Monday, February 29, 2016

Sheriff’s Office honors 14 for commendable work in 2015

Recently, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office recognized fourteen employees for their achievements last year.

Deputy of the Year Jessica Hill (pictured above) was commended by her superiors for showing “calm in the face of a chaotic situation” as a call in rural Independence elevated from a burglary in progress to a foot chase. Deputy Hill’s quick thinking and organization helped lead to the apprehension of both burglary suspects.

Sergeant of the year Dale Covey, over the course of a year, has served in a supervisory role over the Community Resource Unit, Motorcycle Unit, Concealed-Carry Unit, and Building Services, playing an instrumental role in the JCSO’s move from its previous headquarters to the current facility off Lakewood Way. “It takes a unique person to supervise units from such diverse disciplines,” Capt. David Epperson wrote in his nomination letter. “Sgt. Covey is a model for effective supervision.”

Reserve Deputy of the Year Joel Paslay worked with the Child Protective Center every week to help the department save on manpower and provide a vital service to the community.

Dispatchers Theresa Hunter and Eric Spardley were both given letters of commendation by their superiors as well. Hunter was honored for her actions on the night of July 6, 2015 as the communications unit was experiencing a mass outage during a dangerous thunderstorm and tornado warnings. Hunter was able to reroute calls to Lee’s Summit during the situation. She also received praise for her work handling a suicidal subject and officer-involved shooting on the same day.

Spardley was commended for going above and beyond his job scope during dispatch communications with deputies, often asking additional questions in an effort to identify and locate suspects and to ensure the correct information is being given during the investigation.

Civilian of the Year Robert Harman, responsible for the maintenance and care of headquarters, was lauded by his superiors as someone who will “accomplish the tasks that no one else will.”

Meritorious Service – Donna Rellergert is the civilian supervisor of the concealed-carry permit unit. Rellergert was noted as “knowledgeable about the entire conceal carry process, the approval process, the denial process, working with the county counselors’ office, working as a team member of the unit as well as supervising the unit.”

Life-Saving Awards were given to deputies Ryan Painter, Kevin Souder, Tony Uredi and Colin Love and Sgt. Glen Postlethwait and Sgt. Doug Blodgett. A Meritorious Service Award
was given to warrant clerk Don Chambers.

Painter’s first Life-Saving Award came in June 2015 when he was off-duty and used CPR to revive an 18-month-old neighbor that was not breathing. Painters and Souder were also awarded for provided life-saving medical treatment to a victim of a vicious dog attack where the victim’s own dog attacked her, tore off all her clothes and chewed off her leg. Love was recognized for finding a car sitting the lanes of U.S. 40 Highway at Phelps Drive with a driver having a heart attack and had stopped breathing. Blodgett, Postlethwait, Souder, and Painter all arrived and through a team effort brought him back.

Don Chambers received a Meritorious Service for his continued performance as a clerk at the Warrant Unit.

“These honors are given as a display of some of the best law enforcement work we were fortunate to see in 2015. Each individual recognition has a story behind it, and I am proud of every man and woman that puts on uniform to protect Jackson County each and every day.”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Picking up the pieces

by Mary Wilson

On a cool, ordinary October morning last year, Grandview resident Kevin Verhulst began what would soon turn into an extraordinary day. As the owner of the Guckert building on the corner of Main and Grandview in Grandview’s downtown, Verhulst lives just a few blocks from his business property.

“I can’t remember if I heard sirens or anything at first,” said Verhulst.

A neighbor ran to his house and began banging on his door shortly before 10 a.m. on Monday, October 5, and informed Verhulst that his building was on fire. He immediately drove down to the corner.

“I actually walked down the sidewalk along Grandview Road, alongside my building and underneath a ladder, when I realized there was smoke coming out of the corner.”

As he was walking back, Verhulst remembers the corner window shattering and he realized he should head across the street. Initially, he thought there would just be a little bit of damage to his building.

“I kept thinking, ‘they’re going to put the fire out and it will be done,’” said Verhulst. “But, it just kept going and going. They’d have it out, and then all of a sudden, it would flare up again and they just followed it north down Grandview Road.”

When he saw the flames coming out of the roof, Verhulst realized the fire was more extensive than he originally thought. Not seeing any of his tenants out front, he walked to the back of the building and found them there. He noticed that a vehicle belonging to one of his tenants was outside, but the tenant was nowhere to be seen.

“At that point, I informed one of the firemen that someone was still up there,” said Verhulst.

The tenant, who lived in the corner apartment for over thirty years, died in the fire. A Grandview firefighter was also seriously injured in the rescue attempt.

During the fire, Verhulst recalls seeing water and debris inside the ground-floor businesses. “Fire is one thing; water is a whole separate issue,” said Verhulst. “I never really thought that the damage would be this catastrophic.”

At the end of the day, Verhulst said he was in shock. He later realized that he can only do so much, and decided he needed to rebuild.

“The most frustrating part about this whole process has simply been waiting to get started,” said Verhulst. “Because there was a death in the upstairs corner apartment, the insurance company had to take all the necessary precautions to ensure there wouldn’t be any lawsuit.”

Due to the wait on the insurance company, further damage to the property had incurred, such as mold and damage from the elements. Today, the Guckert building has been completely gutted and Verhulst is ready to clean the mold and smoke damage. The roof has also been replaced. Once the interior cleanup is finished, Verhulst said he will start the rebuilding process.

