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Observer Corps Reports

Eileen Marshall | Published on 9/29/2020

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

Meeting dates: 8/20 through 9/10 (most recent appears first)

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

These observations were conducted online through the Johnson County, KS On Base program and through FaceBook Live.

For more information see

September 10, 2020


Leslie Mark, alumna Johnson County Citizens Academy, discussed the need for more extensive COVID-19 testing in light of the current, unacceptably high disease rates. Other individuals offered complaints objecting to the mask order and asserting the need for in-building instruction for public schools. 


All items were agreed to, including accepting budget authority in the amount of $1,614,674.76 awarded to the County Department of Health and Environment funded through the federal Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to support staffing and infrastructure. 


All items in the Action agenda were approved, including a contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City for group health and stop loss administration services in the amount of $5,910,000 for two years effective January 1, 2021. 


COVID-19—Dr. Areola reported 9,044 cases as of today, with 128 deaths. The numbers are down slightly, but it is too soon to say if this is a trend. The goal is to keep school buildings open. Commissioner Brown argued at length and made a motion for a weekly vote on whether to retain the mask order. Chairperson Eilert stated that community medical experts from Advent, KU and other local health systems are urging masking both indoors and outdoors in light of the high numbers and stressed medical systems. Brown’s motion failed with a vote of three to four. (Supporting the motion: Klika, Brown, and Ashcraft. Opposing: Fast, Allen, Eilert, Hanzlick.)


Commissioner Hanzlick announced the publication of the new Explore Your Options Directory for aging services in Johnson County, available both in print and on the website.         

September 3, 2020


Several residents commented on the issue of public schools reopening. 


GUN SAFETY--In light of recent damage to property and threats to public safety in Springhill, the Board adopted Resolution No. 069-20 concerning an official statement on the safe use of firearms in unincorporated Johnson County. The Planning Department will develop guidance language pertaining to private gun ranges in that area. The sheriff’s office will prioritize gunshot complaints, increasing forensic investigations to support charges by the District Attorney. The Sheriff and the County will work to support increased gun safety statutes on the state level for unincorporated areas. All residents of unincorporated areas are to be notified of this resolution.

AGING AND HOUSING--The Board unanimously adopted Resolution No. 064-20, to hold a public hearing and approve a change of administrative organization, transferring the Housing and Community Development responsibilities, budget authority and full-time employees of the Human Services Department to the Planning, Development and Codes Department. This department will be renamed the Aging and Human Services Department to reflect the County’s focus on the increased aging population in the County and on accessible  housing and on keeping older people in their homes longer. 


INFECTIONS, POOL TESTING--Dr. Areola reported 807 new COVID infections last week. Metropolitan hospitals report being stressed at this point, with the highest number of COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic. The County will provide saliva tests, so that public school districts can pool test groups of samples and hopefully avoid widespread quarantining. In response to Commissioner Brown’s query about using other gating metrics such as ICU and hospitalization rates, Dr. Areola explained that gating by those numbers would be too risky, providing information too late to prevent overwhelming the health system. Chairperson Eilert reiterated the need for masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds, especially in light of the upcoming holiday, potentially a source of infection spikes. 

August 27, 2020


A number of residents commented concerning school re-opening, taxes and appraisal procedures.       


The Johnson County CourtHouse project has reached a milestone with the issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy. The court house will open for official business Jan. 2021. 


COVID-19 Update—County Epidemiologist Elizabeth Holschuh reported that the county has added the pooling method to current testing, in which groups of people (University of Kansas students) are tested and the samples pooled for faster results. Currently the county has 7,680 cases with a positive rate of 10.6%, which is too high for in person school and making us still well above the “hot spot” rating designated by the White House. The majority of the cases are under age 50 and are related to social gatherings, weddings, house parties, a trend clearly related to the Fourth of July and graduation parties. Ms. Holschuh reiterated that we must get our rates down, refrain from gathering so we can get this infection under control and return to in-person k-12 school and sports. 

August 20, 2020


Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute, and several residents testified against mask mandates and against any delay in opening in-person schools, K-12. Chairperson Eilert reiterated the explanation that the Board does not control public school decisions.           


The Board approved the Consent Agenda, including an item authorizing Johnson County Wastewater to accept a grant award in the amount of $110,000 for “Electrifying Terminal Trucks in Un-Incentivized Markets,” through the Metropolitan Energy Center for the purchase of a new 2020 OEV Electric Truck for a total of $260,000. The plan is to study the environmental impact of the move from diesel to electric power.


The recent audit of Records and Tax Administration found that property tax billing information by the county is accurate.

COVID-19 Update--It was reported that phase one reimbursements from the CRF are underway for almost all Johnson County cities. Dr. Areola reported that the high rate of positive cases makes it unsafe to open in-person classes for K-12 public schools. He also explained why Trabert’s comments at the beginning of today’s meeting arguing against masks were inaccurate, that mask usage is reducing the spread of COVID-19, according to the results of county-wide testing. Dr Areola reiterated the comments made by Deborah Birx, White House Corona Virus Response Coordinator, during her visit to the state last week, in which she strongly asserted the continued, consistent need for masks. 


Several commissioners commented on the untimely passing last night of Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland, expressing their dismay and sadness at the news.

