Friday, October 13, 2017

Santa Fe Christian Church’s Final Homecoming Celebration



by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Hard work, dedication and a few tears paid off for one South Kansas City woman this past weekend. The culmination of research and interviews with locals came to fruition as Diane Euston, a local high school teacher and avid historian, along with members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) Little Blue River Chapter and the Historical Society of New Santa Fe, held a homecoming ceremony for a former South Kansas City church.

On Saturday, October 7, the Santa Fe Christian Church received a permanent marker dedicated to the education of visitors to the area about the history of the landmark lost. Euston provided the history of the church to roughly 150 visitors who attended the ceremony.

In 1869, members of the Bethlehem Church of Christ organized a new congregation. The church organizers believed that the church community needed a burial ground for their loved ones, and in 1885, the New Santa Fe Cemetery was established. An adjacent lot was used for building the church. The Christian Church at New Santa Fe (later shortened to the Santa Fe Christian Church) was dedicated in 1892, and thrived through the years due to the hard work of the pioneer community.

“Every Friday, the women of the community would take fresh farm goods, like milk and eggs, by horse and buggy to Westport to sell to support their church,” said Euston. “The little church was the only true remainder of the town that was once here and attending the church became the reason to return to this community.”

Euston added that the church was a gathering place for the community. As the area changed from a farming community to suburbs of Kansas City, the Santa Fe Christian Church welcomed new members. In 1965, a group of men with no attachment to the pioneer families legally incorporated the name Santa Fe Christian Church out of a home in Grandview.

“The new group essentially took the name that was already being used,” said Euston. “These pioneer families were unaware of the incorporation and what the future held.”

On November 14, 1969, at approximately 7 p.m., a fire started in a defective heating system, damaging the north side of the historic church. The fire chief stated that the structure was not severely affected and that the church could be restored to its former glory.

“It became clear, very clear, that not everyone was willing to save the little Santa Fe Christian Church,” said Euston.

In the spring of 1970, a secret vote was held to raze the church, and a restoration committee was quickly formed to prevent that from happening. The committee determined that if the funding was available to make the repairs to the church, there was no reason to destroy it, and they worked to raise money to save the building.

The restoration committee met with the trustees of the church to try and reason with them. According to Euston, one stated that the building would always smell like smoke, while another stated he was looking toward the future, not the past. In October of 1970, three trustees of the Christian Church at New Santa Fe signed a special warranty deed that dissolved the former organization. All legal rights were then given to the Santa Fe Christian Church, the same church organized in Grandview in 1965. One of the members said during a deposition that he believed what he was signing was simply a release of trusteeship.

“He had no idea that he had signed the church away to this new organization,” said Euston. “But that’s what happened.”

Estimates to fix the damage to the church were between $3000 and $10,000. Insurance paid the church over $20,000, and that money was in control of the new organization. Instead of repairing the old church, they bought the lot next door for $7000 and began construction on a new church.
Meanwhile, funds were still being raised to help restore the damaged building by the restoration committee. On February 7, 1971, they met with the new leadership to plead their case one last time to allow their church to be restored with private funds. The restoration committee and their supporters tried to vote, but were not allowed because they hadn’t been active members of the new church for at least 90 days. The vote proceeded without them and in the end, 17 out of 20 members voted to raise the church.

On February 12, a restraining order was filed against the Santa Fe Christian Church to stop demolition. The next day, February 13, 1971, Judge Richard Sprinkle signed the filed restraining order and at 10:36 a.m., the injunction became official;  the Santa Fe Christian Church was to not be touched or destroyed. However, at approximately 9:30 a.m. that same day, demolition of the Santa Fe Christian Church had already started.

“66 minutes. All of this fight came down to just over an hour,” said Euston. “I can only imagine the shock and heartache that was left behind after this church was reduced to a pile of rubble.”

The restoration committee wasn’t going to give up their fight, and filed suit against the new church. A resolution was found four years later with the creation of the New Santa Fe Cemetery Association. The small burial ground was all that was left of the community, and it became their mission to save it from the new organization.

“In 1975, for $1, the new church organization sold the cemetery to this new committee,” said Euston. “Even as I recount all that I’ve learned, it still gives me goosebumps and it still shocks me. This church should still be standing. This is a revival, not of religious proportions, but of recollections, memories and the importance of preservation of historic landmarks. Today, we need to stand in celebration of a landmark lost.”

A common theme for the month of October for the Santa Fe Christian Church was homecoming celebrations. An annual homecoming service was held, drawing a large crowd of former members and friends of the church and provided fellowship for the entire community.

“A homecoming in southern church tradition is about the celebration of memories past,” said Euston. “It’s about finding a reason to gather together and reminisce. It is also a celebration of the future.”

Approximately two years to the day after the church was bulldozed, the Little Blue River Chapter NSDAR was being organized in Grandview. It would take another 42 years for the New Santa Fe Historical Society and the local NSDAR chapter to come together to apply for a special grant project to celebrate the historical value of the church that once stood on the grounds of New Santa Fe.

“Little Blue River, in 40 years, had never tackled anything like that before,” said Margo Aldridge, Regent with the Little Blue River NSDAR.  In 2015, Aldridge contacted Trailside Center volunteer Ann O’Hare to see if she knew of any local projects that needed funding.

The project received $1844 in an education grant from DAR and was sponsored by the local chapter. The project was originally submitted in 2015, and after being turned down the group resubmitted in 2016. They were notified in March of this year that the Santa Fe Christian Church dedication was approved for funding.


The final homecoming for the former members of the Santa Fe Christian Church revealed a permanent marker dedicated to its memory. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Rodeway Inn property deemed public nuisance


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Should the former Rodeway Inn motel building, which has been deemed a public nuisance, be demolished or allowed to be repaired? That was the question during the Grandview Board of Aldermen’s administrative hearing concerning the property last Tuesday, September 26.

According to the hearing’s background report, the building at 15201 South US 71 Highway was subject to a high-wind event on December 31, 2011, and sustained damage to the flat roof of the motel. As a result of the damage, the motel was vacated due to interior water leaks. The property owner at that time filed claims with his insurance carrier so that repairs could be made. The owner engaged the services of a structural engineer to develop plans for the roof replacement and worked with the City to have a new, sloped roof constructed and installed over the existing flat roof.

The second phase of the repair and remodel for the Rodeway Inn motel concentrated on the demolition of the interior to provide rooms that met the needs of today's lodgers. The property owner utilized several contractors on the demolition portion of the work with very few issues. The remodel project started to bog down in 2014 when permits were pulled, very litte work was completed and communications with the property owner dropped off significantly.

In August 2014, the City received notification that the property owner had declared bankruptcy. During this process, no work was completed on the structure. The bankruptcy process was completed in 2016. City staff had some meetings with the commercial real estate professionals about the property as they prepared to market it to potential buyers. In May 2017, the property was purchased from the lender. The property was purchased in July 2017 by an entity called RW1 LLC. RW1 LLC, according to its corporate filing with the Missouri Secretary of State, has two owners, Charles Soucek and James Woodley.

