Jackson County officials say they want to know why no action has been taken to develop a federal halfway house in Blue Summit nearly a year after they approved it. One county legislator said the old Stark School remains the site of dog fighting and apparent drug deals.
"Blue Summit is hanging on to hope by a thread because of what they’re facing," Legislator Jalen Anderson said Monday.
Last March, the County Legislature approved rezoning of the site on Blue Ridge Boulevard just south of Truman Road. KADO Partners of California said it planned a halfway house for federal inmates – non-violent offenders, 115 men, 15 women – nearing the end of their sentences and beginning to make the transition back to society. They would, for instance, leave during the day for work. Officials say Kansas City needs more of those facilities.
KADO said a year ago that the building would be refurbished and open in about two years and that the company would have a 10-year contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons.
But Anderson, D-Blue Springs, said there’s been no progress and the company won’t return his calls.
"There’s been dog fighting over there, and nothing is being done," he said, adding that gatherings in the building appear to be for drug deals. Those at KADO "have not done what they said they would do," including community meetings on the project, Anderson said.
Jay Haden of the county counselor’s office said he talked informally to an attorney who worked for the company and was given to understand that KADO was awaiting a federal grant to move ahead. Legislators said they want to hear more about that.
County legislators had a good deal of back and forth on the issue early last year and ended up approving the rezoning on a 5-3 vote. One of the no votes was from Anderson, who opposed the idea of a private company carrying out federal duties. He and Legislator Tony Miller, D-Lee’s Summit, have spoken up for Blue Summit over the past year on the need for improved services, for investment and for hope. The halfway house would be the first significant investment there in many years and would create some jobs.
MIller he’s also tried to get information on the project, "and I to this point have received none." He said the Legislature granted the company a conditional-use permit to operate and has an obligation to follow up.
"The thousand people who live in Blue Summit deserve better," Miller said.
Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, also was skeptical about having a private company in this role but did vote for the project last year – something that on Monday she said she won’t do again. She added that this is worth bearing in mind should the idea of a public-private partnership come up in regard to a new county jail.
"This," she said, "is absolutely typical."