Trey Austin, who sported a pretty awesome moustache, pitched five and a third scoreless innings for the Lancers and went three for three at the plate.SM East baseball fans couldn’t have asked for much more: A rare home game on a perfect May Saturday that ended with a 3-1 win over Bishop Ward.[pullquote]Trey Austin on SM East’s recent successClick the arrow to hear Austin’s comments after Saturday’s game.Audio Playerhttps://dfv6pkw99pxmo.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Trey_Austin_Shawnee_Mission_East.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.[/pullquote]The Lancers’ pitching and defense looked in top form as the team beat the Cyclones and now enters the final four games of the regular season, jockeying for a spot among the top three team in the region and a spot in the playoff bracket. Head coach Jerrod Ryherd said his squad is playing well down the stretch, and he was pleased with their showing Saturday.“We pitched really good and played really great defense. Any time you’re able to do that, you’re going to be alright off,” he said. “I feel really confident with this team. They’ve got great team chemistry and they play hard.”Senior Trey Austin had a standout day against Bishop Ward, going three for three at the plate and driving in one of the Lancers’ three runs. Austin also pitched five and a third innings, giving up no runs, striking out four and walking one. Sophomore Joey Wentz had a solid day as well, starting the game on the mound and giving up one run over one and two-thirds innings while striking out two. Wentz went one for three at the plate and drove in a run.Gunnar Troutwine and Mitchell Tyler accounted for the Lancers’ other two hits on the day.SM East is now 12-4 on the season, and will face Olathe Northwest, SM North, St. James Academy and SM South in its final four regular season games. State regionals play begins May 19.It would be pretty tough to imagine a more idyllic way to pass a Saturday afternoon…Joey Wentz was Saturday’s starting pitcher. He also drove in a run for the Lancers.
Ryan KellermanRyan Kellerman, 5629 Roeland Drive, is a lifelong resident of Roeland Park and has been a small business owner for more than a dozen years and a Realtor for more than 10 years. He is a Bishop Miege graduate and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pittsburg State University. He is a neighborhood watch block captain and is married with children. He said he is running to “ensure the quality of life we enjoy in Roeland Park continues.” He said as a small business owner, he faces the same challenges as the city when it comes to the economy and fiscal responsibility. He said he wants Roeland Park to continue to be a welcoming hometown for everyone. He is a member of Better Business Bureau, Chambers in NEJC and KCK and the Kansas Realtors Association. Next week Roeland Park residents in the city’s Ward Three will go to the polls to elect a new city council member. The special election is a result of the resignation of Mel Croston from her council seat with more than two years left on the term.Three candidates are running for the post: Scott Ferrel, David Gauwitz and Ryan Kellerman. Voting will take place at the Roeland Park Community Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on De. 9.Scott FerrelScott Ferrel, 5531 Sherwood Drive, has the Farmers Insurance – Scott Ferrel Agency, which he started in 2013. Prior to starting the agency, Ferrel worked in retail and was the marketing projects coordinator at Nebraska Furniture Mart. Ferrel is married with two young children. He is a SM Northwest graduate. Ferrel said he began attending council meetings representing the events committee, which he chairs. At those meetings he learned about the anti-discrimination ordinance and began to attend meetings regularly. He said he has always had an interest in politics and has a flexible schedule that allows him to be involved. He said he does not want to be represented by individuals who “are not likely to put forth the best image for the city.”David GauwitzDavid Gauwitz, 5310 Juniper Drive, is the technical director and quality manager at Cramer Products. He retired from Colgate Palmolive in 2006 as the quality supervisor after 24 years at the plant. Gauwitz has a bachelor’s in chemistry from Western Illinois University. He and his wife, Joanne, have one son who attends JCCC. Gauwitz has lived in Roeland Park for 29 years. Gauwitz said he decided to run because he felt the council was getting “involved in issues not really part of running a city government.” He said he considers himself a conservative and nearing retirement feels he should get more involved in city government.
