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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 9/4/2023

League of Women Voters of Johnson County Observer Reports

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

July 20 through Aug. 10, 2023 (most recent listed first)

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

A live broadcast is available at Http://  and on YouTube.   Public comments during the beginning of the meeting or for a specific agenda item can now be made in person, virtually

or in writing.

Aug. 10, 2023


Commissioners approved General Obligation Bonds for airport improvements (land purchases and other improvements) for $11,730,000. The original bond sale went well, eliciting five bidders and scoring a Triple A rating, indicating strong financial management. The Board approved the sale of Taxable General Obligation Internal Improvement Bonds, to finance certain airport improvements for $5,110,000.


 The Board also approved the following bond items:

∙        Improvements for the Hazardous Waste and Med-Act Facilities for $ $17,095,000

∙        Merriam Plaza Library facility improvements for $7,000,000


Commissioners adjourned at about 10:10 a.m. to meet for a few minutes as the Public Building Commission.


Public Comments lasted about 15 minutes.


Water and wastewater infrastructure projects at the New Century Commerce Center will be funded by $3,967,300 from Coronavirus SLFR Funds. 


Johnson County will receive $702,600 from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Workforce Development Program to continue the Community Health Worker program that was established in 2021. The program assists people with lingering COVID-19 needs in navigating housing, employment, education, and health systems. CHWs partners with other agencies to engage clients in direct services and provide ongoing goal planning assistance. Chair Kelly corrected Commissioner O’Hara’s false comments about COVID-19. 


The Board authorized a contract for $600,200 with Burns and McDonnell for siting, design, bidding and construction services for a new air traffic control tower to replace the obsolete structure at the New Century AirCenter.


The Board had a moment of silence in respect for the death of Officer Jonah Oswald, Fairway Police Department. Sheriff Hayden thanked the County for their support during this time. Chair Kelly thanked the law enforcement officers and EMT’s for their service.


Commissioners also approved a policy on disruptive electronic communications, allowing blocking or quarantining redundant, harassing emails, phone calls, and text messages that present cybersecurity threats, interfere with productivity and/or subject the County to liability. Such communications will be reviewed for Kansas Open Records Requests periodically. County Counsel Peg Trent explained the need for a policy remedy rather than legal measures at length. Leonid Khayet, a county resident, has sent over 28,000 emails to the Sheriff’s Department in the last few months.  The sheriff objected, arguing for law enforcement penalties, which are difficult and expensive to apply. Several commenters also objected.


A rolling ribbon cutting celebrated the new zero-fare bus Route 487 along the 87th Street corridor linking the Lenexa City Center in the west to the Mission Transit Center as its eastern terminal point.


The report for the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund indicates that Johnson County has about $22,500,000 left of these one-time, use-it-or-lose-it funds left.


Aug. 3, 2023

Public Comments lasted about 20 minutes.

Commissioner O’Hara’s motion to direct staff to review county boards and commissions to conduct an audit to determine whether any employees and commissioners are serving on boards of any county-funded organizations failed. Commissioner O’Hara’s second motion to add a future agenda item reviewing the current ban on county employees serving on boards and commissions also failed.

The Board approved an additional full time Juvenile Diversion Officer, which was recently awarded through the KDOC IIP grant.

The Board conducted a public hearing and approved funds for the Blue River Main Wastewater Treatment Facility Phase 2 Improvements Project, increasing the total authorization to $2,665,500.

An exception to competition was authorized and a contract addendum with Daupler, Inc. was approved, adding incident response management system services to the web-based customer service portal for Johnson County Wastewater’s Private Infiltration and Inflow Source Removal Program for a cost not to exceed $903,100.

One-time funds from Coronavirus SLFRF (from US Department of Treasury) were approved to fund the following items:

  • Theatre in the Park ADA improvements for restrooms, concessions, and accessible connecting pathways ($2,000,000) Chair Kelly reminded Commissioner O’Hara again that SLFRF cannot be used for tax reductions.

  • Eviction Mediation Pilot Program and utility assistance. $12,000 will be used to pay for a program and mediators, and $500,000 will be for utility assistance. Commissioner Fast noted that sheriff’s deputies are at most risk of being shot during evictions, and that funding co-responders for this process through this program will reduce that risk. Commissioner Hanzlick urged people to spread the word on the phone number for Aging and Human Services, 913 715-8800 for nutrition and utility assistance. Commissioner O’Hara cast the only “No” vote.

  • Housing and workforce programs supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities ($1,153,000). 

