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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 8/30/2022

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

July 21 through Aug. 4, 2022 (most recent listed first)

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

Meetings are also available at and Johnson County, KS Government - YouTube.  

Aug. 4, 2022

Chairperson Eilert stated that public comments were funded by taxpayers and as such, political campaigning was prohibited by state statute. Public commenters objected to the Panasonic project, open borders, vaccines and masks. One speaker promoted Charlotte O’Hara.

The Chair signed the Certificate of Non-Federal Match Form for the Department of Health and Environment for the April/June Quarter for Outreach, Prevention and Early Intervention Services.

The Board voted to correct two clerical (computer) errors for appraisals for commercial real estate.

A Maintenance, Management and Use Agreement between the County and Olathe for the Johnson County Square and adjoining outdoor space was approved. A joint coordinating group will oversee this agreement, and the area will include signs detailing local history, among other features. Commissioner Hanzlick asked for a plan to elicit more community investment in this project. “Yes” votes: Eilert, Fast, Allenbrand, Meyers. “No” votes: O’Hara, Hanzlick, Ashcraft.

The Board also approved an amendment to the 2022-2026 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to include the Johnson County Square Phase 2 capital project in the amount of $2,000,000 and also to authorize the reallocation and expenditure of Countywide Support Funds (CSF) for $1,000,000 for partial funding of the project in cooperation with the City of Olathe. “No” votes:  O’Hara, Hanzlick, Ashcraft.    “Yes” votes:  Fast, Meyers, Allenbrand, Eilert.

In support of this project, the Board approved an increase in the term and supply contracts with KBS, Constructors, Inc., Kelly Construction Group, Inc., B.A. Green Construction Co., Inc., and Universal Construction Co. for on-call construction Services, from $5,000,000 to $7,000,000.

The Board also approved a contract with TreanorHL, as an exception to competition, to complete the design of the Johnson County Square Design Phase 2.

The Board established regulations for the County Square about animals, alcohol, fires, sales and structures, etc., to be enforced by the Sheriff or code enforcement officers with fines of $50 - $500.              

The County will send out property tax notices by Aug. 10th, 2022 (not a bill). Paul Davis is appointed as Facility director for the County Communications Center.

The City of Olathe will conduct a public hearing on Aug. 16th to consider approving a property tax abatement project for Artio Medical, Inc. (a manufacturing facility,) to be financed with $30,000,000 in industrial revenue bonds and located on the northwest corner of 107th St. and S. Valley Road in Olathe. The applicant has requested a 10-year, 55% property tax abatement.

 The interim financial report is available on the County website: Johnson County.

July 28, 2022

The Facilities Department and other individuals were recognized for outstanding work in the Feed the Need program, which collected 138,553 lbs. of food, an increase of 22.88% over the 2021 campaign. Food was distributed to seven JOCO food pantries.

During public comments Stephanie Berland announced her candidacy for the Board. Commissioner Fast raised a point of order, and afterward Eilert noted that public comments are not a political forum.  Ben Hobart, Westwood Hills, made false comments about COVID-19. Other commenters spoke about the constitutional amendment, the County budget, the personnel shortage in the sheriff’s department, Panasonic, zoning and warehouses in rural Johnson County.

 The Board approved the following items:

  • A contract with Schwickert's Tecta America, LLC for roof replacement at the Sheriff Training facility, for $264,591.

  • A contract with Mercer Health and Benefits, LLC to provide employee benefit consulting services in the area of Health & Welfare Services, for $630,000.

  • A contract with Peerfit, Inc. to administer the County’s Fitness Program and maintenance of a network of fitness facilities for County employees and spouses to access under the County’s Fitness Program for $250,000.

  • A contract to Creative Planning, LLC, doing business as Lockton Retirement Services, to provide employee benefit consulting services in the area of retirement services for $375,000. The County contributes a 3% match. All administrative fees are paid by individual employee accounts.

Commissioners also approved three requests for conditional use permits for structures near Gardner. They also approved apartment and townhome developments within one mile of New Century AirCenter.

The Board approved funding towards improving road infrastructure and a fire station with hazardous material suppression capability on land donated by Sunflower Redevelopment, LLC, for $15 million, to support the Panasonic Plant. O’Hara and Ashcraft voted No on the fire station. O’Hara voted No on the road improvement. KDOT, the cities and the County are all participating in the road project. Funds are available for this purpose because of the County’s lost revenue claims and are available without federal restrictions, not current property or sales taxes. Other contributing partners will be needed to address further fire protection costs.

Chairperson Eilert noted that the agreement is “pay as you go,” and if jobs and benefits do not develop from the Panasonic Project the tax benefit will be appropriately adjusted. It is important to support De Soto and big dividends will result, as they have for Garmin and other recipients of incentives in the County. Commissioner Fast noted that we are receiving $26 million dollars from the state that would not have come to us otherwise, and De Soto is contributing over $2 million.  O’Hara and Ashcraft voted no. Rural residents commented that we don’t need the project and it should be tabled.

