Posts tagged with Johnson County

Sales tax paying off for education efforts in Johnson Co.

A new 75,000-square-foot complex on the Kansas University Edwards Campus and a new building that will house Phase I Clinical Trials for the KU Cancer Center are scheduled to open in the coming months.

The funds for the construction are paid for using a one-eighth cent sales tax in Johnson County that is divided equally among the KU Edwards Campus, KU Medical Center and Kansas State University’s Olathe Innovation campus.

The Business, Engineering, Science and Technology center on the KU Edwards Campus is scheduled to open March 2, said Bob Clark, vice chancellor of the Edwards Campus.

Eventually, KU will add 10 degree programs in Johnson County as part of its commitment to voters in return for the sales tax, Clark said. One of those programs, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is already operating. It’s been a popular one, he said, with more than 100 students enrolled so far.

A second degree program, a bachelor’s degree in information technology through the School of Engineering, is pending approval from the Kansas Board of Regents.

The Edwards Campus hopes to roll out one or two new programs each year until it reaches the 10 new programs, Clark said. A third likely program will be a degree in engineering project management, he said.

KU officials have worked with industry members and other groups to determine what kinds of degree offerings are needed in the workforce.

“We have to offer what it is they’re looking for,” Clark said.

Fred Logan, a Prairie Village attorney and member of the Kansas Board of Regents, was chairman of the campaign to pass the tax. He said at the time of its passage in 2008, it was the first time in the United States that a county’s voters passed a sales tax in support of life sciences and higher education.

“It’s still the only one,” he said.

He said he’s been “thrilled” with the progress of the projects.

The new clinical trials building in Fairway for the KU Cancer Center is set for a late January opening. The Cancer Center hired Ray Perez to serve as the center’s medical director.

After the building opens, KU will be able to dramatically expand the number of patients it sees for experimental drug trials and should jump to one of the top five centers for Phase I trials in the country, Perez said.

The building is light and open and will have top-notch labs and other scientific support areas to complement the patients’ space.

“The thing that it’ll really enable us to do is to have full control over the research process,” Perez said.

Perez said the sales tax was “one of the compelling reasons” why he left his position at Dartmouth University’s cancer center to come to KU.

The sales tax is generating between $13.5 and $14 million per year, said Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Education Research Triangle authority board. That’s under the initial projections of $15 million per year, but the slightly lower collections haven’t had any effect on the projects, Eilert said.

By Andy Hyland


KDOT warns of delays on I-35 tomorrow

The eastbound ramp between Interstates 35 and 435 in Johnson County will be closed from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. tomorrow, Dec. 29.

The Kansas Department of Transportation warns drivers in the area to expect delays and suggests using alternate routes though the agency will not be marking any detours. Crews will be doing grinding work on the closed ramps.

KDOT expects the work to be done within the six-hour window, weather permitting.


County opens Christmas tree drop-off sites

The Johnson County Park and Recreation District will once again recycle natural Christmas trees, using some to mulch trails and others to improve fish habitats at Shawnee Mission Park.

Trees may be dropped off for free through Jan. 30 from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the northeast corner of the marina parking lot at Shawnee Mission Park, 7900 Renner Road. Trees also will be accepted at Heritage and Kill Creek parks in Olathe.

Trees must have wrappers removed and be free of decorations, especially “icicles,” mylar, shiny plastic or aluminum items. Yard waste will not be accepted.

The county recycled more than 2,500 trees last year.


Health department changing hours at walk-in clinics

The Johnson County Health Department will have new walk-in clinic hours beginning Jan. 3 at both its Mission and Olathe locations.

The changes are hoped to improve access to preventive health services for working individuals and families, according to the county’s announcement.

To see complete hours for all walk-in services — including immunizations, family planning, STD testing and treatment — at both the Olathe and Mission locations, visit Look under ‘Latest News and Updates.’

