Thursday, August 9, 2018

Grandview Aldermen to consider turning Municipal Court over to County


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Municipal courts in the State of Missouri must now follow rules which have been in place for quite some time, but previously were not enforced, according to Grandview Municipal Court Judge Ronald E. Johnson. With the passage of Senate Bills 5 and 572, the state has begun to take a closer look at court procedures and ordinances; and therefore, it has been determined that the Grandview Municipal Court is doing some things incorrectly.

“The State of Missouri and Missouri’s Supreme Court really hadn’t paid a lot of attention to municipal courts,” said Johnson. “County and state courts have been using these mandates forever. Since the municipal court is part of the same superior system, we are to adhere to the same principles.”

One such principle is that the municipal court be separate from city government. In many situations, according to Johnson, the courts were essentially being treated as another department of the city rather than an independent entity. The offices for the Grandview Municipal Court shares space with the city’s finance department, which Johnson said is not in compliance with the Missouri Supreme Court.

“The court has to remain neutral,” said Johnson. “It’s not proper and it doesn’t set a good appearance. We started making the city aware that we needed to change. What I get from them (the city) is that, because of the cost, because of being told what to do, and because of the space that we recommend using, they’d rather just hand us over to someone else rather than be in compliance with the law.”

Johnson and Court Administrator Becky Diederich proposed moving the municipal court offices into what is now the Business Center inside City Hall. It is a two-room area, away from the finance department and would comply with Missouri Supreme Court’s operating standards.

Because Grandview Municipal Court is not in compliance with operating standards, Judge John Torrence, with the Circuit Court of Jackson County, in a letter dated July 11, 2018, will consider all available sanctions to be imposed against the City of Grandview. Torrence requested a response from the City of Grandview by August 3. On that date, City Attorney Joseph Gall responded to Torrence, stating that he has been directed to prepare an ordinance for the Board of Aldermen to consider at its regular meeting on Tuesday, August 14.

“The ordinance will resemble the ordinance passed by the Lake Tapawingo Board of Aldermen on September 7, 2017, an ordinance electing to have municipal ordinance violation cases heard and determined by an Associate Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit,” Gall’s letter stated. “On Wednesday, August 15, I will advise you of the Board’s decision with respect to the ordinance.”

“Ultimately, if we are not in compliance, the State can shut the court down,” said Johnson. “They’ll be voting on whether to dissolve our court and move our cases to the Associate Circuit Court Judge. As far as I know, Lake Tapawingo is the only other community to have done this. Nobody our size is even considering not having three branches of government but us.”

Grandview’s Municipal Court collects fines and fees associated with traffic and city ordinance violations, and has accounted for roughly $1 million annually in net revenue to the City of Grandview the past two years, with previous years seeing even higher returns. Johnson said that revenues have been down due to the Grandview Police Department’s ticketing numbers decreasing.

“That’s all we do,” said Diederich. “We don’t go out and issue tickets; we don’t collect failure to appear fees because that’s not allowed. We don’t do any of that. Collections of fines and fees are down across the board. There’s a lot of turnover in police departments and it is a statewide issue, not just here. I think we are very proud of the changes we have made to be in compliance.”

Johnson added that they pride themselves on being a citizen-friendly court.

“We’ve got 81 years in Grandview, and now we’ve got someone coming in saying we don’t really need this court and it would be better not having it in our community,” said Johnson. “Instead of building tomorrow’s community here, we’re going backwards. It doesn’t benefit our community.”

If the Grandview Board of Aldermen votes to turn the municipal court over to the circuit court, Johnson said that the city will still have to have a prosecutor and likely a court clerk who will then have to electronically transfer all tickets and violations to the court system. The Associate Circuit would hear the Grandview cases along with all of the other caseload already there.

“That judge would use whatever he believes to be appropriate fines, and the circuit system will only allow 30 days to pay those fines,” said Johnson. “I believe there is a $25 cost to go on a payment plan, which we don’t have here. After 30 days, if you have not paid, it will then be turned over to whatever collection agency they choose. The City of Grandview would not see any part of that money until it is collected, after the circuit court assesses its own costs.”

It is unclear what the proceedings would look like because this is such a new concept for the associate circuit court, according to Johnson. He also feels that the City of Grandview will lose more in revenues than it would take to simply move the court offices as Johnson and Diederich recommended.

While the state ordinance says that a municipality can elect to have a municipal court which the municipality must pay for and provide staff to run, as far as Johnson knows, there is no precedence on who has the authority to shut a municipal court down.

“It’s brand new; no one else is doing this and there’s simply no research done on how this will look,” said Johnson. “Some other judges in the area have offered their help on this because they, too, think this is ridiculous.”

However, the City of Grandview says that these are unfunded mandates and other municipalities across the state have gone the route of transferring their courts or are in the process of doing so. According to Grandview City Administrator Cemal Gungor, there are 235 cities in Missouri whose cases are heard by circuit courts which include those who have historically done so.

“There are a number of other city’s because of what Senate Bill 5 has done, it has made a lot of cities reevaluate where they were, where they are and some of the other opportunities that we don’t know about that could be forthcoming impacting all types of city budgets,” said Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones.

Since the state passed Senate Bill 5, Gall said that Missouri has seen a number of cities transfer their courts to the associate circuit level. While Lake Tapawingo is the only city in Jackson County to do this, there are several in other counties in Missouri who have, including Platte City, Chillicothe and Washington.

The senate bills call for complete separation of municipal court activities, offices and records from city government. Senate Bill 5, specifically, is not settled, and numerous versions are still being circulated around Jefferson City. The bills are also up to the interpretation of whomever has the authority to implement the mandates.

“These unfunded mandates have specific requirements that are costing us money, and when you look at a small budget like ours, it makes us concerned,” said Gungor. “The other concern is that with complete separation, there is no administrative interaction with the court staff.”

While technically court staff are city employees, as they are on city payroll, receive city benefits, and so forth, Gungor said that when issues arise, specifically in the area of human resources, they are on their own. The Missouri Supreme Court has also mandated court automation, said Gall, which requires a new court software system.

“It remains to be seen what costs that might mean for the city,” said Gall. “We’ve been coexisting with the municipal court since 1978 and even before that, and there weren’t any problems or perceived problems until the new mandates came down. The playing field has changed.”

“We don’t know what other unfunded mandates may come out after this. We know what we know today, but, a scary thing for me, is what we don’t know,” said Jones. “What we don’t know is what we need to figure out for tomorrow.”

According to Gungor, 70 percent of the violations heard in Grandview Municipal Court are not residents of Grandview. If the aldermen determine to keep the court in Grandview, city administration will then have to determine what costs will be associated with the mandates and where the money will come from.

