Monday, March 25, 2013

Grandview Aldermen Decide to Close Meadowmere Pool

 By Paul Thompson
After looking at the raw data sitting in front of them last Tuesday night , the Grandview Board of Aldermen felt they had no responsible choice but to close Meadowmere Pool. The only question was, when?
Initial recommendations from the Parks Commission and the Parks and Recreation department called for Meadowmere to close after the 2013 season, but after seeing data that showed the pool lost upwards of $100,000 annually, the board made the decision to close it before the upcoming season.
Low attendance at the city’s only outdoor pool was also a contributing factor in the unanimous decision from the aldermen. A 2011 study showed that only 23% of Grandview residents used the pool even once during that year, while Meadowmere only recorded 1,595 visitors over the course of the entire 2011 season. The visitor count includes several day camps that made up over half of the pool’s attendees that year.
Ultimately, the number of visitors didn’t justify the significant financial losses incurred by Grandview taxpayers.
“I can tell you that we have averaged, over the last four years, losses of $97,608 per year,” said Parks and Recreation Director Eric Lucas at the meeting. “In 2011, 77% of the households that were surveyed said that no one in their family had used the pool that year. Even the 23% who are using our pool, go once or twice a month.”
Furthermore, Meadowmere pool no longer met ADA requirements as of January 1, 2013. If the pool were to remain open after 2013, the city would need to invest $10,000 to $20,000 in order to comply with ADA requirements. However, the city could avoid penalties if they made plans to close the pool after this season.
“If we intend to close the pool at the end of the summer, we don’t have to have a plan in place now,” said Eric Lucas. “We can offer the ability to go inside (to the View) for the same fee.”
The conversation among the aldermen evolved from the original premise (closing after 2013) as they wondered if they would be better stewards of taxpayer money by biting the bullet and closing the struggling pool before the 2013 season. After seeing a graph showing almost half a million dollars in losses at the pool over the past five years, alderman Leonard Jones was the first to present the notion of closing the pool now to avoid accumulating further losses.
“I think we should talk about cutting the bleeding right now,” said Jones, setting off a serious discussion about the merits of the idea.
As the idea was discussed around the room, it became apparent that every alderman agreed with Jones. $100,000 was simply too much to absorb in operating losses for a facility that drew less than 1,600 visitors in a given year.
“$100,000 is a lot of money,” said board member Brent Steeno. “I’m for closing it, and maybe even closing it this year.”
After a consensus was reached that the pool needed to be closed sooner rather than later, a sticking point emerged: should the public be given more than two months notice about the closing of Grandview’s only public pool?
“The nice side of me would like to give them the opportunity to know about it,” said alderwoman Annette Turnbaugh. “But I’m more apt to agree to stop the blood and close it down.”
The board entertained less drastic options, such as closing the pool on Sundays and Mondays, typically the facility’s slowest days. Although the plan could have saved the city up to $20,000, the savings were not deemed sufficient by a board that wants to emphasize fiscal responsibility.
“If you’re losing all this money, why in the world are you opening again?” asked Alderman Jones. “Why aren’t you cutting your losses?”
A unanimous vote proved that the rest of the board agreed with Leonard’s sentiment, and the 40-year old Meadowmere Pool had officially entertained its last customer.
Grandview officials are already working on plans for a future water facility in the city, as the aldermen gave Lucas the authority to begin work on a new outdoor aquatic concept plan. According to Lucas, the Parks and Recreation Department hopes to have a plan in place and a no-tax increase bond on the table by 2015 for a new outdoor water facility in Grandview.
Alderman John Maloney wanted to make sure that a cost-effective summer swim pass would be made available at the View before throwing his support behind the immediate closure of Meadowmere. But once Lucas agreed that something in that vein could be arranged, Maloney was on board.
“I’m for closing pool this year, only if we can come up with a cheaper summer trial for those left in the cold by the closing of Meadowmere,” said Maloney.
But once Lucas concurred, Maloney offered that Meadowmere should be closed and gutted in the near future. “I would want that thing torn down as soon as possible,” he said.
The board agreed that the city should use some of the $150,000 budgeted for Meadowmere operations this summer to tear down the structure, both to keep the area from becoming an eyesore and to avoid trespassing at the closed site.

