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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 5/3/2022

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

Meeting dates: March 17, 2022 through April 14, 222 (most recent appears first)

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

Meetings are available at and

Information on the Utility Scale Solar Facilities Project is available at

April 14, 2022

April 17-23, 2022 was proclaimed as National Volunteer Week and as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. The County has about 11,000 volunteers assisting in activities and functions in the libraries and agencies, among others. Public Comments were made concerning the Utility Scale Solar Facilities Project, ethics, a campaign speech and other topics.

The Board ratified the reappointments of Jack Poole, Scott Hazelitt, Stephen Bieszczat and Robert Willis to the Board of Code Review through May 31, 2024. The Board authorized a contract with Superior Bowen Asphalt Company, LLC for 14.5 miles of overlays at various locations in unincorporated Johnson County up to $3,398,995. The Board authorized a contract extension with Witt O’Brien’s, LLC, for up to $130,150 from the original contract authorization, for COVID-19 disaster recovery consulting services through the Federal State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) grant to ensure grant compliance.

Johnson County has achieved Gold Level Certification from LEED for Cities and Communities for community environmental quality of life measures. Commissioner O’Hara asked for an estimate of employee staff time required for obtaining “these certifications.” Commissioner Hanzlick noted that the County is a “shining example” for other communities, and expressed appreciation for the people and effort involved in obtaining this status.

Tim Wolf, new director of Aging and Human Services, was introduced.

The Johnson County MED-ACT – File of Life Form containing a summary of medical history was introduced and explained, along with the request that people call the MED_ACT office at (913) 715-1950 to obtain these and complete them to keep in homes in case of emergency.

On April 19th, 2022, the city of Olathe will hold a public hearing for the purpose of issuing Industrial Revenue bonds for $2.2 million and for exempting Griswold Industries from ad valorem taxes on the property constructed.

The COVID-19 Funding and Expense Report was presented. Contact tracing has decreased, although it increased during the Omicron surge. Elizabeth Holzschuh reported that the COVID-19 infection rate has increased to 5.9%, probably an undercount resulting from more frequent home testing. Waste Water and other measures indicate a larger increase, so those at risk should be cautious. Vaccination rates for 5- to 11-year-olds are still only at 36% (probably because many families are waiting for full authorization). The significance of our COVID-19 “green rating” only indicates that hospital beds will be available for those needing them. Contact tracing staff has been decreased from about 30 to three people and response remains voluntary. High risk individuals should go ahead and get a fourth shot. Attempting to time COVID-19 vaccination is akin to “timing the stock market”.

Commissioner Allenbrand noted that the “Older Americans Act” which allows about eleven million adults to live independently, is currently underfunded.

Commissioner Hanzlick reported that she attended the Climate Summit at Johnson County Community College, sponsored by Climate Action KC, and she also attended the Overland Park Mayor’s State of the City address. She met with the MARC Air Quality Forum as the Chairperson's Representative. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. She also participated in the 2022 Mental Health Summit, featuring events on improving the court response to mental health needs. Thirty percent of Johnson County jail inmates have been diagnosed with significant mental illness.

Commissioner Meyers attended the Council of the Whole for Johnson County Parks and Recreation and the opening of Cedar Niles Park.

Commissioner Fast noted the skyrocketing numbers of incarcerated individuals with mental illness. The County is working to assess people before they are jailed so they can receive appropriate treatment, an extremely important step.

April 7, 2022

National Childcare Month, Fair Housing Month and County Government Month were proclaimed.

Public Comments included a plea for the Board to join in efforts to provide humanitarian aid in the form of donation boxes in County facilities, remarks on COVID-19, Solar Utility Facilities, and objections to diverse textbooks.

The Board approved the appointments of Teri Atwell, Planning Commission; Emily Vietti, Public Art Commission; Tim DeWeese, Community Corrections Advisory Board; Charles C. Lenoir Jr. and Ullyses Wright, Community Corrections Advisory Board; Carol Gonzales, Civil Service Board; Mary Tearney, Public Art Commission; and Leonard Nick, Investment Review Group.

The Board authorized the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging to accept grant funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for $1,626,014 from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Funds are used for meal delivery, family caregiver support services, disease prevention and more. This program serves more people every year because of the aging population, allowing people to remain in their own homes. Commissioner Fast requested that the department look at some of these funds to cover currently unfunded outreach efforts, which are currently unavailable to individuals above Medicaid assistance. Commissioner Hanzlick stated that the Aging Information Hotline is 913- 715-8861.

