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.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Grandview’s Athletic Director retires after 32-year career

by Brent Kalwei

Steve Robertson’s commitment to the Grandview School District was put on display from the very first day he showed up for work in August of 1987. Robertson was so dedicated that just two days after getting married, he skipped the honeymoon for the beginning of his educational career.
“They were in need of a junior high science teacher and football coach,” Robertson said. “I had practice at 6 a.m., and that was my first job, so I wasn’t going to miss that. I’m still looking for that honeymoon.”
Robertson, who is currently the Grandview athletic director, has stayed true to the school district. He is just weeks away from retiring after spending the entirety of his 32-year educational career with Grandview.
“Loyalty is big for me. That’s why I appreciate George Brett, Cal Ripken and guys like that, because they are with one team their entire career,” Robertson said.
Robertson has worn many hats as a coach in the district. He was a high school assistant football coach for 13 years, eighth grade basketball coach for five years and spent one year each as the head boys’ and girls’ high school golf coach. Robertson, who played college baseball at Baker University, served as the Grandview Bulldogs head baseball coach from 1991-2007.
“Baseball is in my blood,” Robertson said. “That holds a special place. So many of the relationships that I have with coaches and players is what I cherish as much as anything.”
Robertson led the Bulldogs to their first and only baseball district championship in 2001. He enjoyed when Grandview participated in baseball tournaments in St. Louis, and played four times at Kauffman Stadium. Robertson coached Jay Bollinger, a 1997 graduate and First Team All-State baseball player. Bollinger liked Robertson’s approach to coaching.
“Every day he had a plan to help everybody get better,” Bollinger said.
Robertson is in his 17th year as the athletic director. Grandview has won 10 of its 11 all-time team state championships during Robertson’s tenure as athletic director.
“We’ve been blessed with so many unbelievable athletes and kids. It’s been a pleasure of mine to witness so many unbelievable feats. Those are things that I’ll never forget,” Robertson said.
Dana Bedwell, Grandview head girls’ track and field coach, believes Robertson has played a key role in the success of the athletic programs.
“He’s so professional. He requires us to stay on top of behavior and supervision,” Bedwell said. “He keeps his coaches to a high standard, and we rise to his standard.”
Robertson takes pride in making opposing teams and fans feel welcome during sports events at Grandview.
“One of my goals is to try to make every event a quality event, so when people come from other school districts, they leave with a good taste in their mouth about Grandview,” he said.
Bedwell said Robertson is well prepared and hardly ever misses a Grandview home sports event.
“He has lists for everything that needs to happen,” Bedwell said. “I’ve never been to any events that are as organized as the ones that he puts on.”
The Missouri Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association named Robertson as a District Athletic Director of the Year in 2016.
Also in 2016, Robertson created the Grandview Athletic Hall of Fame, which honors the greatest student-athletes in school history. Hall of fame inductees are selected annually. Robertson invites each hall of fame athlete back to the high school to be recognized during a two-day induction celebration. Each inductee receives a plaque to honor their achievement. Robertson said the event is a great way to build the relationship between alumni and current staff.
“One of the best things is when they come back and share their stories,” he said. “For them to come back and see our kids playing football and or basketball, and to see the school, they are just amazed at how nice it is, and how much they miss and appreciate Grandview. I heard about all of the previous student-athletes that have gone through here. To hear about them, and then finally meet them is a thrill.”
Robertson also created the hall of fame hallway located outside of the main high school gym. It features an array of items including championship trophies and plaques, banners, record boards and photos of former standout teams and athletes.
Grandview Superintendent Kenny Rodrequez said Robertson has had a significant impact in the Grandview School District community.
“I’d be shocked if people in 10 to 15 years aren’t still talking about the athletics program and mentioning Steve in the same sentence,” Rodrequez said. “He has become synonymous with the athletic successes in this district.”
Rodrequez is impressed with the relationships Robertson has built with the student-athletes in the school district.
“In every single sport, he knows all the different kids,” he said. “He knows their skills and ability levels. He has built relationships with them. He wants the absolute best for Grandview because our kids deserve it.”
Robertson said being a part of the Grandview School District has been special, adding that he will miss the relationships he has formed with athletes and coaches.
“I’ve always found it to be an interesting district with the diversity and the quality of kids,” he said. “I’ve always harped on trying to make sure that we represent our school district well. Anything I’ve done has been in an attempt to put Grandview in a good light and make people in the community proud of us. I’m sure I’ll follow the district closely for a long time just to see how things are going.”
Kirk Hipple, the athletic director and assistant principal at Summit Lakes Middle School in Lee’s Summit, will be taking over as the next Grandview athletic director.
“Hopefully, I’ve set a good foundation and people will just continue to do that,” Robertson said. “I’m proud to say that I’m leaving it in good hands.”