As school begins this week, thousands of Shawnee Mission students in northeast Johnson County will be handed pricey Apple products that they’ll be entrusted with keeping damage-free throughout the year.Of course, when you’re talking about kids and teenagers and iPads and laptops, there are bound to be some drops, spills and scratches — not to mention devices that are simply lost. The district estimates that somewhere south of 10 percent of the devices it issued last year were either damaged, lost or stolen.Last year, however, coverage for repairing devices that were damaged came through an optional insurance policy offered by Worth Ave. Group, a third-party insurance provider. That policy cost $80 per year.This year the district did not renew its agreement with Worth Ave., and is instead rolling out a plan to pay for damaged devices that requires no upfront payment, but that could cost more than the $80 of the insurance policy for every instance of a damaged, lost or stolen device.For iPads, the damaged device cost schedule is as follows:1st Damaged Device: $752nd Damaged Device: $1253rd and Subsequent Device Damage: Actual cost of repair/replacement or $250, whichever is greater.For the MacBook Air laptops, the damaged device schedule is as follows:1st Damaged Device: $1002nd Damaged Device: $1503rd and Subsequent Device Damage: Actual cost of repair/replacement or $300 whichever is greater.The district says it instituted the change for a number of reasons. For one, having an outside entity responsible for deciding whether or not to approve or deny a claim for a damaged device put the district in an awkward position. Worth did deny a number of claims during the year, which left parents who had paid $80 for the insurance policy still stuck with expensive repair fees. The Worth policies also did not cover lost devices, which frustrated some parents who assumed the policy covered such situations.The new district policy requires that students who lose their devices be assessed the replacement value for the device — a controversial provision because it requires that used iPads or MacBook Airs much be replaced with new versions.“The district must replace a lost device with a new, like-model device,” reads an FAQ prepared by the district on the new policy. “During year one of the digital learning initiative, we found that very few devices were actually lost. Many of them were either reported stolen and proof was provided that a police report had been filed, or the device, initially reported as lost, was found prior to families having to pay the assessed replacement fee.”The district says the new fee structure is not expected to save the district much money, but that it will be assessing the costs of the new structure and the structure used in the first year to help determine what kind of system to use moving forward.
Seems like there’s something in the air these days. And that something is hawks!Two readers passed along pictures of these stately birds of prey this week. Mark Mohr shot this photo of two hawks perched on a fence:And Jennifer Sanborn caught this one hopping around in the yard:Anyone else spotted anything cool lately?
Athletic Director David Ewers hoisted the boys basketball title trophy to huge applause from the SM North faithful.We’ve reached the end of the year and the end of the countdown. And the No. 1 sports milestone in northeast Johnson County was:Drum roll, please…Shawnee Mission North boys winning the school’s first boys basketball title in 63 years. When SM North won the title in 1953 it was the only school in the district.The Indians went 21-4 overall and 18-0 against teams from Kansas last season as they won by 24 points in the championship game against Wichita Southeast.In that final game, Michael Weathers scored 26 points while Marcus Weathers and Avante Williams each poured in 20.The Indians spotted Southeast a 9-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game. But that deficit disappeared as quickly as it happened. SM North outscored Southeast 37-18 the rest of the half to take control of the game.The title run was three years in the making. Coach Steve Stitzer took over the program when the Weathers twins were sophomores back in 2014. While those two were a huge focal point, the Indians couldn’t have done it without Williams, Will Schneider, Billy Conaway or Danny Bradley.In addition to the hardware, the Indians received a special gift right before the season started. One of the best players in the NBA took notice. LeBron James sent a video message, a note and each player a pair of his new shoes. The school cleared it with KSHAA to make sure eligibility wouldn’t be compromised. The school will issue the shoes to the players and then sell them back to the players once their eligibility has been used up.And that’s a wrap for 2016. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what 2017 holds. Happy New Year, everybody!
