Thursday, December 10, 2015

Missouri 2030 Provides Long-term Vision for the State

By Paul Thompson

Dan Mehan of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce introduced attendees at the Friday, December 4 Grandview/South KC Chamber Government Affairs breakfast to a new, long-term vision for the state known as the Missouri 2030 plan.

Missouri 2030 came into being as the result of a year-long analysis by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce into the state’s recent economic performance. Those studies concluded that Missouri has fallen behind economically compared the rest of the U.S. Mehan discussed several concerning developments: from 2004-2014 Missouri ranked 42nd in the U.S. in employment growth, 43rd in in per capita GDP growth, and 37th in per capita income growth. With those economic statistics in hand, the chamber sought to take the lead by answering an essential question.

“What can we do to really position the state in a better light?” Mehan asked. “When we looked at the data that is the real thing, we are in the 40s or 30s. We’re never above the mid-range; pick the metric.”

The result of that thought process is Missouri 2030, a comprehensive, long-term plan to improve Missouri over the next 15 years. The plan narrows its sights on four primary areas of focus: preparing the workforce, competing for jobs, connecting through infrastructure, and uniting the business community. Each individual focus has a series of goals and action steps within it designed to make the hopes of the chamber a reality.

Properly preparing Missouri’s workforce has been tabbed as the plan’s top priority. The action steps created to accomplish that goal include advocating for K-12 and higher education funding, creating PSAs and social media campaigns touting technical jobs, promoting student internships  with Missouri employers, and expanding the number of scholarships available for high achieving Missouri students, among others. Mehan said that he too often hears from business owners who can’t find qualified employees.

“I hear things like, ‘I’ve got the jobs, but I hired somebody who showed up for two days and then I never heard from them again,’” he said.

Center school district superintendent Dr. Sharon Nibbelink, who was in attendance at the meeting, concurred with the plan’s notion that today’s students need more hands-on time learning from the state’s economic drivers.

“We have to get kids into your businesses, and into the real world,” said Nibbelink.

Already, Mehan has seen strong business support for the Missouri 2030 Plan, including the South Kansas City and Grandview Chambers of Commerce.
“Seventy-five chambers of commerce have said that they want to be a part of this,” said Mehan. “If you extrapolate out how many small-business employers that is, it’s over 45,000.”

Mehan noted that if Missouri is going to fundamentally change, it needs to happen at the behest of business owners. Elected officials in Jefferson City are hampered by revolving doors and term limits, and the resulting push for strong legislative action has led to a pronounced increase in proposed bills early in the session.

“We just started on Tuesday, December 1, and there’s already been more bills filed than last year by a factor of three,” said Mehan. “We’ve got a lot of unfinished business on our agenda that typically carries over from last year. Governor Nixon has the honor of being the most vetoed governor in the history of Missouri.”

“There is no continuity in leadership,” he added. “The continuity is the people in this room that are creating these jobs and opportunities.”

Mehan said the Missouri Chamber understands that the state’s economic fortunes won’t change overnight. But he feels that their first step – building a realistic vision – will help bring Missouri real results.

“You don’t see us saying that we want to be number one; we just want to be in the top half to start with. We’ve got to walk before we can run,” he said. “In the typical Missouri way, the house will have burnt down and then we’ll try to fix it. That’s what we’re trying to fix with this Missouri 2030 plan.”

The Missouri 2030 plan can be viewed online at

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Grandview Aldermen approve $52.5 million Botts Road industrial project plan

by Mary Wilson

A public hearing was held in front of the Grandview Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, November 24, regarding a potential industrial project to be developed on 68 acres of land at 143rd Street and Botts Road in Grandview. Joe Lauber, the City of Grandview’s economic development special council, presented a staff and consultant’s report regarding the details of the industrial development plan.

The developer, Botts Road Property, LLC, plans to build twelve buildings on the property, totaling 737,000-square-feet in the industrial/business park. In addition to the buildings, the developer will also provide associated street, utility and other infrastructure improvements.

“I want to emphasize that this is just a plan,” said Lauber. “The numbers presented in this plan are estimates and projections based on what the applicant and what city staff and consultants believe to be future events. As we all know, as these plans unfold, sometimes there are differences.”

When a developer approaches the city requesting incentives, the city and consultants work to determine whether the developer’s numbers are justifiable and whether incentives are a necessity and if so, how much. According to Lauber, in the case of this proposal, Botts Road Property, LLC’s initial request was one that did not work well for the city or the taxing jurisdictions.

“To this applicant’s credit, they cooperated with us to arrive at a plan that was much more mutually beneficial to all parties,” said Lauber.

The incentive tool considered for the plan is the Chapter 100 Industrial Development tool. With a Chapter 100 plan, the statute creates a situation where the property that is subject to redevelopment becomes owned by the city during the time the incentives are in place. Because it is owned by the city, that makes the property tax-exempt. The owner, in this case Botts Road Property, LLC, will transfer the property to the city and become the tenant, creating abatement.

The applicant requested 100% exemption/abatement for 15 years per building. The abatements would only become eligible when a tenant proves that they have invested at least $50 per square foot in construction. This ensures that the city is not abating empty warehouses.

“This is a speculative project,” said Lauber. “It’s one where the applicant at this point does not have tenants lined up to come in, so we don’t know exactly what we’ll get.”

The applicant also agreed that there would be no new abatements after ten years of the initial exemption. The financing mechanism will be Chapter 100 Industrial Development bonds purchased by individual companies or their lender and paid through a lease-purchase agreement.

“It is not the type of project that would typically go out to the open market to be sold,” said Lauber. “It’s a very close transaction in that circumstance.”

While the city will own the property, the cost of constructing the buildings will be covered by the industrial development bonds. The debt service on that financing is then paid by the company that comes in the form of a lease payment to the city.

The city also worked with the developer to address issues regarding improvements included in the project. The developer will build and own all of the streets, drive lanes, parking and other public improvements, keeping them private. The city will then enter into a 40-year agreement with the developer to maintain the improvements. In order to cover the maintenance cost, the developer will pay additional rent for the services, equaling to 32.5 percent of the would-be tax bill.

“The city keeps 12.5 percent of that,” said Lauber, “with an additional 20 percent going to the developer to help attract businesses to come in as quickly as possible. The agreement then requires the developer to dedicate the improvements to the city after the 40 years.”

The city worked with the developer to ensure that all of the taxing jurisdictions affected by the development did see some tax benefit from the project. While the developer asked for 100-percent abatement originally, a 90-percent abatement agreement was negotiated.

“In other words, all of the taxing jurisdictions that are involved will be receiving PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) payments in the amount of ten-percent of the tax bill during the entire time the property is being incentivized.”

Finally, an additional item ultimately benefitting the developer is a sales tax exemption on construction materials due to the property being city-owned. With the 10 percent PILOT, cumulatively over the abatement period, the taxing jurisdictions will receive approximately $1.4 million in tax revenues that are not currently being created. According to Lauber, the property currently provides  $360 of cumulative property tax revenues for those jurisdictions.