Late hours on the first Monday of the month for immunizations will no longer be offered in Olathe. Immunization clients 18 and younger with private health insurance are required to provide documentation of immunization coverage.

The Mission clinic is at 6000 Lamar Ave., Suite 140. The Olathe clinic is at 11875 S. Sunset Drive, Suite 300. For more information, call (913) 826-1200.


More than 20 retire from sheriff's department at year's end

The Johnson County Sheriff's Department will be 22 employees smaller in 2012 thanks to the county's retirement incentive program offered this year to help with budgetary concerns.

The 22 employees, 15 of which are deputy sheriffs and remainder are civilian support staff, help make up the 175 employees throughout the county who have chosen to reitre this year, according to a press release sent out by the sheriff's department.

“Although we are losing a lot of knowledge and experience, we have been planning for these departures and I can assure the community that the service they are accustomed to from the sheriff’s office will continue as expected,” said Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning in the release.

The following sheriff's department employees will be retiring: Major Phillip Livengood; Major Lynn Garcia; Captain Mike Marshall; Lieutenant Stephen Quigg; Sergeant David Haney; Sergeant David Parker; Master Deputy Mary Holman; Master Deputy David Walker; Master Deputy Scott Atwell; Master Deputy Tim Markey; Master Deputy Gary Smith; Master Deputy Bernard Beletsky; Master Deputy Frank Morse; Master Deputy Kelly Harmon; Deputy Loren Youngers; Crime Analyst Beverly Redding; Crime Analyst Pat Benn; Crime Analyst Joanna Graves; Animal Control Officer Kenny Allenbrand; Accounting Assistant Linda Wray; Account Assistant Kathy Wade and Senior Secretary Pam Wright.


Shawnee chiropractor gives back to Johnson County Christmas Bureau

J.J. Schmidt is a chiropractor who practices in Shawnee. This year he's giving back to the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, volunteering for the Holiday Shop that once helped his family eight years ago.

J.J. Schmidt is a chiropractor who practices in Shawnee. This year he's giving back to the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, volunteering for the Holiday Shop that once helped his family eight years ago. by Stephen Montemayor

J.J. Schmidt thought the hard part was over.

He had just graduated from Kansas City, Mo.‘s Cleveland Chiropractic College on top of previously finishing his undergraduate studies at Missouri State.

At the time, his son was five and his daughter was an infant and he was ready to start focusing on practicing in the Kansas City area.

And then the holidays rolled around.

“We had no money at all and my wife couldn’t work,” Schmidt said.

The letter from the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, a nonprofit whose ties to the area date back 50 years, couldn’t have then arrived at a better time.

Inside the envelope was an advertisement for its Holiday Shop, an annual charity in which disadvantaged families can make appointments to visit a nine-day shop where donated items are available, ensuring each of them can put something under the tree.

“We didn’t expect to have Christmas at the time,” Schmidt said.

Aside from toys for kids, cleaning supplies and winter clothing also line the shelves of a donated business space. This year, the Johnson County Christmas Bureau expects its 35th annual shop — which opened Friday inside Olathe’s Great Mall of the Great Plains — to serve more than 12,500 low-income Johnson County residents with the aim of making a difference in the lives of about 3,500 families.

Schmidt now practices at Hammond Chiropractic Center in Shawnee, which he represents at Chamber of Commerce meetings and through volunteering efforts during the Oceans of Mercy Run and Old Shawnee Days.

It was during a Chamber meeting where he met Karen Boyd, toy department chairman of the Johnson County Christmas Bureau and a Chamber ambassador, roughly eight years after the nonprofit helped his family.

Soon he put the pieces together and realized it was the same organization that conduction the shop where his wife, Jeanne Schmidt, grabbed gifts that holiday season.

He later got to talking with more people connected to the Johnson County Christmas Bureau and realized just how prevalent hard times are in an area with a longstanding reputation for affluence. Schmidt realized how many other moms and dads became humbled by economic hardship, that so many others face the challenges his family once faced and that many do so on a yearly basis.