Matt Zimmerman taking the oath of office Monday. Photo by Jerry LaMartina.By Jerry LaMartinaOn Monday, Shawnee resident Matthew Zimmerman took the oath of office as a new councilman representing Ward 1, his first experience in elected office.Moments later, he became president of the entire council and next-in-line for Shawnee mayor should Michelle Distler no longer be able to serve.The election of a brand new member to become council president just minutes after he was sworn into office has raised some eyebrows around Shawnee City Hall, with some elected officials questioning whether Zimmerman has the experience necessary to fill the role, and at least one citizen wondering whether councilmembers must have discussed the idea of nominating him for the position beforehand, thus violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act.Shawnee resident Ray Erlichman posted a piece on his blog Wednesday suggesting that some of the councilmembers who voted in favor of Zimmerman as president — Jim Neighbor, Mike Kemmling, Justin Adrian, Mickey Sandifer and Lindsey Constance in addition to Zimmerman himself — may have communicated about nominating him before Monday’s meeting, which would have constituted a KOMA violation. In response, City Attorney Ellis Rainey conducted an investigation. After speaking with the three new members as well as Neighbor, who seconded Adrian’s motion to nominate Zimmerman to the presidency, Rainey determined no KOMA violation had occurred.“The conclusion was none of the officials had any communication regarding the election of Mr. Zimmerman as Council President prior to the Council Meeting,” Rainey said. “There was therefore no communication or conduct regarding the election of Mr. Zimmerman, and therefore no action contrary to the text or purpose of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.”Erlichman has indicated that he is pursuing the matter with the district attorney’s office.Still, Zimmerman’s lack of council experience has left some of his governing body peers concerned. The council president is next in line to become mayor if the sitting mayor becomes unable to serve, and the president leads council committee meetings.Both Ward 2 Councilman Eric Jenkins and Ward 3 Councilwoman Stephanie Meyer voted against Zimmerman as president. Jenkins said that he didn’t know why Zimmerman was elected president and that he thought there was no benefit in having a council president with no council experience.“He wasn’t even on the council for half an hour,” Jenkins said. “You should at least have some time on the council, some experience…We don’t know his skills, abilities or ideological position. If (the mayor) can’t serve, this guy would be the mayor of Shawnee. Here he is the first in line to be mayor of the city, and that’s kind of scary. We’ll find out over time. He may be great. It really showed a lack of maturity in the council members who voted for him.”Meyer said that she had great respect for Zimmerman and considered him a friend, but that she believed the role should be filled by someone who understands the inner-workings of the governing body, especially during what will be a busy year for the city as it tackles big issues like its economic development policy and hiring a new city manager.“We need someone (as council president) who knows about that process,” Meyer said. “I think it creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone, especially the new people.”For her part, Distler said the election of a freshly sworn in council member as president was unprecedented in her time with the city, and that Zimmerman’s election surprised her and caused her some concern.“I haven’t had opportune time to absorb it yet,” Distler said. “Normally, the president position — it’s who would become mayor if anything were to happen to me. It’s usually someone with more experience. I don’t know what to think. They’re also the person who heads the council committee meetings, and I don’t know how you do that without experience.”Neighbor, who was council president in 2013 and 2014, said he has known Zimmerman through the Shawnee Rotary Club for a number of years and that he thought Zimmerman would do a good job.“He brings a wealth of knowledge from the private sector in construction,” Neighbor said. “Matt’s a fast learner. He’s made a diligent effort in the past year or so to be a student of the proceedings, attended lots of council and committee meetings. With everything our council has been through over the years, I think that’s a good idea to bring new ideas.”Zimmerman himself acknowledges that he has a “steep learning curve” ahead of him, and said he was caught off-guard and a bit apprehensive about being nominated for the council presidency. He even said he believes that council should review the process for electing the president. But he added that he hopes lack of “baggage” could be an asset in the role.“Part of what drove me to run for the council is I thought I could provide a higher level of harmony,” he said.
A group of Merriam residents packed the council chambers to lobby against tearing down the current aquatic facilities.A group of residents calling themselves “Merriam Concerned Citizens” packed the city council meeting Monday in an effort to lobby against the destruction of the current swimming pool to make way for a new aquatic and community center.The public comment period Monday evening went on for more than an hour as about 20 people came forward to express concerns voiced at previous council meetings and open houses, saying the proposed outdoor pool for the new $30 million community center is too small with too few amenities to fit poolgoers’ needs. The project includes an additional $6.6 million in tax increment financing (TIF) funds for the parking structure and associated construction costs.The Merriam council selected option 5 for the proposed outdoor pool, which is $1.6 million over budget.A number of the residents who spoke at the council meeting said they were part of the Merriam Concerned Citizens group, which has launched a website to list their concerns online with the new community center and design processes. Their main concerns are with dividing the outdoor aquatics into smaller, separate indoor and outdoor facilities and losing outdoor amenities such as waterslides and a kiddie pool.“Do not touch the outdoor aquatic center unless you try to improve it,” said Cherie Nicholson, a Merriam resident who has young children. Nicholson was among the residents who said they were against allowing the Johnson County Library to relocate its Antioch branch to the community center campus.John Steeb, another resident, said many people were against having a smaller outdoor pool.“I think it’s very important that we keep the existing pool and fix it,” Steeb said. “I think it’s a concession that can easily be made.”In response to these concerns, the city updated its online list of frequently asked questions regarding the community center plans. That page includes a graphic that shows the proposed new outdoor aquatics facility overlaid with the current pool:A study conducted by a hired firm a few years ago estimated that repairing the current Merriam Aquatic Center to bring it up to compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act would cost about $3.5 to $4 million.If the city continues on its current timeline with building a new community center, demolition of the aquatic facility at Vavra Park will begin in October. A groundbreaking ceremony for the whole project is set for Thursday morning.Councilmember Al Frisby asked Merriam staff to look into funding option 8, which is $2.5 million over budget.Councilmember Al Frisby asked the staff to look for funding options in the budget that would allow option 8 of the outdoor aquatic design, which would separate the dive wells from the lap lanes. Option 8 would be $2.5 million over what the city originally budgeted for the project.The council had selected option 5 in its July 23 meeting, which will cost an additional $1.6 million over the original budget.At the conclusion of the council work session following Monday evening’s meeting, Merriam staff are moving forward with plans for an outdoor 25-meter pool — it was previously planned to be 25 yards.The council is scheduled to make final decisions on community center design, including outdoor aquatic concepts, at its Sept. 24 meeting. Some councilmembers said they were concerned with delaying the project further because it will cost the city and residents more time and money.
