Bonner Springs’s top stories of 2012
Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith notes in his column this week that 2012 was a bit of a “bummer.”
This probably holds true for the communities of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville, with their fair share of troublesome issues and few big, flashy, new things. But there was a little bit of good to go along with the bad, and the year saw some important milestones and developments.
The following is The Chieftain’s list of the top 10 stories of 2012, in no particular order:
Hollywood Casino falls a bit short of expectations
At the beginning of the year, the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway opened to much fanfare Feb. 3. But city officials in Bonner Springs and Edwardsville soon determined that in its inaugural year, their small portions of the state’s casino revenues were going to be even smaller than the casino had projected.
Before the casino opened, it was estimated that Bonner Springs’ annual share of the revenues would be about $1 million, while Edwardsville would receive about $557,100 each year.
Things seemed positive in April when Bonner and Edwardsville received their first casino revenue payments of $70,811 and $44,838, respectively, reflecting the opening month.
But revenues from the following months were lower, prompting the city of Bonner Springs to take a conservative stance in its 2013 budget projections, planning on just $40,000 of revenues each month, or $480,000 for the year. Edwardsville’s 2013 budget was slightly less conservative, estimating $405,000 in revenues.
A change in plans for K-7
In April, the city of Olathe offered up a surprise, pulling out of thememorandom of understanding with the Kansas Department of Transportation concerning Kansas Highway 7’s future as a freeway.
The move caused Bonner Springs, which has long had doubts about the freeway plan, to consider changing its memorandum with the state. The city council had several discussions on the topic, while at the same time asking the state to do something to address safety along the highway, particularly at Kansas Avenue, until funding becomes available for interchanges.
In the end, the city council decided completely abandoning support of the state’s freeway plans for Kansas Highway 7 may not be the best option after all. The council agreed that it would ask for several conditions, such as actual traffic counts, to be met before the Kansas Department of Transportation moves forward with construction of an interchange at Kansas Avenue or 130th Street.
The council approved a resolution stating its desire for the changes in the memorandum of understanding in November.
City founder’s descendents visit Tiblow Days festival
After briefly visiting Bonner Springs’ biggest annual festival last year, Henry Tiblow’s descendents — brothers Doug and Duane Tiblow and their cousin, Sam Tiblow — were invited back to the 2012 Tiblow Days to serve as honorary parade grand marshals. They also presented the city with a Pendleton Indian Blanket.
Bonner Springs was originally named Tiblow in honor of Henry Tiblow, a Delaware Indian who operated a ferry across the Kansas River. Doug Tiblow said his family first learned about the important role their ancestor played in the Bonner Springs area in 1998, when the city’s Centennial Committee found Henry Tiblow’s grave in Oklahoma and paid to have his headstone replaced.
Cities seek sales taxes
In the Presidential Election year, while people across the nation were deciding between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Bonner Springs and Edwardsville were asking their residents to consider quarter-cent sales taxes to support city capital items.
Bonner Springs asked for the renewal of its Emergency Services Sales Tax, which has supported police, fire and EMS services and, most importantly, funds debt payments on the recently renovated and expanded Fire/EMS Station.
Edwardsville asked its residents to consider two sales taxes: one to fund parks and recreation improvements, the other to fund items for the fire and police departments.
Neither city had much of an indication of how the votes would come in for the taxes, as there was little to no turnout at informational meetings the cities held.
When the votes were tallied, with 59 percent of registered voters in Wyandotte County casting ballots, Bonner’s sales tax renewal passed with more than 57 percent of the vote, while both of Edwardsville’s sales tax questions failed, with about 56 percent of voters casting ballots in opposition to each tax.
Apartment complex developments move forward
Bonner Springs and Edwardsville each saw plans move forward for apartment developments in their cities.
In February, the Edwardsville City Council approved resolutions to make some changes in a development agreement with Raintree 1 LLC for the 510-unit, $50 million apartment complex at 1300 S. 94th Street that the city first approved, after much protesting from residents, in 2007.
