Lee’s Summit this year saw the gamut of excitement and shock, from a respected lawyer being charged with murder to the announcement that the federal government would be adding many more jobs within the city. Here’s a roundup of the most noteworthy stories of 2012 that appeared in the Lee’s Summit Journal.
The death of ‘Baby Heath’ – Heath Hubbard, a 13-month-old boy, died May 3 after his mother accidentally left him in a vehicle while at work. No charges were filed in the case that garnered national attention as the investigation showed no intent on the mother’s part. Authorities called it a tragic accident with the mother mistakenly believing that she had drop the child off at daycare.
The Wilson brothers’ case – What started as a blog intended to be satirical of high school life turned into a muddled case of federal lawsuits, rulings and reversals involving two Lee’s Summit North High School students. In March, Brian and Susan Wilson – the parents of Sean and Steven Wilson – filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District from suspending the two brothers for 180 days after the district found offensive and racist posts from the blog that the brothers originated from a school computer. The Wilson brothers were reinstated to North in April after a federal judge ruled the brothers could return to school.
The R-7 district later appealed the ruling that allowed the Wilson brothers to return to school. In October, an appeals court reversed the preliminary injunction granted to the Wilsons and remanded the case back to the district court level after determining the district court erred in granting the brothers’ injunctive relief allowing them to return to the school.
In a completely separate case, Brian Wilson was placed on supervised probation after pleading guilty in June to charges that he inappropriately touched two foreign exchange students on separate occasions. At the time, Brian Wilson was field director for Youth for Understanding USA, an agency that helps bring foreign exchange students to the United States
A hot, dry summer – It’s winter now, we’ve had some snow and frigid cold, so memories might be fading of the record-breaking drought and a heat wave this summer.
In July the city endured excessive heat warnings with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees.
Drought forced the city to restrict lawn watering for the first time in years.
Nationwide the drought covered more U.S. territory than any other since the 1950s. And the area of severe drought was 10th largest since 1895.
Lack of rain hampered small-scale and large farmers, as well as family gardens. City streets and curbs sagged and needed fixing.
Many homeowners saw landscaping wither, but some suffered worse damage to their pocketbooks because the drought wrecked foundations.
Houses shifted on broken foundations, cracking and warping walls. Doors wouldn’t close. Repairs could be costly, some people spending $50,000 for shoring up foundations and interior repairs.
As of late December Lee’s Summit has gotten only 65 percent of normal precipitation for the year deficit of about 14.5 inches, according to Chris Bowman of the National Weather Service. The normal is 41.5 inches.
R-7 School District dropped from transfer case – A judge ruled in favor of the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District and two other suburban school districts in a lawsuit filed to contest a state law that would allow students to transfer out of the unaccredited Kansas City Public Schools without state financing. In a ruling handed down Aug. 16, Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell ruled the law is an unfunded mandate that violates the Hancock Amendment of the Missouri Constitution for three of the five school districts that had sued the state to block the law.
Powell ruled in favor of taxpayers representing the Lee’s Summit, Independence and North Kansas City school districts, agreeing that financial officers demonstrated the law would bring unfunded costs. Powell ruled in favor of the state against Blue Springs and Raytown districts, saying those districts did not show they would suffer net losses.
Powell would later rule, in October, that the state must reimburse taxpayers in school districts in Lee’s Summit, North Kansas City and Independence for attorney fees. Powell cited a law the states the Hancock Amendment of the Missouri Constitution provides that a taxpayer be awarded all out-of-pocket expenses after successfully pursuing litigation alleging a Hancock Amendment violation.
Former LSH track star competes in Olympics – Matt Tegenkamp, who ran cross country and track at Lee’s Summit High School, qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He finished 19th in the 10,000-meter race.
Tegenkamp competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, finishing 13th in the 5,000 meters. He was a seven-time NCAA track and field All-American at the University of Wisconsin before turning professional runner.
He said his next goals are to make the 10,000 team for the 2013 World Championships, transition to the half-marathon and marathon in 2014 and if those two years go well, he’ll make a run at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Branding the community – A few years ago, when Lee’s Summit 360 wanted a program to sell Lee’s Summit’s virtues, it formed a task force, the city hired a consultant, North Star Destination Strategies, and a task force working with the consultant came up with a narrative describing the qualities and emotions the town evokes and a tag line “Yours Truly.”
The brand was announced in August. The concept got praise from the City Council, but an initial request for $260,000 to promote its use and hire a brand manager caused heartburn for councilmembers and some residents.
