Thursday, December 19, 2019

Melodrama Opens Season with Original Screenplay

Scrooged and Marley, with Ebenezer Scrooge and his Service Dog Marley, and the Water Glass Symphony

by Mary Wilson

For 35 years, the nonprofit Martin City Melodrama and Vaudeville Company has entertained audiences in Kansas City with their humorous take on show business and theater arts. After a rocky start to the beginning of the 35th season, starting with an actress with health issues and having to rewrite the script, in true theater fashion, Director Jeanne Beechwood determined that the show must go on.

The entire show’s premise was based around this specific actress and her service dog, so when it was determined that she was unable to perform, Beechwood got to work. She tapped an old friend in the business to see if he was available, and Beechwood and local actor Sean Taylor came up with a new show.

“The theater was opening in two weeks. We lost the dog, the girl and the Scrooge,” said Beechwood. “I was like, this is supposed to be our 35th season and it’s not looking so good. My dear friend Sean, who has done a lot of tech work here in town and is foolish enough to help me here when he can, stepped up to help me out.”

In two weeks’ time, the show was rewritten and the main dog was re-casted. While still the same premise, the dog in the show is not an actual service dog like the previous Marley. The traditional water glass symphony that Melodrama fans have come to love at Christmastime was written for four people, so Beechwood had to determine if the cast of two could pull it off.

“By the grace of God, it all came together,” said Beechwood. “The dogs outnumber us in this show.”

Scrooged and Marley features eight rescue dogs alongside the two actors. The show opened two weeks ago, with the premise that everyone dropped out, which works well for Beechwood and Taylor. They are able to play up the fact that they’re pulling off a show with a limited number of people.

“All that’s left is us old-timers,” said Beechwood. “And it works. We made it seem as though we could only put the show on if we used the theater’s rescue dogs.”

Scrooged and Marley and the Water Glass Symphony is playing now through January 1 at the Martin City Melodrama and Vaudeville Co., located at 702 E Blue Ridge Ext. in Grandview. For ticket information, visit, or call 913-642-7576. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

City Manager Resigns to Become County Administrator

by Mary Wilson

This week, Troy Schulte walked through doors at City Hall in Kansas City for the final time as City Manager. On Friday, November 22, Schulte submitted his resignation letter to the Mayor and City Council.

Having served the last ten years as city manager, Schulte has worked for 21 years for the City of Kansas City. During that time, he is credited for a list of success stories, including: balancing billion-dollar budgets during both a recession and an economic upturn; guiding the creation and implementation of the GO KC 20-year infrastructure repair program; creating an award-winning citywide business plan; expanding the use of data to guide decision-making and to measure results; creating a modern streetcar system that has sparked billions of dollars in economic development; bringing free public WiFi to the downtown business district and along the Prospect Avenue corridor; increasing leadership opportunities for women and minorities; and both the convention center hotel and airport terminal now under construction.

“I thank Troy for his decades of service to our city,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “The impact of his work will be felt for generations. I appreciate Troy’s participation in our city manager search process and his dedication to ensuring continuity for our city employees during this transition period. I wish Troy and Laurie the best in this next chapter.”

Schulte previously announced that he would leave city service at the end of his current contract, in February 2020. However, on Monday, November 25, the Jackson County Legislature approved a contract of employment that will allow the County Executive to hire Schulte.

As a member of the County Executive’s staff, Schulte will have the title of County Administrator and will assist the County Executive in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the County. He begins this role on Monday, December 9.

“Troy is an exceptionally talented and hard-working public servant who knows how to get things done,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. “When I learned that he might be available, I immediately sat down with him to see if we could find a way to add him to our team.”

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Troy,” said Legislative Chairwoman Theresa Galvin. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that is needed. This is a positive step in the right direction and I would like to thank County Executive Frank White, Jr. for working with the Legislature to move the County forward. This process has truly been a collaboration that has been missing for some time and I hope it will continue.”

Prior to serving as city manager, Schulte led the city’s budget office. He received the Department of Economics and Department of History Outstanding Alumni Award last month from Iowa Sate University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and economics in 1992 and 1994, respectively.

“I am grateful to the County Executive, Legislative Chair, and members of the County Legislature for their support,” said Schulte. “While trying to figure out what was next for me, I ultimately decided that I was not ready to give up public service. I love what I do and believe I have more to give. I am excited to join the Jackson County team and look forward to working with everyone to get things done.”

Schulte leaves city management in Kansas City on solid footing. Following other top-level retirements, he has promoted Tammy Queen to finance director, Donna Maize to fire chief, and Teri Casey to acting director off the human resources department.

On Monday, December 2, Mayor Lucas appointed Earnest Rouse as acting city manager. Rouse, a 30-year veteran of the City of Kansas City, has worked in a variety of roles and departments within the city’s government. He becomes the third African-American to serve as City Manager in Kansas City’s history.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Oak Grove Criticizes Center High School in Conference Expansion

by Stephanie A. Wilken

At 3:05 p.m. Friday, the late afternoon sunlight pours into the lobby of Center High School as students spill into the halls with excited chatter and sporting their school colors of yellow and blue
as they find their friends at the end of the school day.

But this isn’t a typical Friday. This week, posters adorn the columns advertising that the spirit bus leaves for the district conference football championship later that afternoon. The buses and caravans that will follow will drive almost an hour each way to be there as the Center Yellowjackets face the Odessa Bulldogs in the Class 3 District 7 finals.

Wrestling practice is expected to be light, because most of the players are riding the bus to support their classmates. The students at Center High School are focused on their fellow Yellowjackets.

It’s most likely a similar scene forty minutes away at Oak Grove High School; just replace the school colors of blue and yellow with orange and black – and there’s no district championship under Friday night lights: The Oak Grove Panthers lost two weeks earlier 47-26 to the Boonville Pirates in the first round of the post season. That’s a fact apparently overlooked by appointed and elected officials in the Oak Grove School district when they recently went on record wondering if Center brought “competition,” among a list of other negative comments when discussing the Missouri River Valley Conference expanding to include the Yellowjackets in its Western division.

Oak Grove athletic director Darin Sehlke made his comments about Center High School at the Oak
Grove Board of Education meeting October 28, the Monday before the Friday, November 1 11-1  decision, with Oak Grove being the lone dissenting vote against Center and Clinton joining the MRVC West.

“The coaches are not in favor,” Sehlke said in the meeting, as reported by the local newspaper Focus on Oak Grove in its November 7 edition. “Do they fit with the conference? The distance to Clinton is a factor, and Center is urban. Do they bring a rich tradition in athletics? Do they bring competition?”

“We hold our students to a high standard,” Sehlke said. “Is that true with Center? They have a nice
facility. They don’t have the perception of the Kansas City School District to weigh into them.”

