The Board of Aldermen met virtually by video conference for their August 24th meeting. The Board approved three resolutions in a brief meeting. The Board met virtually while City Hall makes changes to the Council Chambers to allow for proper physical distancing in the space.
“We are working to put precautionary COVID-19 safety measures in place inside the Council Chambers so we can, whenever possible, continue to meet in person during the duration of the pandemic,” Sara Nadeau, Public Information Officer for the City of Grain Valley said.
The measures were not completed by the August 24th meeting, so the meeting was held virtually.
The Board approved a resolution adopting an updated employee handbook and a resolution authorizing the City Administrator to enter into an agreement with Tyler Technologies for MyCivic 311 citizen engagement mobile application and cloud computing services.
The Board also approved a resolution authorizing the sale of bonds for the refunding of the Series 2011 General Obligation Bonds maturing in 2022 and beyond.
Community Development Director Mark Trosen and his staff received acknowledgements Alderman Headley for addressing a safety issue at a four-way stop in the Woodbury subdivision. Alderman Cleaver asked Trosen to look at the road markings at Sni-A-Bar and AA, as Cleaver has heard concerns from constituents regarding the lack of lane markings in that area.
The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Aldermen is a workshop scheduled for Monday, August 31st at 6:00pm in the Council Chambers at Grain Valley City Hall.
One of the beloved traditions of fall in Grain Valley, the Grain Valley Fair, plans to continue this year with modifications due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic..
The Fair, scheduled for Friday, September 11th and Saturday, September 12th, will be held in its usual location at Armstrong Park, but gone are many of the traditional events.
Mike Todd, Grain Valley Fair committee member, said the carnival will not be held due to the complications of social distancing and safety protocols.
“There will be no carnival because social distancing is almost impossible and the amount of riders they are limited to along with the additional staff they have to have to disinfect the rides each time makes it a non money maker for them,” Todd said.
The parade has also been canceled because social distancing cannot be guaranteed along the parade route.
“A lot of people are packed into a pretty small area standing shoulder to shoulder and we want to make sure to be as safe as possible,” Todd said.
The 3rd annual Grain Valley Fair 5K is currently scheduled to continue as an in-person event, with a virtual 5K option as well. The 5K is planned for Saturday, September 12th at 8:00am. A link to register for the 5K event can be found on the fair website,
Those who come to the fair for food are in luck. Friday evening will feature food vendors and some of the popular food trucks featured at this summer’s Food Truck Friday events. The food vendors and trucks will be located in the parking lots behind the Community Center where the fair is traditionally located. The committee is looking at starting the event around 5:00pm.
With plenty of space in the area, the committee hopes to be able to include a beer garden that would meet social distancing requirements.
“Music is still up in the air and will depend on where we are at on the county's opening plan at that point,” Todd said.
Food vendors and select food trucks will be back on Saturday, September 12th in the parking lot area. A select number of non food fair vendors are also planned.
“We will also have them set up around the track behind the pavilion. They will be in their own pop up tents and will all be spaced at least 10 feet apart,” Todd said.
Much depends upon the status of Jackson County’s reopening plan, so many details remain tentative. Additional details will be provided on the Fair’s website,
www.grainvalleyfair.com, and on the Fair’s Facebook page.
Truman Heartland Community Foundation will present this year’s Citizen of the Year honorees, selected by area mayors as a part of its 25th Annual Toast to Our Towns Gala, presented by CommunityAmerica Credit Union, online on Saturday, September 26, 2020.
These local volunteers were chosen because they lend their time, talents and position to promote our communities. Grain Valley’s honoree will be Christina “Kiki” Claphan.
A pillar in the Grain Valley community for over a decade, friends and family were shocked when Christina “Kiki” Claphan passed away suddenly in February 2020. Kiki’s legacy of kindness continues to make an impact throughout Eastern Jackson County.
During her life, Kiki’s joyful spirit helped her connect with and instill confidence in every child with whom she taught. A paraprofessional, Kiki spent the last ten years working with students with special needs in the Grain Valley School District. An active member of East Side Church in Independence, in 2017, Kiki developed and led a Sunday school class for children with special needs at the church.
