Top 10 stories of 2013

December 27, 2013 

Wal-Mart controversy

New Walmart stores tend to raise a ruckus in neighborhoods where the giant retailer proposes to locate.

Residents around the Raintree Lake subdivision were no exception, when the Lee’s Summit City Council in March approved rezoning for a Supercenter just north of Missouri 150 and west of Missouri 291.

Regardless that the store was touted as a new “green” model, with skylights, energy-efficient lighting and recycling for waste vegetables and more, some were glad to have another shopping choice, while opponents fought the store, contending it would bring crime and traffic congestion as well.

The council voted 6-2 for it, including Rob Binney, who soon faced an unsuccessful recall effort that seemed to be in retaliation for his vote, although leaders said it was because he did not communicate with constituents.

A Lee’s Summit couple is suing the city, saying it violated procedures and state law while rezoning land.

Bond passes

In April, Lee’s Summit voters decided to support community efforts to add to the city’s distinctive appeal by spending nearly $2.9 million on projects to support culture.

Downtown is to get a new outdoor performance space at 123 Third Street, Legacy Park will get an enhanced amphitheater and the Lee’s Summit Historical Society will get a much-improved space for its museum.

The museum will be in a restored WPA Post Office, which also has served as City Hall in the past.

Architects and consultants are working on design for the performance spaces. The city had some difficulty settling on a location for the downtown space, after the landowner of the first choice, Dusty Dahmer, didn’t accept the city’s offers for a purchase price.

The City Council switched to a new site, on Third Street, where some proponents hope the city will also spend money on Arnold Hall to provide another venue for small indoor performances or exhibits.

Coach caught video taping

A volunteer soccer coach caused dismay and controversy when he was caught secretly videotaping girls who were 11-or 12-years-old on his teams.

In April federal prosecutors charged Joel D. White of Lee’s Summit with attempting to produce child pornography.

He’d earlier been convicted of misdemeanor charges in Kansas related to a videotaping a young woman in a tanning salon. Originally charged with eavesdropping in 2007, the charge was amended to criminal trespassing, he served six months in jail and probation.

Background checks performed by Missouri Department of Family Services for the Lee’s Summit Soccer Association failed to pick up that problem.

The soccer association, other leagues and Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Department agreed on using a central data base for background checks to catch sexual predators and tightened rules for who can volunteer, after some controversy over whether misdemeanor alcohol convictions should disqualify someone from coaching. A compromised was reached to make an alcohol felony the disqualifier.

Snow

Two huge snow storms in February pelted Lee’s Summit causing plenty of accidents and inconvenience.

Februrary 21-22 and 25-27 brought thunder, heavy snow and sleet, sometimes falling as fast as three inches an hour.

Totals ranged from 8 to 11 inches during each storm, depending on the location in town.

City crews pushed snow into towering mounds around downtown and at some intersections to clear roads.

That month’s snowfall of 20.5 inches for Kansas City and the region was second highest since 1888, according records of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Another blast of snow followed on March 24, 6 to 8 inches on Palm Sunday, causing church cancellations.

Police Chief retires

After more than 30 years with the Lee’s Summit Police Department, Police Chief Joe Piccinini announced Oct. 31 that was retiring from the force, effective Jan. 17, 2014. Piccinini cited “now is a real good time” for his family in announcing the decision.

Piccinini was named acting police chief on Nov. 1, 2007 and officially became the chief the following January. He began his career as a probationary police officer in 1983 and rapidly moved up in the departmental ranks from 1985 to 2005. Having not recorded a homicide in Lee’s Summit in nearly three years, Piccinini cited a low crime rate as one of his lasting endeavors.

A community policing approach spearheaded and instituted by Piccinini was chief among the reasons for the lower crime rate in Lee’s Summit. Community policing is a concept that places an emphasis on relationship building and problem solving through personal interaction between the police officer and the citizen.

Lee’s Summit Police Major Scott Lyons will step into the interim role of chief after the retirement of Piccinini. City Manager Steven Arbo plans to conduct a nationwide search for Piccinini’s replacement starting in February.

License plate reader

Lee’s Summit police deployed an experiment in technology, equipping a patrol car with a digital camera system that photographs license plate numbers and automatically checks them against a crime database.

When there is a match, the system alerts the officer using the car, who then can take action, depending on the results of the search.

Police Chief Joe Piccinini wanted to buy the system for one vehicle because of its usefulness in solving crimes. It caused worry by civil libertarians in the community who didn’t like the idea of surveillance.

The Lee’s Summit City Council in October decided on a policy limit storage of date to 30 days and prohibiting police from putting the device in a stationary setting, like on a pole, or using it from an aircraft.

The transfer law saga

The on-again, off-again transfer of students from the unaccredited Kansas City Public Schools is now on again after the Missouri Supreme Court upheld Dec. 10 a state law that allows students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to accredited schools at no expense to their families.

The law stipulates that the failing district – Kansas City Public Schools in this case – must pay tuition and transportation costs for students who transfer to neighboring districts. The neighboring schools districts – R-7, Blue Springs, Independence, North Kansas City and Raytown – appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court after Jackson County Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell ruled last August that the transfer law is an unfunded mandate that violated the Hancock Amendment of the Missouri Constitution for three of the five school districts that had sued the state to block the law.

The Hancock Amendment prohibits the state from imposing new mandates upon political subdivisions – including school districts – without full state financing. A violation of the amendment had been at the forefront of the suburban KC school districts’ challenge.

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 and ruled against school districts in Blue Springs and Raytown. However, Dec. 10’s ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the judgments in favor of Lee’s Summit, Independence and North Kansas City, and affirmed the judgments against Blue Springs and Raytown.

Students from KCPS are expected to apply for transfer into R-7 schools in the 2014-15 academic year.

McGehee named Superintendent of the Year

In October Lee’s Summit R-7 Superintendent David McGehee was named the Missouri School Boards’ Association and Missouri Association of School Administrators’ the Superintendent of the Year during a joint conference held at Tan-Tar-A Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach. According to MASA officials, McGehee was cited for his leadership in making the district “well-respected within the Kansas City metropolitan area and region for the high level of achievement of its students and the progressive nature of its educational programs.”

As the recipient of the yearly award, McGehee will represent Missouri in the National Superintendent of the Year program conducted by the American Association of School Administrators and received a $500 scholarship for a student in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District and a commemorative ring.

LSW football crowned state champions

Lee’s Summit West captured its second state title in four years – and third in the school’s 10-year history – with a dominating 51-14 win over Parkway Central High School in the Missouri Class 5 State Championship game Nov. 23 in St. Louis. The Titans, who finished the season with a 13-1 record, overcame a seven-point loss early in the season to eventual Class 6 champion Blue Springs to lay claim as one of the top teams in the state regardless of class.

The Titans rushed for 332 yards on 41 carries in the state title game against Parkway Central. Ryan Williams led the team with 122 yards and three touchdowns while Brenner Clemons and Monte Harrison ran for a touchdown each.

Windsor man dies in LS trench collapse

Brian Allen, 49, of Windsor, died Oct. 24 after a trench collapsed on top of him as he worked to connect a sanitary sewer to a home being built in the 1000 block of S.W. Drake Circle in the Raintree Reserve subdivision of Lee’s Summit.

Allen was in a 75-foot-long trench when the earth shifted and collapsed, trapping him.

Emergency personnel from the Lee’s Summit and Kansas City fire departments spent close to 26 hours working to free Allen’s body from the 14- to 17-foot hole.

According to his online obituary, Allen graduated from Windsor High School where he excelled as a distance runner in track. He participated in several state track meets, medaling five times, and still holds four Windsor High School records in track.

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