Shortly after taking ownership, large quantities of materials were brought on to the site by Soucek, with the intent to have a flea market. City staff, including the Building Official, Building Inspector and Fire Marshal, completed a comprehensive inspection of the property. The composition of materials brought on to the site was cause for concern by the City. In addition, Soucek made little effort to clean up the property or to hire the required professionals to develop plans for the continued remodel of the former motel so that it could be re-opened as a motel or demolished and removed to make way for another allowable use.

The purpose of the hearing was to allow the owner of the building to show cause as to why the building should not be declared a nuisance detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the community. However, if such findings were made, the building would be ordered to be demolished or repaired.

Joe Gall, an attorney for the City of Grandview for the purposes of the administrative hearing, asked to testify first to provide the Board of Aldermen with some background on the property’s ownership before offering a recommendation. While paperwork filed for the LLC show Soucek as the registered agent, according to Gall, the organizer was Woodley.

“I’ve learned some additional information today that I want to share with you at this point,” said Gall. “From the face of this document, we really can’t tell who the owner of the company is. The owner of the company, RW1 LLC, is related to another company, IPX 1031. We didn’t know that and as a consequence, didn’t send notices of the hearing to IPX 1031.”

Gall said that the registered agent, Soucek, was attempted to be served notice of the hearing, however, Soucek died on September 1, after sustaining injuries in a car accident on August 31. The notice of nuisance, sent to Soucek, was signed by his daughter, Susan Miller.

“Under Missouri law, when you’re serving a registered agent, I think a court would find that the delivery of service has to be to the registered agent,” said Gall, “not someone else on his behalf. So, that’s a service issue there.”

Another notice of the public hearing, dated August 28, directed to Soucek was also signed by his daughter, Susan Miller, on September 1, the day that Soucek died.

“I have a bit of discomfort about the validity of the service of this notice of hearing on the registered agent of RW1 LLC,” said Gall.

Miller, who attended the hearing to speak on her father’s behalf, stated that her mother has Alzheimer’s; and because she needs round-the-clock care, she was in her parents’ residence and signed for the notices addressed to her father.

After his death, Soucek’s assets have gone into a trust, with Miller now serving as the successor trustee due to her mother’s health. The property, the former Rodeway Inn, will eventually end up as an asset in that trust.

Gall recommended that, due to the complicated ownership issues with the property that will likely change, the hearing be continued to allow those issues to solidify before returning to look deeper into the evidence on the condition of the building.

“We need to come back and ensure that the proper parties have been given notice and they have the opportunity to appear,” said Gall.


Ultimately, the Board of Aldermen unanimously supported Gall’s recommendation to continue the hearing until Tuesday, October 24, providing Miller opportunity to clean up some of the material on the property that was a cause for concern before the hearing to determine whether the property should be demolished or repaired.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Grandview administration focuses on cultural competency

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Typically, when students are out of school for district in-service, their teachers spend the day in meetings, talking curriculum and learning new ways of instruction. However, last Friday, teachers in the Grandview School District participated in a visual representation of privilege among their peers and how that affects their teaching.

Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez invited every certified staff member onto the Grandview High School football field for a privilege walk. Teachers lined up evenly, and Rodrequez read a series of statements, asking that each person take a step forward or backward if each statement were true in their lives.

Eventually, the educators were no longer even in their line. Some took several steps forward, some took several steps back, while others remained on the line where they started. The end result was a look into how instances in a person’s life which cannot be controlled often relay into how they perceive the world around them.

“We have a lot of things in common,” said Rodrequez, “but the number one thing we have in common is that we are all educators and we are all teachers. We are all one member of the Grandview family. We support each other, but we also need to understand that there are varying levels of things that happened to us in our backgrounds that impact us every single day.”

He went on to say that life experiences have an impact on decisions that teachers make, the way they teach and the way relationships are built with their students.

“With all the things that we have in common, we still have a lot of differences,” said Rodrequez.
The exercise was part of the district administration’s focus on cultural competency to better relate to students and families. The activity led to conversations regarding unconscious bias and trauma.

“We’re going to continue this work on cultural competency, not just because it is a board priority, but because it is one of the main things that we have to get right,” said Rodrequez. “If we don’t get this right, we will not be as successful with our students and our families as we should be.”

Rodrequez said that if the exercise was done with the students in the district, the outcome would have looked very similar. Several Grandview educators felt uncomfortable throughout the demonstration; some were emotional afterward.

 “It was truly an eye-opening exercise that showcased how each of us comes from a different background with different experiences,” said Grandview High School teacher Diane Euston.

After the privilege walk, district teachers reflected on what they felt and how they can use their own experiences to better connect with students and their families. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Grandview alum returns home to help fill the GAP

Jackie Knabe, at right, Grandview Assistance Program's new Executive Director, receives a donation of school supplies from Burger and Brown Engineering.


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Grandview Assistance Program’s new executive director may be a slightly familiar face to those who have been in the area for a while. Jackie (Burkhart) Knabe officially began her new role at the beginning of the month, but has already made a splash in the community by helping to bring relief to those who suffered damage due to the recent flooding.

Formerly with Hillcrest Transitional Housing in Kansas City, Kansas, Knabe is a Grandview High School alum with two children. She grew up in South Kansas City and Grandview, and after getting married, became a stay-at-home mom in Lee’s Summit. She ran a daycare in her home for a while and became very involved in the PTA organization at her children’s elementary school.

“When my daughter was heading into kindergarten, I realized that I felt invisible as a person,” said Knabe. “I became just this mother and wife and nothing was for me anymore.”

She began reading a series of books that opened her mind to the world outside of motherhood, and at 38-years-old, decided that she wanted more out of life.  She then reflected on her entire life and weighed the pros and cons of most everything.

“From just being so involved in volunteering at the school at the time, I realized that I knew a lot of women who were in the same place I was,” she said. “I could tell that they, too, felt invisible.”

Knabe would hear of needs in her own community, and began a gift card program where women would buy WalMart or other cards and started a small food pantry. Another mom came to her and told her that the heat was out in their vehicle, so Knabe then organized funding for the family for a new van after enough community members pitched in what they could.

Circle of Hope was born out of this group of moms who would gather together for dinner, crafts and fellowship. She began visiting a different church after reading a book read by the congregation that changed the way she thought about life. There, she met the pastor and they began Coldwater of Lee’s Summit, a faith-based organization which provides food and clothing for those in need in the community.

“They had just started a clothes closet, and I had my little food pantry. So, we created Coldwater,” said Knabe. “The premise of it is that if you have nothing else to give, you can offer a cup of cold water. Sometimes just doing something small is enough to make an impact.”

She then divorced, and as a single mom couldn’t manage the hours of working at Coldwater. An opportunity with Hillcrest Transitional Housing eventually came along and Knabe became a case manager there for four years. She was happy where she was, and wasn’t looking for a change when the Grandview Assistance Program’s executive director position became available.

