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 https://www.mymcpl.org/locations/red-bridge.