Friday, January 25, 2013

Grandview School Board Approves Bond for April Ballot

 By Mary Wilson
In a 5-1 vote (members Alexander, Bastian, Casey, Greene and Stewart in favor; Polette opposed, and Fisher absent), the Grandview School Board approved last Thursday a no tax increase bond issue of $9 Million that will appear on April ballots. The board met in work session last Tuesday in order to make an educated decision. Within the current eighty-cent levy, the district projects the debt services account will remain fairly strong.
As of now, the bonding capacity for the district (figured by 15% of current assessed valuation plus 15% of state assessed railroad valuation) is roughly $32 million.
“The district can support a 9 million bond issue easily,” said Dr. Roger Adamson, vice president of L.J. Hart and Company. “On a 9 million issue, with a projected 2.5% interest rate, the 80 cent levy will stay the same. The projection is 1% growth through 2015.”
Assistant superintendent of finance and operations Ann Marie Cook suggests it’s better to be conservative.
“This shows our capacity to support that service payment,” said Cook.
Every year, about $3.6 million will be paid off (not all principal), which allows the bonding capacity to increase as time goes on. With the $9 million bond issue, the bonding capacity for the district would be around $23 million.
“That’s a tough one because one part of that is easy, we know that our buildings cumulatively are old, they’re as old as I am,” said superintendent Dr. Ralph Teran. “We know that we did the bond in 2007, the economy hit the skids and you couldn’t get any money. It wasn’t until 2011 we were able to go out again, and so here we are.”
Proposed projects for the money will go to the facility improvement team for the district. The ballot issue itself will be in broader terms, which will provide the district with some flexibility to not necessarily be tied to a specific project, but rather a “type” of project. Ultimately, the decision on what projects do occur will be the School Board’s, as the district only has authority to approve projects up to $15,000.
At the top of the preliminary list of projects are safety enhancements. The district has taken some steps recently to try to improve the safety of some locations, and this would be a continuation of those improvements. These include security vestibules, similar to what is currently at Belvidere and Butcher-Greene Elementary Schools. It also includes camera systems and new intercom systems.
“Some of our schools have some pretty outdated intercom systems, and we’re not sure of the ability to repair and add on to those as time goes on,” said Cook.
Dr. Teran stressed the importance of security upgrades at each location.
“Clearly, the topic of safety is at hand,” said Dr. Teran. “Everything has been greatly impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Safety is the top thing. These vestibules and so forth, finishing that out, is a huge priority. Intercom systems that work adequately and all those things, I wanted to stress because it puts a new dimension to every district that I’m aware of.”
Other proposed projects include classroom renovations (ceiling, lighting, windows), restroom renovations, gyms, athletic fields, auditorium upgrades, instruments, and district-wide roofing, rooftop HVAC and asphalt.
“We did some restroom renovations at some of our schools over the summer, and it is amazing the number of comments we’ve gotten from students, staff, and parents,” said Cook. “It’s a restroom, I get it, but it makes a huge difference and we have a lot of needs in that area.”
The district is also considering removing the “pods” at Grandview Middle School, and re-doing the east entrance at CAIR.
“This by no means does everything we need to do in the district; we still have a list of other things that need to happen,” said Cook. “That list will last probably my entire tenure with the district. These are some of the more critical areas that we have identified to improve the appearance and health and safety of the buildings.”
The roofs and parking lot make up a large bulk of the need: around $5 million.
“Knowing we have a $5 million need on our roofs and in our parking lots is what drove us to go after $9 million, so it would leave us some funding for additional things,” said Cook. “While they’re necessary and everyone will appreciate them, it’s not as much as we want to do.”
According to Cook, the district made a lot of improvements over the summer, and does have some money left. However, they remain fearful that if new bonds are not issued, it could make them potentially stagnant for 2014 projects.
 “We need to start the planning and bidding for those summer projects, which we can’t do if we don’t have the bonding capacity,” said Cook.
This coming summer, the district has improvements already on the docket. Handicap accessibility at Martin City has been a concern for a number of years, and the district has made a commitment to remedy that. They are also considering a security vestibule at Conn-West, along with a lift in the stairwell of the main area leading up to the cafeteria.
Electrical upgrades are also needed at Conn-West and Transportation. Grandview Middle is in need of a locker solution; instrument and uniform storage is needed. The list of needs and wants is lengthy.
“If the bond is unsuccessful, we may limit some of these things so that we can be sure we have some funding in 2014,” said Cook. “We do have money left over, but we do have intended uses for that. We’re fine for this year, but our concern is moving forward and what our ability is to continue with improvements. We can remain with our current 80 cent levy, and it does not appear to negatively impact things that we may want to do down the road.”
Voters will ultimately decide on the issue April 2, 2013.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Just Talkin'

