ore proof that Landmark readers are the best. I love you guys. And gals.
One Landmark reader who has been inside the speakeasy in downtown Parkville, apparently also informally known as “Parkville’s Guy Store,” sent me a couple of hastily snapped photos of portions of the interior. If that weren’t enough, I was also sent a hand-drawn map of the interior. I say hand drawn–it’s actually a computer drawing done by using the tip of a finger on the screen of a cell phone. A computer overlay, for lack of a better term. One of the markings describes a particular area as “a creepy door,” apparently intimating it may lead to a “creepy area,” I suppose. The rough artistic skills and hand-written descriptions make me chuckle. As does the fact someone took it upon themselves to do this on their own, out of the blue. It’s not exactly a professional artist’s rendering but it’s good enough that I’ll likely share it with you at some point.
Consider it electronic finger painting. That’s the best way I can describe it. For proper viewing it requires color, so if/when it goes get shared it will likely be through our social media channels.
We’ve mentioned previously that Platte County is in line to receive $20 million in federal aid in the most recent round of federal money, as part of the COVID relief package put together by the Biden Administration. Rob Willard, county treasurer, has said it is expected that $10 million of that amount could arrive this month, with the next $10 million coming next year.
Joe Vanover, the new second district county commissioner, has formed a COVID committee of county officials and is organizing that group, which has already met a couple of times. I like the direction the talks have headed thus far, with discussions primarily focusing on ways to improve county operations, facilities, and court system to operate in a more technologically-friendly remote style.
Across the state, courts have used remote technologies, using Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms to conduct most court hearings. For most court functions, the attorneys and parties do not need to physically be in the courtrooms, that part has become clear. Even appearances by defendants in custody have mostly been conducted by video technology from the jail, which among other things frees up some personnel and is less of a security concern.
It has been pointed out that the size of the courtrooms in the Platte County Courthouse is potentially a problem, as the rooms are described as too small to allow for social distancing and as a result there is congregation of breathing bodies in the hallway. Judge Thomas Fincham recently told the committee the circuit court will continue to handle as much as possible remotely.
At a meeting of the COVID committee last week, Ron Schieber, presiding county commissioner, said the county should focus on items that are one-time expenses. That’s a smart way to go about it–avoid creating anything that will require recurring expensive maintenance. But Schieber also indicated he, if the federal guidelines allow it, wants to continue providing grants to businesses impacted by the pandemic. It’s early in the process, but he didn’t seem to get a lot of vocal support for that during the meeting. After all, much of the $12 million in CARES money received by the county has been used by the county commission to give grants to businesses and some organizations, and in my opinion it’s time to stop those handouts, some of which have seemed very odd and have raised an eyebrow or two or three. Rather than relying on the money that will be in the county’s possession, businesses still wanting/needing aid have other options, include the second draw PPP loans, which are forgivable. The PPP loans, if a business keeps good books and has its paperwork up to date, are a relatively simple process for which to apply–and receive–through the Small Business Administration.
In the circle of fellow business owners I hang out with, much of the problem right now is not necessarily funding-as that’s conveniently available through the forgivable SBA loans–the problem is finding workers, as the cartoon on the upper center of this page accurately portrays.
Mark Owen, sheriff, politely indicated it’s time to focus on county functions with the aid rather than more grants to businesses and organizations. “We had $12 million to help businesses but somewhere in here we need to take care of home and get the buildings straightened up and not hit taxpayers for millions of dollars down the road when we had the opportunity to do some of it now,” he said, adding: “I think we’re going to have to do due diligence on what works best long term for the county.
Vanover summed up last week’s meeting this way: “We focused on the courts and law enforcement. The convergence of forced-upon-us videoconferencing and the unexpected influx of federal money presents us with a tremendous opportunity to re-think how our judicial system does its work and pay for the transition.”
Vanover says the state court system released the report of the Remote Court Appearances Workgroup last month. Some highlights from that report include:
*”For most evidentiary matters, a remote court proceeding should be the default.”
*”Remote proceedings free up court facilities for use in other matters.”
*”The use of remote court proceedings vastly increases the ability of self-represented litigants to access the courts effectively.”
Parkville taxpayers continue to be the losers in the city’s distaste for transparency. As you’ll see on our front page, the city’s legal defense team has already billed taxpayers for $164,000 worth of legal work and this thing isn’t close to being over, primarily because of stalling and delaying tactics on the city’s part. Depositions haven’t even begun yet.
Wouldn’t have been easier, less expensive and with a lot fewer headaches just to hand over the public documents when they were requested? Or is there something so damaging in those documents they’ll never see the light of day?
(You can find Ivan Foley looking at artist’s renderings drawn with electronic finger paints. Email ivan @plattecountylandmark.com)