Financial problems plague Postal Service

Opinion column

Views West

by Murrel Bland

I learned a long time ago that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. That is particularly true when it comes to government agencies—or organizations that are quasi-governmental such as the U.S. Postal Service.

The most recent “squeaky wheel” was really long line at the Wyandotte West Postal Station. The “grease” was applied the first week in May after about two months of severe inconvenience.

Here was the root of the most recent problem. A motorist had a medical problem and crashed into the leased postal station in Edwardsville. The station closed down, forcing those relying on post office boxes to come to the Wyandotte West Station.

The West Station, which already was overloaded, was not equipped to handle an additional 500 customers. Randy McHenry, the manager of the Wyandotte West Station, said he suggested early on that the solution was to place cluster boxes in Edwardsville to serve the 500 customers living in an Edwardsville mobile home park.

I talked to Mayor John (Tiny) McTaggart, the mayor of Edwardsville, about the problem. He said the Postal Service had been looking for an excuse to shut down the Edwardsville station. Hours at the station were cut last fall; the building is more than 100 years old and once housed what was the Edwardsville State Bank.

Mayor McTaggart and his city manager Mike Webb lodged complaints with the Postal Service and the offices of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder. Although our federal elected officials were sympathetic, there isn’t much they can really do, as the Postal Service became an “independent” agency in 1971. However that “independent” status hasn’t stopped the Postal Service from coming to Congress asking to be financially bailed out. People that I know who follow postal matters say that it is unlikely that Congress will help the agency.

I can remember when the Kansas City, Kan., postmaster was truly a community leader. If you had a problem, you only had to make one telephone call—and in most all cases, the problem was solved. Postmasters such as Bob Roberts, Walt Raynes, Geroge Moody and, more recently Chuck Pennewell, were a very visible part of this community. Today, if you want results you must communicate with a postal bureaucrat over town. Very few people here know who the Kansas City, Kan., Postmaster is.

It took two months for the postal bureaucracy over town to make a decision that was quite obvious. All of this comes at a time when the Postal Service continues to lose record amounts of money. The price of a first class stamp went up earlier this year. Pay more and get less—that seems to be the motto of the Postal Service.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Expectations are high for Indian Springs redevelopment

A sketch from Lane4 presented one option for Indian Springs redevelopment.

Window on the West

Opinion column
by Mary Rupert

The Unified Government Commission has re-started the search to redevelop one of the biggest empty places in Kansas City, Kan. – Indian Springs.

A preliminary redevelopment agreement with Lane4 was approved 5-0 at the April 28 UG economic development committee meeting, and is expected to advance May 15 to the UG Commission for further discussion.

But a first UG economic development committee meeting April 7 ended without an endorsement of the effort when Commissioner Jim Walters, whose background includes the Sporting KC stadium project, asked the developer for more specifics when looking at some sketches of options for the former shopping mall property.

“I haven’t given up on a landmark development,” Walters said April 7. “I just don’t see anything here that leads me to believe we’re aiming high enough.”

One of his points was that the property at I-70 and I-635 was a large contiguous urban site that just isn’t found anywhere. He said then he wanted to make sure that they weren’t locked into a lot of small developments that could be placed anywhere.

Walters has since met with Lane4, discussed concepts, and now has voted to approve the project moving forward. At the April 28 committee meeting, he said that after meeting with Lane4, he was on the same wave length, and he looked forward for the property to be a transformational development in the midtown area.

Officials said the options they presented earlier were not intended to be well-developed plans, but were just ideas for going forward with the project. George Brajkovic, UG director of economic development, said at the April 28 meeting that the earlier drawings were intended only to depict mass and scale for potential redevelopment.

At the April 28 meeting, Lane4 officials said they agreed with commissioners that their goal is not to short-sell the property, but to see what its potential is in the market. Lane4 officials said they would like to bring back a project the commission can consider after working on it for a year or so.

Commissioner Walters’ first reaction probably is the same of people all around the community. The community expects a lot from that redevelopment, maybe even a Village East or a Village Midtown. But the project will be different from the old Indian Springs mall, and residents need to expect that, too.

Currently, plans are not set in stone, according to officials, but some mixed use development including retail and residential is expected by the commission.

The UG has owned the 40-year-old Indian Springs mall and property since 2007, and it has been virtually vacant for decades, with some government offices located there. An earlier attempt to redevelop it in early 2009 as a retail area with a look that reminded one of Prescott Plaza did not go anywhere. The economy at that time was still somewhat weak. Another idea that had been suggested earlier for Indian Springs was a big community aquatic and fitness center; however, with its location at the intersection of I-70 and I-635, Indian Springs still remains an ideal retail location, and the commission opted for the retail-mixed use development.

Under the two-year agreement, Lane4 will serve as a exclusive broker and market the property to potential retailers, and it also can seek out developers for other parts of the Indian Springs property.  As the owner, the UG still would have control over what is approved for the property.  The types of tenants, according to the agreement, include categories such as grocery stores, department  stores, junior box stores, small shops, restaurants, banks and other businesses, and possibly senior living, apartments, flex space, governmental facilities, industrial, office or other uses.

“After talking with representatives of Lane4, I have gained lot of confidence in their vision and we can work together very well on the overall development of this property,” Walters said on April 28.

It is a good thing for expectations to be high for the Indian Springs redevelopment project, and the local government is to be commended for not giving up on redeveloping it. Lane4 is in a good position, constantly working with retailers around the metro area, to find good tenants for the property.   It will be a great adventure and a great task to do another excellent development at Indian Springs, and we wish them success.

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

A sketch from Lane4 presented an option for Indian Springs redevelopment.
A sketch from Lane4 presented an option for Indian Springs redevelopment.

Recent tragedy points to need for more gun control

Opinion column

Window on the West
by Mary Rupert
Like almost everyone in the Kansas City area, I was shocked by the events of Sunday, April 13, when three persons were killed in a shooting near the Jewish Community Center parking lot in Overland Park, Kan.

It’s important for community members to continue their efforts for the good of others, without fear.

The tragic events point not only to a need for more education of children on accepting others who may be different from them (especially education from parents on accepting others), it also points to a need for more limitations on guns that seem to be growing in numbers and are everywhere in today’s world.

Unfortunately, Kansas seems to be moving in the opposite direction, toward allowing people to carry guns everywhere.

You’ll never convince me that this is the civilized thing to do. Civilized people settle their differences in a calmer manner, without weapons. They sit down and negotiate their differences. They may go to court if necessary. They get a law passed. They write letters to the editor. They don’t need to take the law into their own hands. They don’t need guns.

To carry a gun around (if you are not a law enforcement officer) is to take a step backwards toward a more uncivilized life.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com. If you have an opinion on current events in the Kansas City area and you want to share it with other readers, send it to news@wyandottepublishing.com.