Thursday, June 28, 2012

4th of July Events in Kansas City

To help you have a safe celebration this Fourth of July holiday, here is a list of fun events around the metro. PLEASE NOTE, SOME EVENTS ARE NOT ON JULY 4th! Be safe and have a blast!!
Longview Lake: As a thank you to county residents who made it possible for Kauffmann Stadium to host the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Jackson County is holding an “Appreciation Celebration” on July 4 at Longview Lake Beach!  The event is free and gates open at 6pm. There will be live music provided by David Basse Orchestra, as well as food vendors representing restaurants from around the area. The event will culminate with the largest fireworks finale in Jackson County.  More information on the event can be found at
KCRiverFest. KCRiverFest will be held on Wednesday, July 4th from 1:00pm – 11:00pm, with live performances, family activities and games, delicious food, fun entertainment, local vendors and fireworks at 10:05pm. Tickets are $5 at the gate or $4 in advance. See
Lee’s Summit: On Tuesday, July 3rd, Lee’s Summit’s Legacy Blast will include food vendors, entertainers and inflatables before a fireworks display which is set to music on 94.9 KCMO. South entrance of Legacy Park will open at 6pm and close at 9pm to traffic. For more info call (816) 969-1500.
Red, White, and Zoo: Active and retired military individuals with valid ID receive FREE admission to the Kansas City Zoo on July 1 - July 4th. Military families will receive the Zoo’s military discount of $1 off regular Zoo admission prices. For more information, please call 816-513-5800.
Raymore: The city’s annual “Spirit of America” celebration is held in Raymore’s Recreation Park, 1021 S. Madison St. The event begins July 4th at 4 p.m. with food, kids games, a classic car show, and music by “Ten Feet Down” before the fireworks begin at dusk.
Overland Park: July 4th Star-Spangled Spectacular at Corporate Woods includes a free music, concessions, activities and inflatables starting at 4pm, and one of the biggest fireworks displays in the metro at 9:30pm. For more info see
Independence: On Wednesday, July 4th, a concert by the Spirit of Independence Concert Band will be followed by fireworks at the Mormon Visitors Center, 937 W. Walnut. Gates open at 8pm, band starts at 8:30pm and fireworks start at 9:30pm. Please note, parking is limited, and bring blankets and lawnchairs. Call (816) 325-7860 for more info.
Worlds of Fun & Oceans of Fun will offer FREE admission for active reserve, retired and veteran military personnel on July 3, 4, and 5. Must present a valid ID. Worlds of Fun will feature fireworks on July 4th at 10pm, and will also have fireworks every Saturday in July. See
Leawood: Leawood City Park is hosting events July 4th. Kids activities and food vendors will be available from 5-9:30pm. Fireworks will begin at 9:45 p.m. Shuttle bus transportation to the park will be provided in the west lots along Tomahawk Creek Parkway at no cost. For info call (913) 339-6700 ext. 201.
Grace Point Baptist Church: With the best view of the Fourth of July fireworks and free popcorn and snowcones, Grace Point Baptist Church invites the South Kansas City neighborhood to celebrate the nation’s birthday on the highest hill in the city at 10415 Chestnut, Wednesday, July 4, 2012, 7:30 p.m., weather permitting. On the church campus overlooking interstate I-435 at Blue River Road, guests will want to arrive early, bring blankets and bug spray, and enjoy this opportunity to meet others in the community. Signs will direct guests to parking areas. Blue River Road is currently closed north of the campus. Access the campus by Blue River Road from the south at Red Bridge Road or from 105th Terrace off of Grandview Road. 

