Former Alderman and current Planning and Zoning Commission member Scott Shafer once again utilized the Citizen Participation portion of the Board of Aldermen meeting on July 27th to request the Board address why a property located at 31603 Ryan Road is not hooked up to the City sewer system. Additionally, Shafer called on Mayor Johnston to explain how he plans to deliver on campaign promises, as Shafer described, to “fix more streets and speed up the process”.
“Could you please share how you are planning on doing this and where the money will come from,” Shafer asked.
Johnston thanked Shafer but did not address comments.
Jack Ryan-Feldman, municipal advisor for Baker Tilly, reviewed the City’s debt management strategy in consideration of current economic trends. Ryan-Feldman provided the Board with several options to restructure current Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs). One option outlined was a restructuring of $6.5 million in bonds, currently at 4.34% interest. Taking advantage of a rate of 0.92% would yield a savings of $695,000.
In other business, the Board approved the final plat approval for the Bush Business Park Re-Plat. The property is located east of the Storage Mar facility and west of Valley Outdoor Equipment on the north side of NW Jefferson Street. The re-plat will contain 4 lots, ranging from 1.5 acres to 2.1 acres in size.
The Board also approved the final plat for Greystone Estates Phase II.
The Board approved a resolution authorizing the City Administrator to spend funds to repair a sanitary sewer main damaged while Public Works staff installed storm drainage pipes at Cross Creek Park in March. The cost of project is not to exceed $42,000.
The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Aldermen is at 7:00pm on Monday, August 10th at City Hall.
The Board of Aldermen met Monday, July 20th at City Hall for a workshop session to discuss strategic planning, City owned properties, plans to address crowding and facility issues at City Hall and the Police Department, and to discuss food truck fees.
City Administrator Ken Murphy provided a list of city-owned properties to facilitate a discussion of what is owned and plans for each piece of land.
Mayor Chuck Johnston said he would like to see properties that do not have a use to be sold, allowing the City to recoup some of the investment.
Johnston questioned if the land on Main Street currently used as a community garden could be sold.
“Do we even see if those people have their own properties where they could be putting their own garden rather than using our facilities,” Johnston asked.
“I’m sure they do. It’s just the idea of a community garden that is common,” Murphy said, pointing to similar gardens in the area, including Blue Springs.
Murphy explained the property used as a community garden lies in a flood plain, making it difficult for development.
The Board discussed other smaller pieces of land along Main Street that may be suitable for sale. The sale of the Sni-A-Bar Farms property was also discussed, with Murphy cautioning the board to carefully consider future land needs before selling larger pieces of property.
The Board discussed current facility needs at City Hall and Police Department, and the next steps forward following the defeat of a bond issue in June which would have created a municipal campus at the old Sni-A-Bar farm property. The Board must decide on a plan in the near future due to the upcoming debt levy decision. Baker Tilly will present options at the next board meeting to address City facility needs.
The board also reviewed comparable fees for food trucks in surrounding cities and debated what fees would be appropriate. Murphy will review options discussed with the City’s legal counsel.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen is set for 7:00pm on Monday, July 27th at City Hall.
Grain Valley Municipal Court is holding an amnesty week for those with active municipal warrant cases. Those wishing to participate must appear in person during business hours, 8:00am – 5:00pm, at Grain Valley City Hall, 711 Main ST, to resolve active warrants July 27-July 31, 2020.
The Board of Aldermen approved a resolution authorizing the City Administrator to enter into an agreement with Jackson County to distribute $865,728 in coronavirus relief funds for the 2020 budget year during its July 13th meeting.
Funding is intended to provide relief from costs associated with technology and software upgrades, facility safety measures, personnel costs related to the virus, and the administration of the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Due to the amount of funding, a single audit will be required.
