COVID-19, Environment, Health, Home Improvement, Housing, Informational, Safety, Sustainability, Vaccine

Council Recap – 01/03/22

Posted by Bonnie Limbird

A super fast recap because there’s time-sensitive info for an online event THIS Wednesday morning!
Note: I’m so sorry that I didn’t get my recap for the last meeting of the year out. Now too much time has passed and not enough happened, so I’m just going to skip it. Basically, I think, all you missed was that I brought up COVID-19 mitigation for discussion, and we discussed it, but no action was approved at that time. Happy New Year! 🎉

Presentations

Dynamhex Update

Dr. Sanwar joined us again to address concerns Council had when he visited in November:

  • They do not collect credit card information from the PV residents under this program. Any reference to credit cards in their terms and conditions is relative to their enterprise customers only.
  • Dynamhex contacted Evergy and Kansas Gas to collect all energy updates up to September 2021 to upload to the tool for accurate CO2 loads, etc..
  • Dynamhex checked the URL on the City website, and it has been updated since the November meeting. 440+ unique PV residents have utilized the platform. Several have reached out to Dynamhex via the online channel, and Dynamhex has responded to those residents within 24 hours.
  • Any new residential energy upgrades can be input by a resident, but the actual savings will be calibrated annually in an inventory from the actual energy outputs reported by Evergy, etc..
  • Upgrades input by residents aren’t necessarily visible on the platform to other residents, but Dynamhex could run reports to share with the City for occasional updates.

Committee Reports

Mayor’s report
  • Early indications seem to show that the City came in under budget for 2021. The numbers will be finalized in a month or two after we receive sales tax numbers.
  • Committee appointments have been assigned (I’m on Arts Council for one more year, as well as the Finance Committee again!)
  • Working on finalizing the hiring of a compensation consultant to do our 5-year salary study.
  • Johnson County Charter Commission – no proposals have been advanced to the ballot yet. More meetings to come.
  • Mayor and staff have met with several of our state legislators so far to talk about PV’s 2022 legislative platform.
  • Inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at Village Church on Sunday, January 16th. Joint event by the PV Diversity Committee, SUBL+PV, JoCo NAACP, and Village Presbyterian Church.
  • NO meeting on Monday, January 17th to observe the aforementioned Martin Luther King Jr. Day. City Council will meet on Tuesday, January 18th instead.

Staff Reports

Public Works

Public Works Director, Keith Bredehoeft, gave an update on our first snow event of this season. Crews came in around 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve and started treating the roads before the precipitation even started. Good progress was made throughout the day on Saturday, and crews finished by 7pm so they didn’t have to run a night crew. All in all, it went well.

This coming Wednesday night to Thursday morning, there is a potential 1-3 inches of additional snow coming. Crews may start staggering shifts during the day time so they can work overnight.

The Public Works new building project management team is close to finishing the final package to USGBC for our LEED status, and then about 30 days after that we should have a LEED platinum building! Staff is now looking at May for an open house event.

Home Improvement Incentive Programs

Jamie Robichaud, Deputy City Administrator, gave our annual update on these.

Exterior Grant Program

Overview:

  • Grants reimburse 20% of total project cost, up to $12,500
  • Grants range from $500 to $2,500 depending on total project cost
  • Funded through the Economic Development Fund
  • Projects must be on the list of eligible improvements, abide by municipal code, and
  • may require a building permit
  • $74,000 budgeted for 2021
  • Purpose of the program is to promote beautification and property maintenance and
  • provide a tool to address code violations within neighborhoods
  • APPRAISED VALUE NOT TO EXCEED $275,000
  • REPAIRS MUST TOTAL AT LEAST $2,500
  • PROPERTY MUST BE OWNER-OCCUPIED OR MUST HAVE ACTIVE RENTAL LICENSE FOR LAST 365 DAYS

Results:

  • 37 exterior grants awarded totaling $63,981
  • 0 applicants were left on the waitlist
  • Total homeowner investment: $216,333
  • Average grant award for exterior grant: $1,729
  • Average appraised value for homes receiving grants: $227,314
Residential Sustainability Grant Program

