Thursday, September 27, 2012

Advocate Wins Awards at Annual Missouri Press Convention

The Jackson County Advocate staff won several awards at the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest Awards Luncheon on Saturday, September 22. The list of awards included first place in Best Sports News Story or Package, Best Sports Feature Story, Best Coverage of Community/People/Lifestyles and Best Photo Illustration. The second place awards earned were for Best Front Page, Best Story About Religion, Best Story About History and Best Information Graphic. The staff also received an honorable mention award for Best Story About Education. Paul Thompson, Advocate’s Sports Editor, received the Outstanding Young Journalist Award of Merit, which included a cash prize as well. Pictured above is Phil Conger, MPA President and publisher of the Bethany Republican-Clipper, Andrea Wood, Gavin Wood and Paul Thompson.

Kansas City Water Department Overflow Control Plan in Development

By Mary Wilson - JC Advocate

Concerned community members have been put at ease, for now, in regards to the plans for the above-ground overflow control program near 87th Street and Blue River. Members of the community gathered for the monthly Southern Communities Coalition on Wednesday, September 19, to hear from representatives regarding the Overflow Control Plan currently being developed in Kansas City. The Overflow Control Plan commits the City of Kansas City to design and implement a new generation of sewer infrastructure.

According to the Water Services Department, since 2002, the City of Kansas City has been in discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to address overflows from the City’s sanitary sewer systems. In December of 2008, the City Council authorized submittal of an Overflow Control Plan to the agencies for approval.
The first step for the 87th Street project is deciding whether it will be an addition of tanks to an existing pump station or a more expansive underground tunnel, which remains to be decided. If above-ground holding tanks are decided to be the best fit both financially and aesthetically, they will hold approximately 20-million gallons of wastewater.  The entire Kansas City sewer system serves 653,000 people, which equals to roughly 40-billion gallons of sewage per year.
“This equals to 6.5 billion gallons of overflow annually,” said Ron Coker, who is a vice president and general manager of Burns & McDonnell’s Water Group. He currently serves as officer in charge for the firm’s projects with the City of Kansas City, leading implementation efforts for the combined sewer overflow control program. “This is significant. This is what the project is about, to reduce that overflow.“
The total project is estimated to cost around $2.5 billion, which will come out of the pockets of Kansas City Water bill payers.
Traditional urban development and conventional methods of storm and wastewater management now threaten Kansas City’s water quality. The expansion of impervious surfaces in watersheds, along with increases in pollutants, has diminished the quality of ground water and the vitality of the soil and landscape. Kansas City’s current control system of collecting, conveying and discharging storm-water to prevent flooding has failed at many levels. The system has not prevented flooding, and in areas of combined sewers, wastewater overflows are increasingly common. When this system works as intended, the wastewater is transferred into the river systems and downstream neighbors.
Because of these overflow concerns the US government issued the City of Kansas City a consent decree alleging that the City is in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (or the “Clean Water Act”). Under the consent decree, the City became the first municipality in the nation to receive 25 years from the EPA and Department of Justice to implement a sewer overflow control plan. The City also paid $600,000 as a civil penalty and will spend a total of $1.6 million for a Sewer Connection and Septic Tank Closure Program for qualified individuals.
According to Terry Leeds, Director of the Water Services Department, the City has embarked on neighborhood sewer rehabilitation projects and has implemented some green solutions projects, such as the Middle Blue River Basin near 75th Street and Troost Avenue.
The site at 87th Street is an old, undocumented dump site. No testing has been done to see what type of waste is buried at the site, nor how much. Depending on what is determined to be present, the whole project could move locations.
“We know that there is some seepage on the site,” said Coker. “Until we can get in there and see for ourselves what it is we are dealing with, we won’t know for sure whether or not this is the location we will be using.”
The Overflow Control Plan and Consent Decree are posted on the City’s website,, and progress on the Overflow Control Plan will be posted as work continues.
Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of a convenience and liquor store going in at 10921 Hickman Mills Drive. After a meeting with the Coalition, the store owners have agreed to go ahead with the plans to renovate the outside of the building in the likes of the surrounding historic theme. Another convenience and liquor store plans to inhabit the old daycare at 11304 Blue Ridge.
Community Interaction Officer Michael Hammer reported that there were no serious problems at The Bay waterpark this past season for off-duty officers. He also promoted the upcoming Drug Take Back event on September 29, at CVS Pharmacy (Red Bridge and Holmes) from 10-2. Citizens can bring old prescription or non-prescription medications to the event to be properly disposed of.
The next regular meeting for the Southern Communities Coalition will be on Wednesday, October 17, at 7 pm at Baptiste Educational Center, 5401 E. 103rd Street in Kansas City.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hickman Mills School Board Holds Special Meeting for Reallocation of Funds

By Mary Wilson

After the last meeting’s push to redistribute funds and personnel in order to enhance student achievement, the Hickman Mills School Board met on September 4 to discuss and ultimately approve the adoption of a new proposal for reallocation.