“It is GAP’s desire and passion to really impact people’s lives and to really help people, not just by putting a bandage on, but to help them learn to be self-sufficient,” she said. “If somebody is willing and the circumstances are right, you can change their lives for the better. To get to do that in Grandview, where I came from, it just really spoke to me.”

She is excited to be able to give back to the community that raised her, as she said she had a wonderful experience growing up here. Knabe brings a fresh set of eyes and new ideas to the organization, and would like to see GAP further their financial education and training for their clients. She’d also like to partner with as many other area resources as she can.

“I definitely want to get involved in the community more than just GAP,” she said. “Everything that was said during my interview process for GAP just aligned with what I am all about. I can’t wait to get past this learning curve I’m in right now and really get in there.”

Knabe would also like to expand volunteer opportunities to get more citizens involved in the organization. She feels that GAP’s hours are not aligned with when families can typically volunteer to serve and she’d like to find a way to offer an opportunity for those who may not have had one before to become involved.

“I want kids in there working, and teenagers and families,” said Knabe. “I think it’s important that we offer an array of options for people in the community to be able to give back.”

She’d also like to create a welcoming and inviting space for clients using GAP’s services and those who are there to volunteer.

“I want us to be able to say yes as much as we can, and I’m working on figuring out a way that we can do that,” said Knabe. “I don’t want to just give people a fish, I want to find ways that we can teach them to fish.”


Established in 1991, GAP’s mission is to assist in a dignified manner families and individuals in Grandview and the Grandview School District with emergency assistance and guidance toward ultimate self-sufficiency. Community members looking to volunteer with GAP can do so by either emailing Knabe at grandviewassistanceprogram@gmail.com, or by calling 816-761-1919. Currently, Grandview Assistance Program is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and days align with the Grandview School District. They are located at 1121 Main Street in Grandview. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Union head, BOA clash over safety tax details

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Divided public opinion on the prospect of a public safety tax vote and its ultimate usage brought Bill Galvin and Mayor Leonard Jones face to face during last week’s Grandview Board of Aldermen work session.

“I think you know why I’m here,” said Galvin, president of Local 42, Grandview’s sole bargaining union for firefighters and EMTs. “You’ve heard what (the public safety sales tax) can do. We’d like to know what the issue is with not putting it on the ballot.”

Mayor Leonard Jones asked Galvin to explain why the public safety sales tax issue has become a priority for Local 42 to push in front of Grandview’s voting population. Galvin and his organization have been leading the charge to persuade city elected officials to put the tax on a future ballot. Discussion during public comments during previous meetings, social media posts and paid advertisements expressing Local 42’s dissatisfaction with the Board of Aldermen and Grandview’s Mayor prompted last week’s meeting. 

“Why didn’t this come up last year, the year before, or the year before that?” asked Jones. “What has changed?”

Galvin credited the urgency to legislation passed recently, while Jones and City Administrator Cory Smith said that the legislation Galvin referred to has been established for quite some time. As far as Galvin knows, there has not been an issue in other municipalities with getting a public safety sales tax on the ballot.

“I think it’s time to put it on there,” said Galvin. “You keep losing firefighters and getting new ones, I don’t know, every three months. I think you’ve lost 12 in the last nine months. I’d like to work as a partnership instead of going against each other, but I don’t know what the deal is why you wouldn’t want it on there.”

 Ward III Alderman Jim Crain said that, despite Local 42 claiming through advertisements and social media the Aldermen are anti-public safety, he was instrumental in equipping police vehicles with mobile data units, bringing thermal imaging cameras to the department, and demanding that all three ambulances be outfitted with electronic-powered cots to prevent injuries. 

“If you had done your homework, you would know that over the years that I’ve been sitting here I’ve been a very, very strong supporter of public safety,” said Crain. “I’m surprised you would even question my support of public safety. I support the public safety sales tax. My guess is that between three and six months we’ll have it on the ballot.”

While Crain said that several discussions have taken place regarding putting the public safety sales tax on the ballot, the Aldermen are still trying to figure out how such a tax would be implemented if it were to pass.

“I doubt very seriously that the way a lot of it will be used is going to be up for negotiation,” said Crain. “The Chief will have recommendations, but this Board is going to figure out how it will be spent. I strongly disagree with the tactics of the union, and I’ve heard a lot of negative comments. It’s been disheartening and disappointing.”

Ward II Alderman Brian Hochstein brought up the fact that the City of Grandview has negotiators who help determine contracts for public safety employees.

“The public safety tax is a separate issue, but you’ve drug it into this,” said Hochstein. “You’re going to say things like we’ve failed and we don’t care about firefighters’ lives or our citizens’ lives? That’s really disappointing. If people showed up at this meeting at other times, they’d know that we’ve talked about the public safety sales tax.”

Hochstein added that he has personally brought up a potential tax numerous times. In 2014, the City of Columbia voted down a similar tax, so Hochstein said the tax has been around since before then. When it comes to a specific public safety tax, he said he is in full support of putting one on the ballot for the voters in Grandview to decide.

“However, we had already lined up other taxes for our citizens to vote on,” said Hochstein. “We’ve had two major problems in the last few years when it comes to sales taxes that feed the general fund which allows us to provide services. My concern has always been, first and foremost, making sure that my constituents were getting services from all departments and that those were funded.”

“What is more important though, their safety or other services?” asked Galvin.

“Their safety is factored into that,” said Hochstein. “I’m not saying that we can’t do better.”

Hochstein added that with Grandview voters recently passing the Capital Improvement Sales Tax this month, the Aldermen are looking toward passing the Local Use Tax. With online sales, the City of Grandview has seen significant reduction in sales tax revenues.

“We finally have the ability to recoup some of that, and that’s been our plan,” said Hochstein. “Our sales tax has been getting killed, absolutely murdered, by online sales.”

Hochstein also said that he has been a part of frank discussions with the Board regarding timing of putting the issue on a ballot. He would like to see it go to a public vote in six months, though he understands that while Local 42 is in negotiations with the City of Grandview, the timing is not convenient for the union.

“You said a keyword there, you said killed,” said Galvin. “Is that what it’s going to have to take to happen, one of these officers or one of these firefighters to get killed?”

“We can’t look at everything in one little bucket, Mr. Galvin,” said Hochstein. “I don’t look at it that way. I agree that there are things that can be improved, and I think there is a way to get there. But, the negotiating parts of public safety taxes are separate things. We have other concerns, and frankly, Local 42 attacking us (with billboards and on social media) is not productive and is not helping things.”

Ward I Alderman Damon Randolph asked what the staffing standards are for fire departments. According to Galvin, the standard number of firefighters to fight a residential fire is 15 and goes up from there with larger fires. Randolph also asked why strategic partnerships with other surrounding departments are considered to be a bad thing in regards to Local 42’s efforts to educate Grandview’s citizens on the need for additional fire employees.