“They (Missouri Supreme Court) have made it clear that they want complete separation here,” said Gungor. “If that is what they want, then complete separation it is.”

Ultimately, the Grandview Board of Aldermen will determine what they feel is best suited for the City of Grandview, going forward. A public vote will take place during their regular session on Tuesday, August 14, 7 p.m., at Grandview City Hall.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Voters won’t decide on Jackson County Sheriff Tuesday


by Mary Wilson

The ballots have been printed. The polling places are beginning their setups. But, the candidates for Jackson County Sheriff are breathing a sigh of relief, for now.

On Tuesday, with one week before the upcoming election on August 7, a judge determined the primary for Jackson County Sheriff was not valid. Any votes cast for Sheriff on Tuesday’s election will not be counted, nor will they be used in consideration as democratic and republican party committee’s will appoint their respective candidates for election in November.

With the abrupt resignation of former Sheriff Mike Sharp in April, County Executive Frank White appointed interim Sheriff Darryl Forte’, former KCPD Chief of Police. The interim sheriff appointment is only through the end of the year, and a new sheriff will be sworn in to serve beginning January 1, 2019. This leaves the replacement being chosen by voters in November, based on the candidate provided from each party.

Jackson County provided the following statement regarding the Sheriff’s election:
“The Clerk of the Legislature, who serves as the election authority for candidate filing and calling county elections, asked for the assistance of the County Counselor’s Office in providing a legal opinion regarding the procedure to elect a sheriff to fill the remainder of the sheriff’s unexpired term, starting January 1, 2019. The County Counselor’s Office acknowledged a lack of clarity in the law on this point, but reviewed that law and prior precedent, and determined that the best way to proceed was to open candidate filings for a primary election. However, that determination was taken to court and the court has decided differently. The County will follow the court’s order.”

The judge’s ruling has no effect on other races, including legislature or county executive.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Grandview names local pastor as Civic Leader of the Year


by Mary Wilson

Tom Worstell’s community hats come in many colors, shapes and sizes. He is more than the pastor of Southview Christian Church in Grandview; he serves as a Police Chaplain, volunteers his time with the school district and at community events, and he’s recently been named the City of Grandview’s Civic Leader of the Year.

He grew up in the small Missouri town of Milan, and attended Central College of the Bible in Moberly, with the intention of becoming a youth pastor. After graduating, he landed the job at Southview Christian in Grandview, which has been his church home ever since.

“We’ve been here for over 20 years now,” said Worstell. “Honestly, I’ve not felt like God has called me to go anywhere else yet. I love the people here. I love the community. I don’t know of anywhere else where City Hall, the police and fire department, the parks and the schools and the churches all work together. Everyone wants the best for this city.”

It is that common goal of community betterment that sparked Worstell’s interest in becoming involved in more than just his church. He says that he is blessed to be in a church that not only allows him to be a part of the community, but also encourages and supports him to do so. While he may be the face of the church, he said, it’s the members of Southview Christian who are really doing the work.

“I’ve tried to do some of these same things in other places and in other communities, and it is unique,” said Worstell. “I don’t know where else you’d find what we have here. I love that about Grandview.”

A decade ago, Southview Christian was considering a move out of Grandview, looking at properties in Belton. The church felt like it had hit a point where they were no longer able to build on what they had in Grandview, and so naturally, the community service aspect of the church dropped off significantly.

“We just didn’t do much here for years because we were leaving,” said Worstell. “Then some things changed, we decided we were going to be here, and looking around we thought, ‘if we left, would anyone care or would anyone even notice?’ We knew we had neglected some things. We treated the church like it was a rental home, and this is our ‘home’ home.”

It was then that the church elders, and now Pastor Worstell decided to become more invested in the community, which didn’t happen overnight. He took on the notion that not only is he the pastor of Southview Christian Church, but he’s a pastor of the Grandview community as a whole.

“We had a group of people who said, ‘this is our city,’ and they wanted to be a part of this, too,” he said. “Really things started happening with the revamp of Truman’s Heritage Festival. Once we started going to that and volunteering there, all the connections with other aspects of the city just sort of fell into place.”

Worstell also serves as a chaplain with the Grandview Police Department. He says that the opportunity allows him to see a side of Grandview that he didn’t see before. The chaplains are there to assist officers and fire personnel with whatever they may need assistance with, sometimes being the person who breaks bad news to family or other similar tasks that police may not be trained in handling.

“It helps me see the bigger picture of the city,” said Worstell. “We get to be the light in someone’s darkest day, a lot of times. It’s a way to be a pastor to the city and help in a different way.”

He said it has helped build other connections in the city, with the Pastor’s Alliance being brought back to life between church leaders.

“There’s a lot of overlap, and we see each other a lot,” said Worstell. “We’re in for a penny; we’re in for a pound. Let’s just get involved everywhere.”

Being a chaplain has helped him become a better pastor to his congregation. The police ride-alongs, Worstell said, give him sermon material he wouldn’t otherwise have had.

“After 20 years, it’s just become kind of a natural friendship,” said Worstell. “I spend a lot of time with these people, and when it comes down to it, you are going to help your friends.”

Worstell and his wife, Nikki, have been together for 21 years this fall. Probably his most important job is that of dad to three sons: Thomas, 18, Jonathon, 16, and Timothy, 14; and to his daughter, five-year-old Hope, who was adopted by the family when she was born.

“We had three boys, and honestly, they were super easy. We had it made; it was easy and life was good,” said Worstell. “Then my wife said that she’d always had a dream that we’d have two dark-skinned, curly-haired girls in our family. I thought, ‘why mess this up?’ So, we got a dog.”

Apparently the dog didn’t cut it for Mrs. Worstell, and the family began looking seriously into adoption. After almost a year-and-a-half of not connecting with the right birth mothers, the Worstells received word that a baby girl had been born in Wichita, and if they could get there that night, she would be theirs.

“We were expecting maybe six months of planning time,” said Worstell. “It was literally that fast. Within half an hour, we were driving to Wichita, and we had a baby that night. It was amazing how it all happened.”

The family took out a second mortgage on their house in order to pay for the adoption, but with the help of grants, their church friends and family, the Worstells turned around and paid off the loan in a week.

Worstell was recognized by Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones and the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, July 24. He received a mayoral proclamation naming him as the City of Grandview’s Civic Leader of the Year.

“I do hereby express the heartfelt appreciation of the citizens of Grandview to Tom on this special occasion,” said Jones. “The Board of Aldermen recognizes Tom as a great ambassador for the city of Grandview, who has given selflessly to this community, sharing his time and talents to contribute to the betterment of the community.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

Flee. Fortify. Fight.

How to respond to an active shooter situation


by Mary Wilson

As part of the hospital’s ongoing commitment to community education, St. Joseph Medical Center last Thursday hosted the Kansas City Police Department for free active shooter training.