Kiki was always willing to lend a hand at school and in the community. For several years, Kiki played the role of Mrs. Claus in Grain Valley’s annual Holiday Festival and in the summer months, she supervised teenagers who worked for the city’s Parks & Recreation Department.
Kiki went above and beyond to make the programs fun and exciting for participants with her contagious sense of adventure and excitement. A thoughtful mentor, she went to great lengths to ensure that each child in attendance felt special and important.
Known for her big caring hugs, the Grain Valley community celebrated her life by championing the motto “Love Big, Hug On” and using #KindLikeKiki on shirts and social media.
Kiki’s siblings, Leslie Keys and Don Claphan, will accept the award on her behalf.
The Toast to Our Towns Gala will be held online on September 26, 2020. This one-hour celebration of philanthropy will start at 7:00 p.m. and broadcast to more than 40 different watch parties throughout Eastern Jackson County. Information about sponsoring a watch party is available at www.thcf.org/Gala.
It is difficult to remember what life was like in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, as the virus and its impact has been a focus of our daily lives since March.
In early March, concerns regarding the virus were mainly focused on those who had traveled internationally or to one of the few affected areas in the States. So the coronavirus was not an immediate concern when Craig Hillbrand of Grain Valley began experiencing a cough, congestion, and shortness of breath in early March.
Hillbrand visited his primary care physician who suspected pneumonia and put him on a Z-Pak (Azithromycin). When his condition worsened, Hillbrand headed to the emergency department at St. Mary’s Medical Center. Not one to seek medical help unless absolutely necessary, his wife and son knew it was serious when he told them he hoped he would be admitted.
“I’ve never had pneumonia, but I’ve had the flu a few times over the years. I just couldn’t go. The fever and the chest pain was like nothing else. It’s hard to explain because I wasn’t thinking too clear at the time,” Hillbrand said.
“They both knew for me to mention wanting to go into the hospital, something was really wrong.”
Hillbrand was found to have pneumonia, multiple pulmonary emboli (blood clots), and tested positive for COVID-19.
“They told us if we hadn't brought him in that Saturday, he likely would not have made it through the weekend,” Craig’s wife Beverly Garrison said.
Hillbrand’s condition was tenuous at best many times during his stay. After going into respiratory failure, he was intubated for 29 days. During that time, he had kidney failure requiring dialysis, sepsis, and required an operation to remove dead skin which still requires wound care. Hillbrand lost 50 pounds of muscle and barely recognized himself when he was finally able to see himself in a mirror.
“I remember them taking the tube and the feeding tube out. During that entire period, I had no idea what was going on. When I realized what was finally going on and where I was, my first thought was concern for my wife and son who had been exposed to me.”
Both Beverly and her son Ryan tested negative for the virus.
Garrison and the couple’s three children were not able to visit Hillbrand during his stay, and had to deal with the shock and try to prepare for his recovery and after care in the meantime.
“The first two weeks, I was kind of in shock. Our middle son, Ryan, kept me focused and kept me going. And when the doctor said to get our son from North Carolina home, it was a shock. We called and got him here, and got to wave (to Hillbrand) through the window. From there, you just have to stay informed and go on with things,” Garrison said.
“If they (St. Mary’s) had to do something out of the ordinary, they would call and kept me informed. They are just incredible there,” Garrison said.
After moving into the rehab unit, Craig worked hard with the help of therapists to regain his strength. Used to his independence, it has been an adjustment to have to depend on others for help.
“They had alarms on beds, so if you get out, the alarm goes off. Well, I had a problem with that,” Hillbrand joked and his wife laughed in appreciation. “I got in trouble a few times. I’ve been independent forever, and I hated to rely on someone else.”
Hillbrand gives endless praise to the physicians, nurses, therapists and staff who kept him going and helped him fight.
“Just the overall professionalism and the concern they showed me was incredible.”
“I told my therapists and doctors, ‘If I’m gonna make it, I wanna walk out of here.’ They made it happen.”