Oak Grove Board of Education director Randy McClain said at the meeting that “there’s a significant
cultural difference between Center and us.” “I think I would rather add Sedalia rather than Clinton and Center,” he said.

While the Focus reported that their discussion at the Board meeting did not include how they would cast their Friday conference expansion vote, the eventual 11-1 is an indicator that feelings did not change in the four days preceding the MRVC vote.

“Play hard to get,” said director Montie Tripp at the meeting. “Tell them to go fly a kite.”

On November 1, Center notified staff that they had been accepted into the Missouri River Valley  conference, as reported in the November 7 Advocate. The conference expansion included Center and Clinton joining the existing Excelsior Springs, Harrisonville, Oak Grove, Odessa, Pleasant Hill and Warrensburg school districts.

The news was welcome throughout the district, according to Center Athletic Director Brad Sweeten.
Center had previous success both on and off the field when they were a part of the West Central conference before it dissolved. Sweeten added that while not every student is involved in athletics, being in a conference created a ripple effect where they saw test scores rise, earned a Blue Ribbon nomination, and students were more involved overall.

“We found out that it did wonders for our kids,” he said. “All of a sudden, we were competitive.”

Sweeten said that they’re eager to have that again.

“All of our coaches have been very excited,” Sweeten said. “I don’t think our kids understand yet what that means because for two years now, we haven’t been in a conference.”

“That’s a big deal, because you might not go far in your district, and the reality of winning a state
championship in any sport s very slim. You set little goals, and maybe that’s the first little goal you
set: ‘Let’s win conference games, and then let’s win the conference.’”

The district's Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael Weishaar agrees.

“Center School District believes in partnerships and communities. We believe that joining the
MRVC will expand our students’ knowledge, create new experiences and provide a catalyst that will
push students toward future success,” he said. “We also believe this opportunity will not only benefit our students, but will also provide positive benefits for all MRVC conference member communities.”

Sweeten doesn’t look at traveling to Oak Grove as a bad thing.

“We’ve always said it’s good for our kids to get out and see how other people live, with how the small town life is, but it’s also good for those kids to come and see our kids and adults are no  different,” he said. “You don’t change people’s minds with words, you change in actions, so that’s
what we’re going to show them. We’re going to show them that we’re no different than anyone else.”

In football, Center traveled to Oak Grove this year and won 41-10. In all-time matchups, it’s 4-0 Center, with Center winning both away in 2019 and at home in 2018, and winning the other two contests in the post season, with Center coming out on top in both district and state tournaments.

“The next time we play, they could beat us,” Sweeten said. “But that win or loss isn’t important, it’s
what happens on the field. In the last game where we played them I saw guys from both teams reaching out and holding out a hand, picking another guy off the field.”

The kids, Sweeten said, were just playing the game. And he said they’ll keep leading by example.

At Center, Sweeten has helped foster a culture of leading with love. It’s not just words on an inspiration poster somewhere, or someone talking in abstracts about culture. At Center, that’s a daily weekday email to his coaches and community about positivity and personal goals of positive  interactions; it’s breakfast together on Fridays with any student who would like that fellowship; it’s showing the students at Center that adults care. And Sweeten has been a driving force in creating that environment.

“It makes a big difference, to show our kids that,” Sweeten said. “Our kids come from all kinds of backgrounds, mostly working families, and it’s important for our kids to see the example of adults.
Sometimes that’s the greatest gift we can give them is the example.”

And even in the face of negativity, Sweeten continues the positive attitude.

“With my words, I can’t change the way [the people quoted in the Focus] think,” he said “I’ve known
Darin, the AD out there, for a long time,” Sweeten said. “He’s a great guy.”

“We’re just excited,” Sweeten said. “We’re excited to be in the conference. We’re going to welcome
them to come here, and hopefully we’re welcome to go there.”

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Grandview Shows Slight Progress in Performance

by Mary Wilson

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released statewide Annual Performance (APR) Reports last week, providing districts with data and insight into how they are performing against state standards. The information was released publicly at 12:01 a.m. on the day of the Grandview School District’s Board of Education meeting, giving staff just a few hours to prepare to present the information to its governing body on Thursday, October 17.

“In the past, we were all given a percentage and the districts were all ranked,” said Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez. “We were told what that percentage was and we went through a variety of things to talk about how those points were calculated. Hearing from different superintendents in different districts about how the test was changed several times, that number became less useful.”

This year, DESE has removed that overall percentage score for districts. In the past, the Grandview School District released their overall score as well as the scores for each individual school.

“I felt like if I had done that, it probably would have given even more confusion than clarity,” said Rodrequez. “It gives us an opportunity to show what the scores look like, what our performance actually is, and how that compares from previous years, though it won’t be about the overall score.”

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Joana King said that getting past the fact that there’s not a percentage point to grade them, she feels as though the latest data provides more valuable information to the district.

“We can see exactly where we are and see exactly what our achievements are in each area,” said King.

The districts in the state are evaluated on five standards: academic achievement, subgroup achievement, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rates. These are the same standards DESE has used in recent years for performance data.

“Last year, 90.2% of the points were earned in our district, and it was very easy for people to rank us, even though there really isn’t a true correlation between districts,” said Scott Sisemore, Grandview’s director of instructional technology. “What was released this year is a little more chaotic.”

In order to make sense of the chaos, Sisemore indicated that DESE has issued growth expectation, status expectation and progress expectations, using the same formulas as in the past. Growth indicates change in achievement scores in students over time. Status expectation is the status that reflects the measurement of the school’s level of achievement based upon a three-year average. Progress indicates the measurement of annual improvement on state assessments.

“The three-year average is actually the easiest way for us to compare where we are to the previous years,” said Sisemore.

In academic achievement, the district is exceeding; while in mathematics, the district is not currently meeting the measures according to the state. However, with the information based on the three-year average, DESE states that a comparison of proficiency rates across years is not advisable. The assessments in 2018 and 2019 are comparable, while the test administered in 2017 was not.

“Because the 2017 assessment was different than what we took in 2018, you’ll notice a pretty big difference in scores,” said Sisemore. “It looks like we dropped quite a bit, but it was actually completely different assessments and the state is saying we cannot compare the two.”

This makes the three-year average that DESE has calculated skewed. The best way for districts across the state to determine how they are doing is to only look at the 2018 and 2019 data. Grandview shows a slight increase in achievement in ELA (English language arts) between 2018 and 2019, with about one percentage point of students who are scoring in proficient and advanced. In mathematics, the district shows a moderate increase in achievement.

“This is certainly not something that we are celebrating, but it is a positive indicator that we see some growth in math,” said Sisemore. “While we are still below the state average, we have made a little bit of improvement over the year.”