Hickman Mills C-1 Undergoes State Audit Input from staff, board and residents sought

by Mary Kay Morrow
The Hickman Mills C-1 School District is being audited by the state.
Audit Manager Todd Schuler from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office announced last Thursday the state will conduct an audit of Hickman Mills for the 2011-12 academic year just now wrapping up.
“The Hickman Mills School District has been selected to go through an audit by the Missouri State Auditor’s office,” Schuler said. “At this point, we really don’t have an agenda, per se, as to what we plan to look at.”
As of Monday, Senior Auditor Rick Stuck began the Hickman audit process by coming into the district with a team of two or three people to do survey work, meet with administrative staff, talk about policies and procedures, and ultimately put together an audit plan.
Schuler explained the decision to audit the C-1 was not based on concerns about the district.
“Most of the time, audits like this are brought about by concerns that are expressed by citizens or the petition process.  That’s not the case here,” Schuler said.
He said that although the district has struggled on the financial side the past couple of years, it is not to the point of major concerns.
“As far some financial reporting information, comparatively, it looked like this might be a district that might be looked at from our office,” Schuler said – adding that decisions regarding which districts are audited are made in Jefferson City above his level.
The State is currently conducting several St. Louis-area audits, recently completed an audit in Springfield, and has done others in past years. 
“We just finished an audit of the Kansas City School District in 2011.  We audited Grandview - probably five or six years ago.  And I did an audit of the Liberty School District several years ago,” Schuler said.
The scope of the C-1 audit will be the year ended 6-30-12. 
“We try to focus on the most recent time period,” Schuler said.  “That’s not to say that we will not possibly look into something that’s happened in the near past.”
Once the audit team completes its report, they will review it with the board in a closed setting, “which is allowable under the Sunshine Law - to make sure we have everything accurate, that there are no mistakes, and make clarifications,” Schuler said.
After that, audiors will ask the board to respond to their recommendations before releasing a final report to the public.
“The whole audit will culminate with the release of a public report that will include any recommendations that we make,” Schuler said.
How long the audit will take depends on what the team finds once they get started.
Schuler hopes they have something by the end of this calendar year but admits that’s a guess.
“We don’t have an end date,” Schuler explained.  “I’m not exactly positive how long this will take. Typically an audit of this nature can take anywhere from two to four months as far as fieldwork goes.  And then we have to go through a report process.”
He went on to say that if they don’t find a lot of issues, they’ll wrap things up - but if they find some concerns, it may take longer.
“But in the end, we will report what we have found, the items that we deem to be of interest and need to be reported publicly,” Schuler said.
Schuler invited board members and administrative staff to contact him to discuss “issues, concerns, areas that you would like us to take a look at, provide some input, and possibly make some recommendations on ways that we can improve policies and procedures, or controls, here in the Hickman Mills School District.
“We would love to sit down,” he said.  “By all means, give me a call.”
The state would also like to get as much input as possible from citizens with areas of concern.
“For citizens, if anyone has any issues as well from a citizen’s standpoint, by all means, I would urge everyone to contact our office,” Schuler said.
“If you go to our website, there’s a hotline where you can get in touch with me. My name is Todd Schuler.  The website is”

Friday, June 22, 2012

Police Ask for Tips on Arson

What was reported as a South Kansas City burglary soon turned into a case of arson. Now police are looking for tips as they investigate.

On June 14, the Kansas City Police Department at about 10:30 p.m. received a report of a burglary in the 11700 block of Belmont Ave., just south of Blue Ridge Blvd.

But when officers responded, they found the house on fire.

The Kansas City Fire Department responded and fought the flames, extinguishing the fire. They determined that no one was in the house during the fire.

KCFD investigators found that the fire was caused by arson, possibly in conjunction with the original reported burglary.

The police department's Bomb and Arson Unit is investigating, but had yet to release further information at press time.

Officers ask that anyone with information about the fire and possible burglary call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (474-8477).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Developing 150 Highway

Grandview officials have taken the next step in determining the future of what Mayor Steve Dennis has called the "final frontier" of new development in Grandview. 

The M-150 Sustainable Development Corridor Plan - a document that will guide the character and type of development along the highway - has been in the works for about a year. Now, consultants have completed the study and presented it to officials - and those officials like what they see. 

Essentially, the plan calls for development along "nodes" of intersections, incorporating nature and waterways, as well as encouraging pedestrian use. 

"This is Grandview's southern gateway, and we have a golden opportunity here to shape it in such a way that it is sustainable for the future and sends a strong message about Grandview's character," he said. 

The Grandview Board of Aldermen on June 5 reviewed the final draft of the plan, prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff, an urban design consulting firm. The board gave city staff the go-ahead to move forward on implementing the plan. 

