Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grandview District Grows by 300 Students in Three Years

By Mary Wilson
The Grandview School Board began their meeting last Thursday, December 19 by honoring a student for her artwork on display in the board room at central office. Hope Butler, a third-grade student at Belvidere Elementary School, is the final artist to be recognized for her work on display. The board also recognized Grandview Pro-Start students who participated in the Sodexo Culinary Throwdown competition against Center and Belton on December 4.

During Superintendent Dr. Ralph Teran’s report to the board, he noted the increase in enrollment in the district. According to Teran, the growth is predominately at the early-elementary level and at the high school level, with nearly 200 new students this year alone.

“We have grown in our district,” said Teran. “We’ve grown by approximately 300 students in the last three years. If the trajectory of 100 kids per year continues, we will begin to really experience some concerns.”

The main concern for the district is available space. Two schools in the district are at or near capacity, Martin City’s elementary portion and Meadowmere Elementary. Teran noted that with the use of technology in the classrooms, teachers have come to use space in new and different ways.

“We need to look in the future at the possibility of adjusting some boundaries,” said Teran. “In some districts that are growing, every year they have to do that. It’s just normal.”

Teran acknowledged the sensitive manner of the possibilities of changing the elementary school boundaries in the district. Community input meetings will be held before decisions are made, possibly in January or February of 2014.

Also at the meeting, the Board received a report on the evaluation of the district’s technology program. District programs are evaluated annually to determine progress towards meeting goals and make recommendations for improvement. These evaluations are summarized and formalized through Board presentations for compliance with Missouri School Improvement Program requirements.

The goals and recommendations of the evaluation, presented by Scott Sizemore, were to explore ways to increase the number of staff members who attend voluntary technology professional development sessions and to continue efforts to increase accessibility to high-quality instructional technology resources, tutorials and training materials in an effort to provide professional learning. The department would also like to continue to expand available technology professional development, and develop a model that better supports individual training needs.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Lisa Walker presented an update to the Board on the Quinpoint School Improvement Process system. Quinpoint provides a systemic delivery of a guaranteed and viable curriculum, utilizes walk-through and observation tools with clearly defined indicators and rubrics, maximizes academic learning time, monitors student achievement, and promotes a culture and climate conducive to learning and developing professional practices.

According to the report Walker provided, administrators and instructional coaches received training on the Quinpoint Building Walkthrough (BWT) tool in September/October, 2012, and implementation of the BWT tool began in October, 2012. School Improvement Teams (SITs), comprised of site administrators, the instructional coach, and the District Improvement Team (DIT) member, meet weekly to discuss the data to identify goals, inform instruction, and guide strategic development and implementation of professional development at the site level. The District Improvement Team (DIT) meets weekly to review district and site-level data to inform instruction and guide strategic development and implementation of professional development at the district level.

“Following the observation, teachers are provided with feedback on instruction related to the respective observation tool,” said Walker.

Finally, administration proposed to the Board the issuance of $5 million of General Obligation Bonds to fund improvements to district facilities. These bonds would mature from March 1, 2021, through March 1, 2024, and contain an average interest rate of 2.63%. The total interest expense on these bonds, if they run to maturity, would be $1,175,425.69. The Board then unanimously approved the issuance of the bonds.

The next regular meeting for the Grandview School Board is Thursday, January 16 at 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hickman Mills Earns Clean Audit for 2012-2013

By Paul Thompson
Just four years removed from a reserve fund balance as low as 4%, the Hickman Mills C-1 district
has nearly quadrupled that figure, raising their reserves to a high of 21.99% at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

Diana Klosterman of Westbrook Audit delivered an optimistic review of the district’s finances during a Wednesday, December 11 audit review, conducted at the C-1 Board of Education’s monthly work session.

“This year, you’ve got your reserves up to 21.99%,” said Klosterman during the review. “To be able to tell you that you’ve got that awesome number up there is very exciting. This is a terrific place to be.”

The 2013 year-end reserve ratio marks an 8.55% improvement from 2012’s figures, and more than a 12% leap from 2011’s final reserve ratio of 9.94%. The C-1 district hit its financial low in 2008, when it maintained operating reserves of just 4.04%.

The increasing reserves are all the more impressive when considering the budgetary pressure that the district is under. Hickman Mills was able to increase that balance in spite of dwindling property taxes, student enrollment, and state funding. Klosterman submitted her glowing review despite those impediments, but noted that the district will have to maintain a close watch over expenditures in order to maintain its gains at the end of the current school year.

Board member Darrell Curls was thrilled at the progress, even admitting that he wasn’t sure he would see the day that the district pulled out of its financial hole.

“I’d like to, number one, commend (Wiltsey) and Dr. Carpenter and our staff. They’ve always told us that the ideal fund balance was 24-25%,” said Curls. “At that particular time, I was like, ‘no way.’”

“I think that having fund balance to that degree really says something about our district,” he added. “I never thought I would see us at 21%.”

The gains in reserves can be largely attributed to cost-cutting. Klosterman pointed out that the district’s transportation costs decreased by a total of $330,000 in 2012-2013, while the C-1’s food services program actually produced a modest profit. Although community services still cost Hickman Mills over $800,000 last year, the losses sustained by those programs actually decreased compared to previous years.

“Community services are activities that you provide outside of K-8,” explained Klosterman. “Your loss on community service is over $877,000. That is a big improvement from last year, where the loss was over $1,000,000.”

Klosterman did come across some minor issues while conducting the audit, though none were considered serious enough to classify as material weakness. The biggest problems revolved around the reconciliation of attendance figures. The audit revealed discrepancies in attendance for grades 10-12, summer school attendance, extended school year attendance, and the free and reduced lunch count. The misinformation was due primarily to inputting issues, which had all been corrected by the time the audit findings were presented.

“We worked your attendance over hard,” said Klosterman. “We saw some non-reconciliation between your software that was used to record your data and what was sent to DESE. All of that was fixed, which is why it’s considered an ‘immaterial difference.’”

The audit was ultimately approved unanimously by the board, and Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter stated his satisfaction with the job done by Klosterman and her associates at Westbrook Audit. “I find Westbrook to be very, very competent, and I find Westbrook to be very, very thorough,” said Carpenter.

Also at the December 11 meeting, Executive Director of Human Resources Delilah Norris presented a demographics report for the district’s newly hired certified staff. Out of 106 new hires, Norris’ data showed that 63.5% were white females, 16.9% were black females, and 15% were white males. In addition, 2.8% were black males and 1.8% were Asian females. 55.7% of new hires came equipped with a Bachelor’s degree, while 40.5% possess a Master’s degree. 3.8% hold a PhD or Educational Specialists degree.

The demographic report also showed the work experience of the district’s new hires. The figures show that 59.3% of the district’s new certified staff have less than five years of prior experience. 19.8% have between five and nine years of experience, 11.5% have between 10 and 20 years of experience, and 9.4% possess 21 or more years of experience.

The Hickman Mills C-1 Board of Education will next meet on Thursday, December 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the district’s Administrative Center.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Asphalt Plant Not Only Concern for Grandview

By Paul Thompson
For weeks, the City of Grandview has been caught up in litigation regarding air quality at the Ideker Asphalt Plant, located on the west side of I-49 along 150 Highway.

While that issue awaits resolution, new concerns are being raised over potential oil drilling on the east side of town. The city first became aware of an issue over the summer, when a community member called Grandview city offices asking about the commotion by Kelley Road. Upon further investigation, city staff found that Kansas-based JTC Oil was drilling at the site.

