Johnson County

Brian Gordon / FowlLanguageComics.com

In his 18 years working for Hallmark, Brian Gordon saw plenty of people get fired.

Even so, he'd convinced himself that it wasn't his turn.

"Well, surely Hallmark thinks so highly of me they wouldn't dream of letting me go in a million years," he told Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up To Date.

But in June of 2015, he received an email informing him that his time with the company was finished.

"You would have thought I'd get a card or something," Gordon says.

The fate of a tax to build a new Johnson County courthouse and coroner’s building will be determined by voters, following a vote by county leaders on Thursday.

The Johnson County Commission approved a November ballot measure that would increase the  sales tax by a quarter of a cent to fund construction of the buildings.

The tax would generate $201 million total, $182 million of which would fund the courthouse and $19 million the coroner’s building. The tax would sunset after 10 years. 

St. Thomas Aquinas

When Riley Pint uncorked a 102-mile-per-hour pitch in February he may not have known the exact velocity, but he knew it felt good. Baseball scouts and coaches, meanwhile, knew they wanted to see more of the St. Thomas Aquinas High School senior on the mound.

Pint says pitching professionally would suit him just fine. "It's something I strive for, to be there [in the MLB] one day," Pint said during a phone interview on KCUR's Up To Date, "It's just a little earlier than I expected, I guess."

bigstock.com

The Johnson County Election Office is coming up short on polling places to use come November.

Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker says he’s anticipating record-high turnout, possibly with more Kansans voting than in 2008.

“We would like to have 285 polling locations throughout our county,” Metsker says. “Right now we’re at about 195.”

Metsker says concerns about safety and security have crossed many places off his list.

As major league teams spend more and more money on pitchers, arm injury rates for the men — and boys — on the mound are becoming increasingly common.

Guests:

The Health Inequality Project

A new study drawing on a massive trove of data confirms long-held notions that when it comes to life expectancy, income matters: The richest American men live 15 years longer than the poorest men and the richest American women live 10 years longer than the poorest women.

Olathe Public Schools

Update 4/8/16 at 4:45 pm

The Rogers School District confirms that Marlin Berry has signed a three year contract that will pay him $215,754 a year with no stated raises built into the contract. His current salary in Olathe is $231,263. That was set to jump to $250,126 had he stayed until the 2017-2018 school year.

Another superintendent from another big metro school district is leaving for another job.

courtesy SFS Architecture

In the early 1950s, the Kansas City Power & Light Co. dreamed up a futuristic home to demonstrate — and promote — the potential of electrical technology. The target audience: couples moving to the suburbs. 

Wikipedia -- Creative Commons

Kansas’ first Veterans Treatment Court went into session in the Johnson County Courthouse on January 13, making the state the 41st in the nation to start such a program. 

The court provides veteran offenders a diversion track through the Johnson County District Attorney’s office and a probation track offered through Johnson County District Court Services. They also link veterans with programs, benefits and services for which they are eligible.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

At her home studio in Westwood, Kansas, yoga instructor Marilyn Pace leads a class of 5-to-8-year olds. With the help of songs, games and other kid-friendly teaching methods, she guides her small students through poses like the cobra, the triangle and the downward-facing dog.

Tatjana Alvegard takes her daughter, Kaya, to Pace’s classes regularly.

“I played sports when I was a kid, and I think it’s really important. It makes for a good, healthy adult if you learn discipline and you learn it’s good to take care of your body,” Alvegard says.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Every Tuesday and Friday, about a dozen seniors from the Santa Fe Towers Apartments in Overland Park eagerly drop quarters into the fare box of the 812 Flex route bus. 

Many of the passengers are old hats when it comes to public transit. They've got their fare ready well before they get on the bus, and some pull along wheeled baskets to tote around the groceries they'll get from Hy-Vee.

One of the riders on a recent Tuesday was a woman named Carolyn, who asked that only her first name be used. She's used buses to get around Johnson County for the past 7 years.

Jim Mathis for Johnson County Library

Christopher Leitch, the library's community relations coordinator, says after nine months of construction at the Johnson County Central Resource Library, there was lots of anticipation — even before the doors re-opened to the public at 9 a.m. on Friday. 

"We had a line of people at 8:45 a.m., waiting for their new library to be available," said Leitch. 

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Wyandotte and Johnson counties, despite being across the street from one another, are worlds apart when it comes to health. On this edition of Up To Date, we explore the issues each county faces and why there is such a large discrepancy when it comes to healthcare for residents.

Guests:

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Plans to transform the former King Louie bowling alley and ice skating rink in Overland Park into the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center are now underway.

On Thursday, a kickoff event marked the official start of re-purposing the 1960s-era building for a new use. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

We are many months away from the primary election in Kansas, but it appears it's going to be a wild one.

There is already one moderate Johnson County Republican who has filed to run against a  conservative incumbent and a Democrat who has already announced her candidacy.  

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr-CC

Catholic Charities of Northeastern Kansas is serving significantly more residents at its food pantries than in previous years.

The organization served nearly 175,000 individuals in need of food over the last 12 months. That's a 25 percent increase over the previous year.

