News about what is happening in Blue Springs, MO

City procedures usually work well

clock November 25, 2009 08:43 by author Jeff Quibell

Mayor Ross admonishing the District 3 Councilmen to follow proper protocol Mayor Ross, along with the majority of our city councilmen, are working together to effectively handle the large and small issues of city government in Blue Springs.

Our council is most efficient when all of our elected leaders are respectful to each other and are willing to listen to each point of view on every issue. It is through careful consideration and thoughtful evaluation of all available information that great decisions take place on behalf of our citizens.

Our city’s charter defines three geographic districts from which our city councilmen are elected. Two councilmen are elected to serve the residents of each district. Councilmen are expected to respond to issues within their own district and to seek the advice of our professional staff. As a matter of protocol and courtesy, information is typically forwarded to the appropriate district councilmen if they are contacted on issues outside of their own district.

The primary issue at the Nov. 16 council meeting resulted from a citizen complaint regarding a potential code violation. A permanent outbuilding, in place for several years and constructed from what appeared to be a former portable container, was the basis for the complaint.

While the issue itself was relatively minor and easily addressed, the larger discussion was how the complaint was brought to the attention of the city and how it was handled by the District 3 councilmen, Ron Fowler and Sheila Solon, who represent the southern part of the city. The property in question is in the far north end of the city, an area represented by our District 1 councilmen, Jeanie Lauer and Lyle Shaver.

E-mails copied to the city clerk and comments made in the council meeting suggest that our District 3 councilmen directed staff to take action regarding this issue, without involving the District 1 councilmen. When Mayor Ross requested an explanation from Fowler and Solon as to why the issue was not directed to the appropriate councilmen, their answer was ambiguous at best. What is very clear to me from their comments is that our District 3 councilmen believe that it is their job to personally address issues not only in their district but throughout the entire city. This line of thinking is disrespectful to the voters who chose their elected representatives.

Kent Edmondson Our District 1 and District 2 councilmen addressed this issue in a professional and respectful way. Councilman Kent Edmondson was again a calm voice of reason in the meeting, despite Councilman Fowler’s repeated interruptions. Our city attorney,  Bob McDonald & Lyle ShaverBob McDonald, showed patience and restraint as he explained the legal basis for his response.  The meeting is available for viewing on the City Website at http://tinyurl.com/bscc091116.

People who are willing to serve, to give of their time and work positively for the common good are sometimes difficult to find. In Blue Springs, our councilmen are compensated for their service, both with salary and benefits. It is our responsibility as residents to ensure that we are getting what we are paying for in our representatives. Candidate filing for the April election of a councilman for each of the three districts begins Dec. 15 and ends Jan. 19.


Private Lakes and Taxpayer Money

clock October 28, 2009 12:01 by author Jeff Quibell

Jeff2007 When is a lake not just a lake? When it also functions as a storm-water detention basin! A lake that functions as a storm-water detention basin is called a wet retention basin.

Now, what’s so important about detention/retention basins? The big issue is actually the maintenance of detention basins and who is responsible for the different components of the system. As the City Council prepares to address this issue, we need to think about the potential cost to all of us, as taxpaying citizens.

Here’s some background. Throughout our city is a network of detention basins that are a part of our stormwater management system. Our city requires developers to participate in expanding our stormwater system whenever they build a new subdivision. By law, a development must manage the on-site storm water so it leaves the property at the same rate or less than before the development was built. Detention basins provide for the storage and slow release of excess water during a storm. This helps protect our homes and property from water damage.

Here’s where it gets a little murky. Some developers choose to combine an amenity such as a lake with their detention basins. These lakes serve two primary functions: controlling storm water runoff and adding beauty, recreational opportunities and increased value to the homes in the subdivision. This provides a desirable private amenity for the use and enjoyment of the property owners.


Currently, our city provides for the maintenance of all of our city’s detention basins, including those that are combined with private lakes in some of our upscale subdivisions. It is the city’s responsibility to ensure that our stormwater system functions properly, that the basin is able to adequately manage the flow of water and properly release it. As taxpaying citizens, we all share in that responsibility through our taxes.

