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Observer Corps Reports

Eileen Marshall  | Published on 9/1/2020


Johnson County Board of County Commissioners
July 16 through August 13, 2020 - most recent at the top


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

Because of the pandemic, these observations were conducted online through the Johnson County, KS On Base program and through Face Book Live. 

August 13, 2020 

PUBLIC COMMENTS

A number of parents commented, requesting that the BOCC pass a motion to allow high school sports. Chairperson Eilert explained that the Board has no jurisdiction over this matter, that the Kansas Attorney General has issued an opinion that these decisions are to be made by local school boards.  Dr Areola also explained that local public school administrators are seeking advice from the county, and that the current COVID-19 rates are too high, with a significant risk of transmission to faculty, staff and students. 

BUSINESS SESSION 

CONSENT AGENDA: The Board approved the Consent Agenda. 

ACTION AGENDA: The Board passed a motion to make the required funding match for a Kansas Department of Transportation grant of $1,027,278 for four pilot projects. These projects include, among other items, the expansion of the micro-transit service area for on-demand transportation programs for healthcare, neonatal care, and fresh local food. This one-time grant is at a 90/10 split, requiring a local match of $102,728. The Board also passed Resolution 037-20, adopting a revision to Financial Policy Reserves and establishing an Auxiliary Fund within the General fund for the purpose of further stabilizing the Health Care Fund. 

REPORTS AND COMMUNICATIONS 

Four cities, Olathe, Prairie Village, Roeland Park and Westwood Hills have  for reimbursement from the Corona Virus Relief Fund for a total amount of approximately $257,000. These reimbursements are subject to audit at several levels. 

Dr. Areola reported that the cumulative positive COVID-19 rate is currently at 7.2%, averaging about 90 cases per day, which is still too high. Elizabeth Holzschuh reported that the main places of exposure appear to be parties and family gatherings, reiterating that COVID spreads via droplets through the air without symptoms. Where people don’t wear masks, COVID is transmitted. 

The issue of differing numbers being reported by the state and the county was addressed; . Areola and Holzschuh are checking on this. Subsequently a set of FAQ's explained that the testing numbers differ because of different reporting parameters (date test administered vs date results are returned) used by state and county. More information on BOCC Meetings.

August 13, 2020 

Virtual Opening Ceremony - Medical Examiner Facility 
The new Medical Examiner facility will offer improved technical and digital equipment in order to provide more extensive and timely information to law enforcement agencies and residents. 


August 6, 2020 

Commissioner Becky Fast was absent. 

BUSINESS SESSION 

CONSENT AGENDA: The Consent Agenda was approved as presented, including the appointments of a number of people to the county advisory boards of Mental Health Center, Community Corrections, and Library, among others. The Board also approved the consideration to authorize an increase for $400,000 for COVID-19 testing supplies and processing services. 

ACTION AGENDA: The Board briefly adjourned and re-convened as the Public Building Commission to authorize the issuance of Lease Purchase Revenue Refunding Bonds, Series 2020A and 2020B, at 1.06% interest rate. The resulting interest savings will be used to mitigate revenue loss if sales tax income volatility continues. 

REPORTS AND COMMUNICATIONS

County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson reported that the election office set a new record for the recent primary, issuing results by shortly after 9:00PM election night. Commissioner Hanzlick thanked the election team.           

Dr. Areola provided an update on COVID-19. We are urged to avoid mass gatherings, and with the opening of in-person schools the county will now dedicate 25% of all appointment-based testing to pediatric populations in order to respond to school outbreaks. Masks are working, but we must continue to drive down numbers in order to open schools safely.
 
COMMISSION COMMENTS 

Commissioner Hanzlick reiterated the importance of completing the census, that the premature cut-off and subsequent lack of complete count will cost the county money. 

 

The vote canvass is set for August 12, and the vote certification will be August 13.  

The public hearing for the budget is scheduled for 7:00 PM, August 12.

July 30, 2020 

NOTES FOR THE RECORD 


Chairperson Eilert will sign an agreement for Wastewater right of way within the city of Mission Woods. 

BUSINESS SESSION 

CONSENT AGENDA: The Consent Agenda was approved as presented. 
 
ACTION AGENDA: Among other approved items, the Board passed a motion to authorize an exception to competition and approve a contract with the University of Kansas for consulting services to set up processes for distributing CARES funds in the county. 

REPORTS AND COMMUNICATIONS 

Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt gave an update on the August election with kudos to her team. Currently 833 poll workers ranging in age from 16 (Girl Scout Troop) to 90 years of age are signed up to work. More than 300,000 ballots were mailed out; only about 40,000 have been returned. 

