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Mary Rupert


Mayor Mark Holland called for further cuts in public safety overtime during a budget workshop Monday evening at City Hall.

Holland said $1 million in cuts in the overtime budgets for the Kansas City, Kan., Police and Fire departments were a step in the right direction, and he proposed that the Police, Fire and Sheriff’s departments each find another half-million in cuts.

“We had about $5 million in public safety (overtime) last year and if we saved $1 million we’re about 20 percent down,” Holland said.

It is important to figure out how to make it sustainable over time, he said. Staffing has been reduced 20 percent in all other departments, but has been increased 10 percent in public safety, he said.

“I think the biggest threat to our public safety is our running out of resources to properly fund them,” Holland said. “My concern is that with the budget we have presented, we have another time of decreasing fund balance, and I’m very concerned about our losing our bond rating. I think the cost of losing our bond rating exceeds the cost of making some changes this year to show that fund balance going up.”

“If we asked police and fire to take a $500,000 cut in 2015, from what the administrator has recommended, and drop that million dollars down to the city general fund, it would represent a 1 percent cut in their operations for the 2015 year,” he said. He believes these departments could make a 1 percent cut, adding they still have that much in overtime. He said he didn’t want to spend any of the money but drop it all to the bottom line. If they and the Sheriff’s Department could make $500,000 in cuts, it would increase the fund balance by $1.5 million, he said.

As an example, he mentioned the Fire Department has a full recruit class and can drive the overtime rate down. He believes there are additional efficiencies the police can find, and have found some efficiencies already.

“When you have $50 million budgets, I think there’s an opportunity to find more efficiencies,” he said.

He said the UG’s chief financial officer, Lew Levin, has made a compelling case that losing the bond rating and paying higher interest rates will be more costly over time to the city than making some minor budget changes.

Holland said the Sheriff’s Department highest overtime was from court transport, out of county transport and patrol. In 2013 overtime in the operations division of the Sheriff’s Department exceeded $600,000. He said there needs to be a conversation with the district attorney’s office on doing more video arraignments. Also, the UG needs to make sure there is no duplication of services in road patrol.

Holland said that if the largest departments couldn’t do a one or two percent cut, there were other problems. “We need to be aggressive about it,” he said.

Commissioner Angela Markley asked if some funding could be found in the budget for more equipment for these departments. Holland said the cost of equipment would go up in the future if the bond rating is lowered.

Commissioners Hal Walker said there were certain areas that they would not want to see cut.

Administrator Doug Bach was asked to come up with some budget changes that would make some additional cuts from these departments and come back to the commission for discussion and approval.

In other action, the commission cut the community survey for the 2015 budget year, an expected expense of about $45,000. Commissioners talked about bringing it back a year later.

A carnival again is one of the highlights of the Wyandotte County Fair, which opens Tuesday evening and runs through Saturday. (File photo)

by Mary Rupert

The Wyandotte County Fair kicks off Tuesday, July 22, with five days of entertainment and displays planned.

Held in the evenings from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and also from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, the Wyandotte County Fair is at 13700 Polfer Road, Kansas City, Kan., which is east of K-7 and Polfer Road.

Besides arena entertainment, the county fair will include a hot air balloon ride, helicopter rides, free stage event entertainment, a carnival, a magic show, camel rides, pony rides and a petting zoo, as well as exhibits and displays of 4-H and open class animals and projects.

Amy Crouse, serving as temporary office manager for the fair, hopes for good attendance again this year. Last year’s county fair had about 40,000 attending. There is an increase in arena events this year, from three nights to five nights, and more vendors than last year, she noted.

The arena event for Tuesday night is a free concert at 7 p.m. by County Road 5. Residents are invited to come out, bring lawn chairs and enjoy listening to the music, Crouse said.

Wednesday night’s arena event at 7 p.m. features a horseshoe pitching contest, at four tosses for $1, as well as a Wyatt Earp interpreter, and a blacksmith demonstration, all in the arena.

Thursday’s arena event is a tractor pull at 6:30 p.m.; Friday night, a demolition derby at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, a mud run at 6 p.m. The tractor pull admission will be $4 for adults and $1 for children; and the demolition derby and mud run are $12 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger.

Admission to the fair is free and parking is $5. There is a charge for carnival rides; wristband nights are Tuesday and Wednesday, when a wristband admission will cost $15.

Hot air balloon rides from 6:30 p.m. to dusk Wednesday will be free. Helicopter rides will be $40 and will be offered from 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday.