Recently, a number of homeowners whose subdivisions include these lake/detention basin combinations have approached the City Council, requesting to have the city pay for maintenance of their lake. Over time, lakes fill up with silt and periodically have to be dredged. Dredging is expensive, and doing it – or choosing to let the silt fill in – has no effect on the ability of the basin to control storm water. Dredging simply maintains the amenity for the subdivision.

I am confident that the city will continue to meet its responsibility of maintaining all of our stormwater detention basins, as it has for many years. The question is whether we, the taxpayers, should also have the responsibility of maintaining private lakes. If you have an opinion on this important issue, you should call your city councilman and let them know. Their contact information is available at http://tinyurl.com/bscontact.


Training helps cities avoid trouble

clock October 21, 2009 08:55 by author Jeff Quibell

Jeff2007 Typically, items on a consent agenda are routine. If discussion of a particular item is requested, that item is removed from the consent agenda. At Monday’s city council meeting Councilmen Solon made a request to discuss whether or not our city would approve the name change of the company that provides area municipalities with insurance from MARCIT to Midwest Public Risk.

However, the discussion didn’t center on the name change, but instead the issue discussed was District 3 Councilmen Solon and Fowler’s complaint that the insurance wouldn’t cover them if they are sued for land uses issues. It’s hard to understand the correlation with the primary issue, which was renaming a company. But it gives me a great opportunity to discuss what I feel is the heart of the issue, which is why a councilman might be sued on a land use issue and why insurance companies might choose not to cover them.

A properly trained councilman that has participated in land use education provided by the Missouri Municipal League has a very low likelihood of being sued by a landowner. To take that a step further, if our Councilmen formulate their decisions regarding land use based on the current state laws and city ordinances as they are required to do, they are well protected. Our Councilmen and our city are at risk when decisions are made based on personal bias rather than following the law.

Our councilmen should focus on approving appropriate land use ordinances and should make every effort to attend the annual training events provided by the Missouri Municipal League. They should familiarize themselves with our state land use laws and make their decisions based on those laws, as they are required to do. These training events, including those provided by the city’s insurance company, are a cost effective training opportunity and a worthy investment of our taxpayer dollars.

Perhaps if all of our Councilmen would participate in these important educational opportunities, we could stop wasting valuable time on things such as stopping the simple name change of our city’s insurance company and focus on the really important issues that face our city. You can learn more about our city’s insurance at http://www.marcit.org.


Development group is working well

clock September 23, 2009 16:43 by author Jeff Quibell

Jeff2007small During my time in office I had the pleasure of corresponding with thousands of Blue Springs residents regarding city business. On Saturday’s Examiner opinion page, one of those residents raised some good points that should be considered when talking about the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation.

It is true. I have a bias in favor of the Blue Springs EDC. It is also true that I am one of the investing partners in the Blue Springs EDC. When the public/private partnership of the Blue Springs EDC was formed, the City Council continued the $300,000 annual budget allocation that had previously funded the city’s Economic Development Department as the public side of the venture.

The city then solicited businesses and private individuals to partner in the formation of the EDC, to be advocates for growth in Blue Springs. Those investing partners may be found at http://bit.ly/bsedcmem

From 2005 through 2011, Wanda and I have paid and/or committed $15,000 of our own personal funds through our company, CPros. As local IT professionals and custom software developers, we believe in giving back, and this is just one of the ways we choose to support our community.

Each of you living in Blue Springs is committed by the City Council to an annual contribution of approximately $5.45 (or a total of $32.70 over six years) through the taxes that you pay to the city each year.

So what is the return on the investment that Mr. Comerford is referring to in his letter, which he believes will benefit me financially? That return is economic growth for our city. And the great thing about this return is that each Blue Springs resident receives exactly the same return on your investment as I do.

Let’s talk about what that means to each of us. Is that investment worth having a new Target store in town? Is it worth getting a shopping center with Gap Outlet, Staples, Petco, Famous Footwear, Gordman’s, Maurices, Olive Garden, Chipotle, Gamestop, Arby’s, Sally Beauty Target, Lowes and Books-A-Million? Is it worth seeing three tired old strip malls totally refurbished? Is it worth capturing a science and technology park that will bring thousands of 21st-century, high-paying, quality jobs to our city and position Blue Springs as an international research destination?

