Final Phase of 135th St. Improvements begins

Construction has started on the third and final phase to improve 135th St. which will run from Wornall Rd. west to 150 Highway following a February 16 groundbreaking.

John Sharp

The first step in the project is to replace the water line on the north side of the street from Wornall to Inverness Dr., according to Kim Pemberton, project manager for the KCMO Public Works Dept.

In an interview during a February 13 open house about the project, she said it will include reconstructing and widening the street to three lanes with curbs and storm sewers from Wornall west to Inverness, adding a westbound right turn lane into Inverness and widening the entrance into the shopping center on the south side of the street.

She said a 5-foot sidewalk on the south side of the street and an 8-foot trail on the north side will be constructed from Wornall to 150 Highway, and the project will include installing LED streetlights.

“We hope to have substantial completion by October,” Pemberton said.

Tiffany Moore, executive director of the Martin City Community Improvement District (CID), told me at the open house that area residents and business owners are really excited about completing the improvements.

“Repeatedly,” she said, “I’ve had people express how glad they are not to have to walk in the street anymore along the already completed portions.”

She said the CID will fund streetscape improvements for this phase of the project similar to those it funded in the first two phases.

Both City Councilmen Kevin McManus and Scott Taylor noted at the groundbreaking that investments in infrastructure by the city usually result in additional private investments.

Taylor said targeted infrastructure improvements like the 135th St. project “…spur significant investments from the private sector and small businesses which help generate more tax revenue for basic city services for all neighborhoods.”

The $2.5 million project is among the first projects in the city funded through the $800 million bond issue city voters approved in April of last year, along with 6th Council District capital improvement funds recommended by the Public Improvements Advisory Committee I serve on.


Budget Hearing

Concern about the city’s rising homicide rate and the need to strengthen law enforcement generally were frequently expressed by both KCMO City Council members and private citizens including me at the February 17 public budget hearing at Christ the King Church, 8510 Wornall Rd.

KCMO recorded 150 homicides in 2017, the most since 153 were recorded in 1993.  The city already ranked 7th in the nation in 2010-14 homicide rates for cities with over 250,000 population, according to FBI Uniform Crime Report data, and our homicide rate has gone up significantly in each of the three years since then.

On November 2, the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline announced an increase in the maximum reward from $2,000 to $5,000 for anonymous information about KCMO homicides that leads to an arrest or filing charges that was funded by a $70,000 contribution from the city.  The submitted city budget for the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year beginning May 1 includes $75,000 to continue that initiative, enough for higher rewards for 25 homicides.

I’m hopeful that amount can be increased, and that major private funders can step forward to increase the individual rewards even more as some other cities have done.  The Omaha Crime Stoppers program offers a $25,000 reward for information leading to solving any homicide resulting in an arrest and a $10,000 reward for similar information about any felony shooting assault.  Omaha reports a much higher clearance rate for homicides than KCMO.

Besides continuing funding for higher rewards, another positive recommendation to improve public safety in the budget is to provide funding for eight additional civilian call takers to answer 9-1-1 calls that should reduce the frequent incidents of callers being put on hold.

The submitted budget also includes funding for 15 additional police officers, according to Debbie Chiu, senior analyst in the City Office of Management & Budget, who presented the budget at the hearing.  She said the submitted budget provides funding to increase overall Police Department staffing from 1,945 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions (including both officers and civilians) this fiscal year to 1,976 FTE positions for the upcoming fiscal year.

There will be three additional budget hearings in other parts of the city in the next few weeks, and the City Council Finance & Governance Committee also is scheduled to conduct budget hearings in City Hall on February 28 and March 7 before final City Council adoption of the budget on March 22.      

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