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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 3/2/2021

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

Meeting dates: Dec. 17, 2020 - Feb. 11, 2021 (most recent appears first)

Observers: Lenore Rowe, Joan Gilson, Jerry Gilson, Kathleen Morrow, Karen Wiederaenders, Rebecca James


The Board meets virtually, and these observations were conducted online through the Johnson County, KS On Base program and through FaceBook Live (closed captioned) because of COVID-19.  All public comments are to be submitted in writing or live via audio. See their website for instructions, videos and associated documents. 


Feb. 11, 2021


Action Agenda—The Board adopted Resolution 006-21, increasing the size of the governing board of Fire District No. 1 from three members to five members, to add representation from Edgerton, Gardner and Springhill. 


Reports and Communications—County Manager Postoak Ferguson reported that the county has a Triple A bond rating. See the audit report. Deputy County Manager Maury Thompson provided a legislative update on several bills, including Rep. Charlotte Esau’s Property Tax Relief Act, which impacts the Homestead Act. Part of the county legislative platform is to make it easier for older residents to get property tax relief in order to remain in their homes. 


COVID-19 REPORT—Dr. Areola reported that infection numbers are declining and that we are getting a percentage of doses consistent with the size of our population. The county is now administering second doses to health care workers and residents 65 and older, but focusing on those over 80 (about 20,000 people.) The next cohort, to be vaccinated through Children’s Mercy and in coordination with school districts, includes special education teachers and childcare providers. Clinics are planned next week and as soon as more doses arrive. On Feb. 11, the Federal Retail Pharmacy program is set to begin, which is separate from the county effort. Vaccine remains scarce. 


COVID COMMUNICATIONS—In addition to the daily live FaceBook update, the daily emails, the county website and the phone number listed above, the health department is also using Notify JoCo to update residents in both Spanish and English. 


Feb. 4, 2021  

Business Session—Resolution no. 007-21 Establishment of a new 2021 Charter Commission, approving the appointments of the eight Charter Commission members. Chair Eilert explained that state statute requires a review of the Charter Commission every 10 years. Any changes to the charter must be submitted to public vote, with 25 members to be allocated by statute. The first meeting will be held 30 days from today, with a public hearing required. The current charter is available on the Johnson County website. The Board voted unanimously to include this item on next week’s action agenda. 

Commission Comments—The new liaison for the Commission on Aging is Shirley Allenbrand, replacing Janee Hanzlick, who will now serve on the Transportation and Transit Commission. 


Mental Health Report—A grant for a 988 line, suicide prevention text and hotline, has been received. 


Jan. 28, 2021

Notes for the Record—Sitting as the Board of Public Health, the Commissioners voted 5-2 to extend Public Health Order No. 002-20, which includes the COVID mask mandate. 


Reports and Communications—The Board heard the report on the Landlord Incentive Program 2021. Board members also requested a study to define the goals of the county to increase housing supply and combat homelessness without driving up rents. 


Jan. 21, 2021  

Reports and Communications— The County is working with the legislature to expand property tax breaks for those 75 years and older, one of the top five priorities in the legislative platform. County Economic Research Institute (CERI) Indicators, November 2020. Unemployment is 4.8%, compared to 2.5% for November 2019. Unemployment year to date is 5.5%.  


Jan. 14, 2021

The Board welcomed the three new members, Shirley Allenbrand, Jeff Meyers and Charlotte O’Hara  

Notes for the Record—Chairperson Eilert signed an agreement with the city of Mission Woods for government enforcement services for health officer orders and board of health orders. Agreements with the city of Prairie Village and Overland Park for the construction of storm water system renewal projects were also signed. 


Reports and Communications— Janee Hanzlick will serve as county vice chairperson. The county has qualified to apply for $18.6 million for Emergency Rental Assistance, to be distributed this year. The county has also qualified to apply to the EPA for funding for infrastructure waste water projects. 


Jan. 7, 2021

Notes for the Record-- Chairperson Eilert signed agreements with the cities of Westwood, Fairway, Roeland Park, Westwood Hills, Lenexa and Merriam for government enforcement services for health officer orders and board of health orders. 


Action Agenda--The Board also authorized an Interlocal Agreement between the County and the Olathe School District (USD233) for joint use of a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station for school buses in 2021. 