Subgroup achievement includes the district’s traditionally underserved students, including those with individualized education plans (IEP), free and reduced lunch rates, English language learners (ELL) and minority students. These students are all lumped together to measure their performance against the district. Sisemore said that their APR was very similar to that of the district’s.

“Our ELL students are actually out-performing the district,” said King. “A lot will say that they will not be able to perform as well as everyone else, and we are proving that wrong.”

The standards in college and career readiness have not changed. The district shows positive trends in the area of advanced placement classes, as the opportunities for students to take dual-credit courses has increased. Sisemore said that they should see results in college and career readiness continue to rise moving forward.

According to Sisemore, attendance is a concern for the district. In 2018, the district was at 86.1% for attendance, and in 2019, that percentage dropped to 83.3%. This decrease has been steady for the last few years. The state standard is 90% of students attending school 90% of the time. School principals are working to implement different incentives across the district to help increase the number of students in class.

The state calculates a four, five and seven-year graduation rate, though Sisemore says the most important rate to look at is the four-year rate. This is the number of students who should have been seniors last year that graduated. In 2018, the district’s graduation rate was at 86%. In 2019, the rate increased slightly to 86.4%. Although Sisemore said that this is not what the district wants, the state shows Grandview on-track in comparison to other districts.

“How do we continue to improve year after year when things continue to change for us? Now we finally have two consecutive years of the exact same test results to be able to show,” said Rodrequez. “We learned a lot last year. But, we got the results last year in February, and then our students took another test in April. We’re still learning a lot about the standards, but we’re very pleased that we now have two years, and this year will finally be the third year in a row that we can start measuring. We actually have an entire year to learn from the information that we received.”

The 2019 APR will be complete upon the release of science data on November 23, which was not available last week. Statewide, while data in English language arts and mathematics remained fairly stable between the 2018 and 2019 data, four and five-year graduation rates for nearly all subgroups continued to see an increase. Gaps continued to close specifically with English learners in academics, continuing a trend of recent years with increased scores for that demographic.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Community Members Hope to Save The Paseo

Initiative Petition on November 5 Ballot

by Mary Wilson

Kellie Jones has lived on The Paseo for over 10 years. This year, however, her beloved community has been forced to alter, as the City Council approved a name change from The Paseo to Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
“I didn’t want this change,” said Jones. “When people hear Martin Luther King, of course they want to support that. It’s not about Martin Luther King. This is about the process. We want to honor him, just not in this way. You don’t see streets change like this. You just don’t. This is a huge change, and if you’re going to do it, you need to make sure you do it the right way. And, that just wasn’t done.”
Jones wasn’t alone. In fact, many of her neighbors in the community weren’t pleased with the name change either.
“It is, inevitably, the most historic boulevard in Kansas City,” said local historian and educator Diane Euston.
In the late 1890s, when the Kansas City Parks Department was created, according to Euston, August Meyer wanted to ensure that beautification of the city was a priority. Meyer hired George Kessler, a famous German architect, to help with design, and the first section of The Paseo was established from Independence Ave. to 17th Street.
“Paseo was his best creation,” said Euston. “He was so proud of that design. August Meyer, of course, has a boulevard named after him, and he was responsible for the naming of The Paseo. As a historian, I value the history and cultural significance in the city. This is cross-cultural. The Paseo doesn’t just mean a lot to historians, it means a lot to people who grew up there and are a part of that neighborhood. It is so uniquely Kansas City. I mean, it has a ‘the’ in front of it, which makes it so unique.”
The first fountain in Kansas City was placed on The Paseo in 1899. In the early 1900s, The Paseo was extended to Brush Creek. After a handful more extensions, further beautification and updates, in 1975, the Parks Board was given the authority to honor individuals with street names who make significant contributions to the city.
Euston explained that a group of ministers with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began to talk about potentially changing the name of The Paseo back in the 1980s, though nothing happened at that time. There is a process, Euston said, that Kansas City follows for naming or renaming streets, and boulevards, while they don’t fall under control of the government, are left up to the Parks Board to decide.
“The last time, I believe, that a boulevard was renamed in Kansas City, it was for Emanuel Cleaver,” said Euston. “When that happened, they actually only changed part of the boulevard in order to maintain the historic significance of Brush Creek and 47th Street.”
In August of 2016, the National Register of Historic Places honored the Kansas City Parks and Boulevard system and included The Paseo to 18th Street as part of a historic district. That same year, the SCLC approached the Parks Board about renaming The Paseo, but they were turned down due to the boulevard’s historical significance. In 2018, then Kansas City Mayor Sly James formed the MLK Advisory Group to determine the best options to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the city.
The MLK Advisory Group’s top two recommendations were to honor Dr. King with either the airport naming or renaming 63rd Street. The Paseo was third on that list. Out of the street names, 63rd Street was recommended by six of nine advisory groups’ votes. In October of 2018, former Councilman Scott Taylor’s Revive the East Side proposal included a provision to rename The Paseo for Dr. King, allocating up to $750,000 to do so. That plan was eventually approved by the City Council, but only after removing The Paseo naming provision from the ordinance.
However, despite efforts by community groups, the City Council voted 8-4 on January 24 of this year to rename The Paseo for Dr. King. Nearly 10 miles of road were changed from The Paseo to Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., with the first signs being replaced in February. On March 15, an initiative petition, started by five residents along The Paseo including Jones, began circulating the community. The petitioners would need 1,706 signatures from Kansas City, Missouri voters to put the issue out to the voters.
“I just did not want this change,” said Jones. “We are just regular people who feel like this isn’t right. I don’t like it and I want to be heard. Throughout this whole process, I haven’t been heard. Not only was my voice not heard, but as I started to reach out to my neighbors, I realized it wasn’t just me who felt this way.”
Jones overwhelmingly heard from her community the same thoughts she had: where was the engagement? How was the city council able to push this issue through without talking to the people who live on The Paseo?
“When I started learning more about the process that this name change went through, it enraged me,” said Jones. “Especially being a constituent, a voter and a person who has a vested interest, I felt so dismissed.”
The grassroots petitioners, named Save The Paseo, began engaging their community for support. The group garnered 2,857 signatures, over 1,000 more than required for the issue to appear on the ballot for the November 5 special election. When the petition was filed and approved for placement on the ballot, work on changing The Paseo over to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. stopped.
“We can honor Dr. King and we can keep Paseo,” said Jones. “Most people want to honor him, and they really don’t care if it’s Paseo. As a person of color who lives on Paseo, I feel ignored. They didn’t even acknowledge me. People were relieved to have someone come talk to them and give them a voice. We elected these people to do a job, and we are going to hold them accountable.”
Euston said that the Save The Paseo group understands their work is not complete on November 5. If the name change reversal passes, she said she feels as though another committee needs to be established to determine how best to honor Dr. King in the city.
“We want to be a part of that conversation,” said Euston. “We want the SCLC to be a part of that conversation. Let’s work together. This is not over, and we know that.”
Despite whatever outcome may prevail on November 5, Jones said she is proud to have worked with the group, as it has united people from across the city of all races, cultures and backgrounds.
“People really got behind this issue,” said Jones. “We made people think and listen. The next time the city goes to do something, maybe they’ll think of the Save The Paseo group. You know, Dr. King wanted to unite people, and we have done that; we have become united. But I think they’ll think twice about just pushing something through without having engagement and we would be successful in that.”
“We represent what Dr. King stood for,” added Euston. “The whole idea of uniting and shaking hands and working together, that’s what makes this all totally worth it. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve met so many amazing people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
The initiative petition for changing the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. back to The Paseo Blvd. will appear as question five on the ballot for Kansas City, Missouri voters on November 5: Shall the City of Kansas City change the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., which is approximately 9.98 miles in length from the center line of Lexington Avenue south and east to a point south of the center line of East 85th Street, back to The Paseo Boulevard?