“That is nearly 2,700 times more revenues that will be created once the abatement is over,” said Lauber.

Overall, the developer intends to invest approximately $52.5 million into the community of Grandview. Ultimately, the Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the industrial development project for Botts Road Property, LLC by ordinance. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

SKC remains hotspot for development

by Mary Wilson

City Manager Troy Schulte, who has supported the South Kansas City Alliance from the beginning of the organization, spoke with members on Monday, November 9. He began by talking about the Royals Victory parade, held on November 3, with over 800,000 people in attendance.

“It was a terrific event,” said Schulte. “I have gotten calls from colleagues all over the country and as far away as Australia asking how we pulled that off.”

Schulte said, “That’s how we do things in Kansas City.” It is a testimony to the city, he added, that will pay dividends down the road.

“I just wanted to come down to South Kansas City to say thank you and keep doing what you’re doing,” said Schulte. “Whatever is in the water down here is working.”

According to Schulte, seventy-eight percent of non-residential permitting activity in Kansas City has occurred in the southland.

“This area is hot, and what we have to do as a city is keep that momentum going,” he said.

Plans that were put in place a couple of years ago are starting to come to fruition. Richards-Gebaur, which was struggling for redevelopment for some time, will see movement with the announcement of Sioux Chief’s relocation from Cass County. Along with further development along 87th Street, Oxford on the Blue, Cerner, Centerpoint and others, the southern part of Kansas City is seeing the bulk of development announcements.

“There is a tremendous amount of activity going on down in the southern part of the city,” said Schulte. “It is really the engine that is driving the city as a whole.”

Schulte added that while the projects may not get a lot of attention from a press standpoint, like the streetcar or downtown convention center, the jobs and true economic prosperity are happening in South Kansas City. He is looking at next steps to keep development momentum going.

“We need to build off of the gains that we’re seeing out here,” said Schulte, “and augment the quality of life issue.”

One thing in particular Schulte is looking to accomplish is to wipeout the dangerous buildings. According to Schulte, there are seventeen dangerous buildings in the 6th District boundaries of Kansas City, primarily clustered in the Ruskin area. In comparison, there are three-hundred in the 3rd District boundaries. Schulte said the focus has been on targeted areas.

“Next year, we’ll target that Ruskin area,” said Schulte. “We’re also looking for feedback from the neighborhoods on where we can do some targeted code enforcement.”

Around the larger projects, the city is looking at taking care of some quality of life issues, with the dangerous buildings being a priority. Schulte has found results with an aggressive code enforcement program to help give a push to property owners to bring their properties up to code.

“These targeted enforcements have really paid dividends,” said Schulte. “It can drive some of those problem property owners out of business and they’ll sell and get the homes into hands that are more productive.”

For example, in a different part of the city, Schulte and his team focused on a four-block area and opened 350 cases. Within sixty days, 150 of those homes had been abated.

“With all this job creation and economic development, I want people to invest back into these neighborhoods,” said Schulte.

He added that single-family homeowners would be the best way to fix the education issues the southland is facing, specifically Hickman Mills.

“To have people with incomes buying these houses, and getting them out of rental properties would pay off,” said Schulte. “I’m looking forward to working with the South Kansas City Alliance in identifying areas where we can get the most bang for our buck.”

This approach has worked reasonably well in other parts of the city, and according to Schulte, it should work in South Kansas City as well.

“There are a lot of great things going on in terms of South Kansas City and economic development,” said Schulte.

He added that the conversations regarding rail access in the southland are happening. They are working on plans to get rail south of downtown and through Brookside and Waldo.

“There is certainly a demand out here around Oxford on the Blue and the Cerner project for light rail,” said Schulte. “We as a city have got to foster that need and figure out a way to get that from a connectivity standpoint.”

While it wouldn’t have solved all of the city’s issues moving 800,000 people in and out of downtown for the Royals Victory parade, Schulte stated that more transit options would have been helpful. The city commandeered 400 buses to move people from the outlying areas into downtown Kansas City. According to Schulte, 10,000 people were still waiting for buses at the remote locations at the parade start time.

“We had plenty of buses, we just couldn’t get through the traffic congestion in downtown Kansas City,” said Schulte. “Having another long-term transportation issue, from a logistics issue, in another thirty years we might be better prepared for it.”

Schulte added that he was pleased to see Cerner’s plans from a campus-approach to development, with their own exit and entrance onto I-435, have been abandoned due to cost issues. Cerner is now looking at ways to fully utilize the existing Bannister and 87th Street access points.

“That will then be able to support additional retail and commercial activity along those corridors,” said Schulte.

With all the good things happening in South Kansas City, Schulte said his job is to make sure that the City keeps the momentum going.

“That’s what‘s exciting about it,” Schulte. “We’re trying to figure out how to reinvest in those corresponding neighborhoods around the developments.”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Grandview business deemed nuisance gets shut down

by Mary Wilson

The Grandview Board of Aldermen held an administrative hearing on Tuesday, October 27, to determine if the suspension of the occupational license for Los Guerreros Mexican Bar and Grill, located at 514 Main Street, should be continued or if the license should be revoked.

According to the staff report, the occupational license for Los Guerreros was suspended on October 10, 2015, on the basis that the establishment was serving beer on the premises without either a state or city liquor license and because the restaurant has become a nuisance in the city due to persistent criminal activity. The hearing gave Los Guerreros the opportunity to appeal the suspension of the occupational license to the Board of Aldermen.

“The City of Grandview has given Los Guerreros written notice of this hearing,” said Mayor Leonard Jones. “Los Guerreros may be represented by council and has the right to present witnesses and cross-examine the city’s witnesses.”

Despite notification of the hearing, there was no representation from Los Guerreros. The owner of the restaurant, Monica Romero, received a copy of the Notice of Suspension on October 10, which served to inform her that the occupational license was ordered suspended and that the restaurant must cease operations immediately, according to the staff report. The suspension notice also provided details for the administrative hearing.

Becky Schimmel, City Clerk, was the first to testify before the Board. According to Schimmel, the liquor license for Los Guerreros expired on June 30, 2015. Schimmel stated that the City issued the most recent occupational license to owner, Monica Romero, on September 1, 2015. It was also brought to her attention that there was inebriation-involved criminal activity.
“I then expressed the information to the police department personnel that they did not have a liquor license,” said Schimmel. “It appeared that there had been drinking either on the premises or inside.”
Sergeant Dean Van Winkle, Director of Liquor Control, testified next. Van Winkle provided a spreadsheet with recorded incidents that occurred at Los Guerreros, including a report of a male armed with and brandishing a handgun.
“Officers found an intoxicated man armed with a shotgun when they arrived,” said Van Winkle. “They found the shotgun to be unloaded, but there was a 12-gauge round found in the vehicle.”

According to Van Winkle, the suspect’s blood-alcohol content level exceeded legal limit. Another incident included a fight and destruction of property at the restaurant. Officers were also sent to the restaurant and were advised by Los Guerreros security that a person was swinging a beer bottle at the head of another person.