  • The Board tabled the item authorizing community investment funding of $500,000 for behavioral health and therapeutic substance use disorder recovery programs so that it can be advertised to more organizations. Commissioners were provided with written assurances from the faith-based providers that they do follow the County nondiscrimination policies.

  • A one-time payment to the Old Settlers Association, Olathe ($15,000).

A contract with Soch, Inc., for Elections Management System, for $150,150, was authorized. A public commenter complained that too few companies were offered an opportunity to bid; however, notices were sent to 702 firms. Sixteen firms reviewed the proposal, and two firms responded to the RFP: EasyVote Solutions Inc. and Soch, Inc. Soch scored the best on ability to deliver the needed services.

The Board approved an added Item to the agenda, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the BOCC and Sheriff’s Office. The MOU defines the scope of external legal services and sets forth the roles and responsibilities regarding engagement of outside legal counsel by the Sheriff’s Office. The MOU protects the interests of both the BOCC and the Sheriff’s Office by providing processes for identifying and avoiding conflicts of interest. A public commenter asked that the item be deferred. Chair Kelly noted that it is important to clarify the relationship between the Sheriff’s office and the County in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

A Major Projects Update was presented for: the Johnson County Square, Merriam Plaza Library (formerly Antioch Library Replacement), New Shawnee Med-Act Facility, Strategic Plan (Legacy Plan) update, Executive Airport, Heritage Lake, Courthouse buildout and others. Details are available at

In a 30-hour period of observing 199th Street, two trucks were noted cutting through from I-35. The majority of traffic is large, local trucks.

Interim Financial Statements listed the following major revenue sources: Ad Valorem tax, sales tax, interest earnings, charges for services, grant funding and Opioid Funds. Most areas of the County are within budget. Highlights: 

  • Investment interest is up $3.75 million,

  • Sales tax revenue is up $1.45 million,

  • Total revenue is up over $3.88 million greater than 2022.

More financial information is available here


July 27, 2023


The meeting was called to order by Chair Mike Kelly at 9:31. Commissioner Fast was absent. Commissioner Allenbrand was on Zoom. Public comments lasted for 12 minutes.


The Manager’s Memo included the following:

∙        The Arts Council of Johnson County has launched the application process for the County COVID Recovery Grants for Artists.  For information on how to apply and upcoming workshops on the process, see: Arts and Community Recovery & Rebuilding Program - The Arts Council of Johnson County ( )

∙        The JOCO EMS System has been nationally recognized by the AHA and received the Lifeline® EMS Gold achievement award for its commitment to offering rapid and research-based care to people experiencing the most severe form of heart attacks and strokes, ultimately saving lives.       

∙        The JOCO Rural Comprehensive Plan 2023 Annual Review has been released & is available at:

               BOCC Comp Plan Memo 2023.docx.pdf (


July 20, 2023


Public comments lasted about 10 minutes.


Commissioners approved an invitation for bids for term and supply contracts with multiple suppliers for In-Home Services through the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging for $1,416,000. Funds come from a variety of sources, including COVID relief funds, and services allow older residents to remain in their homes.  Commissioner Hanzlick asserted that, in light of their vital importance, these services should be noted as part of our state legislative priorities.


The County will purchase 8 new cars for the Sheriff’s department from Allen Samuels dealership in Hutchinson, Kansas for $348,000. (Supply chain issues have prevented the purchase of new cars for the last two years for this department.)


Jeff Meyers and Janeé Hanzlick will be the voting delegate and alternate delegate, respectively, for the 2023 National Association of Counties (NACo) Conference, Annual Business Meeting.


Both of Commissioner O’Hara’s motions that the Committee of the Whole engage in a study on books on LGBTQ+ subjects and mental health/pornography issues failed.  Commissioners Hanzlick and Fast noted that an equitable, accessible  process for dealing with book selections is already in place.


County Economic Research Institute (CERI) Indicators reported that May Unemployment was at 2.5%; the total value of all construction contracts let year-to-date through May was $4,655,260,000. Retail Sales are up 6%.


The County activated the Emergency Center as a result of the recent storm. A FEMA public assistance grant requires a certain level of estimated costs, $2.7 million. Our damages have only been identified at $1.7 million. The County is working on identifying ways public costs can be estimated to meet that threshold.


Highlights of the County financial report included the following items as of December 31, 2022:

• The County Net Position grew by $167 million - $100 million is unspent COVID funds, $40 million is attributed to activities, including the Public Building Commission and Wastewater assets

• Debt decreased by $58.2 million over the previous year

• General Fund reserves increased $73 million.


