fund,” Stalsworth said. 

There’s a time limit on the money, however: any funds associated with the program – including the reinvested funds – have to be spent by 2013.

The benefit to the neighborhoods is obvious, Sharp said, in that it takes vacant, foreclosed homes and puts owner-occupiers into them. This helps property values of neighboring homes, he said, not to mention the fact that it’s better to have someone living in a house than not. 

Sharp said it’s important to realize how thoroughly the homes are rehabilitated. He said all of the homes get energy efficient appliances and other amenities, as well as any necessary repairs to the home’s electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, and other systems, as well as paint, roof work, and so on.

“These aren’t just cosmetic fixes,” Sharp said. “These homes represent some of the best values on the market for homebuyers who plan to live in their new homes for a long time.

The fact that the homes are completely inspected and brought up to the federal government’s relatively high standards is one of the major benefits to the homebuyer, Stalsworth said. 

“Anyone can go buy a foreclosed property, but it’s a buyer beware type of situation,” he explained. “These properties have been intensely inspected and all of the issues have already been addressed, fixed, and paid for, whether it’s the furnace or roof or some other issue – and there’s a two-year homebuyers warranty on the rehab work.”

The prices on the homes are also much better than one would find on the open market. 

“The buyer pays the lesser of the total cost of acquisition and rehab, or the appraised value of the property,” Stalsworth said. 

But that’s not all. Grant money actually helps reduce the price. 

“A really big incentive to the homebuyer is that they get a grant for 20 percent of the seals price to help with that down payment,” Stalsworth said. “So you’re only financing 80 percent of it. That’s significantly better (than purchasing a home normally).” 

Of course, potential buyers do need to jump through a few hoops to qualify. Specifically, they must attend eight hours of homebuyer education – that’s a federal requirement. 

“People may not like the sound of going to school, but folks who go through that program are 20 times less likely to end up in foreclosure themselves,” Stalsworth said. “So we’re less likely to repeat that cycle of foreclosure of the same property.” 

The class also provides continuing support in the way of counselors in case a buyer who goes through the program hits hard times. 

“This way, you do have resources if something goes wrong,” Stalsworth said. “It’s all really well thought-out. It’s a very smooth program.” 

The easiest way for a potential buyer to get the ball rolling is to complete a homebuyer profile online at www.nspkc.org, or call Catherine Singleton at the Economic Development Council at 816-691-2139. 

“This really is a big deal,” Sharp said. “This is great news for our corner of the city.”




Public Hearing for New Medical Offices in Grandview

Feb. 16 meeting will outline proposed tax abatement plan

By Seann McAnally
JC Advocate

A developer wants a tax abatement to build a medical office complex in Grandview.
The Grandview Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing for Wed. Feb. 16 to go over details of the plan, which would bring the Hickman Mills Clinic to Grandview. The public is welcome at the hearing. The Board of Aldermen is slated to consider the project, with the Planning Commission’s recommendation, on Feb. 22.
LADCO, the developer, has requested a Chapter 353 tax abatement for the project. The city and the developer have negotiated the following terms:
• 100 percent tax abatement on the increase in land value and improvements for 10 years;
• 50 percent tax abatement on the same through years 11-17;
• 25 percent abatement for years 18-20
• No abatement in years 21-25
Actually, a 50 percent abatement would technically continue for years 18-25, but the city is also requiring LADCO to pay the full amount in lieu of taxes over that time.
In return, LADCO will:
• By 2.5 acres of the 10-acre site. The remaining 7.5 acres are owned by Carondelet Health Systems, and is currently tax exempt.
• Tear down the existing building – formerly the southland’s Jackson County WIC clinic – and improve the property with a new 21,000 square foot medical office building.
• LADCO will require tenants to make and maintain a $355,000 investment in taxable furniture, fixtures, and equipment, which should result in $6,000 payments for each taxing jurisdiction in the area per year for the first 10 years of the abatement plan. If they fail to do this, they’ll have to pay these “lost” revenues to the city, who will distribute them to the taxing jurisdictions (such as the Mid-Continent Public Library, the Grandview C-4 School District, etc.).
• LADCO’s tenants will create and maintain at least 50 jobs with average wages of $60,000 per year.
• The tenants will provide an annual community health event.
The city hired consultants to review LADCO’s proposal, and according to city documents, find it acceptable and realistic in terms of its financial projections.
The consultants reported that the total abatement to the developer over the life of the program would be some $1.9 million; but payments in lieu of taxes should generate some $1.7 million.
That’s a winning proposition, said Alan Kenyon, the city’s economic development director, because there are currently no taxes being paid on the property, as it has been used for Jackson County’s WIC program and was considered a charitable use of the land.
The WIC clinic will relocate, Kenyon said.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Grandview "Has Momentum," Officials Say