“There was arguing that continued after the officers took both subjects outside,” said Van Winkle. “Things escalated into another disturbance and after officer intervention, it resulted in another officer being grabbed from behind by one of the suspects and assaulted.”

The other officers on scene forcibly took the suspect to the ground and an officer suffered minor injuries in the incident. According to Van Winkle, Grandview Police were notified of another incident from a hospital when they were informed that a patient had been assaulted in Grandview. Witnessed described an altercation that resulted in the victim being run over by a vehicle. The report stated that between forty and fifty people were in the parking lot of Los Guerreros when the incident occurred.
The victim suffered numerous fractures but survived. Another incident included a victim of a shooting who stated that he had been hanging out at Los Guerreros, according to Van Winkle. The victim of the shooting is the same victim who was previously run over by the car.

“It is also believed that he may end up being paralyzed from the shooting,” said Van Winkle.

On September 26, 2015, three months after the expiration of the liquor license for Los Guerreros, Grandview Police Department conducted a series undercover investigations after receiving information that the restaurant was selling alcohol.  On some occasions, the officer was told that they weren’t serving alcohol because police were causing them to be more cautious, according to Van Winkle.

“But on this particular occasion, on September 26, at around 11:30 p.m., the undercover officer went in. He had to pay a $10 cover charge to get through the front door,” said Van Winkle.

Once inside, the officer played some pool with several people that were in the bar who were consuming alcohol. The officer was able to purchase a $20 bucket of bottled beer from a bartender. The incident report included a photograph that the undercover officer took that evening of the alcohol he purchased at the establishment.

Both Van Winkle and Schimmel testified before the Board of Aldermen that they feel Los Guerreros is a nuisance to the City of Grandview. Based on the testimony, it was determined that Los Guerreros was selling liquor despite not having a city or state license to do so and it was established that the restaurant is a nuisance and subject to abatement. Ultimately, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to revoke the business operating license for Los Guerreros. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Public safety bond project sees changes

by Mary Wilson

Original plans to the Grandview Police Department secured access and storage, approved by 77% of voters in August 2014, are being modified due to bids for the project coming in substantially over budget. For many years, according to Chief Charles Iseman, GVPD has seen a need for increased security in the back parking lot of the police station.

“In 2011, we started making capital improvement requests,” said Iseman. “There was no funding there so it never got approved. We were fortunate in 2014 to have the voters approve the bond election for the public safety and parks projects.”

In December 2014, Grandview Board of Aldermen approved a contract with SFS Architecture, who began working on the project design. When the project went out to bid, only two were received and both were rejected.

“The bids were not even close to what we had estimated or what was in the budget,” said Iseman.
Iseman returned to SFS Architecture to see if cost-saving adjustments to the project could be made. Also, after discussions with Public Works Director Dennis Randolph, it was decided to break the project into four distinct areas.

“Rather than have one contractor do all the work, the bids that come in might be a little more competitive,” said Iseman.  

The four project areas are now the building itself, the fencing and gates, pavement and video surveillance. In addition to the changes in building material and labor costs, Chad Bard with SFS Architecture stated that having the rebid with a longer advertisement period will possibly bring in additional contractor interest.

The original plan called for two access points to the secure police parking area, including a new drive that exited onto Jones Avenue. That option has been removed from the project. The primary access to the lot will now run parallel to Freedom Park and the Depot Museum. A section of black-coated chain-link fence was added to divide the drive from the park.
“The chain-link will blend in nicely with the black, wrought-iron style in the security fencing around the entire lot,” said Bard.
Iseman added that there are plans to re-stripe the area to focus pedestrian traffic away from the police access point. A motorized gate with keycard entry will provide access to the secured area for officers.
The storage building roof was also looked at for cost-saving measures. The slope of the roof was decreased enough to provide for a different material but offering the same look to the previously approved plans.
“It’s about 2000 square-feet less than originally planned,” said Bard. “That will save some money.”

Another significant cost-saving measure is to go with a different material for the outside of the storage building that will match the rest of City Hall, but offer a different look. From a maintenance standpoint, according to Iseman, the new material is preferred. The layout of the building has not changed.

“We didn’t want to shrink the size of the building any so we’re trying to take some measures with some other things to reduce the cost,” said Iseman.

Bard stated that the projects will go out for rebid within the next two weeks. To make it more competitive, Iseman said he hopes for five or six different bidders for the projects.

“I hate changing the scope of the design work based on one low round of bidding,” said Ward 3 Alderman John Maloney. “It could have just been bad timing.”

Iseman stated that the biggest deletion from the project he’d like to remain is the second, dedicated drive to Jones Avenue.

“If the money comes in right, we can still keep that as an option down the road,” said Iseman.

Ultimately, the Grandview Board of Aldermen gave the okay for the changes to the project and for the rebid process to take place at their work session on Tuesday, October 20. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Metro Legislators Discuss Missouri General Assembly

by Mary Wilson

South Kansas City Alliance government affairs chairperson Geoff Gerling held a roundtable discussion with area legislators on Monday, October 12. In attendance were District 37 State Representative Joe Runions, District 26 State Representative Gail McCann Beatty, District 9 State Senator Kiki Curls and District 7 State Senator Jason Holsman.

“We brought in elected officials from both the Senate and the House to give us a sort of wrap-up of what happened in the most recent year in the Missouri General Assembly,” said Gerling. “The thing that I find odd is that is seems as though not a lot actually happened this past year.”

According to Gerling, there was a lot of conflict and legislation passed that was ultimately vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon. The “Right-to-Work” piece of legislation dominated the others, according to Holsman, which is a law that prohibits employers from entering into a contractual agreement with labor dues associated with it.

“For me, it’s a free rider issue,” said Holsman. “If you’re going to have higher wages, better benefits and more security in those contracts, then you should have a responsibility to pay for that negotiation. You shouldn’t get it for free and that’s what Right-to-Work does.”

Holsman was against the Right-to-Work legislation, which passed in the senate. According to Holsman, senate leaders knew that with the Governor’s extensive veto list, it wasn’t legislation worth breaking the senate over. Pressure from donors on the senate leadership brought conflict within the chamber.

“Nine out of ten times, we’ll find a gray medium to negotiate with and everyone is a little uncomfortable,” said Holsman. “With this particular piece of legislation, there was no middle ground.”

The Right-to-Work bill was filibustered by democrats prior to the end of session. Session is required to end on a Friday at 6 p.m. The Thursday before and on Friday of this session, only two votes occurred in the senate.

“Anyone who is a historian in Missouri Senate will tell you that 60, 80, even 100 votes happen in those last few days,” said Holsman. “But this time, we had only two.”

The other passage was the FRA bill, which provided $3.8 billion in Medicaid funding, ending session a rare three hours prior to the 6 p.m. requirement. The concern was, according to Holsman, that 24 conference committee reports and 148 house bills died because of the Right to Work legislation, which was ultimately vetoed by the Governor.