The Board voted to use Countywide Support Funds, (reserves), to provide up to $3,000 one-time retention incentives to staff in the Sheriff’s office and Department of Corrections (vacancy rates of 20% or higher) for $2,328,600 in 2022 and again in 2023.

The Voluntary Home Buyout Program was spotlighted. Funded on a 50-50 basis by the County and cities, this program offers buyouts for homeowners living in flood plains, experiencing costly flood damages, or unable to move or mitigate flooding with construction. The funds ($1.5 million from the Stormwater Management Fund, federally funded) are available on a first-come, first-served basis as long as funds are available. Approval for this program comes from the Stormwater Advisory Council, which consists of a representative from each city in the County.

Lenexa will hold a public hearing on Aug. 16th, 7 p.m. at the city council meeting for the Lenexa Mining District TIF.

Johnson County received the Leading the Way Award from ETC: Marketing Research, Demography and Statistical Applications for performance in the three core areas:

  • overall quality of services

  • customer service provided

  • value received for taxes and fees.

Traffic flow, safe neighborhoods and a good place to live, work, and raise children are factors in this award.

Commissioner Hanzlick noted the importance of ongoing support and improvement for our crisis mental health response program, one of the best in the area.

The Board met for a study session on the Stormwater Management Program.

July 21, 2022

There were no meetings July 7 and July 14. Absent: Commissioner Meyer. Chair Eilert was present on Zoom with Commissioner Allenbrand presiding. A Board meeting on YouTube Video has been removed for misstatements. The official record on OnBase is still available.

 The Mental Health Department received the National Association of Counties’ Achievement Award for #ZeroReasonsWhy, a program to prevent teen suicide and remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

Public commenters made statements about fast semi traffic in Gardner overloading the roads around the logistics park, and requested a quicker solution.  False statements about DEI and COVID-19 vaccines were also offered. One commenter requested a sheriff’s investigation of an Edgerton city council member, naming the council member specifically. Edgerton city council member Josie Stambaugh appeared and commented that she was being slandered online by other council members and demanded an investigation. 

License Agreements with Merriam and Overland Park Kansas for MED-ACT co-locations at Stations 42, 43, 44, 45 and 46 for a total of $1,681,779 were approved, allowing the County to maintain these functions without having to build separate stations.

 An opioid litigation settlement fund was established in order to receive opioid litigation settlement funds. The first distribution arrived this month and should extend over 18 years. The funds, to be held in a segregated account, are to be used for projects mitigating substance addiction. A budget amendment will be required in order to spend these funds.

The Legal Department will add a full time equivalent Legal Assistant position for about $85,000, a necessary addition in light of significantly increased public engagement and requests for information by residents from all county departments.

Rhonda Pollard is the new Deputy Director of Johnson County Parks and Recreation. Johnson County is ranked 20th out of 500 on Healthiest Communities measures, US News and World Report. Dr. Areola noted that the Health Department is working to improve health conditions for all workers and residents in the County through education and increased access to affordable healthy food, exercise, vaccines and other measures. 

 Some of the County Economic Research Institute (CERI) Indicators are as follows:

  • Unemployment rate as of May 2022 is 2.1%, compared to 3% the previous year.

  • Inflation-adjusted change in price of homes sold from May 2021 to May 2022 is up 1.5%.

Olathe will hold a public hearing on the TIF project plan, Gateway Development Project on Aug. 2, 2022.

The County financial reports and audits by RubinBrown, Kansas City, MO, were presented and are available on the County website at Board Surveys and Reports | Johnson County Kansas. No significant deficiencies were reported.  At the request of Commissioners the Tomahawk Wastewater plant was the subject of elevated attention, and no significant deficiencies were found.

Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board

July 25, 2022

Observers: Harry and Mary Bognich

The Board met in-person at the Mission office. Director Tim DeWeese reported that JoCo MHC received a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) provisional certification effective July 2022 thru January 2024. This makes us among the first, if not the first, Community Mental Health Center in the nation to be CCBHC certified without being part of a demonstration site or a federal expansion grant.

The “9-8-8” Suicide and Crisis Lifeline had its official start in Kansas in July, which ensures that hotline centers within Kansas answer the calls and can respond with local resources and services.

“Friends of JoCo MHC” hosted an inaugural fundraising event to celebrate the Center’s 60th Anniversary in June and it was a tremendously successful and fun event.

The Board reviewed the “Dashboard of Key Performance Indicators”. As of the end of June, nearly everything looked good. The Turnover Rate through June, however, has been high and this is being actively worked. One new aspect of this work is encouraging high school students to get into public service mental health jobs, because there are many career-path jobs available, which have benefits and do NOT require lengthy and expensive medical training (as is often presumed). 

Next meeting will be Sept. 26.

To learn more, click here.