The 150 Highway corridor through southern Grandview is a two-mile, largely undeveloped corridor that represents the final opportunity for large-scale development in the city," said consultant Tom Hester. "The city recognizes that development along the corridor will have major impacts on the city's character, economic vitality, transportation and open space networks. The plan is intended to create a framework to enable the city, in partnership with property owners, developers, and the community at large, to realize the enormous potential of this corridor." 

Chris Chiodini, director of community development, noted that the Missouri Department of Transporation recently completed improvements that widened the highway to four lanes with signal-controlled intersections and an improved interchange with 71 Highway (future I-49). But so far, Grandview doesn't have the infrastructure in the area to take advantage of those improvements. 

After discussions with elected and appointed officials, developers and property owners in the area, Hester said, the general consensus was that rather than more big-box retail or industrial space, the preferred pattern for the corridor should be mixed-use projects that feature retail, business, and residential uses, as well as parks and green space. 

The specific study area is a two-mile stretch extending east from the 71/150 interchange to the city limits at Kelley Rd., and about one-half mile north and south of 150 Highway. That area is cut in half by Byars Rd., which divides the corridor into "east" and "west" project areas. The western half already contains commercial development around the White Avenue intersection, the Grand Summit apartment complex, and the Belvidere and River Oaks neighborhoods. The east half, on the other hand, is mostly undeveloped, with the exception of the Sunrise Farms residential project. 

Two factors that play into the plan include "node" development to foster both vehicle and pedestrian transportation, and the integration of nature into future developments. 

Node development clusters destinations at intersections, which lead "back" away from the highway into residential areas. 

"For the corridor to be successful, it needs to have many destinations," Hester said. "It needs to have places where people want to be and include a mix of community and regional activities and uses. Nodal development, which concentrates development at key locations, will provide focus and create destinations in the corridor." 

The overall pattern will be somewhat compact, Hester said, to create walkability and higher population density. That allows better utilization of infrastructure, and so that homes and apartments would be within easy walking distance to the locations along the nodes. 

"This pattern of development can help to lower infrastucture costs by reducing roadway and utility lengths," Hester said. "It can also help preserve valuable open spaces, limit sprawl and increase neighborhood cohesiveness and public health through encouraging walking, bicycling, and social interaction. 

The plan is also "green," in that it calls for preserving as much open, natural space as possible. Rain gardens, permeable pavements, and integration of natural water features that run through the area are all part of the plan. Not only does this simply look better and create a more pleasant environment, but such development helps to responsibly manage stormwater - part of the area lies in a floodplain. It also provides habitat for animals who are comfortable in the urban scene. 

Chiodini said the plan is not "set in stone," and is meant to be a guiding document, not a limiting one. Developers who are interested in the area now have a strong indication of what the city expects. 

Though the board gave the plan a thumbs up, it has yet to formally vote to approve it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ruskin Bus Transfers Eliminated

by Mary Kay Morrow • JC Advocate

The Ruskin bus transfers that have led to student fighting and headaches for kids, teachers, administrators, parents, bus drivers, and neighbors will be a thing of the past next year.  

Parent Karen Bushman told board members at their March meeting that her main concern is the fighting that has taken place at Ruskin during the transfers.

“It’s a chaotic mess over there,” Bushman said.

“It looks like a demilitarized zone when school lets out and it’s having a negative affect on the neighborhood,” said Ruskin neighborhood community liaison Jerry Mitchell who asked the board to re-examine the situation.
After two years utilizing the bus transfer system, the district has decided it’s not working.

“The single biggest complaint I’ve heard is about the conglomeration at Ruskin,” Board Member Dan Osman said at the May 17 board meeting.

Associate Superintendent of Business Mitch Nutterfield announced that the bus transfer will be eliminated beginning with the 2012-13 school year.

Hickman Mills Junior High students and Ruskin students will be transported directly to/from home and their respective schools and will not ride buses together. 

The change will require 10-minute bell modifications at Ruskin High School, Smith-Hale, and the early elementary schools.  The new bell times are outlined on the district’s website.

