Public safety recruitment task force to meet Thursday

The Mayor’s Public Safety Recruitment Task Force will meet Thursday at City Hall in Kansas City, Kan.

The meeting, which will be at 2 p.m. in the fifth floor conference room at City Hall, 701 N. 7th St., will be open to the public.

It will be the first public meeting of the task force, which includes representatives from the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department; the county administrator’s office; El Centro; the Black Police Officers Association; Latino Peace Officers Association; all Wyandotte County school districts; the Archdiocese; Donnelly College; Kansas City Kansas Community College; and appointees from each UG commissioner.

Mayor Holland began assembling the task force early this year after attending a November 2013 Fire Department Graduation Ceremony and observing just one Hispanic graduate, no African Americans and only one woman in a class made up of 42 highly qualified new recruits. Only 25 percent of the graduates were local to the county. By contrast, only 40 percent of the current population of Wyandotte County is Caucasian; 27 percent are African American, 28 percent Hispanic and 7 percent claim another ethnicity.

The mayor appointed a local pastor, the Rev. Jimmie Banks, as chairman of the task force and asked the Department of Justice to participate in the conversations. The committee met three times between April and August this year to begin collecting data on public safety recruitment policies and department practices.

“The Department of Justice brings national credibility to our local task force,” Mayor Holland said. “We sought out their expertise last year in response to a real disconnect between the makeup of our public safety personnel and our residents. While we began this process more than a year ago, the events of Ferguson, Mo., have only added urgency and resolve around the work we’re doing. We must get to the bottom of this issue to prevent tragedy in our own community.”

The task force will hold a public forum and develop an action plan that includes concrete steps the Unified Government Commission and administration can take to address this issue. The mayor has set a deadline of April 2015, so if suggested proposals include financial implications they can be discussed before the UG Commission begins budget talks later in the spring.

The initial public safety presentation made by Mayor Holland on Aug. 28, 2014, is available for viewing anytime on the Unified Government’s YouTube site: http://youtu.be/drPTQVc1oPs.
– Story from the mayor’s office

Man charged with murder in shooting death

George Daniel Lingenfelser
George Daniel Lingenfelser

Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A. Gorman this afternoon charged George Daniel Lingenfelser, 28, Bonner Springs, Kansas, with first-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 7 shooting death of Janet Billings.

The murder occurred in a parking lot of a retail establishment in the 6900 block of State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.

Lingenfelser is currently in the Wyandotte County Jail. Bond was set at $750,000. He is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Wyandotte Plaza, State Avenue celebrate redevelopment

Construction work continued today on a new Krispy Kreme building at Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State Avenue. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Construction work continued today on a new Krispy Kreme building at Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State Avenue. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

by Mary Rupert

A celebration of the renaissance of Wyandotte Plaza and the State Avenue Corridor was capped off today with the announcement of a new credit union building planned at the shopping center at 78th and State.

The new CommunityAmerica Credit Union building will be constructed on the site of the former Payless ShoeSource building at the center, according to company officials.

The event at Wyandotte Plaza on Tuesday, which was also the annual meeting for Business West, drew a number of Unified Government officials and business leaders. The event was coordinated by Business West and the UG.

The shopping center includes a new state-of-the-art 60,000-square-foot Price Chopper building that opened last July on the east end, and under construction currently are Marshalls and PetSmart on the west end. Dave Claflin, of RED Legacy, the developer, said that he hopes the new PetSmart and Marshalls are open by April. A new Advance Auto Parts building opened first at the center. There are also some other buildings under construction. On Tuesday, work was being done for a new Krispy Kreme restaurant at the shopping center.

At the start of the redevelopment of the 230,000-square-foot Wyandotte Plaza, the cost of the project was estimated at $28 million. A community improvement district and bond issue was approved for the development.

Claflin linked the present redevelopment to the community’s efforts to build The Legends a decade ago.

“It was really commendable to the citizens of Kansas City, Kan., and the Unified Government to start the investment out there at The Legends and Village West,” Claflin said. “This is the payoff. This investment is starting to trickle back east.”

He said he anticipated that besides the benefits to the residents, there would be benefits to the local government as revenues rise.

Mayor Mark Holland said he was excited about the development.

“For the last decade, the whole region has celebrated the activity at The Legends, and all the great things that are happening at The Legends, and they’re saying, what about the rest of the city?” Mayor Holland said.

He said there have been six new grocery stores built in the past few years in Kansas City, Kan.

“We know that when the city invests in infrastructure and streets, curbs and sidewalks, it transforms the whole community,” Holland said. “I don’t know that RED Legacy would come here if we weren’t showing the investment in our infrastructure on State Avenue.”

A $15.4 million investment, the State Avenue corridor project was under construction 2.5 years, and was being planned and designed for two years prior to that, said County Engineer Bill Heatherman.

The State Avenue corridor improvement project went from 73rd to 94th streets on State Avenue, and curbs, sidewalks and medians were improved. There are wider sidewalks along State, median improvements and some changes including new traffic lights and bus stops along State Avenue.

Built in the late 1950s and 1960s, Wyandotte Plaza has had minimal investment since that time, Claflin said.

Joe Maderak, who founded Business West, described the rural nature of the area when he arrived here in 1925. He pointed out that some vacant buildings in the State Avenue area have been sold recently, and “things are beginning to move.”