“Consequently, a lot of good things, things that all of us cared about, ended up dying because of the headstrong position of the Republican leadership who forced that bill through,” said Holsman. “I’m hopeful that this next session will not see a return of the Right to Work.”

According to McCann Beatty, most everyone in the House had bills that didn’t get heard due to the lack of items brought forth in the Senate. “We all had some things that didn’t make it,” she said.
With the tumultuous ending in the legislature, Curls added that there were a few things that were completed, including permanent authorization of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority half-cent sales tax.

“The tax was sun-setting at the end of the year and we stood to lose almost 40% of our bus service if it had not passed,” said Curls. “St. Louis has permanent authorization of their sales tax, and this allows Kansas City to be able to preauthorize the tax as needed.”

The climate of the legislature is such, according to Curls, that it is difficult to get any legislation relative to taxation passed. “Luckily, this was just a reauthorization and not a new tax,” she said.
Going into a major election year with new leaders in both the Senate and the House, Gerling asked the legislators if we can expect to see moderate legislation.

“What they will do is they will let the crazy legislation come to the floor and pass it in order to keep the peace among their party,” said McCann Beatty. “Anytime you have 44 versus 117, the art of compromise just isn’t there. Unfortunately, it’s the citizens of the state that suffer as a result.”

Before term limits kicked in, Gerling stated that a lot of the conflict was region-based, rather than between Democrats and Republicans. “It’s much more political now,” he said, “right or left.” The majority of Kansas City is represented by Democrats.

“Because we have the Kansas City Caucus, which is democrats and republicans, I think that’s helpful,” said McCann Beatty. “We try to work together for those things that are important to the Kansas City region.”

She added that Kansas City as a whole has come out okay from a budget perspective, with UMKC seeing funding for two large projects. Gerling pointed out that the new majority leader of the house is from Jackson County.

“I really am happy with our legislators here in Kansas City,” said Curls. “We have very good relationships with each other and I will say that that is not the case on the St. Louis side. We stick together on Kansas City-related issues.”

Runions added that as a group, legislators meet a few times a year with the metropolitan mayors to help prioritize upcoming legislation impacting the Kansas City region.

Looking forward to 2016 legislation, some things the panel said constituents might see are transportation issues, Medicaid expansion, student transfers, Ferguson-related legislation, unemployment, criminal records and possibly an initiative petition process on the cannabis issue. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

All That Fits

Over the course of the years that I’ve been in the newspaper business, I have become more and more of a believer in the power of community journalism. No other news source is covering Grandview and South Kansas City like we do. I believe that wholeheartedly. We have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to bring our readers the good news and the bad news as it unfolds.

I’m not the source of the news. I don’t make it up, and I don’t print only what I want. If there’s bad news, I write about it. I have had my integrity questioned, my faith and morals challenged and my heart broken by readers’ reactions to stories I have penned. Stories that if they had gone unwritten, a certain disservice to the community would have fallen on my shoulders.

Most times, however, the things and people we write about are positive. I have met so many people in this community who have changed me for the better, who have helped develop me into the person and writer that I am today. To all those people, I am eternally grateful.

As I was preparing to write my column on National Newspaper Week early Monday morning, I tried to think of how I could tie in the fact that National Fire Prevention Week happens to fall at the same time. Right around the time this crossed my mind, I heard sirens. Not just the normal police car or ambulance siren, either. This was something major and I immediately knew I had a job to do.

I rushed out of my office door and saw smoke to the west. Something was surely burning. I quickly grabbed my camera and headed behind the emergency vehicles to what would become a horrific scene. Between the mayday calls, an injured fireman and the body of a victim, it can be hard to keep one’s emotions in check. I got some amazing photos despite the lump in my throat and the pure adrenaline that is felt when covering things like this.

That afternoon and evening, I pored through the 400+ photos I took throughout the ordeal. Some showed complete heroism, while others showed complete devastation. This, I thought, is why community journalism is still relevant. Sure, there were television news stations there covering the event. But, I was there first. I followed our guys; guys I know by name, down to the flames. I said a prayer as a captain from our department was taken away by ambulance. And tears fell as I learned of the resident who didn’t make it out.

Monday night, I went home to my quiet apartment in Grandview. With a roof over my head and a blanket to cover up in, I tried to sleep. Each time I closed my eyes, sights and sounds of the day kept me awake. As a journalist, it’s important to stay focused on the job at hand, despite personal ties or feelings. That’s probably, for me, the most difficult part of the job when covering breaking news in my hometown.

I don’t think I have to explain why I feel this newspaper is important to this community. The names in the bylines celebrate with you our accomplishments just as we mourn with you our losses. We don’t just breeze through when something big happens. We live here and we are invested in the people here. We love this community, and more importantly, we love what we do.

I also don’t think an explanation is necessary on why fire prevention can help save lives. The key message of this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, October 4 through 10, is to install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement. Smoke alarms save lives.

I’m lucky to be a part of a community of people and businesses that understand the importance of this newspaper. I take this job seriously and sincerely love what I do. Thank you for your continued readership and support. 

Mary Wilson, editor of the Jackson County Advocate newspaper, grew up in the Grandview, Missouri community. She volunteers her time with many local organizations. You can reach her at, or follow her on twitter @MWilsonJCA.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Local organization helps to empower those with disabilities through job placement

by Becky Davis

The past few months have been full of major life changes for nineteen-year-old Maya of Grandview. Her family moved this spring from St. Louis. She started a full load of classes at Longview Community College this fall, and she landed her very first job with the help of JobOne Careers.

Maya has been working at Dollar General for three months. She straightens up merchandise, repackages opened items and helps clean up the store. She loves having her own spending money and uses it for dates with her boyfriend. Her first paycheck went towards a fun time at Crown Center. She is also saving up for a Magic Bullet so she can make her own smoothies.

Co-workers appreciate Maya’s cheerful disposition and positive attitude. Maya’s supervisor, assistant store manager Loovetta Barnes, said that Maya is a great employee.

“I just love her,” said Barnes.

JobOne Careers Director Anne Hochstein said that Maya came to her job-ready.

“We helped her with her resume and made sure she knew how to interview and had basic job skills,” said Hochstein. “Then we needed to find something with flexibility so she could go to school.”

Although the Careers program is only 18 months old, JobOne has been around for 40 years. The Grandview location, which started as the Foundation Workshop, has been in existence since 1981. It merged with IBS Industries, a similar agency operating in Independence and Blue Springs. Today, JobOne employs 260 disabled individuals and 40 staff members at 14 locations throughout Jackson County. There are three workshops where employees complete sub-contracted jobs, a recycling center in Grandview, a document shredding business in Independence, and the new JobOne Careers being piloted in Grandview.

“We partner with Vocational Rehabilitation with the goal of helping individuals who have a disability but want to work in the community,” Hochstein explained. “Sometimes it might be someone who is already in the JobOne program who is ready to take that next step. Or, it may be someone like Maya who already has those capabilities and is transitioning out of high school.