Eric Mikkelson will be sworn in as Prairie Village’s new mayor today.Swearing in day for Prairie Village mayor, county commission. New Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson will be sworn in to office during a ceremony at the city council meeting tonight. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Prairie Village City Hall, 7700 Mission Road. And new County Commissioners Becky Fast and Janeé Hanzlick will be sworn in alongside reelected incumbents Ed Eilert and Michael Ashcraft at a ceremony at the county administrative offices in Olathe this morning at 9 a.m.Shawnee Mission resident tapped to take over KDOT. Julia Lorenz, a Lenexa resident and a principle at Burns & McDonnell, is joining the administration of new Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly as the interim director of the Kansas Department of Transportation. Lorenz has previous experience in the department, having served as Director of Public Affairs and Special Assistant to KDOT Secretary Deb Miller under Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. At Burns & McDonnell, Lorenz has worked with departments of transportation in a number of states, and was a facilitator on the 2018 Legislative Task Force on Transportation. “Julie Lorenz is an expert in the area of transportation and understands how critical it is to the future of our state,” said Kelly. “Julie literally wrote the book on how to create and sustain a culture of innovation in state departments of transportation. She is exactly what we need to take Kansas forward and ensure our transportation systems continue to be an asset.”
Rep. Brandon Woodard says being a freshman lawmaker can sometimes feel like “drinking from a firehose.”Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Brett Parker, Rep. Brandon Woodard and Sen. Pat Pettey are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Woodard’s filing:Navigating the legislature as a first-term lawmaker is often compared to ‘drinking from a firehose,’ and my experience can be summed up as exactly that. On my first full day as a Representative, I was invited to the Governor’s ceremonial office with Rep. Susan Ruiz for a surprise signing of the executive order reinstating protections for LGBTQ state workers. After the Governor’s dialogue with the press pool, the reporters came directly to ask questions of Rep. Ruiz and me, as Kansas’ first two openly-LGBTQ lawmakers. I don’t believe many freshmen legislators start their first full day with interviews from television, radio, and newspaper reporters; however, it was a great way to overcome the nerves of media interviews.In what has been described as a ‘do-nothing’ legislative session, one upside is that I’ve had the time to familiarize myself with the building, begin building relationships with veteran lawmakers and my fellow first-term colleagues, and become acquainted with the hundreds of policy advocates, legislative staff, researchers, and revisors who make the wheels of progress spin at the Kansas Statehouse every day.As a first-term legislator, you’re provided with endless advice from your colleagues and those who work in and around the legislative process. Everything from “show up, don’t say anything, soak up everything you can learn for the first two years” to “make your voice heard, stand up for what you believe in, and ask lots of questions.” I would describe my experience as being somewhere in between those two suggestions. I’ve found my niche interest areas in higher education funding, LGBTQ equality, and more recently tax policy. Within each of those issue areas, I’ve had the chance to meet with staff that work on those issues, visit with colleagues about ways to make progress, and to look into ways that our decisions impact the residents of District 30 and Kansans.Another part of growing into the role is making rules for yourself and following them to balance both the personal and professional life. I keep Friday evenings and Sunday mornings free to catch up on laundry, visit friends and family, buy groceries, and catch up on the latest Netflix series. I’ve also had to become comfortable with the fact that while it is possible to do almost anything, I cannot do everything.Most importantly, as a freshman legislator serving a district formerly represented by someone who refused to meet with constituents, reply to phone calls or emails, show up to town halls or be accessible to the voters, I feel a deep responsibility to be as accessible to the residents of Lenexa and Olathe that sent me to Topeka to work for them. I’ve been holding two town halls each month, responding to every constituent that contacts my office, and making time to show up at events throughout the district. Live tweeting and weekly updates through newsletters and social media have helped me find my voice, engage with constituents, and learn to be an effective, accessible first-term lawmaker.