CERI and MARC reports were made as part of the County budgeting process. Demand for homes continues to outpace supply. Permits for apartment construction have increased 500% over last year. Sales tax declined 3%, but use tax was up 18.5% as a result of the shift to online purchases and other factors. Local cities with more brick-and-mortar retail facilities experienced more decline in sales tax revenue. 

Legislative Update: Election Limitations Update: Senate Sub. for HB 2056 (which passed the House) would limit county election offices to one remote ballot box for every 30,000 registered voters in the county; require remote ballot boxes to be monitored or under constant video surveillance; and prohibit remote ballot boxes from being open and accessible for the deposit of advance voting ballots when the county election office is closed. The Conference Committee saw the House Position attempt to reel back limitations on ballot boxes due to concern over the impact the rule may have on rural voters. The Senate adopted the Conference Committee Report on a vote of 21-17, but the House did not hold a vote to adopt the CCR prior to First Adjournment.

Commissioners Fast and Hanzlick attended the Homelessness Summit last week, noting that the County has 1,000 unhoused children. 

April 4th, 2022

Public Hearing

Utility Scale Solar Facilities Project

On April 4th, the BOCC voted six to one to remand to the Planning Commission the following items for review: 

  1. Clarification regarding how off-site street maintenance and repair will be accomplished.

  2. Clarification that battery energy storage facilities are allowed with medium-scale solar facilities.

  3. The addition of a performance standard related to battery energy storage facilities requiring the solar facility provider to supply specialized fire safety equipment, if necessary, for public safety.

  4. Additional suggested clarifications recommended by planning staff.

The following motions were made on additional amendments for the Planning Commission to review:

  • Consider including a 25-year Conditional Use Permit (CUP) term instead of the Planning Commission’s recommended 20 years, with a one-time automatic extension for five years if the project remains compliant. (Voted 6-1, passed).

    • Yes: Fast. Meyers, Hanzlick, Ashcraft, Allenbrand, Eilert

    • No: O’Hara

  • Consider including a Maximum Project Area of 2,000 acres, instead of the Planning Commission’s recommended 1,000 acres, and include a waiver option. (Voted 6-1, passed).

    • Yes: Fast. Meyers, Hanzlick, Ashcraft, Allenbrand, Eilert

    • No: O’Hara

  • Consider a 1.5-mile minimum distance from city limits, instead of the Planning Commission’s recommended 2 miles, and include a waiver option. (Voted 6-1, passed).

    • Yes: Fast. Meyers, Hanzlick, Ashcraft, Allenbrand, Eilert

    • No: O’Hara

  • Consider adding CUP standards for impact on surrounding landowners due to the addition of transmission lines to service solar facilities. (Voted 7 – 0, passed).

Other motions offered for consideration by Commissioner O'Hara included:

  • Consider including an offset of costs for county and fire districts providing fire protection for battery energy storage. (Motion rescinded by the maker).

  • Consider including adding CUP standards to address the impact on public improvements; effective utilization of land in the development of surrounding cities including affordable housing, housing for first-time homebuyers, and depreciation of surrounding land values. (Died for not having a second).

March 31, 2022

Public Health Week for April 4-10, 2022 was noted.

Several public comments were made, including one person who discussed problems experienced with the Johnson County Micro Transit program and another person on the value of solar energy. Josh Powers, Transit Planning, can respond quickly to transit issues.

Deputy Chief Eric Houston was appointed to the Community Corrections Advisory Board. Cynthia Schendel was appointed to the Juvenile Corrections Advisory Board. 

The Board discussed a compromise offered by Maury Thompson to the initial request (see March 24 meeting below) for six full-time positions to provide security at the Johnson County Administration Building at an annual cost of $564,570 and the completion of related security improvements to the Johnson County Administration building at a cost of $147,943, and authorizing the reallocation and expenditure of General Fund reserves in the amount of $461,983. 

Sheriff Hayden noted that he is the second sheriff to propose this, stating safety needs for staff, “keeping guns out of the building,” and continuation of government, in addition to increased security need because of court system back-ups and disgruntled employees.

The Board voted for the compromise to provide two armed civilian blue coat positions ($91,771) and to make facility security improvements ($87,943) in 2022 with an end-of-the-year review of the blue coats, a measure opposed by Sheriff Hayden. Commissioners Ashcraft and Meyer voted No.

The Board ratified the appointment of James (Jim) Terrones to the Civil Service Board through February 5, 2024.

The Positive Behavior Support (PBS) Project for youth in detention was recognized in the monthly Spotlight moment. The PBS uses a “strengths-based, person-centered approach for improving an individual's quality of life in County facilities” to address root causes of problem behaviors. The focus is on positive behaviors and skills through targeted support.

