Mayor Sly James

This time last year our city was beaming with pride as we cheered on the Kansas City Royals to the World Series. Now we’re wearing our outfits for Red Friday and cheering on our beloved Chiefs. It’s my hope that all Kansas Citians feel this same great source of pride when thinking of their city. We have so many things to be proud of around here!

This fall, my office joined with Turn the Page KC to host a GradNation Summit presented by America’s Promise Alliance to address the problem of student mobility in Kansas City. The summit brought together key stakeholders and revealed never-been-done-before data analysis on the extent and patterns of student mobility and its impact on student attendance, achievement and graduation. During the event, stakeholders created community solutions to curbing chronic mobility and absences. Over the next months, Turn the Page KC will continue convening groups to work on these solutions. For more information, visit: http://turnthepagekc.org/mobility/.

Recently, my office hosted WE 2.0, a first-of-its-kind mini-conference that brought together professionals in the private, public and nonprofit sectors to develop solutions for issues affecting women in the workplace. These issues included family-friendly workplace policies, funding opportunities for women-led businesses, and how to attract and develop women leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-related fields. We also issued a call-to-action for Million Women Mentors, a national effort to find both male and female mentors for girls interested in STEM fields. If you would like to become a mentor, visit MillionWomenMentors.org to find local opportunities.

As the year winds down, I feel more confident than ever in our city’s ability to accomplish great things and I can’t wait to watch the growth and creativity take place!

Sylvester "Sly" James

Wei Sun

Adaptive signals sense traffic flow

Stoplights along the streetcar route will use the latest technology to improve the experience of driving downtown for residents. Thanks to a new artificial intelligence system, the green-yellow-red cycle will fluctuate with real-time traffic throughout the day, especially during peak events like rush hour.

“It’s a new way of thinking about stoplights,” says Wei Sun, city traffic engineer. “Cities all over the country are beginning to use this concept at intersections. The computer calculates the service to each approach based on demand and priority.” It’s called adaptive signal technology, and here’s how it works. When one stoplight senses an unusually large volume of cars, it immediately relays that information to other stoplights along the line. Those stoplights then stay green for a longer period of time than usual. This sensing is accomplished through cameras, but not the kind that record videos.

Sun says downtown motorists should notice a difference by the end of November when the City expects to finish upgrading or replacing 21 stoplights on a 2-mile stretch of Main Street. If you happen to be in a lone vehicle at a cross street, you may have to wait for the equivalent of a double stoplight cycle before your direction gets the green go-ahead signal. Or, you may not wait at all—it depends on the traffic volume at that moment.

When the new streetcar starts rolling, City officials will work with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority to keep the impact on other vehicles as minimal as possible. “Our goal is a smooth progression,” Sun says.

In addition to the new “smart” stoplights, he and his team currently maintain another 630 signals. Each costs $320,000 to design, construct and inspect, with most of the money spent on underground wiring and computerized traffic control boxes. Then there are poles, manholes and crosswalks with their ramps, striping and push buttons.

Sun’s team often responds to requests from residents who want a crosswalk, stop sign or lower speed limit in their neighborhoods. “We want a sign to make the streets safer for our kids,” they say. “How much could that cost?”

It’s not just the cost, he explains. Such requests trigger an 8-hour analysis of visibility, traffic volume, accident reports and the gap between vehicles. If these factors don’t measure up to federal requirements, then his hands are tied.

Strict standardization came about because in the early days of motor travel, many roads were kept up by private automobile clubs with their own set of signs, usually designed to promote the highway rather than public safety. Conflicts were frequent, with as many as 11 different clubs erecting signs on the same highway. Now the Federal Highway Administration specifies the rules for traffic signs, road surface markings and signals.

“The pattern of traffic is always changing,” Sun says. “It’s all about creating a safe environment.”

Tom Hobley and Andrew Bracker

From corner lots that once held gas stations and dry cleaners to multi-acre industrial sites, cities are full of problematic real estate. Known as brownfields, these abandoned or underused land parcels often are located in economically depressed urban areas.

“People are scared of taking on contaminated property and dealing with all the regulations that come with it,” says Andy Bracker, the City’s brownfield coordinator. “That’s a large part of why my work exists.”

Bracker and Tom Hobley, a development specialist in City Planning and Development, are responsible for identifying contaminated land, managing cleanup programs and assisting neighborhoods and developers to get properties functional again. “We take something that has not been used for a pretty long time and make it usable,” Hobley sums up. But that’s not an easy job.

“Some projects have an almost unimaginable amount of red tape,” says Bracker, whose degrees in chemistry, politics and environmental law provide a helpful triad of talents in wading through the paperwork. “Tom and I have become experts in all this.”

“All this” includes writing and managing grants, working with lenders and investors, arranging soil and ground water samples, operating a revolving loan fund for developers, and encouraging sustainable reuse.

A project usually begins with Bracker applying for grants from EPA’s Brownfields Program, either for stand-alone City parcels or in cooperation with Jackson County or adjacent cities and counties. He’s good at this— since 1996 the City has secured over $21 million and has supported others in getting an additional $38 million in brownfields-related funding from federal and state sources. These funds have helped create or retain thousands of jobs and stimulated more than $300 million in new investment while helping leverage another $1 billion.

Once funding is in place, contractors are selected to assess the property for toxins like asbestos, lead, arsenic and other pollutants. Cleanup may involve removing dirt, scraping paint or digging up old tanks for deposit in an approved hazardous waste landfill. Sometimes the best solution is to simply note a potential problem exists and leave it undisturbed. And sometimes after walking the site and checking records, the property is deemed safe for development with no action needed. But that doesn’t often happen.

“There’s usually something there between half and 75 percent of the time,” Hobley says. “Whether it’s enough to be considered hazardous is a different story.” One such story involves the Municipal Farm, a large property that once housed heating oil tanks, farm equipment, a firing range, a concrete plant and a storehouse for rat poison and other chemicals.

“It was a real brownfield challenge. We couldn’t think about how to redevelop it until we had an assessment,” says Bracker. He arranged for EPA to test five priority sites and fortunately no significant levels of contaminants were found. Now the land is being developed for a new Eastwood Hills community garden, a Boys Grow urban agriculture initiative and a commercial greenhouse.

“Those deals wouldn’t have happened unless we had done the science,” Bracker says. “It’s been amazing to see the amount of interest that site has been gaining on a national level.”

Both Bracker and Hobley get a kick out of driving past former brownfields that now have new purposes. “It’s a real satisfying feeling to see a new wing on a school for troubled kids or a grocery store on a site where one never stood before,” says Bracker. “The ripples that come from such projects are tremendous.”