Drs. Areola and Holzshuh gave the COVID 19 update. Our cumulative positive test rate is 9.2%, which is too high; community transmission must be low in order to open schools. House parties, graduation parties, school sports conditioning are all sources of COVID outbreaks now in the county. Our current yellow status is not appropriate for in-building schools. If we do not reach green status and a lower percentage of positive rates, Dr. Areola will advise against schools opening for in-person instruction. 

July 23, 2020 

NOTES FOR THE RECORD 

Ed Eilert will sign the Certificate of Non-Federal Match Form for the Department of Health and Environment for the quarter April through June 2020, Prevention and Early Outreach Services. 

BUSINESS SESSION 

CONSENT AGENDA:  The Consent Agenda was approved as presented.  

ACTION AGENDA: The Action Agenda items were passed, including Resolution No. 043-20, the issuance of General Obligation Internal Improvement and Refunding Bonds to finance Wastewater improvements. 

REPORTS AND COMMUNICATIONS 

The Aging Services Review was presented, and a budget addition of $250,000 was approved to support the local Senior Care Act. In the last ten years the poverty rate (annual income below $23,000) among Johnson County senior citizens has doubled and is expected to continue to do so. One focus will be on senior citizens and their caregivers and the challenges they experience accessing services. 

Samni Areola, PHD, reported on Covid-19 status. The County is working with all local hospital CEO’s and MARC (Mid America Regional Council) to get bed and ICU #’s to the County to be posted on the COVID Dashboard by next week. 

COMMISSION COMMENTS 

Commissioner Hanzlick reported on last week’s meeting with Douglas County on their Racial Equity program, which was highly informative. 

Commissioner Klika reported that Meadowbrook Park has received the Capstone Award from area realtors.              
July 16, 2020 

NOTES FOR THE RECORD 

Chairperson Eilert will sign an agreement with Olathe to improve 127 th Street from Blackbob to Kansas City Road. 

BUSINESS SESSION 

CONSENT AGENDA: The Consent Agenda was approved as presented. 

ACTION AGENDA: In addition to other items, the County passed a resolution amending the FY 2020 budget to accept CARES Act funding for $116,311,033. The County is establishing a web portal for cities and school districts to submit expenses for reimbursement. 

REPORTS AND COMMUNICATIONS 
            
According to 2020 CERI Indicators, May unemployment was at 9.3%.  

COVID-19 has caused the county to pause changes in Transit, and the county is moving forward with the micro-transit program. Dr. Areola reported that COVID-19 cases and clusters are increasing exponentially in the county, an increase unexplained by increased testing, because the positive percentage rate is also increasing. Death rates are a lagging indicator that will follow these increases, contrary to mistaken rumors otherwise. The concept of “herd immunity” is not applicable to COVID-19; we do not have the number of hospitals available to treat the massive number of cases that would result. 

Johnson County Library Board

August 13, 2020
Submitted by Karen Wulfkuhle  

The majority of the Central Library will be closed nine months in 2021 to undergo major renovation and capital improvements, as approved by the Johnson County Library Board at its August meeting.  Material returns, holds pick-up, public computer and printer access, vending machines and restrooms will continue to be available during renovation.  The project is budgeted not to exceed $11,107,000, to be paid for with a combination of existing project funds, existing CRP funds, Public Building debt and library reserves.  

The project includes replacement of boilers and electrical systems, a new children's area, and improvements to system and branch material flow in order to optimize operations.

Streaming services are available through the Library's website:
https://www.jocolibrary.org/elibrary/streaming-video

In addition to Acorn TV, Indie Flix and Kanopy, the Library now offers U.K. National Theatre Collection.  
 
Board meeting summaries

Olathe School Board

July 16, July 23, and August 6, 2020
Submitted by Cindy Hicks


July 16, 2020

The board was notified by the school district that the estimated budget for the 20/21 year is approximately $302 million. August 6 was approved as the special meeting for the review of the budget and public comments.
Significant time was given for the presentation by the school administration regarding the ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion project, which is a comprehensive program including continuing training and support for the students, administration, and staff. The Olathe school district’s student base is approximately 66% White, 16% Hispanic, 7% African American and 11% other. The district administration and staff are approximately 85% white, with the goal to become more reflective of the student base. The board reinforced their support that the hiring, curriculum, teaching staff, student performance, etc. should reflect the culture of this program.
The Olathe superintendent stated that the special board meeting scheduled for July 23 is to discuss the plan to re-open the schools. Ninety percent of the parents surveyed wanted their children back in school (in-person).  The board did approve a bid/contract to acquire 1500 internet hot spots for students who do not have access to the internet.  