“The state had issued them a permit,” said Grandview Public Works director Dennis Randolph. “They took the state permit, and came out and starting drilling. Community Development got a call.”
Community Development then went out to the site and shut down operations, telling JTC Oil that they would need to file an application for a conditional-use permit before drilling could commence. Although no application has yet been received, city staff has met with representatives of JTC Oil on multiple occasions.

“Back in July we met with guys from the oil company, and told them the process they needed to do,” said Community Development Director Chris Chiodini. “Then they hired an attorney to represent them, to draft some of the required information, and the attorney had several questions. We had a second meeting with them, and I know city planners and myself have followed up with their attorney.”

Randolph remains worried both about environmental repercussions and the long-term effects to one of the city’s most promising development areas. According to Randolph, the biggest environmental concern is that the property in question lies along a flood plain. In terms of development, the city has already completed long-term planning studies for the area, and even did re-zoning there last year.
“Our plan doesn’t call for this being vacant with a bunch of oil wells in it,” said Randolph. “The view is basically a bunch of two-foot pipes sticking out of the ground, about 80 of them.”

Randolph further argued that the oil wells would conflict with the city’s best use of the land.
“We intend for this to have nice housing. Nobody’s going to want to develop with that,” said Randolph. “We’re concerned about the city. You know the work we’re doing for the city. Our vision for Grandview isn’t to have these types of uses.”

Although an application has not been submitted, Chiodini noted that based on his conversations, he expects JTC Oil to turn one in soon.
“They’ve been considering what their options were, I’m assuming,” said Chiodini. “My impression is that their intent is to meet the city’s requirements, and submit an application.”

Once an application is submitted, a decision on whether to grant a conditional-use permit can be expected in roughly two months. An application for a conditional-use must be submitted 45 days before the Planning Commission meeting in which the case will be considered. One week after that, the Board of Aldermen could hold a public hearing discussing the application. Two weeks after the public hearing, a decision could be made at a regular Board of Aldermen session. In order to receive a recommendation from the Community Development department, though, the company would still need to agree to several other conditions.

“There are other issues that need to be addressed, as far as landscaping, and screening, and containment systems for the oil storage tanks that would be on site, how they’re going to access in and out of the site, noise levels, and things like that,” said Chiodini. “We just don’t know enough because they haven’t submitted a permit yet.”

When and if the paperwork is submitted, however, city officials fear that they could be facing another public battle.“It’s another case where DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has issued a permit without talking to us,” said Randolph. “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

For the Love of the Game

By Paul Thompson

Shahid Bhat was moonlighting as a physical therapy student at the University of Kansas when the idea that would change his life first dribbled into his consciousness. While studying at a campus library, Bhat used the database to look up the word ‘Kashmir.’ Although he was born and raised in Martin City, Bhat’s parents hail from Kashmir, a war-torn region of India that serves as a northern buffer for bitter rivals India and Pakistan.

Throughout his early childhood, Bhat and his family maintained close ties to their homeland. His parents maintained a residence in Kashmir, and traveled back every summer. His memories of those
years remain fond, but the region his family once called home became an inhospitable war zone in the late 1980s as tensions in the region escalated.

By the time Bhat entered the name of his homeland into the library database in 2006, he was 33 years old and hadn’t been to Kashmir since 1991. What Bhat found in his search was a book entitled Kashmir, Sunlight and Shade, by British missionary and educationalist Cecil Tyndale-Biscoe. Tyndale-Biscoe had set up a school in Kashmir in the 1890s, and had been partially responsible for introducing European sports like cricket, boxing, and soccer to the region.
 Bhat was immediately drawn to Tyndale-Biscoe, who he loosely compares to basketball inventor James Naismith, the University of Kansas legend from the same era. Eventually, Bhat wondered why he couldn’t do something similar in his homeland.

“I thought, ‘What if I can do for basketball what this guy did for other sports?’” said Bhat. “That was the genesis of it. What if I could bring basketball to Kashmir the way this guy brought soccer?”

Shahid’s epiphany didn’t come from nowhere; he had been a diehard basketball player for years. In fact, Bhat had fallen in love with the game instantaneously, gravitating to it as if compelled by magnetic force. Why shouldn’t the people of Kashmir experience that same joy?

Bhat was in seventh grade when a neighbor put up a basketball goal in their Martin City driveway, inadvertently setting off a lifetime passion in the unassuming 12-year-old. Although Shahid remembers having success in his P.E. classes growing up in the Grandview School District, he wasn’t blessed with impressive athletic ability. In India, academics are paramount, and there is little tradition in athletics. Despite boasting the world’s second-largest population, India finished the 2012 Olympics ranked in 55th place and failed to take home a single gold medal.

Bhat, though, took to basketball immediately. On the court, he found his identity. What he lacked in natural ability, he compensated for with an insatiable willpower. He remembers going to his neighbor’s house every day to practice, determined to improve. When the older kids in the neighborhood tried out for the team during that first year, Shahid volunteered to be the team manager, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. The next year he tried out for the team and made the roster, albeit barely. His basketball career had begun, but it was far from taking off.

“In 8th grade, I don’t remember ever scoring a point,” says Bhat, who at the time was barely over five feet tall and weighed about 100 pounds. “I was on the bench, and I was just happy to be there. I was too small and scared to shoot.”

John Kalliris, a neighborhood friend of Bhat’s who was ahead of him in school, remembers Shahid as a hard worker and a fierce competitor who left everything on the court.
“I remember he certainly had a lot of heart,” said Kalliris of Bhat. “He looked up to some of the older players on the team, and he had heart.”

While his dedication was never in question, Bhat was soon able to grow both physically and as a basketball player. He went to basketball camps during the summer, obsessing over the fundamentals of his game. Once school started, he would stay up late drawing up plays for his team.

“I was even scared to put my name on it, but I knew I wanted to be a coach,” says Bhat. “I was slipping plays underneath (the coach’s) door before my first class.”

Bhat started on the JV team as a sophomore, and looked poised to play on varsity during his junior year. However, his father, ever focused on academics, decided to send his son to Barstow High School to finish out his high school career. As a transfer, the devastated Bhat was forced to sit out his junior season. He started at point guard as a senior, averaging about 12 points and five assists per game, but Shahid never got the college scholarship offers he felt he deserved. He tried to walk on at Central Missouri State, but never gained traction. While he continued to get better and better, Shahid Bhat had seen his organized playing career come and go. He felt snubbed by the system.

“I knew I could perform well, but in my mind I was thinking, ‘Man, nobody wants a little Indian kid,’” said Bhat. “I had a chip on my shoulder. I was highly motivated to prove to people what I was capable of doing.”

As his basketball career was winding down, the situation in Kashmir had reached a boil. By the late 1980s, skirmishes between Pakistan and India had broken out in his native land.

“I would hear (my family) talking a little bit, and expressing concerns about what was going on there,” said Bhat. “So I would kind of pick up on it. But at the same time, I just didn’t care. I was more interested in my basketball practices. I had lost touch.”

Bhat’s family went back to visit Kashmir in 1991, but their trip was cut short due to the violence. It would end up being Bhat’s last visit for almost 18 years.

“We’re supposed to go for one month,” he said. “Instead, when we get there, the streets are packed with army and there’s not a single tourist in sight. At night you can’t go out; it’s a shoot-on-sight curfew.”