Whitney Williams

Strengthening families through home visits

As a public health nurse working with at-risk young mothers, Whitney Williams gives away a lot of stuff: books, magazines, diapers, baby toys and childcare advice. But just as importantly, she gives hope.

“I was a teen mom and now I work with a lot of teens,” she says. “No one’s situation is identical, but I kind of see myself in these moms.”

Williams, who studied cosmetology in high school, had always been attracted to the health field and still keeps a treasured Doctor Barbie Doll in her living room. At times she worked three jobs at once before eventually making her way through college to earn a bachelor’s degree in science and nursing. She joined the Health Department a little over a year ago and is one of five nurses in the Nurse-Family Partnership program.

Described as “a life-changing program that combines compassion with science,” the partnership provides regular home visits by nurses to qualifying first-time mothers. The visits begin while they are still pregnant and continue until their babies reach age two. Nutrition, health, education, home life and discipline are discussed, and during each visit the young moms can direct the conversation toward any issues they are experiencing.

“We plan each day, but we can’t always keep those plans,” Williams says, explaining that many of the mothers have no permanent residence. “There are always surprises. We’re like a nurse, psychiatrist, counselor and social worker—all of that.”

Williams says she isn’t required to answer her work phone after hours, but she does anyway. The mothers are both proud and anxious to talk. “Look at what my baby is doing,“ they tell her. “When can we meet again?” they ask.

Williams speaks both English and Spanish, thanks to growing up with relatives from the Dominican Republic and Cuba. This comes in handy when working with Latina moms. Typical visits include demonstrations on how to bathe and swaddle a baby and what developmental steps are normal. She charts the infants’ social and motor skills as well as height and weight. “The babies get to know me, and it’s fun seeing them learn to walk and talk,” she says. “I love it.”

Although she and the other nurses in the program generally make house visits, sometimes they invite their clients to the Health Department’s building on Troost Avenue for special events like scrapbooking, Mother’s Day celebrations and simple crafts. In the future the nurses plan to offer cooking classes using the nutritional items the moms receive from the federal Women, Infants and Children Program.

Williams is now raising two sons and a nephew—all with very different personalities. “That’s helped me with the program,” she says. “I’m more understanding when the moms talk about their children’s behavior.”

The Nurse-Family Partnership receives funding from a variety of sources and serves about 100 women in Kansas City, with each nurse assigned to 25 clients. There is a waiting list for the program, which is called “life-changing” on its website at www.nursefamilypartnership.org. “We help a girl change into a woman and a mother. It’s like a metamorphosis,” says a quote from one nurse.

Williams agrees with that statement, which is based on evidence from 30 years of follow-up studies. “Most people don’t realize how much the children have benefitted from the program until they begin school,” she says. “I know we’re doing a service for the community.”

Doug Bossert

Creating housing, saving history

Decked out in a hard hat with a clipboard and cell phone, Doug Bossert climbs over a pile of rubble and surveys the progress of several rooms being framed. He snaps a quick photo of a 5-foot-high stack of sheetrock to verify its delivery, then turns down a wide hallway and peers out a window. “The elevator is going there—on the outside,” he says. That’s because as many original features as possible are being preserved at Faxon Elementary, a historic school that dates back to 1910.

School has been out for a long time at its 3710 Paseo Blvd. address. Now the handsome brick and block Classical Revival building with arched doorways is being converted into 46 affordable senior housing apartments. Some units will retain chalkboards on the walls, original hardwood floors and 12-foot-high ceilings. Much of the old wood trim will be removed, refinished and reinstalled; a former nurse’s office and a school stage will remain as common areas.

The City managed a similar school conversion last year at the nearby Seven Oaks Estates. The project received a Community Catalyst Award from Historic Kansas City, and a waiting list for its 44 senior housing apartments began before the doors even opened. While no City funds are being used to convert a third school, Bancroft, the City plans to improve the surrounding neighborhood with rehabbed and new affordable housing. Additional low income housing projects are planned or underway on the 3800 block of Cypress Avenue (Oak Point duplexes), the 5400 block of Mersington Avenue (Cleveland Heights Senior Apartments) and 1101 Admiral Blvd. (Rose Hill Townhomes).

These types of projects usually involve a mix of local and federal funds, often combined with historic and low income tax credits. It’s a complicated undertaking that involves partnerships with the Kansas City Public Schools, the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority and outside contractors. “There’s not a single deal that’s alike,” Bossert says. “Some are pretty well-oiled while others take a lot of hand holding.”

Bossert is an economic development finance professional in the Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department who joined the City 18 years ago. His experience includes carpentry, selling building materials and managing a lumberyard. He wanted to stay in the construction business, “but didn’t want to be swinging a hammer at 50 years old.” Now he handles tasks such as loan origination, underwriting, contract management and compliance.

“You can see why I love this,” he says. “I like the challenge, and ultimately these projects are something that really makes a difference.”

During a conversion project like Faxon, Bossert meets with contractors at the construction site at least once a month to discuss change orders, inspections and general progress of work crews which include women and minority-owned small businesses. All materials and redesigns must be approved by the state’s Historical Preservation Office.

Many residents have no idea the City is so involved in housing, says Bossert, who has helped develop hundreds of affordable multifamily housing units valued at more than $170 million during his career. But the repurposing of old schools and commercial buildings goes beyond merely providing places to live. It also creates jobs and stabilizes neighborhoods.

“It’s a very satisfying experience,” he says. “I’ve got the best job in the city.”

FY16 City Council group shot

BACK ROW: JOLIE JUSTUS, SCOTT TAYLOR, LEE BARNES, JR., DAN FOWLER, HEATHER HALL, TERESA LOAR, JERMAINE REED, KATHERYN SHIELDS.
FRONT ROW: KEVIN McMANUS, SCOTT WAGNER, MAYOR SLY JAMES, ALISSIA CANADY, QUINTON LUCAS.

Meet the members of Kansas City’s new City Council. These representatives were sworn in last August and will serve through July 2019. Their committee appointments are listed, followed by their office phone numbers and legislative aides.