So this year J.J., Jeanne and their son, Jenisson (now 13), and daughter Harmony (8) are giving back. Schmidt said he and Jeanne have since explained to their children how the organization once helped the family. Jenisson’s Mickey Mouse Yahtzee came from the Holiday Shop. So did the tan fleece sweater with the snowflake on it that J.J. wore in so many holiday family photos.

For the Schmidts, wrapped packages took a new meaning since that Holiday Shop eight years ago.

“We wanted to make it exciting,” J.J. Schmidt said. “But wanted to show that it was not just a toy, but a gift — a piece of our heart that we wanted to give them.”

During the 9-day shop, which ends Dec. 11, items can be placed at one of 50 donation barrels throughout Johnson County. The organization’s wish list includes winter clothing items like gloves and sweatshirts, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, bedding, small kitchen appliances and personal care items. It has since asked for more winter coat donations, as it initially only had 5,000 available to a possible 12,500 Holiday Shoppers.

A complete list of drop-off sites can be found online.

Remaining dates for the Holiday Shop are: Dec. 6-9 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Dec. 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Financial contributions are also being accepted by the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, online at or via checks payable to JCCB, P.O. Box 14786, Lenexa, KS 66285.

Those with questions or wishing to volunteer can call 913-341-4342 or email

By Stephen Montemayor


Metcalf Avenue landmark to become Johnson County Museum’s new home

Johnson County is buying the building at 8788 Metcalf Ave. — former home of Ice Chateau and the King Louie West bowling alley — to become the Johnson County Museum’s new home. The structure features funky 1960s architecture, including an atomic-like spire marking the main entrance.

Johnson County is buying the building at 8788 Metcalf Ave. — former home of Ice Chateau and the King Louie West bowling alley — to become the Johnson County Museum’s new home. The structure features funky 1960s architecture, including an atomic-like spire marking the main entrance. by Sara Shepherd

The Johnson County Museum of History’s newly announced future home has ample square footage, high ceilings, historic significance and visibility along a major thoroughfare.

It also has an Overland Park address.

The Board of Johnson County Commissioners on Thursday approved a $2 million purchase contract for 8788 Metcalf Ave. — former home of Ice Chateau and the King Louie West bowling alley — to become the museum’s new home. The museum could leave its Shawnee facility, 6305 Lackman Road, as early as 2014.

The new building is a first-step toward transforming the institution into the National Museum of Suburbia and Suburban Policy Forum identified in the museum’s master plan.

“We are still working with the county commission on how this all could transpire, but we’re very confident that it could work very well for the National Museum of Suburbia,” museum director Mindi Love said.

Love said the bowling alley was first built in either 1948 or 1959 — museum officials are trying to verify conflicting accounts — and that the ice rink was added in 1965. Architect Manuel Morris designed both.

The KCModern blog describes the structure as “a rare remaining example of Googie architecture in Johnson County.” Bold angles, colorful signs, plate glass, sweeping cantilevered roofs and pop-culture imagery characterize the style, which emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, according to Googie Architecture Online.

“Many people spent a lot of time in this building,” Love said. “It has a lot of historical integrity in that way, and it’s certainly an architectural icon in Johnson County.”

Functionally, the ice rink and bowling alley are “open canvasses for exhibition design,” Love said.

The building has high ceilings, 70,000 square feet — close to the amount the museum identified would be needed to realize the National Museum of Suburbia — and expansive spaces with no support beams in the way.

The building has sat vacant for the past few years, with Ice Chateau closing in 2007 and King Louie closing in 2009, according to a press release from the county.

On top of the $2 million purchase price, the county authorized $1.6 million to stabilize and minimally maintain the structure to prevent further deterioration until it can be renovated for the museum to move in, the press release said.