I believe my investment is justified, and I’m proud to support the EDC in its efforts to provide quality growth for Blue Springs. Each one of you can communicate your belief to your councilmen. There is much more work to do, but each of you should feel confident that our EDC is effectively and professionally promoting our city and bringing new retail and employment opportunities to Blue Springs!

The Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation is non-profit, and its investing partners receive no direct financial benefit.


Why Block Economic Development?

clock September 18, 2009 09:08 by author Jeff Quibell

DSC04405 As citizens, it is our responsibility and privilege to elect our representatives. We choose those that we believe will most accurately represent our beliefs and ideals, and those who will look out for our best interest. Once elected, we have a right to expect our leaders to speak to the issues that come before them in a straightforward manner, without attempting to twist or misconstrue facts. Our most recent Blue Springs city council meeting is an unfortunate example of how issues and details can be manipulated in an attempt to inaccurately spin the facts.

Let’s look first at the discussion coming from the District 3 Councilmen. The city’s check registers are a typical item on the consent agenda. Councilman Solon requested this item be removed from the consent agenda for further discussion. Her concern, and apparently Councilman Fowler’s as well, centered on reimbursements for business lunches and dinners, and the policy of how those reimbursements should be handled. Most successful organizations and businesses require some level of business conducted outside of the office, or in this case, city hall. Perhaps her concerns are indicative of the type of business Councilman Solon does, but for most of us in business, meeting with clients or prospective clients over lunch or dinner is a common practice. It is entirely appropriate that staff members should be reimbursed for doing their job at our request. Of course, proper documentation and procedures must be followed. We are fortunate to have a talented and dedicated financial department who oversees expenditures.

As I watched the remainder of last week’s meeting a common, reoccurring theme began to appear, again with the same two councilmen. Councilman Solon advocated reducing the funding to the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation by 10% or $30,000, suggesting that the EDC budget should be cut because of the current hard economic times. However, I recall this same suggestion from her several years ago before these hard times. What is the true motivation here? Why are the District 3 representatives so opposed to economic development?

These recommendations appear to be attempts to slow economic development in Blue Springs. The frequent no votes coming from our District 3 councilmen often focus on economic development issues. While the developments occurring in various parts of our city are designed to increase revenue and help keep our taxes low over the long term, these votes seem designed to impede those efforts and keep our citizens spending their tax dollars in other municipalities. Is this truly the will of the residents in District 3?

I encourage people to speak their mind, and believe that a spirited, open discussion will bring a better end result for all. Contact your councilmen and speak your mind. You can watch the meeting at http://bit.ly/bscc20090908.


City needs to address sign issue

clock September 9, 2009 17:23 by author Jeff Quibell

DSC04409 As you drive through Blue Springs, there continue to be signs of development. The first phase of Adams Dairy Landing is preparing to open Oct. 11. The McDonald’s that has stood on Missouri 7 for more than 36 years has been demolished and will be rebuilt. The shopping center on Woods Chapel is getting a long needed facelift. The first tenant is getting ready to open in the Southridge Shopping Center. Virtually every part of our city is seeing some kind of development.

Still, much work remains to be done to keep our city moving forward. In a work session last week, the City Council began considering changes to our sign code. This important part of our development code is involved in managing how businesses in our city make us aware they are here and open for business.

During my time in office I heard from many business owners who felt our sign code is too restrictive. If you watch our Planning Commission meetings you will see that time and time again business owners run into obstacles that keep them from getting the signs they want and need to advertise.

The codes are strict to help improve the appearance of our business corridors. Yet if they are too strict, businesses can’t get the signs they need. Parkside Books, behind Einstein Bros. on M-7, is a prime example. Our codes keep them from placing a sign near the highway to let customers know they are there. They have been working with the city for several years to find a way to make their business more visible to no avail.

McDonald’s on M-7 had to limit the length of time for the reconstruction of its store to keep its signature golden arches, which don’t meet our current sign code requirements. Panera Bread had to get special permission for its highway-facing signage because it didn’t meet the requirements of our current sign code. These are just a few examples.