Mayor Sly James presides at business and legislative meetings of the City Council, chairs the Youth Development Committee and is a member of the Legislative Committee, and Legal and Ethics Review Committee. 816-513-3500 or mayor@kcmo.org

Scott Wagner, 1st District at-large, serves as Mayor Pro Tem, chairs the Finance and Governance Committee and is a member of the Housing Committee. 816-513-6503 or kimberly.randolph@kcmo.org

Heather Hall, 1st District, is vice chair of the Small Business, Entrepreneurship and jobs Committee and a member of three additional committees: Neighborhoods and Public Safety; Planning, Zoning and Economic Development; and Youth Development. 816-513-6505 or markus.smith@kcmo.org

Teresa Loar, 2nd District at-large, chairs the Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Jobs Committee and serves on three additional committees: Legislative, Housing and Airport. 816-513-6507 or lisa.minardi@kcmo.org

Dan Fowler, 2nd District, chairs the Ethics and Legal Review Committee, is vice chair of the Housing Committee and the Airport Committee and a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 816-513-6509 or amy.justis@kcmo.org

Quinton Lucas, 3rd District at-large, chairs the Housing Committee and serves on Neighborhoods and Public Safety; Planning, Zoning and Economic Development; Transportation and Infrastructure; and Airport. 816-513-6511 or timothy.holman@kcmo.org

Jermaine Reed, 3rd District, chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and serves on the Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Jobs Committee. 816-513-6513 or shontrice.patillo@kcmo.org

Katheryn Shields, 4th District at-large, is vice chair of two committees, Neighborhoods and Public Safety and Youth Development, and a member of two committees; Legislative, and Planning, Zoning and Economic Development. 816-513-6515 or le’shyeka.roland@kcmo.org

Jolie Justus, 4th District, chairs the Airport Committee and serves on three others: Finance and Governance; Legislative; and Transportation and Infrastructure. 816-513-6517 or alec.kelley@kcmo.org

Lee Barnes, Jr., 5th District at-large, is vice chair of the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee serves on the Finance and Governance Committee and the Youth Development Committee. 816-513-6519 or keema.mccoy@kcmo.org

Alissia Canady, 5th District, chairs the Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee; is vice chair of the Ethics and Legal Review Committee; and a member of two additional committees: Housing; and Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Jobs. 816-513-6521 or sheila.bowren@kcmo.org

Scott Taylor, 6th District at-large, chairs the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee and serves on the Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Jobs Committee. 816-513-6523 or katrina.foster@kcmo.org

Kevin McManus, 6th District, is vice chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and co-chair of the Legislative Committee. He also serves on Finance and Governance; and Ethics and Legal Review. 816-513-6525 or fred.wickham@kcmo.org

A full moon night with no clouds could save dollars in the future. That’s one possibility as Kansas City moves ahead with plans to become a state-of-the-art smart city. In an ongoing pilot project in the River Market area, streetlights have been programmed with sensors to automatically adjust for the environment. Clear evenings with lots of moonlight require less artificial light (and energy) than cloudy, rainy conditions.

Another project might involve sensors placed on trash dumpsters to let City staff know when they need to be emptied and when they’re only half full, allowing for more efficient, streamlined pickup services. Meanwhile, Sprint is building a free public Wi-Fi system along Main Street and the City is planning a sequence of 25 interactive kiosks so residents and visitors can access information about downtown attractions and make 311 service requests and reports.

These improvements and others like them are part of a movement that uses advances in technology to change the way cities work. The “smart” sensors, conduits and gadgets are intriguing, but the real power will come from how citizens use the information they provide to make their lives better.

Kansas City leaders will focus at first on the area along the 2.2-mile downtown streetcar line. An advisory board was organized in August to guide development of this smart city project that involves a $15.7 million public-private partnership between Kansas City and several technology companies. As the advisory board continues to meet, members will concentrate on three main points:

  • how to deliver city services more efficiently
  • how to enhance citizens’ interactions with the city
  • how to promote entrepreneurship and economic development

“There’s a ‘living lab’ component to all this,” says Chris Hernandez, director of the City Communications Office, who notes that Cisco Systems Inc., Sprint, Think Big Partners and other private companies are investing about $12 million in the project while Kansas City contributes $3.7 million. Entrepreneurs will be able to use the open data to develop practical applications for local citizens, guests and companies.

“Cisco chose us partly because the 2-mile streetcar route is a perfectly-sized opportunity to test the future,” Hernandez says. “We looked at what streetcar cities like Barcelona and Portland are doing and asked how we can make it better. We’re getting the highest level of technology available. Whatever works here will be what other communities want.”

He says the “living lab” is not a physical thing, but a concept that involves collecting big data for sorting into meaningful trends. Some examples might include: tracking parking issues for better regulation of parking spaces during heavily-trafficked events; tracking pedestrian density for police security needs; detecting leaks in City water lines; and tracking air quality and weather trends for storm cleanup needs and environmental assurance.

“Almost anyone can dive into this data. That’s where the innovation comes from,” Hernandez says. “We don’t know yet what’s going to be produced, and that’s what is so exciting.”

City leaders do expect one likely outcome: New technology will provide the means to write better laws and ordinances and more fairly enforce them.

Over the winter a lot of decisions will be made “fast and furious,” Hernandez says. “Our goal is to have smart city technology be part of the streetcar experience from day one.”

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Kansas City officials are proud of the open data catalog (data.kcmo.org) that allows residents to view the most up to date information on various City expenses and statistics. They’re proud, too, that it inspired a unique art exhibit last summer.

“The Art of Data” made its grand opening on a First Friday in June in the Crossroads Arts District. Ten local artists and creative teams answered a call to reinterpret charts, graphs and maps used in actual meetings at City Hall into a new art form. The exhibit was a joint project of the Office of Culture and Creative Services and the Office of Performance Management.

Some of the data the artists focused on included homicide rates, citizen satisfaction surveys, the economic impact of the streetcar and 311 service calls. The charts and graphs are beautiful in themselves, say City officials, who laud the way they help convey visual information when hard decisions need to be made about solving problems and spending tax money. But adding an artistic spin sparks an even greater awareness and connection to City services while attracting more input to the discussion of what items should be priorities.

ETC Institute, a market research firm, and Socrata, a cloud software company that maintains the City’s open data catalog, helped provide funding for the exhibit. Socrata is now interested in taking the show on the road. Meanwhile, other cities are calling to ask how Kansas City’s show was organized. More information and a short video about the exhibit can be found at kcmo.gov/artofdata.

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A high-tech van is driving the streets of Kansas City this fall, aiming lasers and video cameras along roadways in order to gather scientific data on pavement quality and catalog various structures in the public rights of way. The data will be used to help determine priorities for repaving.

“It’s pretty amazing what this thing can do,” says Tom Viviano. “We’re getting three years of survey data in three months, and it’s much more complete than anything our field crews could collect.”

Viviano is leader of the Asset Management Team in the City’s Public Works Department. His team is working with Stantec, a pavement assessment firm which owns the sensor-laden van that is traveling on each of the City’s 6,400 lane miles of roadway.