The breakdown of expenses allocated for this funding is as follows:
Citizen Relief $21,500.00
Facility Upgrades $5,112.42
Substantial Personnel Costs $690,014.00
Supplies (Protective Equipment/Cleaning) $3,431.64
Unanticipated COVID Expenses $4,596.00
In other business, Alderman Shea Bass was appointed Mayor Pro Tem, and the Board approved a liquor license for B&B Theatres and approved the final plat of Rosewood Hills 10th plat. The final plat contains 42 lots and Tract F. The total land area is approximately 22 acres with 10.5 acres designated for common area for water detention purposes and setback from creek. The final plat for the 10th phase substantially conforms to the approved preliminary plat. The final plat conforms to city standards and the engineering civil plans have been approved by the City Engineer.
The Board also approved a payment to the Central Jackson County Emergency Management Agency (CJCEMA) for emergency management services. The CJCEMA is a cooperative effort between the cities of Grain Valley, Blue Springs and Lake Tapawingo in conjunction with the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District. The budgeted cost of this payment is $14,333.00.
City staff requested Board input regarding policies for food truck permit fees, resulting in an extended discussion by Mayor Johnston and other members regarding the impact and benefits of allowing food trucks in the community.
“Our brick and mortar businesses have been decimated. And we’re hurting their investment when we’re bringing in competition and not putting them on a level playing field,” Johnston said. Aldermen Stratton and Aldermen Knox expressed their disagreement that food trucks are negatively impacting brick and mortar restaurants.
“If you have a truck up in Rosewood Hills for instance, they’re not hurting any brick and mortar businesses,” Knox said.
“The Mexican restaurant (El Tequilazo) has had more business than it’s ever had,” Stratton said, referring to the recent Food Truck Friday events downtown. Stratton, who owns a beauty salon in Grain Valley, suggested there was no similar consideration given to other types of businesses.
“The other way I look at it, is that I cannot come to the Board asking that there be no other salons brought into town. There’s no limit put on any other business in town, so I don’t know that it is fair to target them because they have a different type of business, just because it is brick and mortar,”
“I just believe we ought to protect our City businesses. When they’re (residents) buying from a food truck, they are not spending their money to support our local businesses,” Johnston said.
City Administrator Ken Murphy redirected the discussion, noting there seemed to be consensus to develop a fee structure for both one time and annual food truck permit fees. City staff will draft options for the Board to review and discuss.
The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Aldermen will be held at 7:00pm on July 27th at Grain Valley City Hall.
The Planning & Zoning Commission met Wednesday, July 8th via video conference, issuing final plat approval for two projects.
The Commission approved the re-plat of Bush Business Park, consisting of 4 lots and 7.92 acres, located east of the Storage Mart facility and west of Valley Outdoor Equipment on the north side of Jefferson Street. The Commission also approved the final plat approval for Greystone Estates Phase II, consisting of 9 lots over 3.07 acres. The area is located south where Amanda Jean Way terminates in the Greystone Estates Subdivision.
Commission member Paul Loving asked Community Development Director Mark Trosen about the equipment moving dirt in a lot just south of the Taco Bell on Buckner Tarsney Road. Trosen indicated the lot is being considered by a company interested in developing a Panda Express restaurant on the site, and the Commission will receive an application to review once the company enters the next phase of the project.
The next scheduled meeting of the City of Grain Valley Planning & Zoning Commission will take place on August 12th at 6:30pm.
Local fireworks tents have opened for business, offering a variety of products guaranteed to fill neighborhoods with the familiar booms, sulphur smell, and aerials to light up the night sky.
Per Grain Valley’s municipal code (220.090), the discharge of fireworks is permitted between the hours of 9:00am—11:00pm on July 2nd, July 3rd, and July 4th within the city limits of Grain Valley.
Many area fireworks shows have been canceled due to COVID-19, including the annual event held in Blue Springs. The City of Oak Grove will present a fireworks display which will begin at 10:00pm, weather permitting.
I think that most of you that have followed my social media posts throughout my campaign are very aware that you didn't vote in an Ernest Hemingway as your Mayor; my literary skills are definitely lacking. I do however want to give you an idea of my plans and goals, so I have to take a shot at writing. You did however elect someone that has always held steadfast to my lifelong mantra of being true to my word. I did not just say things during my campaign to try to win over votes. The things I did say, I strongly believe the majority of citizens of Grain Valley really want, truly need, definitely deserve for the tax dollars they are paying, and I intend on doing my best to see they get them.