The board members present unanimously approved the proposal for improved student achievement, with some modifications. Put forth by Budget Analyst Shellie Wiltsey and Associate Superintendent of Elementary Casey Klapmeyer, the proposal had eight areas of redistribution. According to Wiltsey and Klapmeyer, the agenda of the board was taken, and meetings were conducted along with research to determine the best plan of action. The two presented the findings to the board thus far.

Included in the proposal were increases in salaries for certified and non-certified staff members, who will each receive a step increase on their pay scales. According to Klapmeyer, staff has not received their step advances for many years in the district.

“This is not just more money, we are awarding years of service in order to motivate and improve morale,” said Board President Breman Anderson, Jr. “This is a small way for usto recognize the service teachers are giving. Next year, we need to look at creating a fund for continuing education in order to retain quality staff members. I don’t think there is any guarantee that it will raise student test scores, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.”

While several members of the board voiced concerns of needing to raise test scores, the need for additional elementary teachers, due to increased enrollment, was determined to be a necessity. The board approved the addition of eight elementary teacher positions, at a total of $450,000.

“How is adding additional teachers going to help us meet our goals and surpass our deficiencies?” asked Board Member Eric Lowe. “We have to fill that gap. If our students are not meeting the standard, we have to teach them this year, as well as teach them the things they didn’t learn last year. How are we going to measure their success at the end of the year? The steps do not deal with our issues of student achievement.”

It was discussed that funds need to be reallocated to help more children with reading in order to meet the Communication Arts standards by putting additional Reading Specialists in each elementary school.
“If we bring in reading and math specialists, and can come in contact with more children, I believe we will get to where we are supposed to be,” said Anderson.

The board decided that funds will be made available to add eight additional 550 Supplemental Reading
Teachers, along with the already allocated eight 550 Supplemental Math Teachers, for each elementary school. With excess grant funds, the board approved the Title I Elementary Textbook Adoption.

Of equal importance was the issue of homeless student transportation funds. It was discussed that the school
district was in contract with Kansas City Taxi to provide the transportation of homeless students, but it is still unclear as to what the contract specifically entails. According to Interim Superintendent Dr. Everlyn Williams, it is difficult to cut out funds for this service due to “place of origin” laws. This means that the district is  responsible for fees associated with students who are staying out-of-district but claim their place of origin is within Hickman Mills. It was also voiced that there might be federal or state funds available for reimbursement of these charges to the district.

If the district can receive these reimbursements, along with unpaid invoice revenues from surrounding districts that share these costs, it was determined that this is where a portion of the funds will come from in order to pay for the additional staff members at the elementary level.

“We will only meet the standards if we put the money where the mouth is,” said Anderson. “If the kids can’t
read, we’ll be in trouble. We need more money allocated to reading in the 3-5 grade levels so we can meet these standards.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, the board voted 7-0 on the amended proposal for fund reallocation. The board then recognized member Bonnaye Mims for her twelve years of service to the Board as well as being elected into the Missouri House of Representatives.

The next regular meeting for the Hickman Mills School Board is on Thursday, September 20 at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Terrace Lake Home Association Letter

By Gary Kempf

We are glad to report that our neighborhood continues to enjoy the lowest crime rate in the South Kansas City area. We do have a few continuing issues, however, one of which is theft from unsecured vehicles. When you park your car at night, make certain that you don’t leave anything of value in your vehicle, and make sure that your vehicle is locked. Thieves thrive on easy opportunity. Let’s make life at least a little more difficult for them.

Next, we want to address neighborhood appearance. There have been reports of nonfunctioning and out-of-date tagged cars in driveways, large campers improperly parked in front of houses, and littered yards in some areas. One of the functions of the Terrace Lake Gardens Home Association is to encourage residents in maintaining their properties to the highest standards with a view to keeping property values up for all of us. If your house falls into one of these aforementioned categories, please give consideration to making remedy for the situation. We want to be neighborly and friendly about this, by we also want to honor our duty as leaders. Please help us in holding our standards high.