The van bounces lasers off the pavement to record potholes, depths of cracks and places with extensive wear. Meanwhile, cameras on top of the vehicle record City assets in the public rights of way, logging the location of every catch basin, traffic sign and streetlight.

“Once this survey’s done, we’ll be able to create a virtual map of the City’s streets,” Viviano says. “We’ve got 50-year old assets in the right of way that we don’t know about until we’re doing a project in an area or we get a call to repair them. This will give us an inventory of where we are now and help us figure out where to go next.”

According to City Engineer Jeff Martin, this inventory is important because, “Street maintenance is all about forecasting.” He says the high quality data from the survey will help the department keep ahead of potential problems by planning five or ten years into the future.

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A traveling electric van is the newest way for residents to interact with City officials. The van made its debut in summer at First Fridays in the Crossroads. Since then it has visited two community centers, the national La Raza conference, the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council and the Health Department’s Back to School Fair.

Acquired with a grant by the City’s Environmental Quality Office, the van recently was repurposed as a unique way to provide various City services after that grant program ended.

“It’s not just for 311 requests,” says Jean Ann Lawson, operations manager in the City Manager’s Office. “We’ll be there to take those, but we’ll also show people how to do things online like pay water bills. We plan to alternate having representatives ride along from different departments and divisions like Municipal Court, Neighborhood Preservation, Water Services, and Animal Health and Public Safety.”

The City Manager’s Office will use data from the annual Citizen Satisfaction Survey to identify problem areas—places where a particular service is not as well known or operating as smoothly as possible. At some locations the employees staffing the mobile visits will include a bilingual speaker. Future riders might even include City Manager Troy Schulte or City Council members on board for a tweet-along.

The van will continue its goal of taking City Hall to the residents and providing easier access to services by setting up shop at various community centers and special events. If you’d like more information about the van and where it will stop next, please contact Diana Smith, 311 Call Center manager, at 513-6564 or diana.smith@kcmo.org.

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It’s easy now

No ticket number handy? No problem. It’s easy now to search online for information about a Municipal Court case or to pay a fine. New upgrades to the system allow customers to look up cases in six different ways:

  • Name and date of birth
  • Ticket number
  • Driver’s license number and state
  • License plate number and state
  • Name and docket date
  • Bond number

The new system only displays open cases in active, probation or warrant status meeting the particular search criteria. It does not show cases that have been completed and closed, even though they may be open records according to the Missouri Sunshine Law. But by the end of the year, there should be even more enhanced public viewing of cases online.

Court Administrator Megan Pfannenstiel says the system upgrade should result in fewer questions for the City’s 311 Call Center as well as fewer trips to the courthouse just to look up court dates and bond information by defendants, bonding agents and attorneys.

Other changes designed to make the Municipal Court more convenient include a Time to Pay Plan which allows installment payments on court fines (partial payments do need to be pre-approved and made at the courthouse or by mail) and e-receipt options for those who pay their tickets online.

For more information, please visit www.kcmo.gov/pay or www.kcmo.gov/court or contact 816-513-2700 or visit the Violations Bureau on the first floor of the courthouse at 1101 Locust St., Kansas City.

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Do you have any old electronics you no longer use? If your answer is yes, join the crowd. According to Time Magazine, Americans throw out more than 350,000 cell phones and 130,000 computers every day.

Most of these unwanted devices are sent to landfills or to recyclers who export them to developing countries where they can poison workers and pollute communities. Kansas City is proud to announce a better alternative. The city is now recognized as an e-Stewards® Enterprise. This means we’ve joined a global commitment with other cities, counties and companies to use certified e-Stewards recyclers to manage our electronic waste.

Already there is one local e-Stewards recycling company (Surplus Exchange) and City leaders are working to help other businesses achieve the same status. Not only is this is the right thing to do for the environment, they say. It comes with a bonus—some unwanted electronics can be refurbished and put to use in schools and community centers to help narrow the digital divide.

The e-Stewards trademark is the world’s most rigorous standard, and is endorsed by more than 70 environmental groups. Created by the nonprofit Basal Action Network, it requires strict rules for the security of private data stored in electronics while ensuring worker protection and responsible disposal so that lead, mercury and other toxic materials don’t leach into the water and soil.

A complete list of e-Stewards Enterprises and certified recyclers is available at www.e-stewards.org.

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Lift, pull, push, bend. The majority of the City’s 4,250 employees face a variety of physical demands in their jobs. It’s important to hire people who are capable of performing the work. It’s just as important to know when employees are able to safely resume normal work duties after an injury occurs.

That’s why Eric Hallerud’s division, Corporate Safety and Risk Management, has begun a comprehensive study of all non-clerical jobs in the City. Partnering with Thomas McGee L.C., the City’s insurance claims processor for workers’ compensation, his division has engaged licensed physical therapists to verify the demands required of specific work tasks. The therapists use instruments to measure the forces involved in handling objects as diverse as manhole covers, large stray dogs and bags of concrete.

“It’s all very scientific,” Hallerud says. “Otherwise, it’s just a guessing game.”

The first department being examined is Aviation, with Water Services close behind. Hallerud’s team will document requirements to safely perform the top 10 most hazardous jobs in each area before moving on to the next. Less hazardous jobs will be assessed later. The entire project, expected to take about 18 months, will be updated as job duties change or as new technology provides safer ways to work. For example, heavy iron manhole covers along the runways at the Kansas City International Airport once were lifted with a crowbar when the maintenance staff needed to access the electrical lighting system. Now a magnetized pole on a sturdy tripod makes the lifting easier.

Once the work task analysis is completed, the City will use it as a screening tool by requiring a pre-employment or post-injury physical exam by an approved physician. “There will be some expense involved for the exam, but it will save us money in the long run,” says Hallerud, who notes that job-related surgeries routinely run into the thousands of dollars. “We don’t want to be hiring our next injury and we don’t want to send someone back to a job they’re no longer able to do safely.”

The project comes with a bonus, he says. As tasks continue to be analyzed, the therapists are helping departments discover ways to do jobs more safely and efficiently. “It’s a real plus. We’re establishing best safety practices for the many diverse things that City employees do.”

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When you hear the words audit or auditor, you may think immediately of the IRS or accountants. But the City Auditor’s Office is neither of those. Instead, the office conducts performance audits to help improve operations and strengthen City government’s accountability to the public.

“We go for the projects that use a lot of money and touch a lot of residents,” explains Joan Pu, senior performance auditor. To fully understand the programs they’re auditing, she and her co-workers have toured the City jail, gone on ride-alongs with police officers, visited community centers, listened to 911 calls and sat through special court sessions involving drugs, mental illness and veterans affairs.