KCPD Sergeant Steve Schramm presented to around 50 participants, focusing on recognizing and protecting oneself from an active shooter situation in the workplace or in other public settings like malls, stores, restaurants and churches. Schramm has worked for KCPD since 1995, and has worked with tactical response teams to train his department on active shooters.

“Six or seven years ago, charter schools in Kansas City reached out to us wanting some type of plan,” said Schramm. “They needed some type of guidance for active shooter response. We put a presentation together that has since evolved three or four times. At this point, I now give this presentation about a half dozen times a week to businesses, schools, and churches, you name it. Anyone that asks for it, we’ll come out and provide at least an hour-long training.”

The department started doing active shooter drills for the charter and public schools to help develop their plan, which is no longer offered to the public. City Hall, the health and water departments, and other Kansas City organizations also receive the shooter drill trainings.  

“There are numerous programs out there for active shooter training,” said Schramm. “They’re all pretty much the same. They might be called something different, but I guarantee 90 percent of them are identical with maybe a different twist.”

Schramm said that while most of the time people know what to do for a fire or tornado drill, there has not been formal training for an active shooter situation. He added that each individual has to take ownership when it comes to active shooter training, because if the situation arises, no one will be telling everyone what to do or how to respond.

“You have to know what your options are,” said Schramm. “Our program is 100 percent options-based. At the beginning, schools and businesses used to just strictly have a lockdown. While that is great and very effective, it misses some key elements.”

KCPD focuses on Flee. Fortify. Fight. for their active shooter training. Similar to a lockdown, it provides an option to escape from a threat. The definition of an active shooter, according to Schramm, is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined or populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.

“These take place in 10 minutes or less, but more often they occur in less than five minutes,” said Schramm. “It can happen in two to three minutes, depending on where you’re at. The trend right now is more open-air environments or venues. There’s a lot of concern with churches, and that’s a valid concern. But the reality of active shooters inside churches is very small.”

About 25 percent of active shooter instances are happening in school environments, according to Schramm. Half are occurring in the business world, including stores and restaurants or businesses that are not open to pedestrian traffic.

The number-one option, according to Schramm, is to flee, or run away from the threat of an active shooter, if possible. If fleeing is not an option, fortifying, or hiding in a safe, secure location where one can barricade oneself is best.

“We all do the same thing. We walk through the entrance of a building, and we walk out the same way we came in,” said Schramm. “We walk through the front door, and that’s our exit.”

Schramm said that it is important to know where the exits are in every building one enters. Familiarizing oneself inside of a structure can provide for easy and quick exits, which could potentially save lives. In restaurants, specifically, Schramm added that there is always an exit door through the kitchen.

If fleeing or fortifying are not options, Schramm said that the only thing left to do is to fight, or disengage, the threat. Using whatever is available as a weapon or distraction, including chairs, aerosol sprays, or objects that can be thrown, the goal is to stop the active shooter from creating additional harm.

“Suspects will not stop until they are stopped, run out of ammunition, or are faced with direct law enforcement,” said Schramm. “Sometimes they then commit suicide. The most important thing to take from any training you may have is to always be aware of your surroundings, and listen to your intuition. If something is telling you that things aren’t right, get out of the situation and seek help.”

The Kansas City Police Department offers their active shooter training through its Crisis Intervention Team. To find out more information about the training, contact the department at 816-234-5000. St. Joseph Medical Center provides free community education classes regularly. To find out more information, visit stjosephkc.com, or follow the hospital on social media.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

#WeAreGrandview recognized for changing community conversation


by Mary Wilson

From congratulating state champions to building comradery between neighbors, a new social media campaign in Grandview has gained popularity, and is receiving regional recognition.

We Are Grandview has been seen on Facebook and Twitter (#WeAreGrandview), in newsletters and on mailers, in print and online, and was even used as the theme for the Harry’s Hay Days parade. What began as a strategic marketing campaign to try and put a positive spin on Grandview’s image has become a clear message of change and evolution in the community.

A few years ago, the Grandview C-4 School District began a communication audit, focusing on how the district is perceived in and out of the Grandview community.

“For the district, one of the biggest findings that came out of the audit is that we were missing out on branding,” said Public Relations Coordinator Sheba Clarke. “This was huge and something that we really needed to pay attention to.”

At that time, after a conversation with some City of Grandview staff, Clarke discovered that the city was also thinking of Grandview’s perception and how to change it. Meetings began to take place to figure out how the district and the city could work together to put a brand on Grandview.

“We were learning that the perception was not our reality,” said Clarke, “not necessarily from people in the community, but more from folks outside. We figured that one voice, one message, was stronger than just a school district brand or a city brand. While we all have our own distinction, we all want to push the same message of who we are.”

We Are Grandview was born out of a cheer. Clarke said that during a high school pep rally, varsity cheerleaders chanted “we are Grandview” to help students get excited about an upcoming game.

“It just seemed so prideful,” said Clarke. “That’s what started the hashtag and the We Are Grandview slogan.”

Clarke added that she often hears from people outside of the community who may have a negative view of Grandview based on untrue information. From a city standpoint, one of the biggest challenges that Communications Manager Valarie Poindexter has is surrounding that perception and image.

“This is such a proud community,” said Poindexter. “It’s a beautiful community, but we have to overcome that challenge. I was immediately on-board with this because something has to be done. We have to be able to take back that narrative and we will tell the story.”

The brand provides residents and the community an avenue to express pride in the Grandview community. Clarke said that she has seen the We Are Grandview social media conversation from people all over the country.

“It really touches your heart when you see all of these great things, one after the other, these great stories from Grandview when you search We Are Grandview on social media,” said Poindexter.

The two decided to enter their We Are Grandview campaign in the Social Media Club of Kansas City’s annual AMPS awards, which was established four years ago to recognize outstanding social campaigns from brands, nonprofits, governments and educational institutions in the region. With no budget, no social media campaign software, and with a brand just underway, Poindexter and Clarke weren’t sure they even had a shot for last year’s deadline, and thought they may have more material to enter for their 2018 campaign.

“It has already begun to change the conversation,” said Clarke. “We definitely know that there is still a lot of work to be done, but we’re happy with where it’s going.”

They say their next hurdle is continuing the momentum they have created, and maintaining a positive brand message in the community.

“We Are Grandview makes a statement,” said Clarke. “I’d like it to be a story. When I think of ‘We Are Grandview,’ I think of people like Jane Bryan, who grew up in Grandview, who gives back time and time again on committees, in our schools, taught our kids and still very much involved in who we are. I think of residents like her. I think of the normal, everyday person who truly loves our community and does whatever they can do to give back.”