By Aggie Turnbaugh

Sixty years ago on a nice winter night I drove from Olathe where I was teaching English at the Olathe Junior High School, to Grandview to witness the first paper of the first edition of the Grandview Advocate be printed in the back room of the building the newspaper was to occupy for 53 years at 500-502 Main Street. The name was changed two years later, in 1955, when the Turnbaughs bought the Jackson County Times, and combined the two papers to the Jackson County Advocate.
The young founder, editor/publisher of the Advocate, Jim Turnbaugh, had been my brother’s college roommate. I took a picture of him, and the pressman, Pop Horton, as the first copy of the newspaper came off the press. That first paper was to have a huge impact on my life for, as I failed to mention, Jim and I had been dating, and that fall the students at Raytown high school referred to their new speech, dramatics and journalism teacher as “ Mrs. T.”
In the summer of l954, I started to help in the newspaper office, answering the phone and doing mundane chores. I soon learned that newspaper reporting, radio news, and fledging television, were all in a world just for men.
One day I got the inspiration to write a personal story about something our dog, Bully, had done. That was the first of my column, “Just Talkin’”. A Grandview policeman, who presented the stray to Jim and me as a wedding present, had taken Bully, a Boxer dog, off the street.
It was not long before I joined my friends with the title of “Housewife” which we all carried along with the added one of “Stay-at-Home Mom.” I wrote engagement announcements, wedding descriptions, birth announcements and other articles for the society page, and obituaries on my typewriter at home. I might also point out that for several years the owner/publishers of the Advocate were listed as Mr. and Mrs. James D. Turnbaugh, Jr.
There are a lot of memories from the 1950s and 60s, with one the most memorable from October l960, when a rally for Senator John F. Kennedy was held at Truman Corners and, as a member of the press with a camera, I had a spot right in front of the speaker’s stand. When he finished his speech, the future President of the United States left the stand and came right to me to shake my hand. The word around town was that I did not wash my hand for three weeks.
Times started to change in the l970s, including the listing of Agnes Anne as co-publisher, not Mrs. JDT. I also gained a desk in the newspaper office. In l979 our daughter, Annette, joined us as a member of the newspaper staff, and our son, Joe, who had covered sports while in high school, came aboard as permanent member of the staff in 1980. Joe took most of the pictures carried in the 80’s, including the Truman Centennial edition. He left in l991 to pursue a different career. Annette was in charge of the many phases of the production for 26 years. She has been a Grandview city alderman for three years.
In 1988 the Turnbaugh family was recognized by the National Newspaper Association, as one of 135 families in America, which represented four generations, or 100 years in the field of journalism.
Things really changed in the l980s when Grandview had the first female mayor in Jackson County, Jan Martinette, who, along with Cathy Kelley, an alderman on the city council, Nancy Pope, director of the Grandview Chamber of Commerce and me, would visit a business once a month to name it Business of the Month. An article would then appear in the Advocate.
The four of us were in a gas station when a man from South Dakota came in to pay his bill. Jan stepped forward to shake his hand, introducing herself as mayor. Cathy shook his hand, telling him she was an alderman, and then Nancy welcomed him on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. When I took my turn to shake his hand as the co-publisher of the local newspaper, the man had a stunned look on his face, so I explained that we had a matriarchal society. His reaction to that was to tell us that he did not want his wife to hear us because she would want to move to Grandview. He left in a hurry.
I related this for it emphasizes the major changes that have come about, particularly in politics and in the field of journalism, where there are more and more women delivering the news on television and radio and serving as editors of newspapers.
Each Wednesday morning when I had finished writing “real” news, I would sit at my typewriter to write “Just Talkin’”. –Please note I did not say computer—
