As a community, Liberty has a lot to look forward to in 2014. Better traffic is at the top of the list, as the much-anticipated road and intersection improvements to the Flintlock Flyover and the Interstate 35/Missouri Highway 291 Interchange are now complete. We have some new businesses, shops and restaurants to recharge the economy, including Liberty’s first craft brewery, Rock & Run. City planning and parks officials are working to map and extend the trails systems throughout the area to be more accessible to everyone for a healthier community. And our city is taking a big step this year to invest in its future by building its own independent wastewater treatment facility.
Moving forward, it’s important to pause to reflect on some of the events that of the past 12 months that will help shape our community as we start the next chapter in Liberty’s story. The following is a list, which is by no means definitive, of some of the notable events of 2013.
• Ford Motor Co. added a third crew of 900 new hourly workers in early August at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo to meet customer demand for the Ford F-150. The additional production crew is Ford’s first step in bringing more than 2,000 jobs to the Kansas City Assembly Plant to meet growing truck demand and to launch production of the Ford Transit van in early 2014.
• In preparation for anticipated fallout from federal health care reforms and facing an increasingly challenging market place, Liberty Hospital announced last May that it was eliminating 129 positions, a hospital-funded transportation program and its wound clinic. President and CEO David Feess said the actions were necessary to help the 250-bed hospital stay competitive while continuing its mission to provide the finest in health care for the community. Feess said that since the first of the year, the hospital had decreased staffing by more than 200 jobs through attrition.
• As the year came to a close, Liberty Hospital made another significant annoucement Dec. 23 detailing plans to build a $60 million healthy living community. The new facility will align primary, acute and post-acute health care services. President and CEO David Feess said new levels of care will be available to patients and the economic growth will generate new jobs, real estate and property taxes for the community. The new facility will be anchored by a Healthy Living Center to serve as the hub for health care integration. The center will include fitness, education, physical therapy and many other services. The project will also offer assisted-living residences, a short-term recovery hotel and residences for skilled, long-term care.
• Under development and construction for several months, Rock & Run Brewery and Pub opened in December just off the Liberty Square. The brewpub offers 40 beers on tap, with several selections brewed on site. In addition to beer, the pub serves stone-fired pizza and a variety of fresh bratwurst and sausages. In the spring of 2014, Rock & Run owners Gene DeClue and Dan Hatcher plan to renovate the upstairs of the brewpub to offer extended space for parties, meetings or other special events.
• Owners of The Dish, a pizza restaurant and bar serving the Liberty community for more than 16 years, announced in late fall that they would be closing the restaurant end of their business to focus on manufacturing their product for grocery store distribution across the Midwest. The Dish’s Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas are available for purchase in the frozen section of area Price Choppers, Hy-Vee and Walmart stores.
• Owners of Los Compas Mexican restaurant on Liberty Square decided to close their doors last month. Owner Tracy Ayala said it was necessary to focus on other restaurants she owns in Independence and Kearney. Ayala said she would not rule out reopening another restaurant in the Liberty community sometime in the future. Los Compas had operated on the Square since April, 2007.
• The $18.5 million Flintlock Flyover project was completed in August. The overpass connects Liberty Drive behind South Valley Middle School with Flintlock Road in Kansas City and includes a paved path for bikes and pedestrians, and a roundabout on each side of the flyover. A major goal of the project is to reduce traffic on Missouri Highway 152 and improve transportation for Liberty school buses. Funding and support was provided by the city of Liberty, Missouri Department of Transportation, city of Kansas City, Kansas City Shoal Creek TIF Commission and Federal Transportation Demonstration Program.
• The replacement of the Highway 291 bridge spanning I-35 was completed in December, with a final price tag for the project coming in at $13.5 million. “The completed project will provide the needed capacity to accommodate the growth that has and is still projected to occur in the future in both Liberty and Kansas City,” said Liberty Director of Public Works Steve Hansen. “Additionally, (the project) will provide a safer interchange.” A shared-use path was also added to the north end of the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.
A giving spirit
• Hundreds of motorcycle riders converged in Liberty on June 30 for the 16th annual Janey’s Ride, a benefit for Immacolata Manor’s My Day program for individuals with developmental disabilities. About $45,000 was raised for the nonprofit at the event. The largest contributor was Ed’s Posse, who raised $25,000. There were 425 riders on 200 motorcycles, with more than 100 volunteers assisting along the route.