Bhat’s family left Kashmir early, and he didn’t think much about Kashmir for years afterwards. He  college, coached and scouted basketball at Barstow, and went through what he described as an artistic “bohemian” period. Over the years, his family would occasionally go back to Kashmir, but Bhat had declined to accompany them; his interest in the region had not yet been piqued. But then came that curiosity, the library search of 2006, and with it the tantalizing notion of continuing his basketball legacy.

In 2009, Bhat once again got an opportunity to go to Kashmir, for a relative’s wedding. This time, he quickly agreed to go, intent on checking out the basketball scene. Although Bhat had carved out a niche as a sort of rec league all-star, he was never satisfied with the conclusion of his playing career. In Kashmir, Bhat saw an opportunity to teach others while also controlling the last act of his own career. In May of 2009, Bhat flew to Kashmir with his parents.

“I was totally flying blind. Google only returns so much,” he says. “I didn’t know if there was even a court in Kashmir. But I knew once I went there, I was going to make an effort to try and get involved.”

At the wedding, Shahid saw a teenager wearing basketball shoes, and approached him to see where games were played. The teen told Bhat that he attended Delhi Public School (DPS), and that there was a basketball court on the grounds. Bhat quickly got permission to run a basketball practice at the school, and stopped by in the days before he departed for America. He found immediate interest from the students at DPS, who were actually fans of the NBA. But when he gathered a handful of the students to run a practice session, he realized that the “players” had little to no formal training.

“Even a lay-up line became a complication," says Bhat. “This is when I start to get and education in basketball in India and Kashmir.”

After coaching about 10 players during his first practice, Bhat saw more than 25 students join his training session when he returned for day two. The following day, he began coaching a group of girls as well, splitting the court in half in order to give both genders equal time. Despite the low talent level, he was shocked at the response that an American with a basketball had received on the other side of the world. Before he left, Bhat handed out his email address to some of the more committed players and made tentative plans to return to Kashmir the following year.

Having seen the state of Kashmiri basketball first-hand, Bhat realized that he was probably the best player in Kashmir. A thought occurred to him: could there be an opportunity, while bringing the sport he loved to his homeland, to continue his own basketball career on the other side of the world?

“I’ll be the James Naismith, the Bill Self, and the Andrew Wiggins,” says Bhat of his perspective at the time. “I’ll be the best player, the coach, and the person who organizes everything. I still wanted to play basketball. I wanted to see if I could play with the best players in India.”

When he got back to the U.S., Bhat began doing research on professional basketball in India. Though there was no professional league, he noticed that there was a tournament called the Senior National Tournament, which pitted the states of India against each other in a yearly bracket. Bhat found that Kashmir’s state, called Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), was one of the weakest teams in the field.

“India is towards the bottom in Asia. Asia is towards the bottom in the world,” explained Bhat. “Within India, Jammu and Kashmir is the worst.”

 Immediately, the wheels started turning in Bhat’s head. He had already planned on going back to run basketball camps, but what if he could lead his home state to a victory in the country’s biggest basketball tournament? Bhat couldn’t think of a better way to end his playing career.

“I thought they would love to have me. Why wouldn’t they?” asked Bhat. “It’s like LeBron James showing up on your doorstep.”

When he went back to Kashmir in 2010, he hoped to meet with the J&K basketball team to offer his services to the roster. But upon his arrival, he instead got caught up organizing a tournament for the students at D.P.S. During the tournament he refereed every game, and ran practice sessions between contests. Surprised at the number of entrants and enthusiasm, he went on to form a rec basketball league.

“My mission was to put a good face on Kashmir, which had been troubled for many years,” said Bhat. “I was motivated to see this through. I was sacrificing everything I wanted to do in the U.S. in order to save the money for Kashmir.”

It was then, though, that Bhat encountered his first problems in Kashmir. Jealousy at his efforts mounted among the staff members at the Delhi Public School, and Bhat was required to stop running his league at the school court. He found a new venue, but also ran into trouble there while coaching girls. As he worked on drills, a group of men sauntered out to the court to take pictures of the players
in attendance. Sensing the girls’ collective discomfort, Bhat asked the men to leave. The simple request turned into an argument. Bhat was ultimately asked to discontinue his league once again, and felt that the issue had become political.

“Since the principal himself was a non-Kashmiri Indian, he sided with the (men),” said Bhat. “Jammu is a pro-Indian city, they had always discriminated against Kashmiri people, and held them down. I didn’t know that until I got there and saw it myself.”

The divide between Jammu and Kashmir was fully apparent when Bhat reached out to the official J&K basketball team, called the J&K Police. Essentially, the team consisted of a group of aged police officers from Jammu. Bhat contacted team representatives, asked to train with the team, and offered his services on behalf of his country. But the J&K Police team did not welcome Bhat with the open arms he was expecting. In fact, when Bhat practiced against the team, they took offense to the way he dominated the sessions.

“I was hearing things like, ‘Why are you even here? Maybe you couldn’t beat anyone in America,’” said Bhat.

It soon became clear that the team had no intention of adding Bhat to the roster. Instead of embracing him, they perceived him as a threat.

“I would have been the first player from Kashmir to ever play for the J&K state team. Jammu had always represented J&K basketball. Jammu had neglected Kashmir,” said Bhat. “That was the end of my association with J&K Police. None of these guys are Kashmiris, and I could see already that they didn’t want me on the team.”

Bhat’s dream of playing for his home state was quashed, but he remained committed to growing the sport of basketball in Kashmir. He set up the Srinagar Kashmir Basketball Association (SKBA) to keep running camps, hoping to attract the best players in India. But as Bhat’s visits to India and Kashmir grew more frequent, resistance to his efforts increased. His training sessions were more frequently disrupted. Imitation leagues emerged with the intention of taking attention away from Bhat’s activities. Supposed friends began taking Bhat for granted, or worse, angling for favors or payouts.

“Guys started to create their own Facebook pages to try to squeeze me out. They didn’t even play basketball,” Bhat said. “It was an education I got in my homeland. The young people are trapped, and they only know a cycle of jealousy, revenge, and agitation.”

By the summer of 2013, Bhat had made inroads at Kashmir University, where he was allowed to hold practices and tournaments. He had even lobbied for the school to build a new, cutting edge public basketball court. He quickly learned though, that a project such as that would take more than just a passion for the sport.

“After four or five meetings, I could see that it wasn’t going anywhere,” he said. “I could see that if I greased some palms, it would move along. But I wasn’t in a position to do that.”

The troubles came to a head in 2013 when Bhat was holding a tournament at the university. When he decided to play in a two-on-two tournament he'd put together, Bhat received disparaging comments on his SKBA Facebook page for the first time. Some local Kashmiri’s felt that they were being shown up by an American imposter. During one particularly scary conflict, a group of ruffians rode a motorcycle onto the court where Bhat was holding a practice. The men confiscated his basketball, holding up the training as they refused to return it. Exasperated and hoping to avoid a serious incident, Bhat walked to a nearby market to cool off and get some juice. When he returned, he’d found that the men had ripped down the rim he was playing on, effectively ending his practice. Bhat was furious.

“I never went back to that Kashmir University court after that,” he said.

Bhat once again was forced to finish up his practices at a different school, which he rode a bike 40 minutes each day to get to. Away from the controversy, Bhat once again found solace in coaching.

“I really enjoyed working with those kids,” he says. “When I saw the looks on those kids’ faces, that’s all I ever wanted.”

