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HIGH PROFILE MURDER TRIAL HAPPENED HERE
2007: Part II of looking back
by Alan McArthur
A high profile murder trial was one of the highlights of the second half of 2007 in Platte County.
What follows is a week-by-week summary headlines ripped from the front page of your Landmark in the months of July through December of ‘07.
July 4 Platte City Aldermen decided to continue with plans to install sidewalks along First Street during a special meeting. The plans moved forward despite objections from some residents along the street.
The residents brought up issues concerning liability and required changes to existing driveways along the street as reasons to protest the new sidewalks.
Other residents though argued to install the sidewalks to connect to the city's sidewalk system.
Kansas City resident, Billy Ellison received medals for Good Conduct and the Marksman Badge after leaving the Army 47 years ago. U.S. Congressman Sam Graves gave the awards to Ellison at the Platte County Administrative Building.
July 11 Platte City's Aldermen reversed a decision from the week before to install sidewalks along First Street. The Aldermen decided to stop a resolution to install the sidewalks between Academy and Spring Streets along First Street.
Work had already begun on part of the street, and several driveways were already finished to accommodate the sidewalks.
Parkville's new city hall officially opened with a ribbon cutting by Mayor Kathy Dusenbery. The new facility is almost twice as big as the previous city hall and features new security measures.
July 18 First District Commissioner Tom Pryor reported having nearly $25,000 in campaign funds for an election against challenger, current Parkville Mayor Kathy Dusenbery. Pryor told The Landmark he hoped to raise about $50,000 for the campaign in order to be competitive.
Weston's city collector Lori Cogan was fired during a special meeting by the Board of Aldermen. The city then hired Todd Karlin of Karlin & Company to conduct an audit for all 2007 deposits to bank records and water postings.
July 25 Platte County R-3's Board of Education voted to give teachers a 6.3 percent raise. This brings the base salary from $32,000 to $34,000 for a teacher starting at the district.
The teacher's contract was also extended by one day to 182 days and the substitute teacher pay went from $85 to $90 a day. The increases continue to make Platte County competitive in salary to other local school districts.
Platte County heard the results of an outside audit of the Road Sales Tax funds. The auditor found the money was in the budget, it was simply not being moved to the correct funds after being accepted.
The auditor recommended creating several different funds each for the individual taxing entities, eliminating the confusion of having all of the funds be in one general account.
The 144th Platte County fair got underway with tractor pulls, a carnival, petting zoo, and Mud Marathon. The Platte County fair named Rachel Regan, 18, as the Fair Queen.
Aug. 1 The Platte County Clerk reported an increase in assessed valuation of $287 million to the county commission. The rise in assessed valuation was for property in the county bringing the total valuation to $1.9 billion, an increase of 15 percent from the previous year.
The largest increase came from residential real estate assessment, which saw a jump of more than $200 million as a result of the recent reassessment in 2007. The Platte County R-3 Board of Education began considering the purchase of the nearby Stiles Building at 998 Platte Falls Road. The owners were attempting to sell the building for a price of $2.4 million.
The district hopes to renovate the building and make it into an Early Childhood Education center as well as a bus maintenance facility.
Aug. 8 A portion of the Fairfax Bridge in Riverside was slated for an immediate inspection by state crews after the collapse of the Interstate 35 Bridge in Minneapolis. The crews checked one of the approach portions of the bridge for any structural defects.
County road public works crews also inspected some county bridges after recent flooding in June may have caused damage to the structures. The workers found no damage to the bridges and all bridges in Platte County were deemed safe for traffic.
Riverside residents approved an involuntary annexation of almost 133 acres with a margin of 201 to 175. The annexed land is currently undeveloped, but a new housing development is proposed.
The number of voters who turned out was about 23 percent of the registered voters in Riverside.
Aug. 15 Platte City's Board of Aldermen began debating a new welcome sign, which could cost up to $25,000. The sign could be placed either at 92 Highway and Bethel Road or near the intersection of Interstate 29 and 92 Highway.
Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks said the city could use money saved on Capital Improvement Projects to fund the building of the sign. However, some aldermen expressed concern about the proposal, saying the CIP money should only be spent on roads and sidewalks.
Platte County R-3 began discussing the possibility of adding up to a $10 million bond issue on the ballot in April to cover capital improvements for the district totaling between $10 and $11 million.
Aug. 22 Platte City's End of the Trail Motorcycle rally survived another year when the board of Aldermen approved funding for the rally after a tie-breaking vote by the mayor in support of the rally.
The $15,000 budget item was approved by Aldermen Todd Sloan, Marsha Clark, and Ron Stone. Voting against the measure was Andy Stanton, Kenneth Brown, and Aaron Jung.
The Southern Platte County Ambulance District delayed a vote to set a tax levy because of an oversight concerning the posting of notice for the meeting. The board decided to delay the vote to ensure the legality of the hearing.
The board later determined they were not holding the meeting illegally and could have voted on the levy. Board member Fred Sanchez said, “I refuse to be bullied by anyone or anything. We're spending taxpayers' money to save lives. People keep undermining this board. I was prepared for this. There will be more of them organized and quite verbal at our next meeting.”