The Ruben Brown accounting firm audited the County financial statements and reported a “Clean” result, the best level. The complete report is available on the County website:


The Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (LFRF) - $33million must be spent on ARPA eligible programs.  40% will be allocated to expanding the workforce and small business assistance, 34% to housing, food assistance. Each item will be brought before the Commissioners.

Johnson County Library Board

Aug. 10, 2023

Observer: Karen Wulfkuhle

The Board met Aug. 10, 2023.  For the November general election, Monticello Library will be an advance voting site; the public can vote at numerous branches on Nov. 7.  

The board discussed an MOU with the City of Prairie Village to fund a study which would look at the site in and around Harmon Park to envision what a shared campus for the Library and a Community Wellness and Recreation Center could look like.   The MOU provides for the parties to develop an RFP seeking a consultant who would (1) engage the public on the site design study and (2) study the site design for the study area, including producing conceptual designs. The Library and City and YMCA (via a separate agreement) would share costs for this work. The study costs would not exceed $50,000 for the Library.

The Library and City separately retain discretion to consider the results of this study and at their sole discretion will consider whether it will continue as a participant in the project. If the Library chooses to move forward with the project, separate and more specific agreements would follow. The Prairie Village City Council unanimously approved this MOU at their 7/17 Council meeting.  The Library board will take action in September.

To learn more, click here.

Johnson County Mental Health Center Advisory Board

July 24, 2023.

Observer: Karen Wulfkuhle

Advisors heard a report from the County Legal Department on the Code of Ethics for Johnson County Public Officials, adopted by the BOCC earlier this year.  Mental Health Center Director, Tim DeWeese, discussed the Johnson County Community Crisis Continuum of Care and stressed the importance of bolstering the early prevention components.  He emphasized interconnectedness with the criminal justice system. He discussed steps being taken county-wide to address homelessness, including the potential for an emergency shelter.

To learn more, click here.

Johnson County Park and Recreation Department Board Meeting

July 19, 2023 at JCPRD Administration Offices

Observer: Ada Niedenthal

Began at 7:00. Ended at 7:50. There were no Public Comments, and 11 items on the Consent Agenda were approved without comment.

Bill Maasen, Superintendent of Parks and Golf Courses, presented a Natural Resources Plan Implementation Update:

  • Natural Resources is fully staffed with three full time positions and several seasonal technicians.

  • Removal of invasive plant species continues over the 11,000 acres.

  • Both chemical and physical means are used to remove Callery pear trees and bush honeysuckle from Cedar Niles, Ernie Miller and Shawnee Mission Parks.

  • A Callery pear buy-back program is in progress.

  • Prairie restoration continues at Big Bull Creek.

  • Deer management continues with the intention of benefiting the health of both the environment and the herd.

  • A seed collection program continues with the help of many volunteers.

Next Board meeting will be Aug. 16, 7:00, at Administration Offices.

To learn more, click here.

Blue Valley Board of Education Meeting

July 17, 2023

Observer: Ann Schuster

The meeting began with reports from Board Members on their activities in the preceding month. Dr. Sonya Evans, who is replacing Kaety Bowers on the Board, was introduced. Dr. Tonya Merrigan then noted recent student achievements. Her remarks were followed by a report from the Finance Advisory Committee.

The Board was then presented with the proposed Blue Valley Recreation budget, which they then approved as well as consenting to the appointment of a nominated at-large committee person for BV Rec.

Dr, Merrigan then submitted the District Goals for the 2023-24 school year which were unanimously ratified.

The Board accepted the reappointments of 6 community members to the Health and Well-Being, Curriculum and Instruction, and Student Advisory Committees. The agenda continued with attention to the reinstatement of the contracts with Children's Mercy Hospital (for district social workers) and 4 technology support contracts. After some discussion, the contracts were all approved.

Blue Valley School District Board Meeting

Aug. 14, 2023

Observer: Ann Schuster

Note: I attended this meeting in person, including the public comment section.

The meeting began at 5:30 p.m. with the monthly staff recognition award followed by public comments which focused on the District’s plan to alter the delivery of the Chinese Immersion program.

The main meeting was called to order at 5:45 p.m. There was only one Board Advisory Committee report this month, and that was from the Finance Committee concerning the publication of two budget hearings which were approved later in the new business portion of the meeting. One dealt with exceeding the revenue neutral tax rate for the 2023-24 school year and the other was for the 2024-25 budget.