Thursday, May 23, 2019

McGee resigns, maintains innocence of alleged sexual harassment

by Mary Wilson

Despite an independent investigation that revealed no sexual harassment took place, Missouri District 36 Representative DaRon McGee said he had no choice but to resign last month.

Anytime there are allegations of sexual harassment in the House of Representatives, an independent investigation is conducted. In the conclusion of the report, completed by HF Law Firm in Kansas City, the investigators determined that there was “no evidence of sexual harassment” between McGee and the alleged victim.

“This is why I was so shocked that this thing even proceeded,” said McGee.

The independent investigation also stated that the alleged victim did not raise any concerns regarding overtly sexual conduct on the part of Representative McGee. A romantic relationship between McGee and the alleged victim never took place, according to the victim’s statement in the report.

The victim, in the independent report, states that she “never felt uncomfortable around Representative McGee. I never felt that he retaliated against me.” McGee said that the victim’s testimony changed after the report was concluded and she got a lawyer. According to him, she opted to tell a different story when testifying in front of the Committee on Ethics.

“I think that she is now trying to sue the state and financially gain,” said McGee. “What she told the independent investigators was completely different than what she told the committee.”

The independent investigation also revealed that the alleged victim was not the one to file the initial complaint against McGee. It was reported and filed by another elected official. In the House of Representatives, there are certain leadership members who are designated mandatory reporters.

“From my understanding, and the way the report read, was that she (the alleged victim) was basically gossiping with another legislative assistant, and that legislative assistant told her boss,” said McGee. “Then they felt the obligation to report it. She never reported this.”

McGee also feels that the process was unfair to him. The Committee on Ethics is evenly split between democrats and republicans, however, McGee said he believes two of the democrats on the committee had a conflict of interest.

“She (the alleged victim) worked for one of them,” said McGee. “She had been a secretary to one of the representatives, and the second representative had written me a letter urging me to keep her when we were going through the hiring process.”

He said he submitted this information to the committee with the assumption that this was a clear-cut conflict of interest for the two representatives. They both refused to recuse themselves, stating they didn’t believe there was a conflict.

“I had a huge issue with this,” said McGee. “This was before they received the independent report. They told me to wait until they got the report back. Keep in mind; we didn’t have the report this whole time. They didn’t turn the report over until they went to a vote to go to a preliminary hearing.”

He said that the two individuals he felt had a conflict of interest in making decisions on the matter voted to proceed with the hearing.

“They were allowed to take a vote on this,” McGee said. “Two republicans voted to dismiss. Had the two democrats who had conflicts not been on this committee, I think this thing would have been dismissed. But they were allowed to vote. Not only were they allowed to vote, they called her (the alleged victim) in for a hearing.”

McGee stated that he told the committee he didn’t think it was fair that they were going to hear the alleged victim’s testimony. The chairman said that since the hearing was already scheduled, the two committee members would be allowed to hear her testimony and then be able to recuse themselves.

“How in the hell is that fair?” McGee said. “So, they voted to proceed. They heard the victim’s testimony, and then they said they’d recuse themselves.”

He requested that the committee consider delaying the hearing and appointing two new members to hear the testimony.

“Why would they hear her testimony only to turn around and recuse themselves?” McGee said. “That didn’t make any sense to me.  They did it anyway. Under any court of law, that would have never flown.”

Once he was able to see the independent investigation, he felt that the report was in his favor. He said that he and the alleged victim were friends, and there were text messages between the two where they joked about going on dates.

According to the report, “when asked if Representative McGee treated her differently or negatively in any way after she declined his request for dates, she indicated he did not. She stated she never felt that he was upset with her; she further stated she never felt uncomfortable around him and he never retaliated against her.”