Aug. 29 - A longtime court reporter committed suicide at the Platte County Courthouse on a Tuesday afternoon. The employee, Terry Easton, 50, of Parkville, died from the self-inflicted gunshot wound in the restroom attached to the jury deliberation room on the first floor of the courthouse.
Easton had worked at the courthouse for more than 20 years and worked as court reporter for several judges during those years.
Platte City Aldermen began to seek change in the End of the Trail Motorcycle Rally for Platte City. Alderman Todd Sloan said he favored creating a more family oriented atmosphere for the festival to include more Platte City residents.
Sept. 5 Platte County began studying the possibility of increasing security at the county courthouse after the suicide a week prior.
Currently employees are not required to go through metal detectors and many doors do not have security personnel stationed near them.
The Platte City Aldermen approved an amended 2008 budget leaving the $15,000 for a festival, but removing text marking it for the motorcycle rally. The aldermen then suggested waiting for the results of a citizen survey to determine what type of festival to spend the money on.
Sept. 12 Former Kansas City Chief player Bill Maas was not charged after trying to board a plane at KCI with a loaded 9mm handgun. Maas escaped charges because of a loophole in the law allowing people to carry concealed weapons if they are “traveling in a continuous journey peaceably.”
The law from 1874 has caused several problems, according to Eric Zahnd, Platte County prosecutor. Zahnd said the law has caused several charges to be dropped in the county.
Platte County was featured in the new Tour of Missouri bicycle race in 2007. The race course traveled through Riverside, Parkville and Platte City before returning to downtown Kansas City. Many spectators turned out to see the group of cyclists on teams from around the world.
Sept. 26 County officials in charge of security at the courthouse said they planned to make no changes to increase security after a courthouse employee committed suicide in a restroom on the first floor.
The Landmark was the first to report about a cancelled contract with Garda Enterprises for armored car service for the Platte County Collectors office. The cancelled contract left county employees carrying the deposits for the office personally to the bank without an escort.
The new contract with Dunbar Armored allows the county to continue daily deposits of payments in accordance with Missouri law.
Oct. 3 Parkville city officials began discussing possible complications with the current Christmas light system in downtown Parkville. The city requested the Main Street Association have the lights inspected by an electrician to ensure they are up to code for year round use.
The Association claimed it was the job of the city to do inspections and an electrician shouldn't need to be hired.
Tracy resident Melvin Snow said a tow truck company in Tracy had damaged his fence and had not yet repaired his fence. The company said they were in the process of repairing the fence on Snow's property.
Other residents complained that the trucks were causing potholes and problems to the city's streets.
Oct. 10 The Platte County R-3 School Board approved a measure to purchase the Stiles Building at 998 Platte Falls Road for $1.9 million. The total cost for the project including remodeling is estimated at $4.5 million.
The building would house a future central administrative office, bus barn, and early childhood center.
The board approved the purchase using $1.5 million from the reserve fund and another $400,000 from a lease/purchase agreement.
Dearborn's Alderman Gary Bomar resigned saying he was no longer an asset to the board. Bomar thanked the other aldermen and mayor and apologized to any residents he may have offended during his tenure.
Oct. 17 An Independence, Mo. man was charged with robbing the bank inside Wal-Mart at Barry Road and Interstate 29 in Platte County. Robert Maynard Surrey, 55, was charged in U.S. District Court with robbing $8,827 from the Bank Midwest at 2:50 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8. Surrey was arrested at Harrah's Casino after being identified by security on Oct. 10.
Several Platte County mayors met with Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser to express their support for a regional light rail plan. The mayors said a mass transit system should include local counties and serve the entire region not only Kansas City, Mo.
During a press conference Funkhouser called a voter approved plan from light rail supporter Clay Chastain “dead” and that a new plan should include the Northland, Wyandotte, and Johnson counties.
Oct. 24 The murder trial for Jacob McGinnis, 27, of Kansas City, began at the Platte County courthouse. McGinnis was charged with killing his friend and raping the man's wife while their five year old son was in the next room.
Defense attorneys argued McGinnis was suffering from a psychotic episode and asked Judge Abe Shafer to place McGinnis in a state mental hospital.
Platte County's officeholders asked the county counselor to review options for salary increases after a Salary Commission meeting. The Commission voted 6-2 to look into the issue further. County Commissioners Tom Pryor and Jim Plunkett voted against the further inquiry by the counselor.
Oct. 31 Judge Abe Shafer found McGinnis guilty of first degree murder, forcible rape, two counts of armed criminal action, and one county of burglary in the first degree.
County officials voted to deny raises for county officials and leave it to the County Commission to approve a Cost of Living Allowance, COLA, increase before the end of the year.
Results from an initial light rail focus meeting showed a new proposal would not run a line through Platte County to KCI. The new line would stop near the intersection of Vivion and North Oak Roads in Clay County.
The new proposal would still have to be brought to voters for approval before the city could begin construction on the new system.