After a team researches how a specific program is working and how it can be improved, the office publishes a report and shares it with elected officials, City leaders and residents.

Because Kansas City government provides such a wide range of services and programs—literally A (airport) to Z (zoo), there is no shortage of possibilities to examine. Sometimes audits are required by the City Council, says Douglas Jones, city auditor. However, other topics are inspired by concerns of City management, issues that could affect City operations, what audit offices in similar cities are doing, and suggestions from the public.

Examples of performance audits released during the last two years include the City’s traffic management center, citywide overtime, fire code inspections, police academy fees, testing employees’ response to a phishing email, protection of personally identifiable information, and the accuracy/validity of 311 Call Center data.

The City Auditor’s Office began asking the public for audit topic ideas in 2014. Public suggestions resulted in a performance audit with a recommendation to increase street-related permit fees for special parking, excavations and street closures.

This recommendation from last April could produce an additional half million dollars over the next five years for street paving and traffic control, Jones says.

The city auditor is appointed by, and reports directly to, the mayor and City Council. Unlike most positions, the auditor works independently of the city manager in order to research and report results objectively. The position is supported by 10 highly qualified staff members with advanced degrees in business, public or health services administration; accounting; law; and psychology. Seven staff members also hold one or more professional certifications or licenses.

To see a full list of past audit reports or submit an audit suggestion, visit the City Auditor’s Office website at kcmo.gov/cityauditor or the City’s open data portal. About seven to nine audits are completed each year; check the website or the City’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to see upcoming reports.

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Each year thousands of volunteers contribute to KCMO, making it a safer, healthier and more vibrant place to live. If you’d like to join them, here’s a list of programs that could use your services.

Adopt a street
Contribute to your neighborhood’s health, safety and beauty by keeping trash picked up along the roadside. The City’s Adopt-a-Street program welcomes groups that agree to pick up litter at least four times a year along a section of street between one-half and 2 miles long. Litter bags and safety guidelines are provided. Contact Irene Lacy in the Public Works Department at irene.lacy@kcmo.org or 816-513-6994.

Adopt a trail
The City maintains 72 miles of shared use trails. Individuals, friends, families or co-workers are invited to help keep these trails clear and accessible. Volunteers are needed to clear overgrown brush and tree limbs, pick up litter, and spread mulch and seed—for a one-time event or on a regular basis. Parks maintenance staff provide tools and materials. Sign up for a trail work day by contacting Forest Decker in the City’s Parks and Recreation Department at forest.decker@kcmo.org or 816-513-7523.

Airport ambassadors
Visitors often arrive at the Kansas City International Airport with questions about baggage pickup, rental cars, taxis, restaurants and attractions. Airport ambassadors are volunteers who provide answers, as well as friendly tips on how to enjoy a stay in the metro area. Participants work a four-hour shift each week and receive free parking and other benefits. Contact Angela Carey, coordinator, at angela.carey@kcmo.org or 816-243-5259.

Animal lovers
When animals are rescued by officers from the Animal Health and Public Safety Division, they’re delivered to the City’s animal shelter, the largest in the metro area. It’s also the third largest open admission, no-kill shelter in the nation. The City contracts with a nonprofit group called KC Pet Project to run the shelter, and Teresa Johnson, executive director, says more than 10,000 animals a year come through its doors.

Ways to volunteer include: Walk dogs, play with cats and help with the daily canine outside playgroup or administrative tasks at the main shelter, 4400 Raytown Rd. Help with animals at pet adoption centers at Zona Rosa shopping center and the 95th Street Petco pet center Feed, clean and play with five to six cats one morning a week (about one hour) at any local Petco store Greet people and answer questions at special adoption events and community festivals Help with yard work, landscaping, cleanup and/or donation drives for pet food and supplies (these activities are great for a group project)

An orientation session is required for hands-on work with animals. Contact Kelly Walsh at kelly.walsh@kcmo.org or 816-513-9829.

Bicycle enthusiasts
Once a year (either in late fall or spring) the City’s Bike KC program counts traffic and conducts a survey at select intersections. Volunteers who complete a one-hour training course are needed for three-hour shifts. If you’d like to help, contact Deb Ridgway, the City’s bicycle pedestrian coordinator, at deb.ridgway@kcmo.org or 816-513-2592.

Emergency response team
Are you ready for the major disaster we hope never happens and the little emergencies that happen every day? Individuals, families and neighborhoods can learn basic emergency preparedness skills through a free six-week training course for Community Emergency Response Team offered by the City’s Office of Emergency Management. The course emphasizes hands-on practice and concludes with a full scale exercise. Experienced responders from Police, Fire and Health departments as well as Missouri Gas Energy and KCP&L serve as instructors. Contact Jennifer Fales, training/outreach coordinator, at Jennifer.fales@kcmo.org or 816-513-8602.

Partners in Parks
Business teams, sororities, church groups, neighborhood clubs and teenagers often work with the Parks and Recreation Department on service projects as a team building exercise. Their good deeds include restoring playgrounds, repairing woodwork, pruning bushes and removing weeds and invasive plants. Individuals often contribute by mentoring children at community centers or teaching pottery or dance. Terrence Williams is the volunteer coordinator who finds a match between a volunteer’s interests and the department’s needs. Contact him at terrence.williams@kcmo.org or 816-513-7500.

Public health ambassadors
The Health Department recruits residents to pass along important community health information to others in their neighborhood, church or workplace. Volunteers also help with the annual back-to-school immunization push, drive-through flu clinics and emergency preparedness, including a crisis response network being organized to deal with possible large outbreaks of contagious diseases. Contact Lorie Snyder, program coordinator, at lorie.snyder@kcmo.org or 816-513-6211.

Reading mentors
Volunteers with Turn the Page KC usually spend one hour per week reading with a student in kindergarten through third grade at a Kansas City elementary school. Or they can read to a child in a health clinic waiting room or help with summer reading programs. The goal is to make sure all third-graders are reading at grade level—an investment in the city’s future that’s far more important than buildings and equipment, says Mayor Sly James. Information is at http://turnthepagekc.org/ or contact Jordan Frazier, program coordinator, at 816-284-5673 or jfrazier@turnthepagekc.org.

Boards and Commissions
The City is supported by more than 100 boards and commissions on subjects like environmental management, ethnic enrichment, bicycle/pedestrian issues, dog parks and historic preservation. A complete list can be found by visiting kcmo.gov/clerk and clicking on boards and commissions. To apply, visit www.kcmayor.org/?p=403. For more information email Katherine Randolph at katherine.randolph@kcmo.org. In addition, the Mayor’s Office collaborates with the Women’s Foundation (www.womens-foundation.org) on the Appointments Project to help women seeking to serve the community through boards and commissions.