The alleged victim, according to McGee, then said that he repeatedly asked her out on dates through text messages, though he adamantly denies any romantic relationship with her. When her testimony changed in front of the Committee on Ethics, McGee said that there were instances where the alleged victim would fly out of KCI and leave her car at his house in Kansas City.

“I had no problem with that, because we were friends,” said McGee. “You wouldn’t do that with someone you felt uncomfortable around, or that you feel is sexually harassing you. You don’t leave your car at their house. You don’t ask them to pick you up from the airport. It was never a big deal to me because there never was a romantic thing here.”

When McGee addressed the committee, he stated that there was nothing sexual in the text messages between the two. The alleged victim indicated to the independent investigator that she did not want to be involved in the investigation and wanted to move on with her life. McGee believes she didn’t want to testify because she never reported anything.

“If I’m guilty of anything, maybe I’m guilty of being too comfortable with a staffer,” said McGee. “It was never romantic. It was never sexual. At best, it was flirtatious.”

McGee said that the Committee on Ethics offered him three options: resign and the complaint goes 
away; appeal the decision; or take a censure.

“In my mind, why would I appeal to the same 10 people, dragging this thing out for another three months,” said McGee. “I looked up the censure, and they’ve never censured anybody in the history of the House. I didn’t want to go through that. The rules stipulate that you have to be present for a censure. So, you have to sit there in the chamber and take their berating. Which, I don’t believe that I deserved.”

He felt he only had the choice to resign at that point. However, according to McGee, the Speaker stated that his resignation letter was received 30 minutes too late. They issued the report from the Committee on Ethics anyway.

“It was cruel, and they didn’t have to be,” said McGee. “They had my resignation, and they held onto it until they issued the report. The Speaker’s response was very harsh, and it didn’t need to be.”

He believes that he was treated unfairly for two reasons: the republicans saw this as an opportunity to embarrass a democrat; and he feels that his own party was worried they would appear to not be defending the woman in the time of the “me too” movement.

“The process, at the basis, should be fair,” said McGee. “I don’t believe it was.”

Having previously served on the Committee on Ethics, McGee said that anytime a report came before them that had no evidence to support the claims and was inconclusive, it would be dismissed.

“Hindsight being 20/20, I probably shouldn’t have sent joking text messages back and forth with this person,” said McGee. “I guarantee you there is a lot worse in other people’s phones in Jefferson City.”

He doesn’t believe his career in politics is over. He said while there is a great segment of supporters who simply don’t believe the allegations, unfortunately in this society an accusation is a conviction. However, he feels that the issue will eventually blow over.

“People know me and know my character,” said McGee. “I have never, in my life, sexually harassed anybody. I don’t have a reason to; that’s just not me. As a man with a mother and a sister, that’s just not who I am. I still contend that I did nothing wrong. I would have liked to continue to serve and remain the State Representative for our area. I think I did well for as long as I was there. I have always tried to do good work.”

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Leading aquatics organizations promote safe enjoyment of water

by Mary Wilson 

The American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging parents to start their children in swim lessons as early as age one, according to a recently released study. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children in the US aged one to four, and the third leading cause of unintentional injury death among children under 19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning claimed the lives of almost 1000 US children in 2017. In recognition of the popularity of swimming and other water-related recreational activities in the United States, and the resulting need for ongoing public education on safer water practices, the month of May 2019 is considered National Water Safety Month.

“It is a powerful way to send a crucial message at the start of the busy summer swim season,” said Connie Harvey, Director of the Aquatics Centennial Initiative for the American Red Cross. “There are layers of protection involved in water safety. Ensuring everyone in the family learns how to swim and that parents and caregivers have the knowledge and skills to handle emergencies around the water, including how to perform CPR, is a good place to start. National Water Safety Month helps us communicate these messages.”

According to Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association president and CEO, nearly all Americans believe it is important for children to learn how to swim at an early age.

“That’s why we’re proud to promote the importance of water safety at our nation’s park and recreation centers where there are opportunities for everyone, especially children, to learn how to swim,” Tulipane said.