Hillbrand walked out of St. Mary’s on May 22nd with the aid of a walker and the applause of St. Mary’s staff and the theme to the movie Rocky in the background. In a social media post, St. Mary’s Medical Center called Hillbrand a “walking miracle”.
Hillbrand continues to regain strength and the ability to be independent, but the after effects of the virus make recovery slower than he would like.
“It’s hard to take. I’ve been active and independent forever. I worked 40 years, was in the Navy. I thought maybe I’d be back to work in August. But I’m having to realize that my body’s not there yet. You have to mentally get square with what you still have to go through to get back.”
“There’s also survivor guilt with this as well that’s harder than anything. You see the stories of 30 year-olds getting the virus, going into the hospital for a week and dying. It is hard to take.”
“He’s still having emotional ups and downs and anxiety when going out, and it’s understandable,” Garrison said.
“The first time we ate at a restaurant, he had anxiety about going in. Nobody had masks on, and you could just tell by the look on his face, ‘OK, we need to leave now’,”
“I don’t think people are taking it seriously enough. People are saying, ‘I don’t want to be told I have to wear a mask. Well, OK. But that’s a pretty simple thing compared to what you might have to deal with. The statistics are showing that younger people are increasingly being diagnosed with it. You hear someone say, ‘I’m young, I’ll get through it.’ Well, you’d better have a strong body and good insurance, and even then, it can still claim you,” Hillbrand said.
“People need to take this seriously. It affects not just you, but everyone around you,” Garrison said.
“A good support system, both family and medical staff, has been essential, and we were lucky to have good health coverage. I can see where it can bankrupt a family. We’ve seen the bills.”
“But I feel really lucky. I’m capable of doing everything at home now, and I’m getting stronger,” Hillbrand said.
“And we’re all happy to have him home,” Garrison said.
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.
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.
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.”
In a press conference held June 17th, Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr., in coordination with the Women’s Foundation, announced a paid parental leave policy for public employees.
The executive order establishes up to 12 weeks of guaranteed paid parental leave for all eligible County staff following the birth or adoption of a child. The new paid parental leave policy, which adds an additional seven weeks to the current policy of five weeks, extends to same sex parents and takes effect immediately.
“Many people struggle to care for their families, go into debt or even lose their jobs for simply having a baby. Today, we’re sending a message that families come first at Jackson County. We’re sending a message that quality of life is important to us,” Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr said. “Our new, expanded paid parental leave policy is equal, adequate and accessible. It ensures our Associates, no matter their job, salary or status, have the opportunity to be there for the most precious moments of their lives. With the support of the Women’s Foundation, we are proud to be a leader in this nationwide effort and encourage others to join us by taking a stand for working parents to build stronger families.”
The County’s new paid parental leave policy includes the following highlights:
Up to 12 weeks of leave at 100% of the eligible staff member’s pay.
Applies to mothers and fathers equally, and to both parents if they are eligible County staff.
Can be taken all at once or intermittently.
An eligible staff member must start the paid leave within 12 weeks following the birth or adoption of a child.
Allows County staff who have experienced an eligible birth or adoption within the 12 months prior to the policy’s effective date to access additional paid leave.
“Childbirth and parenting a newborn are physically and mentally hard. It takes time to heal, time to get on a schedule, time to prepare for childcare, time to care for a partner,” Whitney Miller, new mother and Department of Collection Director said. “New parents deserve the time to put all of their energy into their new baby so they can return to work feeling more prepared and focused. This new policy gives associates at every level of County employment just that and I hope today’s action by the County Executive encourages other public entities to follow his lead.”
“When children are born, it’s all hands-on deck for families. Having time to spend together and support each other makes the lives of mom, dad and baby less stressful and more joyful,” Matt Davis, father of two and Jackson County Associate said. “This new policy demonstrates that Jackson County values their associates and their families, is considerate of their health and well-being and is forward-thinking about policies to make this organization a better place to work.”