He said he’s often been asked why he stayed in Wyandotte County.

“I’ll tell you,” he said. “My roots are here. The people are here. This is my hometown.”

Adam Ehlert of the T-Bones said that the State Avenue improvements were important for Village West because residents need to be able to travel west to The Legends area, and people already at The Legends area need to be able to travel east on State.

Commissioner Jane Philbrook, the president-elect of Business West, said that bringing business eastward toward the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area is one of the goals of these projects.

Also speaking at this event were Richard Napper of EPR Properties, financial partner to Schlitterbahn, and Chuck Stites, Schlitterbahn director of development.

“I hope you all are aware of the tremendous events and progress that has taken place at our project in the past 12 months,” Napper said. It started with the Schlitterbahn’s world’s tallest water slide.

The area near 98th and Parallel Parkway, at the Schlitterbahn area, is under development for a U.S. Soccer national training facility.

“It will be unlike anything else in this country or perhaps in the world,” Napper said, a “world-class facility.”

Additionally, site work has begun even through winter at I-435 and Parallel for the 60-acre auto mall and retail site, he said. There were extreme terrain challenges, and progress is being made on the site. He said the auto mall and retail site would have a great effect on the local and state economy for the tax base, jobs and sales growth.

“There are many other projects in the pipeline,” he said. “We are very hopeful in the next three to six to 12 months in conjunction with the UG to make other incredible announcements that will have a tremendous economic impact to this community and to the state of Kansas.”

Marisa Gray, president of Business West, welcomed new tenants to Wyandotte Plaza, including MeMa’s, Krispy Kreme, Marshalls and PetSmart, and the newly relocated Price Chopper. She said Business West assists businesses with any challenges they may have.

Other tenants of Wyandotte Plaza include Lufti’s Fried Fish, MeMa’s Old-Fashioned Bakery, Simply Fashion, Sally Beauty Supply, Glam Tresses, City G.E.A.R., Radio Shack, Papa Murphy’s, Hans Jewelers, Dollar Tree, Sherwin Williams, H&R Block, Easy Home Living, Burger King and Advance America.

Gray, also director of Workforce Development at Kansas City Kansas Community College, said the college was positioned to be both proactive and reactive to the needs of the community, making sure residents are educated and prepared for the work force.

Dave Hurrelbrink of the City Planning and Zoning Board said that the application for the new CommunityAmerica Credit Union building at Wyandotte Plaza passed the Planning Commission last night, and next will go before the UG Commission for approval.

Linda Boring, of CommunityAmerica Credit Union, said plans are to open the new credit union location in the first part of August of next year.

Construction work continued today at Wyandotte Plaza at 78th and State, Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Construction work continued today at Wyandotte Plaza at 78th and State, Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

A new Marshalls and PetSmart will open next year at Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State Avenue. (Staff photo)
A new Marshalls and PetSmart will open next year at Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State Avenue. (Staff photo)

Mayor Mark Holland today said, “We know that when the city invests in infrastructure and streets, curbs and sidewalks, it transforms the whole community."
Mayor Mark Holland today said, “We know that when the city invests in infrastructure and streets, curbs and sidewalks, it transforms the whole community.”

Dave Claflin of RED Legacy linked the redevelopment of Wyandotte Plaza to The Legends development a decade ago. “This is the payoff. This investment is starting to trickle back east.” (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Dave Claflin of RED Legacy linked the redevelopment of Wyandotte Plaza to The Legends development a decade ago. “This is the payoff. This investment is starting to trickle back east.” (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Commissioner Jane Philbrook, the president-elect of Business West, said that bringing business eastward toward the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area is one of the goals of these projects. (Staff photo)
Commissioner Jane Philbrook, the president-elect of Business West, said that bringing business eastward toward the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area is one of the goals of these projects. (Staff photo)

A good crowd turned out for the event Tuesday at Wyandotte Plaza. (Staff photo)
A good crowd turned out for the event Tuesday at Wyandotte Plaza. (Staff photo)

Joe Maderak, the founder of Business West, said the State Avenue corridor area is currently improving. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Joe Maderak, the founder of Business West, said the State Avenue corridor area is currently improving. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Marisa Gray, president of Business West, welcomed new tenants to Wyandotte Plaza. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Marisa Gray, president of Business West, welcomed new tenants to Wyandotte Plaza. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

County Engineer Bill Heatherman said the State Avenue corridor was a $15.4 million project. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
County Engineer Bill Heatherman said the State Avenue corridor was a $15.4 million project. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Richard Napper, left, of EPR, and Chuck Stites, director of development of the Schlitterbahn, also spoke at the meeting. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Richard Napper, left, of EPR, and Chuck Stites, director of development of the Schlitterbahn, also spoke at the meeting. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Those attending the meeting viewed signs showing current and past photos of Wyandotte Plaza and State Avenue. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Those attending the meeting viewed signs showing current and past photos of Wyandotte Plaza and State Avenue. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

When Wyandotte Plaza opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s, its main anchor was a Kroger store.
When Wyandotte Plaza opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s, its main anchor was a Kroger store.

The existing strip mall at Wyandotte Plaza received a new facade in the improvements. (Staff photo)
The existing strip mall at Wyandotte Plaza received a new facade in the improvements. (Staff photo)