Four of the eight seats on the Roeland Park city council are up for election in November. Three of them have drawn contested elections. Here’s a look at the candidates.Ward 2Leonard Tocco and Benjamin Dickens are vying for the Ward 2 seat. Tim Janssen, who currently fills the seat, is not running for re-election.A resident of Roeland Park for six years, Dickens is in his first run for public office. If elected, he plans to push for business development and economic growth.“For the past six years, I’ve heard people in leadership say that they want to bring in new business, developers and entrepreneurs, but I haven’t seen any activity on that,” Dickens said. “So after six years, I’ve decided there are newer people on council that I know are like-minded, and with my help I think we could actually push that forward instead of just talking about it for another six years.”He also hopes new businesses can provide relief for residents on fixed incomes because they will provide an increase in sales tax revenues.Dickens has worked in human resources since 2006, focusing mostly on employee relations. He lives with his partner of 12 years.A lifelong resident of Roeland Park, Tocco is making his second run for council; he ran two years ago. If elected, he wants to prioritize building community in the city, noting the city has already been recognized for being “a city for all.” He wants to continue that.“Being a lifelong resident, I’ve seen the changes that the city has gone through,” Tocco said. “I truly have a lifelong commitment to the city. The city has always been important to me, and I honestly feel that building a community where every resident is valued is truly important.”He also wants to strive for government transparency, a pragmatic approach to public service and a culture of allowing all voices to be heard.Tocco works in cybersecurity for a local utility company. He lives with his wife, Julie Tocco.Ward 3In Ward 3, political newcomers Trisha Brauer and Galen Hansen are both in their first run for council. Erin Thompson, who currently fills the seat, is not running for re-election.In her first run for council, Brauer’s main priority is the development of quality businesses in the city, especially as a small business owner. A 15-year resident of Roeland Park, Brauer left the marketing world to start her own business in 2010 as a benefit auctioneer.“We have a lot of resources available that I don’t feel like we’re capitalizing on quite well,” Brauer said. “And I feel that our community could really benefit from drawing and attracting in small businesses. As a small business owner, that is something that’s always been very important to me, and the timing was right in my life to be able to run for city council.”Brauer lives with her husband, Hayden Brauer, and their two dogs, Herky and Mark.If elected, Hansen said he plans to bring to the council his experiences from a 30-year career in finance and accounting. He thinks the council needs to improve on accountability to residents.“I don’t think that the city council, especially in the last two years, acts as though they are representing the people,” Hansen said. “It’s more kind of a rulership, the governing body, they don’t seem to listen to the people. And I want to try to help to instill an attitude that we’re all basically shareholders, similar to how people would be shareholders in a company.”He also wants to see the city be more open in communication and use financial resources “wisely.” He lives near R Park and said he’s especially concerned with those recent changes, as well as the process with the Roe 2020 project.Hansen has been a Roeland Park resident for nearly two decades.Ward 4Political newcomers A.J. Cameron and Michael Rebne are vying for the Ward 4 seat on the city council. Michael Poppa, who currently fills the seat, is not running for re-election.A resident of Roeland Park since 1986, Cameron has a professional background in sales. He said a friend encouraged him to seek public office. He especially wants to focus on addressing personal property taxes, possibly reducing the mill levy and ensuring the tax burden does not rely so heavily on property owners.“The system seems to cook in an increase, and I’m concerned because some people are wanting to take out a $1.5 million to $2 million loan when we have some money,” Cameron said. “I figure somewhere down the road, there’s going to be a correction or worse in the economy, and I don’t want to see personal property owners saddled with expenditures that they have to pay on and then the city has to raise even higher taxes on the mill levy.“I don’t think people are being represented. I think they’re expected to pick up whatever the city council wants to spend money.”Cameron said the recession in 2008 brought this issue to his attention.A public school teacher for 15 years in Kansas City on both sides of the border, Rebne also has a background in business finance. He said he’s always appreciated the quality of city services and the city’s investment in parks, green space, public artwork and the outdoor aquatic center and community center.“I just feel like Roeland Park has a real strong core sense of equality and justice as well,” Rebne said. “I wanted to run to both continue the investment in those great city services that we have here and also make sure that we continue to build on the progress we’ve made in passing and supporting things like the nondiscrimination ordinance within our city limits.”Rebne said he wants to continue the tradition of providing city services “thoughtfully and responsibly,” especially considering the future of the city.Rebne has lived in Roeland Park for about a decade with his wife, Kristi Meyer, their two children, and their cat, Cheetah.