But by this time, Bhat had nearly reached his wit’s end with the distractions surrounding his efforts in Kashmir. When he last left his homeland in the summer of 2013, he didn’t know if he would ever return. The man with an immeasurable passion for the sport of basketball had grown tired of a culture that wouldn’t reciprocate that passion. This fall, mere months after a frustrated Bhat had most recently left his homeland, a brand new, state-of-the-art indoor basketball court was built in Kashmir.
For Bhat, the construction provided a sense of validation. The new public court represents an olive branch; an example of progress in a place bereft of it. Someday, probably soon, Shahid will be back in Kashmir, and he’ll get a chance to play on the court he’s long fought for.

“I wanted to raise the standard of basketball in Kashmir and in India,” says Bhat. “I think my efforts in Kashmir had a lot to do with that court getting built.”

With the new court in tow, the door that Bhat has struggled for years to break open has finally creaked ajar. Any person in Kashmir now has the opportunity to fall in love with the game Bhat has dedicated his life to. For another person, that alone might be enough. But Shahid Bhat is not satisfied; perhaps he’ll never be. His focus has shifted once again, locked in on another goal, another dream. Buoyed by the news of the world-class court, Bhat is re-energized. But he’s now shifted his focus again, turning to another sport that hasn’t gained traction in Kashmir.

“My whole focus has shifted to introducing American football to Kashmir, and possibly even learning from my mistakes in the past,” says Bhat, eyes flickering with enthusiasm. “I have no idea where that’s going to lead me, but I’m excited.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Day Our World Turned

By Mary Wilson

Fifty years ago, the United States was turned on its axis. The 35th president of this nation, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Kennedy’s murder was widely publicized, and conspiracy theories and details of his personal life are still present in media today.

Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of the crime and arrested that evening, but Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald two days later, before a trial could take place. The FBI and the Warren Commission officially concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin. However, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that those investigations were flawed and that Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.

Despite what exactly may have taken place that November day in Texas, people all across the country and the world, were glued to their television sets and radios for at least the weekend following his death. While I wasn’t born until many years later, my parents and other friends in the community provided me with some insight into where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of Kennedy’s assassination.

My dad was sitting in his fifth grade class at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, and remembers an announcement coming over the intercom and then school being dismissed for the rest of the day. My mom was in second grade at Kratz Elementary in St. Louis.

“I remember my teacher called us into a circle in the back of the room,” said my mom, Becky Davis.
“She told us what happened, and we all cried. I remember watching it on TV all weekend.”

My husband’s grandmother, Carolyn Wilson, recalls being at home with two young children when she heard the news on the radio. Being the early sixties, a lot of women were at home doing housework with the television or radios on in the background.

“I don’t remember much about the rest of that day, but can still see myself as I stood there at the sink and then sort of wandered around for a few minutes,” she said.

Former Grandview Mayor Jan Martinette and her family had just moved to a house behind the Terrace Lake Shopping Center. She was home with two children under two years old and remembers
being stunned at the news reports. Retired Grandview teacher Margaret Ferman was in college and was just returning to her dorm room.

“I usually didn’t turn on the radio, but for some reason I did that day and heard the announcement of JFK being shot in Dallas,” said Ferman. “ Needless to say, news spread around campus quickly and most of us were in shock that such a terrible thing could happen in the US to our President.”

Grandview C-4 Superintendent Dr. Ralph Teran recalls being in his fourth grade class at Caldwell Elementary School in Wichita, Kansas.
“I don’t recall how or what, if anything, we heard at school that afternoon, but I remember watching days of coverage on national television up to the funeral march and burial,” Teran said.

Grandview City Administrator Cory Smith also heard an announcement over the loud speaker at his high school. He recalls he was in Latin class and when it was announced, everyone was in a state of shock.
“Our teacher tried to calm everyone down, but then started crying herself, said Smith. “I think it was within the same hour or close to it when we heard that he had actually died. School was suspended, we were all sort of in shock, and we all left for home that day and of course, the whole weekend was consumed with continual TV coverage of the assassination, killing Oswald, and the funeral, and all that went with it. It was pretty traumatic for everyone who lived through that, and of course, it changed the course of history and created all sorts of conspiracy theories.”

Aggie Turnbaugh, former owner of the Advocate, remembers watching As The World Turns on television when news of the shooting broke in. Being in the newspaper business, I can only imagine what those who worked at the paper were going through. Trying to get the story right, and with the news reports coming in, I’m sure it wasn’t an easy task.

Unfortunately, we no longer have the issue of the Advocate that was published the week after Kennedy’s assassination. Newspapers were kept as souvenirs rather than sources of updated information.Years ago, a former employee of the newspaper took a good chunk of the historical photos and clippings from our archives.

Kennedy’s death changed the course of our national government, and the assassination proved to be an important moment in U.S. history because of its impact on the nation and the ensuing political repercussions. Television became the primary source by which people were kept informed of events surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. I still watch the specials that are on television today regarding the incidents on November 22, 1963, and I’m certain that someday the country will know the truth of who killed John F. Kennedy and whether or not there is any truth to the theories.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

5 Reasons the Chiefs Can Beat the Broncos this Weekend

By Paul Thompson
The Denver Broncos, as you might have gathered, are the darlings of the NFL. Peyton Manning is at least half-deity, and their lone loss to the Indianapolis Colts was a clear fluke. The ludicrously fortunate Chiefs will surely be exposed against the unstoppable force that is the 2013 Broncos.

The previous paragraph about sums up what the national media has been opining in the week leading up to the highly anticipated Chiefs-Broncos Sunday Night Football game. The Broncos are roughly eight-point favorites in Vegas, and no one seems especially motivated to bet that line down. Ever the contrarian, though, I’ve come up with five reasons why the Chiefs can beat the Broncos this weekend.

5. The Brady Quinn Effect
Brady Quinn started both Denver games last season, with disastrous results. Quinn, who might have been the worst quarterback in football in 2013, summarized the Chiefs season by piloting Kansas City to a miserable 38-3 bloodletting in the last week of the season against Denver. He was 7-16 for 49 yards passing in that contest, a stat line so grotesque that it needs to be looked at through a mirror to limit the risk of blindness.
I know some have their issues with the conservative offense being run by Alex Smith, but I also haven’t been hearing any calls for the glory days of Quinn. Kansas City’s biggest upgrade this off-season was from atrocious to passable at the quarterback position, and it is ultimately the biggest reason why this team has inverted last season’s fortunes. Unlike Quinn, Alex Smith won’t lose games. With the Chiefs defense behind him, that might just be enough against the Broncos on Sunday
night.

4. The Absence of Denver Head Coach John Fox
I know that Jack Del Rio has sat in the big chair before – for nine years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, actually – but that doesn’t mean the Broncos aren’t going to miss head man John Fox while he recovers from heart surgery. Fox holds a 101-83 career coaching record, has earned six postseason wins, and led the 2003 Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl. Del Rio has a 68-71 lifetime record with just one playoff win. The absent head coach is an intangible situation that is impossible to quantify, but it will be intriguing to see what, if anything, changes with Fox sidelined.

3. Denver’s Banged Up Offensive Line
Top Broncos lineman Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending injury early in the year, and initially it didn’t curb Denver’s vaunted offense much at all. But Peyton Manning has been strip-sacked in each of the past two games, as the line is finally starting to show some wear and tear. That trend is liable to continue this week, with Kansas City’s ferocious defensive front salivating at the notion of chasing a battered Manning around for his life. Look for Justin Houston, who has recorded just five tackles over the previous two weeks, to run roughshod over that makeshift offensive front.