Skeptics wanted ways to measure concrete results.
A compromise reached between community leaders and the council, agreeing to pare back financing to an initial $110,000. James McKenna, who has extensive, high-level experience in advertising, was hired as brand manager. His responsibility is to help Lee’s Summit organizations with the initial roll out of the brand and develop criteria for measuring its success for the next round of proposed funding.
LS lawyer charged in father’s death – In a murder case that spanned four counties, involved three prosecutors – including two special appointed prosecutors representing the state’s attorney general’s office – and three suspects, a lawyer residing in Lee’s Summit emerged as the main alleged culprit. Susan Elizabeth Van Note was arraigned in September in Boone County Circuit Court on one count of first-degree murder and one count of forgery in connection with her father’s shooting death in the Camden County resort town of Sunrise Beach.
Van Note, who lives in the 3000 block of S.W. Ninth Street Terrace in Lee’s Summit, was arrested without incident Sept. 7 by Jackson County authorities after a grand jury in Boone County indicted the Kansas City-based attorney for allegedly shooting her father, William Van Note, and transferring a forged durable power of attorney for health care to deny the victim life sustaining medical treatment.
Also arrested in September by Johnson County, Kansas authorities were Desre’ and Stacey Dory of Shawnee, Kansas. Both were charged with second degree murder and forgery charges relating to the same case.
Susan Van Note was later released on bail after posting a $1 million cash-only bond.
Economic development slogs forward – Slow progress continued on several developments that could be a boon to growth in jobs and the city tax base.
Exergonix, a maker of large-scale industrial batteries, had partnered with Lee’s Summit to buy land for a proposed manufacturing plant.
CEO Don Nissanka said the company continues to grow in sales but he hadn’t been able to add jobs to his firm. Instead the company has only a handful of corporate employees and relies on third party manufacturers for its batteries for uses such as storing electricity generated by solar power for later consumption. Nissanka in November said he was close finishing a deal for financing the Lee’s Summit facility with hopes of a groundbreaking in January.
The City Council concluded its end of agreement with Unity for about 350 acres it had previously annexed near Missouri 350 and Colbern Road by giving the land PMIX zoning, the city’s broadest category, so marketing could start on the project. The plan is for office projects in that area.
Lee’s Summit and Happy Valley Properties are negotiating a proposal for commercial development at View High Drive and Interstate 470, which in part would use about 76 acres of city-owned property for the site of a hotel and regional sports complex. Other commercial projects would be built on adjacent property owned by the developer. In December Happy Valley and the city agreed to jointly hire a consultant to make a feasibility study of the sports complex.
More jobs – The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is on track to become the city’s largest employer after announcing in November it will add 300 new federal jobs in the city. The jobs would be added by mid 2013 at its existing benefits center at 950 N.W. Chipman Road Suite 5000.
The number of USCIS jobs at the National Benefit Center (1,325) and the National Records Center in Lee’s Summit (500), coupled with the new jobs, would make the federal agency’s Lee’ Summit presence about 2,175 jobs, second largest in terms of employees in the city, second to the Lee’s Summit School District.
The new jobs are to range from $27,000 up to $41,000.
Taser used on high school football standout – Jamone Boyd, a Lee’s Summit West High School senior and standout football player considered one of the top-five recruits in the state, was issued municipal citations for resisting a law enforcement officer and possession of marijuana after a being detained by a school administrator and the school’s resource officer Nov. 27.
According to Lee’s Summit Police Sgt. Chris Depue, Boyd, 18, was detained after a school resource officer working at Lee’s Summit West was contacted to assist a school administrator with a student after the administrator found drugs in the student’s vehicle.
The SRO, accompanied by the school administrator, spoke with Boyd outside the school and requested he return inside with them. While being escorted by the administrator Boyd pulled away and became verbally belligerent towards the staff member. At that point, the SRO attempted to control Boyd’s arm and Boyd pulled away from the officer and turned towards him. The officer deployed a Taser in an attempt to regain control of Boyd. The Taser was ineffective due to Boyd’s heavy jacket and he spun away and fled on foot from the officer and administrators.
After the officer caught up with Boyd off of school property a second Taser application was used. Boyd was then taken into custody without further incident and transported to the Lee’s Summit Police Department. No injuries were reported during the incident. A few weeks after the incident Boyd reportedly verbally committed to attend Kansas State University and play college football for the Wildcats.