July 23, 2020

This was a special meeting on July 23, 2020 regarding the reopening of the schools for the 20/21 school year.  The school administration presented their plans for both the on-line and the in-person options.  They have also prepared a plan for a hybrid option if the full time in-person can no longer be an option.  The administration also proposed that the opening day of the school year be moved back to September 8.  This would allow the team to finish preparing the schools to meet the federal, state and local requirements, ensure that they have all the additional supplies they need (PPE, cleaning, etc.), and training the staff on the new requirements, policies and procedures.  The Board approved the new start date of September 8.  

August 6, 2020

The board approved the 2020/2021-year fiscal budget, which will be filed with the State of Kansas by August 25, 2020.  The district’s administration is continuing to work with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment in understanding and adopting the H&E Covid 19 guidelines in the Olathe school system. The discussion continued regarding the schools’ plans and the need to be flexible as the guidelines and recommendations continue to change and be refined. 

To read more, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board 

July 22, July 27, and August 10, 2020
Submitted by Lisa Bonds


July 22

Governor Kelley stated that schools should not reopen until after Labor Day; days later the state’s School Board overruled the governor allowing school districts to open before Labor Day. The district announced it would not open school until after Labor Day.  

When schools open, parents will be able to pick one of three options (the district will ask parents which they prefer, and the student will be locked into that option for a semester). 

Option 1 - In Person
• In person learning would be in their home schools
• If cases are trending up in the county a student may be instructed in any of the three methods
• The district will decide which method of learning will be used based on gating criteria (number of cases in the county, growth of cases and other)


Option 2 -  Hybrid 
• Divide the class half and 1 half come 2 days a week and the other half comes to school 2 days a week 

Option 3 - Remote

• This year [unlike last spring] schools will give grades and the district will be responsible to keep kids engaged for 390 minutes a day 
• Student will be in the home school, but the teacher may not be from that school
• Students will be directly taught each day 

The district ran a preliminary survey and found 

• 72% of staff felt safe to return to work, 42% of staff had underlying conditions 
• 25% of parents wanted remote school across all age groups, while the majority of parents wanted on site learning.
  
The district will survey parents again at the end of July to determine final numbers for the three options. 

The district received $2.6 million from the CARES Act to help pay for these changes. Social distancing and face masks will be required. Increased hand washing will be built into the school day. Increased cleaning is also part of the plan; high use objects (doors and water fountains) will be cleaned throughout the day, and each evening the rooms will be cleaned with misters.   

In other news, the school board voted unanimously to accept a 1.4% pay raise for teachers.  

July 27, 2020

The major decisions were about how the district will adjust to COVID-19.  The board accepted the altered calendar, which starts after Labor Day leading to moving both the start of second semester back along with Spring Break.  The school year will end the first week of June which will give seniors enough hours before Memorial Day to graduate.  Some concerns were expressed that parents did not have enough information to make an informed decision about the learning mode (in person, hybrid or remote). Superintendent Fulton stated there will be a video attached to the email which will be sent to all parents, but there will be uncertainty for both families and the district going forward.  

The board also passed a revised version of the non-discrimination policies. All the policies and procedures were moved to the same location, and some of the wording was changed along with the officials who were responsible for administering these policies.  

August 10, 2020

The Board started the meeting by discussing a survey that was carried out in order to make a decision about a bond issue.  The company surveyed 500 community members [when the survey was carried out was not provided]. The major result of the survey was that 63% strongly favored or favored a $22 tax increase per $100,000 price of a home.  The bond is for capital improvement.  The public may vote on the bond in either November or January.  The board is leaning toward January which will cost the board $250,000 for a mail in ballot.  

Families and staff members have weighed in on their form of educational method.  Between 22-37% of families picked the remote method while the only 8% of the staff wanted remote placement.  

The school board also made three important decisions.  The board passed a $482 million budget.  The district also supported the purchase of HEPA filters for the HVAC system, to improve the air quality and decrease the amount of virus in the buildings.  The district will use CARES money [the district received $2.6 million and has spent $432,000].  Finally the board agreed to enter into an agreement with community agencies to provide low cost child care for district staff.  

To read more, click here.

Overland Park City Council 

July 10, August 3, and August 17, 2020
Submitted by Janet Milkovich


July 10

The Overland Park City Council met via Zoom. Council member Stacie Gram was not in attendance.

