Infrastructure, growth and managing our resources
...paving the way for new economic development and managing growth
Major progress was made in 2021 on creating a new economic development hub in Johnson County at the New Century Commerce Center. This progress included a high level of collaboration with county partners including the Johnson County Airport Commission, Planning, Public Works and Johnson County Wastewater, along with a private partner. In 2021, the BOCC approved a Master Development Plan with VanTrust Real Estate for the New Century Commerce Center and authorized the Phase 1 of the Infrastructure Development Plan to begin the process of bringing roads, utilities and sewers to support new construction.
In addition to planning for that growth, the Planning, Housing and Community Development department continued its work in 2021, along with its Planning Commission and Zoning Boards, to work with the community on its zoning or permitting requests for building, developing or renovating in the unincorporated part of the county. This essential work ensures that growth and progress are balanced with safe and coordinated growth by providing sustainable long-range land use planning.
Sometimes, progress can mean removing a building that is no longer benefitting the community. In 2021, multiple county elected officials, leaders and staff collaborated on a plan and provided funding to remove hazardous materials from the long-abandoned Kuhlman Diecasting facility and to raze the vacant building after it fell into disrepair and became a location for fire, criminal activities and accidents.
...improving county travel by road, rail and air
The Public Works department continued its important work in 2021 to maintain, improve and/or replace the county’s roads and bridges, in addition to partnering with cities on major arterial roads through the County Assistance Road System program (also known as CARS.)
Infrastructure improvements at the New Century AirCenter in 2021 included nearly $1 million in rebuilt roads on the west side of the New Century Commerce Center and more than $365,000 invested in the railroad system due in large part to a KDOT rail grant to serve the west side of the Commerce Center businesses. In addition, funds were invested for new safety/security gates at both airports.
Progress was made in a multi-year effort to fully reconstruct the runway and two taxiways at Johnson County Executive Airport. In 2021, Taxiway Alpha was removed and replaced, and further improved with better lighting and lighted signage. This $4 million project was paid for 100% with federal grants.
The Airport Commission opened the completely rebuilt primary runway on Nov. 22, 2019, and Taxiway Bravo is expected to be completely rebuilt in summer 2022 and will be paid for with 100% federal grants. Coming up with innovative solutions for the county’s transit program is a board priority, and much progress was made in 2021. The board, in collaboration with county staff, community stakeholders and an outside consultant, held several visioning workshops culminating in recommended improvements.
In 2021, the BOCC approved transit pilots for improvements/upgrades to fixed routes, commuter express, micro transit and paratransit services in Johnson County. Johnson County Transit was allocated approximately $18.2 million in federal funding with plans to use $15.2 million in federal COVID-19 funding for a series of six new pilot programs. Pilots include a new bus route along the busy 87th Street corridor, expansion of micro-transit services in which users can schedule individual pickups and the addition of Saturday routes for some existing bus lines. The pilots are expected to begin during the second quarter of 2022. Also in 2021, a partnership between Johnson County Transit, United Community Services and the Department of Children and Families provided Micro Transit services for Transitional Age Youth (18-24) who have recently aged out of foster care.
...cleaning and protecting our county’s waterways
In 2021, Johnson County Wastewater continued to advance capital improvement projects in keeping with our Mission: protect the environment, serve our customers, enhance our communities. To achieve that mission we completed projects to serve areas of growth while also rehabilitating and replacing aging system assets needed to maintain our high level of service to our customers. Our Engineering Division staff completed 18 studies to identify and evaluate potential alternatives and they completed 13 design projects to prepare procurement packages for construction. Our Engineering Division completed 15 of the 33 projects actively under construction during 2021. Also in 2021, the frst members of the Wastewater Development Advisory Committee were appointed. This team of experts in building, engineering and infrastructure were appointed to serve as a conduit between JCW and the development, engineering, and construction communities.
Protecting our county’s stormwater is another responsibility of Johnson County Government. In 2021, Public Works implemented its stormwater strategic plan. This plan is a new way to look at projects by watershed as opposed to cities, and how problems can be addressed moving forward. This plan relied on collaborations with all of our cities and other entities, and was the result of several years of work with our valued partners.
...collaborating on ideas to protect our resources
At the first Board meeting of the year in 2021, commissioners approved an agreement allowing the Olathe Public School District to utilize a Johnson County/city of Olathe shared compressed natural gas refueling station for its school buses. Later in 2021, the board approved the installation of additional electric vehicle charging stations at the Justice Annex Building and the Sunset Office Building.
Both the BOCC and JCPRD’s governing body endorsed the Kansas City Regional Climate Action Plan. They did so alongside a collaborative network of cities, elected representatives, and others working together to achieve an ambitious and urgent goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The plan contains a regional emissions inventory as well as climate risk and vulnerability assessments and is meant to create a flexible, voluntary framework to guide and align local action in ways that make a difference for the Kansas City region.
County staff and leaders collaborated with industry experts and the public to begin exploring the idea to allow Utility-Scale Solar Facilities to come to the unincorporated part of the county. The potential of altering the county’s regulations and zoning to allow for this renewable energy alternative generated a lot of interest and opinions, and that exploration will continue into 2022.
The Medical Examiner’s building officially achieved LEED Silver certification from the United States Green Building Council.
A new electronic waste vendor is in use by the county, adhering to a zero-landfill policy, focused on recycling or reusing 100% of the county’s end-of-life electronics. This includes keeping still usable equipment in our community through donations.