The museum has proposed constructing or purchasing a new location for several years, but no building acquisition was included in the county’s 2012 Capital Improvement Program. Love said the county planned to take the $3.6 million from either its cash reserves or debt service fund, with that to be decided before Dec. 30, the deal’s anticipated closing date.

Love said the museum planned to present the board with renovation options and estimated costs in the spring. At the earliest, the museum could move its current exhibits — including the 1950s All-Electric House — by mid-2014, she said.

Even with a new home, growing the museum into a National Museum of Suburbia is going to take a few more years and a lot more cash.

However, Love said, securing a new location is a critical springboard to begin the fundraising process. She said the museum’s goal is to raise $9.6 million, ideally in three years, for the expansion.

In the meantime, she said, nothing other than regular maintenance is planned at the Shawnee location, a 1927 school house that has been added onto about nine times. The museum has operated there since 1967.

Shawnee city manager Carol Gonzales said she was disappointed to see the museum leave but that she was happy for its opportunity to grow.

“Obviously we hate to lose them in Shawnee and wish there had been a place for them here,” she said, “but we understand the current site has limitations for their future.”

It’s too early to tell what will become of the Lackman Road property, which the county owns, Gonzales said.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” she said.

By Sara Shepard


With new deals website, dollars stay local

Johnson County Deals logo

Johnson County Deals logo

In time for the holiday season, Johnson County shoppers will have a new daily deals website at their fingertips.

Johnson County Deals will be launched by The World Company, parent company of The Explorer, on Nov. 30.

Daily specials for entertainment, dining, services and shopping will be offered as shoppers will be able to find deals for businesses in Shawnee, De Soto, Lenexa, Merriam, Overland Park, Prairie Village, Olathe, Leawood and Gardner.

Constance Wolfe, Deals program manager at The World Company, said Johnson County Deals represents an effort to provide discount offers to Johnson County residents while keeping more revenue earned from the deals within the area.

“Groupon came into the community, but the money went right back out of the community,” Wolfe said. “You might spend money at a local merchant, but the revenue goes out of the community and to Groupon’s headquarters in Chicago.”

For businesses, Wolfe said, the program will serve as another method of getting them out in front of potential shoppers.

“It offers heavy discounts but gives the merchants heavy advertising,” she said. “They get out in front of the audience.”

Wolfe said to expect family-oriented fare early on. Monkey Bizness and Little Monkey Bizness — indoor children’s amusement centers in Olathe and Shawnee, respectively — will be the first deal, she said. Families can also find offers for Shawnee’s Kid Stop early on. Future dining deals will include The Pick Smoke ‘n Grill in Shawnee.

Community members will be able to register for notifications of deals by logging on to, which presently directs users to an email registration form on Johnson County Deals’ Facebook page. Johnson County Deals also is on Twitter at

By Stephen Montemayor


Burn ban issued for unincorporated areas of county

The Board of Johnson County Commissioners has issued a burn ban for the unincorporated areas of Johnson County, effective immediately.

A press release announcing the ban cites "excessively dry conditions" as the reason for the burn ban. The ban not only suspends the issuance of any new burning permits but suspends all existing permits until the ban is lifted.

The ban is in effect until further notice.

A burn ban has been in effect for the Northwest Consolidated Fire District since Monday, Oct. 3.


K-10 bridge work begins Monday

Road crews with the Kansas Department of Transportation will be reducing westbound Kansas Highway 10 to one lane from Ridgeview Road to Woodland Avenue and from Kill Creek Road to Lexington Avenue, around the clock, beginning Monday, Oct. 31 at 7 a.m.

Crews will be repairing bridge joints on the K-10 westbound bridges over Lexington Avenue, Kill Creek Road and Mill Creek Road as part of what a press release from KDOT calls "an emergency project."

Concrete barriers and signs will direct traffic through the work zone at a reduced speed of 55 mph, according to KDOT. The project is expected to be completed by mid-November, pending weather conditions.