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and received his own “appreciation day”

This is how it’s done. At a time when police departments nationwide are examining how to better interact with the public, Kansas City police officer Jason Cooley is a role model. In his duty as East Patrol community interaction officer, he works with dozens of organizations from community groups to churches to businesses to solve problems and help those in need. He sits on the board of two industrial associations, three advisory community groups and a nonprofit organization.

It’s the same position his father, retired Officer John Cooley, once occupied. Last summer the Missouri Peace Officers Association recognized his “relentless dedication to the community” and named him 2015 Officer of the Year. Cooley, the first KCMO officer to receive the award in more than a decade, was noted for:

  • helping families in need of appliances after they were burglarized
  • arranging for low-income families to get home repairs, including handicap-accessible modifications
  • organizing safety training for employees of targeted businesses

Cooley also established “Coffee with a Cop,” so residents could get to know him and become more comfortable with police officers. He led numerous neighborhood clean-ups and persuaded the City to improve neighborhood lighting and parking problems. He helped with food drives and community celebrations. In fact, he inspired a new celebration last year when the community hosted an “Officer Cooley Appreciation Day.”

“I serve the community as if I were serving God directly, and I am!” Officer Cooley says.

The Missouri Peace Officers Association, established in 1932, is one of the oldest and largest associations of law enforcement personnel in the state of Missouri. The Officer of the Year Award is one of the highest honors a Missouri police officer can receive.

Congratulations, Officer Cooley!

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Kansas City is kind of a big deal when it comes to arts and culture. A “hotbed” is how some describe the local scene. People are buzzing lately about our hundreds of arts-related businesses which include theaters, art galleries, dance and recording studios, comedy clubs and live music venues. Those businesses support more than 15,000 jobs in a growing creative economy.

There’s a power in all this creativity—a force that can enliven public and private spaces, rejuvenate streets and structures, and drive the economy. The City has a multi-year plan for channeling this energy into ways that will make living here more fun and more profitable. Megan Crigger is at the lead.

Crigger joined the City last January to direct the new Office of Culture and Creative Services. So far she’s been cataloguing our creative assets, networking with local organizations and discussing ideas. Assisting with these efforts is Consuelo Cruz, the City’s new arts and marketing coordinator. Accomplishments already underway include:

  • Improved procedures for the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund. Every year Kansas City’s convention and tourism tax provides funding to support festivals and events produced by nonprofits. This year almost $2 million was available for allocation, and that amount continues to increase. Members of some 70 organizations recently attended a series of applicant workshops to learn more about the program.
  • An investigation of affordable live/work arrangements for artists through Artspace, a national leader in the adaptive reuse of historic buildings as well as new construction. In other cities Artspace has developed mixed-use projects, warehouses for artist cooperatives and urban lofts. The organization focuses on deteriorating historic buildings and underused areas with the goal of anchoring arts districts and boosting property values. Representatives visited Kansas City last spring to gather information for a feasibility report and recommend first steps.
  • The launch of a new website, KC Event Hub (www.kceventhub.org), to guide organizers of special events through the City’s outdoor permitting process and to track street closure schedules. This site (“I think it’s brilliant!” says Crigger) grew out of a need to coordinate festivals and events throughout the city and to assist festival organizers with the permit process across multiple departments. The new site centralizes City permit services and ensures residents’ concerns—such as public safety—are addressed. The site also helps publicize events.
  • Promotion of financial literacy for artists through programs like BizCare, the City’s business customer service center; a business needs survey; and workshops. The creative community needs to know about copyrights, business plans, real estate, taxes and purchasing equipment, Crigger says. “So often artists are using crowd-sourcing or grants which are very project-specific. Information like this helps them achieve business stability.”

Ideas still at the talking stage include a signature festival for Kansas City and/or a cultural arts week to showcase cross-disciplinary collaboration in the fields of music, performing arts, visual arts and the technology sector.

Megan Crigger, Mayor James etc

Megan Crigger and Mayor Sly James were invited by John Herron, history professor (top left), and Peter Witte, dean of the Conservatory of Music and Dance, to make a presentation to UMKC students for a class called “The Artist in Society.”

Creative city making
Crigger has been watching a concept known as creative city making take hold across the nation. This movement brings artistic imagination to the civic experience. She’s especially intrigued by an initiative in Minneapolis that embeds community artists within various city departments to generate new perspectives on projects, services and public engagement. She hopes to use that program as a model here. Two possible goals would be to match artists with the City Planning and Development Department to increase participation in local planning processes, and with the Parks and Recreation Department to bring attention to fitness and outdoor activities.

“Kansas City is top in the country in terms of what’s happening artistically. The government’s role is to ensure the environment remains conducive for the creatives to continue to do great work,” Crigger sums up.

“The question is how can we improve access for different groups of people? How can we improve our quality of life? Art is for everyone—it’s just a matter of finding your own personal interest and what excites you.”

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A pilot microloan program for artists began last June when the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City joined with the City to announce short-term loans especially suited for the creative community. The financing is being administered through Justine Petersen, the nation’s largest micro lender with programs that support small businesses.

The new microloans have already filled a funding gap for several small creative businesses. Here are short profiles of three recipients:

Erin McGrane and Jeff Freling are a duo called Victor and Penny who specialize in Prohibition-era and original music. They received a $5,000 loan to spend several weeks recording an album in Nashville. “Our business doesn’t really have collateral since we’re performing artists,” McGrane says. “This is gap funding to help push us through the production phase. It’s exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.” McGrane says the money also will help pay other musicians she and her partner sometimes work with, as well as a local graphic designer and social media experts. “That’s part of what happens when projects are successful,” she notes. “A rising tide lifts all.”

Jon Fulton Adams is a costume and clothing designer who used his $5,000 loan to buy a new silk screen printing setup for a line of menswear he plans to market at trade shows. “I had orders I couldn’t fill with my old setup, and the bank said the amount I was asking for wasn’t worth their time,” he says. Adams works out of a home studio, and hires a team of local seamstresses to produce the clothes after he creates and sews the production models.

A third microloan was issued to Sabrina Staires, a photographer preparing a unique exhibit of floor-to-ceiling silk panels printed with images of an Oklahoma ghost town. Staires uses a special camera to capture surrealistic, impressionistic scenes of landscapes like the empty buildings, streets and fields of Picher, a mining town abandoned when its giant piles of lead mine tailings were deemed hazardous. Part of her loan will pay local craftsmen who prep the silk fabric and print the images for display next spring at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center. She plans to sell some of the pieces and hopes the rest of the collection will become a traveling art show.

