Perhaps one of the most important functions at Independence City Council meetings is the presentation of how your sales tax dollars are being spent.

The next time you shop at an Independence business, pay close attention to the sales tax charged for your purchases. It will differ based on where you shop in Independence, but the twice monthly council study sessions provide a closer look at individual city taxes and how they are spent.

City Council members appoint citizens to oversight committees for the city’s respective sales taxes, such as parks, public safety, street/capital improvements and stormwater. Committee members monitor the implementation and the progress of the plans for each tax, and each committee is required to report to council members in April and in October. The most recent presentations have taken place at the study sessions on Monday and on April 11. I’ll report on public safety and stormwater in a future column.

• Parks improvement:

Two sales taxes totaling one-quarter of 1 percent are imposed for parks. The main projects now facing Parks and Recreation Department staff members include multi-use trails, infield renovations, Adventure Oasis Water Park repairs, a greenhouse, the fields at Mill Creek Park and the park revitalization program.

Last fall, the practice fields at numerous parks received new ag lime infield mix, a material that recovers following rain and ensures that local teams have more infield practice opportunities, said Eric Ashbaugh, co-chairman of the parks oversight committee.

Last fall at Adventure Oasis Water Park, the pool’s tanks all received fresh paint.

“This is not your ordinary paint job,” Ashbaugh said. “The faded and chipped paint must first be removed from the pool surface and acid-washed before three coats of a special two-part epoxy paint is applied. This is a significant and a necessary process that must be repeated every three to four years.”

The water park’s lounge chairs also received upgrades. New slide and river tubes, as well as a new diving board, also will be installed.

Parks and Recreation also now has a 6,000-square-foot greenhouse on Courtney Road that is heated by burning the methane gas created at the nearby landfill.

“Staff is now able to propagate many of its own native plants, and it affords the department the opportunity to purchase and store discounted container plants in bulk,” Ashbaugh said.  

• Street improvement:

The city has a half-percent sales tax dedicated toward streets that is set to expire at the end of 2019. An 11-year program started in 2009. Program finances are being monitored closely because of declining sales tax revenues, a trend that is hardly unique to Independence. Despite a decline in revenues, all promised projects will be finished within the program, said Doug Ault, a member of the oversight committee.

Completed projects since the committee’s last report in October include Jackson Drive from 37th Terrace to Missouri 78 and the Home Street sidewalks along the west side of Fairmount Elementary School, which are part of the Sidewalks to Schools component of the 11-year program. Projects still in construction include Little Blue Parkway, 39th Street from Noland Road to Crysler Avenue and Norledge Place from Ash to Hardy.  

The local sales tax will match federal funds for Little Blue Parkway from 39th Street to Bundschu Road, and the new four-lane parkway is now under construction from Necessary Road to Bundschu Road.

Now under construction, the 39th Street from Noland Road to Crysler Avenue project includes a three-lane street with curbs and sidewalks. Local sales tax dollars again will match federal funds, and the project will be completed this fall.

As part of a community development block grant project, a new street surface and sidewalk ramps will take place on Ash and Hardy between Norledge and Scarritt. That project will be complete this spring.

New projects in the streets division include improvements to 35th Street from Noland Road to Crysler Avenue, Salisbury and Crackerneck roads sidewalks, intersection whitetopping, alley rehabilitation, the Delaware streetscape and Blue Mills Road and U.S. 24 improvements. John Powell, the city’s director of public works, provides an update on such projects in his monthly reports before the council.   

While we’re talking about streets, at Monday night’s study session, Powell said the Public Works Department is keeping busy right now with the repair of potholes – this past winter’s weather just wasn’t kind to Independence streets. Residents may call the 24-hour pothole hotline at 816-325-7624 to report a location. The city’s policy is to attempt repair at every reported pothole on city-maintained streets within one business day of receiving notification of a pothole, but that isn’t always possible because of inclement weather and the availability of materials.


Local lawyer starts his own firm

Several weeks ago in City Speak, I had reported the role of Steve Mauer as the city’s legal representative in the ongoing Crackerneck Creek LLC situation. Mauer, who had been a partner at Bryan Cave LLP since 1996, has left that office to start Zerger & Mauer LLP, also in Kansas City, with former Bryan Cave partner Heather Zerger.

The firm was established this month and represents plaintiffs and defendants in business disputes.

The clients include financial institutions, businesses, municipalities and individuals, and the lawyers’ practice specialties include commercial litigation, employment counseling and defense, trust litigation and contract and tort actions.