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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 5/30/2023

Johnson County Board of Commissioners

April 21 through May 4, 2023 (most recent listed first)

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


To access information about BOCC meetings including live broadcasts, the calendar and how to contact Commissioners, visit the BOCC meetings page. . For detailed information on registering for public comments and submitting written public comments, go to the BOCC public comment page.


May 4, 2023

Committee of the Whole

Observer: Rebecca James


The COW discussed the makeup of County consolidated zoning boards and agreed to bring needed changes to the BOCC for a vote. During the discussion Commissioner O’Hara argued for Commissioners to appoint five of the members to Boards in their districts and the Chair to appoint two instead of the currently proposed four / three split. Chairperson Kelly stated that that would be a dangerous super- majority, representing a singular voice on a committee. Commissioners have voted and passed an ethical stance requiring that they not influence or lobby County boards.



May 4, 2023


Public Service Recognition Week was recognized, with employees from the Police Department, Fire Department, Library and others present.


Public comments lasted about 15 minutes.


County Economic Research Institute (CERI) Indicators show unemployment at 2.9%, up from 2.2% last year. The number of single family homes sold was 500, an 11% decrease from last year.


Aaron Otto reported that the Legislature adjourned without Sine Die, which is not typical for the end of session, so several items are pending, including:

  • school finance (no budget yet for k-12) [Ed. note: K-12 funding bill has passed but has not been signed by the Governor as of this writing May 9];

  • Senate Bill 8, which enacts a tax freeze on income thresholds for $80,000 for the elderly and for disabled veterans; and raised the property tax threshold to $500,000.

As a result of the adjournment without notice of reconvening, a special session may be necessary.


The Board should receive a more comprehensive wrap up next week from Frederico and Durst, and some bills with positive fiscal notes for the county are still pending. The funds for the bill covering adolescent juvenile crisis recovery are pending and awaiting governor’s signature.


Commissioner Hanzlick asked that bills and vetoes that impact the County government be highlighted.  A bill which Commissioner Fast has been lobbying for on mental health is out of committee and awaiting the governor’s signature.


Commissioner Hanzlick thanked Dan Robeson, noting that the emergency management team met with members of deaf and hard of hearing community to explore better ways to serve this group.


Commissioner Meyers noted that 2,100 ballots (9%) for the recent Olathe city election were returned too late to be counted, an issue with the mail service.


Commissioner Fast noted the art work in the meeting room from Developmental Services.  She commented further that the County is not a dedicated Medicare counseling site, which lowers grant receipts and the number of residents who can be helped. Tim DeWeese and Penny Postoak Ferguson are working on getting a full time equivalent employee to fill this need. 


Chairperson Kelly attended a meeting of the Good Faith Network, which is addressing crucial issues of housing and homelessness. 


April 28, 2022


Two individuals made public comments objecting to vaccines. One person requested a 500-foot setback for Utility Scale Solar Facilities as opposed to the current 250-foot limit. Three persons objected to warehouse development and inclusive library books.


The mayors of Johnson County cities will report on the state of their cities today, necessitating an 11:15 adjournment.


 The Board voted to withdraw from the interlocal agreement with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) for the management of transit services in Johnson County to establish the Johnson County Transit division within the Public Works department, and to authorize five new FTE positions to support the mission of Johnson County Transit in the ongoing provision of transit service in Johnson County and the long-term partnership with the KCATA.


Scot Neufeld reported on meetings with Kansas City, MO supportive of this measure, and the County will continue the partnership with RideKC. The purpose of this move is to increase the County’s responsibility for expansion and promotion of our transit system without impacting current services.  Commissioner Hanzlick noted that this is our chance for a successful pilot project, and Commissioners Hanzlick and Meyer will continue to serve on metropolitan committees for transportation.


The Board voted to approve the sale and delivery of Taxable General Obligation Internal Improvement Bonds to fund complex improvements at the Nelson Wastewater treatment plant.  Commissioner O’Hara made a motion to require an extra audit.  Commissioner Ashcraft seconded the amendment. As part of the EPA, this is already subject to the single oversight audit. The motion was withdrawn.


Johnson County has been ranked as the healthiest county in the state by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  


Commissioner Hanzlick reported on the BOCC Affordable Housing Subcommittee (Hanzlick, Allenbrand and Fast), offering the following recommendations: 

  • Address homelessness, immediately establishing a Johnson County Housing Coordinator position, and establish a shelter with associated services.

  • Preserve existing housing major and minor home repair assistance.

  • Develop attainable housing opportunities.

  • Establish a Housing Trust Fund

Commissioner Fast noted that it is vital to partner with our cities for this effort.  Currently, 1,000 unhoused children live in Johnson County. The Board voted to fund one FTE Housing Coordinator. (The American Recovery Act could be a funding source for this.)  


April 21, 2022


Commissioner Allenbrand was absent, due to a death in the family.


Several individuals made public comments concerning vaccines, utility scale solar power facilities and inflation.


