Thursday, March 29, 2012

VOTE ON TUESDAY, APRIL 3RD

Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, April 3rd to elect school board members and aldermen to represent them.

In Hickman Mills, voters will select two school board members from four candidates--Darrell Curls, George Flesher, Terrance Jones and Eric Lowe.

Grandview C-4 patrons will select two school board members from three candidates--Don Fisher, Rachel Casey and Leonard Greene.

Grandview residents will also select one alderman from each of the city's three wards: Ward 1 - Leonard Jones (unopposed); Ward 2 - Annette Turnbaugh & Charles Conner; Ward 3 - Jim Crain & Cornelius Blow.
See more information about all of these candidates in March print editions of the Jackson County Advocate.

Polls are open from 6 am - 7pm. For more info about voting, Grandview residents should call the Jackson County Election Board at 842.4820 Kansas City residents should call the KC Election Board at 842.4820.

C-1 Cuts $3.4 Million for 2012-13

On Monday, the Hickman Mills C-1 School Board approved eliminating 47 teaching positions. School officials said the number of teaching positions cut could be less, depending on retirement and other factors.

Cuts also included four central office and four building administrator positions.


Board members met with employee union representatives March 19 to hear their concerns. Following that meeting, the board decided against eliminating recess aides, removed four media specialist positions from the chopping block and decided to reduce the Parents as Teachers budget by just $35,000, down from the originally proposed $100,000. The cuts also included the elimination of one security officer and the elimination of intramural/extra duty positions.

The vote to approve the cuts was 5-0, with George Flesher and Darrell Curls not present.

Grandview C-4 Proposes $700,000+ in Cuts

By Paul Thompson
 
Grandview C-4 is proposing to cut seven positions to create what the district's finance director, Ann Marie Cook, called a "neutral budget" for 2012-13. The district also refinanced their bonds to save money.

Grandview school administrators revealed a spreadsheet during their regular board meeting on March 15 that showed how the district could save $706,500 for next year.

The plan calls for two elementary programming certified positions to be eliminated, as well as for five positions to remain unfilled. The program hit hardest by this round of cuts looks to be Special Education, which is tentatively scheduled to leave three positions unfilled for the upcoming year, representing savings of some $303,500. The district is hoping to offset these losses by adding $20,000 in additional days for SPED support staff.

Although the cuts are unfortunate, the administration pointed out that the current budget deficit pales in comparison to previous years. Deeper cuts would have been proposed, had the district not had a $1.145 million surplus from this year's budget that was rolled over for next year.

"We have cut millions and millions of dollars over the past few years," said Superintendent Ralph Teran. "We think this is very, very doable."

The final budget number is still in limbo because of hold-ups at the state level, although Teran indicated that he expected the district to see a 2% reduction in state funds. For now though, the district is preparing for all scenarios, including the possibility of funding remaining flat. Other scenarios being prepared for include 5% and 8% reductions in state funding for the 2012-2013 school year.

"It's kind of a stalled weather front with anything happening with school finance at the legislative level," said Teran about the legislative gridlock. "They want to attach things to it, so nothing is moving."

Elsewhere, the C-4 district is being proactive in their attempts to save taxpayers as much money as possible. Per this notion, the district announced a bond refunding plan at the regular March 15 session that will save an estimated $1.36 million.

The plan reduces the average interest rate on three bonds (Series 2007A, Series 2008A, and Series 2009) from 3.55% to approximately 1.08%. It also allows the district to reduce the final maturity of the bonds.

"We'll issue new bonds, and the proceeds from those bonds will pay off the old bonds," explained Cook. "The proceeds will save our taxpayers $1,363,132 million dollars. It also reduces the final maturity by four years."

The refinancing is likely to cost about $126,000, but the district will still net over $1.2 million from the refunding of those bond issues.

The plan has the dual benefit of allowing the district greater flexibility in their ability to request future bond issues. Now that the refunding plan has been approved, the district is in line to have the bond capacity to request about $42 million by 2015.

While Cook stated clearly that the district has no intention of requesting a $42 million bond anytime soon, she did point out that the initial savings, combined with future flexibility, made the bond refunding a no-brainer.