Board members gave their reports commenting on the onboarding of 215 new certified and 116 new classified staff members; the annual “Rally in the Valley” for staff; a school supply drive sponsored by the Church of the Resurrection; interviews for a new construction manager; meetings with Mom Demand Action; and the Imagination Library KickOff held in downtown KC.

It was noted that school for students begins Wednesday, Aug. 16th. The Superintendent’s update included the information that Blue Valley had 620 AP Scholars in 2023.

The Board President reiterated the District’s mission statement before proceeding with the evening’s agenda. Agenda action items included:

  • -approval of the publication of the 2 Finance Committee budget hearings mentioned above

  • -approval of patrons appointed to two Board Advisory committees

  • -approval of updates to two Board Policies dealing with Emergency Safety Interventions and Administration Guidelines for discipline

  • -approval of the negotiated agreements with Blue Valley certified staff, classified staff and administrators

The meeting was adjourned at 6:47 p.m.

To learn more, click here.

Olathe School Board

July 13, 2023

Observer: Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on July 13, 2023. The 2023-2024 school board president and vice president were selected and approved. The timeline for the 2023-2024 budget process was discussed. The Board discussed and approved the revised Student Code of Conduct. This will be provided to both the students and parents and posted on the school website. The district received a $425,000 safe and secure school grant from the Kansas State Board of Education.

Olathe School Board

Aug. 3, 2023

Observer: Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board held their regular monthly meeting on Aug. 3, 2023. Administration provided an update on the repairs and enhancements to the various schools and facilities. They also provided an update on the safety plan improvements implemented over the past year. The Administration is projecting a student population of 28,883 for the 2023-24 school year, a decrease of 303 students.

To learn more, click here.

Lenexa City Council

Aug. 15, 2023

Observer: Ellen Miller

Showing teens why city government counts is hard. Nothing works as well as hands-on experience. For the first time, Lenexa hosted four Pro-X interns -- search at –for five weeks. The teens picked Lenexa from among 123 metro organizations. The interns rotated through all city departments, about 25 hrs per week. Upon completion, each intern received $1250 from Pro-X. The post-internship surveys of both the teens and city managers were positive; staff is looking forward to having more interns in 2024.

To learn more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council 

Aug. 7, 2023

Observer: Eileen Marshall

The Council met in person at 6:00 p.m., with public viewing in person or via livestream. All members attended; one by Zoom. The Mayor took a minute to express everyone’s sorrow about the Fairway police officer who was shot on Sunday morning. This officer was well-known to PV officers, and he died from his injuries on Monday.

PETITIONS – Prior to the public comment period, City Attorney David Waters gave a presentation on legal aspects of the three petitions that have been submitted to the City for inclusion on a future ballot. One regards the potential rezoning issues that have roiled the community for a year; the other two propose that the city abandon its current form of government and adopt another, including removing six elected council members whose terms would be shortened by two years. These issues are extremely detailed, but Mr. Waters pointed out several examples where his analysis suggests the petitions do not meet statutory requirements. If you wish to follow the legal arguments, you can begin by clicking here. To summarize, it is the responsibility of the Johnson County Election Office to certify that the signatures are valid and the petitions meet statutory requirements. It is not known when this work will be complete, and there can be no action until it is.

PUBLIC COMMENTS – This part of the meeting lasted about 30 minutes, with most commenters speaking out against rezoning or in favor of the petitions mentioned above and two actually implying ethical violations on the part of certain council members. One or two individuals spoke against misinformation spread by the “stop” group. After public comment was over, nine council members each responded to months of rancor from the “stop” group. Council member Greg Shelton gave a cogent history of the zoning issues that are so hotly debated, and several of the other members again pointed out that some of the things the “stop” group has been saying are false. Frustration was evident.

Routine city business was conducted, and then the council went into Executive Session around 9:15. 

To watch this meeting, click here. Look for Aug. 7.

Special Meeting of Prairie Village City Council

Aug. 16, 2023, 6:00 p.m.

Observer:  Eileen Marshall

The purpose of this special meeting was to decide how to proceed with the three citizen petitions discussed in the meeting Aug. 7. Since then, the JOCO Election office certified the validity of the signatures but declined to rule on the legality of the form or content of the petitions, handing the petitions back to the city for next steps. Because this was a special meeting, there was no public comment period. The council went into executive session immediately, in order to consult with legal counsel. When they returned to the chamber at 6:35, they voted unanimously to authorize the Mayor, City Attorney, and City Administrator to initiate legal proceedings to assert and protect the city’s legal positions with regard to the petitions. No further explanation was given nor action taken, and the meeting adjourned at 6:37 p.m.