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Merriam to break ground on community center it hopes to open in 2020

Colin Brown is part of Merriam’s four-officer bicycle patrol unit.
Colin Brown is part of Merriam’s four-officer bicycle patrol unit. Courtesy photo

After of summer of debate over the size of a new outdoor pool, Merriam will break ground Aug. 30 on a $30 million community center it hopes to open by the summer of 2020.

The ceremony is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. at Vavra Park, 6114 Slater St., where the 66,000-square-foot community center will be built. Besides indoor and outdoor pools, it also will feature an indoor walking/running track, a full-size gym, a child-watch area and other amenities.

“We’ve spent years coming up with a master plan to give our residents what they want in a new community center,” Mayor Ken Sissom said in a news release. “We are excited this day has finally come to fruition and believe our residents will love the end result of this community project.”

Some residents, though, will miss the 50-meter outdoor pool they have enjoyed at the park. Residents voted last fall to finance the community center, but critics said they didn’t know then that the proposed pool would be smaller and lack a high dive.

In July, the City Council approved an eight-lane, 25-yard pool and increased pool area with children’s play features and two diving boards. It will still be smaller than the current pool, however, and won’t have a high dive.

The city said McCarthy Building Companies will start decommissioning the pool and park in September, and demolition is to start in October.

Crestview art teacher honored

The Kansas Art Education Association has chosen Crestview Elementary teacher Heather Huettner as the Outstanding Elementary Art Educator for 2018-’19.

She is being recognized for her contributions to the Shawnee Mission School District, as an active member of the association and for her work in the local art community.

At Crestview, the district said, Huettner developed the “Designs with Dad” evening event that is attended by more than 200 adults and students every year. She also collaborates with one of Crestview’s local faith-based community organizations to hold a week-long summer art camp for students.

Huettner was nominated by retired art educator Linda Nelson-Bova, who was impressed by Huettner’s social media presence.

“She consistently shares her students’ work, accomplishments, activities and shows,” Nelson-Bova said in a press release. “That and her time and willingness to share her knowledge by presenting at conferences made her an excellent candidate for the award.”

Huettner also provided extra recognition for her students by hosting annual art shows at two nearby churches, at Homer’s Coffee House and at the school district’s R&D Forum. She encourages children to be creative with their mistakes rather than asking for second sheet of paper.

“Art levels the playing field for kids because all students can feel success,” Huettner said. “It’s a place where they can express, and many times surprise themselves.”

Public invited to meet school leader

After an initial reception in August, community members have more opportunities next month to talk with Mike Fulton, the new superintendent of the Shawnee Mission School District.

Individuals may attend any of the events, taking place from 5 to 7 p.m. in all five geographic areas of the district:

▪ Sept. 5 at Shawnee Mission South High School, 5800 W. 107th St.

▪ Sept. 6 at Shawnee Mission East High School, 7500 Mission Road.

▪ Sept. 11 at Shawnee Mission West High School, 8800 W. 85th St.

▪ Sept. 17 at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, 12701 W. 67th St.

▪ Sept. 25 at Shawnee Mission North High School 7401 Johnson Drive.

Cooperation sought on Sept. 8 health survey

If you are one of the 420 households randomly selected for Johnson County’s health survey, officials hope you will spend 10 minutes with survey-takers who come to your door on Sept. 8.

The community health assessment is conducted every three years by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, which wants to understand the health needs of residents and better gauge what makes a healthy community. A small percentage of the 420 households are in Wyandotte County.

Survey volunteers will arrive in pairs, wear gray T-shirts and display name tags indicating they are part of the community health assessment team. The information collected will not include the respondents’ names or addresses.

“If volunteers knock on your door, open it and take our survey,” the department said in a news release. “Your opinion really matters and can help bring positive changes to our county.”

OP police offer $3,500 signing bonuses

The Overland Park Police Department is offering a $3,500 signing bonus to new officers — an incentive that will be in effect until Aug. 31, 2019, or until all commissioned vacancies are filled.

Recruits receiving a conditional offer of employment after Aug. 31 will be eligible for the bonus, which will be given in stages through the second year of service. The schedule is different depending on whether the officers have previous police experience or education.

To learn more or apply, visit

Merriam forms bicycle police unit

The Merriam Police Department has launched a bicycle patrol unit consisting of four officers who attended a week-long training class in Olathe.

In a news release, Police Chief Michael Daniels said the bicycles can reach places that patrol vehicles can’t go, such as the Turkey Creek Streamway Trail. He said they also help break down physical and social barriers, making officers more approachable to residents.

“Having officers on bicycles — whether in our parks, neighborhoods or business districts — gives them an opportunity to connect with our community, further strengthening relationships with our citizens and business owners,” Daniels said.

Boats now permitted on Spring Hill lake

Some boats are now allowed on Spring Hill City Lake, which is near the Sycamore Ridge Golf Course.

Boats must be no longer than 16 feet and cannot be power-driven except by an electric trolling motor. The speed limit is 5 miles an hour to keep wakes to a minimum. There’s no boat ramp on the lake, but one is planned for the developing Veterans Park nearby.

Local student helps K-State to victory

Madison Hopfinger, a 2018 Kansas State University graduate from Overland Park, was part of a university team that took first place at the 2018 ASHRAE Student Design Competition and Setty Family Foundation Applied Engineering Challenge in the HVAC System Selection category.

This year’s competition project focused on a new 70,000-square-foot, four-story, mixed-use complex north of Istanbul, Turkey, near the new international airport to be completed in 2019.

The five-member K-State team selected components of a heating/cooling system while considering sustainability, energy efficiency, human comfort and productivity, indoor environmental quality and architectural aesthetics, university officials said.

Nighttime walks with little ones

An intergenerational program next month allows children 2 to 6 to explore trails as the sun sets at at Ernie Miller Park in Olathe.

Twilight Hike will be offered at 7 p.m. on two Fridays: Sept. 7 and Sept. 28. Participants will listen for nocturnal sounds, then gather around a fire ring for stories, songs and a treat. Participants should bring a flashlight. An adult must register with each child.

Each 90-minute session costs $7 for Johnson County residents or $8 for nonresidents. Pre-registration is required. Call 913-831-3359 or go to, click on Register for Activities, and search for course ID 11719 for Sept. 7 or 11720 for Sept. 28.

Garden expert receives national award

Dennis Patton, horticulture agent for Johnson County K-State Research and Extension, has been honored for the second time as professional organizations top horticulture communicator in the nation.

The National Association of County Agricultural Agents award recognized Patton’s work in the The Kansas City Star’s “GROW” sections published during the spring and fall seasons.

Patton, who received a similar award seven years ago, has been an agent for K-State Research and Extension for nearly 36 years . He has worked in Johnson County since 1987.

German musicians to visit

More than 60 German high school students from the Overland Park Sister City of Bietigheim-Bissingen will visit the area Sept. 4-9 and perform at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 in an Exchange Concert at Johnson County Community College’s Yardley Hall. The concert is free and open to the public.

The students are part of an exchange program that the Shawnee Mission South Orchestra has participated in since 1983. A year ago, a similar number of Shawnee Mission South students were hosted by Bietigheim-Bissingen families.

“It’s an experience of a lifetime for both our students and the German students who visit,” the school’s orchestra director, Jonathan Wiebe, said in a news release.

The Germans also will perform Sept. 7 at the halftime show at the Shawnee Mission South home football game.