Finally, the Board approved Deputy Manager Maury Thompson’s recommendation to reorganize the Records and Tax Administration Department along with the Treasury and Financial Management Department, creating two new departments: Treasury, Taxation and Vehicles (focused on services to the public) and Financial Management Administration (internally focused.) 


Dec. 17, 2020

Action Agenda Several items were approved on the action agenda, including an agreement with Springhill to improve the intersection of 199th St and Ridgeview Road, and the renewal of the contract for property and liability insurance in the amount of $2,235,433. A request to authorize contracts for micro transit, on demand and paratransit with First Transit, MTM and WHC for three years at a cost not to exceed $33, 502,151 was not approved. Instead, they will extend the current contract for one year, allowing time for the new Board to review the priorities for the transit system. According to the briefing document, ridership is up 70% since August of this year.  https://BOCCtransitbriefingsheet

The Johnson County Library Board of Directors

Feb. 11, 2021

Submitted by Karen Wulfkuhle

  • Construction on upgrades at Central Library have begun. Completion is anticipated early in 2022. During construction the following services will be available: holds pickup, material return, public PCs, printing/copying, Wi-Fi and restrooms.  

  • Selection of architectural services for the Antioch Library replacement is expected in March. The new library is scheduled to open in 2023.

  • Cedar Roe is slated for temporary closures for 6-8 weeks beginning in May 2021 while the HVAC system is updated.

To read more, click here.

Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board Meeting

Jan. 25, 2021 via Zoom

Submitted by Harry and Mary Bognich

Last meeting was Sept. 28, 2020, and since then three members have departed from the Advisory Board.

Three new members were appointed and three members re-appointed pending approval by the Board of County Commissioners in early February 2021.

MHC is projected to be in good shape financially to end its fiscal year, helped by the receipt of over $1.5 million in funding from the federal government, the State of Kansas, Johnson County, and community partners. Anticipating the fund balance at the end of the fiscal year to be over 8% if there are no big changes. This is incredibly positive, since it is within the county's fund balance requirement and much higher than prior years.

MHC’s Strategic Vision is focused on various initiatives/goals, which include:

QUALITY CARE – Primary service components are: Access Team (same day walk-in service), Mobile Crisis Response Team (Mon-Fri during business hours), After-hours Team (answers 24 hour crisis phone line), Mental Health Co-responders, EMC Community Outreach Program, Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (incoming detainees and also persons just prior to release), Data Science for Social Good (reducing recidivism), Critical Incident Stress Management Team, RSI (crisis stabilization center), and Crisis Intervention Team (MHC uses CIT model first developed in Memphis and known as “Memphis Model”).

BUILDING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS – Stand Together and Rethink Technology (START), Cancer Disparities in Mental Health Workgroup, JoCo Community College’s GLS Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, Building Blocks (work on Anti-Racism).

CAPITALIZING ON TECHNOLOGY – IMAGO Initiative (a web-based human development platform).

Next meeting is Mar. 22, 2021.

To learn more, click here.

Blue Valley School Board

Feb. 8, 2021

Submitted by Elise Kammeyer

Open Forum: There were several comments pushing to reopen schools, a few to keep them closed, and one concern from a student regarding the removal of some books from the English curriculum.

Snow days this year will be remote learning days.

Next year there will be increased offerings for full-time dual degree and CTE programs with Johnson County Community College, including programs such as construction management, auto engineering, hospitality, and more. There will also be a new fire science program offered with the Overland Park fire department.

The district has shown steadily decreasing COVID-19 cases among both students and staff. There will be continued symptomatic testing offered to students and staff as well as asymptomatic testing offered every Thursday for all staff who opt in. Asymptomatic take-home testing is optional and will begin for students with parental permission later in February. The first round of vaccinations has begun for building staff who opt in—900 vaccinated so far from the priority group. This is ahead of the planned district vaccination schedule.

The board passed a motion to return to full-time in-person learning in the 4th quarter (beginning Mar. 23), if the district is yellow or green per the gating criteria. For the 2021-2022 school year, families will have the choice to register for virtual learning for K-12, which will be a year-long commitment with the option to adjust over the summer.

To read more, click here.