• The Liberty Giving Circle, a group of more than 150 philanthropic women who individually contribute at least $302.50 every year to fund an annual $30,000 grant, named Immacolata Manor as the recipient of this year’s award. Recipients must apply for the grant, and only 501c3 nonprofit charities are eligible. Awards are determined by vote of Giving Circle members.
• Liberty Eagle Scout Corey Briggs from Troop 216 volunteered to install new flags for each branch of military service at a new veterans monument at Fairview Cemetery. The Cemetery Advisory Committee complimented Briggs’ service project by adding new benches at the memorial. Liberty Parks and Recreation provided labor for landscaping.
• The Liberty Lions Club celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2013. With an annual budget of about $10,000 for health, education and civic improvement projects, the Lions Club focuses a lot of its attention on eyesight campaigns. The Lions maintain 42 eyeglass collection bins around Clay and Platte counties and recycle the glasses for distribution in Third World countries or to those who need them locally. They also offer student scholarships. Annual fundraising events include a soup and sandwich luncheon, a golf tournament, pancake breakfasts and selling popcorn.
• The Clay County Public Health Center celebrated its 60th anniversary in April. Voters approved the establishment in 1953, and the center has remained dedicated to addressing the county’s changing health needs and delivering the health needs of prevention, promotion and protection to the county’s communities.
• More than 250 guests attended the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Historic Liberty Jail in October. Guests included dignitaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, scholars from Brigham Young University in Utah and Liberty civic leaders. A sacred place to members of the church, the jail is where prophet leader Joseph Smith, along with his brother Hyrum Smith, Alexander McRae, Lynman Wight and Caleb Baldwin, spent the winter of 1838-1839 as prisoners charged with treason.
• This year marks the 40th anniversary of Liberty’s Meals on Wheels program. The program took off in June of 1973, when Liberty resident Bill Riggs discovered there was no food in the refrigerator during a visit to the home of a senior member of his church. Besides a hot meal and a cold drink, clients receive free “emergency packs” twice a year that include a week’s worth of non-perishable meals with a long shelf life. The packs are donated by area charity organizations including the Liberty Giving Circle, Rotary and Sertoma clubs.
• In As Much Ministry marked its 25th anniversary helping individuals and families in need with food, housing and utility assistance and other services last fall. Each year, the non-profit provides hundreds of individuals with the equivalent of around $600,000 worth of assistance. Its key effort is the Link food pantry located in the Freedom House building, 2050 Plumbers Way in Liberty.
• The Liberty Community Chorus is celebrating its 10th season. With an average of 85 members, Director Bryan Taylor always encourages new singers to join. “The chorus is unauditioned, which may put people’s minds at ease,” he said. “But it should also not scare people into thinking the talents and skills are not high. The artistic level is very high and successful.”
• Garrison School Cultural Center celebrated the completion of a round of renovations and the unveiling of a bottle tree sculpture at its annual Juneteenth celebration. The 1,000-pound bottle tree sculpture was created by Robert Evans, owner of Shaped Steel in Heartland Meadows Industrial Park.
• The first of what city officials hope one day will be a collection of statues in The Great Americans Project was unveiled in June. The life-size bronze statue of George Washington debuted to the public at a new park located on the corner of Mill and South Leonard streets. “It is a young George Washington at the time of the Revolutionary War. The idea is he’s pointing to a rising empire and the future is bright. It’s supposed to be inspiring,” said project leader and former mayor Greg Canuteson.
• A total of six new wind sculptures were installed at the two Liberty Triangle’s traffic circles in October. Designed by internationally renowned sculptor Lyman Whitaker, the copper and steel works vary by height and movement. Funding for the project was coordinated through donations from individuals, local businesses and developers of the Triangle, the Liberty Arts Commission and the Liberty Arts Foundation.
• Liberty elected Lyndell Brenton as its new mayor in April. In a race that brought less than 13 percent of Liberty’s 20,414 eligible voters to the polls, Brenton won by a landslide, 1,937 to 467 votes, over opponent Travis Stoufer.
• In Ward 4 of the Liberty City Council, Gene Gentrup won a seat beating out incumbent Councilman Nick King. The ward had 5,002 registered voters with an 11.8 percent turnout.