2. Andy Reid’s Record After a Bye
Historically, Andy Reid’s teams crush it after a bye, compiling a 13-1 overall record in those scenarios. Obviously, this Broncos team isn’t your average clunker rolling in for a shellacking, and the game will be played a mile high in Denver. But I have faith that Reid will add some offensive wrinkles after two weeks without an opponent. That’s his modus operandi. Expect the Chiefs to move the ball better this week.

1. Peyton Manning’s Potentially Injured Ankle
No one knows exactly how injured Manning’s battered right ankle really is, but he was noticeably hobbled during his Week 10 game against San Diego. An MRI on Monday revealed no further damage to his previously diagnosed high ankle sprain, although Manning admitted after the game that he was “sore” following the contest. The elder Manning brother has never been much for mobility, but this is the type of injury that could get progressively more difficult to play with, especially if he takes pressure early in a cold-weather night game against the Chiefs. By the way, Denver backup quarterback Brock Osweiler has completed a grand total of four passes in his career for 22 yards. You really think he's ready to stand tall and deliver against the Kansas City defense? At 6 feet, 8 inches tall, Osweiler would more likely morph into the world's largest tackling dummy.

Are you feeling better about the Chiefs' chances yet?



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Asphalt Plant Creates Public Health Concern

By Mary Wilson
A community meeting was held on Monday evening in regards to the Ideker Asphalt Plant, located in southern Kansas City at I-49 and MO-150 Highway, bordering Grandview. The meeting, hosted by the Grandview School District, the City of Grandview, and Concerned Citizens for AIR (CCAIR), an organization formed recently in protest of the plant’s permanent residence in the community.

"This is a public health issue,” said Attorney William Session, who has been helping the city and CCAIR establish the legal framework for the case. “I’m just the vehicle to get you from point A to point B. The rest is really your concerns, your issues and your risks, as much as they exist.”

According to Session, Grandview’s residents breathe air which may contain hazardous substances due to the proximity of the asphalt plant to the city, as well as to two of Grandview’s elementary schools: Belvidere and Butcher- Greene.

“There is no doubt that what comes out of the plant contains hazardous pollutants,” said Session. “Whether you breathe it or not depends on where you are, not only on a daily basis, but on a seasonal basis.”

The City of Grandview became concerned with the plant some time ago, and of greatest concern was public health and economic development. The major issue was that the Ideker plant was placed where it is without an opportunity for public comment. Through several months of conversation with the State of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the City of Kansas City and various governmental agencies that had a hand at permitting the plant to be located where it is, the end result determined that the plant was permitted and is going to be there permanently.

“As much as anything, that’s probably why I’m standing here at the encouragement of City of Grandview officials, and now the Concerned Citizens for AIR,” said Session.

When the plant was first permitted for operation, it was allowed under a temporary permit, which was set to expire in June of 2014. Those who already showed interest in what was going on with the plant prior to the decision were never informed that the plant operator had applied for permanent permits  for operation.

“There was no opportunity for public discussion, even when it was well-known that there were special interests by those who are exposed to what comes out of the plant,” said Session.

After the request for the permanent permit was issued, a lawsuit was filed. A circuit court judge for Jackson County issued a temporary restraining order to restrain the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from granting the permanent permit.

“Of course, it’s a temporary restraining order,” said Session. “We don’t know how long, or whether or not that will become a permanent restraint on MDNRs actions. It’s uncertain. We believe it should be; they believe it shouldn’t.”

According to Session, there is a consensus of the State of Missouri that they did nothing wrong and the plant should remain where it is permanently. The types of emissions due to the plant operation contain dust and other contaminants. Many of the emissions are undetected by sight or odor, according to Session, which is why there is a concern for the permanency of the plant. The emissions may contain particulate matter (dust), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and other hazardous air pollutants. Such emissions are regulated under federal law standards, which are delegated to state agencies like the Missouri Department Natural Resources. There is a limit on what can be emitted into the atmosphere and for citizens to remain safe. According to a study done by air quality experts that the City of Grandview hired a year and a half ago, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources applied outdated standards to measure the pollutants coming out of the plant.

“Legally, we think they should be using the current standards,” said Session. “MDNR has chosen not to. Those standards are far more restrictive than the ones that were actually used to review the permit for the plant.”

The study also determined that MDNR failed to determine the impact of PM2.5 emissions, which are tiny dust particles. According to Session, the concern is for the combination of what comes out of the Ideker plant with what’s already in the air. Finally, MDNR improperly calculated even larger dust
particles.

“Quite simply, ten tons is the limit,” said Session. “They allowed thirteen and a half tons of the material. This is just too obvious. How can you have a flat standard that says 10 tons of this particular pollutant can go into the atmosphere, and right on the permit it says 13.85 tons? There’s been no explanation for that even to this day.”

The lawsuit filed claims that the Missouri Department  of Natural Resources failed to review the various contaminants and that the plant is in violation of the national air quality standards. To join the citizen-based advocacy efforts of the Concerned Citizens for AIR, contact CCAIR President Kathy Sutoris by email at csideagain@yahoo.com, visit the Grandview Chamber of Commerce office in person, or email Chamber President Kim Curtis at ksc@grandview.org. Concerns can also be submitted to 37th District State Representative Joe Runions via email at joe.runions@house.mo.gov.

At a special open meeting held November 4 at 6:15 p.m., the Grandview Board of Education unanimously approved an administrative recommendation that the district donate up to $5,000 to the Concerned Citizens for AIR. Contributions are not tax deductible, and will be used to support the advocacy efforts. If you would like to make a donation, remit payment to Concerned Citizens for Air, Inc., P.O. Box 543, Grandview, MO 64030.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Grandview Board of Aldermen Files Petition Against Zoning Board

By Paul Thompson
The Grandview Board of Aldermen has appealed to a higher authority to overturn a controversial variance accepted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) at a July public hearing.

In a Verified Petition for a Writ of Certiorari filed last week in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, the City of Grandview sought a judicial review of the granted variance - which would allow a used car wholesaler charity (the Auto Donation Center) to operate along the city’s east frontage road - due to a lack of competent and substantial evidence provided to the ZBA. The document alleges that the ZBA “exceeded the authority granted to it by usurping the legislative function of the Board of Aldermen.”

City officials say that the filing was not meant to be contentious, and that it is simply a formality.
“Keep in mind, this is not a lawsuit against the individual members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment,” said special counsel for the City of Grandview, Joe Gall. “It’s just the process that the statute mandates be followed. The Board of Aldermen just feels that this variance shouldn’t have been granted.”

Some members of the ZBA, though, were nonplussed to find out about the litigation being pursued by the city.
“I don’t know what they’re doing half the time,” said Zoning Board of Adjustment Chairman Thomas W. Clemons. “I’m so fed up with the Board of Aldermen. If they’re going to decide it, what are we there for?”

The ZBA public hearing in question has been a source of controversy for months. In addition to confusion about the intention of votes held during the hearing the city has long held that the variance should legally have never been granted.

Because the location of the site is within 1,500 feet of other conditional uses (specifically, five used auto sales businesses, a tattoo parlor, and a check cashing establishment), any other such business is required to fulfill each of five variance criteria. At the time of the hearing, city officials recommended that the ZBA reject the variance request, citing a lack of evidence of those criteria. Michael Lane, who runs the Auto Donation Center, was so put off by the combative nature of the hearing that he wrote a letter to the city deriding the “extremely hostile and bitter bias” displayed by city officials.