My encouragement to our mayor and council is to listen to the needs of our existing and new businesses and find creative ways to make our city more inviting to the businesses we want and need. I am confident the sign code can be modified to accommodate those needs while keeping our business districts attractive. Be sure to speak with your councilmen and give them your guidance on this important issue for our city!


Changes coming to key intersection

clock September 3, 2009 08:12 by author Jeff Quibell

JeffQ Photo As much as I enjoy writing these articles, at times life gets in the way. Recently, Wanda and I traveled to Las Vegas to visit our daughter Crystal, stopping along the way to see the Grand Canyon. We returned home and have helped care for my father following his quadruple bypass surgery at St Luke’s Hospital last week. Thank you for the support and prayers from so many of our friends on his behalf. I was also touched knowing that many of you missed this column while we were gone.

I attended the Blue Springs City Council work session Monday evening. These meetings are designed for the council to discuss issues that are under consideration and for future plans and concerns to be brought up for evaluation. The meetings are open to the public, but not yet televised. I strongly encourage Mayor Ross and the council to begin televising these meetings. It would be another step toward transparency for our local government!

Many of you will be happy to hear that the council is working on the details of the Woods Chapel Road improvements that you approved in 2008.

Some of the items included in this plan are: placing signals at the intersection of Briarwood and Castle Drive; sidewalks and bike lanes as the roadway is improved; expansion of the Valley View Drive intersection; and the South Outer Road relocated further south to allow better traffic flow onto Woods Chapel and to the surrounding businesses.

Most exciting will be the conversion of the I-70 Interchange to a Diverging Diamond Interchange, the 2nd of this design in the United States. This new concept in interchange layout will move morning and afternoon traffic efficiently on and off of I-70 for traffic volumes projected as far into the future as 2030. An example of this type of interchange is up and running in Springfield at the intersection of MO-13 and I-44 http://tinyurl.com/ddinterchange.

We all recognize that the wheels of government often turn slowly. But, when progress is encouraged and allowed to develop, good things happen. The plans for these improvements should be complete by early 2010, with bids going out by the end of 2010. Construction will begin in 2011 with anticipated completion by 2013. My compliments to Mayor Ross and the City Council for continuing to move this important project forward!

One final thought on Woods Chapel. Let’s not forget to patronize the businesses along this corridor as road construction and necessary improvements may make it more difficult to access them in the future. While this will be a short term inconvenience, the long term benefits will allow this north-south artery to be a more welcoming Western gateway to our city.


Business Owner Treated Poorly

clock August 13, 2009 19:04 by author Jeff Quibell

507_DSC_5450 “Why is the city of Blue Springs so difficult to work with?”

During my time on the City Council, that question came up repeatedly. While there are many answers, an example was seen at the Aug. 3 council meeting.

Over the past several years we have seen significant progress in Blue Springs. Coronado Place, Copperleaf Village, the Mall at Fall Creek and Parker Center are all projects that have addressed blighted areas. Despite opposition from our District 3 council members, each of these projects has improved the visual landscape of our community and enhanced quality of life for our citizens.

One project presented to the council in 2006 was the Village Gardens redevelopment. It had several benefits for our city. It eliminated an aging building, and a beautiful new Village Gardens building was constructed. The old lot was cleaned up and marketing began, with the intention of a new restaurant for the corner. The total project will generate additional revenue for our taxing entities, including the school district, which is the primary reason it supported the project in 2006.

Jump now to the present, and last week’s council meeting. Village Gardens asked for a two-year extension of the deadline of when tax abatement for the corner lot must be activated. The original contract with the city allowed for an extension for reasons beyond the owner’s control. Certainly the current economic downturn constituted reasons beyond the owner’s control. When Council Member Sheila Solon said “... it’s a very bad contract that didn’t serve the citizens,” I have to admit I had a hard time understanding her interpretation.

I find it hard to imagine anyone opposing the elimination of the blight at this location in 2006. Monday evening, Council Members Fowler and Solon attempted to justify that opposition. In my opinion, their poor treatment of a local business owner – one who has invested his own funds in this project – was unnecessary but typical. It illuminates the issue expressed by many business owners and developers of their concern about choosing to do business in our city. As I attended various Chamber of Commerce events last week, the council meeting was a frequent topic of conversation.