Nov. 7 West Platte School District closed its buildings to clean after two students were found to have methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA. Janitorial crews worked a whole day on Tuesday to clean the schools while the 675 students were at home.
Platte City's aldermen approved a measure to repair a bump on Main Street for a cost of over $13,000. The bump was created in 2004 after a paving job.
Some Aldermen expressed their concern that the city had to pay for the repair to the roadway.
Over $30,000 worth of marijuana was seized in a wooded area near Parkville. The area was being cultivated and growing over 150 plants totaling just over 55 pounds. Officers were tipped off to the location by a hunter who stumbled upon the operation near Brink Meyer Road and River Road.
Nov. 14 Platte City Alderman Marsha Clark made a proposal to give the Kitty Cat Connection a $6,000 donation for animal control in Platte City. KCC feeds and neuters stray and feral cats in the Platte City area. Currently the city gives the group $2,500 a year to support their work.
Discussion continued about a proposed welcome sign for Platte City. Mayor Brooks wanted to include an item in the budget for $15,000 to $25,000 for the sign. Brooks said the money could come from savings on the Capital Improvement Projects.
However, some aldermen argued that the CIP money should only be spent on street or sidewalk improvement projects.
Sewer rates in Parkville are to increase by eight percent resulting in an increase of $2.70 for an average household. The increase is to help cover costs to improve the city's aging sewer infrastructure.
Nov. 21 Parkville's Community Land and Recreation Board, CLARB, requested clarification from the Board of Aldermen on the issue of park fees after a memo from the mayor exempted some groups from the fees.
Platte County R-3 approved a measure to pay the district back for the purchase and renovation of the Stiles Building. The resolution allows the board to reimburse itself the cost of the almost $4.5 million for renovation and purchase of the property.
Dearborn's Board of Aldermen began discussing a proposed water rate increase. The city has absorbed an eight percent increase in the water rate without passing it to the residents since April.
Nov. 28 An announcement for possible development of a mining operation near Waldron was met with opposition from residents. Kansas City Sand & Gravel proposed to begin a dredging operation in the river bottom near Moore's Ferry Road on approximately 1,400 acres.
Residents object to the amount of traffic caused by the large trucks used to haul the sand out as well as the noise and possible air pollution from the operation.
Platte City Aldermen voted to nix a proposal to give Kitty Cat Connection $6,000 instead opting for the original $2,500. The proposal from Marsha Clark was defeated with a vote of 4-1 against the measure.
The Southern Platte Ambulance Board voted to charge a fee for Sunshine Law requests from the public. The fees would cover copy charges as well as time spent to collect the information. The board also voted to make minutes from executive sessions sealed and unavailable to the public.
Dec. 5 Tracy's Board of Aldermen found out they have not been using a water tower on the city's water system. The city has been taking its water directly from the water district instead of using the tower to maintain pressure for the system. The water tower is empty.
Parkville's Board of Aldermen voted to remove a memo from the mayor exempting certain groups from paying park fees. The action now means all groups wanting to use the parks for events must pay a fee of $350 for a small event or $750 for a large permit.
Officials with Parkville's Christmas on the River celebration estimated a turnout of over 10,000 people for the event with the Park Hill School District choir and lighting ceremony.
Dec. 12 The County Commissioners voted to not allow a COLA increase for officeholders in 2008. Commissioners Jim Plunkett and Tom Pryor voted against the measure and Presiding
Commissioner Betty Knight voted for the measure.
The decision came less than a month after a Salary Commission declined to give officeholders a salary increase and instead decided to wait to see if a COLA would be approved.
The county was hit with a large ice storm knocking out power to many residents across the county and causing many accidents along roads and highways. The ice storm also caused almost all incoming and outgoing flights to be cancelled at KCI.
Dec. 19 The match-up in Platte City for mayor is set to be between former mayor Frank Offutt and current mayor Dave Brooks. The two have been involved in two previous elections for mayor as opponents.
The opposition started in 1998 when both ran to replace incumbent Pearl Brown as mayor. Offutt won that election and ran unopposed in 2000. In 2002, Brooks challenged Offutt for mayor and won. Brooks ran again, unopposed in 2004. Brooks won in 2006 in a four candidate election.
The North Platte School District hired Jeffrey Alan Sumy to replace retiring superintendent Francis Moran. Sumy is currently superintendent of the Wellington-Napoleon R-IX School District and will take over the new position at the end of this school year.
Dec. 26 Jacob McGinnis was sentenced to two life terms plus 115 years in prison after being found guilty of first degree murder, forcible rape, two counts of armed criminal action, and one count of burglary in the first degree.
The Southern Platte Ambulance Board hired a new legal counsel of Daniel Fowler to replace Mark Hubbard. Hubbard terminated his contract with the district in August and the district has been searching for a new attorney since then.
The city of Tracy received more than $5,000 in grants to help support their police department after applications were filled out and sent in by Sgt. Beth Taulbee. The city would also like to get an additional two reserve officers because the current two officers are leaving the department.
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