Ultimately, Clemons said that the ZBA felt granting the variance for the Auto Donation Center was the right thing to do for the city.
 “Everybody just kind of thought ‘why not,’” Clemons said of the decision, which included a caveat
that the variance would apply only to the Auto Donation Center. “We just had to use a little common sense.”

Unfortunately, the city ordinance regarding special use permits is ironclad. City officials maintain that they don’t have an issue with the idea behind the Auto Donation Center, but merely feel that the business does not fulfill all five requirements in order to grant a variance. Under this thinking, the ZBA made their decision based on a disagreement with city ordinance, and flouted their duties as a board in granting the variance.

The issue came up again at an October 10 Board of Aldermen public hearing, where several members of the community, including nearby residents and businessowners, defended the ZBA’s decision to grant the variance. The Board of Aldermen did not vote on the variance at that session, and the issue was also not present on the October 22 agenda.

Former ZBA member Jan Martinette, who resigned from the board earlier this month, asked during that hearing for changes in the zoning ordinance.
“I dare you to change these zoning things in a timely manner,” said Martinette at the October 10 public hearing. “(The board has) to vote no or else we’re breaking the law. There is no possibility for the board to give a variance, according to the rules.”

Grandview mayor Steve Dennis acknowledged at the meeting that he had no qualms with the mission of the Auto Donation Center, but reiterated that the city always tried to be uniform in following its zoning guidelines to the letter of the law.

Last week’s filing on behalf of the Board of Aldermen assures that the matter will be decided by the letter of the law, in the hands of a Jackson County Circuit Court judge.
“There are avenues available if someone or somebody feels aggrieved by the decisions made by the
Zoning Board of Adjustment,” said Grandview’s Community Development Director Chris Chiodini of the pending litigation. “It’s weighted on the evidence that’s presented in the application and in the public hearing.”

City attorney Gall says that a decision should come from the circuit courts sooner rather than later.
“The statute says that it’s going to be given an expedited processing,” said Gall. “If he accepts it, he would issue the writ to the city.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Taxpayer Funding of Research Facility on November Ballot

 By Mary Wilson
Supporters and opponents to Jackson County’s Question 1, to be on November ballots, presented their cases at last Wednesday’s Southern Communities Coalition. The question, as follows, is in
regards to an independent medical research facility in Jackson County. The Hall Family Foundation and Donald J. Hall, Sr. have pledged to pay for the construction of a $75 million research facility to house the institute if the voters approve a half-cent sales tax increase to fund its creation and ongoing operations.

QUESTION No. 1: Shall the County of Jackson impose a sales tax at the rate of one-half of one percent for a period of 20 years solely for the purpose of promoting economic development by establishing a medical research and development institute in collaboration with and governed by an  independent board composed of Children’s Mercy Hospital, Saint Luke’s Hospital, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute and Jackson County, that would create healthcare related jobs in the County and develop medical cures and discoveries for human diseases? All of the proceeds of this tax shall be deposited in a special account separate from the Jackson County general fund and any other special funds and utilized only for the purposes approved by the voters and set forth herein. An annual independent audit of these funds will be overseen by an oversight and audit board appointed by the County Executive and will be reported to the public and the Jackson County Legislature. According to the Committee for Research Treatments and Cures, proponents of this project, the Halls’ private contribution eliminates the need for taxpayer dollars to go toward bricks and mortar and will enable the tax dollars to go directly toward hiring scientists, researchers and support staff, along with needed equipment.

“It is to take research and accelerate it quickly into cures,” said Wayne Carter, CEO of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.

Advocates for a yes vote on question one touted the potential economic development that can come from the institute. They say that the institute is expected to create more than $30 million in economic output in its first year of operation, and within ten years it is projected to have a world-class team of scientific investigators along with hundreds of support staff. The development of new medications, treatments and cures could potentially induce more than $600 million in direct and indirect economic benefits for Jackson County in its first decade.

“Please keep in mind the economic development potential for our Southland area,” said former State Representative and 6th District Councilwoman Cathy Jolly. “We’re really in a poised position in the south to take advantage of the things that are happening in healthcare. I’m supporting question number one because of the promises of research. Question number one is moving Kansas City forward.”

Those on the other side of the issue included a representative from both the League of Women Voters and the Committee to Stop a Bad Cure’s Jim Fitzpatrick, who formed the committee the day after Jackson County legislature voted to put the issue on the November ballot. Both groups were in agreement that Jackson County residents should not be expected to pay a tax for medical research.

“It is, frankly, the worst tax proposal that I have seen in my forty-four years of living in Kansas City,” said Fitzpatrick. “Funding medical research is not a county function or priority, and sales taxes hit people with low incomes the hardest.”

The opponents were also in agreement that the private sector should finance it, either through private companies or foundations. According to the League of Women Voters, sales taxes take a bigger percentage out of the budget of lower income people than from those of higher income, making it more difficult for people to stretch their budgets to buy basic items.
The ballot, along with polling places in Jackson County, is in this issue of the Advocate on page 2.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ghost Tours, Haunts and Stories Sure to Thrill