Legislative Update: The County is concerned that legislative response barring local authorities from responding to an infectious disease event is becoming too broad. (Wyandotte County is currently experiencing an outbreak of tuberculosis.)  

Commissioner Hanzlick made a special note of the passing of Doug Smith, head of Johnson County Wastewater for 20 years and former Overland Park city council member.  

March 24, 2022

The Board appointed Annabeth Surbaugh and Mike Czinege to the Tenth Judicial District Nominating Commission through March 2, 2026.

The Board recognized the VITA program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, an IRS program) offered by Johnson County Extension, serving our community since 2011. VITA, a valuable, free service, is eligible to participants who make $55,000 or less who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.  Drop-off service is available. The service is located at the Sunset Building, 11811 S. Sunset Drive, Suite 1500, Olathe, KS 66061, but is not yet in-person. 

The Johnson County government will sponsor Juneteenth events; information will be available in April.

March is Women’s History Month, and the public information office is sharing information on Johnson County women in history.

At the request of Sheriff Hayden, the Board considered approving the addition of six full-time positions to provide security at the Johnson County Administration Building and the completion of related security improvements to the Johnson County Administration building for approximately $600,000. This item remains on the action agenda.

March 17, 2022

Johnson County has received the Annual Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award for 2021.

Two people made public comments.

The Board voted to create a project (reserve) account for the Coronavirus State and Local Relief Funds (SLRF) received from the United States Department of the Treasury ($13,000,000 for ongoing COVID-19 public health expenses and $45,000,000 for lost revenue) in accordance with the Treasury’s final, prescribed formula, in order to manage these funds, in an amount not to exceed $58,000,000.

The Board held a public hearing and approved the County Manager’s recommendation to merge the Justice Information Management System (JIMS) with the Department of Technology and Innovation. No additional funding is requested. Resident Stephanie Berland commented about the recent fraud case in the District Court system, which is not part of the County jurisdiction.  

The Johnson County Parks Board announced that the Johnson County Museum has been accredited by the National Alliance of Museums, an esteemed and nationally recognized status, obtained by only 30 county museums across the country.

The City of Spring Hill will conduct a public hearing on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at 7:00 p.m., to consider approving a property tax abatement concerning property financed with approximately $8,935,000 in industrial revenue bonds for GemTech LLC. The project is located at the northeast corner of 185th Ter. and Webster St., Spring Hill, KS.

The Sixth Annual Armed Forces Celebration, a free public event, will be held on Saturday, April 23 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the west apron at New Century Air Center. It is sponsored by the Friends in Service of Heros (FISH) organization to celebrate and recognize those in the military.

Joe Connor, Assistant County Manager, has been appointed the next Kansas co-chair for the Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee (RHSCC), an area leadership organization to prevent, respond to and recover from threats and hazards, including terrorism.

Shelly May, Deputy Director of Johnson County Developmental Supports, was elected to the board of Interhab, the non-profit association for providers of developmental disabilities services in Kansas, and has been named Board President for a two-year term beginning in 2022.

Commissioner Hanzlick reported on the new Antioch Library, which will have an “Intensive Green Roof System,” an environmental measure allowing for green plants on the roof and enhancing local landscaping options. Commissioner Meyers reported on his meeting with the Parks and Recreation Board. Commissioner Ashcraft noted that the City of Olathe will install a roof garden on the city library in memory of Mayor Copeland. Commissioner O’Hara made a motion that the Health Department provide more communication to daycare providers concerning masking requirements. The motion failed.    

Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board Meeting

March 28, 2022, in-person at the Johnson County Administration Building in Olathe.

Submitted by Harry and Mary Bognich

This was a Joint Meeting of the MHC Advisory Board and the JoCo Board of County Commissioners.

Director Tim DeWeese announced a JoCo Mental Health Center “Shine a Light” Event at the Prairie Fire Museum on the evening of Thursday, June 16, to celebrate the 60th Year Anniversary of the founding of the Center. The Mental Health Center was established in 1962, as a result of the 1959 League of Women Voters JoCo’s recommendation that a mental health center be created.

The BOCC is happy with the work of the MHC and will be considering requests for additional staff, equipment, and facilities during the upcoming Budget Meetings.

Many important statistics regarding the work of MHC over the last 3 years were presented, a few among them being:

2019 2020 2021

Total # of Crisis Calls & Contacts 33,000 43,000 49,000

Percent of annual staff turnover 15% 19% 27%

The large jumps are indications of the pandemic impact and possibly a better awareness of MHC’s work.