What started as a week in 2003 has grown into this annual month-long event that is supported by thousands of aquatics facilities and professionals that provide educational programs, public service announcements, governmental proclamations, dealer and aquatics business promotion and the distribution of water-safety-themed materials, designed to help prevent water-related fatalities, illnesses and injuries.

“In 2018, we were able to secure proclamations from governors in all 50 states recognizing May as National Water Safety Month. This recognition emphasizes the importance of protecting kids and families in and around the water through education and building awareness,” said Rick Root, World Waterpark Association (WWA) President. “Participating in National Water Safety Month is a wonderful opportunity to broaden our reach and amplify our message about the importance of learning to swim and providing undistracted parental supervision while children are in or near the water.”

Locally, employees at The View community center in Grandview take water safety seriously, and consider it a top priority for anyone visiting the facility’s swimming pool.

“We have too many kids coming in here needing saved,” said Grandview Parks and Rec’s Aquatics Supervisor Kaitlyn Keck. “We had two saves on Saturday alone. It seems like every year, we have more and more kids needing saved or are drowning. Water is everywhere. It’s not just in a pool. It’s really scary to have to go in and save a kid. It is also scary for the kid. It can give them a bad experience and make them uncomfortable around water.”

Keck helps adults and children of all ages to get over their fear of water. She said that there are some adults who are terrified to go on a cruise or be near a body of water because of something that may have happened to them a long time ago.

“I went to a job fair at Grandview High School a few weeks ago, and we asked students if they’d be interested in being a lifeguard at The View,” said Keck. “Probably 90 percent of those we asked said they didn’t know how to swim. It’s like riding a bike: you never forget once you learn, but you have to learn how to do it.”

New this year, Parks and Rec is partnering with the Grandview School District to offer basic swim lessons for fourth graders enrolled in summer school. They’ll teach the students basic water safety, including when to get help, survival swimming, and how to properly wear a life jacket.

Swim lessons are offered through Grandview Parks and Rec, as well as lifeguard certification, CPR and other water-related activities. Private or group swim lessons are available. The View also offers free, family-oriented events year-round. Visit for more information on lessons or events.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Controlled Chaos

Mock crash held at Grandview High School to prepare students for prom weekend

By Mary Wilson

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. The Grandview police and fire departments don’t want Grandview High School students to become part of that one death every 50 minutes statistic.

On the morning of Friday, April 26, before juniors and seniors headed to their prom on Saturday night, a mock crash was held in the parking lot of the high school. Retired Grandview firefighter Terry Magelssen served as the crash narrator. The dramatization is an effort to ensure that students put safety at the forefront of their minds when attending celebrations.

The crash staging included a head-on collision with multiple passengers with differing severity of injuries. Throughout the dramatization, Magelssen provided students with tips on what to do if they are in an accident, and how to avoid something of that magnitude altogether.

“The statistics tell us that everyone here, at least once in your lifetime, will be involved in something like this,” said Magelssen. “That’s a scary thought. It could be tomorrow, or it could be 50 years from now. At least once, you’ll experience something like what you are seeing today.”

A car crash happens almost every 30 seconds in this country, according to Magelssen. In Grandview, crashes happen two or three times each week.

“Keep this in the back of your mind: when you are driving a vehicle, what you are actually doing is controlling a 5,000 pound weapon,” said Magelssen. “You are essentially seated inside of a missile. When these two cars collided, they expended enough energy that would be the equivalent of three or four sticks of dynamite.”

He added that there are three crashes that occur with each vehicle accident. The first is when the cars hit each other. The second is when the bodies, restrained by seatbelts and airbags (or maybe not) hit the inside of the car. The third collision is the one that kills passengers.

“I want you to be serious when you get behind the wheel of that 5,000 pound weapon,” said Magelssen. “Not only could you injure yourself, but you can injure innocent bystanders or everybody in your car. While today we’re focusing on prom season and the distractions that cell phones can create, or the craziness that happens in your brain from alcohol and drugs, know that this happens from a bee flying in the car, a flat tire, or an old man who’s having a stroke or a heart attack. What you can do for us is take away that part that deals with cell phones and other distractions.”

Magelssen said that the first responders have a job in Grandview to make certain that no students end up in crashes like the one shown on Friday. The crash demonstrated what happens when a vehicle collision occurs, acted out by peers from the Grandview High School drama department.