Administrators do not expect the changes to affect trans-portation funding significantly.

Bus overcrowding and bus driver absences have added to the problems.
“We have found that the number of children in a small location has led to altercations,” said Nutterfield.

He outlined other  measures administrators may try in addition to eliminating transfers such as increasing teacher monitors, installing front- and back-of-bus cameras on all buses, and using seating charts. Nutterfield said the district’s goal is to make all children safe.

“Bus trouble translates to school trouble,” he said.

Durham Bus Representatives Daryl Huddleston and Scott Bryant were on hand to answer board questions.

The standard number of children per school bus is 35 to 40.

Children who live less than a half a mile from their school walk to school.
The district has 20 bus monitors including six police officers.

Durham continues to recruit and train drivers to ease overcrowding.
Board Member Eric Lowe caused an audience stir when he asked Durham representatives about the cost to the district when absent drivers have caused children to double up on buses.

“Are we still paying for buses that we aren’t getting… or are we being reimbursed when kids are forced to double up?” Lowe asked.  “How much have you all (Durham) saved from doubling up?  Are we going to work towards remediating that problem of our paying for buses we haven’t received?”
Huddleston and Bryant indicated they have not reimbursed the district in those instances.  Lowe asked that the cost of buses vs. the bus service received be added to a future agenda for further board discussion.

The next regular Hickman Mills board meeting will be on Thursday, June 21 at 7pm in the Administration Center.

New System Sends Emergency Alerts to Mobile Phones

Emergency management officials know that in weather emergencies, such as tornadoes, warnings can save lives. But they can’t always rely on traditional warning methods — television, radio and outdoor sirens — to reach everyone. Beginning in June, through a partnership with FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, officials will also be able to send warnings directly to cell phones.

Using the new Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system, the National Weather Service will send warnings for tornados, flash floods, blizzards and ice storms in the Kansas City area to cell towers that serve affected counties. The warnings will go automatically to any newer-model cell phones within range of the towers.

“While these warnings may look like text messages, there won’t be any charges on your phone bill,” said Matt May, assistant director of operations for the Johnson County Division of Emergency Management. “This is just one more way to be alert for imminent dangers, whether you’re at home or on the road.”

The short messages will provide very basic information, such as the type of warning, affected areas and duration. “When you get this warning message, we encourage you to turn to other sources for more detailed information about what to expect and what actions you should take,” said May.

Whether and how you’ll receive the alerts depends on your cell phone and service provider. About 10 percent of the cell phones in use today are already capable of receiving the alerts; others, such as newer iPhones and Android models, will soon receive software updates that add this feature.

The wireless industry estimates that by 2014 nearly all phones on the market will be WEA-capable. The alerts are delivered directly from cell tower to cell phone through a one-way broadcast. The system will not track or locate individual cell phones or phone numbers — it simply broadcasts to all phones within range. Unfortunately, in some cases, this may result in overwarning.

“For example, if we issue a warning for Johnson County, Kansas, it will go to all towers that serve that county. If you live in an adjacent area, such as western Jackson or Cass counties, you may get the warning, too,” said Andy Bailey, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Pleasant Hill. “Towers in urban areas generally serve a radius of two to five miles, and in rural areas up to 10 miles, so the warning message may reach a little beyond the warning boundaries.”

The alerts will include a unique ring tone and vibration. They will not interrupt any phone calls or downloads in progress. If you’re on the phone when the warning is issued, you’ll get the message after you end your call.

In addition to weather alerts, the system can broadcast AMBER alerts and presidential alerts for national emergencies. On newer phones, these alerts will be turned on by default. Procedures for opting out of the alerts will vary by carrier.

“Like any new system, we’ll no doubt have some issues to work through,” said Chuck Thacker, Grandview, Mo., fire chief and chair of the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee. “We hope people will be patient and not opt out of these potentially life-saving messages. The system will get better with time, but it’s too important to wait any longer.”

To learn more about the Wireless Emergency Alert system, contact your city/county emergency manager. To find out if your phone is capable of receiving the alerts, contact your wireless service provider. Visit  for more information on preparing for emergencies