JobOne Careers works on referrals from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a program under the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. VR is designed to assist individuals with physical or mental impairments, providing services including guidance and counseling, vocational training, job-seeking skills and job placement.

JobOne also works with the Developmental Disability Services of Jackson County, known as “eitas,” which stands for “empowering individuals through advocacy and support.” VR and eitas are the major funders of the JobOne Careers program.

Rofique Miller is a Customized Employment Specialist for JobOne Careers. He and Hochstein set up information interviews with prospective employers to find out more about the businesses and what kinds of skills they require. They might also discuss how to make a workplace more accessible to a disabled employee. If accommodations are needed, they help employers figure out what could be done.

“When I meet with businesses, I want to learn what they need,” said Hochstein. “We don’t want to send a person who is not a good fit for a business any more than they want us to.”

Some clients don’t know what they want to do, so Hochstein and Miller will set up job shadows.

“Some of our clients don’t have work experience, so they are guessing about what might interest them,” said Hochstein.

“My job is to help our clients find employment that is based upon their interests,” Miller added.

Once a client is placed in a permanent position, JobOne keeps the case open for one year, staying in touch with the employee. JobOne staff members check in with the family, as well. Support is provided should a client lose a job, and help is given to find a new one. Permanent, meaningful employment is the ultimate goal.

There are challenges for the JobOne Careers program, as well. Cristy Carpenter, JobOne Employee Services Director, said, “Transportation is the biggest hurdle in our area.”

Currently, clients in the program are responsible for their own transportation. Sometimes that limits potential placements if the client depends on public transportation. For example, someone who lives in Grandview but needs public transportation to the warehouses in Lenexa is out of luck.

“Sometimes there are people we want to help, but there are too many barriers,” Hochstein said, “and we can’t help them reach their goals.”

“Helping individuals tackle a challenge and helping them remove that barrier is my biggest reward,” added Miller. Helping employers see that there are advantages to hiring employees with disabilities is also important to Miller. “We want to focus on what they can bring to the table,” he said.

The excitement of people getting a job who haven’t previously had work is special for Hochstein. 
“The pride they feel when they get a job for the first time is the pride I feel,” she said.

The JobOne Careers staff wants to educate employers. Since JobOne offered primarily sheltered workshops in the past, they want the business community to be more open to inclusion in the workplace, and not just because it’s federally mandated.

“It’s good for the business and it’s good for the individual,” said Carpenter.

“It’s the right thing to do,” added Hochstein.

Hochstein, Miller and Carpenter are all proud of Maya’s accomplishments. They see Maya as a shining star to what the program is about.  Maya is already scoping out her next job. She’s interested in bagging at the store, but is hoping her education will help her find a full-time job someday. Hochstein is pleased with Maya’s placement and considers her a big success.

“She’s a breath of fresh air,” said Hochstein.

Businesses in Grandview and South Kansas City that would like to learn more about JobOne Careers can contact Anne Hochstein at 816-763-7822, ext. 706, or

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fit for a Queen:

Local Nursing Home Resident Wins State Pageant

By Mary Wilson

Eighty-six year old Helen Hunter is not the typical nursing home patient. With her long, silky black hair and full face of makeup, she greets visitors with a warm smile and handshake. Hunter’s doorway is fully decorated in shimmery fringe; she breezes through with light eyes and a wide grin.

“It’s decorated for the queen,” said Hunter. “It makes me feel pretty special.”

She should feel special. Hunter, a resident at Life Care Center of Grandview, competed in and took home the crown in the Missouri Health Care Association sponsored Ms. Nursing Home Pageant after winning her district’s competition in June. Hunter, the cover lady for the 2014 Life Care Leader magazine, competed against 11 other ladies in district one. During the event, which was held at First Baptist Church of Raytown, she wowed the judges (local health care and senior services providers) with her beauty, charm and confident answers as they interviewed her about her life.

Hunter went on to compete for the state crown in Branson on August 24. Once again, she impressed the judges. This year’s title wasn’t Hunter’s first success in the annual competition. In 2013, she was crowned first runner-up in her district, leaving her with wonderful memories and the desire to compete in the pageant again this year.

Hunter’s background undoubtedly helped her prepare for the pageant. During her younger years, she worked as a fashion model and became a licensed practical nurse to help put her three children through private school. Once her children had graduated, Hunter became a Mary Kay Cosmetics beauty consultant. She thrived in this position and quickly rose to the top, becoming the first African-American senior director for the company, a position she held for 23 years.

“I’m president of the residents here at Life Care,” said Hunter. “Now I’m queen for the state, queen for Life Care, and I was the runner-up before. That’s four titles I have now.”

She prides herself on being an ambassador for the residents in the nursing home in Grandview. Hunter advocates for those who cannot speak for themselves. Living at Life Care Center for approximately 2.5 years, she has been actively involved in working with department heads to make the facility a better place for all residents.

“I’m getting things done,” said Hunter. “I believe in working with people, no matter who or what. I love working with people.”

She works with a group to set performance goals and constantly encourages more residents to attend her meetings. Hunter hopes to help energize residents and motivate them to live happy, fulfilling lives. Her goal is to make a positive impression on everyone she meets.

“I didn’t know that so many people were supporting me,” said Hunter. “This really put Life Care on the map as they’ve never had a queen before.”

Hunter said those at Life Care would like to see her in the pageant again next year. “I hope to not be here then,” she said. “My son is buying a home and I hope to be able to live with him soon. This place is more like a family than it is a nursing home.”

Friday, August 28, 2015

GC-4 Superintendent Announces Plans to Retire

The Grandview C-4 School District’s Board of Education announced today that Dr. Ralph Teran will retire from his position as Superintendent at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Dr. Teran has served as Superintendent of the district since 2006. His dedicated leadership and strong commitment to student learning is best evidenced by significant improvement in student achievement. As reflected in the district’s Annual Performance Report, the district scored in the Accredited with Distinction status for the past two years.

Additional accomplishments include putting MacBooks in the hands of every high school student in the district, establishing Grandview High School as an A+ designated school, keeping the focus on instruction during difficult budgetary times, strengthening community and business partnerships, and substantial facilities improvements through the passage of three bond issues.

“I am grateful to the Board of Education for being an outstanding collaborative team of seven caring, smart and dedicated leaders. Likewise, Grandview C-4 staff members have impacted my life for the better in countless ways. I am a better person and educator because of the great work they do,” said Teran.

The Board recognizes and appreciates the Superintendent for all he has done for our students and schools, and wishes him great enjoyment in his future endeavors. The Board voted to accept Dr. Teran’s retirement during its meeting on August 27, 2015. Because of the timing of his announcement, the Board is in the best possible position to conduct a diligent search to find the right candidate to continue the district’s leadership. The Board has already met to discuss its search for the future leadership of the district and will continue to update the community as well as provide opportunity for input during the search process.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Grandview to see two-way frontage roads again

by Mary Wilson

While the US 71 Frontage Roads Study determined the City of Grandview to be be at a disadvantage when trying to attract tenants and developments along the new I-49 corridor, Grandview’s Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last week to begin steps toward phase one of conversion to two-way roads. According to the study, a two-way frontage road system will improve the ease of navigation and business access/visibility, promote neighborhood cohesion, reduce transportation costs to citizens and reduce emissions.  

