A halfway house for federal prisoners is set to come to Blue Summit after the Jackson County Legislature on Monday approved a zoning change.
The company that plans to renovate the old Stark School on Blue Ridge Boulevard just south of Truman Road made a significant change to its plan. In a notarized statement to the county, KADO Partners says it will shuttle inmates without vehicles directly to their jobs or to a bus transit center in downtown Kansas City – not the metro transit center just off the Independence Square as initially outlined.
“We were worried about folks just being dropped off on the Independence Square,” said Legislator Tony Miller, D-Lee’s Summit.
Monday’s vote was 5-3. Legislators Miller, Theresa Galvin, R-Lee’s Summit, Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City, Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, and Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, voted yes. Legislators Charlie Franklin, D-Independence, Jalen Anderson, D-Blue Springs and Ronald Finley, D-Kansas City, voted no. Scott Burnett, D-Kansas City, was absent.
Tracie Rice has lived in Blue Summit her whole life and says she welcomes the investment. She said the run-down building attracts drugs and prostitution and is a blight on the area.
“I mean, it’s ridiculous,” she said.
She’s worked in halfway houses and says she knows they work. She said she hopes this investment can be a turning point for Blue Summit.
“Maybe – just maybe – it’ll help us get some other things in there,” she said.
The Intercity Fire Protection District has its station is across the street from the old school, and Chief Jeff Jewell said he sees the crime there constantly. He welcomed Monday’s vote.
“It’s huge for us,” he said.
Some legislators, though, had reservations.
“I want to urge this body to watch what goes on over in Blue Summit,” Anderson said, noting that many residents have spoken for the project and many against it.
Anderson said his opposition is because it’s a private company that plans to renovate the site and run the facility. That would be under a 10-year contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons.
“It’s a dangerous thing that for-profits bring to this realm …” Anderson said.
KADO Partners says the facility would open in about two years. It’s to house 130 inmates – 115 men, 15 women – who are in the final months of their sentences and making the transition back into their communities. KADO says the Kansas City area needs this because the nearest such facility is in Leavenworth, Kansas; there’s also one in St. Louis.
The facility would have a staff of 42 and a payroll of $2.3 million. It would have no fence, and the staff is not armed. The company plans to have a community advisory board so residents can air their concerns and ideas.
The company also says these are generally non-violent, white-collar offenders who come to the facility with a plan to find work and reconnect with family. There are room checks, and there’s testing for drugs and alcohol. The company says the offenders have strong incentives to stay in line – breaking the rules gets them sent back to prison in short order – and says few offenders mess up.
Still, some neighbors expressed concerns, especially the idea of offenders out on the streets for lack of transportation. Independence is across the street from the site, and the City Council last week had a resolution against the plan on its agenda, but it held off taking action. City officials had questions about the initial plan to shuttle inmates to the Independence metro transit center.
Miller said the concerns boiled down to two things – transportation and making sure the offenders who are sent to the facility are really those the company has described. In its notarized statement, the company put in writing what it’s said before, that no sex offenders would be allowed in the halfway house, and it stipulated that the county could revoke the rezoning should “the actual use of the property deviate materially” from what the county has approved.