"We Are Grandview" is a story. It is a collective voice that defines who Grandview is as a community. It puts a face on the people who live, work, and have fun in Grandview. It is redefining what makes Grandview unique, and creating a positive buzz surrounding the community.

“If you come to Grandview, our hope is that you have gotten a good glimpse into who we are by the time you leave,” said Clarke. “That’s what this is all about.”

The We Are Grandview social media campaign was recognized as a gold winner on Tuesday night at the AMPS Awards Ceremony, held at Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Young entrepreneur creates her own future path

by Mary Wilson


With graduation now behind them, members of the class of 2018 are likely preparing to head off to college. Things like dorm room bedspreads, microwavable meals and PC versus Apple have taken priority as they set out to begin adulthood. However, one young graduate has her sights on things a little out of the ordinary for someone her age.

Kansas City native Arielle Nash, who spent the last four years at an elite private school, is ditching status quo and paving her way straight into entrepreneurship rather than heading off to a university for the next two, four or more years.

“My mom went to law school, and she has massive amounts of student loans that she is still paying,” said Nash. “I’ve always been sort of an outlier. Growing up the way I did, being exposed to different things, I always had this entrepreneurial spirit thanks to my dad. I’ve always wanted to do my own thing, be my own boss.”

Nash’s father, former Kansas City Councilman-turned real estate developer and economic development consultant Troy Nash, has been  a major influence in his daughter’s life and ambition, exposing her to city government and the world of corporations at a young age.

She has heard a lot of skepticism about her decision to forgo college, but she is determined to be taken seriously in the corporate world. One of the factors in Nash’s decision was the debt associated with a traditional four-year degree.

“I went to Pembroke Hill, and it is assumed that everybody goes to college right after graduation,” said Nash. “It’s a well-established feeder school for the Ivy Leagues. But, doing my research and knowing the things that my parents went through, I found there is nearly $1 trillion of student debt in my generation. I would be a part of that, and I didn’t want to start out my life at a financial disadvantage. I didn’t want the stress of making such a big financial decision when I’m so young.”

“You don’t know what you want to do when you’re 16, 17, 18 years old, that’s why people change their majors all the time,” said Nash. “I don’t want to spend money, time, effort and energy on something that may change.”

Spending her childhood seeing women in power has inspired Nash from the beginning. Women like former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, Ellen Darling, who runs the company her dad works for, and Janice Howroyd, the first African-American woman with a $1 billion business, have impacted and motivated Nash to pursue her dreams.

“I spent some time with Janice a few weeks ago in Detroit,” said Nash. “Being around her and seeing her entrepreneurial spirit, I thought, ‘why can’t I do something like this?’ I can do this too. These are ordinary women who have led extraordinary lives through their work ethic and dedication.”

Her company, Arielle Marie Nash Enterprises, serves as a consultant to corporations, nonprofits and other organizations to reach the millennial population. She works with companies to help employers attract and retain workforce, and then helping with branding, marketing and selling their goods to the younger generation.

“I am a millennial, and I know what millennials want,” said Nash. “What I’ve found is that others who are doing consulting with businesses are not millennials themselves, which is pretty funny to me. So I saw there was a gap, along with the generational gap in the workforce, and I can help people in management positions talk to and relate to the millennial population.”

Through the influence of her father, Nash is also interested in real estate development. Most recently, however, she published a book, Mixed Signals: Lessons Learned Outside the Classroom, which focuses on things teenage girls struggle with like social pressures and self-esteem issues.

“Nobody is really bold enough to talk about the real issues,” said Nash. “So, I wanted to write my book and tell my stories to help girls navigate this really vulnerable time in their lives.”
In the book, Nash addresses drugs and alcohol, self-harm, depression, and an array of subjects that a typical teenager may experience. Despite the social pressures and stigmas, Nash said there is a “light at the end of the tunnel and you can be successful.”

She will be taking a trip to China to help cultivate a worldwide consulting brand. She also hopes to break the millennial stereotype and prove that innovation and change can be positive. Nash said that she has received support from both of her parents, and gives credit to her father for showing her the ropes and providing real-world education.

“My dad has been one-hundred percent behind me doing this,” said Nash. “I spend every day all day with him, we’re business partners, really. Our relationship has morphed into this really cool partnership. I feel like school would be a waste of time and money for me, because four years from now, I’m going to be pretty well-established, while my classmates will just be starting out.”

She said, down the road, if she feels the need she will go to college, but that right now this was the best option for her. She’d like to continue to study Chinese, and will likely take classes here and there for different things, as necessary.

“I’d rather take risks now, while I’m still young,” said Nash. “I have the time, and I can always go back to school later. I don’t want to look back and wish I had done this or that.”

Nash’s book is available on Amazon, and her business can be found at ariellemnash.com. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Volunteers plant community garden in Terrace Lake



by Mary Wilson

Neighbors in one South Kansas City community are sharing their love of gardening and homegrown nourishment through their collective green thumbs.

Along undeveloped park land in the Terrace Lake Gardens neighborhood, resident Eilene Myers had visions of a way to utilize the unused space and bring neighbors together. The community garden has been established as a way homeowners and residents of Terrace Lake can connect with others in the association through planting.

“Last year, I wanted to do this project,” said Myers. “We had the garden shed in one of the four parks that our association maintains, and just ran out of time to get the garden going then.”

The association learned that, according to city ordinances, the shed on the park ground could not be there unless it was adjacent to a home or an established community garden.

“It was something we already wanted to do, so it worked out really well,” said Myers. “I want it to be something that everyone can get involved in, including renters and everyone who lives over here. I hope that it fosters some ownership of the neighborhood and gets people out and talking to one another.”

Myers, with funding help from the homeowner’s association and a few committed gardeners, rented a truck and purchased the supplies, including two full loads of dirt.

“All of these people came out to help,” said Myers. “Wonderful people showed up with wheelbarrows and shovels, too. I’ve had other people volunteer to come help water and weed throughout the season.”

Homeowners or residents of Terrace Lake Gardens can rent space in the garden on an annual basis. They are then responsible for their plot, tending to it for the season, then winterizing it and keeping it for the next year or releasing the plot for another resident. The garden is still a work in progress, and Myers hopes to expand the available plots as interest in the community grows.

“If it wasn’t for Eilene, we wouldn’t have this,” said resident and community garden volunteer John Dell. “She got the dirt here and unloaded all the boards herself. We had community members out here hauling dirt and helping build who aren’t planting, but just wanted to chip in and help.”

Myers said the response from neighbors in her community has been positive. Any resident of Terrace Lake interested in becoming involved with the community garden can contact Myers by emailing eilenemyers@hotmail.com.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Seventh-grade student receives surprise scholarship through Starlight





by Mary Wilson

A stunned seventh-grader from Grandview learned last week that her dream of singing and acting professionally are coming true, thanks to Starlight Theatre and the Vincent Legacy Scholarship.