Friday, March 22, 2013

WWII B29 Flight Engineer Shares Story

By Mary Wilson
The Trailside Center, as part of their World War II Living History Series, invited Rich Grossman, a B29 Flight Engineer, to speak on the B29 bombing missions he was involved in over Japan. February 19 marked the 68th anniversary of the Iwo Jima invasion in which 6,700 Marines lost their lives.
Grossman flew 29 missions as a Flight Engineer on B29s. “I was a lucky guy in the draft in 1940 in the start of preparing the United States to get into war,” said Grossman.
In July of 1931, he received a low draft number and was sent to the Air Force. He spent three years working his way to be Assistant Line Chief.
“I saw that there were new airplanes going,” said Grossman. “The largest bomber in the world, it was the B29.  In 1942, they flew the first test. From then on, they needed eleven men on the crew so they set up training schools. I kept bugging the Commanding Officer to send me to the Flight Engineering School.”
Every time the Commanding Officer and Grossman would cross paths, Grossman would ask to be sent to the Flight Engineering School. After three or four weeks of urging, it paid off.
“Finally he said, oh hell,” said Grossman, “if you want to go I’ll sign your orders. That’s how I got to get into Denver for two and a half months.”
In the school in Denver, Grossman received training for flight engineering. If he couldn’t make it in two months, they would send him through it again. In two months, he was where he needed to be. He was then shipped to New Mexico for coordination training with a crew. At the end of that training, he went to Kansas to pick up a brand new airplane, the B29, from the Boeing factory in Wichita.
“We didn’t see this airplane,” said Grossman. “We did all of our crew training in B17s and B24s. We then shipped out for India.”
Grossman and his crew were a replacement crew after the first B29 crews arrived in India in June. He arrived around Thanksgiving.
“From June to the time we left at the end of January from India, they had flown quite a few missions,” said Grossman.
Grossman and his crew were ordered to go to the flight crew after too many losses.
“Our first trip from India to China to haul gasoline and bombs,” said Grossman, “there was fog. We didn’t know when that fog was going to come in, which knocked out our navigators. We had to calculate. Our computer was an engineer’s slide rule called a slipstick.”
Grossman had a log to keep every minute of gasoline usage. When they arrived back, Grossman said only five minutes of gasoline was left in the plane.
Grossman’s crew was in on a massive bombing raid on May 14. Four airstrips were used for takeoff, and B29s took off every minute. According to Grossman, it was about four hours and twenty minutes before each plane took off.
“We took off about thirty minutes after it all started,” said Grossman. “Our runway was number two, and on runway one, right before us, the plane burst into flames. There was one lost right there, and the crew lost. When it was our time, away we went.”
Orders were received three days before that the engineers and tail gunners were not needed because they were to bomb Tokyo at 7,000 feet. The tail gunner and Grossman spent time practicing with aluminum confetti in order to get the timing just right to release the bombs at 8-seconds apart.
On the bombing run, four corners of Tokyo were set with fires for the bombers to see where they were to go. Because of the continuous bombings, Tokyo was unable to counter the attack.
“Our crew lead three airplanes,” said Grossman. “Every time a shell exploded, the concussion of that thing shook the planes. Trying to configure the gasoline, with the movement, it kept is going and we got through.”
While in India, after the missions, Grossman received a Christmas card from a lady. He told his crew if he lived through the war, when he got home he would see her. Grossman and his wife, Yvonne, have been married for 67 years.