 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.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Plans for Local Writer’s Film Move Forward

By Seann McAnally

Grandview’s Jeff Albert wants to change the way Hollywood thinks.
How does he plan to do that? Bring them to Kansas City.
Albert says his film Hope Lost has secured a distribution deal with Metropolitan, Inc., a company that works with such film studios as Paramount, Universal, and Lion’s Gate, for nationwide theatrical release on at least 2,000 screens and in about 50 foreign countries.
“That’s a huge step for us,” Albert said. “The vast majority of films don’t have distribution deals before they’re even shot. This isn’t an independent film, this is a full studio production.”
Albert, a 1991 graduate of Grandview High School, wrote Hope Lost as a springboard for other, more expensive projects he wants to do someday – namely, to film his fantasy novel Blade Master, part of a larger epic of his imaginary world of Kohr.
“Those movies were going to cost something like $100 million,” Albert said. “No one was going to trust me with that kind of money.”
So he wrote Hope Lost to be a sure-fire Hollywood hit.
Producers Marlon Parry (Road Dogz, Karla, Senior Skip Day) and Bill Davis (Garden State, Saw and Scary Movie 4) have raised funding for the film, and are currently working with Brillstien Entertainment to attach a slew of name actors to the project, including Josh Holloway and Evangeline Lilly (Sawyer and Kate from the TV show Lost), Sean Astin of the Lord of the Rings and Goonies, Larenz Tate, Steven Root, and Tiffani Thiessen. These actors have all signed letters of intent to appear in the film. 
Albert plans to bring Hollywood home when the movie starts shooing – all of the principal photography is expected to be done in Kansas City and Lee’s Summit. 
“This is really a test tube for the Kansas City area. I told the producers I could make a feature in Kansas City much cheaper than in Hollywood, and they challenged me to show that. So I got some local investors together, which was enough to move forward and keep the project alive. It just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
If all goes according to plan – which is a big if in Hollywood, Albert cautions – the film may be shooting in Kansas City in March, with a theatrical release as early as this winter.
Albert attributes Hollywood’s interest in Hope Lost to one simple fact: it’s a sure-fire commercial formula.
“I wrote this film to make money,” he explained. “That’s not to say I don’t love the story, but this is a formula I knew would work. It has elements of action, sci-fi, comedy, romance and drama.”
The film is about Joe Baker, a computer security tech who dreams of finding a special someone. But he gets more than he bargained for when he meets Hope, a woman who has the secret to eternal youth and enhanced perception. But after her untimely death, Joe gets drawn into a secret war for wealth and power, uncovering a conspiracy involving immortal beings.
Albert said he is most excited about the opportunity to showcase some local Kansas City talent when Hollywood comes calling. Local actors Katrina Voloinno and Joshua Peterson are attached to the project, as are local musician Rehtaeh and composer Will Puckett.
A Kansas City company called Box of Chalk, run by local men Mark Valentine and Steve Schilling, are working on product placement deals for the film, which Albert says will pay for most of the production costs, excluding actor and crew salaries.
It may not be surprising for Midwesterners to learn that Hollywood wasn’t all that crazy about shooting in KC.
“They were, like, ‘Kansas City?’ There’s nothing there to shoot.’ They thought we’d have to be pushing cows out the way or something. But we’re not a bunch of cowboys here. People in Hollywood have such a misconception about Kansas City and I want to break that.”
He said he has been occasionally frustrated by how long the process of shooting the movie will take.
“We’ve been working on this for two years,” he said. “It’s been a lot of ‘hurry up and wait.’ But there are a lot of films that take five, even 10 years to get off the ground, so we’re actually on a pretty good schedule.”
Despite several roadblocks having to do with making films, he never felt like he could just “give up.”
“This is my one chance to show Hollywood what we can do here in Kansas City,” Albert said.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Storm Delays Advocate Mail Delivery

Due to the winter storm conditions, our mailing company is closed on Wed. Feb. 2, so the Jackson County Advocate will be delivered to our offices on Thursday, Feb. 3. That means it won't be in our subscribers' mailboxes until Friday, Feb. 4. Copies will be in our partner stores and newspaper boxes on Thursday, when the Advocate's offices will reopen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Grandview City Hall, The View Closed

The Grandview City Hall offices will be closed starting at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1 due to the winter storm. The View Community Center in Grandview will close at noon. 

The Grandview Board of Aldermen work session for tonight at 7 p.m. is canceled.

Check here for more weather announcements, or visit the city's web site


Park Hill and Ruskin Varsity Basketball Game Canceled

The boys varsity basketball game between Park Hill and Ruskin, scheduled for today, February 1, has (obviously) been canceled. The game will now be played Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. (JV 5:30 p.m.) at Ruskin High School.