by Mark Vasto
Jim Plunkett, a candidate for the District 2
Platte County Commission seat currently held by
Steve Wegner, is tired of hearing (and reading)
about how the county is on time and
under budget on its community center
How can that be? Plunkett asked during
a visit to The Landmark. Scanning over a copy
of the countys 2000 Park Master Plan, the
numbers for the Southern and Northern Platte Community
Centers highlighted in pink, Plunkett does some
calculations on a well-worn Blackberry handheld
computer. He is quick to point out that those
numbers, a combined total of $11.5 million, dont
square with the numbers put forth by the commission
in recent weeks, about $20 - 23 million.
I dont know how they can possibly
say theyre on budget, Plunkett said.
How can you salvage this (master plan) when
youre already $10-$11 million over? What
are you going to drop now?
Armed with highlighted copies of the county budget,
master plans, auditor reports and local media
clippings, Plunkett points to what he claims are
Showing a resolution for the County Resource
Center, located off I-29 near KCI, Plunkett shows
a budget of $2 million for bonds, notes or lease
purchase agreements in the project. Then he flips
a page, showing certificates of participation
worth $5.15 million.
Theyre constantly doubling all of
their construction projects, Plunkett said,
adding that his numbers were sound. Im
using the commissions own information.
If theyre that far over budget, then the
budget isnt balanced, at least not
by my definition, Plunkett said. If there
were revisions, then theyre not following
the master plan.
Plunkett questioned who gave the commission the
authority to back out of the master plan, as told
to the voters before they elected to enact the
parks and recreation sales tax.
When contacted, Wegner had questions of his own
It amazes me, its kind of ironic,
that Mr. Plunkett didnt start criticizing
(the commission) on the community centers until
he signed half million dollars worth of contracts
with the commission for the community centers,
Wegner charged. Then all of a sudden, these
centers are way overpriced. He sure gets his dollars
out of it.
Plunkett, whose company JPI Glass, specializes
in installing and glazing plate glass windows
and doors, acknowledges that he was a recipient
of community center contracts but says Wegners
allegation was not a fair statement.
I had nothing to do with setting up these
I was the low bidder, Plunkett
said. I saved the county money.
Plunkett said his problems with the commissions
numbers go a lot further than the community centers
anyhow. He claims that they are cutting it too
close with all of their spending.
What I have a problem with is $17 million
on the revenue side, and $17 million on the expenditures,
Plunkett said, flipping through pages of the Platte
County budget. Theyre spending every
dime. And the countys debt service increased
from $300,000 to $900,000 (under this commission).
Plunkett said that while he believes the commissioners
when they say there is money in the budget to
pay for these projects now, he doesnt believe
there will be enough at the end of the tax to
cover every project.
The last time I heard of this voodoo accounting
it was at Enron and it didnt work very well
with them, Plunkett asserted. How
do you overspend by that much without cutting
out? How do you overspend by $11.5 million and
what programs will you cut? Look at his line item
budgets. A kindergartner could have done them
if theyre off by that much.
The assertions leveled by Plunkett are nothing
new for those following the District 2 race closely.
In January, the central committee for the Platte
County Republican party (of which Plunkett is
a member) passed a resolution to send a letter
to the commission raising concerns that
the projected 16.82% increase in sales tax revenue
does not reflect reality and does not represent
the judgment of the kind of candidates our party
County Auditor Sandra Thomas projected 7% growth
in sales tax revenues for the year, noting that
last year the countys sales tax revenue
grew about 2%. So far, according to numbers provided
by the county, sales tax revenues have grown 5%
on the year. Though Wegner has countered by saying
revenue from Zona Rosa or Parkville Commons has
not been realized yet, Thomas said that she is
doubtful the county will see tax revenues double
over the next six months.
When contacted by The Landmark, Thomas said she
felt her projections were still on target.
Were at about 5%
I feel pretty
confident that we'll make it to my projections,
Thomas said. Im kind of hesitant to
say that well make it to (the commissions).
I never felt comfortable with numbers they projected,
if I did, why would I project my numbers?
Thomas said that running over budget meant the
county would be running a real risk of dipping
into its reserves. She estimated them to be around
It sounds like a lot until you realize
the countys payroll for one month is about
$900,000, Thomas said.
County officials defend
Platte County Parks and Recreation Director Brian
Nowotny offers a reason for these discrepancies:
the numbers have changed.
When I came on board, there was not a plan
in place, Nowotny said. The master
plan offers a very broad picture I liken
it to a framework, a skeleton frame to start with.
Then we asked, what do we want the parks department
to look like? Conceptually, what do we want in
parks, in community centers, in trails? Do we
Nowotny said that to answer these questions,
the county performed intense market studies, conducted
focus groups and telephone surveys asking what
county residents wanted from their voter approved
Nowotny said that the numbers Plunkett used were
conceptual numbers and cost estimates based on
1999 construction numbers that were arrived at
prior to the market studies.
We stopped working off the master plan
budget numbers as soon as we started working on
the project officially, Nowotny said. The
budget was refined, based upon the final needs
assessment and the plans approved by the commissioners.
Those numbers, Nowotny said, came to a total
budget of a little more than $23 million, accounting
for construction costs, permit and testing costs,
site acquisition, furnishings and equipment and
bond financing costs. Nowotny said the numbers
took into account what residents said they wanted
from the tax.
We couldnt get the final cost estimates
until we received final drawings from our architects.
Wegner asserted that when all is said and done,
in six years, the community centers, the
parks, and the trails will be paid in full, with
no tax increases. And thats the bottom line.