Blue Valley School Board Meeting

July 18, 2022

Observer: Ann Schuster

Prior to this meeting, Jan Kessinger, a former Kansas state legislator, was appointed from a field of 15 applicants to fill the unexpired term of Amy Tysseling.

There was no public comment session this month. The new Blue Valley Board clerk, treasurer, and assistant treasurer were approved and the new Executive Director of the Blue Valley Foundation was recognized. The only Board Report reflected a visit to the CTE facility in Abilene and crisis training held in Manhattan.

Dr. Merrigan’s report included recognition of student achievements, the Health Workplace Platinum Level award given to the district by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and the announcement that the CAPS program is a finalist for the International Innovations in Education Cohort award.

Before the consent agenda was approved, an explanation was given of the agenda’s lengthy material that the Board considers before approving this document each month.

New Business Items:

-Approval of the Blue Valley Budget

-Approval of the BV District Goals (which were published recently in the media and are also available on the district website)

-Discussion of a revision of a Board policy permitting the drug Narcan to be distributed in buildings

-Discussion of new policy proposals concerning staff electronic communications and staff boundaries and behavior with relation to students

Blue Valley School Board Meeting

Aug. 8, 2022

Observer: Ann Schuster

*Prior to this meeting it was announced that the public comment section would no longer be live streamed or recorded on the district’s YouTube channel. The public comment period has been shortened to 30 minutes with each of 10 possible speakers allotted a 3-minute time limit.

The meeting began with reports from Board Members who serve on various committees. It was reported that 263 new teachers are joining the district’s certified staff and that the Board is looking forward to the in-person “Rally in the Valley” staff kickoff event that had been canceled for the last several years due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Superintendent’s report included recent student achievements, gave a construction update, and noted a need for classified staff in many areas.

The Finance and Operations report was then presented. The district is planning for a four-mill reduction for the 2022-23 school year. There will also be a public notice of a resolution for early redemption of the 2012 bonds so that the community may review and respond.

There was then approval of a slate of members from the community to serve on the following District Advisory Committees: Facility Planning, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Student Activities, Health and Wellness and Communications.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:18.

To learn more, click here.

Olathe School Board

Aug. 4, 2022

Observer: Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on Aug. 4, 2022. The following items were discussed:

  • The administration gave an update on lessons learned and areas of improvement which were identified from the March 4 shooting at Olathe East high school. One area of improvement has been the purchase and implementation of a crisis alert system. Badges will be issued to all district employees which will allow the employee to request help by the press of a button embedded in the badge. It also provides the capability to implement a campus-wide lockdown by repetitively pressing the button. 

  • The school board was updated on the budget. A public hearing will be held on Aug. 31 with the adoption of the budget on the agenda for the Sept. 1 board meeting. The budget must be filed with the State of Kansas by Sept. 21.

To learn more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council 

July 18, 2022

Observer: Eileen Marshall

The Council met in person, with public viewing in person or via Facebook.

The public comment portion of the meeting lasted one hour and twenty minutes, with 22 citizens speaking about the affordable housing initiative. (To summarize, an ad hoc committee was formed earlier in the year to look at what actions the city might take to make housing in the city more affordable. The committee, comprised of some council members and some citizens, met a few times and submitted a set of recommendations to the Council at the last meeting. The Council accepted the recommendations for further study.) It appears that many citizens thought that zoning throughout the city was going to change right away or had already been changed and that the Council had taken action contrary to public opinion without listening to public input. All of the citizens who spoke were against any move away from single-family zoning as it exists today in the city. At the conclusion of the public comments, the mayor and several councilmembers spoke briefly, assuring the assembled crowd that the recommendations of the ad hoc committee are only in the study phase, no one is interested in allowing multi-family dwellings in any single-family neighborhood, and any actions to change zoning will require public input and further votes of Council.

The City Attorney updated Council on how the KS Attorney General is interpreting the Kansas Open Meetings Act now that the Governor’s emergency declaration has expired. During the first two years of the pandemic, elected bodies were allowed to meet virtually without an in-person option. Now that the emergency declaration is no longer in effect, the AG has ruled that an in-person option for the public must be offered for all meetings of elected bodies, even if the elected officials themselves opt for a virtual meeting and offer a virtual option for the public.

The city’s budget for 2023 will exceed the revenue-neutral rate and therefore requires specific notice to citizens and a dedicated public hearing, scheduled for Sept. 6.

Prairie Village City Council 

Aug. 1, 2022

Observer: Eileen Marshall

The Council met in person, with public viewing in person or via Facebook. 

The new public works facility, built over the last two years, has been certified to the Platinum level of LEED. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a widely accepted standard for evaluating the sustainability and energy efficiency of buildings. Platinum is the highest level attainable.

The council, acting as committee of the whole, voted 7-3 against extending the pilot program allowing Bird Scooters to operate within the city. Most council members felt the positive environmental impact was minimal and not enough citizens had used the electric scooters in the year they have been available. As a result of the vote, the pilot program will be over as of Aug. 31.

To learn more, click here.