Expanding access to paid parental leave has been a top priority of the Women’s Foundation, which has been working to educate public officials on the importance of the benefit, advocating for 12 weeks of paid parental leave at 100% pay for state employees. As a result, the Women’s Foundation has helped secure paid parental leave to more than 100,000 state employees in Missouri and Kansas.
"Paid family leave empowers women, their families and helps build thriving communities,” Wendy Doyle, Women’s Foundation President & CEO said. “The commitment County Executive White and his team have made to strengthen Jackson County’s economy and associates' families sets a new standard for both state and local governments.”
Women’s Foundation research, commissioned in partnership with the University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy, found that paid leave programs prevent families from falling into poverty, reduce reliance on public assistance, recruit and retain talented employees and increase worker productivity. It also found about 35% of the country believes expanding paid leave should be a top government priority.
County Executive White’s announcement today comes on the heels of the County fully implementing the recommendations from a compensation study that ensured all county associates are making a competitive and living wage.
The Planning & Zoning Commission met via video conference June 10th with a light agenda and a reminder from chair Debbie Saffell regarding social media best practices for committee members.
With no previous or new business to discuss, the Commission considered and approved final plat plans for the Rosewood Hills subdivision.
At the conclusion of the meeting, chair Debbie Saffell read from social media guidelines set for elected officials and reminded members to consider these guidelines before posting committee news and personal opinions on social media.
Saffell explained that the guidelines were set to ensure communications were coordinated with City staff, and that committee members were welcome to share developments announced through proper City channels. Saffell further explained the guidelines expect those serving in elected and appointed positions conduct themselves responsibly as representatives of the City.
“When in doubt, don’t post it,” Saffell said.
Member Scott Shafer indicated he had no intention of backing off of discussing issues related to zoning and sewer issues he has raised related to resident Dale Arnold, and volunteered to step off the board if needed. “I’ll step off the board if I have to, to continue this battle,” Shafer said. Saffell and Shafer agreed to discuss the matter further by phone at the close of the meeting.
The next meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission will be held July 8th at 6:30pm.
With just 23% of City of Grain Valley voters showing up at the polls, Chuck Johnston was elected Mayor, beating incumbent Michael Todd 48% to 39%. A third candidate, Jeff Craney, received 12% of the vote.
Reached for comment following his win, Johnston struck a more conciliatory tone than communications made via social media throughout the campaign.
“I would like to thank everyone that put their faith in me to serve as your Mayor. I will do my best to live up to your expectations,” Johnston said.
“I don't take this job lightly. I know I have to develop a working relationship with the Board of Aldermen and City staff to achieve the goals I have set. I would also like to congratulate all the others that won their campaign. I look forward to working with all of you. I want to thank those that ran and didn't win for offering their services to the City by running for office. We need those that are willing to work for the betterment of the City, if this City is going to grow and prosper.”
Voters soundly defeated Questions 1 and 2, which requested more than $38 million in bonds to develop a community campus on the former Sni-A-Bar Farms site. In Ward 1, incumbent Alderman Jayci Stratton ran unopposed and received 97.39% of the vote; Bob Headley also ran unopposed in Ward 3, winning 97.78% of the vote. Rick Knox was elected as Alderman in Ward 2, receiving 69.81% of the vote.
Grain Valley Schools received strong support for its bond issue to add additional fine arts space at the high school. The question passed with 66.71% of the vote.
In a statement, Dr. Marc Snow, Superintendent of Grain Valley Schools, thanked voters for their support and outlined construction projects to begin immediately.
“Construction at the high school will begin within the next two weeks. There will be interruptions to the drive off Eagles Parkway this summer as crews relocate the main north/south drive towards the back of the school to make room for the addition. Also this summer, new parking will be added to the east side of the school to replace a staff parking area where the addition will be. Walls for the new instructional spaces should start to go in by September. Students will be walking the hallways of phase 5 in August 2021,” Snow said.
Three incumbent school board members retained their seats. Jeff Coleman, Tisha Homfeld, and Jan Reding were each reelected, with first time candidate Jeff Wolff as a close contender.
Voters next head to the polls on August 4th for a primary election. The deadline to register for the August election is July 8th.