If you live in an area where you think someone is not following the proper guidelines, you can call me, and the matter will be addressed in a personal way. Sometimes a knock on the door and a friendly conversation is all it takes.

Saturday, September 22 is the date for our neighborhood indoor picnic. As it was last year, it will be held at the Grandview Assembly of God Church Chapel, at 12320 Grandview Road. We will have a nice meal for you, entertainment for the kids (a clown), and drawings for gift cards from Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Applebee’s. Join with us and enjoy a great time meeting your neighbors and making new friends. We need to be able to plan for this, so an RSVP would be appreciated. You can call me at 761-7522, or e-mail me at Dinner will be served at 1:00 pm, and we have the hall until 4:00 pm. We look forward to seeing you there.

Neighborhood brush and trash pick-up is schedule for October 20. As usual, we will be set up in the Terrace Lake Methodist Church parking lot. Please note that we will not accept tires, batteries, major appliances, or paints and any toxic chemicals. For our neighbors who are suffering from a disability, or cannot get their items to us for some reason, we will provide a pick-up service. If you need help with this, you must call in advance and we will be glad to pick up your items for you. If you do not call, your items will not be picked up.

Please do not leave any items on the curb, expecting them to be disposed of. If you do not call, and you leave items on the curb, you will be cited for code violations, and ticketed by the city.

Next meeting is September 19th. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Grandview Pours it On Chrisman

By Paul Thompson •
JC Advocate

 Grandview’s new synthetic field remained immaculate despite torrential downpour during last Friday’s home opener, and the Bulldogs matched the quality in a 42-14 victory over William Chrisman.
Grandview overpowered the visiting Bears with over 350 yards rushing, including matching 134 yard efforts from the elite running back tandem of senior Jaavon Turner and junior Jerel Alexander. The two backs also combined for five touchdowns (3 for Turner, 2 for Alexander) in the game. A raucous home crowd and the opening of the new field added an element of exhilaration into the droplet-filled air.
“I know it was raining, but everybody still came out and supported us,” said Turner after the game. “That adrenaline, it just makes you feel like you can’t stop. You feel like a hero or something.”
“It’s absolutely huge,” added head coach Andy Leech. “We lacked confidence at times last year, and we knew we’d have an opportunity for a fast start this year.”
Grandview certainly embraced their opportunity for a fast start on Friday, as the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Turner kicked off the scoring with a 40 yard touchdown, and receiver Ryone Winters followed up with 36-yard touchdown scamper on a double-reverse.
Just when it looked like Grandview would dominate the rain-soaked contest, Chrisman responded with two quick scores early in the second quarter. From there, though, the Bulldogs shut down a Bear offense that repeatedly hindered itself with turnovers.
William Chrisman finished the game with seven fumbles, three of which were recovered by Grandview.
Grandview safety Pete Brittain recovered one of the fumbles, and also laid a series of big hits on a night where the defense didn’t give an inch after the quick-strike second quarter.
“One of the big keys that we have this year for our kids, is to play on fire,” said Leech of Brittain. “He’s on every special team, and he gives everything he’s got on special teams.”
Although Turner and Alexander will get the headlines, the remarkably sturdy performances from offensive linemen Apa Visinia, Akil Williams, and Josiah Quick (among others) paved the way for the home-opening victory.
“This whole offensive line, they’re pancaking guys from the first quarter through the fourth quarter,” remarked Leech.
Both star running backs also recognized the significant role their line played in opening up holes throughout the evening. The line dominated in blocking for the run despite only four pass attempts from senior quarterback Ryan Lee through the blustery conditions.
“I can’t thank those guys enough,” said Alexander. “We can’t do anything without those guys.”
 “The offensive has been putting in work every day in practice, all day,” continued Turner. “This is the first year when I’ve had an offensive line that loves what they do.”
The line will likely continue to love their jobs as long as the Bulldogs continue their winning streak. The victory over Chrisman lifts Grandview to 2-0 on the season and matches their total for victories in each of the past four seasons. Even with a quality Winnetonka team waiting in the wings next week, the offensive line remains confident that they can keep their momentum going.
“We’re very much confident in each other,” said Visinia. “There’s a trust there between us. The chemistry is at a high level.”
That level of trust and chemistry permeates through the entire Bulldog roster. That’s why Grandview doesn’t seem like a team that has recorded a losing record in every season since 2005. Even on a dark Friday evening, through three hours of pounding rain, it was clear that the ominous clouds were only temporary visitors over a team with an undeniably bright future.
“It’s just truly amazing,” said Alexander. “The new turf is just a new beginning.”