At the time of the fire, the property was home to seven apartments on the second floor. Verhulst, who purchased the property in 2000, plans to rebuild the seven apartments with five retail spots on the ground floor.

“I heard that upstairs, at one point, there was a roller rink,” said Verhulst. “Then in the ‘40s and ‘50s it became professional offices. In the late ‘60s, the upstairs was converted into the apartments.”

Sometime in the ‘70s, the apartments were remodeled with paneling and dropped ceilings with the addition of more electrical units mixed in with the old. Verhulst said that this is possibly what led to the fire on October 5, 2015.

All of Verhulst’s residential tenants have found new places to live since the fire. The businesses on the ground floor have also relocated, with MaidPro moving right around the corner on Main Street. Naveah Salon had another location in Leawood and the owner of that business combined the two businesses there.

“I talked to her (Naveah) and she has no plans of coming back,” said Verhulst. “The Royalty Room moved to Lee’s Summit. Basically, I will have all new tenants.”

Verhulst, along with the help of some architects, is looking into the possibility of tax credits to help in the rebuilding process. He said that although his building is in the historic district of Grandview, it is not itself a registered historic site. Unfortunately, the process for that would take Verhulst to November of this year.

“The problem with that is that any work I complete before we get that designation is completely on me,” said Verhulst. “That work would not qualify for reimbursement. Luckily, insurance has covered income loss for up to a year.”

The City of Grandview, according to Verhulst, has been very easy to work with throughout the last several months, even recommending the architect that he has met with at the site.

“I think they were very excited to find out I intend to rebuild,” said Verhulst. “Selling it as-is or tearing it down wouldn’t help me out any to walk away from it and it certainly wouldn’t help the city.”

The city has also offered to help market the property once renovations are completed. Verhulst prefers more retail than offices in the future.

“Grandview needs more retail,” he said. “We are overwhelmed with offices that don’t benefit the city.”

Most likely, the renovations will be out-of-pocket for Verhulst. If the property is deemed historic, Verhulst can then apply for federal historic preservation tax credits (up to $75,000). 

Friday, February 5, 2016

City of Grandview Continues to Progress

by Mary Wilson

In his third State of the City address since taking office in 2014, Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones began by thanking the other elected officials, the Grandview Board of Aldermen, for their service to the community.

“I have been blessed to work with this Board of Aldermen,” said Jones. “It has been great to sit around the table every Tuesday night and put our thoughts up on the board to determine where we should go as a city.”

At last year’s State of the City address, Jones looked forward to the upcoming transition of Truman Corners into Truman’s Marketplace. With construction ongoing and the opening of Burlington in 2015, progress in the shopping center has been great. This year, Grandview will see the opening of Ross: Dress for Less, Five Below, PetCo, TJ Maxx and many others. Burlington has enjoyed great success in Truman’s Marketplace, as well, according to Jones.

“Since Burlington’s opening in October, it has been the number-one store in the region: from Oklahoma all the way to Nebraska,” said Jones.

All departments in the City of Grandview are continuously working toward making the city a better place to work and live, said Jones. Each department was included in a video regarding improvements made specific to their area in 2015. The video can be viewed by visiting the City’s Facebook page or website.

“We wanted to show the community some of the people who work behind the scenes and what they are doing,” said Jones. “Grandview is growing and there is much more to come.”

Jones said the Board of Aldermen, along with economic and community development staff, are working hard to bring new businesses to the City of Grandview. This includes giving new life to existing buildings with the possibility of repurposing some. He stated that the biggest project to anticipate in 2016 is the Gateway Village project.

Off of Highway 150 and east of Byars Road, Gateway Village will be home to the largest amateur sports complex in Missouri. The project includes sixteen soccer fields, a number of hotels and restaurants, a fieldhouse and other components, making up the multi-million-dollar mixed-use project.

“This is going to be a monumental task, to say the least,” said Jones. “It has been a while in the making. It is our hope and desire that in the coming weeks and months, we’ll be able to put together a TIF (tax-increment financing) program and a conceptual development plan that both the developer and the City of Grandview can agree to.”

In addition, community development is working on a plan to repurpose the former Rodeway Inn near the southern border of the city.

“We want everyone to know that Grandview is not just a city on I-49,” said Jones. “We are a growing community that people can come to not only do business in, but can also work, play and live in the City of Grandview.”

Jones stated that Grandview will remain a steady financial force in the coming years, as the city is on the road to keeping its stellar financial rating. This rating determines bonding-capacity ratings and percentages. The city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report has also received the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in financial reporting for 27 years in a row.

“This all shows the financial viability and stability of the City of Grandview,” said Jones.

The Grandview Chamber of Commerce, according to Jones, plays a vital role in the business success of the city. This year, the Chamber plans to recognize at least two dozen businesses who have established new locations in Grandview, expanded or experienced major milestones.

One of the biggest transformations to take place in the City of Grandview is on Main Street, Jones stated. Walking downtown, visitors can experience a hip coffee shop, a locally-grown organic grocer, restaurants and many other upscale businesses. Grandview Main Street, Inc., along with the City of Grandview and the Grandview Chamber of Commerce are working on a downtown revitalization and seeking funding for arts programming.

“2016 is a year of investments in projects and programs for the City of Grandview,” said Jones. “The promise is this: the best is yet to come.”