Every study I've seen from the City over the past twenty years has come up with roads and infrastructure as being the number one concern of the citizens. I have already made it known to the Board of Aldermen and City staff I want to put more focus on roads and infrastructure. Unfortunately, this job didn't come with a magic wand that I can just wave to correct all of the years of neglect of the seriousness of this problem. I am not faulting anyone for what has or hasn't occurred in the past. That won't fix our problems and serves no purpose. You need to understand I can't fix our roads by myself, it will take a cooperative effort of the Board of Aldermen, City staff, those we need to hire for the projects, and myself to make this a reality.
You also need to understand this isn't something that can be corrected in a day or even a short period of time. If it's going to happen it will be over an extended period. We have a lot of dedicated people that truly have the best interests of Grain Valley at heart and will work very hard at making the necessary improvements. Because of that, this is something we can and will resolve. Working together we can make good things happen.
This September we make our last payment of $451,500. That will pay off the remainder of the original debt levy against our current City Hall/Police Station and Community Center. We have also recently had a very favorable financial statement from the City's accounting firm. These two things should free up some funds that can be allocated to necessary projects. The City has outgrown our current City Hall/Police Department combination building. We are going to have to develop a plan the alleviate our overcrowding and address some minor maintenance issues.
I am confident we can do that at a much more reasonable cost than what was projected in the recently proposed relocation. There is a need for some expansion to the current Community Center and swimming pool. Again, this all can be accomplished at our current facility. These will also require the working together of all parties involved both in reviewing the issues and developing reasonable plans to correct the problems at hand.
I do follow the posts on our local social media groups and speak with residents about their concerns and desires. I see some of the amenities the people want and see the criticisms about the businesses that do choose to come to Grain Valley. Unfortunately, most don't fully understand how much involvement the City actually does or doesn't have in determining what types of businesses move to our town.
Prospective businesses are not out just to meet the needs of a city where they decide to build. They are in business to ultimately make money and that is their driving force. They all have their own criteria as to the requirements of the places they choose to locate. The city can focus on businesses that they feel the residents want by sending out feelers and demographics to those prospects. But the city cannot just pick and choose who they want to locate in the city. At the end of the day it is the decision of those prospects where they decide to make their investment.
We can and are going to look at tearing down roadblocks that hinder new and existing businesses. It is just as important if not more so and probably easier to keep those businesses already here than it is to attract new businesses.
Right now, most residents seem to want a better variety of sit down restaurants. Because of the current COVID-19 situation along with the uncertainty of the future, restaurants that have already taken large financial losses are very hesitant to make any further investments at this time. So, I believe until this COVID-19 issue becomes clearer, that is something that will be on the back burner.
Another issue I believe needs to be improved on is the lines of communication between the City and the residents. This certainly isn't as critical as the other issues that I've given you a brief run down on, but it can put a lot of people more at ease when they are kept informed. We will be looking for ways to improve our transparency, lines of communication, and try to give you some answers before you have to ask the questions. Again, I want to thank those that supported me and I hope I can live up your expectations.
I have revised the name of my Facebook page to "Mayor Chuck Johnston Grain Valley". If you choose to Like or Follow, it will be another source to help keep you up on City related issues and submit questions.
Mayor Chuck Johnston and recently elected Board of Aldermen took the oath of office Monday, June 22nd at City Hall, the first in-person meeting held in several months due to Stay-at-Home orders related to COVID-19.
Ward 1 Alderman Jayci Stratton, Ward 2 Alderman Rick Knox, and Ward 3 Alderman Bob Headley also took the oath of office during the meeting. Ward 2 Alderman Yolanda West who did not run for re-election was recognized for her 9 years of service on the board.
In his first report as Mayor, Johnston outlined his two immediate priorities. First, Johnston stated the most common complaint he hears from residents concerns the condition of City roads.
“What we have budgeted now, I don’t even think we can start to make a dent, and with that kind of budget we can never catch up,” Johnston said.