 By Mary Wilson
With the Wornall house closed for repairs through possibly the end of the year, Executive Director Anna Marie Tutera and her staff are busy planning some spooky new Halloween traditions at the Alexander Majors House in South Kansas City. All programming in the fall will be at the Majors house due to construction.
“It gives us an opportunity to showcase this house in a way we haven’t before,” said Tutera. “Wornall house has such a legacy in Kansas City that I feel like the Majors house gets overshadowed.”
Guests are invited to participate in a one-hour, lantern-lit ghost tour of the Alexander Majors House and hear about the ghosts and legends of the Civil War, as well as the strange events and ghosts who are said to still haunt the Majors House and the Wornall House. Chef Shannon Kimball and his ghostly assistants will be onsite each evening to serve a spooky menu consisting of pumpkin
chowder with a side of severed fingers, monster meatballs, broken ribs of beef, bat wings, mulled cider death punch, ghost hunter cake pops and fried worms. These made-from-scratch frightening foods are sure to fill your appetite and set the mood for a night of haunting fun. The ghost tours begin on Friday, October 18, with dates and times available through Halloween night. Ticket prices are $15 per person for the tour, or $25 per person for the tour and dinner. Advance reservations are required to reserve a spot, and space is limited. Call 816-444-1858 to register, or visit www.alexandermajors.com.
“The Majors house hasn’t been investigated as much as the Wornall house,” said Emily Heid, Coordinator of Programs and Development. “But we do have paranormal activity here. They used to hold wakes in the house, and we’ll talk about that and some of the traditions and superstitions that they had.”
If the ghost tours aren’t creepy enough for you, you are also invited to experience a real-time ghost hunt with investigators from ELITE Paranormal of Kansas City and Mystic Moms (recently featured on the BIO Channel’s My Ghost Story: Caught On Camera). Learn how to use equipment, ask questions, and actually try to detect paranormal evidence. This one is okay for young teens (with supervision from a parent/caregiver, as long as the young teens are able to sit quietly in a room and wait for equipment signals), older teens, and adults. Advance registration is required, and tickets are $50 per person.
“Working in the Wornall house, it doesn’t bother me,” said Tutera. “But the Majors house definitely has more of an ominous feel. It might be because it’s more isolated and not in a neighborhood. But, there’s just something about it.”
The Majors house will be the site of a new children’s program this fall, as well. The First Annual Not-So-Spooky Ghost Stories and Autumn Festival event will be on Sunday, October 27, from 1-4 p.m. It offers storytelling, costume parades, palm reading, face painting, blacksmithing, food demonstrations in the 1850s kitchen, samplings of apple treats, and hands-on arts and crafts activities such as making cornhusk dolls, masks, and lanterns. Plus, Chef Kimball will be onsite to serve a menu that may have you howling with delight! Food is not included in the cost of the program ticket of $10 per child. The event is free for adults and children 2 and younger. Tickets will be available at the door, and guests can RSVP by calling 816-444-1858.
“Older kids (middle and high school-aged) will be the docents and they will take you through the  house as you learn about the fall harvest,” said Heid. “It’s a fun, family event and kids can wear their costumes.”
The organization that manages the Wornall house merged with the Majors house in 2011. Tutera and her team are working to bring the Majors house up to full capacity. Currently, the house is only open on weekends, and the past two years have been spent restoring the windows and doors, along with general indoor restoration. Furniture and furnishings from the time period have been selected for the collection.
“We’ve really been working to get this house up to speed as a public museum,” said Tutera. “A lot has been accomplished in a really short amount of time. We’re very proud of that.”
Alexander Majors ran one of the country’s largest freighting companies from Kansas City, created the Pony Express, and gave “Buffalo Bill” Cody his first job. He was essential in helping shape the future of the American West and the commercial destiny of Kansas City. In the westward expansion of the 1850s, his firm’s freighting operations were instrumental in bringing supplies to settlements from the Dakotas to Arizona. The prominence of Majors’ company attracted governmental and private shippers to Westport Landing, giving Kansas City a head start towards economic success.
 Constructed in 1856, Majors’ 3,400 square foot antebellum home in Kansas City is listed on the  National Register of Historic Places. Restored in 1984, the home features original hardwood floors and millwork, as well as furnishings of the era. Also on the site are blacksmithing demonstrations, gardens, and displays of tools, wagons and carriages from the mid-1800s. The Alexander Majors Historic House and Museum is located at 8201 State Line Road in Kansas City. Public tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. Call 816-444-1858 for more information, or visit alexandermajors.com.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

GAP Secures New Location for Christmas Store After Theft

By Mary Wilson
Despite the leaves starting to change color and temperatures feeling a bit cooler as fall begins in the Midwest, Sharon Kinder, executive director of Grandview Assistance Program (GAP), has Christmas on her mind. Each year, the organization provides a Christmas store for area families in need. During a time of celebration and giving for most families, some in our area depend on local agencies such as GAP to help provide what they can’t.

This year, however, GAP is beginning the season with a deficit. For several years, the organization has partnered with a local church to provide storage space for items to be used in the Christmas store. Recently, someone took the liberty to go through those items, taking a significant amount with them. After doing a thorough inventory of all the Christmas store items, it was discovered that nearly $600 of new donated items were missing. Also, things that Kinder and her volunteers were unable to put a value on or account for went missing as well.

“Anything that we bought last year at a discount, like scarves, hats and mitten sets, are now full price,” said Kinder. “How do you put a value on that?”

In order to make up ground to provide the Christmas store this year, Kinder started to search for a secure location to store the items. The Grandview School District, one of GAP’s largest supporters, came through with a plan. Dr. Ralph Teran, Superintendent, called Kinder after getting wind of the circumstances.

“Dr. Teran, who is a great advocate for us, contacted me right away asking what the school district can do to help,” said Kinder. “There were a couple of places that the district had in mind, but this one worked out to be the best.”

The location that the district offered Kinder is the former daycare center across Highgrove Road from the high school. In the past, the district used the building as a staging area. Last Saturday, Kinder and volunteers spent some time cleaning up the building so they can begin moving items over to that location as soon as possible. According to Kinder, there is wiring for an alarm in the building and she will be researching ways to get that facilitated quickly in order to provide the security she is looking for.

“With us having the key, we’ll be the only ones going in and out,” said Kinder.

Because of the impact of the items that were taken from storage for the Christmas store, GAP is hoping to receive donations in order to provide for the community this season. Those wishing to donate have until December 9 to drop items off any time Monday through Friday at the GAP office during open hours. Suggested items for donations include: for preschoolers, baby dolls, Tonka toys, Fisher-Price toys, Playskool toys, etc.; for ages 6 – 11, radio-controlled vehicles, Barbie dolls, craft sets, Star Wars toys, Transformers, Power Rangers, Batman, Avengers, Spiderman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Legos, Nerf, Hot Wheels, Barbies, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, etc.; and for pre-teens and teenagers, portable CD players, cosmetic sets (both men’s and women’s), craft sets (scrapbooking, jewelry making, etc.), sports equipment (skateboards, footballs, basketballs, scooters), handheld electronic games, radio controlled vehicles, hair straighteners, etc. Also needed are winter wear (coats, gloves,
hats and scarves) and warm blankets.

“What you give locally, stays locally,” said Kinder.

GAP services Grandview and the Grandview School District area, including Martin City. GAP provides a variety of services to their clients. They are primarily an emergency assistance program dedicated to helping families and individuals, with a goal of providing stability during crisis situations. In general, GAP helps families with the following basic needs: rental assistance when an eviction notice has been received, food for short-term needs, utility assistance when a shut-off or disconnect notice has been received, school supplies and the Christmas Store.

Beginning Tuesday, November 5, Grandview Assistance Program will be taking applications for Christmas assistance on Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Applications will be accepted until November 26, or until all appointment slots are full. Items needed are current (up-to-date) lease or mortgage verification, picture I.D., social security cards for all household members, and income for all household members for the month of October 2013. For more information, visit their website at www.gapcares.org, or visit 1121 Main Street in Grandview. Grandview Assistance Program is a not-for-profit agency with a 501(c) (3) status. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Oxford on the Blue Development Could Be Boon for SKC