Friday, October 11, 2019

City to Purchase Property for Road and Railroad Improvements

by Stephanie A. Wilken

A local public works project originally proposed several years ago is expected to move forward, making way for a widened road and new railroad overpass; but this time around, the property involved is 60 percent off its original sale price.

The Grandview Board of Aldermen will consider the purchase of a 4.2 acre strip of land where the Kansas City Southern Railroad crosses Blue Ridge Boulevard. The project is expected to improve transportation in the area, and there will also be an opportunity for developers to propose new ideas for the remaining unused area.

The Blue Ridge Boulevard Railroad Overpass Replacement Project, or Blue Ridge Bridge Project, dates back to 2014. Grandview previously attempted to purchase the property through condemnation, a process where the city would have compensated the owner for the property intended for public use. Through that process, both the city and the former owner had appraisals done. The city obtained an appraisal of $591,450 and the former owner obtained a higher appraisal. Officials at the time did not pursue the purchase due to cost.

Today, The Land Trust of Jackson County controls the property after its former owner defaulted on taxes, and will sell it to the city for $236,566, a 60 percent reduction from the city’s appraisal. 

“Sometimes patience is good,” said Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones.

Grandview Attorney Joe Gall and Public Works Director Dennis Randolph presented the proposed purchase to the Board of Aldermen at a work session Tuesday, October. 1.

“We think they are treating us very fairly and think this is a really good opportunity to buy this property,” Gall said. “And we’re recommending that the Board move to do that.”

The Blue Ridge Bridge Project is part of the Mid‐ America Regional Council’s long range transportation plan. According to a 2014 Grandview Public Works document, the plan calls for this section of Blue Ridge Boulevard to be widened to four lanes, but the older railroad overpass makes that impossible.

In documents accompanying the work session Oct. 1, city officials outlined that the project will be funded by $3,567,500 in grants from the Federal Railroad Administration, an amount that makes up fifty percent of the projected $7,135,000 construction costs. City staff negotiated cost-share agreement with the railroad for it to pay the city 51,783,750, representing half of its match to the grant funds. The city would purchase the 4.2 acres from the Land Trust with cash from transportation sales tax revenue, and therefore would not pay any interest on the deal.

The project will also open up the remainder of the space to become something else. Staff recommended the Board later consider a request for proposals for developers to pitch ideas for the area that will be undeveloped after the project is complete. They would then select from those proposals and sell the remaining property to a developer.

“We already know of two different entities that are interested in the property,” Randolph said, adding that a number of communities use a developer proposal process for this type of project. “It’s a nice piece of property if it’s cleaned up … it has nice potential for us.”

The Board was scheduled to vote at its October 8 regular meeting on approval of the purchase of the property.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Hometown Newspaper Receives Statewide Recognition

The Jackson County Advocate, Grandview and South Kansas City’s locally-owned hometown newspaper since 1953, remains an award-winning news source. The paper received recognition on Saturday, September 28, at the Missouri Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Awards luncheon, held at the VooDoo Lounge at Harrah’s North Kansas City Hotel and Casino.

Editor Mary Wilson received two first place awards for best story about history (Forgotten Cemetery) and best story about religion (Flourish Furnishings). She also received second place in best story about rural life or agriculture, and best coverage of government; third place in best business story, and best news or feature series; and honorable mention in best coverage of government. Former sports editor Brent Kalwei received third place in best sports feature story; and honorable mention in best sports feature story, and best sports news story or package.

“Of course, we don’t do what we do for the awards,” said Wilson. “But, being recognized for a job well done is always nice and is very much appreciated. I love what I do. I love being able to tell the stories of the community; your stories. I love getting to know the people and places in my hometown, and I love uncovering the nitty gritty when necessary, too.”

The Better Newspaper Awards are part of an annual contest, put on by the Missouri Press Foundation. The Advocate, a member of the Missouri Press Association, has won numerous awards in this statewide contest over the years. Wilson also currently serves on the association’s Board of Directors.

Red Bridge Library Opens

by Stephanie A. Wilken 

Moving 60,300 books is no small feat.

And even though the new Red Bridge Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library System (MCPL) is located just feet from the old one, moving that collection of books is still a massive undertaking.
The 24 employees at the branch have spent the last month packing those 60,300 books into crates, with books packed tightly so they wouldn’t be damaged in the move. With 130 crates in all, adult fiction totaled 38 crates alone.

Together, they worked more than 1,500 hours to get the job done. And patrons got a chance to see all that hard work September 24, when MCPL opened its new Red Bridge Branch to the public.

Hundreds of visitors lined the street forming a book brigade as employees opened the doors to the now former branch and selected the last of the books from a lonely, last shelf the only thing remaining in the old branch. From little hands to big hands, the books were passed to their new home: A 14,352 square foot modern facility that includes new meeting spaces, a community room and updated technology alongside the previous collection of books.

“We’re so excited to welcome our customers to this incredible new building, which we think will be a tremendous resource for residents of South Kansas City,” said Sherry Bridges, Red Bridge Branch Manager. “The resources and amenities now available at the Library’s Red Bridge Branch better reflect what customers expect and deserve from a 21st century library.”

The new branch is also 2,300 square feet larger and has a new outdoor patio (with WiFi extended outside), lighting designed to mimic natural sunlight, a family restroom and a wellness room, where patrons can have a moment of privacy.

The plan began 14 months ago and included a team of 10 library district employees along with five architects and designers. Renovation began on the new location in January of 2019 – and there’s a purposeful holdover from the previous occupant, a bowling alley: The stairs leading from the reception area down to the main collection are the stairs that once led down to the lanes. Today, the bright, light wood has seating incorporated throughout, creating embankments where customers can relax, kick back and utilize the space for anything from reading a book to using one of the six new laptops and laptop desks.