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A big step toward closing the digital divide began a few months ago when the White House and Google Fiber announced the launch of a pilot program in Kansas City and 27 other communities throughout the nation.

The program, called ConnectHome, will deliver free Internet hookups for public housing residents to increase digital access for children and low income families. U.S. Congressman Emanual Cleaver, who announced the initiative in July, says access to high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s economy—especially in terms of accessing education and employment opportunities.

Almost three-fourths of students in Kansas City Public Schools have no Internet service in their homes, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Even if their families own a computer, they have no Internet subscription.

The ConnectHome program establishes a partnership between local government, private industry, nonprofits and other interested parties. “It’s a welcome step in the right direction towards bridging the digital divide,” says Rep. Cleaver.

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Throughout the year the Public Works Department improves the roads, bridges and byways of Kansas City. The department’s 387 employees dealt with a range of projects this year:

  • Construction is currently underway on an expansion of North Jackson Avenue. Improvements include curbs, gutters and sidewalks along the roadway from Northeast Vivion Road to the Gladstone city limits. In addition, storm sewer improvements and major reconstruction will update the road to City standards. Construction is scheduled for completion in mid-2016.
  • The Troost Avenue reconstruction project was finished in late summer. New curbs, sidewalks and streetscape elements in selected areas were built along Troost Avenue from 23rd to 30th streets. The northern section, located near the Beacon Hill neighborhood and the University of Missouri-Kansas City schools of Dentistry and Nursing, was designed for walkability and neighborhood interaction while the southern portion focused on street reconstruction.
  • Design work is in progress on Northwest 72nd Street from Interstate 29 to Overland Drive. The project, a partnership with Platte County, involves the building of a three-lane road east of Interstate 29 with curbs, sidewalks and streetlights. Completion is scheduled for 2017.
  • Bids soon will be accepted for the second phase of the 135th Street improvement project. The City previously expanded the roadway to three lanes from Holmes Road to Oak Street; Phase 2 will widen the roadway from Oak Street to Wornall Road, adding curbs and sidewalks, an enclosed drainage system, streetlights and signalized intersections. Work is scheduled to start in early 2016 and end in 2017.
  • The Blue Parkway and Eastwood Trafficway project is currently under construction. The project is designed to replace a structurally deficient bridge at Blue Parkway and Eastwood, while adding a dedicated left turn lane on Blue Parkway and a dedicated right turn lane on Eastwood. The project also calls for traffic signals to be replaced and drainage structures to be improved throughout the area. Sidewalks will be built on the north side of the roadway from Fairway to the intersection of Eastwood Trafficway, and from the intersection of Blue Parkway northeast to the end of the project. Work is scheduled for completion in mid-2017.

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Repairing old and building new

Mark Twain once pondered how to drink river water: let it sit in a glass, where a half-inch or more of mud would settle out, or keep it thick and stirred up for added “nutritiousness.” Kansas City is a river town, but most of the early residents avoided this dilemma by relying on springs and wells.

Today our faucets run clear, thanks to 2,800 miles of pipeline that bring great-tasting water right to our taps while modern treatment plants carry and then clean our wastewater after we’ve used it. It’s an intricate, ongoing process that involves major infrastructure.

This year 153 infrastructure projects are taking place to enhance water quality and improve system reliability throughout the city. These projects, representing an investment of $274.2 million, are part of the Water Services Department’s five-year, $1.2 billion capital improvement plan. The plan includes replacing aging water mains (some installed during the 1800s), repairing pump stations, and building new sewer lines to open up thousands of acres for development. Major projects are underway in all areas:

The $43 million Twin Creeks sewer expansion brings more than 10 miles of new sewer main and two new pumping stations to 13,000 acres of undeveloped land in Kansas City’s growing Northland. The project, which was completed on time and under budget, is expected to attract more than 70,000 residents. Terry Leeds, Water Services director, says the sheer size of the expansion makes it unique. “I’m not aware of any single project that has opened this much area for development in Kansas City. Most development happens in increments, and this was a larger area done at one time.”

Through an even larger investment, the 25-year Overflow Control Program, the department is improving the water quality of local streams and rivers by reducing the frequency and volume of sewer system overflows. This year 37 overflow control projects, representing an investment of $137.4 million, are taking place throughout Kansas City—many on the eastern side where deteriorating sewer pipes and broken manholes are being repaired.

In South Kansas City the 87th Street Pump Station is undergoing extensive rehabilitation to increase the reliability and conveyance capacity to capture wet weather flows.

Repairs also are underway at the Turkey Creek Pump Station in the Westside. Fixing and replacing deteriorating equipment will extend the life of the facility as well as meet overflow control regulatory requirements.

To learn more about these projects and other work taking place in your neighborhood, please visit www.kcwaterservices.org/projects.

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If you bought a commemorative “Royals Avenue” street sign last year, RBI says thanks!

The Kansas City, Mo., chapter of RBI or Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities is $35,000 richer after City officials presented a check in August to purchase a Sand Pro mechanical rake and help pay for conditioning in the winter. The donation was made possible through proceeds from the City’s sale of blue and white “Royals Avenue” street signs during the 2014 playoffs and World Series run.

More than 800 youth ages 5-18 played baseball and softball through the RBI program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City in 2015. The local program was founded nearly 20 years ago by a partnership of the Kansas City Royals, the City’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

“Last fall the Royals showed us the importance of hard work and team work. We’re proud to support Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, which works each year to show our youth what these skills mean in the game of baseball—and in the real world,” says Chris Hernandez, director of the City Communications Office which designed and sold the signs. The donation took place at RBI’s season-ending celebration at the Cleveland Park Complex on East 43rd Street.

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The Water Services Department and the Kansas City Fire Department (KCFD) together have developed a high-tech solution to the age-old process of inspecting and maintaining Kansas City’s 23,000 fire hydrants.

Utilizing an electronic tablet and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, Water Services and KCFD collaborated to overhaul a previously time-consuming, costly and paper-driven process. This fall, each of KCFD’s 50 trucks will now carry a tablet that will electronically submit fire hydrant inspections directly to Water Services. Water Services will then issue a work order to repair hydrants reported by the fire crews in the field.

“Working together, KCFD and Water Services have successfully taken a labor-intensive, paper-driven, 20th century process and turned it into an efficient, technology-driven, 21st century process,” says Fire Chief Paul Berardi. “This improved process and new technology will provide real-time data, which will greatly aid our crews when responding to future emergencies.”