"We have an opportunity to save the district taxpayers that much money; and it provides flexibility for our upcoming needs in the years to come," said Cook.

Fate of Ervin Discussed at Hickman Mills School Board Meeting

By Mary Kay Morrow
 
The Hickman Mills School Board meeting on March 22 included concerns about Ruskin, discussion about what to do with Ervin, and other issues.

Budget cuts, which have been a big issue for the district, were not discussed or voted on at the regular meeting. 
 
Associate Superintendent of Business Mitch Nutterfield updated the board on three proposals for use of the former Ervin Middle School. Board Director Darrell Curls urged the board to take seriously all proposals that would make Ervin more attractive.

Board Director Breman Anderson, Jr. voiced concern about what he had observed at Smith-Hale Middle School.

"I'm thoroughly convinced it would be in our best interest to re-open Ervin as a middle school," Anderson told fellow board members.

At the suggestion of Board Vice President George Flesher, the board delayed further discussion until financial information was available. The three proposals include:

1) South Kansas City Baptist Church would like to use the media center area for a temporary home while searching for a permanent location. Their desire is to use the media center and offices located within the media center on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8am to 5pm. Worship would be held in the large portion of the media center Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings, and Sunday evenings. 

2) Dave Wallace of "Education First Athletics Second Coalition" has asked to use the gym and some undefined number of classrooms for a community center. Mr. Wallace was invited to address the Facilities Committee in April.

3) Wayside Waifs is interested in leasing the current Buildings and Grounds (B&G) building. If this were to happen, the district's B&G would have to be relocated to Ervin where a portion of the building would be used for offices and warehousing. An estimate of $35,000 to $45,000 would be required to renovate Ervin to accommodate B&G.
 
For the full article, see the March 29th issue of the Advocate.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

SMART SPORTS

On March 1-3, local high schools competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition Kansas City Regional inside Hale Arena. For this year's competition, students had to build a basketball-playing robot.
Ruskin High School Team H.E.R.M.E.S. (How Eagle Robotics Makes Extreme Stuff) robot, ‘Artemis,' ranked 26th out of 64 teams with a 6-5 record. Front: Anaezha Smith, Dennis Baleta, Isac Olivares, Ryan Ford; Second Row on the left side of robot: Sadie Carrillo, Julia Nichols, Timothy Nolen; Third Row from left to right: Breanna Stevenson, Sara Black, Sara Nichols, Tailor Greer Mark Gibeson, Caleb Green, Felix Titalangha, Andrew Linson; Last Row: Diana Discher (Assistant Coach), Todd Barney (Head Coach), Steven Nguyen, Abdullah Bensyusuf, Ian Sisson. (Photo by John Baccala) 
 The Grandview High School Robotics Team 2560 (A.K.A. Robodog) received an overall placement of 19 at the event, led by head coach Clark Vance (pictured at left). In early January, GHS and all other teams received a basic kit of parts and were given six weeks to build a robot capable of playing a game called Rebound Rumble. The task also required students to create and maintain a team website and create video logs of their endeavor. 
The GHS team members were Audrey Barton, Rachel Evans, Darrien Fuller, Peton Kent, Michael Murphy, Charlie Paquet, Venitto Reji, Deion Russell, Cody Thiery, Dustin Thiery, Shelbe Thompson, Adelkies Torres, Austin Willoughby, CJ Wilson, James Wright and Jacob Zachary. Team 2560 was led by GHS instructors Clark Vance and Cindy Gibson. (Photo by Lane Lucas)

Update on Body Found in South KC

Kansas City Police Officers on March 9 responded to a call about a dead body near railroad tracks in the 11000 block of Cambridge Ave.

Upon arrival, officers contacted members of the Kansas City Southern railroad company and were led to the dead body of a black male, possibly in his late 40s. The victim was located behind residential property near the railroad tracks, northwest of the intersection of Red Bridge Rd. and Blue Ridge Blvd.

The victim did not appear to have been struck by a train. Police initially investigated the case as a homicide, but the Jackson County Coroner's office ruled the death a suicide.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Where Does Truman Corners Go From Here?