Since 2006, Starlight Theatre in Kansas City has awarded Vincent Legacy Scholarships to qualified and deserving middle school students throughout the metropolitan area. The needs-based scholarship was established with a generous donation from former Starlight board member and longtime supporters Greg and Rebecca Reid. It provides ethnically-diverse youth in Kansas City the opportunity to pursue professional training in the performing arts.

During a special surprise assembly in front of her peers, Erica Brown discovered her hard work had paid off to the tune of a $2,500 scholarship. Brown has been performing since she was a young girl, and has made her mark at Grandview Middle School by not only landing the lead role in Annie, Jr. this year, but also entertaining her fellow students by singing in the cafeteria on Tuesdays.

“Scholarship winners are selected not only because they exhibit passion in the arts, but they also have to be excellent students, have strong school attendance record, and give back to others through community service,” said Richard Baker, President and CEO of Starlight Theatre. “Erica’s level of singing and performing made her a perfect choice for our scholarship.”

According to Assistant Principal Tim Moore, Brown is respected by her teachers because she is an active participant in class and is very involved in many school activities. Moore said Brown will likely achieve much success in her future endeavors. She aspires to one day be an instructor in the arts.

“Thank you all so very much,” said Brown. “I’m really excited, and I just want to thank you.”
To qualify, students in grades 6, 7 and 8 must also be nominated by a current instructor, have strong grades, and audition for Starlight’s scholarship committee.

Each $2,500 Vincent Legacy Scholarship, funded in memory of Greg Reid’s infant son Vincent, is administered by the Starlight Education Department, and funds are applied to the scholarship recipients’ performing arts training during their middle and high school years.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Education Foundation celebrates two decades





by Mary Wilson

The Grandview Education Foundation is celebrating 20 years of service and dedication to the students and faculty of the Grandview C-4 School District. On Thursday, April 26, current Foundation supporters and founding members gathered to celebrate the beginnings of the organization.

Former Grandview Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thornsberry was instrumental in the start of the Grandview Education Foundation (GEF), which was officially established in 1997. He shared how GEF began, and applauded the volunteers whom over the last 20 years have made the Foundation successful.

“I certainly want to begin my comments by congratulating those of you who have taken the Foundation and made it a success over the years,” said Thornsberry. “It is certainly reflective of the interest and the hard work that many of you have done. Really, it’s the work you’ve done and your efforts, rather than the idea and the concept, which should be celebrated.”

Prior to 1997, the late Roy Meyers, of Meyers Real Estate in Grandview, would drop by Thornsberry’s office to talk. According to Thornsberry, Meyers was one of a group of historically significant Grandview residents who were passionate about the community and the school district.

“Why Roy selected me and would visit with me, I don’t know,” said Thornsberry. “He was not visible in a lot of community activities or offices, but he was vitally interested in the image of the school district and the image of the community and how they fit together.”

Over time, the two talked about different ideas to help improve that image, and that’s when the idea of an education foundation surfaced. At the time, Thornsberry says there may have been only one other school foundation in the area. After discussions with other community leaders, it became apparent that the idea would be supported.

“I retired in 1997, right as this was getting started,” said Thornsberry. “A lot of the organization’s beginnings and board actions probably happened after I left. I do remember that everybody that we mentioned the idea to were very positive about it and would support it going forward.”

In the last 20 years, approximately $1,077,567 has been contributed to enhance the educational opportunities for students in the Grandview C-4 School District. Grandview Education has awarded more than 157 teacher and staff grants, and administered over $300,000 in student scholarships.

“There’s several people who deserve a lot of credit for the beginning, or the idea of the foundation,” said Thornsberry. “This is the first school activity that I’ve attended in 21 years of retirement. I’m really proud of our school district. I’m proud of this community, and I congratulate each of you who have worked to make the foundation a success.”

Current Grandview Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez has been active in support of the Grandview Education Foundation during his time in the district, according to GEF President Cindy Bastian.

“I don’t think that we can accomplish the things in this district that we need to without an active foundation,” said Rodrequez. “This one, in particular, has proven that on many occasions. We can’t accomplish our ultimate mission of educating every one of our kids without the support of the Foundation.”

Rodrequez said that the foundation is much more than providing scholarships for Grandview’s students and teacher grants; GEF is active in the community and provides support in the schools.

“We are still reaping the benefits of the creation of this foundation,” said Rodrequez. “But, ultimately, our kids are seeing the benefits. On behalf of the school district, thank you for everything that each of you have had to do with this.”

Bastian announced a new GEF scholarship, in honor of founding and current member Kathy Meyers, who has dedicated many years to the Grandview C-4 School District. She served as a Board of Education member and former president, currently works for the district, and is a Grandview alum.

“Certainly there are many people in this room who deserve this,” said Meyers. “Thank you, Dr. Thornsberry, for giving my dad an ear, and thanks to everyone all the way to the current Board, because it takes a lot of people, a lot of time and energy and a lot of dedication, and that’s what we have here. I can guarantee that my father would be very proud of what GEF has done over the last 20 years.”

Grandview Education Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a mission to partner with the Grandview C-4 School District and the community to enhance educational opportunities for students and staff in the district. For more information, visit www.grandviewedfoundation.org.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Area volunteers aim to breathe new life into forgotten cemetery






by Mary Wilson

Leaves, sticks and debris from a south Kansas City cemetery were stuffed into 297 bags on a recent Saturday morning. The cemetery, tucked inside the Timber Hill Estates subdivision at 125th and Wornall, is an old community burial ground, holding generations-old memories that have long since been forgotten.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery was the final resting place for around 45 known people. Once known as the one-acre King Burial Ground, it has been overgrown and seen significant damage since the last known clean-up event took place in 2012. Local historian and teacher, Diane Euston, discovered the cemetery several years ago. After conducting her own research with the city and trying to gather information from the subdivision that now surrounds the grounds, she came up with more questions than answers.

“I knew the subdivision didn’t own it, and the City of Kansas City and Jackson County have little, if any, records on it, too,” said Euston. “I decided that we needed to work together, the subdivision and my volunteers, and get a group together including some of those who have family members buried there and work toward a common goal.”

After gaining permission for the clean-up from Timber Hill Estates, Euston called on area Boy Scouts, students from Avila University, and descendants of those buried at Mount Pleasant for whom she had contact information. According to Euston, a fence was installed by the subdivision developer around three-fourths of the cemetery, while shrubbery was planted along the northern side.

“From what I understand, when things fall inside the fence boundaries or the fence itself needs repaired, the subdivision is repairing it,” said Euston. “But when it comes to the contents of the actual cemetery, nothing is being done.”

