The city of Prairie Village is still working out what to do about House Bill 2052 and the issue of conceal and carry weapons in the municipal complex.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
The council voted earlier this month to send a letter to the Kansas attorney general’s office and Prairie Village Police Chief Wes Jordan requesting a six-month exemption from the law, which goes into effect on July 1. Under the new law, licensed conceal and carry gun owners could bring their guns into a public building if there are no specific security measures in place such as metal detectors to check for concealed weapons.
Chief Jordan was on hand at the council’s meeting Monday to explain that he’s concerned about how exactly the city would go about implementing a security plan because of the lack of formal guidance in the bill and the current layout of the five buildings within the municipal complex. Jordan noted that there are six separate entrances to the police station and three more entrances into City Hall.
“These facilities are like schools. They were built for openness, they were meant to be open and inviting,” said Jordan. “There’s no funnel or choke point. We can’t keep track of who is coming and going into the building without more of a formal barrier.”
While the city is required to have a plan in place by Jan. 1, the law grants cities an additional four years to put that plan into action. Although there is no penalty for failing to devise a security plan, City Attorney Catherine Logan advised that failure to do so would mean that conceal and carry would be legal at City Hall.
The council’s policy debate gave way to politics shortly thereafter.
“We essentially have four and a half years to hope that the people who got voted in and created this plan get voted out,” said Councilman David Belz.
Jordan suggested that the city look at how Overland Park, Leawood and Shawnee address the new state law and use that to inform discussions going forward.
The council found more success in dealing with concrete matters: drainage projects, street repair and parks revitalization efforts as part of the 2014 budget. It was clear in its support of nearly $7 million for the Capital Infrastructure Program in the proposed 2014 budget.
Public Works project manager Keith Bredehoeft recommended that $2.5 million be transferred from the general fund to the CIP fund, the same amount as in 2013. He estimated that approximately $5 million in infrastructure improvements are currently ongoing in Prairie Village.
“You wonder why we’re using a lot of signs in Prairie Village,” said Bredehoeft. “We’ve got a lot of work going on.”
The budget for 2014 marks the first year of the implementation of a revised master parks plan. Under the new plan, Harmon Park’s 10 tennis courts would be replaced with new courts at a cost of $550,000, and $120,000 would be placed in the park infrastructure reserve fund.
Almost half of the $6.9 million in capital improvements would go toward street repairs with $2,525,900.59 being allocated for the beautification and infrastructure improvements on 75th Street between State Line and Mission Road. Federal funds would cover $1.6 million of the 75th Street project.
The CIP also calls for $76,500 to be set aside for roof repairs on City Hall and $725,000 for the concrete repair program. Bredehoeft estimated that it takes about a decade to rehabilitate the city’s network of curbs, sidewalks and gutters.
The city also would do extensive work on the drainage channel between Roe Avenue and Somerset Drive to mitigate flooding during severe rains at two low water crossings at Delmar Lane and Fontana Street. The cost of the $1.02 million project would be spread out over two years with $440,000 budgeted for 2014. Since there are flooding issues in adjacent residences, the project could be eligible for funds from the Johnson County Stormwater Management Advisory Council, which Bredehoeft estimated could cover as much as 75 percent if it was approved.
“The draining system is at an age where it needs more attention and will continue to need more attention going forward,” said Bredehoeft.
The only real bump in the road discussions came over speed bumps. Bredehoeft recommended that $25,000 be set aside in 2014 for the Traffic Calming Program (wherein neighborhoods can apply for speed-reducing measures to be installed on busy streets) and every two years after that.
But councilmembers clashed over the program.
“I don’t want to open this back up for discussion because it’s a disaster. Neighbors didn’t get at all what they’re promised and unless you do what you say, it’s pointless,” said Councilwoman Ruth Hopkins.
“I’m not supportive of putting something in the budget at this point, I’d rather pave something,” added Councilman Andrew Wang.
But Councilman Michael Kelly urged caution in eliminating a recourse for neighborhoods concerned about traffic.
“I think it’s very short-sighted to end this program. This gives people who have an issue the chance to do something about it,” said Kelly.
Hopkins then made a motion to have the money struck from the budget proposal. The motion failed by a vote of 7-5. Bredehoeft said he intends to come back before the council to iron out the details of the program going forward if it is funded in the 2014 budget.