Many subjects were covered in my column with most centered on the antics of our cats, dogs and horses, which, after l970, shared our lives on a small farm in South Kansas City. Starting with Bully, l5 dogs and l6 cats decided, some invited, and some not, to make our home theirs. A total of eleven horses, most of which were Arabian show horses, kept us busy on weekends, as our children, Annette and Joe, showed them.
Some of our readers let me know they were not interested in our animals, while others let me know they enjoyed reading about our furry friends. It reminded them of their pets.
When Jim suffered a stroke on September 4, 2002, I took over his duties at the helm of the Advocate. I knew it would be a difficult task because I would never be able to fill his shoes. It was the help and encouragement of friends that kept me going.
One of those was Dodie Mauer, former owner-publisher of the Belton Star-Herald who was a true heroin, when she stepped in to help my staff by writing and editing stories, when I broke my hip the day after Jim passed away in March 2003.
Several of our feline, and canine friends, ranging from 13 to 24 years of age, and one equine, Jingo, at age 34, died during the six and a half months Jim was hospitalized. —Jingo was the artist’s model of Starlight® for the Hallmark series Rainbow Brite® —. When I sold the Advocate in the fall of 2005 to retire at age 78, only Smokie, the mother of the four kittens I referred to as the Terrible Foursome, was left to keep me company on the farm.
I had found Smokie at the end of our driveway when she was probably six months old and hid her in the barn. Her grey hair was singed and she was very hungry. She did not stay hidden for very long and soon joined the ranks of the cats that spent time lounging in the house.
In August of 2010, I took Smokie to the office of our veterinarian, Dr. Bud Hertzog, where she died. She had been a part of our family for 24 years.
Before I could leave his office, Dr. Bud, who has cared for our pets for close to 40 years, placed a longhaired black cat in my arms. He told me he would not let me leave without a pet. I named her Miss Silly Kitty for she had a difficult time getting used to all the strange animals she watched out of the window of the house on the farm. Her reaction to the big bird in the yard when it flapped its wings and gobbled was something to behold. She was, and is, an indoor cat.
In July of 2011, Miss Silly Kitty and I moved to Lee’s Summit where she has adjusted to city life better than I. There have been many discussions between us about who has seniority and sets the house rules. At times she makes me wonder if she is not part canine for she acts like a watchdog warning me of something strange in the yard. She also sits in front of the microwave and, as soon as the buzzer goes off, she meows for me to get the food out of the oven. This is probably because I have spoiled her by sharing food. I do wish the back rubs she insists on giving me in the middle of night were offered at a different time. Her favorite pastime is to lie on her stool in front of a kitchen window watching neighbors walk by with their small dogs. She is taller and outweighs most of those small canines.
When I attended a gathering with some of my neighbors shortly after I moved to Lee’s Summit, I was greeted by one lady who addressed me as “Mrs. T.” She had been in the journalism class when I taught in Raytown, and had been the editor of the school paper. That brought about a lot of old memories.
During the 53 years I was a part of the Jackson County Advocate bringing the news of the community to our readers, I met many people from all walks of life, including famous, and some infamous during an era entirely different than that of today. I wrote my weekly column with the hope that it would bring a smile to some faces. Hopefully, it worked.
I will always remember our pets, and how they always greeted me in a special way when I came home from the office each day. There was never any question of their love and loyalty. Their antics kept me supplied with stories which I shared in “Just Talkin’” with a hope of gaining a smile or two from our readers.
My father-in-law, James D. Turnbaugh, Sr., a long-time city editor for the Kansas City Times, which was the morning edition of the Kansas City Star, told me, “When you sit down to write a story, dip your pen in the milk of human kindness.” How wonderful it would be if human kindness were a top priority for us all in today’s world.
Happy 60th Anniversary Jackson County Advocate,