Olathe School Board

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

Jan. 14, 2021

Dr. John Allison announced that he was retiring from the Superintendent position, effective at the end of the current school year. It was also announced that Dr. Brent Yeager, currently the district's assistant superintendent for learning services, will be the district’s new Superintendent effective July 1, 2021.

Feb. 4, 2021

  1. The Olathe School District administration is working with Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) regarding COVID vaccinations for teachers and other front-line employees. 

  2. The board approved opening of all schools in the district for in-person learning by March 1, 2021 and to work with JCDHE to update the gating criteria to reflect the most current CDC guidelines for in-person learning. Those students who choose remote learning for the current semester will continue remote learning. Any teacher who wishes to end their contract due to COVID concerns may do so without penalty.

  3. The board approved to have the district’s Director of Public Safety become a commissioned law enforcement officer, in an unarmed capacity. This will allow Kansas police departments and the district’s Public Safety Director to share information.

To read more, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board
Submitted by Lisa Bonds

Jan. 11, 2021 (Workshop)


The meeting started with one public comment voicing concerns that the language in the bond issue did not state the money would be used to employ more teachers. Two other topics were covered in the meeting. First was the NWEA test results; the district reflected the national results that the pandemic had little effect on reading scores, but did have a large negative effect on math scores. The second topic was the district's legislative priorities, including that school boards keep the power to make decisions about Covid restrictions; funding not be affected by the temporary drop in enrollment during Covid; and educators remain in the second group to receive the Covid vaccine. The board did hire a consultant to help carry out the search for a superintendent. 


Jan. 25, 2021 


Public comments: Three people discussed the change of mascots with two in favor. The final public comment discouraged the bond issue [the deadline mail in ballots was Jan. 26]. Superintendent Fulton informed the board that at-risk special education students and faculty members have already been vaccinated and the push to vaccinate more staff will continue. 

The board approved the legislative platform which opposed several bills in Topeka. The first bill would extend the scholarship program for students enrolled in the one hundred lowest performing schools to all public schools. The next bill would tie some state funding to be used for student achievement; the district is concerned that if achievement does not improve the funding could be cut. The final bill would establish saving accounts for all students on free and reduced lunches. These accounts will take all state aid from the district and allow that money to be used for private education. 

The board also approved the mascot change which would be completed by the end of the school year; although the process to carry out the change may take a longer time. Finally the board approved changes to the current school year’s calendar. The state has allowed for six fewer student contact days; therefore the school year could end before Memorial Day and moves high school graduations up to the first week in June.

To read more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council 

Jan. 19, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The public participation segment included 10 people addressing the council, three spoke in favor of the formation of a permanent Diversity Task Force and seven expressed concern about the adoption of the Village Vision 2.0 comprehensive plan, particularly noting their opposition to increasing density, or building affordable housing, subsidized housing, or high rise development. Following extensive discussion among council members and an unsuccessful amendment to postpone the adoption of the plan, the revised comprehensive Village Vision 2.0 plan was adopted as presented. 

As part of his staff report, Mayor Eric Mikkelson announced that yesterday the City of Prairie Village had been awarded the Diversity Award from the local NAACP Chapter. 

Following a presentation by Council members Ian Graves and Inga Selders about the status of marijuana ordinances, the Council voted to instruct staff to investigate striking marijuana language from city ordinances and/or reducing penalties for its possession and use.

Feb. 1, 2021

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met virtually on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Police Chief Byron Roberson discussed the recent crime report showing crime was down in almost all categories, including decreases in the rates of murder, robberies, and traffic accidents. However, the number of mental health calls has increased, though at this time he does not believe additional resources are needed to handle the increase. 

Feb. 16, 2021

Submitted by Eileen Marshall 

Notable items:

  1. The Mayor noted that the City’s emergency declaration with regard to COVID-19 expires today unless extended; he did not ask for an extension. Mask orders are still in place.

  2. The Mayor noted that the final report on affordable housing from United Community Services includes PV and will be reviewed at a future meeting.

  3. To learn more, click here.

Shawnee City Council

Jan. 25, 2021

Submitted by Rose Reicherts

Council approved the 2021 State Legislative Priorities, which include repeal of the property tax lid imposed by the legislature in 2017 and support for commercial property appraisals based on fair-market value as currently defined in Kansas statute (as opposed to the “dark store” theory).

To learn more click here.