The Board agreed to the application by the city of Olathe for a final development plan for Scannell Building #2, and for the I-35 Logistics Park Fourth Plat, located nearby the northwest corner of 159th Street and Clare Road, Olathe, Kansas within one mile of the New Century AirCenter (within the Olathe city limits). Commissioner O’Hara expressed concerns about the road damage and financial burden on the County for upkeep.  These issues have been taken into account; Olathe will be responsible for upkeep of the primary I-35 access, 159th St. The County is working with the trucking companies to set GPS to avoid use of Clare Road. Commissioner Hanzlick noted that projects like this are important for County economic development and asked if Commissioner O’Hara could provide the Board with a more detailed report about her concerns. The applicant had no comments.


The Board approved Olathe’s application for a final development plan for the same logistics park, Building C Expansion, on 52 acres, 15251 S. Green Road, Olathe, within one mile of the New Century AirCenter.


The Board approved the 10th Judicial District’s Juvenile Justice Comprehensive Plan Grant Application in the amount of $1,632,691.81 and the Juvenile Corrections Advisory Board (JCAB) Grant Application in the amount of $400,773.17 to the Kansas Department of Corrections - Juvenile Services (KDOC-JS) and authorized the associated positions, contracts, and client services. This item includes the Adult Intensive Supervision program, which provides supervision and monitoring of adult felony offenders as an alternative to incarceration in state facilities. Commissioner O’Hara commented that the need for reading instruction is not met in public schools.


The Board authorized the application for Reinvestment Grant and Regional Collaboration Grant to the Kansas Department of Corrections - Juvenile Services, as approved by the Juvenile Corrections Advisory Board, for $403,250.75 to support programs and interventions for justice-involved youth. 


The Board also authorized the County Department of Corrections’ Community Corrections Comprehensive Plan and Funding Requests to the Kansas Department of Corrections for $2,430,908.69, and the use of Client Reimbursement/ Fee Fund Budget Request for $191,398.45. The County Corrections Department will fund a minority coordinator.


“Feed the Need” will be held May 5 in the Johnson County Square to benefit local food pantries.


Commissioner Fast attended County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman’s “Behind the Ballot” event on April 20 and praised the security measures in place for Johnson County elections.


District Court Judge Kelly Ryan updated the Board, stating that three new district judge positions will be in place this year, per legislative action, a welcome addition to balance caseloads. The new courthouse has sufficient capacity for this increase.


The Board went into executive session to discuss matters related to County cybersecurity.



Johnson County Park and Recreation Board

April 19, 2023 

from 7:30 to 8:30 at Meadowbrook Park Clubhouse

Observer: Ada Niedenthal

The JCPRD Board meeting followed a joint meeting with Johnson County Commissioners.

Most of the meeting time was taken up with distributing service awards, leadership awards, and first quarter awards.

Public comments consisted of two requests to address access and safety issues at Shawnee Mission Lake which have been affected by construction.

2024 Preliminary Budget will be presented to the County Commission for approval in June.

Next Board meeting will be May 17, 7:00, Park Offices.

To learn more, click here.

Blue Valley School Board Meeting

May 8, 2023

Observer: Ann Schuster

The meeting began with the final reports of the 2023-24 school year from the DEI, Curriculum and Instruction, Health and Well-Being, Communications and Finance Committees.

Board Member Kaety Bowers has resigned due to a move out of the District. The Board will have 15 days to look for a replacement. Although Ms. Bowers was not present at this meeting, a letter of thanks from her was read by fellow Board Member Jim McMullin.

Prior to addressing the agenda action items, Jim McMullin had a number of questions concerning the sale of District bonds which were answered by a member of the Finance Committee. Mr. McMullin also had questions for the Curriculum and Instruction Director concerning renewal of some of the District’s databases used for instruction. He was assured by Dr. Katie Collier that student privacy was not being compromised because of careful oversight by Blue Valley and the vendors providing these items.

Two actions items prompted a great deal of discussion:

  • The District’s proposal to eliminate the payrider option for MS/HS students living between 1.5-2.49 miles from their schools. The proposal passed with just one Board member’s dissent.

  • The Facilities Committee announced a slight alteration to the boundary change proposal

discussed in April. No action will be taken by the Board until neighborhood hearings are held in the coming weeks.

Blue Valley’s 5-year Professional Learning Plan for staff, mandated by the state, was presented and approved. Before adjournment, a legislative update was given by Dr. Tonya Merrigan.

To learn more, click here.

Shawnee Mission School Board

April 24, 2023

Observer: Maureen Hale

The majority of the discussion in this meeting was regarding the school district budget. Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Russell Knapp, presented information and shared slides regarding district finances. The Shawnee Mission School District provides this information on their website as well as budget proposals and how the funds are used. Anyone in the public arena can access this information by visiting the website. The use of public funds has been made very transparent in this way. 