“This will ultimately enhance Grandview’s competitive position for economic development and expand the local tax base,” said City Engineer Jackie White.

The first phase of the outer roadway conversion project will convert the I-49 outer roadways to two-way traffic from Blue Ridge to Main Street. This will require building ramps from I-49 to Main Street to enhance accessibility. The outer road at Main Street will be realigned to 15th Street to the west with a new road between Booth Lane and Beacon Avenue. Parts of existing High Grove Road, Goode and 129th Street will also be utilized as new outer roads. The existing U-turn bridge at Main Street will be removed.

Missouri Department of Transportation is designing the project improvements as previously agreed to in the Project Cost Participation and Road Relinquishment Agreement. The project is to be constructed with a maximum of $5 million of federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds from the Federal Highway Administration.

The actual amount of reimbursable funds received is based upon 80% of the construction cost up to the maximum allowed. The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission oversees the handling of the federal funds to the City. Part of the Commission’s responsibility is to insure that the project meets a variety of federal laws.

“We will receive back eighty-percent of the actual payments to the contractor,” said White. “We will pay the bills and then MoDOT reimburses us up to that $5 million. When that is spent, then it all comes from local City funds.”

The ordinance the Aldermen approved on Tuesday, July 28, authorized the execution of the STP-Urban Agreement with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The funds will not be available for disbursement until October 2017.

“The way that we are hoping it works out is that we will send the project out for bid around that time,” said White. “So, we could see construction begin as early as Fall 2017 or early 2018. We do have to purchase some right-of-way in certain areas.”

With the design being done by MoDOT, according to White, they will control the timeline.

The Aldermen also approved two other ordinances. The first is an ordinance with Select Construction Enterprises for the relocation of a steel bridge that previously spanned over the Blue River on 40 Highway. Both MoDOT and city staff agree that the bridge is historically significant and can be reused as a pedestrian structure on a city park trail over the Little Blue River.

The City of Grandview applied for and received $320,000 of Transportation Alternative Program funds through the Mid America Regional Council for the relocation and restoration of the bridge for this purpose. The project has been split into two phases: to relocate the bridge and to restore it for pedestrian purposes. Any funds not used in the relocation of the bridge can be used for rehabilitation. The bridge will be moved from its current location to Grandview before the end of September 2015.

An ordinance for a subdivision agreement with PG, LLC, was also approved. This second plat of Sunrise Farms will be a development of forty homes on nearly 11 acres south of 143rd Street and east of Byars Road. The developer will complete this portion of the project with single-family residential lots as it was envisioned with the current Conceptual Development Plan for the area, in hopes that the new lots will join the existing homeowners association.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Center Schools begin year with positive financial outlook

By Mary Wilson

The Center School Board received a quarterly financial report, summarizing the fiscal year of 2014-2015, at the regular meeting on Monday, July 27. Leading up to the report presented by Director of Business Dr. Michael Weishaar, the board of education has kept an eye on the budget given the current fiscal climate.

“We’ve had a lot happen in the last four or five weeks, good and bad,” said Weishaar.

Near the end of June 2015, the district received notification from Jackson County regarding protests to property taxes of approximately $300,000. For the year, Center School District received a hit of $900,000 total in protests.

“We have begun our talks to find out what we can do, if anything, to forecast this a little better going forward,” said Weishaar. “Some of those protests to taxes have gone back to 2012.”

Despite the nearly-million-dollar hit, the district completed the year at negative $1.1 million, a decrease of $500,000 from the prior year. Coincidentally, the proposal for the 2014-2015 budget was right on target with where the district ended up.

“Keeping in mind, six or seven months ago, we thought we’d be at $1.6 or $1.7 million deficit,” said Weishaar, “the conservative aspect we took all year certainly showed. We could have been under one-million dollars had we not been hit with the protests again.”

With the negative $1.1 million, the district’s reserves began the next fiscal year at 25%. Last month, the board of education approved a budget of negative $380,000.

“We’ve got some challenges and we need to be conservative again,” said Weishaar. “We don’t have any contingency fund built into the protests to taxes, so any that come up this year will come off of that bottom line.”

Weishaar went on to say that he believes the past year was unique in the amount of protests to taxes the district received. To continue the good news, however, the county delivered preliminary assessed valuation for the district of $380 million, $11 million higher than last year and a 3.1% increase.

“I’ve always said, for every million dollar increase, it’s about $55,000,” said Weishaar. “When assessed valuation is down and starts to climb back up, you don’t necessarily gain what you lost when it was down. When it goes up a lot like it did, it forces you to drop your tax rate ceiling.”

With an $11 million increase, the district will see their tax rate dramatically decrease. The final assessed valuation numbers will be received from Jackson County in September. This is the first time in eight years the district has seen an increase in assessed valuation.

“It is time to celebrate. Bottom line, we ended the year with the $500,000 decrease,” said Weishaar. “Kudos to the staff, the teachers, and the directors for keeping an eye on every dollar we spend. We couldn’t have done it without the group effort.”

The board also heard a report from Lorenzo Boyd, Managing Director with Stifel Financial, bond underwriters for the district, regarding their bond financing outlook. The district will continue, with Stifel’s partnership, to look for ways to save on interest in bond financing going forward.

Also at the meeting, Elizabeth Heide, Director of Human Resources and Student Services, presented to the board a new program to help meet the needs of students in the district. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a concept developed by Dr. Tim Lewis, a professor at the University of Missouri, which helps the district to create interventions to increase student success.

“As we analyzed our data last year, we realized we needed to look into how we can reach more kids,” said Heide. “We need to find where the holes are with our kids.”

The district will partner with Dr. Lewis and his team of researchers to begin looking into the data and discovering ways to provide interventions in the learning and behavior patterns of students. There is no charge for the partnership, as Lewis will use the research garnered to grow the program.

The Center School Board meets monthly at Boone Elementary. The next regular meeting will be on Monday, August 24.

Editor’s Note: The Jackson County Advocate is proud to increase our coverage to include Center School District news and sports.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Grandview’s ‘Recycle Lady’ named Citizen of the Year

by Mary Wilson,

What began as an exercise routine many years ago has turned into local accolades for Grandview resident Katie Reimann. Walking five miles roundtrip in the morning and another five miles in the evening, Reimann has affectionately become known as the Grandview “Recycle Lady” by many neighbors and friends in the community.

Reimann, who has resided in Grandview since two days shy of Christmas in 1976 when her late husband was stationed at Richards- Gebaur, retired from nursing at St. Joseph Health Center and saw her three children graduate from Grandview High School.

Growing up with a father who lived in the Adirondack Mountains, Reimann and her sister would often go on walks with their dad through the woods.

“My dad always told us, ‘you carry it in, you carry it out.’ Whatever we took with us, gum or candy wrappers, always had to go back in the house,” said Reimann.