Then in April, the council approved a revised preliminary site plan increasing the total number of apartments to 592 unites and showing different configurations of apartment buildings for the two-phase development.
Developers at the time said they hoped to begin construction this year, but Mike Webb, Edwardsville city manager, said to his knowledge, developers currently are still confirming financing for the project.
Much like the Edwardsville development, many Bonner Springs residents protested rezoning property for the Village at Deerfield, a 232-unit, gated complex proposed by Bonner Springs developer Guy Tiner at Kansas Avenue and 132nd Street.
The city’s planning commission and city council both approved the rezoning in January and February, respectively, despite protests. A final plat for the new complex has yet to come before the council for approval.
Economic developments slowly continue for each city
In addition to the apartment complexes, Bonner and Edwardsville had a few other indications of more economic development in 2012.
In July, Bonner Springs approved a second Community Improvement District to cover the rest of the shopping center for which the city’s first district was approved, on the southwest corner of Kansas Avenue and Kansas Highway 7. The district would use tax increment financing and an increased sales tax help the same developer, David Christie, purchase and renovate the remainder of the shopping center.
Bonner Springs also saw the opening of an AutoZone store in October on the northeast corner of Kansas Avenue and K-7.
In August, the Wyandotte County Economic Development Council announced that the company Xpedx and its 180 employees would relocate to the Edwardsville Industrial Park. The Edwardsville council approved Industrial Revenue Bonds for Xpedx’s request to build a 280,000 square-foot distribution facility.
Google Fiber’s expansion won’t include Bonner, Edwardsville
As Google Fiber began asking residents in Kansas City, Kan., and then Kansas City, Mo., to sign up in advance for its service, residents in Bonner Springs and Edwardsville began to ask, what about us?
Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith and Edwardsville Mayor John “Tiny” McTaggart met in early September with Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Joe Reardon and Google officials to discuss the possibility of expanding to the rest of Wyandotte County.
The cities thought they deserved consideration because the county’s Unified Government was the one to originally attract the high-speed internet and cable services to the area.
But the cities learned expansion was a matter of utility providers. Google had agreements with BPU and Kansas City Power & Light to use their utility poles in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., but the company wasn’t ready at this time to work out an agreement with Westar Energy, which serves Bonner and Edwardsville.
“I wouldn’t look forward to seeing Google out here in the near future,” Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith said.
School district searches for new superintendent
In November, USD 204 Superintendent Robert VanMaren announced he planned to retire at the end of the school year.
With the district for 21 years, and serving as superintendent since 1996, VanMaren said over the past two years, he and the school board had ongoing disagreements concerning the direction the district should pursue, and as a result, the board elected not to extend his employment contract, resulting in his retirement.
The school board then announced plans for its search for a new superintendent, guided by the Kansas Association of School Boards, and on Dec. 12, they offered a community forum to gather input from patrons on what they should look for in a new superintendent.
The end of the Clausie decade
Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith announced in early December that he would not run for a sixth term.
Smith, 75, explained the decision had nothing to do with his health; it is just “time to do something else.” He said he is proud of all that the city has accomplished during his tenure.
“It’s been a wonderful 10 years ... and I’ve loved it,” he said. “But there comes a time in everyone’s life where you have to give something up, and I decided this is the time.”
In addition to Smith’s retirement, 2012 noted some other memorable milestones.
Carol Geary also retired from Vaughn-Trent Community Services after serving as its director for more than a decade.
It was the 10th year for Kaw Valley Relay for Life, which gathers together residents from Basehor, Bonner Springs and Shawnee to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
Bonner Springs Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6401 had its 25th Annual Horseshoe Pitching Tournament in August at Bonner’s South Park. Participants came from all over Kansas.
For the first time in school history, the Bonner Springs High School journalism students were named 2012 state champions in May, winning the Kansas Scholastic Press Association’s 2012 4A sweepstakes. Students competed in 20 categories, including 11 contests in which they entered pieces in graphic design, photography and videos, and nine on-site writing and editing categories.
Editor’s note: The top sports stories of 2012 will be featured in next week’s issue of The Chieftain.