Currently the district has been able to use profits from investment CD’s to fund the construction of new schools needed. Investing funds in this way has enabled the district to not have to change the Mill Levy. However recently, due to inflation, the construction costs have become more of a burden. There are not any plans at this time to raise the Mill Levy. However, if the district were to need to request a change in the Mill Levy, they are obligated to notify all property owners and voters in writing. 

To learn more, click here.

Water One Board

April 11, 2023

Annette Becker


— Year end audit results - highest rating possible with no reportable matters 

— Annual Customer Satisfaction Review conducted by ETC: Water One is performing in the top 10% of all water utilities in the nation and received an award as a National Top Performer with an overall satisfaction rating of 92%

 — Water Loss Update: This monitors how much water is lost / non- billed through things like leaky pipes, faulty meters, etc. Water One is far below the industry standard. 

— received one of the Healthiest Employers Awards from the KC Business Journal 

— Best tasting water in Kansas (again) so will be competing at the national conference in 2024 

Legislative update’s biggest news is that the Kansas Water Plan (which has been defunded completely since the Brownback years) has gotten approval from the KS legislature to receive $35 million a year from the state. I looked over the Water Plan online and it was very interesting. It does many things to conserve/ preserve our water and with climate change and continued severe drought in western Kansas this is more important than ever. 

Stay hydrated with our excellent tap water! To learn more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council 

April 17, 2023

Observer: Eileen Marshall

The Council met in person at 6:00 p.m., with public viewing in person or via Facebook Live. All members participated, with one attending by Zoom.

PUBLIC COMMENTS – Three residents made public comments in opposition to zoning changes, a potential community center, and high property taxes. 

AFFORDABLE HOUSING -- Council agreed to increase the maximum annual income (by $100) to qualify for the property tax rebate program, in order to serve additional applicants. This is a program that rebates the city’s portion of property tax to lower-income homeowners.

PROPOSED COMMUNITY CENTER -- Council spent about 2 hours on the potential community center proposed to be built and operated in collaboration with the Johnson County Library and the KC YMCA. First, a representative of the firm that conducted the most recent survey explained the results. In short, interest in a community center is about the same as before the pandemic. Approximately two-thirds of PV residents and those who live in proximity to PV respond that they would “definitely” or “probably” use the facility. The full report is available on the City’s website. After lengthy discussion, Council voted 10 to 2 in favor of taking the next steps, which involve drafting memos of understanding with the Y and the Library. These agreements will govern how the entities work together, share costs and responsibilities, and will specify the expected outcomes. No design work has been approved at this time; that will require several more steps.

Other city business was conducted, and the meeting adjourned at 9:50.

Prairie Village City Council 

April 24, 2023

Observer: Eileen Marshall

The Council met in person at 6:00 p.m., with public viewing in person or via Facebook Live. All members participated, with one attending by Zoom. This was not a scheduled city business meeting, but a work session to discuss what, if any, changes might be desirable in R-1 zoning. (R-1 is single-family residential zoning and accounts for the majority of PV.) Potential revisions have been the cause of much public comment at the city council meetings in the past nine months. The Council had previously voted to remove R-1 from the revision process currently underway in the Planning Commission, begging the question, “what about R-1?”

PUBLIC COMMENTS – Because this was a work session, public comments were not allowed. Members of the public, however, filled the gallery in the council chamber and also an overflow room.

The council discussed 6 main topics:

  1. Whether to commission a housing study for PV

  2. Accessory dwelling units (in general, a small apartment either separate from the primary residence or part of it) and whether current ordinances governing ADUs are adequate.

  3. Possible updates to the 2019 Neighborhood Design Guidelines

  4. Possible changes to building permit fees

  5. Possible changes in allowable lot sizes

  6. Short-term rentals (for example, AirBnb and VRBO)

After lengthy discussion, council members assigned a priority to each topic. The top priority by far was an update to existing Neighborhood Design Guidelines in R-1b zones (these are smaller lots). There appears to be general dissatisfaction about the character and size of the new houses rebuilt in place of original PV houses. The second priority was short-term rentals and preventing adverse effects on surrounding neighbors. More work will be needed in order to address both of these issues, but for now, ADUs appear to be off the agenda.

Prairie Village City Council 

May 1, 2023

Observer: Eileen Marshall

The Council met in person at 6:00 p.m., with public viewing in person or via Zoom. All members were present. 

PUBLIC COMMENTS – One resident spoke against the potential community center and in favor of returning cash reserves to the citizens. Four residents spoke against potential efforts to increase housing diversity in the city. After the comments, Councilman Dave Robinson reminded everyone that some of the issues being complained about by the commenters have already been removed from consideration.

Most of the meeting consisted of routine city business. The last item on the agenda was a proposal to simplify the process of enabling online viewing of Council meetings by removing Facebook from the process. The proposal was approved unanimously. From now on, anyone who wants to watch online will be directed to a Zoom meeting instead of Facebook. Meetings will continue to be recorded so they can be viewed on the city’s website at any time. The new procedure will offer the same public access but reduce time spent by staff.

To learn more, click here.