“We don’t think it’s a bad thing, but the staffing would be nice if it was here,” said Galvin. “A lot of municipalities around here have a four-man staff on every rig while you just have three.”

Randolph said he has heard Local 42 say the opposite, that a strategic partnership is not a good thing.

“If you had proper staffing, you wouldn’t need as much help, which also hurts other cities too,” said Galvin. “You’re then taking resources from other cities. Now they have to find somebody to fill them spots.”

If voters in Grandview were to pass a public safety sales tax, Ward I Alderman Sandy Kessinger asked what the proposed use of the additional tax revenue would be. Galvin said that Grandview’s Fire Chief would have the ultimate say, but that Local 42 would be involved in negotiations to determine the use. He added that he would like to see the tax used for salaries and the hiring of additional firefighters.

“Grandview is not the first jurisdiction to push back or have concerns about a vague plan from the firefighters’ union,” said Kessinger.

Ward II Alderman Annette Turnbaugh added that she is also in support of a public safety sales tax ballot issue, but she feels that the personal bashing Local 42 has used to force the issue has caused a loss of confidence in the community.

“They feel that we don’t care,” said Turnbaugh. “That could not be further from the truth.” Though he was absent from the meeting, Ward II Aldermen John Maloney said he has always been supportive of having the public safety sales tax on the ballot, and if not in November, he’d like to see it be voted on in April.

Mayor Jones said that the City of Grandview has been doing the same thing it has been doing for several years and nothing in regards to public safety has changed.

“You now have the opportunity for change with the public safety sales tax,” said Galvin. “If it’s been there for a long time, how come you didn’t implement this a long time ago? The opportunity was there to have those tax dollars for public safety and it was never acted on.”


Jones said that the Board of Aldermen has approved a sequence of ballot issues to benefit the entire city, and the public safety sales tax has already been queued to move into the ballot cycle. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Area superintendents discuss back to school and district goals

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

The preparations for the new school year have been completed as area districts welcomed students back this week. District leaders from Grandview, Hickman Mills, Center and Kansas City are focusing on predetermined Board of Education priorities heading into 2017-18. Superintendents from each district presented those focus areas to members of the South Kansas City Alliance on Monday, August 16.

New Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile said that the focus of the district continues to be acquiring full accreditation. Hickman Mills is a provisionally-accredited district and Cargile said that emphasis will be on the five priorities, including highly-qualified staff, attendance, being fiscally responsible, racial equity impact and increasing community and family engagement.

“We believe focusing on those five items will help us to get closer to full accreditation,” said Cargile. She added that her personal goal as the new superintendent in Hickman Mills is to be visible in the community and establishing trust and relationships with the Board of Education and district staff.

Hickman Mills is also implementing restorative practices in order to think differently about how to discipline students. Cargile said that not every offense should result in a suspension, and the district will be looking at new, innovative ways to determine punishment when rules are broken. She said that Hickman Mills has seen a decrease in out-of-school suspensions and formal hearings that have occurred over the last few years.

“I’m a proud graduate of the Hickman Mills School District,” said Cargile. “Being able to come home and serve as the superintendent of schools for a district that educated me? I attended Ingels Elementary, Smith-Hale Middle School and graduated from Ruskin High School. I never would have thought that I would come back and be superintendent, but here I am. I’m proud of that. So, when we think about commitment and successes, I’m super proud to be able to come back and talk to kids that I relate to. My goal is to inspire students and inspire staff.”

Center School District Superintendent Dr. Sharon Nibbelink spoke about the Made Smart initiative and campaign to promote student academic achievement. The goal of Made Smart is to engage parents and the community in the learning process from birth through graduation to make students college and career ready.

“The influence of parents on student success cannot be understated, and we want to support that,” said Nibbelink. The district doesn’t assume that parent guidance in education is natural, and has developed support materials to help families through every step of schooling.

Nibbelink added that the four districts presenting share a lot of the same students, and therefore all have student success at the forefront of their goals. “We celebrate the successes of all of the schools around us because we all rise together,” said Nibbelink.

Center’s strategic plan includes six goals focused on academic achievement. The district has hired a college and career coordinator to help with the focus on having students ready to enter the world after graduation.

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell is beginning his second year at the helm as students headed back to the classrooms on Monday. He said the first year provided an opportunity for him to get a feel for the district and gain some contextual understanding as to why the district is where it is.

“Unless you just recently moved to the city, there is a very dark history in the district,” said Bedell. “In addition, there is a conversation that we have to deal with in KCPS that a lot of other districts don’t have to, and that’s charter schools.”

He added that the mobility of families in his district is high due to the other 14 school districts surrounding KCPS, along with the 23 charter schools that reside in his boundaries. Preliminarily, Bedell said it looks like Kansas City Public Schools is trending in the right direction according to the district’s strategic plan. As part of that plan, the district engaged 170 secondary students to provide feedback and insight into KCPS’s blueprint for success.  

“We have to accelerate and close these gaps. We have to give these kids what they need because we don’t have a lot of time,” said Bedell. “My kids are down to 179 days remaining in the school year. We need to focus on what we are doing in the time that we have them and make sure that this plan addresses that."

Grandview Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez said that the focus on his district is around centralizing their message. He said that everyone who works in the district is a teacher, and that building positive relationships with students is a priority.

“On any given day, there is an opportunity for three or four employees to have an impact on a kid before they even step foot inside a classroom,” said Rodrequez. “We don’t want to miss those opportunities. If we don’t do this, we will never get to the academic side.”

Each staff member in the Grandview School District has gone through cultural competency training, and is working on trauma-informed care training this school year. The focus is also on making sure students in the district are successful when they leave for work or college. Rodrequez said that the district’s ACT scores were not where they needed to be, so they are working on ways to implement test-taking strategies and trainings for students to be better prepared.

“We want to make sure we can meet the needs of all of our kids,” said Rodrequez.


All four district leaders presented highlights of their students and staff, and continue to work together to better the community as a whole. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

City of Grandview looks to renew Capital Improvement Sales Tax

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Voters in Grandview will head to the booths next Tuesday to determine whether or not to renew the city’s half-cent sales tax devoted to funding capital equipment and improvement to infrastructure and facilities. The tax was originally approved by voters in 1998 for a 10-year period, and then was renewed in November of 2007. The current Capital Improvement Sales Tax (CIST) plan is set to expire at the end of 2018.

“Back in 1998, we ran out of funding in the general fund for any capital projects, particularly ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, dump trucks and other big ticket items,” said City Administrator Cory Smith, “let alone things like City Hall repairs, computers and other facility issues that come up. We’ve got a tremendous amount of facility and equipment all over the city and we just couldn’t squeeze it into the general fund anymore.