The former branch opened in 1987, and since then, the services that people need and want have evolved. Other technology upgrades include five new TV monitors and eight public desktop computers.

MCPL Public Relations Coordinator Emily Brown said these new features are the result of public comment. The district reached out to its users through online surveys and public meetings. And the answer was clear: More technology and intentional spaces.

“We really wanted to make sure we are providing the types of things each individual community needs and wants to see,” Brown said. “People use the library a lot differently than they did back then; they actually want to come in and stay, use it as co-working space, study space, and use the Wi-Fi.”

It’s not just about books, Bridges said. Today, patrons want and expect those modern features.

“Serving people through technology is a big part of our services,” she said.

The move to open the new Red Bridge Branch is part of a $113 million capital improvement plan that will upgrade many locations throughout the district. The funding was made possible by increased funding from the passage of Proposition L by voters in 2016. The Red Bridge branch serves an estimated 41,000 customers, with the district serving more than 800,000.

“Every branch will be touched in some way,” Brown said, adding that two new branches, one in Lee’s Summit and one in Independence, will break ground soon.

The library is located at 453 Red Bridge Rd. in the Red Bridge Shopping Center in Kansas City, Missouri. For more information, visit

Friday, September 20, 2019

Rocking the Kindness

Area elementary school students decorate kindness rocks to spread throughout community

by Mary Wilson

Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. “We will, we will, rock you! We will, we will, rock you,” could be heard throughout the halls of one school last Friday, September 13, as students embarked on a journey to send a message of kindness, one little rock at a time.

At Meadowmere Elementary School in Grandview, kindness rocks. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade spent the afternoon last week painting small rocks with thoughtful, kind and inspirational messages on them in hopes to cheer up a stranger’s day. The rocks will be strategically placed throughout the Grandview School District boundaries, including parks, businesses, schools, or churches.

“Meadowmere rocks because each student is so kind, courageous, and respectful,” said art teacher Adryan Steinberg.

When kindness rocks are found, the recipients will find instructions on the back which ask them to take a photo with the rock and post the photo onto the Meadowmere Rocks Facebook page. The person who finds the rock, after posting online, is then instructed to place the rock in a different location for another to find. Teachers will be tracking when posts are made online and informing their students of when their rocks are found.

Students headed to various creation stations throughout the building, making up what Steinberg called “Kindness Crews.” Every student in the building, along with visitors, painted a kindness rock. Once finished, each rock was coated with a shellac and set out to dry.

The Kindness Rocks Project is a national movement which began when one woman lost both of her parents and was looking for some sort of sign or message that she was doing things the right way. Megan Murphy, as the creator of the project, determined that whenever she saw a heart-shaped rock, it was from her dad; whenever she saw a piece of sea glass, it was from her mom.

“When I would find one, I would feel like I was really being supported,” Murphy said. Those were the moments that I really felt something bigger than myself. But, through this process, I realized that the answers lied within me.”

She ended up taking a marker with her to the beach and wrote messages on rocks. That first day, she left five rocks. That evening, a friend texted her and sent her a picture of a rock with a motivational message on it she had found on the beach.

“I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it,” Murphy said. “It was really odd. She said to me, ‘if you did drop this rock, it made my day.’ I thought, ‘okay, I have something here.’”

Murphy’s message of kindness has spread, and it’s now made its way to Grandview through students at Meadowmere Elementary School. Should you find one in the community, take a picture, and post it to Facebook with the instructions that are fastened to the underside of the kindness rock.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Grandview shooting range nearing completion

by Mary K. Wilson

The Grandview Board of Aldermen got the first glimpses of the soon-to-be-open shooting range. The facility will be the first of its kind in the metro, with a mission to become a unique destination for a safe and affordable place for gun owners to shoot outdoors.

On Thursday, September 5, the Aldermen were able to experience first-hand what the range will look and sound like when it opens. A business plan, which includes a partnership between the Grandview Parks and Recreation and the Grandview Police departments, was also recently discussed during a work session. Parks and Rec Director Sue Yerkes said that the process will likely change several times, as they learn how to operate a shooting range.

“Quite frankly, we don’t have any other parks and recreation departments to lean on for this information,” Yerkes said. “We have conservation areas that we have viewed and visited, and we have visited and talked with private entities, but this is a first as far as parks and recreation partnering with a police department for a quasi-public shooting range.”

There are only two other outdoor shooting ranges within a 50-mile radius of Grandview, of which, only one, according to Yerkes, would be viewed as direct competition. The Lake City Shooting Range, located in Independence, offers rifle, pistol, trap and skeet, and archery at $4 per hour.

“We are of the opinion that the project’s recreation market area is a 25-mile radius,” Yerkes said. “We know that we are not going to make a lot of money the first year or two. Our anticipation is to at least break even by year three.”

Building a safe environment and garnering the trust of the public in developing a robust program at the range will be priority. Grandview police will serve as range masters, with Honeywell serving as a second priority for training access behind the police department. The facility has opportunities for rental, concessions, and lane rental fees at $7 per hour.

“We realize that is different than others in the area,” said Yerkes. “This is something different and something special, so we’re okay with charging seven dollars.”

A December 2019 soft opening for the public is anticipated; however, due to grant funding, the shooting range is required to be opened for police department training by Sept. 30. Funding was also provided by Honeywell to help with office space and classroom renovation.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Animal shelter breaks ground on $8 million expansion

by Mary Wilson

Kansas City’s largest no kill animal shelter is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year in a big way. Wayside Waifs has broken ground on a construction project that will add 20,000 square feet of space to the pet adoption campus.

The $8 million project includes an Education and Training Center for large event hosting, dog training classes, youth education programming, and staff offices; along with a Canine Behavior Center, the second of its kind in the nation, that will exclusively serve shy, fearful and high-energy/arousal shelter dog behavior transformations.

On Thursday, August 22, Wayside Waifs held a groundbreaking ceremony, inviting guests, volunteers, and the community out to their grounds to celebrate the future of the shelter. Wayside Waifs President Geoff Hall said that the organization couldn’t have survived the past 75 years without the partnerships formed over the years, including with animal welfare organizations like Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, KC Pet Project, Great Plains SPCA, and Spay and Neuter Kansas City, as well as local municipalities in the metro.

“We are very, very grateful to be in the wonderful community of Grandview, Missouri,” said Hall. “Grandview is a partner of ours with whom we have been working with to provide animal impoundment services for many, many years, and we work together to solve problems to improve the lives of both people and animals.”

Through the years, Hall said Wayside has continued to grow and improve. The organization is housed on a 50-acre campus, surrounded by nature, with a roughly 50,000 square foot shelter. Homeless animals come to Wayside for various reasons, and last year a total of 5,600 animals were adopted out, with 2019 on pace to reach that number again this year.