Overview:

  • Program began in 2021
  • City provides a 20% match for energy efficiency improvements with a minimum
  • investment by the property owner of $2,500
  • Energy saving improvements must meet the 2021 International Energy
  • Conservation Code
  • Purpose is to encourage residents to reduce their carbon footprint by improving the
  • energy efficiency of their homes
  • $20,000 budgeted for 2021
  • NO APPRAISED VALUE MAXIMUM
  • MUST BE CURRENT ON ALL TAXES AND FREE OF CODE VIOLATIONS
  • PROPERTY MUST BE A ONE OR TWO-FAMILY DWELLING

Results:

  • 10 sustainability grants awarded total $18,785
  • 14 applicants remained on the waitlist – VERY POPULAR PROGRAM!
  • Total homeowner investment: $166,922
  • Average grant award: $1,878
  • Average appraised value for homes receiving grants: $318,770

2022 recommended updates to both programs:

  • Increase the appraised value maximum for the 2022 Exterior Grant Program from $275,000 to $300,000 (4,073 RESIDENCES WOULD BE ELIGIBLE AT THIS LEVEL.)
  • Remove the $25 application fee for the Exterior Grant Program
  • Keep program Exterior Grant Program budget at $74,000 for 2022
  • Reallocate the unused 2021 Exterior Grant and Sustainability Grant funds ($11,215) to the 2022 Sustainability Grant Program – increasing the 2022 budget to $31,215

At Councilmember Courtney McFadden’s prompt, Council discussed future eligibility of HVAC systems and whether there are levels of energy efficiency of those systems or whether they’re all energy efficient now according to the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) level. The idea is that we’re not just helping people replace systems they’d have to replace regardless. We want to make sure we’re actually increasing the efficiency.

Jamie reminded Council that we set it up this way to keep the staff workload to a minimum and to recognize that staff are not experts on these types of systems. New councilmember Greg Shelton offered to share some information with staff to help evaluate these without increasing work, and Jamie welcomed that information.

These home improvement incentive programs will soon (in the future, but not quite yet in 2022) be on the recently Council-approved codes administration software when it goes live, and applicants will not have to be at City Hall at 8am on a Tuesday (for ex.) and will, in addition to removing the $25 fee, increase the accessibility to this program for all of our residents, not just those that can afford to take the morning off of work. 😁

  • Councilmember Shelton recommending dropping the property value maximum requirement. He’s been recommending residents in Ward 5, where most homes don’t qualify for the City program based on property value, utilize the County program which uses income level where they might qualify. He made a motion to remove this and replace it with annual income. Councilmember McFadden seconded it.
  • Councilmember McFadden reminded Council that this program was instituted to help mitigate code violations, and asked for a data-driven approach to eligibility.
  • Mayor Mikkelson also recalled the original intent of the program and shared that he wasn’t quite as sure that opening it up to all property value levels was a good use of taxpayer money. He also recommended modifying the HVAC requirement to be the highest or a mid- to high-level energy rating of system to be eligible. He said he’d be more open to increasing the property value cap for 2022, and Councilmember Shelton rescinded his previous amendment and submitted a new amendment to increase the property value cap to $350k.
  • Councilmember Piper Reimer concurred with the Mayor’s assessment regarding home value, asked staff to bring back to Council what the 2021 IECC stipulates for further discussion, and also asked staff to bring back what type of projects the 14 waitlisted resident projects were for comparison.
  • Councilmember Terrence Gallagher pointed out that, while code violations were a target of the program originally, it was mostly to help residents maintain their home and keep the overall streetscapes constantly improving, and he believes that it’s important to maintain the home value maximum to maintain that opportunity for residents at that lower property value. Me: While property value is not a perfect measurement, it is probably the best way to cap. He also agreed with the idea that we should require higher levels of investment on HVAC.
  • Jamie asked for the opportunity to re-share the specific language Council approved last year and to give her the time to talk to Mitch Dringman, City Building Official, to refine the language based on this discussion and make recommendations for possible tweaking before the next meeting for final adoption.
  • I reminded Council that looking at income may be a bit of an administration nightmare (they don’t have access to that information unless the residents supply it), and Jamie shared that they’ve tried looking at income level before for homeowner property improvements and from that experience, she thinks it would actually reduce the number of people who need the investment help but who would actually qualify under that income measure.
  • Councilmember Cole Robinson expressed support of the property value cap increase to $350k.