Olathe School Board

September 3, 2020

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

The public comments portion of the meeting lasted two hours, as parents and others expressed their concerns regarding the safety of the students, mainly as it related to:  1) the current plan to open the schools in which the elementary schools would be under a hybrid plan and both middle and high schools would be all on-line, and 2) whether students would be allowed to participate in sports. 

After public comments, the district administration explained their plans, such as: 1) the district will continue to follow the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment gating criteria, 2) both the in-person option and the on-line (remote) options have been developed such that if a student decides to switch from one to the other the switch should go smoothly, and 3) a Learning and Technology Support Help Line has been established to help teachers, students and parents (and will include a Spanish speaking line). The administration is hopeful that if the district moves out of the high-risk category, students whose parents selected the in-person option would be able to start in person on September 28. 

The board discussed whether to allow high risk extra-curricular activities (for example, football). It was approved that the school district would continue to follow the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment gating criteria, except for high risk extra-curricular activities at the high schools. High school students could participate in these activities if: 1) parents and students aged 18 and older sign a waiver, 2) the student must select the on-line (remote) learning option, and 3) there would be restricted number of on-site spectators (limited to 4 family members) and an on-line spectator viewing option will be provided.

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Shawnee Mission School Board meeting 

August 24, 2020

Submitted by Lisa Bonds

Many community members voiced concerns to the Shawnee Mission School Board about starting the school year online rather than in person. The board members stated the reasons to remain online and continued to follow their earlier plans. The board agreed to purchase hot spots allowing students without internet access to obtain their lessons while the district is online. 

Special Shawnee Mission School Board meeting 

September 9, 2020

Submitted by Lisa Bonds

After all the other school districts in Johnson County decided to allow students to participate in sports and activities, the Shawnee Mission School Board called a special meeting to discuss their previous decisions that postpone activities until the county’s gating criteria determined it was safe to continue. 

Before discussing secondary students, the board heard the plan to return elementary students to their classrooms. The district has a goal to have all elementary schools in person by the middle of October, stating the schools need the time to plan and prepare for the returning of students. The district also decided that parents must choose between remote or in person learning for the entire year instead of only the first semester. 

The sports and activities discussion started with a letter from Dr. Sanmi Areola, the director of Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. The letter stated the county did not oppose the return of sports and activities. Richard Kramer, the district’s activities director, explained the steps and procedures each team in the district will take to return to competition safely. For example, only 25 people may travel on a bus, and limited numbers of athletes will be allowed in a locker room at one time.  During the discussion Mary Sinclair pointed out the number of students outside the windows standing close together and yelling (supporting the start of sports). Sinclair continued by stating that standing so close together is what many are worried about. Jessica Hembee stated her concerns about the quick return of sports, but taking six weeks to get elementary students back into the classroom. The board approved the return of athletics and activities with a vote 5-2 (Hembee and Heather Ousley voting against the return of activities).


To read more, click here.

Mission City Council

September 16, 2020

Submitted by Jeannine Linnane

The Mission City Council approved with no opposition a preliminary development plan for a five-story apartment complex that will likely include about 160 units, parking, dog park and pocket fitness park.

The apartments are slated to be built on the site of Mission Bowl on Martway Street, which was heavily damaged in a 2015 fire. The new building will also include seven units with office space on the ground floor and connected residential units on the second.

The preliminary development plan includes a height variance allowing the developers to construct a five-story building instead of the three-story structure for which the site is zoned.

The council also approved extending a disaster proclamation related to COVID-19 to Oct. 21. City staff told the council the move would enable Mission to recoup money for pandemic-related expenses through disaster funds.

The city is also beginning the process of revising its comprehensive plan, which establishes guidelines for development projects in the city. The first public meeting for the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee will be 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1. The meeting will be held online and is open to the public.

To learn more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council

September 8, 2020

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met virtually via ZOOM. Various environmental initiatives were discussed during the meeting and the Council adopted several measures.

The Council unanimously approved extending memorandums of understanding with two curbside compost collection services, the Compost Collective of KC and Food Cycle KC. The City will be publicizing the availability of this service to residents and businesses soon.

The Council passed a motion directing staff to draft an agreement with Dynamhex to purchase their carbon emissions tracking software. This product monitors and visualizes energy consumption data for residents, businesses, and city officials so they can make data-driven decisions to fight against climate change.

The Council also passed an amendment to the Municipal Code governing the allowable hours for private property construction in an attempt to limit noise.

To read more, click here.

Overland Park City Council

September 14, 2020

Submitted by Janet Milkovich

Eleven council members met in person and one joined virtually.  The meeting was held one week later than usual because of the Labor Day Holiday.

1.  During the 30-minute Public Comment period, the first ever held by the OP City Council, nine people presented. Seven presenters addressed alleged police misconduct during The Miller Dream Peaceful Protest on July 24. The complaints were about officers dressed in riot gear, with their names and badge numbers covered and the arrest of 4 of the protesters. Two presenters addressed the officer inflicted death of teenager John Albers.

2.  All city buildings flew POW MIA flags the week of September 13. The Mayor issued a proclamation honoring POWs and MIAs from Overland Park.

3. There was a prolonged discussion about the city’s plan to remove two traffic lights. The first 90 days will be a transition time using flashing lights. The process, impact on the residents living in the area and public comments will be studied. 

4. The Mental Health Task Force reported that Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and Olathe presented their plans for mental health care.

To read more, click here.