Friday, March 15, 2013

NNSA Requests Public Input Regarding Transfer of the KCP

By Mary Wilson
The National Nuclear Security Administration held a public meeting and open house regarding their environmental assessment on the impact the transfer of the Kansas City Plant will have on the Bannister
Federal Complex on Tuesday, March 5. Mark Holochek, Manager of the NNSA Kansas City Field Office, welcomed those in attendance and provided some background into the complex located at Bannister and Troost.
“The facility was built in 1942 as part of the war effort,” said Holochek. “The facility was a major part of the NNSA’s efforts, and the country’s efforts, at the time, to win the Cold War. That’s a proud history we have here in Kansas City, and a proud history we have in the NNSA.”
According to Holochek, for the past twenty years, the majority of the work done inside the facility is improving the safety and security of the country’s weapons.
“We don’t really build any new nuclear weapons,” said Holochek. “It’s not like we’re out manufacturing weapons and increasing the size of our stockpile.”
Several years ago, the NNSA began to look at the facility and discovered that the cost of maintaining the buildings at the Bannister Federal Complex exceeded the cost to build a new facility. At that time, the search for property to build the new facility began. Two years ago, construction began off of Botts Road and Highway 150. The NNSA is currently in the process of moving into the new facility.
“We started that move in the January timeframe,” said Holochek. “It is a 19-month move process and we should have that facility completely operational by August of 2014. That is really what has set the stage for what we are going to do with the Bannister facility.”
According to Holochek, whenever the federal government makes a decision on this scale, they go through what is called a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process, which is in place to determine the environmental impacts of the decision, which in this case is to move the facility. Part of that process is to gather feedback from the public to consider the impact to the surrounding area.
A presentation was given by David Caughey, the Kansas City Field Office Environmental Manager, who explained the draft environmental assessment and related topics.
“We’re trying to decide whether to transfer or not to transfer the Kansas City Plant to a potential new owner,” said Caughey. “Your public input is important to that particular process.”
The NEPA requires that facilities consider the environmental impact and alternatives before deciding a course of action, and is designed that agencies inform the public and gather the public’s input as environmental concerns are evaluated.
“We’re hoping to reduce the NNSA’s operational footprint and to lower the overall cost of operating this facility on behalf of the government,” said Caughey. “We also want to ensure that the transfer of the property is done in an environmentally safe and fiscally responsible manner.”
The NNSA is also preparing the environmental assessment to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action. A draft of the assessment was published in February of 2013, with the final assessment planned for publication in Spring 2013. Public comments are being accepted through March 14, 2013, and the transfer of the Kansas City Plant to a non-federal entity would not be executed until the completion of the NEPA process.
“A final decision on whether or not to transfer the Kansas City Plant has not been made,” said Caughey.
The Kansas City Plant, located on the Bannister Federal Complex, is owned by the NNSA, and consists of about 122 acres and 38 buildings. The General Services Administration owns the remainder of the
Complex. According to Caughey, the Kansas City Plant portion of the Bannister Federal Complex has been characterized and continues to be assessed for the presence of contamination that might impact soils and groundwater at the site.
“Active remediation has and is taking place at previously identified contamination sites,” said Caughey. “We have ongoing environmental monitoring and maintenance in accordance with a state-issued Hazardous Waste Management Facility Part I Permit.”
According to Caughey, the General Services Administration is evaluating its options to relocate their operations to a new location. The NNSA is proposing to transfer the Kansas City Plant, in whole or in part, to one or more entities for a use that is different from its current use. Market analysis indicates that the most likely future use of the facility would be a mix of general commercial operations, including industrial, warehouse and office space.
“We compared and analyzed the range of possible future uses against various categories,” said Caughey, “things like air quality, or water resources. Some things are environmental in a broader sense, like aesthetics and socioeconomics and cultural resources. Those are also categories that we had to analyze in the course of putting together this environmental assessment.”
The draft analysis of the environmental assessment shows no significant environmental impacts, according to Caughey. The environmental assessment will provide the decision makers with information needed to determine whether NNSA should keep the facility or transfer the facility. Additional regulatory steps and remediation actions will be conducted before the land can be transferred. The process also requires Missouri’s governor to review and approve the transfer, which also includes public participation.
The public comment period of the draft environmental assessment was requested from anyone interested or concerned with the proposed transfer of the Kansas City Plant to a new owner. A court reporter was utilized to provide a complete an accurate transcript for the public comment portion of the meeting, which will be included in the final environmental assessment along with all written comments received during the public comment period.
Members of the community voiced concerns over the cleanup process, and the potential of the NNSA leaving the buildings and grounds to become blighted. Others were concerned about what kind of material and contamination is on the site and the current containment process.
“On February 23, 2012, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution dealing with the process of the reuse of the Bannister Federal Complex,” said 6th District Councilman John Sharp. “The first point in the resolution was that a transfer for private development was preferable for keeping the site under federal ownership than sitting there boarded up.”
Sharp also discussed three additional points, including a remix use plan for the facility, elimination of contamination and the demolition of older buildings accomplished in a timely manner.
“To say that there would be no likely retail use on a 300-acre site that fronts on two major thoroughfares does seem to be excessively limiting what the likely reuse would be,” said Sharp. “I would hope that as part of this process, the resolution would include more types of mixed use that could be considered prudent.”
According to Sharp, the site has significant potential for growth in South Kansas City.
“We need to see it developed in a timely manner,” said Sharp, “not sitting there decaying as vacant buildings.”
Comments regarding the draft environmental assessment will be accepted until March 14, 2013. An electronic version of the document is available on the NEPA NNSA Headquarters website at http://energy.gov/nepa. Comments can be sent by email to KCPEAComments@nnsa.doe.gov.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bulldogs Sting Yellowjackets to Win District Championship