Today, on her daily walks, Reimann picks up recyclable materials and takes them along her journey.
She says she picks up some actual trash, though not all of it, and she knows where all the larger trash receptacles are around town.

“When I see stuff in the street, it drives me crazy,” said Reimann. She has been an active member of the Highgrove Estates Neighborhood Association and was Block Captain when informational flyers were distributed to neighbors.

On Tuesday, July 14, Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones and the Board of Aldermen presented Reimann with a proclamation and named her Grandview’s 2015 Citizen of the Year. A resident is selected annually who has earned the respect and admiration of the Grandview community for his or her untiring efforts in improving the quality of life.

“I am so humbled by this,” said Reimann. “There are people that do so much more than me picking up trash. I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, why me? I’m still in disbelief.”

Reimann said that she enjoys her walks outdoors because of the things she sees. She likes the bunnies, squirrels and birds, and she says it’s good for the waistline. In a thank-you letter to Mayor Jones, Reimann said she is sure that her father is looking down and smiling.

“I’m sure he’s proud that I’m still taking in what I brought out, even if it’s not mine,” said Reimann.
“We are grateful for Katie,” said Jones. “She has been a blessing and she is very selfless. We appreciate her very much.”

As part of her recognition, the Recycle Lady Katie Reimann will serve as the Grand Marshal in the 2016 Truman Heritage Festival Parade.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Leech Leaves Lasting Legacy on GHS Sports

by Paul Thompson

When the school year begins anew in August, Andy Leech will assume his new role as the interim assistant principal of Martin City K-8.

The position represents a promotion for the former Grandview High School engineering teacher, so it might be surprising to learn that the move will be somewhat bittersweet for Leech. That’s because after six-plus years as Grandview’s varsity football and boys’ track and field coach, Leech will be stepping down in both capacities. In some ways, he says he’s still getting used to calling himself ‘Mr. Leech.’

"I feel like I need more time to digest. It’s not going to be an easy change losing football," admitted Leech, sitting in the coaches office at Grandview’s athletic fieldhouse. "Don’t get me wrong, I’m really, really excited to be at Martin City. I’m hoping to dive in and just work like crazy, because that’s what I’ll have to do."

The notion of coaching was ingrained into Leech’s mind from a young age. While he has come to love his time coaching the high school’s track and field program – winning five straight state championships certainly helps – he says that football has always been his biggest passion. In fact, Leech claims that his mother still has evidence of his early interest in coaching.

"In second grade, they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and then they posted it in the paper," he said. "My mom still has it: ‘Andy Leech, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I had football coach. Not football player, but football coach. My whole life, football has been my number-one love."

Leech would have liked to win more games during his stint as Grandview’s head football coach, but he remains proud of the way he and his staff have been able to send players off to the next level. Several Grandview players have gone on to play Division I college football during his tenure, and the team has had as many as 10 players sign college scholarships in the same season.

"I wish we had done better record-wise, but there’s a lot more to it than just record. It’s really the kids you affect, and watching what they do when they leave the program," said Leech. "That’s the other thing that makes this so hard, is that we’ve got another great group of kids. We’ll probably have 10 kids on signing day again this year."

Of course, Leech has also shepherded a talented group of track and field athletes over the past five years. When invited to a recent C-4 Board of Education meeting to celebrate the track team’s fifth consecutive state championship, superintendent Ralph Teran asked Leech to describe the feeling. Even then, Leech said he had trouble grasping what had happened over the previous five years.

"(Winning) four is unheard of, and there are no words to describe five. It was an amazing effort by all those kids," he said. "It was an amazing run, and it’s not over. I really think they’re going to win it next year. Most of our points are returning, with some great young talent. It could stretch to six or seven pretty easily."

Teaching a group of kids to believe in themselves is often a team effort, and Leech knows that it takes an entire coaching staff to help student-athletes blossom. He mentions the cadre of talented assistant coaches who have helped guide the team’s success, and champions Grandview’s youth track and field programs as a key influence in the team’s long-running success.

"It’s not just me. The staff is all about showing kids their potential," Leech said. "Whether their potential be earning a scholarship, be turning in their assignments and realizing that school matters, or whether their potential is to win state – we’ve had a lot of kids do some amazing things."

While assistant coach Jeremie Picard has been named interim head football coach, no replacement has yet to be announced for the Grandview track and field head coaching job. Leech doubts the district will have much trouble finding a suitable candidate.

"There’s still the track piece, but who wouldn’t want to coach track at Grandview?" said Leech with a laugh. "We’re not going to have any trouble finding someone."

Leech’s appetite for coaching only becomes more apparent as he reminisces about his career. He began as an assistant football coach at Grandview in 1999. But over the years, somehow, he’s added more responsibility to his resume. He picked up a role on the track and field team during his second year teaching, coached middle school and freshman basketball for a handful of years, and continued to move up the coaching ladder. He was named the head track and field coach in 2007, and picked up the football head-coaching duties a couple of years later.

Perhaps his passion is best exemplified by his first year in the Grandview football program. Leech and his wife wed on August 7, 1999. The couple enjoyed just two days of married life before they headed back to Grandview on August 9 so Leech could attend football practice.

"We got up after our wedding day, opened gifts, and then drove to Grandview and got ready for two-a-days the next morning," says Leech. "She has never complained; she’s been fantastic."

Still, after all these years patrolling the sidelines, Leech knew it was time to take a step back, while also taking a step forward. He’s looking forward to facing new trials as an administrator, and he’s excited to join his new teammates at a new school.

"July 15 will be my first day at Martin City," said Leech. "We’ve talked, and I’ve got my list of things to do. It’s extensive, which is good. I’ll dive right in and try to do the best job possible. It’s a new challenge, and that’s really what it’s all about for me."

The new role will also afford Leech more opportunities to keep track of his former players, many of whom are still competing at the college level. His responsibilities to the football program typically consisted of Friday night games followed by early-morning film sessions, so he’s now looking forward to more free Saturdays.

"I didn’t get to nearly as many games as I wanted to when I was coaching. It was always after the season, we’d get two or three weeks," said Leech. Now I’m going to make that trip to Lincoln to see Freedom (Akinmoladun) do his thing, and I’d love to get out to Wyoming to see Ry’one (Winters)."

Having been around so much transcendent talent, Leech will have his hands full if he wants to keep tabs on all his former student-athletes. From national record-holding high jumpers to future NFL quarterbacks, Leech has been around for some impressive moments in Grandview sports history.

"Not too many coaches have seen what I’ve seen over the last 16 years at Grandview High School," said Leech. "A 7’6" high jumper (James White), Romey Reaws winning state and breaking the school record in his last attempt at the pole vault, Dapo (Akinmoladun) running a 13.56 in the 110 meter hurdles at state, Apa (Visinia) pancaking 100 kids in a season, Brandon Kinney and Josh Freeman doing all the things that they did, Maliek and Harvey Kendall; we’ve just had some unbelievable athletes come through. It’s just awesome to be a part of that in any way."