"The economy has picked up, but a lot of people who have gotten jobs are working jobs that (pay) low wages," says Kim Brabits, the organization's vice president of program operations. "Although they're no longer unemployed, they're still (sometimes) living below 200 percent of the poverty level."

Salvation Army USA West / Flickr-CC

The Salvation Army's Olathe food pantry is facing a severe food shortage due to rising demand.

Since 2012, demand for food has climbed 72 percent at the Olathe location. Officials say that it could be because of a sharp rise in poverty levels in Johnson County, Kansas since 2000. 

Courtesy photo / City of Merriam, Kansas

When Ken Sissom became the mayor of Merriam, Kansas, in 2008, he knew exactly what he was getting into.

He was on the police department in Merriam for 26 years, serving the last 13 as police chief.

“When I became mayor in 2008, I had attended every city council meeting, with the exception of maybe four or five, since 1992. So there were no surprises for me on the Mayor’s job,” he said.

For a city of its small size — only 4.5 square miles — it has 600 business, which makes it an interesting place to govern.

Nephron / Creative Commons

A disease caused by swimming pool parasites has been diagnosed in some Johnson County, Kansas residents and led to the temporary closure of a pool in Overland Park.

Cryptosporidiosus, or crypto, is spread by contact with waste, contaminated food or water,or infected people. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting.

“At this time, we have three confirmed cases and are tracking a few more possible cases in the community,” said Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and the Environment, in a press release.

Courtesy SFS Architecture

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners Thursday will get a design update for the Arts and Heritage Center in a 1960s-era building in Overland Park, Kansas. 

The county bought the former King Louie West at 8788 Metcalf in 2011. Now, instead of ice skating and bowling, the facility is slated to house the Johnson County Museum, parks and recreation classes, and Theatre in the Park musicals.

Courtesy photo

David Wiebe, one of the best known advocates for people with mental illness in Kansas, died Monday in Fairway at age 76. He had cancer.

“If you step back and look at how, over the decades, Kansas’ mental health system was developed, created and formed to where it is now, you’ll see that he was one of the pioneers,” says Tim DeWeese, executive director at the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

“His service to both the mental health field and to mental health consumers was invaluable,” DeWeese says.

Beth Lipoff / KCUR

The Johnson County Fair came to Gardner, Kansas last week, and alongside the traditional funnel cakes, midway rides and livestock exhibitions, there were a few surprises.

Here's four things we found that were unexpected:

1. There were no chickens.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR

Some say that local government is the toughest branch, because it’s closest to the people.

For Mission, Kansas Mayor Steve Schowengerdt, it's easy.

“If you're honest and talk straight the people tell you what they want and what they don't like and you adjust,” he says.  

Schowengerdt stopped by KCUR studios to talk with Up To Date host Steve Kraske about the meatiest issues on Mission's table. 

Here are five questions Kraske asked the Mayor:

Gina Kaufmann / KCUR

Modernist architecture flourished in the Kansas City area in the period following World War II, particularly at the time that the Johnson County suburbs were developing in Kansas.

Text messaging 911 service is likely to come to one part of the metropolitan area within the year. But the startup will involve a special kind of texting technology for deaf persons using landline phones.

In a report to the Kansas City City Council, MARC Public Safety Director Keith Faddis says the main focus of early testing is mainly in Johnson County and on the TTY system.  Johnson County is the location of the Kansas School for the Deaf, and Faddis says it already has considerable TTY message traffic.

United Community Services of Johnson County

Johnson County social service providers should target more services to residents who don’t have children, including low-income couples and at-risk young adults, according to a nonprofit that supports social service agencies in the county.

At its annual Human Service Summit Tuesday, officials of United Community Services of Johnson County (UCS) said public assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families skew towards families with young children.

Johnson County Manager Hannes Zacharias says all he will do Thursday is “carry the clipboard” from county agencies to the county commission as they request funding for the prospective 2016 county budget.  

In reality, the numbers on that clipboard will have a big impact on the pace and breadth of improvements proposed for both county parks and libraries.

New Master Plan for Johnson County Libraries

May 21, 2015

There's a new master plan for the Johnson County Library system. On this segment of Up to Date, hear consultants' recommendations how many new libraries should be built and which existing ones should be expanded.

Guests:

  • Christopher Leitch is the Community Relations Coordinator for the Johnson County Library.
  • Jill Eyres is an Associate at Group 4 Architecture, Research & Planning.  She is a consultant on the library master plan.
Katie Brady / Flickr--CC

Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, is in its fifth season as the home of Sporting Kansas City in Major League Soccer. For the money spent on what is regarded as one of the best soccer venues in the country, very little so far has been invested in Wyandotte County for youth soccer.

But changes are taking place.

Christina Lieffring

Little League teams across Wyandotte and western Johnson counties in Kansas are gearing up for spring, summer and fall sports.

That’s why Varsity Sports Sporting Goods in Kansas City, Kansas, is piled high with brightly colored T-shirts and hats, waiting to be silk-screened or stitched.

Jim Woods is the owner of Varsity Sports Sporting Goods.

"All these Little League teams ordering uniforms and stuff this time of year, gets kind of crazy for about a month and a half, two months," Woods says.

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