South Kansas City Perspectives

April 3 election seeks to extend capital improvements tax

John Sharp

South Kansas City voters will be going to the polls again Tuesday, April 3, to decide whether to extend the city’s current 1-cent sales tax for capital improvements which would otherwise expire the end of this year for 20 more years.

The measure (listed on the ballot as Question 1) requires a simple majority to pass.

The sales tax, last renewed for 10 years in 2007, now raises about $70 million a year, which legally must be spent on capital improvements such as streets, bridges, curbs, sidewalks, flood control, parks and public buildings.  

The ballot language commits to continue to allocate 35 percent of this amount to neighborhood capital improvements divided equally among the six City Council districts which adds up to about $4 million per district annually.

This money is spent on projects recommended by the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC), which I sit on as the representative of Councilman Kevin McManus, subject to the final decision of the City Council which very rarely changes these recommendations.

The remainder of the revenue must be spent on other capital improvements, with review and comment by PIAC (ballot language that was added at my request), and at least 25 percent of the total revenue must be spent on street resurfacing, repair and construction of complete streets including features such as bike lanes and pedestrian improvements.

The ballot language also provides that sales tax funds may be spent on the city’s share of the cost to replace the structurally deteriorating Buck O’Neil Bridge (formerly known as the Broadway Bridge) over the Missouri River, which carries more than 44,000 vehicles daily.

Without local participation in funding a new bridge, the seriously underfunded Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) had said it would only repair the bridge at a cost of about $51 million which could close it for up to two years, thus overloading other bridges over the river, and it would still have to be replaced later.

The city has received commitments from MoDOT to contribute half of the estimated $200 million cost of the new bridge.  An additional $40 million in federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds has been committed to the project through the Mid-America Regional Council over the next four years, contingent on KCMO not seeking STP funds for other projects during that period.

KCMO is seeking a federal grant to pay part or all of its $60 million share of the project.  If the grant is not approved or it does not cover the entire amount, the city intends to use sales tax revenue to pay its share over a multiyear period.

(About $5.6 million in urgent repairs to the bridge with the cost split equally between MoDOT and the city are now planned to start in June or July and are expected to take about five to six months to complete, according to Russ Johnson, city chief capital projects officer.  During the work, two lanes will remain open for northbound traffic, but southbound traffic will have to take alternate routes.)

To the best of my knowledge, there is no organized political opposition to the sales tax extension which has been endorsed by the South Kansas City Alliance and the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

Besides numerous smaller park, sidewalk, storm drainage and trail projects, major projects in south Kansas City funded entirely or partly by the sales tax during the last two fiscal years, or recommended for funding for fiscal year 2018-19 and scheduled for Council approval Thursday, March 22, include:

135th St. – widening and improving the street and water main replacement from Wornall Rd. to Inverness Dr.

155th St. – widening and improving the street from I-49 to the former Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base

Blue River Rd. – local match for federal funding for final design and right-of-way plans to replace the failed and failing portions of the street

Ruskin Way – construction of sidewalks so Ruskin High School students don’t have to walk to and from school in the streetBlue Moose Bar & Grill, a locally-owned upscale casual restaurant, will officially open its new 7,000-square-foot location at 11134 Holmes Rd. on the east side of the rejuvenated Red Bridge Shopping Center at 11 a.m. Monday, March 26.

107th St. – construction of sidewalks from Blue Ridge Blvd. to Bristol

Ward Pkwy. – construction of a retaining wall and other erosion control measures northbound from Wornall Rd.

Holmes Rd. – completion of final design and right-of-way plans to widen and improve the street from Blue Ridge Blvd. to 137th St.

“The capital improvement sales tax has allowed us to make important investments in neighborhoods, parks and city infrastructure,” City Councilman Kevin McManus said.  “By supporting Question 1, we can keep making these investments for south Kansas City’s future.”

Renewal of the tax will allow the city to continue to fund neighborhood capital improvement requests in south Kansas City such as sidewalks, crosswalks near schools and park amenities for children, City Councilman Scott Taylor said.

“It will help us keep the momentum going in south KC,” Taylor added.

Swope Health Services, 8825 Troost, will close.

Clinic Closing

Swope Health Services has announced the closing effective April 1 of its Swope Health South clinic at 8825 Troost which offers medical services on a sliding scale, and it has advised patients to call 816-923-5800 to schedule care at one of its other clinics.

The clinic has offered primary family health care, pregnancy care, diagnostic services, immunizations and other medical services.

A statement by Swope Health Services said, “In recent years the number of patients using the South clinic for services has declined while the cost to operate the clinic continues to grow.”

“This decision was not taken lightly,” the statement said.  “We did not think it was feasible to continue to invest in a building we do not own, especially when patient numbers are declining.”

The statement noted that Swope has invested more than $2 million in improvements at its central clinic at 3801 Blue Pkwy., which it said offers a broader range of services such as dental, behavioral health, radiology, laboratory and pharmacy services.

It also said many of its patients living near its south clinic are now coming to its central clinic, and others have begun using its more recently opened Hickman Mills clinic at 8800 Blue Ridge Blvd. in the Loma Vista Shopping Center.

The south clinic was opened in 2010 after a lengthy effort by community leaders to attract a clinic that would serve the uninsured and under-insured as well as insured patients in south Kansas City which had no such clinic at the time.

Former KCMO City Councilwoman Cathy Jolly and I were both on the Council then, and we were both vocal supporters of locating a clinic in south Kansas City.  When the new clinic was announced I was quoted as saying about uninsured and under-insured residents in the area nearby the clinic that, “The emergency room and ambulance have been their primary care physician.”

Swope has committed to continue to offer transportation services to area patients who need it and to make sure they can be seen at its other locations.

“KC Murder Factory”

The Hickman Mills Community Alliance is sponsoring a special viewing of the documentary film “KC Murder Factory” and a community conversation about reducing murders in south Kansas City from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, at the former Bishop O’Hara High School, 9001 James A. Reed Rd.

A networking reception will run from 5 to 5:30, followed by a program overview, viewing of the documentary and a panel discussion afterward.  Persons should RSVP by March 24 to attend by calling 816-497-4886 or emailing Concernedclergykc@gmail.com.

Navigating Medicare

St. Joseph Medical Center is sponsoring a free presentation titled “Navigating the Medicare Maze” designed to make Medicare enrollment stress free on Tuesday, March 27, at Alex George Auditorium in its community center.

A free dinner sponsored by Carondelet Home Care will start at 5 p.m., and the presentation will start at 5:30.  Persons should RSVP by calling Kim Chalmers at 816-943-5755 by noon Friday, March 23.

Spring Celebration

Hillcrest Community Center, 10401 Hillcrest Rd., is hosting a free spring celebration for children from 1 to 10 years old from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 31.

The event will include an Easter egg hunt, a visit from the Easter Bunny including photo opportunities, games, crafts and refreshments.  Persons may call 816-513-8560 for more information.

Momma on a Mission

Momma On a Mission, Inc., a nonprofit organization that aids families of area homicide victims, is having its 4th annual “Walk a Mile in my Shoes” fundraising walk at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 7, starting at the shelter in Tower Park.

Founded by Monique Willis after the unsolved murder of her son, Alonzo Thomas, IV, on April 5, 2014, the group helps such families by assisting with funeral arrangements, connecting them with community resources and aiding their efforts to encourage witnesses to tell law enforcement officials what they know about such homicides.

Donations to participate in the walk start at $20, and walkers get tee shirts. The walk will be along 75th St. from Holmes Rd. to Troost and back.  Persons may call 816-499-1214 or email Info@MommaOnaMissionInc.com for more information.

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