Council approved the amendment to raise the property value cap 10-2 and the general staff recommendation unanimously with an asterisk that Jamie may come back with some modifications based on our discussion before the final vote.

City Efforts to Mitigate COVID-19

Mayor Mikkelson gave his traditional COVID report that he usually gives during his Mayoral update:

  • At our last meeting, according to JoCo, 91.4% of PV residents 5 and older were vaccinated. Now, according to JoCo, 97% 5+ are fully vaccinated in PV. We’re at 90% with all ages. Me: These numbers as suspect from JoCo. CDC has lower numbers. Still respectable numbers for PV, but lower and arguably more trustworthy/accurate.
  • JoCo COVOD cases are spiking: 637 new cases per 100,000 people.
  • Percent positive rate has essentially doubled. Me: this numbers has effectively lost all validity with at-home testing.
  • We’re still in a Delta surge, but Omicron is increasing exponentially and may take the lead
  • Despite those numbers, new hospitalizations have remained steady as have deaths. Me: I think this is outdated. Let’s watch the statewide webinar on Wednesday. See link below.
  • There was a special SMSD meeting tonight to discuss mask policy but we didn’t get final answers before our discussion. Me: Spoiler Alert, SMSD voted to keep the mitigation plan as-is. So all masks are option in middle and elementary school come this Wednesday to my understanding.
  • JoCo BOCC is meeting on Thursday to take up the elementary school mask mandate.
  • State elected officials have weighed in on both sides of the issue to the BOCC.
  • There will be a statewide public webinar with most or all of the CEOs of our hospital systems where they are expected to report a strain on hospital services. (See below for link.)
  • What can we do in PV? That’s why were talking tonight. 😁

Wes Jordan, City Administrator, updated Council

  • The pulse of the community:
    • 16-20,000 masks were ordered initially. Still have around 4,000 available for the community. Staff are not really getting too many requests these days.
    • Residents are not calling about testing kits. (Inga refuted that this doesn’t necessarily mean that residents aren’t looking for testing kits; just that they may not know that the City could be a resource for them.)
  • Fairway, Westwood, Roeland Park, Merriam, and PV administrators talked and would all like to see something done in a regional effort. There are currently no plans to consider an ordinance.
  • The Roeland Park resolution passed before the end of the year required purchasing of some equipment and they have run into some supply chain and cost issues. PV is larger and could expect even larger issues.
  • The “sense of shop owners” is if people want to wear a mask, they will; if they don’t want to, they won’t.

David Waters, City Attorney, gave an update on new law enacted on January 1st:

  • (SB 40 questions are still unanswered)
  • HB 2313 substitution bill – this is the bill that would charge municipalities for income lost by businesses due to occupancy limitations, shut downs, or any other restriction to business as usual by rebating all property taxes.
    • currently untested; no cases citing this yet.
    • Is wearing a face mask a significant control? Unknown.
  • Councilmember McFadden suggested setting aside funds to cover test kit costs for next big expected wave – Spring Break.
  • Councilmember Shelton wants to make sure we’re using ALL of the tools in our toolbox: vaccines, masks, etc. What can we as a city provide? More signage. More details.
  • Councilmember Inga Selders pointed out that on social media people HAVE been looking for COVID kits (maybe they didn’t know that we had some or could get some?) and she would recommend we allocate funds for that.
  • (I spoke with Wes Jordan last week about stepping up our social media with information sharing from the County and other resources, and he said that they would be working on that.)
  • Wes stated concern about having too many people in the City buildings (especially if they’re sick) to pick up masks or test kits – possibly we could reimburse them if they purchase themselves at the local CVS or something?
  • Councilmember Dave Robinson asked where the County health department was on all of this and how they were helping the cities? Wes stated they (the JCDHE) has not been proactive in reaching out to the Cities to be more advisory or consulting with us. Is there something we can do collectively with our counterparts?
  • Councilmember Herring expressed frustration with the way the new law is making cities put bottom dollar costs before health and human safety. We also KNEW going into the first mandate that enforcement was going to somewhat “squishy”. It was a minimal fine, and we were going to focus first on education. Other places, other states are doing mask mandates with very good compliance (“culture of compliance”). We can’t just throw up our hands and say there’s nothing we can do or enforce. Chad also questioned the accuracy of County vaccination data considering that zip code 66227 has a 120+% vaccination percentage… 🤔
  • Councilmember Gallagher suggested (as I planned to as well) we send a passionate letter to BOCC imploring them to enact more mitigation efforts. He asked what the City is hearing from residents about mask mandates, and Wes said very little, if any, since we rescinded the previous mask mandate. Terrence also asked where County Commissioner Becky Fast was and how she is representing PV at the County level? Mayor said they have met with her and she is with us, but has very little support in that corner from the rest of the BOCC.
  • When it was my turn, I thanked Wes, the Mayor, and Council President McFadden for putting this on the agenda at my request for more discussion, and for the added social media I saw this week, but I definitely still want more. I expressed support for reimbursing the costs of test kits, more printed signage of course, and asked what the general temperature was from other city admins to do a letter to the BOCC together. He said they didn’t discuss it actually. 😞
  • Councilmember Lauren Wolf tacked on with wanting more, and more pointed, messaging. It may be the only tool left in our arsenal, and we would be well served to remember that not all residents CAN get vaccinated.
  • Mayor Mikkelson suggested:
    • incentivizing vaccinations for those few who haven’t done it yet? email proof, get entered into a $300 weekly drawing?
    • incentives to business if they enforce masks, support them, provide police presence, confirm it, free signage, free PPE, free advertising on our social media?
    • Education/communication, maybe a mailing (there is a two week lag time for the whole process and then info may be out of date)
    • The latest science he’s seeing is that the cloth masks are relatively ineffective against Omicron and particularly in restaurants, Omicron is making a mockery of any mitigation efforts in that space. 😲
  • Councilmember Ron Nelson wants to see larger, more uniform signage for our storefronts.
  • After hearing from everyone that wanted to speak, I shared that I would support a motion to purchase at-home kits if that was a motion that Inga made, and I also made a motion to send the BOCC a letter. It’s not what I wanted to see happen, nor what the residents that I’ve heard from wanted to see happen, but it’s all the Council would be able to pass after the last 22 months of this pandemic.

Council ultimately passed a motion to have staff purchase 100 at-home test kits, so if you’re looking for an at-home test kit because:

  • you have reason to believe you have been exposed to COVID
  • and you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms,
  • but you can’t get into your doctor or get one free through insurance,

… contact City Hall in about a week when I think they should be available.

Here’s a cheat sheet of symptoms I found on Twitter yesterday-ish:

We also passed a motion to draft a letter to strongly encourage the County to do more to mitigate COVID in our region. Draft to be presented at our next meeting and be signed by City Councilmembers.

Agenda Packet for your reference

Some things you may have missed:

Infographic for new Property Tax Rebate Program. Details at link.
The City’s holiday tree recycling program is available now until January 16. Live holiday trees can be placed in designated areas of Porter, Franklin, and Taliaferro Parks. Trees must be free of all lights, ornaments, stands, nails, etc. as these items will damage the chipper.
The latest PV Village Voice should hit your snail mail boxes by now.
From The University of Kansas Health System:
A first in Kansas: Wednesday, January 5 at 8 a.m., Dr. Steve Stites, our chief medical officer, and CMOs from hospitals across the state will convene virtually for a community and news conference. They are joining together to address the healthcare situation in Kansas amid the latest COVID-19 surge. Watch and participate at facebook.com/kuhospital or youtube.com/kuhospital.

Closing

So that’s it for last week.

Some things I’ve been up to:

Be well and have a great week!

🙂

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