On the bright side, Kingsridge Center on Woods Chapel is receiving a facelift. This area is long overdue for attention and redevelopment, and it’s encouraging to see owners investing in their property. As our council members continue to disagree on the best direction for our city, I would encourage you to make your voice heard. Whether you agree or disagree with their statements and actions, let them know your thoughts. And remember, the next City Council election is next April.


Mayor Ross deserves some praise

clock June 11, 2009 00:59 by author Jeff Quibell

DSC04409While dining recently with friends at the new Panera Bread on Coronado Drive, the discussion turned to how vibrant our city has become since the addition of just a few new restaurants and shops.  The parking lots were almost full and each of the nearby establishments was hopping with business.  

We all agreed that it was encouraging to see busy shops and restaurants, and exciting to see them succeeding. As new stores and restaurants continue to open we will have even more opportunities to be proud of our city as we see quality growth, in spite of the national economic situation.

Several friends have recently commented to me that they were surprised that my articles seemed to be very complimentary of Mayor Carson Ross. While Mayor Ross was my opponent in the last election, I have a great deal of respect for him, and have found that he and I have similar goals for our community. Both of us want to see Blue Springs prosper and under Mayor Ross’ leadership, that common goal is coming to fruition. For that I am very thankful and very supportive.

By writing about what is happening in Blue Springs, I hope to encourage our elected leadership and to help our citizen’s stay informed about the good things that are happening in our town.  While we, as citizens, may not always agree with the decisions made at city hall, it’s important that we engage our elected representatives in respectful, productive dialogue regarding our views and our goals.

From my discussions on the doorsteps of thousands of Blue Springs homes, I know that our citizens desire leaders that are willing to make changes to the outdated policies of the past. Over the last five years you, our citizens, have made many changes in our elected leadership.  These choices have changed the nature of decision making in our city and improved the process of governance in Blue Springs.

Televising council meetings and broadcasting them on the internet has made our city council’s actions much more transparent than in the past.

Our citizens are watching our council meetings and see firsthand how their leaders are performing. The leaders who are flexible, open minded and fiscally responsible are moving our community forward.  By watching the council meeting broadcasts, it’s easy to tell who is making a difference. Remember, our next city election is only 10 months away and we will each have a choice to make.

We all want a city that will weather the nation’s current economic storm and come out stronger in the end.  It remains an honor for me to participate in some small measure in that process. I look forward with anticipation to the bright future of our city.


Welcome work along Woods Chapel

clock June 3, 2009 22:18 by author Jeff Quibell

In words from the old “The A-Team” on television, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

While that dates me to some extent, it characterizes what I see happening all around us in Blue Springs. Our most recent citizens’ survey showed an acceleration of the positive way our residents are viewing the changes made to our city by our elected leaders in recent years. Mayor Ross is leading a positive charge toward the future that transcends the current down economy and shows that there are more great things to look forward to in Blue Springs.

In the last few weeks our City Council has approved additional funding to ensure the success of the Missouri Innovation Park. As many know, this project stands to bring thousands of high-paying jobs to our city. The influx of new development and employees will likely rekindle development in the southern part of the city and encourage redevelopment of the many vacant properties near Missouri 7 and U.S. 40.

On Monday, the City Council approved changes to the Oaks at Woods Chapel planned unit development. This exciting development may finally bring a grocery store to the Woods Chapel corridor. In combination with the recently approved street bond issue, Woods Chapel will receive much-needed traffic improvements in the very near future.
The council also approved the early issuance of some of the bonds for Adams Dairy Landing, once again over the objections of District 3 Councilmen Ron Fowler and Sheila Solon. If you have the opportunity, watch the council meeting at http://tinyurl.com/bsc090601.

The debate was fascinating. One of the exciting things discussed was how the latest revenue estimates for the project have grown. If this comes to fruition, the bonds could be paid off earlier than originally anticipated and the cost to our taxpayers would be reduced. Now that is fiscally responsible!