By Seann McAnally
At a Leap Day luncheon of the Grandview Chamber of Commerce, officials with RED Development talked about the leap forward they intend to make with a revamped Truman Corners shopping center. If negotiations to purchase the property go well, that leap could begin as soon as this summer.
RED’s proposal, “Truman’s Landing,” was recently approved by the Board of Aldermen. The $91 million project would totally rebuild the center. It seeks some $45 million in public financing, but city officials say steps have been taken to ensure the public isn’t put at risk.
The project has the formal endorsement of the Grandview Chamber of Commerce.
“Ever since November, when this first came on the radar, our organization has been saying, ‘Go RED, go RED, go RED,” said Kim Curtis, chamber president.
Sandy Kessinger, of Bank Midwest, chairman of the board for the chamber, agreed.
“The fact that we’re having this presentation on Leap Day is appropriate,” she said. “Grandview took a leap of faith in selecting RED.” Kessinger added that she had high hopes the revamped center would be a success.
With that, she introduced representatives from RED Development as “the people who will forever change the front door to Grandview.”
Aaron March, a development attorney for RED, said the chamber’s support was vital during the approval process.
“The support of the Chamber and its membership is one of the reasons the Board of Aldermen voted to approve this project,” March said.
March spoke of RED’s desire to “transform communities,” and said Truman Corners redevelopment has the potential to “transform” Grandview.
“This is the face of Grandview,” he said of Truman Corners. “This is the new front door. You deserve a place to shop. You shouldn’t have to go to Leawood, to Belton, to Lee’s Summit. This will be a new center of vibrancy for the Grandview community.”
March updated the crowd on the current status of the project. Now that it has been approved by the Board of Aldermen (in a 5-1 vote, with Alderman Joe Runions in dissent), the details of the redevelopment agreement must be hammered out. However, he said, so much negotiation has already been done that he anticipates no major hurdles in that process.
“I don’t foresee any difficulties,” March said. “City staff has done a tremendous job of making sure taxpayers are protected. They have done more due diligence on this project than on any other development I have ever seen.”
The final development agreement should be hammered out in the next month to six weeks, March said, a timeline Mayor Steve Dennis concurred with.
However, March pointed out that RED does not yet own the property. He said negotiations are in place with American Resergens Management Company, the current owner, who submitted a competing proposal for the shopping center. After several public hearings and overwhelming public opinion in support of RED’s project, the Board of Aldermen turned down the ARMC proposal in favor of RED’s.
March said he’s hopeful negotiations proceed well, or that ARMC agrees to join the project as a partner. Failing that, he said, the city will condemn the property and RED will acquire it through eminent domain. That could postpone further action by as much as six months. But if a sale can be negotiated without condemnation, RED hopes to begin work this summer.
“We have invited the current owner to join us in this process,” March said, “and we’re hopeful we can negotiate a purchase price.”
RED is requesting a relatively heavy public subsidy for the project – almost half of the project costs would be paid for by bonds backed by the city’s credit rating. If the center fails to perform as expected – specifically, if sales do not reach about 65 percent of what analysts say they will – the city could be left holding the bag. That’s what prompted Alderman Runions to vote against the project.
Mayor Steve Dennis said that’s not likely to happen. City staff insisted, and RED agreed, that no bonds would be issued until the center was fully leased.
“We don’t want a situation on our hands like what some of our friends to the north have had to deal with,” Dennis said,  referring to the emptiness of the former Bannister Mall, or the financial hardships Independence has suffered due to the failure of the Bass Pro Shop development to reach projected sales.
Dennis said that he couldn’t mention names, but that contract negotiations between RED and major tenants are already underway.
Dennis said he expects the old Montgomery Ward building to be torn down first, and that even if the worst case scenario happens – that RED doesn’t finish the project – Grandview would have a green field where it used to have an abandoned building. Dennis was quick to point out, however, that Grandview officials have every reason to believe that there is a strong desire among retailers to tap the Grandview market. He said there is a perception among some in the KC Metro area that Grandview is less affluent than what it is.
At a public hearing last year, the current owners were taken to task by city officials for failure to lease the center. Carl LaSalla, a real estate agent who has been responsible for leasing the center, drew the ire of the board when he said, “There’s a perception that this community can’t support a Best Buy.”
Dennis said that’s not true.
“Our citizens are shopping. They’re spending money, but they’re not always able to spend it here, as much as they might like to,” he explained.
Dennis added that Grandview’s demographics are changing, both in terms of race and economy, largely due to the influx of residents from the International House of Prayer. That, plus good traffic counts on 71 Highway – soon to be Interstate I-49 – changes the retail game in Grandview.