Johnston also stated he is “well aware that we have problems here at City Hall with space for staff and the police department, and I am looking for some recommendations for what we can do in this area to make the changes we need at a more reasonable cost than what was projected”, referring to the recently rejected bond issue to develop a community campus on the site of the former Sni-A-Bar Farms.
In other business, the Board reviewed a liquor license requested by B&B Theatres to add a bar at the location, and an ordinance to gain final plat approval for the 10th plat of the Rosewood Hills subdivision. The final plat contains 42 lots with 10.5 acres designated for common area for water detention purposes and setback from a creek in the area.
The next Board of Aldermen meeting is scheduled for July 13th at 7:00pm at City Hall.
A bit of normalcy has resumed at City Hall, the Community Center, and city parks with the reopening of some facilities and programs. The Grain Valley Aquatic Center opened Saturday, June 13th, and City Hall reopened June 15th. The Community Center resumed normal hours of operation on June 8th.
“We still have some programs/classes that we just are not able to offer due to social distancing restrictions but the Fitness Center and Gymnasium are open again and we are taking room rentals,” Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Davies said.
“The first weekend of the pool went really well. We never reached capacity, but we had a nice steady flow of patrons both Saturday and Sunday and are really appreciative of everyone's patience with the COVID-19 restrictions that we had to implement.”
While playgrounds remain closed, all other park amenities are currently open to the public with some restrictions per Phase 2 of Jackson County's Recovery Plan. Davies is hopeful playgrounds can reopen in Phase 3 of the County’s plan.
Baseball/softball field rentals have been very popular this month, according to Davies.
“We can allow practices on our fields in Phase 2, just no tournaments. So several of these youth teams have been practicing in preparation for tournaments scheduled in surrounding counties where tournaments are allowed.”
One popular program not returning in the near future are the monthly senior luncheons. The July senior luncheon has been canceled, and future luncheons have been postponed until further notice.
Mayor Mike Todd concludes his term on June 22nd after 16 years of service to Grain Valley. Todd began his service to the City of Grain Valley in 2004 as an Alderman and has served as Mayor since 2010.
Grain Valley has seen historic growth during Todd’s tenure. Todd and the Board of Aldermen were part of the planning and infrastructure of the development of the area surrounding the I-70 interchange area and Rosewood Hills and Woodbury subdivisions. Todd has also been involved in several community building efforts in the City, including the Trail or Treat event established 8 years ago, establishing the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund two years ago, and the formation of the Grain Valley Youth Engagement Services (GV YES).
“It has been a great experience for myself and my family. We got to experience a lot of wonderful things from lighting the Mayor's Christmas Tree to dressing up at Trail or Treat to many more. It has given me a chance to really give back to my community and at the same time has shown my daughter what service to one's community is,” Todd said.
“There are lots of things I'm proud we accomplished as a community. We have had tremendous commercial and residential growth while at the same time keeping Grain Valley one of the safest cities in Missouri. We've lowered our tax levy several times while keeping our services at a great level for our residents. Over the last several years we have really seen community pride when it comes to our events. Attendance at these events has gone up and it really helps to keep that small town feel. Throughout all of this, it is also important to me that we have continued to be able to offer senior citizen discounts on water along with free Community Center memberships. One of the things I'm most proud of is our staff. I'm probably biased, but I truly believe our city employees are the best group of city staff you will find in the state of Missouri.”
Todd and his wife Tosha have worked alongside a team of volunteers to coordinate the Grain Valley Fair and parade for several years. The Fair added a 5K event two years ago, the proceeds of which benefit local nonprofit organizations. Todd will remain active with the Fair committee, who has recently teamed with the Grain Valley Partnership to offer Food Truck Fridays in downtown Grain Valley beginning June 19th.
As Todd steps away from City leadership, he says he is proud of the work completed and will miss working with the community and City staff in this capacity. As for things he won’t miss, he could only think of one thing.
“Unfortunately, with the rise in social media we have seen negativity increase as well. Not just in Grain Valley, but everywhere. I won't miss the negative attacks based on half-truths and inaccurate information. After these years, it’s still difficult to sit back and see it occurring, but in the position of an elected official you can't really respond for a number of reasons.”