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Smooth Reunion for Grandview's Alumni Jazz Band Concert

by Mary Wilson

In the works for over a year, the Grandview Alumni Big Band performed in concert on Father’s Day, June 21. Alumni from eight states, Canada and South Korea came together to share in the special event.

Just days before the concert, former Grandview band director Garry Anders passed away. The Alumni Big Band was something to which he was deeply committed, and he was a driving force behind its development. Anders’ family designated the Grandview Band Program as a recipient of memorials in his honor.

The Grandview Alumni Big Band consisted of: David Chael (1993), Justin Conklin (2011), Mario Cortez (2007), Michael Herrera (2003), Aryana Nemati-Baghestani (2010), Mike Steffen (1998), Gerald Turner (2010), Grant Wood (1989), Teddy Krulwich (2010), Ryan Peters, Kristopher Williams (2002), James Withers (2007), Matthew Correll (2000), Ron Curtis (2008), Daniel Drummond, Rob Drummond (1991), Timothy Ogutu (2015), Anthony Cooperwood (1989), Ben Merello (1999), Micah Clement (2001), DeAnthony Nelson (2004), Zico Orozco (2000), Jameson Stewart (1998); and was directed by Robert Drummond and Danny Watring.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

City of Grandview Considering Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

By Paul Thompson

The Grandview Board of Aldermen is considering a proposal from KCP&L that would bring electric vehicle charging stations to the city.

Michael Jackson and David Sutphin of KCP&L were invited to the Tuesday, June 2 work session to discuss a potential partnership with the City of Grandview that would provide a handful of public charging stations for the benefit of area residents. KCP&L would install the stations at no cost, but the city would be required to agree to a two-year service contract. During that time, the city would be responsible for paying electricity charges related to the charging stations, a cost estimated at $400 annually per unit.

“We’re trying to put the infrastructure in place, so that hopefully electric vehicles will follow,” said Sutphin. “There are about 1,900 electric vehicles across Kansas and Missouri. It’s kind of a Field of Dreams situation: If you build it, they will come.”

The energy company is hoping to install more than 1,000 charging stations within their coverage area, which includes some 900,000 people. Eventually, KCP&L expects to pass off the electricity costs to consumers, but the company will first need some time to set up and approve a pay-at-the-pump mechanism.

“We’ve asked for two years, because we don’t know how long it will take to hopefully get a tariff in place,” said Sutphin. “We don’t have a payment platform or tariff in place to be able to do that yet.”

Sutphin informed the board that the charging stations installed in Grandview would take 3-4 hours to get a complete charge. While KCP&L knows that it’s unlikely a citizen will gain a full charge while at city-owned properties like The View community center or the John Anderson splash park, Sutphin said the charging stations will help curb “range anxiety” for those who own battery-powered vehicles.

“When you go places, it’s nice to have some place to plug it in to maintain your charge,” he said.

Ward III Alderman Jim Crain conveyed reservations about the proposal, listing already-cramped parking at city facilities such as City Hall, the initial two-year agreement funded by the city, and the lack of electric cars on the roadways as his biggest concerns.

Jackson acknowledged that some companies are moving away from purely electric vehicles, but argued that it isn’t likely to stay that way for long.

“You’re right, they’re not manufacturing right now. Gas prices have come down enough that gas-engine cars are still a big part of their market,” said Jackson. “When it gets back to $3.00, $3.50, then of course people start thinking differently.”

Ward II Alderman Brian Hochstein spoke up in favor of installing charging stations, pointing to Tesla’s recent investments in electric cars as a sign of where transportation is headed in the future.

“Tesla is working on a network that’s going to connect the whole United States,” he said. “I think (supporting) three stations sends a couple of messages. For the costs I’m seeing, I’m all for it.”
The board did not make a decision on the proposal during the work session.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grandview C-4 Looks Into Facility Usage

By Mary Wilson

The Grandview C-4 School District partnered with Applied Economics to perform a demographic study in order to project future enrollment numbers to determine whether or not Grandview will be at or above capacity.

"We combine these numbers with the current enrollment to see what we need to do, both in the immediate future and in the long term," said Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Ann Cook.

The study has been ongoing for several months, and Rick Brammer and his team from Applied Economics have looked at the growth in the area the district serves, and the presentation at the May 21 school board meeting focused on the district’s facilities in particular. Applied Economics was escorted through every hallway in the district, and shown every available space in each building.

"That way we could see how all of the space is currently being utilized," said Brammer. "I think what we did in those walk-throughs was more important than the demographics. Just to look at how much space we have and how that space is being used was essential."

Current programming was considered in determining whether or not each facility was at recommended capacity levels. Out of community and enrollment projections, Brammer looks at what can be done in terms of facility usage. Part of the study looks at where students in the district are living in comparison to where their in-district school is located, and then determining whether or not those sub-districts need to be shifted to avoid crowding at any particular location.

"We really start with the nuts and bolts," said Brammer. "We start with the individual students and the demographics of all the different geographies that make up the attendance areas."

Each facility was reviewed to determine how many teaching stations are available total, and what is currently being used. Based on class size standards, it was determined that utilization of elementary school space is high, while both middle schools have ample space. Following are recommendations based on the facility study.

At Belvidere, the current utilization rate is eighty-nine percent, with around 40 available seats and 362 students. It was taken into consideration that Belvidere will receive new students in the future from the youth sports village development, though how many and how soon is unknown.

At Butcher-Greene, the current utilization rate is at eighty-nine percent, with about 50 seats available and 394 students. This school is projected to grow by about 80 students over the next 10 years.

Conn-West’s current utilization rate is at eighty-five percent with around 70 seats available and 399 students. This attendance area is not projected to grow beyond program capacity in the projection period. However, some additional increases are expected due to continued stabilization of the housing market.

Martin City’s current utilization rate is at ninety percent with about 45 seats available and 402 students. The attendance area is projected to continue to experience growth, especially later in the projection period. This, in addition to its isolated location and the potential need to relieve over-crowding at Butcher-Greene, may make adding classroom space at Martin City desirable. This could include the addition of a 4 to 6 classroom wing, perhaps to house pre-school and kindergarten, making additional space available for the other grades.

At Meadowmere, the current utilization rate is at ninety-five percent with 459 students, making it the largest and highest-utilized school in the District with only about 30 available seats. However, the attendance area is not projected to experience significant increases in enrollment. It may be desirable to restrict students from outside the attendance area and/or seek to relocate any special education programs there to avoid having to modify the attendance area at this time.

There is ample space at the middle school level with a utilization rate of 65 percent and nearly 500 available seats. The district could add a special program, such as STEM or a language emersion, at Grandview Middle School (with district-wide transportation) to entice more Martin City students to attend Grandview Middle School, making more space for the elementary students there. No changes were recommended at the high school level.

While it was determined that some locations are at capacity currently, it was not recommended to make any significant immediate changes. The district will continue to monitor the demographics of attendance areas and facility usage to determine the best course of action going forward.