Free stage tent events starting at 7 p.m. include: Kristi’s Dance Studio, Tuesday; Sully Brothers Music, Wednesday; Sully Brothers Music, Thursday; Hard Tack Concert, Friday; and Bill Morris Celtic Flavor-Modern Flair from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday; Prairie Praise Band from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday; Sagasu Family Martial Arts Demonstration from 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday; and Glory Road Band from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

Free magic shows will be in the Red Barn at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday; 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday; 6:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday; and 7 and 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Special contests this year will include a Homegrown Sunflower contest, with a prize; Legos contest, to enter Tuesday morning, for ages 1-12 years old; and a fruit pie contest, to enter from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

An open steer and heifer show at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday has generated a big interest, Crouse said.

Special days include Daycare Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Seniors Day on Friday at 10:30 a.m. Advance arrangements for those days may be made by calling 913-721-2333 or 913-441-1907.

On opening day of the fair, Tuesday, Wyandotte County will be under a heat advisory. Crouse said it’s traditionally hot during fair week, and the fair will have quantities of water and lemonade available for visitors. The Fire Department and paramedics will be on standby.

“We’re hoping for a nice breeze,” she said. The fairgrounds doesn’t yet have an air-conditioned room for visitors; that will come with more funding, she added.

Some 4-H judging is taking place Monday night, and 4-H appears to have a big presence this year, she said.

“It’s coming together really well, I’m very pleased,” she said.

Crouse, who grew up in the Wyandotte County 4-H program, said working with the fair is fun because she gets to see a lot of 4-H people there helping with the crew.

For more information on the fair, visit www.wycofair.com.

Tuesday at the Fair
Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
5-10 p.m.: Carnival, Hedricks Petting Zoo, Hedricks Camel Rides, Pony Rides and Pictures, Wristband Night at Carnival for $15.
6, 7 and 9 p.m.: Hedricks Pig Races.
6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.: Free magic show in the Red Barn.
7 – 10 p.m.: Free Stage Tent, Kristi’s Dance Studio.
7 – 10 p.m.: Free County Road 5 Concert in the Arena.

A new Price Chopper store opened Wednesday, July 16, at 7600 State Ave. at Wyandotte Plaza.

Window on the West
by Mary Rupert
There’s a new “best” among the grocery stores in Kansas City, Kan. A new Price Chopper that opened at 7600 State Ave. at Wyandotte Plaza on Wednesday, July 16, is clearly the best.

With its greater space, new building, and new features such as a pharmacy, Starbucks and deli, the Wyandotte Plaza grocery store tops the competition, at least for now. It has dine-in space for the deli and coffee shop. It continues to have a bakery, a floral area, a butcher shop and a savings and loan office. There is a larger section for health and beauty products, a larger produce section, and some specialty areas such as ethnic foods aisles, an everything for $1 aisle, and a gluten-free aisle.

The store has a high open ceiling giving the feeling of even more space than the 68,000 square feet it has. The building on the east side of Wyandotte Plaza replaces the Price Chopper formerly on the west side of the shopping center, which is undergoing a complete renovation.

I might have earlier said Hen House at 82nd and Parallel Parkway was the best grocery in Kansas City, Kan., but now the prize goes to the Price Chopper that opened Wednesday.

Like almost all other big grocery stores constructed in the past several years in Kansas City, Kan., the store had help from a mix of economic development programs at the local government level.

The grocery store business has been highly competitive in Wyandotte County, especially in the past several years. Just recently, the Lipari Thriftway at 800 Kansas Ave., in the Armourdale area of Kansas City, Kan., for more than 50 years, closed. And not too long ago, a grocery near 46th and Parallel Parkway closed. The downtown Kansas City, Kan., area has been termed a “food desert,” without a full-service grocery, and there have been plans under discussion for some time to bring a grocery store there. Another former “food desert,” the Argentine area, constructed a grocery store last year and soon will have another one.

Not only are grocery stores competing against each other here, they’re also competing against large discount stores selling groceries, convenience stores and gas stations that have groceries. Besides high-quality food, selection and excellent customer service, location has been very important for grocery stores in recent years, especially with higher gasoline costs. At the same time, some stores that were close together did not survive. The location of a former grocery store at 46th and Parallel, for example, was only about 1.5 miles from another grocery and 2.2 miles from a third grocery store.

A former Armourdale resident who liked to shop at the Lipari Thriftway, Patty Dysart, said recently that she thought the competition was too much from the Sunfresh store at Prescott Plaza near 18th and I-70. She also noted that the Thriftway had tried to expand the size of its store some years ago, but that it was not approved. The location of the Armourdale store was around 2.5 miles from the Sunfresh store, and around 2.5 miles from the new Argentine groceries.

Dysart kept coming back to the Armourdale store for years because she liked the people who owned the store and worked there. Customer service will continue to be the key to retaining customers long after the newness of grocery stores wears off.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com.