Wayside Waifs considers preventative work to be just as important to their organization as the adoption of animals. The team created the No More Bullying program several years ago, and today it is taught in 34 cities in 20 states throughout the country, with the goal of changing the lives of kids to go on to be productive members of society with both animals and people.

Hall said that around three years ago, Wayside’s board of directors gave the executive team a task to begin envisioning what was next for the organization.

“We recognized that there is a dearth of facilities to help both prepare the future of a newly-adopted pet, specifically a dog to have a happy life and a home, as well as dogs that perhaps have had some damaging experiences at the hand of a human being,” said Hall. “These animals traditionally had a very high rate of euthanasia in shelters all throughout the country. We knew that we could do better.”

After investigation of how to handle these types of dogs, a plan was created to help address behavior issues on two ends. The capital campaign that Wayside is launching, and broke ground on last week, is for two buildings. The first will be to replace the current community room that is insufficient for the needs of today, which includes an 8,000-square-foot addition to the campus to house classrooms, dog training space and office space. 

“Our staff has grown to 75 employees,” said Hall. “We have 1,400 volunteers. We have no place to put our internal working groups, let alone external working groups.”

There are dogs that come to Wayside who are either shy and fearful or have high arousal and low impulse control and both, according to Hall, can be difficult to live with in a home.

“We also think that these animals deserve a chance,” said Hall. “We recognize that one of our limiting factors, regardless of the size of our facility, is that it is chaotic in the shelter.”

A brand-new K-9 behavior center will be built on the property. The 9,000-square-foot facility will allow Wayside to be able to provide a controlled environment to help those dogs be more calm, focused and resilient to life with people. Wayside Waifs is partnering with the ASPCA, who recently completed a similar facility in North Carolina.

“I’m proud to say that Wayside Waifs and Kansas City will be the second facility of its type in this country,” said Hall.

Partners on the project include A.L. Huber Construction and SFS Architects. Tom and Jill Turner and Dave and Sandy Johnson are leading the fundraising campaign efforts, with $7 million of the $8 million in project costs already secured through private endowments and other efforts. The expansions are expected to take approximately 10 months to complete.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Students from Ruskin lead discussion on neighborhood safety

by Mary Wilson 

Prior to the back-to-school rally held on Saturday, August 10, residents from Hickman Mills were invited to a panel hosted by the Community and Police Relations team (CPR) in south Kansas City. The team was put together by a group of active members of the community to improve the relationship between the police and young people in the area.

The questions for the panel were student-driven, with Ruskin High School recent graduate Walter Verge and junior Ebony Ross leading the discussion on their own concerns regarding crime, violence prevention, police perception and building relationships between community and law enforcement. Invited to be on the panel were Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, 5th District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, 3rd District At-Large Councilman Brandon Ellington, South Patrol Division Manager Daniel Gates and Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile.

“Earlier this year, only a few months into 2019, there were more homicides reported in Kansas City, Missouri than the beginning of any year for the past nine to ten year,” Verge said as he began the conversation. “There have been at least 126 homicides with at least five (victims) younger than the age of 16. One question I have for my community and its enforcers is what is being done? How can we deplete the statistics and rates of homicides?”

He added that he believes in order for the community to prevail, its members must unify and work together to solve the problem. Mayor Lucas said that he thinks there are two core issues: community and prevention.

“How do we make it so we have a community where people have opportunities and education,” Lucas said, “and things that are different than being involved in crime? We need to make sure we find those who are causing trouble in our community and make sure we address those issues so that there aren’t folks who are creating more threats, more violence for us long-term. The biggest thing that we need to do is prevent these types of things from happening.”

Lucas added that it comes down to having influencers in the lives of young people who believe in them, and tell them that they can be someone greater than they believe they can. He said that he would like to see more investment in alternative activities for young people in the community.

“Things like a youth council for our city,” Lucas said, “so we have folks who not only have activities, but are helping create them. I do recognize that what you and I see as fun on the weekends may be different, and I may be stuck in a 1998 view of fun. I want to make sure that the city, where it can, is invested in those opportunities.”

He said that the schools are the main connector when it comes to implementing new programs and activities for youth.

“There is no better place for us to catch people, to give them ideas, to show them their worth, to tell them how special they are than in the schools,” said Lucas. “That’s one thing that I think we can do.”

Dr. Cargile agreed, and said that as a district, their role in ending the violence in the community starts with education. They have tools in place as educators to teach restorative practices and conflict resolution. She agreed that the community effort starts in the district and in the schools.

“We partner with a resource on conflict resolution to teach our students mediation skills without violence,” said Cargile. “That has been a big initiative in the district for the last few years. We’ve seen a decline in our discipline issues, and we continue to provide training to the staff to provide them the tools to equip our students with the skills that they need to work their issues out without violence.”

Gates said that the police department is very good at gathering data about crime after it occurs, and using the data to be proactive and provide heavier enforcement in areas where necessary. He also added that he recommends community members with firearms secure them inside their homes when not in use in order to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.

“We see a lot of theft from cars,” said Gates, “where people leave weapons that they own in their vehicle overnight in front of their house. I understand about wanting to be safe and feeling safe with having your own firearm and having access to that legally, but you have to make good decisions. Leaving weapons in your car overnight in front of your house is probably not the best decision.”

He suggested that students who may hear of something or witness something potentially threatening or dangerous speak out and address the issues with the KCPD officers who are in their schools.

“We can’t do this alone,” Gates said.

The TIPS Hotline has increased awards for community tips in order to help motivate individuals with information to contact police anonymously.  Those with information are urged to call 816-474-TIPS.

Advocate Welcomes New Sports and Community Editor

by Stephanie A. Wilken

They say ‘If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ My new position as the Sports and Community Editor for the Jackson County Advocate is exactly that.

In my journalism career, I’ve covered everything from city council to health care, education to the military. I’ve won awards for my work, and one story even ended up in supporting documents for a Supreme Court case. I’ve broken news that changed laws. I’ve written about the good, the bad, and everything in between. But nothing in this line of work compares to meeting the people whose stories I get to tell. The people are my favorite part. Being a journalist means every day I get to learn someone’s story, learn something new, and then share that with the community. It’s more passion than work.

I am grateful for this opportunity with the Advocate because sports is in my blood. Raised in Central Florida, I was in the pool before I was six months old, which translated to swimming competitively year-round. Being a Floridian also meant an opportunity for my grandparents to give me a set of plastic golf clubs as a toddler, which let to me becoming, like most adult golfers, frustrated; but the challenge and love for sport keeps me coming back.