KC PIAC Projects Approved

By Seann McAnally
Some $3.3 million in Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) funds have been assigned to projects in Kansas City’s 6th District – but a difference of opinion on whether some projects should be funded means about a half million dollars are still unassigned.
The projects were approved by the City Council on Feb. 9, and the money becomes available on May 1. A specific timeline for completion of the projects has not yet been established.
The projects include:
• $1.5 million for street improvements from Holmes to Oak along 135th St. in Martin City.
• $720,000 for new sidewalks on the west side of Blue Ridge from 1-470 to Red Bridge Rd.
• $39,000 for a bus shelter at Holiday Dr. and Blue Ridge Blvd.
• $14,000 for modifying a traffic signal at the intersection of Carnoustie Dr. and State Line Rd.
• $230,000 for clearing and grading lots on the west side of the Longview Aquatic Center (The Bay). This involves purchasing lots on the west side of the center to create more entrances and exits.
• $222,000 to renovate ball fields and update scoreboards at Clark-Ketterman Park.
• $100,000 toward the Streetcar Rail project from Union Station to City Market. Even though this is not in the 6th District, all council districts contributed a share of their money toward this project.
Some $470,833 is left as a “6th District Contingency,” which means it is currently unassigned. Rose Rhodes, Capital Improvements Administrator for the city, said it’s a common practice to leave PIAC funds in place without assigning them.
“Often they’ll leave a contingency, so if a big project comes along they’ve got something in place for it,” Rhodes said.
“That could be used on multiple projects,” 6th District at-large Councilman Scott Taylor said. “We’ll know within a few weeks how that contingency will be allocated.”
Sixth District Councilman John Sharp said that he and Taylor are working through a difference of opinion on whice project should get the remaining $500,0000.
In the 5th District, one project of interest to South Kansas City residents is an allocation of $375,000 for improvements to curbs, sidewalks, and driveways from Bannister Rd. to 87th St. along Blue Ridge Blvd.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Filing for State Seats Begins Despite Map Chaos

State Rep Jason Holsman files for State Senate, Grandview Alderman Joe Runions files for State Representative  

By Andrea Wood

On Tuesday, candidates for the Missouri House of Representatives and State Senate began officially filing for seats. But the process was confused by a new map and unsettled lawsuits.

Last Thursday, a bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. Nixon reached an agreement on a new State Senate map. The map may become final after a 15-day period for public comment and possible revisions. However, lawsuits are pending on all of the state redistricting maps. A first senatorial map, created by a panel of judges, was thrown out by the State Supreme Court.

Amongst the confusion, some candidates changed their plans on which seat to file for.

State Rep. Jason Holsman, for example, on Tuesday filed for Missouri State Senate District 7, a newly created district which includes much of South KC and Grandview.

"I have spent the past six years learning, listening and studying how to be an effective legislator in the Missouri House," Holsman said. "I have always enjoyed a good door-to-door campaign, and I am invigorated by the opportunity to listen to the citizens of the 7th District on how best to move our State forward."

Currently, much of South KC and Grandview is represented by State Senator Jolie Justus, in what had been District 10. However, the new map puts District 10 just north of St. Louis, meaning Justus will go from representing an urban district to a decidedly rural one on the other side of the state. Her seat is not up for election this year.

Holsman had planned to run for re-election to the State House of Representatives in the newly created 37th District, which encompasses all of Grandview. Instead, Grandview Alderman Joe Runions filed for the seat on Tuesday.

Others who filed for the Missouri House of Representatives Tuesday include State Rep Kevin McManus in District 36, and Bill Clinton Young and Hickman Mills School Board President Bonnaye Mims in District 27.

Filing closes on March 27 at 5:00 pm.