Euston said there are several missing headstones, and most of those which are visible are in pieces. Some of the larger gravestones have gone missing within the last six years.  The last records that Euston has found of those buried at Mount Pleasant is from the Daughters of American Revolution’s 1934 history book. Family names include the Bargers, Holmeses, Hayses, Kings, Lees, McCraws, McPhersons, Sheltons and Sharps, along with several other individuals.

“The first burial, at least in 1934, that was on record according to the DAR is a Shelton, a five-year-old,” said Euston.

During the recent cleanup, Euston and the volunteers unearthed pieces of headstones, and uncovered pits where the ground has sunken into a burial site. Some of those sites have no markers or just fragments of a headstone near them.

With the nearly 300 bags of debris collected, there is still work to be done. Euston is organizing another cleanup effort at Mount Pleasant Cemetery for this Saturday, April 28, beginning at 9 a.m. Those interested in helping are encouraged to bring gloves, rakes and lawn bags. Euston would also like to reset the headstones. Hundreds of flags were placed where volunteers thought a grave might exist.

“We need a better report. We’re an operation of volunteers and no money,” Euston. “We would rather donate time and services and, eventually, maintenance of the cemetery, but we need help to get to that point.”

Euston would like to find someone willing to donate ground-penetrating radar services to determine where each grave is located in the cemetery. She also believes there may be an old slave burial ground on the site that she’d like to confirm. At Saturday’s cleanup, Grade A Tree Care has volunteered to help with the trimming and removal of large branches on the property.

With no ownership on file, it has been suggested to Euston that a cemetery board be incorporated, which would include descendants of those who are buried there to provide maintenance and upkeep of Mount Pleasant going forward.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sheriff resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations


by Mary Wilson

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp resigns this week after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought to light following a recent deposition held earlier this month. A former employee of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office sued the county in 2016, indicating that she was sexually harassed by two female and one male employee of the department.

In his letter of resignation addressed to Jackson County Executive Frank White, Sharp said that “due to a pending legal matter, and in order to avoid further disruption to the important work of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, I have reached the conclusion that I will resign the office of Sheriff of Jackson County, Missouri, effective Thursday, April 19, 2018.”

According to a statement released by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Sharp takes full responsibility for his actions.

“I allowed my judgment as Sheriff and my obligations to Jackson County be clouded because of my feelings for someone I cared very deeply for in the past,” said Sharp in the statement. “I am accountable for my actions. This was a personal failing and is entirely my responsibility.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s office was first made aware of the misconduct and Sharp’s involvement in a civil case against the county last year.

“My office was notified in late 2017 by the county counselor of concerns regarding a pending civil action involving the Sheriff,” Peters Baker said in a statement issued this afternoon. “We contacted a law enforcement agency and began our own investigation into the matter. We also closely monitored the on-going civil litigation involving Jackson County. While the allegations that have come to light are extremely troubling, today’s resignation satisfies the state’s interest regarding a potential ‘quo warranto’ action to remove the Sheriff from office. We will continue to monitor this matter and take any appropriate action in the future.”

Sharp indicated in a deposition on April 4 that he had an ongoing relationship with a former employee of the Sheriff’s Department, sometimes of a sexual nature involving Sharp, the employee and his wife. Sharp also went on several different trips with the employee where he paid for hotel rooms, food and drink and other items. During the deposition, Sharp said that he personally put the down payment down on a house for the employee and has supplemented her income since 2013.

Sharp leaves with two years remaining on his term as Sheriff. White will have to appoint someone until the November 2018 election.

“Based upon the serious allegations made public today, the Sheriff has taken the appropriate action to step down," said White in a statement released this afternoon. "Under the authority of the Jackson County Charter, I have the responsibility to name an interim. I will be making an announcement regarding my appointment in the coming days.”

Thursday, April 12, 2018

City and developers come to partnership agreement for Gateway Village


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

With last month’s $8 million infrastructure ask of the City of Grandview from PG, LLC, developers of Gateway Village, left on the table, an agreement has been reached.

“We’ve talked at length about this being a partnership and I think we’re at a point now where we can say that we do have a partnership and we are working together to accomplish a phenomenal goal of building a world-class soccer/mixed-use facility here in Grandview,” said Deron Cherry, developer.

According to Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones, the city and Gateway Village developers are coming to an understanding of potential costs or risks that may be associated with a development of this magnitude. The $250-300 million project, upon completion, will bring in an estimated 1.8-2 million visitors each year for the soccer facilities alone. Adding in the other amenities such as retail, hotels, 
restaurants and other mixed-use, Cherry said the number of visitors will definitely be higher.

“From a city perspective, we have a much better understanding of what the Gateway Village complex is going to look and feel like based on the last six or eight months of negotiations with our partners,” said Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones. “This is the very beginning of what is happening in the Grandview and the surrounding metropolitan area that will have a long-lasting legacy for many, many years to come.”

The developers have been exploring the financial implications, and lenders are looking for the City of Grandview to have some ownership and be involved in the project. The now $5.65 million contribution from the City of Grandview will go toward the public infrastructure pieces of the development. The City of Grandview will eventually own the public infrastructure pieces, and the funds used for that part of the development will be 100% reimbursable costs.

“The fact that the city is willing to invest in the project makes it a lot better for all of our partners involved to know that the city is in on this deal,” said Cherry. “I think it’s important for people to understand that the investment from the city could be recouped down the road.”

The developer and the City of Grandview are working together to seek public funding assistance from all local, state and federal resources, including Missouri Department of Economic Development, Missouri Department of Transportation, Jackson County and the federal government.

Residents of the City of Grandview will see other benefits beyond having the development along the 150 Highway corridor. Part of the agreement includes that any Grandview resident who wishes to participate in recreational soccer, youth or adult, at Gateway Village, will be able to do so at a 75% or more discounted rate.

“Gateway wants Grandview to be very strong participants in the soccer program,” said Jones. “It’ll be right here in our city and they want to draw from the youth here in Grandview to the point that they are willing to discount that participation rate. That shows, to me, that the developer wants to invest and be a very good partner with the City of Grandview.”

“We’ve always believed in giving back to the community,” said Cherry. “It’s so important and we look forward to doing that.”

The city’s contribution will enhance the developer’s opportunity to obtain private financing. PG, LLC anticipates closing on their financing within six weeks, with construction on the first phase of soccer fields to begin in mid to late summer. Depending on the site excavation and other work on the property itself, the plan is still to have fields ready for soccer by fall of this year.

“The focus at this point is to get this project started,” said City Administrator Cemal Gungor. “We want to jumpstart this project and start seeing some momentum.”

Retail, restaurant and other development that will occur in Gateway Village will be announced at a later date as the developers continue to receive letters of intent from potential business partners.