In middle and high school, I added softball and track and field to the mix along with water polo and cross country. These days, I take my distance running to the next level training for a 50K. Most people in my life say ultra-running is insane (translation: I’m insane). And I don’t blame them. But for me, it’s the challenge. It’s the training. It’s the hard work and strength I need to tell myself I’ll survive running 31 miles on trails in the woods. It’s a chance to push myself further than I have before. And I do it for the love of sport.

There aren’t many sports I haven’t played (or tried to play). Most recently, I’ve played rec league softball, kickball and cornhole. The latter is definitely not the most physically demanding, but, hey, some people make a career of it. Alas, my dreams of professional cornhole will have to wait; I have to turn this column in to my editor.

A lifelong football fan, I finally got to play in 2018. I participated in the Alzheimer’s Association RivALZ football and fundraising program where I was named Rookie of the Year, playing cornerback and second-string wide receiver alongside some very talented and philanthropic women together raising more than $350,000 to fight Alzheimer’s since its inaugural game in 2009. Playing on the field gave me an even greater appreciation for my favorite sport.

Today I cheer for the Chiefs. Growing up in the South and a College Football Only Household™, I was excited to adopt the Chiefs in 2009, five years before moving Kansas City. Somehow I didn’t grow up a Dolphins fan, not too surprisingly; I didn’t grow up a Bucs fan, and, thankfully, my timing was just off and I never became a Jaguars fan. Kansas City is home now, and I couldn’t be happier.
Anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes knows I am proud alumna of the University of Central Florida. My Knights have had a fun run the last couple of years, but I know what it’s like to love a 0-12 team, too. Needless to say, fair-weather and bandwagon fans aren’t my kind of people.

Recently, UCF’s AD Danny White has gotten some press for his philosophy on scheduling. A lot of people think they know best when it comes to who UCF should play and at what venue. I admire him. It’s not easy to stand up for what you believe in, and it’s his job to. He wants to run with the big dogs and he believes in the program. That’s my AD. I love a good rivalry, I love competition, and I love a little good-natured chatter. I love both the underdogs and the athletes who dominate. I value good work ethic and good sportsmanship.

Naysayers also aren’t my kind of people. As the first female sports editor in the Advocate’s 65 years, I understand that traditional sports journalism is dominated by males. I’m honored to blaze this trail. And I promise you this: I work hard, and what I don’t know, I will learn. Get to know me, and you’ll see a person who’s passionate about sports and lives a motto of “do work.”

I’m here to tell your stories. To share what’s happening in our community. And to follow our student athletes as they work hard and push themselves for the love of sport.

Shoot me an email at or say hello on Twitter at @SWilkenJCA. I can’t wait to meet you.

Friday, August 9, 2019

New catering shop to open in downtown Grandview

by Mary K. Wilson

Visitors to Grandview’s historic downtown will soon smell the barbecue in the air. A new catering business is set to open, and the smokers are ready to be lit on the property now home to Any Event Catering at 506 Main Street.

Owner Casey Lueck is busy making finishing touches on the inside of the building, which he says he wanted to look old-school, sort of like a farmhouse. He has completely refinished the interior, including a storefront, a full commercial kitchen and barbecue equipment on the back patio.

“I’ve been in the lumber business my whole life, and I’ve always cooked,” said Lueck. “Since I was doing all of this anyway, I just decided to make money doing it. That’s literally how it got started.”

He purchased his first meat smoker around two decades ago, and fell in love with barbecue. While at work one day, he decided he didn’t want to work for someone else anymore, and put together a plan. Lueck’s parents, Greg and Vicki Lueck, live in Grandview and found the building on Main, which Lueck wasn’t sure would be big enough for what he wanted to do.

“When I got inside, it was 1100 square feet, and was bigger than I thought,” said Lueck. “So, here we are.”

While he waits for final approval on certain aspects of the business from the City of Grandview, Lueck has been working to complete minor things that don’t require permits.

Any Event Catering will have a country store at the front, where Lueck will sell homemade barbecue sauces, salsas, beef jerky and an assortment of homemade goods, including breads and desserts. He’ll also sell meat out of the store. After smoking or grilling, all the meat will be available to buy frozen with instructions on how to heat.

“I like to stop into stores like that, and that’s what I wanted to have here,” said Lueck. “It is catering. People won’t be able to come into the store and order a sandwich. But, if they call ahead, the next day I could have whatever it is they need.”

Lueck has a unique catering style, which he refers to as stop-and-drop, where he can serve meals for a small meeting or a large party. He offers to deliver the food, or customers will be able to stop by his shop to pick up their orders.

He also plans to serve food at area events or business locations, like the new winery in Peculiar, where he can showcase his talents and grow his customer base.

His recipes come from his family, and he will continue to cook the food that he grew up with. As a kid, Lueck remembers visiting Wilson’s Meat Market in Grandview, and he said that is similar to the feel that he recalls visiting that shop.

“That was an awesome place, and that’s what I want to be,” said Lueck. “We’ll be so much more than a barbecue catering place. I don’t want to be categorized as strictly catering. Of course, we cater, but I want people to know that we’ll do more.”

A self-proclaimed workaholic, Lueck is anxious to open his doors to the public. He looks forward to the opportunity of working with other businesses in the downtown corridor, where he can help provide food for different events.

“I wanted to be able to go to work every day and have it feel like it’s not work,” said Lueck. “It hasn’t felt like work so far. I’m excited to start cooking. The food is good and the barbecue is good.”

Any Event Catering prides itself on being family-owned and operated. When you walk through the door, you’ll see Lueck, and possibly hear his 12-year-old son, Aiden, playing video games in the back room. He looks forward to being a part of the downtown community and having the locals join his food-loving family.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Aldermen consider addendum for expansion project at The View

by Mary Wilson

In 2014, the City of Grandview was cutting ribbons at parks across town, with the reopening of several facilities which had been transformed with new, cutting-edge equipment. That same year, in August of 2014, Grandview voters approved $8.7 million in bonds for four improvement projects, including Shalimar Park renovations, an outdoor aquatics facility, Meadowmere Park development and an expansion of The View community center.

On Tuesday, July 16, the Grandview Board of Aldermen discussed The View expansion project during their work session. The original package for the expansion that voters approved included: additional space for a senior and teen center, gaming area, computer lab/classroom space, quiet room for reading and study, renovated toddler room, and a juice and snack bar.

Recreation Manager Morgan Tangen said that the current plans include an expansion on the tot-drop side of the center. She said that surveys have been completed, primarily focusing on current View membership, to determine what the space could be used for.

“A majority of the people spoke in favor of a fitness area,” said Tangen. “Our current fitness area is a little tight, so we are looking at moving some of our fitness stuff into that new expansion area to not only please our members, but to make it functional fitness.”

Tangen added that they are currently looking at having the same contracting company who is completing the splash pad project at The View also do the expansion, which would require the Aldermen to approve an addendum for the splash pad.