Aggie Turnbaugh

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Steve Dennis Q&A: A Candid Conversation

By Paul Thompson
It’s 2013 and we’re back to business as usual: the world didn’t end, the fiscal cliff was (momentarily) averted, and Grandview Mayor Steve Dennis continues to dream big. The Advocate sat down with Dennis
last week to discuss the past, present, and future of what the mayor calls the “center of the known universe.”
Below, we’ve put together the highlights as Dennis takes the inventory of his city at the dawn of a
new year.
How important is I-49, and what does that designation mean moving forward?
Most people won’t really truly understand why it is so important. I think they’re going to see it before they know it. To most people, it’s a name change and that’s all it is. But with Ikea, the deciding factor was that we were not on an interstate at that time. I won’t say that was the only factor, but it was huge. We were almost immediately discounted. A lot of retailers want to be located along an interstate because of
the traffic counts. Unless it’s on an interstate, they just won’t come. It was the same thing with Cracker Barrel.
So it will make a difference for us. Our four miles of I-49 are going to be looked at intently. We want to make sure that whatever we do from here on out, everything has to be done with excellence. People are going to know that we’ve really taken pride in what we’re doing in Grandview.

With I-49 completed, what would you say will be the next shoe to drop?
The next shoe to drop would certainly be Truman’s Marketplace. That’s what it’s going
to be called, is Truman’s Marketplace. We’ve got to re-brand. It’s time.
We actually had five people at one point in time vying for the opportunity to redevelop Truman Corners. That in and of itself is an oddity. In the development world, you’re lucky to have one developer who comes to you with a project, and you just kind of follow along as a city.
There are folks around here that want to hold on to the past, and I do too. I’m a traditional guy. It is time for us to shine. Truman’s Marketplace gives it a down-home feel to the whole thing.
I think that there’s a certain flavor that we need in Grandview. We don’t need Saks Fifth Avenue in here. We need value-oriented, but high-end value-oriented stores here. We’re not looking for Dollar General, but I am looking for Gordman’s and T.J. Maxx. Here, you’ve got a community that we’re building with Truman’s Marketplace. It’s going to be a shopping and dining center. It’s going to be an experience up there. I hope it’ll even be iconic.
We’re really pressing RED Development to do the little extras: the fa├žade, stacked stone brick, dramatic lightings and water play, things that you do with imprinted and colored concrete. Small things, but they
make a huge difference in the experience that you get as a shopper there.

How is development going outside of Truman Corners?
The city is working on and close to two major projects that are even bigger than Truman Corners. I’m traveling a lot. I’ve been to Dallas, I’ve been to Colorado, I’ve been to Minnesota, and I’ve been to Pennsylvania. It’s all to let people know about Grandview. The next two or three years are going to be incredibly exciting. It will revolutionize this city.

What is the status of the city’s TIF Districts?
The (December 11 Board of Aldermen) meeting made it look as if we are kind of loosey-goosey with the taxpayer money, and that’s not the case at all. To take that chance to make money, and not have to pay a penny to take that chance, is actually a good thing for the city.
Right now, at the end of the year, we’ll be down to seven TIF’s.

Do you think the new Farmer’s Market will be on schedule for this spring?
It’s about a three-month project to build out. We need to have it completed before the Truman Heritage Festival, and the bids are out. That farmer’s market did a lot of business this year, and made a lot of people happy. And it’s a great community service and a great community builder.

How do you see Grandview moving forward?
I’ve got seven pages of vision right here. You’d think I was crazy, but this is what I dream about. This is the stuff that motivates me. That’s why I knew that I (had to) run for re-election.
I think most people in the city like the direction we’re going. You have to be a cheerleader in this position. You have to be. This city is so active in going out there and pursuing everything we can to improve our city. We can no longer be a status quo city.
If you’re not at the decision-making tables with MARC and MoDOT and some of the other groups, you get passed over like we have been for 25 years.
 
What is going to happen with Meadowmere Pool?
We’ve done the study, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to go out there on a summer’s day and see that there are eight people using our pool. I learned to swim there, forty years ago, in that pool. It is the same look and feel that we had forty years ago.
It’s costing us $100,000 a year. In tough economic times, you can’t lose taxpayer money that way. We’re probably going to close that pool within a year. No decision has been made yet, but if that were to come to pass, rest assured that there will be some sort of water play area. That’s our commitment.

Do you see the city asking for any new bonds in the near future?
Parks bonds have really served the city well. We are spending money on each of our major parks. That bond will come to an end in two years. If we do something, it’ll be a no-tax-increase bond.

What is the most frustrating aspect of being the Mayor of Grandview?
Everything in government takes too much time, period. That’s my biggest frustration. Truman Corners: man I would have loved to start knocking buildings down last February when we made the decision with RED Development. But it takes time. And lawyers get involved.
I want to be emperor, and say ‘this is what we’re doing.’ But you have to work through a process, and that takes time.
I see myself as the CEO of this company we call the City of Grandview. Cory (Smith) is our COO, the chief operating officer. But we have a number of different departments. For the first time in my 45 years of living here, I feel like we’re all functioning on a good level. We’ve got quality people in there; they all love their job, and they love this city.
Every Wednesday at 9:00, we have our staff meeting in here. We talk about all the things that the fire department does over the course of a week and all the things that the public works department does over the course of a week. It’s geared towards one thing, and that is building community. That one word means everything to all of us.