“I know it’s taken a long time, but we should be proud that we can work together to see this thing happen,” said Cherry. “This is something that is completely different and entirely new, and the developer has a lot of skin in the game, as well as the City, now, to a certain degree. It truly is a public-private partnership, and we’ve taken the necessary steps to make that happen.”

Gungor stated that the 26,000 residents of Grandview remain the city’s priority and that they will ensure that whatever contributions are made to the development will be affordable and include a return on investment.

“The City of Grandview can be proud of a project of this magnitude,” said Jones. “People will begin to see that they’ll have options here that they may not have thought about before. It’s not just about the soccer; this is for the entire metropolitan area and we can all benefit from that.”

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Community member honored for act of heroism


by Mary Wilson

In the early morning hours of Saturday, February 24, Grandview resident Joshua Jenkins noticed that his street seemed to be full of what he considered fog, but quickly realized from the smell that something was on fire. He then discovered that the heavy smoke was coming from a neighbor’s house at 13803 10th Terrace.

Jenkins immediately called 911 to report the fire, and then approached the home where he saw flames through the living room window.

“After witnessing one of the occupants breaking out a window in the middle room of the house, Joshua reported to the 911 dispatcher that there were people trapped and could see the fire in the living room growing larger,” said Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones, who presented Jenkins with a proclamation during the Tuesday, March 27 Board of Aldermen meeting.

Shortly after, Grandview police arrived, followed by the Grandview Fire Department. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the home had no working smoke detectors.

“Fire Department staff believes that by stopping and becoming involved in reporting the house fire, Joshua saved the lives of the three trapped occupants who only had a few minutes to spare before being overcome by smoke inhalation,” said Jones.

 “A couple more minutes, and these could have been fatalities,” said Grandview Fire Marshal Lew Austin. “One victim was taken out of the rear window by an assisting police officer, and the two others were rescued by firefighters through the front door of the home.”

According to Austin, one occupant was admitted to intensive care for severe smoke inhalation, one was unconscious when they were rescued and they all suffered from lacerations and other injuries from the fire.

“The key thing here is that we need to have working smoke detectors,” said Austin. “If residents in Grandview do not have smoke detectors, call us and we’ll come out and install them.”

The City of Grandview Fire Department receives donations of smoke detectors from the American Red Cross organization, and the department purchases any additional that may be needed for homes in the community.

“We don’t want to see any fatalities,” said Austin. “His actions that evening have led to a Community Fire Department Citizen’s Award.”

For his actions, Jenkins received further recognition from the fire department. He has been a Grandview resident for 23 years, and lives with his wife and three children. Jenkins has also completed the Community Emergency Response Team training as well as additional safety training in the Boy Scouts, his church and from his family.

“It is nice to be recognized, but I want to recognize our EMS personnel, our fire and our police that do this every day,” said Jenkins. “They are who do the heavy lifting of all that for our community, and I’d like to thank them for their services, as well.”

If you are a Grandview resident in need of a smoke detector in your home, you can contact the Grandview Fire Department at 816-316-4961 to have one installed at no cost.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Soccer complex needs $8 million investment from Grandview in order to proceed


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

The developers of Gateway Village are asking the City of Grandview for an investment into the private development before the project can proceed. On Tuesday, March 6, representatives of the project met with the Grandview Board of Aldermen, leaving an $8 million question on the table.

“Basically, we are at the end of our rope, to be brutally honest,” said Greg Cotton, President of PG, LLC, Gateway’s development company. “Hopefully we can move this project that has been a big dream for the past several years into reality. Quite candidly, we’ve heard that there might be some bad blood between the Board and our development group and maybe some deal fatigue setting in. It’s a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar deal, and that takes a lot of time. That’s not the type of partners we want to be.”

Cotton added that his team believes in the power of a public-private partnership. Gateway is asking the City of Grandview to make a contribution into the infrastructure of the development, including roads, lighting, grading, gas and sewers that would in-turn be owned by the city.

In 2016, the Board of Aldermen approved a tax-increment financing (TIF) plan, and while the project scope has stayed roughly the same since then, there have been a few changes. The 250-acre site, owned by PG, LLC, located off of 150 Highway and Byars Road, will feature 15 synthetic soccer and sporting fields, a multi-sport fieldhouse, approximately 400,000 square feet of retail, 540 hotel rooms, 864 new residential units for over 2000 new residents in Grandview, and would bring in roughly 1.8 million visitors annually.

“We had an agreement a year and a half ago, and now you’re asking for something different,” said Mayor Leonard Jones.

Currently, the property generates $1000 per year in property taxes. Over the lifespan of the TIF, Cotton said that the City could see $155 million in projected new tax revenues from the development. PG also estimates around 400 new jobs will be created between the construction of the project and openings associated with the commercial retail and soccer operations.

“This is a project that is fully designed and shovel ready,” said Cotton. “The reason that this project is here is that we, as a development team, are the beneficiaries of a 25-year market-rate lease with Heartland Soccer Association. That is, without a doubt, the most lucrative youth sports contract in the United States. That supports a certain amount of debt repayment.”

All of the money from the Heartland lease has been pledged to repay the private debt that will be incurred to pay for the fields. Heartland Soccer Association requires, according to Cotton, that those fields be opened as soon as possible.

“They want it by the fall of 2018,” said Cotton. “We are under intense time pressure to get that done.”

According to Cotton, every other area soccer complex has been paid for using public funds. Because the market has been accustomed to these developments being paid for publicly, bank underwriters have not seen a private development of this scale.

“What we’re talking about here is the very first live, work, play and entertainment zone complex, truly, in the country,” said Cotton. “We’re calling this Soccer 3.0. It will attract a huge volume of people that are all looking for commercial opportunities.”

The development will be constructed in phases, and the first phase was discussed last Tuesday. The first part of phase one, called project one, includes the soccer field installation and commercial development that is ancillary to the soccer portion of the complex. Approved in 2016, the pay-as-you-go $43.7 million TIF agreement and CID (community improvement district) plan must be pledged to the lending organization in order to repay private debts incurred, according to Cotton.

“The developer, as the plan is situated today, takes 100 percent of the risk of operating this facility,” said Cotton.

After the TIF was approved, the developer was unable to obtain financing on the entire phase one. Multiple lenders suggested that the first phase be broken down into two projects. The construction costs for project one came in around $38.5 million, which included $9.2 million in infrastructure expenses.

“The consensus was, after meeting with 15-18 different lenders, that the city didn’t have any skin in the game up front in terms of real cash,” said Matt Webster, Senior Vice President of George K. Baum and Company, who has served as a financial advisor for the developers. “The banks didn’t really have any interest in lending on the roads and improvements to those roads that would ultimately be dedicated to the city.”