Although the 27% is very bad, there seems to be some improvement in 2022; it is still an issue.

The number of co-responders increased from 13 in 2021 to 20.5 in 2022. These are mental health professionals working directly with law enforcement officers responding to calls.

One of the biggest improvements in decades for Mental Health Care in Kansas was that the Kansas Legislature approved for Mental Health Centers to become Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC). JoCo MHC has been positioning itself over the past seven years to do so and started the application and certification process to be completed July 1, 2022. If successful, MHC can completely change how it is financed, paid, etc., which would bring in maybe $5 million more per year in revenue. There are nine requirements to be a CCBHC; JoCo MHC already does eight of these and is actively working toward adding the last one this year, which will require additional staff, etc.

JoCo MHC joined the National Suicide Hot Line in August 2021 and hopes the Kansas Legislature passes the funding for a 9-8-8 hotline number for suicide prevention to establish four call centers in KS.

Next meeting is May 23, 2022 – location to be determined. To learn more, click here.

Water One Board Meeting

April 12, 2022

Submitted by Annette Becker

Customer Satisfaction Report (conducted and presented by ETC Institute)

Water One has a goal of >80% rating overall and in 2021 they were at 81.9%, which puts them in the top 10 water utilities in the country for customer satisfaction. The survey was broken down by residential, business and rental customers. Ratings in all categories were 4-5 out of five for over 90% of respondents. Interesting note that when asked if they would be willing to pay more for water to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by Water One, 75% of residential customers were willing to do so, while only 53% of businesses responding were willing to do so.

Community Funding Project Grants

These are for projects submitted by members of Congress on behalf of their districts. They had to fit under existing funding sources. Water One was approved for funding for the Wyss back-up generator project through the Homeland Security's Budget. They also received funding for the Water Injection Dredge Project through the Army Corps of Engineers budget. My understanding is that it is a study to show the degradation of the MO and KS rivers by dredging companies, and the results have led to halting of much of the dredging on these rivers, especially near metropolitan areas.

Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act

Kansas was allocated $64 million for 2023 and $32 million more for 2024-26 for service line replacement. We were also allocated several million (missed that number) for dealing with emerging contaminants (i.e., microplastics) in our water.

Stay hydrated out there with the excellent tap water we enjoy from Water One!

To learn more, click here.

Blue Valley Board of Education

April 11, 2022 – 6:00 p.m.

Submitted by Ann Schuster

Note: At a special meeting on April 8, the BVSD board voted to rescind the mask mandate.

The meeting opened with recognitions of the district’s nominees and winner of the Kansas Master Teacher award, followed by those teachers designated as Kansas Teachers of the Year. Recognition of award-winning student athletes followed as well as recipients of the monthly staff Distinguished Service and Excellence in Education awards.

Open Forum followed with community members commenting on the following topics: book reconsiderations in school libraries, community members espousing personal agendas, personal discussions led by teachers in their classrooms, possible forthcoming budget cuts such as those experienced in Lawrence and Olathe, district curriculum standards, and perceived student indoctrination by BV staff.

Advisory Committee reports were made by both the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Finance Committees. Board member and Superintendent’s comments followed on district activities, special education concerns, and visits to other districts in the state.

 New business items included lengthy discussions of:

  • Approval of the sale of A bonds and forthcoming projects to be funded by those bonds

  • The district’s 5-year plan for its K-12 Math curriculum

  • Results of a start/end time study for all buildings. Changes would help alleviate difficulties with the timeliness of bus transportation for students. The Board voted to end the practice of offering optional bus transportation to students living less than 2.5 miles from school. This had been a parent-pay choice.

The Superintendent then gave a Legislative update, reminding the Board of BV legislative priorities and the status of various bills under consideration.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

To learn more, click here.

Olathe School Board

April 7, 2022

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on April 7, 2022. The following items were discussed:

District administration thanked the law enforcement, fire department and Med Act, vendors and community businesses and parents for all the support that was received on the day of the Olathe East High School shooting. The first week after the shooting the Olathe East High School was provided additional district support personal, community support, mental health support and therapy dogs to help both the students and staff. Johnson County Mental Health Center is continuing to provide support. The school district is also conducting a tactical debriefing and lessons learned. 

The Board announced that two public meetings will be held in April. The first is a 2022-2023 school district budget session on April 12, 2022. After this meeting the district will start a FAQ page, on their website, regarding the budget. On April 19, the district will hold an Olathe Public Schools Safety Town Hall. 

The Board approved the issuance, sale and delivery of the general obligation bonds which were passed by public vote in March 2022. 

