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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 7/2/2023

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

May 25 through June 8, 2023

Observers: Rebecca James, Jerry Gilson, Joan Gilson, Lenore 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, submitting written public comments and speaking guidelines, go to the BOCC public comment page.



Thursday, June 08, 2023


 The County proclaimed June 19, 2023, as Juneteenth Day. The Library and local cities will offer a number of events including the following:

  • Two “Walk and Read” events at Stoll Park, Arts and Heritage Center.

  • June 17th, Harmon Park, sponsored by Standup Black Lives Matter Prairie Village, all welcome.

June 12 is Women Veterans Recognition Day. More than 18,000 women veterans live in Kansas.


Public Comments lasted about five minutes.


The Board adopted the revised by-laws for the Johnson County Commission on Aging (COA).


Several projects for attainable housing to the County were approved:

  • $950,000 from Coronavirus Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF): a community investment for Habitat for Humanity’s Olathe Pathway Project at 159th and Black Bob. The project will include 20 build-to-suit homes for low-income families.

  • $200,000 from Coronavirus SLFRF: a community investment towards a Landlord Incentive Pilot Program.

  • $50,000 from General Fund Reserves: establish a Landlord Risk Mitigation Pilot Program to provide more incentive for landlords to accept rental vouchers.

The Good Faith Network fully supports these projects.


Commissioners authorized the County Manager’s Office to review and evaluate the feasibility of establishing a Housing Trust Fund, a one time funding project to support research into developing opportunities for attainable housing and homeownership.


After being at full operation for only three years, the County Medical Examiner’s Office was awarded National Accreditation by the National Association of Medical Examiners.


Mental Health and Household Food Assistance programs were supported by the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund


Thursday, June 01, 2023


Commissioner Ashcraft was absent.


Chairperson Kelly proclaimed National Gun Violence Awareness Day, stating that 456 gun deaths occur every year in Kansas.  Members of Moms Demand Action were recognized, and the Chair noted the importance of concrete, reasonable measures to keep our residents safe.


Public Comments lasted 15 minutes.


The Board approved the following items:

  • An amendment to the contract with Via Mobility for credit card security.

  • A connectivity and fiber optic use inter-local agreement between the County and Shawnee with Universal Construction for the emergency repair and restoration of the Adult Residential Center.

  • A pay raise for election clerks and supervising judges for Johnson County elections. Workers have not received raises since 2006.


The County will issue taxable Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) and an ad valorem tax abatement for construction of a manufacturing facility for the New Century Airport. The land is currently zoned agricultural with no property tax generated. The goal of this project is to keep the airport, which was a gift of the military, economically self-sufficient. The Chair strongly objected to public commenters’ complaints “Chinese ownership” of the manufacturing facility to be housed there, noting the danger to Asian people generated by bigoted remarks. Commissioner O’Hara complained about her taxes, voting no.


Commissioners approved a street shoulder improvement project on 199th street from Clare Road to US-169 Highway.


County Manager Postoak Ferguson presented the Major Projects Update:

  • Merriam Plaza Library (formerly Antioch Library Replacement) to be completed in the second quarter, 2024.

  • Johnson County Square Phase 2, scheduled for completion in the third quarter, 2023. Commissioner Allenbrand asked when donations would be solicited for further improvements.

  • Improvements are underway at Heritage Lake, Shawnee Mission Park Marina, Kill Creek Park and other sites.

  • Household hazardous waste project, ribbon cutting June 14

  • Mid America Sports Complex, ribbon cutting June 7

The Appraiser’s Office reported on Property Site Visits (external visits) for appeals, remodels, sales, and open permits.


Brian Pietig, Public Works, reported on the 199th Truck Safety Study, noting work on a two phase approach, first to identify cut-through truck traffic, then to look at safety enhancements. The County is also working with KDOT on a comprehensive examination of safety issues in rural areas to initiate safety projects within the next ten years. Sheriff Hayden was consulted on the study.


May 25, 2023


Public comments lasted about 20 minutes.


The Board agreed to the Chairperson’s appointment of Nicole Palmer and Jenna Rose to the REACH Board of Directors.


After two residents commented in favor of the resolution and requested further immediate safety measures, the Board agreed to work with Gardner and Miami County to prohibit truck traffic on Gardner Road from 199th Street to 215th Street. Sheriff Hayden urged further road closings; Brian Pietig (Public Works Director) noted the risk of unintended consequences for that measure.


Sitting as an Appeal Board, the Board conducted a hearing and upheld the County Manager’s disapproval of the protest by ViaPath Technologies to the request for proposal for tablet/video visitation and phone services for the County Inmate Commissary. (Commissioner O’Hara voted No.) The issue was whether the appropriate procedures were followed, and, as requested in the appeal, the proposal process was detailed


The ViaPath representative noted that they are the current service provider and objected to losing the contract to Smart Communications, stating that the bid process was not revealed* and alleging that their service meets necessary requirements successfully, at cost, contrary to competitors’ services. They asked that the County accept ViaPath’s bid.


*The Kansas Open Records act restricts release of information on all sealed bids until the process is completed as a protection of all vendors.