The $9.2 million infrastructure cost was shaved down to $8 million in order for the developer to feel comfortable with the repayment sources, and the banks felt that an infrastructure contribution from the city was vital to financing the development, according to Cotton.

“We are asking the City for $8 million in infrastructure cost improvements, whether built by the city, built by us, or whatever process the city would allocate or create,” said Cotton. “We came to that number from the total infrastructure costs being $9.2 million, then meeting with the banks and our experts and getting the loan to cost ratios to a level that the banks would say yes. This $8 million is critical.”

Cotton said that while the City’s TIF agreement with the developers is a significant investment, underwriters do not view that as a direct contribution into the project. Besides the pressure to complete the fields from Heartland Soccer, the developers are also feeling pressure from the banks, as the predevelopment line of credit has been exhausted. $7 million of the developer’s private funds have been invested into the project as payments continue to be made on that preconstruction loan.

“We were at the end of our rope when we met with the Aldermen last time, and we’re even more now,” said Cotton. “Over the past seven or eight months as we’ve tried to get this project started, that’s real money that has racked up.  $7 million of private investment in Grandview is a significant amount of money. We can no longer afford to continue making those payments.”

With the $8 million ask, the City of Grandview’s total investment into phase one of the project would be around 21 percent, or three percent of the completed development. The total development expense for the entire Gateway Village project is $234 million. The City of Grandview previously suggested that a neighborhood improvement district (NID) be implemented in order to help cover the investment costs the developer was requesting of the city. According to Cotton, lenders viewed this is a developer debt and not equity. In February, the developers received a final offer from the City of Grandview that included $3.7 million of infrastructure costs, which the developer deemed insufficient.

The developers suggested that the City of Grandview carve out portions of funds from other allocated sources to cover the $8 million infrastructure costs. According to the City of Grandview’s economic development director Troy Nash, the city does not wish to incur any new debts for the project and create liability or obligation. Alderman Sandy Kessinger stated that the developer should consider decreasing the already-agreed-upon TIF amount by $8 million, which already included reimbursable infrastructure costs.

“I work at a bank, and I know that infrastructure costs are usually factored in,” said Kessinger. “I think it’s interesting that you say you’ve talked with 20 banks who say they won’t finance the infrastructure. To my knowledge, since I’ve been on the Board, we’ve had a lot of private development projects come across and we’ve never had another company ask us to finance infrastructure.”

Previously, the City has been told that the developer did not wish to change the initial agreement, and that the $8 million infrastructure costs are over and above the agreed-upon TIF plan. Through conversations last Tuesday, the developer has now agreed to adjust the TIF plan accordingly should the City of Grandview decide to fund the infrastructure for the development.

Cotton said that the project is unique and should be considered a community amenity, which will benefit more than the private developer.

“Deron Cherry is giving a gift, in many ways, to the citizens of this city,” said Cotton. “He is putting his own private money where public entities have only put their money before. There are probably 8 million reasons not to do this. We know and we’ve been told that the city can’t afford it since day one. This is a city that prides itself on fiscal conservatism and has managed its budget extremely well over the years, and you should be proud of that. But, at the end of the day, this is a project that doesn’t land in your lap very often. This is an opportunity to create a project that is truly transformative.”

The City of Grandview’s general fund, which has not seen an increase in the last 10 years, is approximately $15 million annually. City Administrator Cemal Gungor said that because the City is responsible for taking care of 26,000 residents who have other needs than soccer fields, $8 million is a scary figure to try and allocate out of that general fund. Ultimately, a decision will be made one way or another by the Board of Aldermen later this month on how they plan to proceed with Gateway’s request.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Grandview Schools focus on district safety



Partnerships with the community are key to student safety, and the Grandview School District, according to Assistant Superintendent Ann Marie Cook, has a great relationship with the Grandview Police Department. Recently, as part of PREP-KC’s career day activities, Grandview Police Officer Monica Romero talked with students at Martin City Elementary School.

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

With the tragedies in Parkland, Florida, still fresh in the minds of community members, administration from the Grandview School District provided a timely discussion to the Board of Education regarding safety in schools during their regular meeting on Thursday, February 22.

According to Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Finance Ann Marie Cook, the district is still working to utilize bond funding to complete safety enhancement upgrades throughout the district. In the last two years, there have been parking lot improvements and fire alarm system upgrades.

“We have Martin City slated for this summer, which will be the final upgrade or replacement of all the fire alarm systems,” said Cook. “This has been a multi-year project that includes camera systems and intercom upgrades. We’ve done a lot, but we still need to do a lot of things as it relates to safety.”

Over the last year or so, the district has maintained a focus on student reporting, and has implemented security scans and completed staff, student and parent surveys regarding safety.

“Probably the thing I’m most excited about is that the safety committee has really evolved over the years,” said Cook. “It was focused more on doing walkabouts to make sure we didn’t have slip trip hazards and those sort of things, and it really has changed in where we are focusing our efforts. It is now much broader.”

The district is currently in the process of reframing the safety committee, creating what they refer to as “safety silos,” which include physical safety, student safety and staff safety. While there may be some overlap, according to Cook, the intent and desire is to share ideas and implement programs that will ensure safety while students and staff are in the district’s buildings.

“I think this will provide us an opportunity to dig a little deeper and improve some of our practices,” said Cook. “I think we’ve made a lot of improvements over the last several years, but there’s always more that we can and should be doing.”

The district has a strong partnership with the Grandview Police Department and the Grandview Fire Department, which are both part of the district’s safety meetings and conduct various trainings throughout the year. Every year during spring break, Grandview Fire Marshal Lew Austin does a walk-through in all school buildings to ensure their safety.

“We are extremely fortunate to have those partnerships because they help us create and keep a safe environment for our staff and our kiddos,” said Cook.

Grandview also continues to work on updating its crisis plans, looking for consistency and alignment with safety standards. While physical safety is important, the district continues to look for ways to increase the feeling of safety for students and staff in the buildings.

“Student reporting is critical in helping minimize or eliminate threats to the schools and other students,” said Cook.

Since becoming superintendent, Dr. Kenny Rodrequez has worked to implement a change in the way staff thinks about safety.

“As superintendent, I’m taking matters of student safety very seriously,” said Rodrequez. “I think we pushed the envelope quite a bit over the last year with things that we’re doing. I’m not a big fan of us constantly having to be reactive. I want to be as proactive as possible. We can’t resolve everything and we can’t stop everything; however, there are a lot of things that we can prevent.”

While he says that the district is on a good path, Rodrequez added that the district isn’t anywhere near where they should be. In a conference he recently attended, safety was a widely-discussed topic. One session focused on the importance of a relationship with the first responders in the community, which Rodrequez said is strong in Grandview. 

“I’m very proud of the work that we have done,” said Rodrequez. “We will continue to do everything we can to make sure everyone is as safe as possible.”