• Liberty residents voted in August to approve a $95 million bond issue to pay for construction of a wastewater treatment plant. City officials say the proposed wastewater treatment plant will have increased capacity to serve the local population for at least 30 years. Until the new facility is operational, Liberty will continue to contract with Kansas City for wastewater treatment. Design and engineering for the facility and systems is expected to be completed in 2014, followed by the start of construction in 2015 and the facility becoming operational in 2017.
A job well done
• After 34 years as a member of the William Jewell College faculty, Dr. Cecelia Robinson retired from her career in the college’s English Department. As the first and only African-American tenured full professor at the college, Robinson taught her last class May 10 and said she was looking forward to pursuing creative interests as well as researching, writing and traveling.
• Harvey’s Barber Shop, a well-loved downtown Liberty institution, closed at the end of October after serving the community for 60 years. Owner Harvey Seely, 79, began working at the shop in 1954. He and his wife, Susi, also a barber, worked side by side throughout the decades, providing thousands of haircuts to generation after generation of Liberty families. Citing a need to attend to some minor health issues, the Seelys had also recently become challenged to manage the shop without Rob Rose, a barber at the shop for 27 years who left due to illness.
• After a career spanning four decades, Liberty Tribune Editor Angie Borgadalen set down her reporter’s notebook to focus on recovery from a medical issue. Former Liberty mayor Glenna Todd said Borgedalen put her heart and soul into chasing down local news. “She almost literally became synonymous with the Tribune,” Todd said. Borgedalen started working for the newspaper in 1976.
• Mid-Continent Public Library debuted its first new library branch in 20 years in June with the opening of the Woodneath Library Center, 8900 N. Flintlock Road in Kansas City. The $13 million, 35,000-square-foot facility was built in anticipation of projected growth of the Shoal Creek area and to alleviate traffic at the Liberty branch. Woodneath is set to be one of Mid-Continent’s most advanced libraries with an automated book sorter, customer-centered transaction model checkout spaces and raised-access flooring that allows for constant customization of the space.
• William Jewell College opened its fall semester with the addition of the Pryor Learning Commons, a three-story, 26,000-square-foot building designed to stimulate creativity and nurture collaboration into the 21st century. The $15 million facility replaces the college’s Greene Hall and is intended to serve as the campus’ main library with one big exception — there are no books. The Pryor building features high-tech classrooms, multi-media studios, study spaces, three fireplaces and a coffee shop on the third floor.
Parks and recreation
• An extensive study of Liberty’s natural forest tracks was completed last summer. The $30,000 study was funded in large part by a 2012 Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The study found that Liberty’s 239 forest tracts prevent 52 million gallons of storm water runoff each year at a value of almost $462,000 and reduce air pollution at a value of $2 million annually. Liberty was also awarded an additional TRIM grant for $10,000 in 2013 to help develop a response plan for the destructive emerald ash borer, a bug that could wipe out the city’s ash trees.
• The main indoor pool at the Liberty Community Center was closed for several weeks at the end of the summer for a $188,000 renovation paid for through parks and recreation sales tax funding. Instead of replacing the worn out vinyl liner, it made more financial sense to go with a more permanent tile solution. The new tile is expected to last between 30 and 40 years.
Times of mourning
• A Northland soldier deployed in Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom died May 15 during combat operations. Sgt. 1st Class Trenton L. Rhea, 33, was a member of the 603rd Military Police Company in Belton and a research analyst for the Army’s Human Terrain System in Leavenworth, Kan. Rhea’s survivors include his wife, Leah Reid Rhea, a fifth-grade teacher at Alexander Doniphan Elementary School in Liberty, and three daughters. Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton declared Nov. 12 as Trenton Rhea Day during a rememberance ceremony at Fairview Cemetery on Veteran’s Day.
• In July, members of the Liberty community joined together help to search for 30-year-old Chad Rogers, a 2001 Liberty High School graduate who went missing after an evening jog July 22. Rogers was found four days later near Discovery Middle School. The Jackson County medical examiner’s office determined the cause of death was a congenital heart condition. Rogers is survived by his wife Sarah and a son, Matthew, his parents, Greg and DeeDee Rogers of Liberty, a brother and a sister.
Liberty Editor Stacy Burt can be reached at 389-6630 or email@example.com.