To learn more, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board

March 21 and April 11, 2022

Submitted by Lisa Bonds

March 21, 2022

The board heard a report from a committee of elementary teachers who worked on English Arts adoption of instructional materials from McGraw. The board passed the $3.4 million adoption with all members agreeing. 

The board also heard a legislative report from Topeka, including several bills. The first was a Parent Bill of Rights. The Senate bill is just a statement of beliefs, while the House bill would require administrators and teachers to provide all materials used in the classroom. The second bill is open enrollment, allowing any student to attend a school in a different coverage area than where they live. The third bill would end required immunization in order to attend public schools. This was removed in the Senate. Finally, the budget bill is Governor Kelly’s bill with two important changes. The first change removed $5 million to pay for SRO officers. The bill also removes $4 million for an out-of-state vendor who promises to improve math scores on state tests. 

April 11, 2022

The board heard three reports: food services, enrollment analysis and security. The district is providing more breakfasts and lunches, not just since the COVID-19 shutdowns but compared to the last seven years. Food shortages caused by the supply chain and labor shortages make this challenge more difficult for the staff. The food service is opening a test kitchen to test new recipes and products. Another new program will provide students with paid work experience in the food service. The enrollment report analyzed both current and projected future enrollment data. The report expects the district’s enrollment to decline. It also provided information that Briarwood Elementary will grow larger than the desired size in the future and new boundaries for the school should be addressed. The security report listed the advantages of the SRO programs at the district’s middle and high schools. 

During the board member’s comments at the end of the meeting board member Borgman made a proposal to end required masking. In February the board decided any school which has a 5% absentee rate will require masks. On April 11, seven schools required masks under this rule. Borgman stated that the county has set the COVID-19 level at green, but students in seven schools are still required to wear masks. The vote was 6-1 against the proposal. Many board members stated they needed more time and resources to make that decision. This topic will either be discussed at a special meeting or at the next regular board meeting. 

To learn more, click here.

Overland Park City Council

March 21, 2022

Submitted by Nancy Allen

The OP City council in person. Council member Heley was excused; all others were present. I attended virtually.

  1. There was a public hearing on the approval of the Capital Improvement Program, 5-year Financial Plan

    1. Seven citizens gave testimony against street maintenance with Chip Seal. It was noted that the Infrastructure Advisory Group will meet on March 24, 2022, at the Matt Ross Community Center at 6:30 p.m. They will be learning about bridges and traffic management at this meeting. Although Chip Seal will not be discussed at the March 24 meeting, this is the group that will ultimately make recommendations regarding the future of how OP maintains its roads.

  2. Mayor Skoog announced the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 4, 2022, will include discussion on:

    1. Approach to short term rental properties in OP. As you might know Overland Park’s first murder of the year occurred this past weekend, and it occurred at a short-term rental property. The mayor stated it was time to move the discussion on how they are managed in the city. 

    2. The Farmer’s Market and how it is managed will also be discussed.

  3. Overland Park may not be able to open all city pools this summer; the lifeguard shortage continues. OP is paying lifeguards $13.00/hour, if you know someone who is qualified, ask them to apply.

To learn more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council

March 21, 2022

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met in person for the first time in two years on Monday, March 21, 2022. Ian Graves reported that the Housing Committee has met and will be bringing recommendations to the Council at some time in the future. Inga Selders of the Diversity Committee reminded the Council that a Housing Town Meeting will be held Sunday, April 3 at 2:30 p.m. at Meadowbrook Park Clubhouse. The Mayor reported the good news that COVID-19 case numbers “have cratered,” with the positivity rate down to 2.7%, from 4.3% last meeting. He also announced that financial numbers for the fourth quarter look very good, though inflation and staffing difficulties continued to present challenges. The meeting adjourned at 6:41 p.m., making this one of the shortest council meetings in some time.

Prairie Village City Council Meeting

April 4, 2022

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell 

The Prairie Village City Council met in person on Monday, April 4, 2022, beginning with the presentation of the new police dog, Blitz. Members of the Teen Council then presented their reports from the year of their participation. Two proclamations followed, one supporting SevenDays which strives to increase cross-cultural understanding, and one supporting Ukrainian city leaders. Inga Selders of the Diversity Committee reported on the successful Housing Town Hall Meeting held Sunday, April 3 and Ian Graves reported on the recent meeting of the Civic Center Committee. Piper Reimer announced that the city would be participating in Johnson County’s initiative analyzing recycling contents. The Mayor reported the good news that the area is rated very low risk for COVID-19 outbreaks. The meeting concluded with all committee budget requests being approved.

To learn more, click here.