By Paul Thompson
The Grandview Bulldogs continue along the road to redemption.
The Bulldogs (15-12) upset district favorite Center (21-5) in a wild 68-65 victory Monday night in the Class 4, District 14 championship game. The loss avenged Grandview’s 52-35 season-opening loss to Center on November 30, when star junior guard Tyrone Taylor was the only Bulldog in double figures with 12 points. Flash-forward three months, and Grandview is riding a six-game winning streak, hoisting the district championship trophy, and heading to sub-state.
The big difference was center Nelson Nweke, who came into form when Grandview most needed it. Nweke scored 18 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ semifinal victory over Raytown South
before adding 21 points and 16 rebounds in an enormous game Monday night against the favored Yellowjackets. Nweke was also 9 of 12 from the free-throw line, with many of his attempts coming in the game’s crucial final minutes. The moment never got too big for the level-headed Nweke.
For the Grandview coaching staff, Nweke’s breakout performance was vindication for the faith they’ve shown the big man during his three years at Grandview High School.
“When he was a freshman, I played him all the time. We’ve been thinking that he would blossom at some point,” said Grandview head coach Randy Farris after the win. “Mid-year we thought it might not be until
senior year. But he is really coming through now in the end.”
For his part, Nweke says that the playing time he received as a freshman and sophomore helped prepare him for Monday’s district championship game.
“It prepared me real well because as a freshman I got to play on the big stage,” said Nweke. “As a junior playing on this stage, I feel more comfortable and more relaxed.”
Nweke was about the only person who was relaxed in the Grandview High School gymnasium as the final interminable seconds ticked off the clock Monday night. Grandview held a seemingly comfortable 60-46 lead with 4:16 left in the game, and were up by as much as 13 with less than three minutes in the game. But Center, one of the best teams in the city, wasn’t quite ready to give up on the season yet.The Yellowjackets turned up the full-court pressure in the final minutes, forcing several untimely Bulldog turnovers as Grandview tried to wind down the clock.
“We did not handle any of those situations very well,” said a relieved Farris about the end of the game. “We weren’t trying to attack, we were just trying to get fouled.”
The Bulldogs, though, had trouble even inbounding the basketball against the ferocious and desperate Yellowjackets.
With 23 seconds left in the game, Tyrone Taylor made one of two free throws to put the Bulldogs up 68-62. But Center rushed down and nailed a 3-pointer, and when Damon King was called for a traveling violation on the ensuing inbounds pass, Center had their chance to send the game to an improbable
overtime session with just nine seconds left in regulation. Center got one good 3-point attempt, but the shot careened off the back iron and the Yellowjackets never had another attempt. Grandview had won the district championship.
“I was like ‘oh my God, these are the longest two minutes of my life’,” said an elated Taylor after the game.“That was rough, man. It was scary.”
Taylor admitted that after the 17-point loss to open the season, the victory was made sweeter by the fact that it happened against Center.
“It was like a backyard brawl,” he said. “It’s a neighbor school, so beating them was even bigger than getting the district win.”
Nweke said after the game that the team’s semifinal win against Raytown South was an important confidence boost for the Bulldogs. Raytown South had previously beaten Grandview twice in close contests, including an eight point win on Grandview’s home court in mid-February.
“We had a lot of confidence after the Raytown South game,” Nweke said. “We had the confidence that we could come in and beat anybody. Coming into the district championship on our own home floor was real big for us.”
Despite the home floor advantage, Center brought a strong fan contingent to the game, and created an electric environment in the building. Those fans were able to make themselves heard early in the game, when Center took an early lead during a frenetic first quarter. Farris called a timeout with his team down 13-4 and two minutes left in the quarter, both to calm his team and to let his players know that they needed to keep doing things the right way, and results would follow.
“I kept telling the kids ‘don’t look at the scoreboard. Just keep doing the right things’,” said Farris. “Keep your nose to the grindstone and it will work out.”
It may have been Farris’ best timeout of the season.
Grandview steadied to finish the quarter on 7-6 run, bringing the Bulldogs within a manageable eight points of Center. By the time the quarter ended, Grandview had not only quashed Center’s early momentum, but developed some of their own as well.
Once the second quarter commenced, the Bulldogs rode a highly entertaining 18- 3 run to a six-point halftime lead they would never relinquish. The victory earns Grandview the right to face Pleasant Hill in yet another chance at redemption.
Pleasant Hill beat Grandview 62-52 in a 9 a.m. tournament game at William Jewell on December 26. It will be yet another game that Grandview circles on the calendar, eager to make amends for a loss they felt should have been a victory.
“That was probably our driest patch of the year. We were trying to transition from a power team to a speed team,” said Taylor. “I think we might be even more motivated, because they shouldn’t have beaten us the first time. That should have never have happened.”
The Bulldogs can’t change the past, but they still have a chance to re-write the script for what has been an
up and down season. Their road to redemption continues onward.
“We survived,” said Farris. “That’s what they say this time of year, survive and advance.”