From 1998 to 2007, several projects were completed totaling nearly $14 million. Those CIST projects were: completion of the Merrywood Bridge, storm drainage improvements, West Frontage Road improvements, police video and electronic equipment, police and fire radio system upgrades, computer-aided dispatch replacement, police vehicle replacement, public works vehicle replacement, fire trucks and ambulances, communication system improvements, 140th Street bridge, Blue Ridge traffic signals, new sidewalks and repairs, storm channel repairs, curb repairs, facility improvements and repairs, fire equipment and station improvements, and computer and technical improvements.

From 2008 to now, the city has seen CIST dollars go toward: facility improvements and repairs, computer and technology, police and fire equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities, street construction projects, storm drainage improvements, sidewalk and curb construction and repair and various vehicle replacements.

To date, nearly $3 million of the 2008 CIST has been devoted to police equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities, while $2.6 million has gone to fire equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities.

“This year, the general fund is at least 80 percent personal services,” said Smith. “The rest is just support costs, contractual supplies, uniforms and all those things.”

On Tuesday, August 8, voters will decide on the renewal of the CIST, with a projected $15 million in revenue from the half-cent sales. That projection includes a two-percent annual growth in sales tax revenues as well as interest income and the trade or sale of miscellaneous vehicles and equipment that the city owns.

City of Grandview’s administration has put forth a CIST renewal plan with $15 million in expenditures for the next 10 years. 46 percent of the renewal plan, totaling nearly $6 million, is public safety improvements, including body worn cameras for police officers, tactical equipment, replacement of cars and motorcycles, mobile data terminals, radio equipment, ambulance and fire truck replacement, mobile radios, cots and other ambulance equipment and firefighter safety gear.

Also included in the CIST renewal plan are: a new roof, various repairs and HVAC replacement at City Hall, a new roof at the public works facility, fire station improvements, computer and technology improvements, replacement of vehicles in public works and community development, the replacement of the Kansas City Southern Railroad overpass at Blue Ridge and new equipment and furnishings at The View community center.

“We have received money from the Federal Railway Administration through a grant that is good for the next two or three years,” said Smith. “The railroad would potentially cover about 25 percent of the project. It’s a $7 million project.”

Ultimately, it is up to Grandview voters to decide whether or not the project list gets completed in the next ten years. The specific ballot language reads: Shall the City of Grandview, Missouri reimpose a sales tax of one-half of one percent (1/2 of 1%) for the purpose of funding capital improvements, which may include the retirement of debt under previously authorized bonded indebtedness, for a period of ten (10) years commencing January 1, 2019, and ending December 31, 2028?


The City of Grandview has developed a website with more information. Voters can go to www.buildingtomorrowscommunity.com  to find out more. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fire brewing among union, city officials

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

A war of words continues with Grandview elected officials and fire union leaders, with differing messages regarding pay and contract terms.

Even though it was a packed house at the Grandview Board of Aldermen meeting last week, the crowd wasn’t there to listen to the approval of ordinances or witness oaths being given to newly-appointed commissioners. Members of the local fire union, wearing red shirts in solidarity, were there to listen to supporters during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Tim Dupin, a former Grandview Fire employee in 1996 and currently the secretary and treasurer for the International Association of Firefighters Local 42 union, addressed the Mayor and Board of Aldermen as a representative of those who work for the Grandview Fire Department.

“Your firefighters are in a unique situation. They don’t have enough people to do the job,” said Dupin. “I left here, first and foremost, for my safety. You have the same amount of firefighters now that you had in 1996.”

He added that wages and benefits of the firemen, while not where they should be, are secondary to the safety concerns of Local 42. According to Dupin, the Grandview Fire Department calls for mutual aid of surrounding departments daily.

“We’re not out here asking you to supply enough firefighters to fight fires in the industrial complexes you have,” said Dupin. “We’re not asking you to have enough to fight an apartment building here. We’re asking you to get enough firefighters to fight a house fire.”

Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones stated that 46 percent of the upcoming Capital Improvement Sales Tax is to ensure that both police and fire personnel have the needed equipment to safely fulfill their respective responsibilities in the future. He added that the Board of Aldermen has also discussed other tax issues, including the public safety sales tax and the local use tax, and they plan to consider both of those in the coming months or year. 

“During public comment at last week’s regular session, a number of people gave the impression that the police and fire departments were not trained and equipped to safely perform their duties,” said Jones. “This is not true now nor has it been true in the past. The Grandview residents that attended the Citizens Academy were shocked to hear such misleading and unverified comments last Tuesday.”

Dupin added that the National Fire Protection Agency standards are to have 15 firefighters to safely fight a fire, while Grandview has only 10-12 on duty at any given time.

“Do your job. Put it on the ballot,” said Dupin. “You want to shut me up and stop the social media posts? Do your job and stop kicking the can down the road. Support your men and women. Put their safety first. Put the safety of your citizens first and do your job of protecting Grandview. You’re not doing it right now.”

According to Jones, salaries are negotiated and evaluated with Local 42 on a regular basis, including overtime, sick leave, vacation and career development.

“We also realize that 85 percent of Fire Department calls are for EMS services, and they typically have about 20 structural fires a year,” Jones added. “Currently, we have significant reinforcements from Kansas City under our new EMD dispatching agreement.”

Kristina D’Agostino from Independence, whose husband has worked as a Grandview firefighter for the past 12 years, also addressed the elected officials during public comments. She claimed that the Grandview Fire Department is understaffed and underpaid. She also stated that some of the firemen in the department work upwards of 96 hour shifts due to lack of manpower.

“I am very concerned that nobody takes the time to address the safety of the fire department,” said D’Agostino. “These guys are exhausted. They need resources. They need safety. They need help.”

Grandview resident and president of the Belvidere Neighborhood Watch Pam Miller spoke of the vital role that the firefighters and police have in the community. She requested that the aldermen put on a future ballot to let Grandview voters decide on a one-percent tax increase for public safety.

“We all have a voice,” said Miller. “We have to make sure that we have public safety. We need more police. Grandview is a great place; we just need to invest more.”

Michael and JoLynn Lane, who are Grandview business owners, also urged the Grandview Board of Aldermen to consider an upcoming ballot issue to increase funding for public safety training and personnel.

“We have resources, they’re just not being allocated to the right spot,” said Michael Lane. “We need personnel. We need public safety. We need our fire department. Let the people speak.”