By Paul Thompson
Ten years ago, the 350-acre South Kansas City property now slated to become the Oxford on the Blue mixed-use development project was surrounded by blight.
Options for the parcel were limited and uninspiring. The land, located north of 87th Street between I-49 and I-435, rested in a sort of development purgatory. But in the years since, momentum has slowly built throughout South Kansas City.
In 2006, Cerner acquired the former Marion Laboratories complex off 71 Highway (now I-49), where they built their South Kansas City location. In 2010, the KCMO police department broke ground on their new $28 million South Patrol headquarters off Bannister and Marion Park Drive. Cerner recently announced plans to build a massive new complex at the site of the former Bannister Mall. And now Whitney Kerr Sr., a 56-year veteran of the real estate business (and broker with Cassidy Turley) who helped bring the Corporate Woods complex to life, has compiled land for the Stowers family to develop hundreds of acres at the Oxford on the Blue site.
“There were a lot of negatives out here. All of a sudden, all these things changed,” said Kerr last week. “I think the potential of this area, with the infrastructure out there, is incredible.”
Kansas City 6th district councilman John Sharp agrees.
 “I’m tremendously excited about the Oxford on the Blue project, because this has the potential to bring thousands of good-paying jobs to southeast Kansas City,” said Sharp. “This shows how a major investment in an area often serves as a catalyst for even more development.”
The possibility for greater transportation options in the area also remains an alluring draw for the developers of the site. The parcel is located near the light rail train route that’s been proposed by County Executive Mike Sanders, and Kerr remains bullish on the opportunity to bring back one of the city’s trademark modes of transportation: the passenger streetcar.
At one point, according to Kerr, Kansas City had 75 miles of cable cars which preceded San Francisco’s famous trolley system. Kerr thinks that the public would benefit if the downtown streetcar plan, which will connect Union Station to the River Market (and garnered a $20 million federal TIGER grant this summer), could be extended along its original route to the newly announced developments in South Kansas City. Councilman Sharp added that some at City Hall are already pursuing the idea.
 “Council members from the 4th, 5th, and 6th districts have all provided sales tax funding to study the expansion of the Country Club streetcar line,” said Sharp. “Having developments at this (Oxford on the Blue) site certainly makes it much more important to extend the streetcar lines to serve them.”
That original trolley route was converted to the Trolley Track Trail, a six-mile walking and biking path that connects the South Kansas City Waldo and Brookside areas to UMKC’s campus, thanks to the Rails-to-Trails program created by Congress in 1983. But as is happening downtown, the trails could still be re-purposed back to their original intent in the future.
Even without the transportation hubs in the area, there is significant buzz in South Kansas City. Kerr says that the developers for the Oxford on the Blue site will work to get the zoning altered on the parcel from Rural-Agriculture to an Urban Renewal District, in order to incentivize business activity in the area. The developer will also be applying for PIEA (Planned Industrial Expansion Authority) tax abatements to help get the project off the ground. Early plans for the site have encouraged city officials.
 “I think everyone at City Hall who is familiar with the project is very excited about it,” said Sharp. “It’s been described to me as a high-tech office park which would also have support retail, and likely have on-site housing as an additional element.”
Kerr says that development at the Oxford on the Blue site will help drive the economy in South Kansas City, ultimately providing well-paying jobs and attracting viable homeowners to neighborhoods surrounding the site. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful thing for them,” Kerr said.
Of course, Kerr acknowledged that there are still issues that could arise as the project prepares to go to City Hall in the coming months. Chiefly, the strength of the economy remains an important factor for any development to proceed as planned.
“Anybody who’s involved in major capital investments is affected by the cost of money,” said Kerr. “Probably the biggest concern that the private sector has is the health of the economy.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

RED Updates Grandview Aldermen on Truman's Marketplace


By Mary Wilson
The Grandview Board of Aldermen heard from developers of the shopping center formerly known as Truman Corners at their work session on Tuesday, September 17.  A change in the name of the development from Truman’s Landing to Truman’s Marketplace occurred previously, and last spring, a transfer agreement was completed naming RED Legacy as the developer of the project.

According to attorney Joe Lauber, serving as special counsel for tax increment and economic development financing, the total project cost was originally $91.3 million. That total overall cost has dropped to $83.4 million. The developer’s portion of costs has dropped from $38.6 million down to $28.2 million. The third-party portion went from $11.3 million up to $15.4 million.

“What’s really going on there, is since the time of the TIF plan originally through to this point, the major anchor store that was originally part of the development would be acquired by the developer, and in turn be built by the
developer and then leased or sold back to the major anchor store. In this case, the major anchor store is going to take care of that part of the development on their own, so you’ll see that shift from developer costs to third party costs.”

The final component of that would be the public financing portion, which went from $41.3 million down to $39.4 million. There was a project added to the development plans, with a total of thirteen projects slated. The primary plan, with the developer redeveloping the major anchor store area, included the portion of the land that Milberger’s Pest Control sits on. Because the major anchor store will be developing their own site, RED Legacy doesn’t need to expand into that portion of the project right away, and created a project 13.

“At this point in time, we’re not sure that it will even be necessary. We’re putting that in a holding pattern. The projected completion date for that portion of the project, “Project 13,” is 2020.”

The bulk of the development, however, is slated to be finished by 2015. According to Lauber, the public financing portion of the development is on the high side when compared to other developments in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

“The more critical a development is to a city, the more likely it is that the city will participate more,” said Lauber. “Here we’ve got a situation where this is a gateway project for the city. This is a priority for the city to get redeveloped and to remediate the blight that’s out there.”

With Sam’s Club leaving Grandview next month, the city and developers are aware of the large sales tax hole that will be created. With this significant reduction in revenues, plans need to be in place to compensate for the loss. The original RED Legacy plan entailed the entire shopping center being demolished and redeveloped from the ground up. The revised plan that developers presented to the Board of Aldermen last week included a remodel, rather than a
brand new facility, for the Price Chopper store currently located in the center, as well as updates to other current tenants. Everything south of the current grocery store will be demolished.

“We really would appreciate the grocery store being bigger,” said Ward 2 Alderman Leonard Jones. “That’s the downside. The same footprint is a tougher pill to swallow.”

RED Legacy Vice President of Development and Design Bart Lowen spoke to the board regarding the developer’s changes to the original proposal, as well as their plans to move forward to begin implementation of the design. According to Lowen, the entire property, aside from one outer parcel, is under RED Legacy contract.

“All the things that we need to do in order to get the private side financing lined up, which allows us to get the public side of financing, we’re getting close,” said Lowen.

RED Legacy was able to secure the commitmentnof the major anchor tenant store. This store will be doing their own building, on the current Sam’s Club property.

“We did everything in our power to keep Sam’s at the site,” said Dan Lowe, CCIM, Managing Partner of RED Legacy. “It became clear early on that they weren’t going to stay, but frankly, it becomes a bigger win for us. Overall, the things that were causing the most tension in this project have become some of the things that have turned out the best so far.”

The newest site plan is primarily the same lineup of retailers as before. The only major change is the fact that Price Chopper, along with a few other current tenants, will be staying in their locations. Those that are staying will see significant façade improvements, as well as interior design improvements, when the project is complete.

Senior Vice President of Leasing for RED Legacy Joanna Shawver has been responsible for tenant agreements for the new development. According to Shawver, there are only two spaces in the center that are not committed, which is fairly common for a shopping center of this size. All other spaces are currently in active negotiation with RED Legacy to open in the fall of 2014.

“By active negotiation, I mean those talking about a letter of intent, an active letter of intent, or are fully committed and going through the process of the lease,” said Shawver. “Well over ninety-five percent of the spaces are spoken
for, or we’re having serious conversations about them.”

Since RED Legacy attended the International Shopping Centers Convention in May, this project has taken off, according to Shawver. A lot of store names previously discussed are coming to fruition.

“You’re going to have a major pet store,” said Shawver. “You’re going to have a major shoe store that’s not in the market. You’re going to have a variety of apparel stores that are not presently in Grandview, South Kansas City,
are not in Belton, and not in Raymore. You’re going to have an art supply store.”

Some food establishments currently lined up include a deli, coffee shop, and Mexican restaurant. RED Legacy is also working with full-service, sit-down restaurants, such as a steakhouse, or Italian restaurant, for the pad sites.

“The momentum that we started is really panning  out,” said Shawver. “We’re excited about the new tenants,
and we’re thrilled to retain some tenants that are already here.”

The commitment from a large discount retailer for the major anchor of the project, according to Shawver, has greatly impacted the commitments from other smaller retail stores who are known to surround themselves around that major anchor. The major tweak to the initial RED proposal is the closing on the land. The prior contract stated that RED Legacy had to close on the land in order to issue the bonds. RED Legacy asked the board last week to allow that to happen simultaneously.