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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 8/5/2020

Johnson County BOCC Meeting Observer Report

June 25 through July 9, 2020 (most recent at the top)

Observers: Lee Rowe, Kathleen Morrow, Karen Wiederaenders, Joan Gilson

Because of the pandemic, these observations were conducted through Facebook Live and the Johnson County livestreaming service. 


Five individuals commented, two objecting to the county-  and statewide mask requirement, three supporting it. The sheriff then commented that he was upset that persons exposed to COVID-19 were being allowed to quarantine in a hotel in Gardner. It was pointed out that the state often places unhoused individuals and others in need of assistance in hotels and that the hotel is a business owned by a private individual who has contracted with the county for this service.

The board approved all four items on the Action Agenda, including one providing for an exception to competition for renewing an agreement for psychosocial rehabilitation and crisis intervention services with FosterAdopt Connect not to exceed $100,000 for one year and another to accept funds from the State of Kansas Coronavirus Relief Fund.

COVID-19 Funding: a little over $2,260,000 has been spent to date. COVID-19 Health Update: Samni Areola, PhD, Johnson County Health and Epidemiology, reported that Johnson County new cases are currently 316 per day. Chairperson Eilert commented that the trend of new cases and the positive rate are both accelerating.  Commissioner Brown introduced a motion to make masks voluntary, seconded by Commissioner Klika. The motion died with a vote of three to four: Aye-Brown, Klika and Ashcraft. No-Hanzlick, Allen, Fast, and Eilert.

The Committee of the Whole met at 1:30 for a budget review to examine the impact of the pandemic on county revenues. The budget is based on board priorities and the results of the community survey. Board priorities are to complete capital projects, support the vulnerable populations of the county, develop a vision and plan for mass transit, and develop innovation initiatives. The community survey identified safety and low crime, the availability of health and human services, and emergency medical services as key priorities. A 10% reduction in revenue for 2020 is conservatively predicted, and modest growth of 2% for 2021. Although tax revenues are down, County Manager Ferguson hopes to avoid using reserves or making significant cuts in services.

Special Meeting 7/2/2020

The Special Meeting to consider Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s Executive Order to be issued on 7/2/2020 regarding the requirement to wear face masks was called to order at 10 a.m. Recommending a mandate to wear masks, Dr. Areola reported that Johnson County is currently at the highest risk yet for the transmission of COVID-19, with skyrocketing numbers outside of long-term care centers, now affecting the younger population. Dr. Joseph LeMaster confirmed this report, citing the County Dashboard. Commissioners Brown, Klika and Ashcraft argued against a mask requirement. 

Public comments were accepted, with 25 arguing against a mask requirement and 17 speakers, including a representative from Advent Health Systems, requesting the requirement.

The commission voted to comply with Governor Kelly’s executive order, with yes votes from Commissioners Fast, Hanzlick and Allen and Chairman Eilert; no votes from Commissioners Brown and Klika. Ashcraft abstained. 


The Board passed Resolution No. 038-20, authorizing receipt of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding from the U.S. Treasury for $116.3 million to create a project account and set up a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. on July 16 for public comments on related proposed county budget amendments for FY 2020.

Thirteen action items were approved, including a rezoning request from the City of Gardner for approximately 31.9 acres located in the vicinity of 175th St. and I-35 for the Garden Apartment District for development of a preliminary plat for 356 single-family homes near the same location. 

The board also approved a resolution to authorize the utilization of CARES Act funding in an amount not to exceed $14,996,458 to obtain a supply and a three-month reserve of Personal Protective Equipment and to authorize exception to competition for vetted vendors in order to quickly to stabilize our supplies in the event of increasing COVID-19 illnesses.

Dr. Areola reported a 24% uptick in cases, compared to increases of 14% last week and 13% the week before, explaining that this increase cannot be accounted for by an increase in testing. He reiterated that masks are crucial in mitigating viral spread. Additional testing times have been added.

Commissioners Fast and Hanzlick are both meeting with a number of stakeholders in the county, including the NAACP, individuals and others, on the topic of diversity and the best way the county can facilitate greater respect for the experiences of persons of color and strengthen county policies to accomplish increased equity for all residents.

The public can send comments through the BOCC clerk:

For further information, see  

Olathe School Board

June 30, 2020

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board held their special end-of-year meeting on June 30, 2020. It was a brief meeting in order to approve the end-of-year expenditures and related funds transfers.

To read more, click here.

Overland Park City Council

July 6, 2020

Submitted by Janet Milkovich

The city council met via Zoom. No public comments were allowed. The council chamber now has plexiglass dividers at the dais. The council hopes to meet in person on August 17.

The city council voted down a $3 million dollar request proposed by the Mental Health Task Force, an advisory committee composed of people with professional and/or personal interest in mental health. The money would have been raised via a tax increase of approximately $9 per $100,000 appraised value of Overland Park homes. Ward 6 Councilmember Chris Newlin, chair of the task force, explained that the group recommended creating a division of trained personnel within the police department to de-escalate mental health calls. Ideally, they would add eleven crisis-intervention professionals. Currently the city has one full-time mental health responder, which is deemed by the task force as far from adequate to respond to a surge in calls. Over the past three years, approximately 10,000 crisis calls were made and approximately 20% were responded to. The city does not offer 24/7 crisis intervention.

The vote was 7 against and 5 supporting. City Manager Bill Ebel promised to look within the budget to find $81,000 so that all police officers can receive training in Crisis Intervention Response (CIT). The Johnson County Mental Health Department, a Mental Health Task Force member, offered to provide the training. There is money allocated in the 2021 budget to hire one new co-responder and one new CIT officer. 

Overland Park’s current mill levy is 13.5%, the lowest of all major cities in the state. The mill levy is a property tax that is applied to a property based on its assessed value. The rate of the tax is expressed in mills. One mill is equal to one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value.

A public hearing on next year’s budget will be held on August 3. The Council will vote on the budget August 17.

Paul Lyons, chair of the Public Safety Committee, announced that the meeting scheduled for July 9 was cancelled because there were no agenda items. Council Member Faris Farassati asked that the meeting be “uncanceled” because a number of citizens had asked to express their views about the $70,000 severance pay given to an officer who responded to a mental health call with force that resulted in the death of a young man in crisis. Mr. Lyons invited citizens to submit their requests to speak at public safety meetings one week in advance. He noted that the requests that came in for the July 9 meeting were not received until July 7. The Public Safety Committee business includes police services, fire protection services, emergency medical and rescue services, consumer fraud, civil defense, traffic enforcement and school crossing guards. They meet on the second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. The next scheduled meeting is August 12.

To read more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council

July 6, 2020

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met virtually via Facebook. The council meeting began with two special presentations. First Kristy Baughman spoke about the Johnson County Housing Study currently being conducted. The study is intended to determine the need for affordable housing county-wide and in the municipalities co-sponsoring the study. At this time, county-wide input from citizens is being collected. Prairie Village residents have the third-highest response rate, following Olathe and Overland Park.

The second presentation about the Voter to Voter City Challenge was conducted by Michael Poppa, Executive Director of the Mainstream Coalition. Poppa explained that this initiative creates teams to identify potential voters and get them to vote. The City of Prairie Village was encouraged to form such teams.

Other items discussed by the Council were the newly enacted, statewide requirement that masks be worn in public. So far, the police have received no complaints about mask noncompliance.

The council also voted 8-4 to allow hens and chicken coops in Prairie Village. However, local homeowner’s associations decisions about keeping these animals would overrule any citywide permission.

To read more, click here.