The City of Grandview is currently negotiating a new three-year agreement with Local 42 and plans to allow the negotiations to proceed to its conclusion this fall.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kansas City International Raceway gone too soon



By Brent Kalwei


In 1967, The Beatles proclaimed that “All You Need Is Love,” the Kansas City Chiefs played against the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl and Chevy introduced the first Camaro. 1967 was also the year that the Kansas City International Raceway drag strip opened on Noland Road.
For 44 years, two lanes of asphalt provided KCIR’s spectators with entertainment one quarter mile at a time. However, the track that thrived for so many years seemed to be taken away from us all too quickly. The track closed on November 27, 2011. If still standing today, KCIR would be celebrating its 50th year. Although the space once occupied by KCIR now essentially sits as an empty lot, there is no doubt that the track provided many highlight moments.
KCIR housed premier events such as the Summer Nationals from the 1960s-1980s that featured National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) legends such as John Force, Gene Snow, Shirley Muldowney, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, who was selected No. 1 on the list of “NHRA’s 50 Greatest Drivers.” My father, at 13 years old, along with a standing-room-only crowd, witnessed KCIR’s 1976 Summer Nationals.
Dick Harrell, known as “Mr. Chevrolet,” who owned Dick Harrell Performance Center located on Hickman Mills Drive, raced at KCIR the first year the track opened its gates. Harrell won KCIR’s King of Kansas City in 1968. He was also the American Hot Rod Association’s (AHRA) World Point Champion, and named AHRA’s “Driver of the Year in 1969” and “Driver of the Decade” for the entire 1960s. Harrell tragically lost his life in a funny car crash in 1971 in Ontario, Canada.
Larry Larson, who owns Larson Race Cars in Oak Grove, spent many years racing at KCIR. In 2014, Larson became the first driver to complete the quarter mile in less than 6 seconds in a street legal car. Larson did so in his 1998 Chevy S-10 truck.
I’ve been a baseball player for 22 years and since I began my career, I have enjoyed playing it more than any other sport. But I have to tell you, when it comes to being a sports fan, there is no better spectacle to attend than a drag racing event. There is a sense of thrill when you browse the variety of sweet rides in the pits, hear the sounds of the engines and take in the side-by-side action as the cars roar down the track.
My dad, Donnie Kalwei, took me to my very first drag race at KCIR in 1992 when I was just 2 years old. I would be lying if I said I remember any memories I had of the track at that age. However, that was the start of something special. Beginning in 1999, I enjoyed the many times my father drove me to the track in his black 1955 Chevy, similar to the one in American Graffiti, and in his blue 1971 Chevy Nova. But, he didn’t just drive his cars up to the track, he raced them too. He consistently attended weekly grudge nights from 1999-2011.
In the same way I gained interest in drag racing thanks to my dad, so did he from his dad. Before there was KCIR, my grandfather raced at Kansas City Timing Association Drag Strip located on Front Street from 1957-1967. My dad also watched his dad race his 1962 409 four-speed Chevy Impala at KCIR in 1967.
One of my other favorite memories was getting the opportunity to watch racers like DeLon Joseph, Terry Murphy, Willie Brumitt, David Schorr, Mike Bodine, John Hocking and my cousin Justin Kalwei compete in the Kansas City’s Fastest Doorslammer race. Joseph, who created and raced in the inaugural KC’s Fastest Doorslammer race in 1992, was a five-time winner of the event. Joseph, Murphy, Hocking, Brumitt, Jack Schorr, Edgar Wright and Dwayne Robinson competed in the inaugural doorslammer race. For more than 15 years, the KC’s Fastest Doorslammer race was KCIR’s premier event. The event featured pro modified cars that reached speeds of over 200 miles per hour. To this day my favorite drag racing class to watch is pro modified.
I think I can speak for the many drag racing fans and drivers of the Kansas City area when I say that a part of us is missing without KCIR. Earlier, I mentioned why drag race events were so special to me, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the track connected all who raced and attended as fans.

“The drag strip was just like a big family,” said Joseph, who raced at KCIR on the very first day the track opened. “There were hundreds of people that were down there that you knew. You saw them once a week and that’s how you got to know a lot of people. I have people stop in my shop all the time and say, ‘we used to watch you race down there.’ The drag strip closing is one of the most destructive things that has happened to this city in a long time.”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Missouri camp offers no limit to children’s potential


by Mary Wilson

Many Kansas City-area children spend their school year looking forward to summer vacation. And, for some, that means heading off to camp. Summer camp means friends, swimming and adventure. For one Kansas City girl, summer camp means overcoming obstacles, pushing herself past her limits and achieving things she never thought possible.

Emily Roots has attended Camp No Limits in Missouri for several years in a row. The No Limits Foundation provides a camp for children with limb loss or limb differences and their families in ten locations across the country. Last month, Roots, along with her parents, traveled to Potosi, Missouri to experience what she says is her favorite part of summer.

Kim Bergman, Clinic Manager for Hanger Clinic and a first-time volunteer at Camp No Limits Missouri this year, met and worked with Roots and her family during their stay at camp. Hanger Clinic is a sponsoring partner of Camp No Limits and provides a scholarship program for area children to attend that may not be able to afford it. Bergman, along with a prosthetist from her office, volunteered their time at the Missouri camp when they heard that helpers were needed.

“It was absolutely amazing,” said Bergman. “I’ve heard stories about how cool the camps were. The word ‘magic’ kept coming up. It really is, though. It is a magical experience.”

In talking with the Roots family, Bergman discovered that Camp No Limits is not all that known in the Kansas City-area. This year, there were only three children from the metro at camp.

“It really surprised me, especially with Children’s Mercy here in Kansas City, that there weren’t more families from this area,” said Bergman. “There is such a need to get the word out because it is such a great program. The number of families this could serve here at home is hard to even imagine.”

Hanger Clinic works with a number of families to provide prosthetic and orthotic patient care services, and provided the funds for one of the three Kansas City families to attend Camp No Limits. While there, campers are able to experience therapeutic programs with specialized professionals, including physical and occupational therapists, prosthetists and adult amputee role models.

Camp No Limits is the only camp for young people with limb loss and their families, creating a network of support for all the campers. Each camp is unique, but there are generally five programs offered each day. All activities incorporate family members as well, with specific group sessions for siblings and parents, when appropriate, to address the needs of families living with individuals with limb loss.

“These kids and these families see each other once a year,” said Bergman. “You would think that they live next door to each other by how close they are. There are some very emotional moments for everyone, and it is a family. I thought, ‘gosh, they only see each other one time a year. We have to change that.’”

Bergman got to work planning an event before school begins in the fall. She began to organize a Camp No Limits Kansas City weekend for Missouri families.

Emily Roots, according to Bergman and her family, is one of the biggest Kansas City Royals’ fans. She loves them so much, in fact, that she had a Royals prosthetic arm made for her, and last year was featured in Kansas City media with her request to have her arm signed by some of the players on the team, especially Eric Hosmer. While her wish didn’t come true, she did meet George Brett, who signed her arm.

In a few weeks, Camp No Limits Missouri families will get together and attend the Royals game on Friday, July 21. The weekend activities will continue into Saturday, where the children and their families will meet a congenital amputee who works for Hallmark as a graphic designer.

“She’s got an amazing job and makes it happen despite her differences,” said Bergman.
Roots, on Friday at the Royals game, will attend batting practice before the game and meet the players, take photos and finally receive the autographs she’s been wanting. However, because she is growing, her current arm no longer fits, so she will be sporting her new Royals prosthesis at the game that day.