Wegner said the county was in healthy financial
shape and didnt need to cut projects because
the countys revenue projections had changed
over time as well. While the information put out
in the sales tax master plan estimates the county
will only accumulate $59 million from the park
sales tax, Wegner points out that the county sold
its bonds on projections through George K. Baum
They wouldnt have sold the bonds
if the projections werent going to meet
the revenues, Wegner said, noting that Baum
& Company is an independent entity.
Wegner said Plunketts claims were designed
to cast doubt on the commissions fiscal
responsibility during an election year.
He is questioning my decision making ability,
which is fine. This is the political arena. But
what it has done is allowed me the opportunity
to go back and review my processes and the steps
weve taken to get here.
Wegner said he held seven public meetings with
a task force and 42 public meetings regarding
the parks and recreation tax with the park board.
Thats 49 public meetings, not counting
the meetings the Platte County Commission had,
which are all open to the public, Wegner
We didnt just sit in a smoke-filled
room and say, alright, were going
to build two community centers, the one in Parkville
is going to be larger, the one in Platte City
will be smaller, heres $22 million
and off we went, Wegner joked.
Wegner said that even though he was initially
not an advocate for the park and recreation sales
tax (too vague in some areas), he
is happy with the results of the tax.
Im proud of what we did, Wegner
said. Theres no doubt about it. We
did as good as we possibly could. In 20-years,
people are going to go wow, those commissioners
had foresight. And Mr. Plunkett is not one
of those people who has foresight, Im sorry.
Wegner enthusiastically agreed to debate Plunkett
in a public forum. But in another visit to The
Landmark, Plunkett relayed his frustrations about
getting his message across to voters. He said
he feels that media coverage of the commission
is frequently one-sided and lamented that he could
not match the incumbent Wegners financial
war chest. Still, Plunkett said he planned to
keep visiting residents and continue to ask the
commission questions about fiscal responsibility.
Im the first one to question them,
and Im being ridiculed by them, Plunkett
said. All he (Wegner) wants to do is point
the finger at me and take it in another direction.
The three member historical preservation
committee, appointed by the Platte City
Board of Aldermen at its May 27 meeting, is comprised
of Alderman George McClintock, director of the
Platte City Area Development Association and local
retailer Mary Ann Brooks, and Shirley Kimsey.
The independent committee had the support of the
aldermen to present a petition on behalf of the
city to put the downtown district on the National
According to the resolution, the aldermen expressed
support for a district that begins at the Platte
City Cemetery at the north, the Platte River on
the west, to Marshall Road on the west and continuing
south to Academy Street.
In addition to the metal slip covers
adorning roughly four buildings on Main Street
across from the Platte County Courthouse, another
apparent deal breaker for the city was the blend
of new and old houses sprinkled throughout the
city. With a lack of architecturally significant
concentration throughout many of the citys
neighborhoods, naming one district has seemed
to become impractical.
The houses we will (place on the register)
individually, Kimsey said. We have
so many new houses that they cant be in
Tiffany Patterson, National Historic Register
coordinator for the MDNR, said that although the
state didnt think Platte City was a good
candidate at the moment, the city was on the right
track to pursuing some other sort of historic
"I think theres a lot in Platte City
that is eligible for the historic register,
Patterson said. I just dont know if
there is a strong historic commercial district
Patterson said that the MDNR gave the Platte
City committee feedback on what the city needed
to do before the state would support the citys
district naming efforts.
Thats the problem with coming to talk
to us, Patterson joked. We assign
work to do.
Patterson said she asked the committee to prepare
multiple property documentation and submissions.
She said she encouraged cities like Platte City
who dont have resources together in one
area to pursue getting on the register one-by-one.
The problem in Platte City is there will
be a really fabulous house from 1870 and on either
side of it there would be a modern one,
Patterson explained. So you cant create
Patterson said the documentation the committee
said it would prepare would be a big step toward
getting on the register.
Its a big piece of the final goal
and its a national register document,
Patterson said of the multiple property documentation.
It goes to the National Registry offices
and is approved and filed. And what it also does
is cut down the work for future property owners.
It facilitates the whole process by outlining
what is eligible in the community.
Patterson said that the city always had the option
of pursuing a municipally-designated historic
district, an idea that Kimsey and Brooks both
said they would consider discussing with city
officials. In the meantime, Kimsey hinted that
her next move would be to renew what she described
as a long-term battle against the metal facades
covering the downtown buildings architecture.
They tried to put that (metal) on my building,
Kimsey said, recalling a downtown revitalization
effort of the late 1960s. I said, no,
youre not! That damn stuff is not coming
on my building.
Kimsey lamented the lost architecture that is
hidden underneath the pastel-colored slipcovers.
She claimed that in order to fit the metal onto
the building, callous contractors chipped off
the stone carvings that adorned the former building
used by the Knights of Pythias, a mens fraternity.
She claimed that the former Platte City opera
houses façade lays hidden beneath
a slipcover as well.
Here was all this architecture being covered
up here, while cities like Harrisonville and Meadville
were restoring theirs.
Patterson said that preparing the paperwork now
may help prevent work like that from ever happening
Now (the city) is setting up a plan where
they can say, were planning on doing
these projects and we should avoid these areas
because theyre historic, Patterson
pointed out. She added that even though many cities
find that a locally designated historic district
isnt the right fit for a community, she
said that it might be a good one for Platte City.
Hopefully, with a small investment theres
going to be some sharp buildings there,
Patterson said. Theres enough to go