“I’m proud of the impressive collaboration taking place between Water Services and KCFD to create inter-departmental efficiencies, save taxpayer dollars, and, most importantly, to create a safer Kansas City,” says Water Services Director Terry Leeds. “I’m confident this pilot program will become a model for other cities.”

Water Services and KCFD anticipate that the electronic inspection process will reduce the amount of time required to complete the process by 50 percent, and result in an estimated annual cost savings of approximately $20,000, which includes approximately 500 employee hours and the elimination of the printing and binding of 23,000 paper inspection forms.

In addition, as a result of the partnership, KCFD anticipates being able to integrate the electronic data with its Dispatch Unit so crews will have immediate access to fire hydrant inspection data while in route to an emergency.

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Parents beware: the new synthetic or “designer” drugs proliferating among young people are just as dangerous as their older counterparts.

Chemist Seth Cooper of the Kansas City Regional Crime Laboratory says synthetic drugs have an extremely high potential for abuse and addiction. Kansas City Police have encountered many cases of synthetic drug overdoses – fatal and otherwise – and suicides prompted by the altered mental state the drugs bring.

Missouri banned synthetic drugs in 2012. Since then, the City’s Gateway Crimes Task Force has made parent education on synthetic drugs a priority, and KCPD has cracked down on retail and street-level dealers. The most common are synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts (not the kind used in the bathtub).

Synthetic cannabinoids are herbs that have been sprayed with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. They go by names like K2, K3, SYN, Spice, Incense, Blonde, Sunset Gold and Nirvana. Bath salts come in either powder form or as a powder contained inside a capsule. They also have been sold as “plant food.” The drugs usually come in a plastic packet with label names such as Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, Sextacy or Blue Magic.

Locally, Cooper says the Kansas City Crime Lab has found bath salt-type substances to contain an assortment of drugs, even when they are packaged identically. Users therefore never know what type of narcotic, or how much, they’re ingesting.

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FY 2012-13 Citizen satisfaction data - Adequacy of Street lightingLandwise, Kansas City is one of the largest cities in the nation. And while our population is steadily on the upswing, we have lots of room to grow. That’s why the City and its partners are involved in an intricate dance to expand housing options for all segments of society. “It’s not a straight line process,” says Stuart Bullington, assistant director of the Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department. “I don’t have a book in my office to consult. Each project is very different.”

One of the most exciting is Beacon Hill, a mixed-use, new-urbanist neighborhood with terrific views near Hospital Hill and Crown Center. When complete, it will be a $100 million investment with single family homes, apartments, student housing, commercial development and a grocery store.

Also under construction is Seven Oaks School at Jackson Avenue and 38th Street. This repurposed elementary school will feature 44 units for seniors. And at Leeds Trafficway and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, a 58-unit apartment building for homeless veterans called St. Michael’s is underway through a partnership with Catholic Charities.

“That one is on track to be a national model,” notes Bullington.

By making infrastructure improvements along Troost Avenue, the City is helping make possible new student housing for the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Another project is located at 27th Street and Tracy Avenue, where 30 apartment units are being developed as The Colonnades. And the old municipal stadium is the site of a single-family development called Monarch Manor.

North of the river, a $40 million sewer expansion along First and Second creeks will open 13,000 acres of land for future development, which is expected to attract housing for more than 70,000 residents.

In downtown, a private developer soon will begin constructing a 25-story market-rate apartment building. The $79 million project will attract young professionals and retirees directly adjacent to the downtown streetcar line.

Along with these large-scale projects, the City helps in smaller ways as well. The KC Dream Home Program assists first-time and displaced homebuyers, while various emergency and minor home repair programs aid residents who are struggling to maintain their homes. The Land Bank and Homesteading Authority offer inexpensive houses and lots for sale.

“We urge people to seek out our programs and look into all the possibilities,” says Bullington. “There are some incredible opportunities.”

By creating a variety of diverse housing options the City looks to add population—because its people have always been its greatest strength.

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FY 2012-13 Citizen satisfaction data - Condition of Catch basins Ensuring Kansas City continues to be a great place to call home requires work above ground and below. Often the difficult task of repairing and replacing critical infrastructure occurs in the dark of night, below a manhole cover, in the wet recesses of a hole. The work often goes unheralded, but the City’s economic progress relies on our roads, bridges, pipes and drains being in good repair.

This year, the City has committed nearly six times more funds than last year to repair and repave our massive network of roads. The $19 million investment is more than has ever been spent in a single year. Thanks to Kansas City residents’ approval of Question 1 in August 2013, the City looks to maintain this high level of infrastructure reinvestment.

Below those newly paved roads lies a web of pipes and drains that bring clean water to homes and businesses and whisk sewer water to treatment facilities. In a city that is 319 square miles, there are thousands of miles of pipes and drains to maintain. At the corner of Third and Delaware streets in the River Market, crews recently unearthed a water main with the year 1874 stamped on its side. More of an archeological dig than water main repair, the find is a good example of both how long infrastructure investments can last, and the need for more regular and proactive maintenance.

FY 2012-13 Citizen satisfaction data - quality with water utilities Water Services crews have replaced and repaired more water mains at a faster pace than at any point in its history. More than 90 percent of critical repairs are made within 24 hours of a resident’s report. But beyond the swift reaction time, the team at Water Services is also proactively investing in the City’s future.

In the last few years, Water Services has assessed more than 20,000 water main valves --- more than half the valves in the entire city. By making sure the valves are in good shape, the crews can better isolate water main breaks when they do occur, reducing the number of affected homes or businesses. Because of this valve work, residents and businesses are sometimes completely unaffected by a water main break in their area.

Water Services also recently broke ground on the final two projects for the City’s 16-year, $75 million Small Main Replacement Program. This effort is improving water service and system reliability for nearly 12,000 customers who were previously served by small, two-inch waterlines.

FY 2012-13 Citizen satisfaction data - Timeliness of water/sewer repairs When the final projects are complete, Water Services will have replaced 130 miles of small water mains and installed 1,200 new fire hydrants to better serve residents.

“Replacing older, unreliable two-inch waterlines for our customers not only reduces the likelihood of a water main break, but it also improves service to our customers by providing more consistent water pressure and improved fire protection,” says Water Services Director Terry Leeds. “This infrastructure investment will enhance many of our customers’ daily lives and will serve us for generations to come.”

Prior to the Small Main Replacement Program, two-inch-diameter waterlines served customers in several portions of the City. Due to their age and size, these waterlines were prone to breaks. The new larger pipes will make a noticeable difference for many customers.

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