“Whatever we can do to put a smile on the faces of these kids, we’re going to try and do,” said Bergman. “They are amazing kids with amazing capabilities, and we want to celebrate them in whatever ways we can.”

Camp No Limits, a division of the No Limits Foundation, relies on support from volunteers and donors. More information can be found at nolimitsfoundation.org. To support efforts in Kansas City, contact Kim Bergman at 913-397-7600 or email her at kbergman@hanger.com



Thursday, June 15, 2017

School-age childcare in area districts loses significant state funding

by Mary Wilson

Working parents understand the need for childcare. Those who live in the Grandview, Hickman Mills and Center School Districts have the opportunity to take advantage of programming designed to partner with families to provide before and after-school childcare at no cost. The Local Investment Commission, or LINC, was created in 1992 and is primarily state-funded. LINC gained additional organizational flexibility by becoming a 501c3 nonprofit in 1994.

However, LINC, along with other agencies who rely on the State of Missouri for funding, is working through a budget shortfall after the last legislative session to the tune of $1 million. LINC’s total budget for programming is approximately $10 million. With their model of building a neighborhood-schooling atmosphere, LINC offers Caring Community programming in seven metro school districts.

“The Local Investment Commission has been doing this for several years and we are operating in school sites with high family mobility,” said Brent Schondelmeyer, Deputy Director - Community Engagement for LINC. “They’d move from Hickman to Grandview, Grandview to Kansas City, and so on. But, there would be a LINC program in each of these districts, providing some sense of familiarity to the families.”

Schondelmeyer said that LINC offers activities and learning opportunities that simply aren’t available during the normal school day’s curriculum in the classroom.

“In surrounding districts, the cost of before and after-school care is expensive,” said Schondelmeyer. “These are low-income communities and the families’ ability to afford after-school care is pretty constrained.”

LINC has found that while many of the families that use their services could apply for childcare subsidy individually, the organization then took on that task for entire communities. The State of Missouri agreed to provide funding with the idea that school-aged care being provided in the school buildings themselves would provide opportunity for student enrichment.

“This was an opportunity to serve a large number of children in a familiar place,” said Schondelmeyer.

The organization expected to receive $2 million from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Appropriation in the Missouri General Assembly. It was in the Governor’s budget, in the House version of the budget.

“It then went over to the Senate, and at some point someone made the decision rather than $2 million they think it should be $1 million,” said Schondelmeyer. “The other half needed to go someplace else.”

With half of that budget gone, LINC knew as an organization the shortfall couldn’t be absorbed. Each school district was approached by LINC to discuss what programming would look like with less funding. LINC provided options to the districts: revenue-based and expense programming, a combination of both,  or decreased programming.

Center School District, according to Schondelmeyer, is looking at ways to absorb the costs into their own budgets. LINC serves two before and after-school sites in Center, with an average daily attendance of 282 students, while 401 students were enrolled last school year.

“We are currently looking at all options to address what is estimated by LINC to be about a $60,000 shortfall in funds to Center School District,” said Center public relations director Kelly Wachel. “We are working on a plan to make sure we are continuing to take care of our students and families impacted by this decrease in funds.”

In the Grandview School District, LINC serves an average of 726 students per day at five before- and after-school sites, with 1,080 students enrolled in the program. Next school year, the district, in discussion with LINC, has determined to change the childcare program from five days per week to four. A survey has been distributed to district families to share preferences on a Monday through Thursday program or a Tuesday through Friday program.

“LINC provides quality before and after-school care for elementary school age students in a safe, fun and caring environment that supports children’s social, emotional and physical development,” the Grandview School District email to parents read. “The Grandview C-4 School District and LINC are committed to continuing to offer these services at no cost to our families.”

In Hickman Mills, LINC serves 1,453 students on a daily basis at 12 school sites, with a total of 2,326 students enrolled in the program. Next school year, LINC before and after-school programming in Hickman Mills will be changing from five days per week to four. The plan is to offer the program Monday through Thursday, with no child care provided on Friday.

“When the funding issue was presented to our administration, we opted not to charge families a fee per student each semester, but chose to reduce the program from five days to four with no cost to our families,” said Hickman Mills incoming Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile. “When there are budget cuts outside of our control, we have to make those difficult decisions. As a District and in collaboration with LINC, we have a solid communication plan in place to provide our parents adequate notice so they are able to make arrangements for the upcoming school year. It is our hope the funds will be reinstated so we are able to return to a full program in the near future.”

According to Schondelmeyer, LINC approached each school district to determine the best course of action going forward. The Kansas City Public School District is looking at consolidating programs into fewer locations.

“Our approach could have been to not offer programs at every school, which puts families in a difficult place,” said Schondelmeyer. “School districts are in the practice of figuring out budget cuts because they’ve been through several.”


LINC wishes to remain a free program for district families, and Schondelmeyer says the organization will remain optimistic that the funding will be reestablished in subsequent years. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Crime-ridden motels demolished to make way for further Cerner development


by Mary Wilson 

Two motels in Kansas City were demolished by contractor JE Dunn last week as a result of the original plans for the Cerner Innovations Campus to create more jobs. The approved plan included the parcel of property on the southeast corner of 87th Street and I-435. The motels served as some of the highest crime locations in South Kansas City.

“In addition to thanking Cerner for creating 16,000 new jobs in Kansas City with one of the largest projects in the country including billions of dollars of investment in South Kansas City, the project also creates $6 million for the Hickman Mills School District,” said Sixth District At-Large Councilman Scott Taylor. “Cerner will work with the district to create the workers of tomorrow through STEM programs.”

The City will also receive $2 million in infrastructure improvements in surrounding neighborhoods because of the Cerner project. After initial approval, Cerner had intentions of expanding the project to include the property with the motels.

“These two hotels were high-crime areas and creating a lot of work for our police department,” said Taylor. “Quite frankly, they could spend their time elsewhere doing other things.”

The Cerner Innovations Campus is the largest economic development project in the State of Missouri’s history, and the motels continued to be a nuisance in the area.

“The bottom line is, these hotels needed to come down,” said Sixth District Councilman Kevin McManus. “Hopefully small businesses and homeowners will see this investment, not just in removing this blight, but the investment in infrastructure and the investment by Cerner, and will see the opportunity to make their own investment in their community.”

McManus stated that the demolition of the motels serves as a symbol of promise for the area’s future. The A1 Hotel and Capital Inn, according to Major Louis Perez, South Patrol Commander, have used a lot of police manpower over the last several years, as the location was a breeding ground for crime in the area.

“The hotels ranked high in call for service demands for the division,” said Perez. “Crimes included homicides, assaults and prostitution, making it a nuisance business.”

Some crimes spilled out into the neighboring communities and businesses, according to Perez. He added that the demolition helps free up officers to answer other emergency calls and provides the opportunity to put officers back in their assigned neighborhoods.

“The surrounding neighborhoods and businesses are much safer and thriving because of the work that’s been done,” said Perez. One area business owner reported that they have seen a decrease in trespassing, panhandling and stealing.