“When we started the splash pad design-build project, we discussed internally that there might be an opportunity to do something about The View expansion with the same contractor if they performed well for us,” said Public Works Director Dennis Randolph. “They have the same skills, and so it wouldn’t be any different.”

The project, as Randolph presented to the Aldermen, would entail 2,500 to 3,000-square-feet of space with the idea that the room can be easily modified in the future for different use. The initial cost was around $1.2 million, but with changes the project would now cost around $900,000 with the same contractor as the splash pad.

“The biggest impact that we face, if we want to go this route with the contractor, is scheduling,” said Randolph. “If we went back, instead, to the design-bid-build model, I’m estimating that it would be about six months later when this job could get done close to the end of 2020. If we took advantage and did an addendum, we could get it done by the beginning of May next year.”

Randolph added that if the city were to hold off on the project, and receive bids for completion next year, he thinks that the cost may be somewhere between $900,000 and $1.5 million.

“The big change would be that we would end up paying for design by an architect at probably around ten percent of that cost, minimum,” said Randolph. “That’s a significant savings for us.”

Alderman John Maloney said that while he doesn’t doubt that members who were surveyed were wanting the space to be utilized for fitness, he has an issue with the funding source.

“Very specifically, the bond package said what we were going to build,” said Maloney. “This is nowhere near the same thing as a senior and teen center.”

He referred to the informational brochures that were distributed prior to the vote in 2014, which stated: “with a growing baby boomer population, as well as an active teenager demographic, this project expands The View, adding an area to serve as both a Senior and Teen Center. Included are a gaming area, learning center and meeting rooms.”

“That’s exactly what we told the voters we were going to build,” said Maloney. “We’ve always prided ourselves on doing exactly what we say we’re going to do. I don’t know how we can, in good conscience, finance this with bond money when it’s not what we said we were going to finance. I can’t support this because that’s not where this money is supposed to come from.”

Knowing that this project was included in the bond package approved in 2014, Maloney questioned why this wasn’t part of the original design-build process for the splash pad or other projects that have been completed using the same funds.

“We knew this was there, why wasn’t it a part of something?” he asked. “It sounds like we’re running against the clock, and to save time and money, we need to do it this way to avoid that. I don’t like the visual that this gives voters without a bid process because we just remembered we had to do an expansion of The View. I have problems with that.”

Randolph said that while the time is important, the savings would be far more significant. City Administrator Cemal Gungor added that regardless of who the contract is awarded to for the expansion, his concern is how city staff can manage cost, progress, legal and oversight.

“We cannot run that many projects at one time,” said Gungor. “Right now we have the splash park and the shooting range. We need to take a breath. We’ve been doing this for the last four years and the projects need to be scheduled within our means.”

Alderman Sandy Kessinger said she was struggling with understanding how to reconcile adding the expansion project, a separate project, onto the splash pad project.

“While I can appreciate the reasoning for doing that, we have a purchasing policy that says anything over $10,000 has to go out to bid,” said Kessinger. “I don’t know how we can piggy-back that on there and make it legit.”

City Attorney Joe Gall said that he believes this can be done legally.

“The purchasing policy is guideline, but I think this is an exception that we can take advantage of,” said Gall. “There are exceptions for full source in the purchasing policy, and I think this might fit those criteria.”

Ultimately, the Aldermen asked Gall to review the policies to ensure that an addendum can be made on the splash pad project to add The View expansion to existing contractors already working at the site. The final decision was made after print deadline at the following regular session. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Comment Period Opens for Transportation Improvements in Missouri

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is seeking public input on the draft submitted to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for the 2020-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The STIP focuses on taking care of the state’s existing transportation system, and provides for a 30-day public review and comment period.

MoDOT Planning Director Machelle Watkins told commissioners the draft STIP includes 1,869 highway and bridge projects, of which 85% will be maintained in the condition they are in today. On average, the STIP annually invests in 1,014 lane miles of interstate pavements, 1,346 miles of major route pavements, 2,652 miles of minor route pavements and 213 bridges.

Missouri has the nation’s seventh largest state highway system with 33,859 miles of roadways and 10,385 bridges, but ranks 48th nationally in revenue per mile.

“With the priority of maintaining the existing system, MoDOT has developed asset management plans for each district, with the goal to maintain current pavement and bridge conditions,” Watkins said. “The asset management plans focus on preventive maintenance improvements to keep good roads and bridges in good condition. If preventive maintenance investments were not made, the cost of improving the asset in poor condition can cost four to ten times more.”

The STIP includes funding for the “Focus on Bridges” program that was initiated by the Governor and funded by the Missouri General Assembly approved budget with a one-time $50 million injection of general revenues for the rehabilitation and/or reconstruction of 45 bridges, including one in Jackson County at 140th Street at I-49. The money currently dedicated to these bridge projects will then be freed up for additional improvements to the state system of roads and bridges.

The program was developed assuming federal funding levels consistent with the FAST Act, which expires in September 2020. A forecast assuming a reduced level of federal funding, consistent with Highway Trust Fund revenues, was also prepared. MoDOT and planning partners worked together to identify specific projects that would be delayed, should federal funding be reduced.

The STIP details an annual construction program that averages $924 million per year for the five-year period. But it is insufficient to meet the state’s unfunded high-priority transportation needs that are estimated in MoDOT’s “Citizen’s Guide to Transportation Funding,” at an additional $825 million per year.

“Across every region of the state, feedback from Missourians has consistently prioritized maintaining the existing system as the highest priority,” MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said. “The STIP represents our commitment to Missourians of the projects that will be developed and delivered over the next five years.

“However,” McKenna continued, “this STIP recognizes the serious consequences to our plans if policy makers in Washington are unable to fix the Highway Trust Fund. In Missouri, that puts $613 million of projects including 5,423 lane-miles of roadway improvements and 55 bridge projects in jeopardy in FY 2021 and 2022. We have worked with our planning partners to determine these at-risk projects and offer a qualified commitment of project delivery.”

The draft STIP also includes detailed project information for non-highway modes of transportation and includes a section detailing planned operations and maintenance activities for the next three years, alongside expenditures for those same activities in the prior year. This additional information is provided to allow Missourians to more easily see how their transportation funding is invested.

The draft 2020-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program lists transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for fiscal years 2020 through 2024 (July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2024). Those interested in seeing the program or offering comments can contact MoDOT by email to, by calling customer service at 1-888-ASK-MoDOT (275-6636), or by mail to Transportation Planning, Program Comments, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO 65102. The program is also available on MoDOT's website at and at MoDOT district and regional offices around the state. The formal comment period ends July 5, 2019.

Following the public review period, the comments will be presented to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The Commission will review the comments and the final transportation program before considering it for approval at its July 10 meeting in Richmond.