The Mayor recommended that Dr. Dred Scott, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club, be approved to serve on the Independent Citizen Advisory Board for Racial Profiling and Non-Biased Policing.   The board meets quarterly to review complaints of bias that have been received by the police department. The Council voted 11-0 for approval.

Following a Black Lives Matter protest in Overland Park, it became more widely known that this board existed and some community leaders then requested more transparency and the appointment of Black men to serve.  The Independent Citizen Advisory Board for Racial Profiling and Non-Biased Policing advises and assists in policy development, education and community outreach and communications related to racial profiling and other non-biased policing efforts of the Overland Park Police Department. Council Member Logan Heley asked for clarification of the process for recruiting members of community advisory boards and requested that council members become more proactive in the process. 

The Mental Health Task Force will meet on July 28 to discuss diversion programs. The meeting can be streamed.

The Council voted to move up the date that terms commence to December instead of January. The Council President will be elected at the second regular meeting of December.

August 3

The meeting was held virtually with all twelve members present.

A Public Hearing was held for the proposed annual budget. Representatives for the Environmental Action Committee and the Arboretum spoke as well as a private citizen. One comment was read by city staff.

Mr. Gary Nevius was elected as Executive Director of Forward OP, a community developed plan for continued success for the next 20-25 years in Overland Park. Forward OP is meant to encourage the community to find ways to be forward-thinking, welcoming and innovative. Mr. Nevius will lead a board comprised of six private citizens and six members of partnership organization. He will be housed at the Chamber Offices. 

Six members of the Council made statements condemning Ward 6 Council Member Scott Hamblin's arrest for domestic battery. Some asked for him to resign from the city council. Mr. Hamblin responded that he will not resign. Although the City Council recently updated a code of conduct, the council has no authority to remove a council member from office. (Note: days later the Mayor removed Mr. Hamblin from the public safety committee which deals with police business.)

The Mental Health Task Force will be learning about a mental health court diversion program. The chairman of the task force praised the police chief for the recent policy change that will not allow police officers to shoot at vehicles.

August 17

The City Council met in person in the Council Chambers with all 12 members present.

Members of the public were present to speak during the designated 30 minutes set aside for Public Comment at the beginning of the meeting and loudly protested when the mayor told them the council had unanimously voted not to have a Public Comment Period until the next meeting. The Mayor then explained that it was illegal to allow public comments when it wasn't on the published agenda. One citizen was eventually escorted from the chamber after refusing to be silent. Another citizen who wanted to talk about issues encountered during an Overland Park peaceful protest also refused to be silenced. When officers tried to escort her from the room, she demanded to know why they were not wearing name tags and police badges. She continued to speak loudly as the Council conducted business. 

Council went into Executive Session to discuss legal issues associated with the January 20, 2018 officer-involved shooting of an Overland Park teen. His mother was present for the City Council meeting.

The Council voted to request the District Attorney and Attorney General to take under review the facts surrounding Council Member Hamblin's arrest. Kansas Law defines criteria for ousting elected officials from their positions. Council Member Hamblin has refused the request of some of his fellow Council Members to resign his position and the City Council does not have the power to remove a member.

To read more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council 

July 20, August 3, and August 17, 2020
Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell


The Prairie Village City Council met virtually on Monday, July 20, 2020.  Deb Settle, from the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, presented an update on selected Chamber activities and reported that most Chamber members report only 20-30% of their revenues coming in at this time. She commended the City of Prairie Village for being one of the first cities in the region to encourage wearing masks.

The Council then adjourned the public portion of the meeting and went into executive session to discuss a lawsuit concerning land use. 
 
The Prairie Village City Council met virtually on Monday, August 3, 2020, with the first item of business being the approval of the city budget for 2021. Dr. Jameela Lang, a Prairie Village resident, commended the city on its handling of recent racial justice protests and rallies and requested the formation of some form of Task Force to continue this progress, which the Mayor agreed was a good idea. The Council members also lauded the Police Department on their handling of these events.  The Council voted unanimously to cancel the yearly animal enumeration program that sent part-time employees to homes to guarantee the licensing of household pets.

August 17, 2020
Submitted by Eileen Marshall


Notable items:
The Mayor gave an update on COVID-19 in Prairie Village.
City Council meetings are currently held via Zoom, with live-steaming on Facebook.  Public participation is via Zoom, email, or phone.

Council took the final step in allowing backyard hens by approving changes to the zoning regulations.
The Mayor announced the formation of a new Diversity Task Force with a broad remit to recommend steps to attract more diverse residents to PV. The task force may look at housing, policing, events, and any other relevant issue. Council would have to approve any actions based on the recommendations, which are expected by early 2021.

To read more, click here.