“South Kansas City is on the move and we are going through a renaissance here,” said Missouri State Representative DaRon McGee. “We are getting statewide recognition and notice. This is just one step in the progress we are making.”

Former Councilman John Sharp, who has lived in the community for 50 years, said that his house is less than five minutes from the Cerner campus.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see these motels start coming down,” said Sharp. “I remember when this Ramada Inn was very nice at one time, but it sure wasn’t nice in recent years.”


With the Cerner development, the area has also seen a revitalization of retail, and there is potential for new residential projects as well, according to Sharp. With the reclaiming of the property for a positive, public benefit to the community, Cerner, who has already built two new buildings, is expected to expand even further on the campus over the next decade. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

City opens solicitation process to design, build and finance new KCI terminal

KCMO City Manager Troy Schulte is opening the solicitation process for qualified companies interested in designing, building and privately financing a single terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

Schulte is directing the Procurement Division to publish a Request for Qualifications/Proposals (RFQ/P) for the KCI Terminal Modernization. The proposal will include the requirements that have been the focal points of recent discussions and will reflect what the airlines agreed to a year ago.

“The winning proposer would still go through the process of developing an MOU for Council approval," Schulte said. "This RFQ/P requires delivery of all the elements we want in a new terminal – convenient, close parking, better pickup and drop-off lanes, more seating in passenger waiting areas and other conveniences.”  

The RFQ/P will ask for proposals that:
  • Design, build and privately finance a 750,000 square foot terminal
  • Provide at least 6,500 spot parking garage
  • Include 35 gates, but  can expand to 42 gates
  • Reflect the design approved by airlines a year ago
  • Reflect the financing approved by airlines
  • Utilize local construction workers
  • Pay prevailing wages
  • Meet or exceed the City's MBE/WBE goals as well as workforce development or job training for local workers
  • Ensure the City retains ownership and operation of the airport
  • Meet LEED gold certification
  • Include 1% of the cost dedicated to the arts
"This is a win for Kansas City," Mayor Sly James said. "Our airport is the most vital investment we make in order to share our city with the world. And now we know firms are ready to compete to make our airport as world-class as our city."

A privately financed airport terminal idea is believed to be the first-of-its kind in the nation. An innovative model, the airport would receive financing through private investment, paid for by airport usage fees, with no funds coming from the City’s general fund, taxes, or existing bonds. The company selected would develop the design at their own risk.

The RFQ/P is being issued Tuesday, May 30, and will be due on June 20, which is a standard, three-week period. Companies submitting proposals should be prepared for in-person presentations on June 22 with the selection committee. The best proposal will be selected after reviewing all of the proposals and presentations.

The winning proposer will still have to develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City -- a process that allows both parties to continue their due diligence prior to a public vote. Even during this process, the City will conduct public meetings to provide updates and answer questions.

“We will continue to have public hearings to keep our residents engaged in this community dialogue" Councilwoman Jolie Justus said. "Throughout this process we want to keep listening to our residents and to keep answering their questions.” 

The City will continue to own and operate the airport. 

“This RFQ/P ensures an open process that delivers the best deal for the city and our residents," Councilman Jermaine Reed said. "It also continues our commitment to local and minority hiring on this important project.”

Additional information can be found at  kcmo.gov/newkci.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Community in Ruins

by Mary Wilson

What likely began as an ordinary evening on May 20 back in 1957 quickly turned deadly as an F-5 tornado tore a 71-mile path of destruction, beginning in Spring Hill, KS, and bouncing through Ottawa, KS, Grandview, Hickman Mills, Martin City, Knob Town and Ruskin Heights. 

May 20th marked the 60-year anniversary of the tornado that thrashed through the area. Ruskin High School suffered extensive damage, including the almost complete destruction of the gymnasium that was supposed to house the high school’s graduation ceremony the very next evening. All that remained on the sign for the gym was a few haunting letters: RU IN.

The 1957 tornado, deemed the Ruskin Heights Tornado, took the lives of 39 people, with more than 500 injured. Roughly 400 homes were damaged or destroyed.

In the last few years, survivors, many of whom were young children at the time, have found solace and comfort through a social media group created on Facebook. With 673 members, “1957 Ruskin Heights Tornado Survivors CAUGHT EVER AFTER” is dedicated to providing an outlet for shared memories and a bond that has lasted a lifetime.

Dave May, who would later graduate from Ruskin High School, recalled that the horrific night brought the community closer.

 “As I sit in the comfort of my living room, I can't help but think about the tornado tragedy that happened in my childhood stomping grounds 60 years ago tonight, and the lives it took and changed and the people that were scarred for life,” May said in the Facebook group over the weekend. “I wasn't in the tornado, but lived in Ruskin then, and growing up I have heard many stories that were tragic and some that were a miracle. My heart truly goes out to the victims who suffered along the 71 miles the tornado was on the ground. After the tornado, it seemed to make Ruskin a little tighter, and neighbors knew neighbors.”

Diana Leonard’s family home sat just south of the tornado path, and while her family didn’t see extensive destruction to their property, the storm left a lasting impact on their lives.

“I was not quite six years old in 1957, and I well recall the events of that day,” said Leonard. “Our home was on the east side of the Kansas City Southern railroad and south of Ruskin, and was okay, other than a 2x4 stuck in our roof like a birthday candle, and the horrible debris scattered across our yard. 20 years later, my younger sister was set to graduate from Ruskin on May 20. We shared our girlhood room the night before and she was up and down all night and nervous as a cat. She said she had heard these things happen on a 20-year cycle and she was sure we were going to have another tornado. I tried to reassure her that we would be fine, but, wouldn't you know it, the early afternoon of May 20, 1977, a straight-line wind came through and toppled our dear old elm tree in the front yard, landing it squarely on top of my car! That will teach me to laugh at old wives' tales!”

Ellen Robinson, then a newly-advanced kindergartner from Tower School, took to the Facebook group to express her gratitude to other survivors of the Ruskin Heights Tornado.

“I graduated from the Tower School kindergarten 60 years ago today, and by that night it was obliterated into dust, leaving no trace,” said Robinson. “I'm friends with a few survivors, and I feel an unspoken kinship with them unlike any other of my friends. I'm grateful for them every day, and very thankful for this Facebook group, because I know there's a wound hidden in each of us. You think all trace of its trauma is gone, then there will be a particular chartreuse or pink in the sky, a scent of earth or electricity in the air, a news story, and instantly you hurt again.”


The memories from the Ruskin Heights Tornado of 1957 are everlasting, with the impact and the loss much greater than homes being destroyed. Loved ones were lost and the lives of the survivors were forever changed. Each year, the anniversary of the tornado is commemorated with the laying of wreaths at the site of the memorial in front of Ruskin High School. For 60 years, the Ruskin community has mourned the ruin and the devastation, but despite the tornado’s impact, the survivors continue to share their stories with each other and with the next generations.