As a result of that vote, the Board then approved a contract with Summit Food Service commissary services, and Smart Communications Holding, for inmate tablet/video visitation services and phone services at no cost to the County for three years. 


The May 2023 edition of the Economic Indicators for Johnson County was provided by CERI.

  • The unemployment rate for March 2023 is 2.7%, compared to 2.5% in March of 2022. The average unemployment rate for March the previous 5 years is 2.9%.

  • Year to date the number of single-family homes sold in 2023 is 1,533, compared to 1,875 in 2022, a 18% decrease.

  • Year to date the number of single-family building permits issued in 2023 is 258, compared to 455 in 2022, a 43% decrease.

  • Additionally, the CERI reports total retail sales for Johnson County at $3 billion year-to-date through February 2023, compared to $2.7 billion through the same period year-to-date February 2022, an 11% increase.


Johnson County Library Board

June 8, 2023

Observer: Karen Wulfkuhle

2022 statistics showed the following:

  • $3.97 M spent on the collection

  • 1.1 M items are in the physical collection

  • 1,276,000 digital content was used

  • 27,428 e-books were used.

No offers have been made for the Lackman Library Building. Therefore, an RFP will be issued for brokerage services to aid with selling the building. Construction of Merriam Plaza is proceeding as expected.


Race Project KC, developed by Library staff, will transition to a metro-wide community project with grant funding from the Kauffman Foundation. 100 library staff have completed the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Training program, which is being offered to all County staff.

To learn more, click here.

Johnson County Mental Health Center (MHC) Advisory Board

May 22, 2023, Mission Office.

Observers: Harry and Mary Bognich

County Commissioner Becky Fast reported that the County Commissioners, as part of the Dignity Project, are actively working toward a year-round shelter for the homeless. A considerable amount of planning, funding, etc. are still needed, because a simple shelter is insufficient. There needs to be a “backdoor exit” from the shelter to permanent housing that is supported to keep people in a house.

An updated timeline for the 2024 MHC Budget was presented:

May 25 – Presentation of MHC Budget to the Board of County Commissioners*

June 22 and 27 – Budget Open House Events

August 21 – Public Hearing on the County 2024 Budget

August 31 – BOCC Budget Adoption

*MHC is asking for 15 new Full Time Employees and is likely to get them. MHC is planning to fund these new FTE from MHC funds, not County funds.

County Funding to MHC has decreased from 62.7% to 50.8% in the last year. Actually, MHC has had increased funding coming to it, but more of it is coming from MHC revenue, not from the County.  

Plans are underway for a new Human Services Building in Olathe by about the end of 2027 to replace the existing old MHC building in Olathe. MHC is also considering leasing space in the Gardner area to establish a footprint there for MHC, since the need is likely growing there.

The movie “Angst” screening on March 28 was excellent, but unfortunately only about 40 attendees were there, partly due to other events going on at the same time. Discussion was held on trying to partner with other larger groups in the metroplex in order to promote a much larger screening.

Opioid Settlement Funds are coming; MHC is applying for some of those.

Next meeting will be July 24, 2023. To learn more, click here.

Johnson County Park and Recreation Department Board

May 17, 2023, Park offices 

Observer: Ada Niedenthal

No one spoke during the Public Comments time. A 22-item Consent Agenda was passed with no comments. Mercer, a financial services company, gave a presentation about the Employee Benefits Program. Next Board meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. June 28, at the JCPRD Administration Building.

To learn more, click here.

Blue Valley School Board Meeting

June 12, 2023

Observer: Nancy Allen

Following previous approval of the District’s bond sale, 16 total bids were received in two areas. District bonds have been rated AA+ and AAA.

The boundary changes introduced at May’s Board meeting were approved and will take effect during the ’23-’24 and ’24-’25 school year depending on the attendance area. This will reduce overcrowding at Valley Park, Overland Trail, and Harmony Elementary Schools.

Policy 1300 regarding Board compensation was updated in accordance with a new state law. It is to be noted that the Board does not seek, nor will it receive, any compensation.

Five appointments were made to the Board Finance and Operating Advisory Committee – three who will continue for a second term and two for a first term. Board Liaisons were named for the KASB Region 11 Nominating Committee.

The new superintendent contract for Dr. Tonya Merrigan was approved.

The new Board Leadership was elected for the coming year. Jodie Dietz will become the new Board President and Gina Knapp will become Vice-President.

To learn more, click here.

Olathe School Board

June 1, 2023

Observer: Cindy Hicks

Olathe East High School completed their first year of participation in Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City's 3DE Program. The first year was a success and the program will be continued next school year. 

The Board approved the minutes from the May 16 special meeting. During this special meeting, the Board approved the motion to censure a board member by removing the member from all committee assignments and bar the member from leadership positions until further notice. The member had been disruptive and/or broken decorum during public meetings and made some individuals feel unsafe at the May 4 meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Yeager informed the board that the Code of Student Conduct is being reviewed and he will have proposed changes to address student bullying/harassment at a later board meeting.  

To learn more, click here.